A Look Inside: Next Year In New Jerusalam

As we near Passover, I wanted to share in detail about my book, Next Year in New Jerusalem.  It’s still available as a print book, but is newly available as a 23-day email series, which can be used for personal study, devotions, or as a step-by-step guide to putting on your own Christ-centered Seder.

This is more than a Seder script (Haggadah).  It’s also an explanation of the depth of spiritual wealth in the Passover celebration, followed by a Christian Haggadah, using the traditional 6-hour Haggadah as a guide, condensed into 3 hours (including supper), with the institution and celebration of footwashing and the Lord’s Supper woven into the places in the Seder when they would have taken place during Jesus’ last Passover with His disciples, before He was sacrificed as the final Passover Lamb, who takes away the sins of the world.


The new version of Next Year in New Jerusalem

What will you find in Next Year In New Jerusalem?  One of the things you may not realize is the importance of preparation for Passover, both logistically and spiritually.  This edition is the same as the original edition — intentionally, so that you can use it together with any of the old copies you have.


Working with the original edition, updating and rechecking the references.

I’ve tried to include lots of ideas as well as detailed instructions in this edition of the book.  Below is the table of contents and I’ll explain a little about each chapter.

Table of Contents

Introduction  5
Getting Ready for Passover  9
When to Celebrate Passover  13
Preparing the Home  15
Preparing the Hearts  19
The Four Questions  23
Preparing the Table  25
Shopping List  29
Items for the Great Leaven Hunt  30
Additional Activities to Keep Children Busy  31
The Great Leaven Hunt  33
The Passover Meal & Ceremony  37
How to Make Jesus Your Messiah  69
Glossary of Terms  73

While the bulk of the book is the Seder script, I’ve included a number of chapters to help you understand Passover and help it to be a heart experience.  And because the logistics of the Passover Seder can be complicated, I’ve included lists and detailed descriptions to walk you step-by-step through the preparation and execution of your Seder.

In the Introductory section, I explain how Christians can benefit from a celebration of Passover.  While there are many benefits, one of the main thrusts of Passover is to remember and to teach — remember what God has done for us, and teach that to our children and others.  I believe this is a very important thing to do, through Passover and through other events in your life.  We see throughout Scripture how important it is to remind ourselves and others continually about what God has done for us.  This is how we grow our faith and keep it alive.  When we have a rich repository of God’s work in our lives, we are able to face the challenges of life with a stronger belief in God and trust in His guidance, protection, and provision.  The Introduction section helps you to understand the philosophy of Passover celebration … the why’s.


Elijah’s place at our Seder table last year

Getting Ready for Passover helps you begin to understand the how’s of the Seder script preparation.  The script is written, using the traditional 6-hour Seder script (haggadah) as a template, but the entire Seder (including supper) in Next Year In New Jerusalem is condensed to approximately 3 hours.  (More about the Seder later, along with a sample from it.)  Because we never know how many people will be at our Seder from year to year, and because I want to encourage you to include others in your celebration, the readers in the script part are left blank for you to fill in.  This section gives you tips for doing that, as well as ideas for helping your guests feel more at home during the ceremony … and some potentially awkward situations to avoid.  🙂

As Christians, we have many options for when to celebrate Passover.  This chapter, When to Celebrate Passover, explains some of those possibilities.  In Preparing the Home, you’ll learn about the role of leaven in Passover and you’ll be invited to dedicate your home to God each year.  This is a wonderful opportunity to make an intentional commitment to allowing your home be a place that glorifies God.  Preparing the Hearts suggests ways to focus your own and your family’s hearts on Jesus, the Passover Lamb, through stories, books, activities and music.  I’ve prepared a Passover playlist on youtube for my grandchildren and I invite you to make use of this as well.  There’s a lot in the Passover Seder to keep the time lively and engaging for children of all ages.

The Four Questions (which are really 5 questions) are an important part of the Seder and these are listed with the Bible references so that you can prepare the children to ask these questions and watch for their answers during the Seder.  There are also Additional Activities To Keep Children Busy during the waiting periods.


Preparing the Table is probably the most logistically focused section of the book, as there are a number of things that have to be included on the table and need to be arranged in a specific way.  The chapter takes you step-by-step, in detail, through setting your Seder table.  By the time you get to this chapter, you will have a good grasp of the components of the Seder.  I have to say that I, somewhat selfishly, I suppose, reserve the preparation of the Seder table for myself, because I enjoy the special time with the Lord as I pray for the participants and saturate myself in the Passover symbolism and wealth of reminders of God’s goodness.  For pictures from our celebration of Passover in 2013, you can view my Passover album at https://www.facebook.com/alycekay.hanush/media_set?set=a.10200419487223559.1073741826.1047433008&type=3  For an album of ideas for your Seder Table, https://www.facebook.com/alycekay.hanush/media_set?set=a.10202458128148308.1073741855.1047433008&type=3

The Great Leaven Hunt is an optional pre-Seder activity which is based on Jewish tradition, but takes on a distinctly Christian flavor here.  During the Seder itself, you will be celebrating the Passover, Jesus Instituted the Eucharist (a.k.a. Communion) during His final Passover celebration with His disciples. The Bible warns us of celebrating the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.  The Great Leaven Hunt is both an educational and fun activity for the children, and an opportunity for each participant to examine his or her heart and leave anything at the cross that shouldn’t be brought to the Table.


The Passover Meal and Ceremony make up the bulk of the book, of course.  I’ve excerpted a couple sections below, so you can see how it works.  But a bit of explanation first.  You’ll notice blanks before each new line in the Seder.  These blanks are for you to fill out with the names of your reading guests.  Detailed instructions and suggestions are given earlier in the book.  This takes some time to prepare, which is one of the reasons you don’t want to wait until the day of your Seder to start preparations!  I recommend filling these in a few days ahead of time, then the day before the Seder, sitting down with your children or a couple helpers and filling in the names in all the copies (in pencil so you can change these for next year).  It’s best to wait until close to the Seder to fill in all the Haggadahs which will be used by your guests, just in case there are any changes in your guest list.

This Haggadah includes appropriate Scripture references all throughout.  These are not meant to be read, per se, at the Seder itself, but are meant for additional study and reference.  There are many Scriptural allusions in the Jewish Haggadah, and I’ve included even more here; this way, you can spend time, if you like, familiarizing yourself to the Scriptures the Seder is based on. I can’t begin to express what a wonderful blessing this is for you and your family.  You might even want to spend the week before Passover reading these passages in your family devotions — or make one of these references each night into your family devotions from New Years until Passover.


The following are two of the sections of the Haggadah in Next Year In New Jerusalem, so you can get an idea of how the script works and how the traditional Jewish haggadah is overlaid with the fulfillment of Passover prophecy in Jesus and His institution of the Lord’s Supper.

Breaking of the Middle Matzah

(________ standing, lifts up the plate with the matzah for everyone to see.)

________:  This is the Bread of Affliction which Israel ate in the land of Egypt.  Let all who are hungry come and eat.  Let all who are needy come and celebrate the Passover with us.  (Deuteronomy 16:3; Psalm 146:7; Deuteronomy 15:11)

(________ seats himself.)

________:  Now we are here; next year may we be in the Land of Israel, or better yet, in the New Jerusalem, which will come down from Heaven.  We were formerly slaves; now we are free.  (Revelation 21:1-4, Romans 6:20-22)

________:  Let’s pray for those who are still slaves to sin.

(Pray generally and/or specifically for friends and relatives who do not know Christ.)

________:  There are three pieces of matzah here.  They are each distinct, yet they are one on this plate.  This matzah reminds us of God.  He is three persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — but He is one God.  (Deuteronomy 6:4)

________:  This is a mystery to us, one we will probably never fully comprehend, but it is true.

________:  Jesus, the Son of God, is the only person in the trinity that anyone has ever seen or touched.  Likewise, the middle piece of matzah is the only piece that is ever seen or touched.  To the Jews, this is a mystery.  To us, it represents Christ.  The Jews remove the middle piece of matzah and break it.  (I John 1:1)

(________ places the matzah plate on the table.  He removes the middle piece, being careful not to expose the other two pieces.  He holds the middle piece of matzah up and breaks it, reciting I Corinthians 5:7b:)

________: “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed.”  (I Corinthians 5:7b)

(He wraps half of the broken matzah with the extra napkin and puts the other piece back on the plate.)

________:  Jesus was sacrificed like the Passover Lamb, so that death would pass over us.  When He died, His body was wrapped in cloth and hidden away in a new tomb.  (Exodus 12:13; Matthew 27:57-60)

(All the children must close their eyes while ________ hides the wrapped and broken matzah.  The traditional hiding place is behind the father’s cushion, but you may feel free to break with tradition and hide it anywhere you want.  The children will search for it later.)

(This next portion comes quite a bit later in the Seder.)


The Lord’s Supper: The Bread

(________ passes the broken half of matzah around.  Each person breaks off a piece and holds it. ________ takes an extra piece to crush.)

________:  This bread, free from leaven (which reminds us of sin) is a symbol to us of Christ.  Notice that it is striped and pierced.

________:  “He was pierced through for our transgressions.  (Isaiah 53:5)

________:  “He was crushed for our iniquities. (He crushes his extra piece in his hand as this is said, for all to see.)

________:  “The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

________:  “And with His stripes we are healed.”  (Last line is King James version.)

________:  “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to You, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks …”  (I Corinthians 11:23-24)

(________ stands, holding a piece of matzah in one hand, with his other held over it in blessing.)

________:  We bless You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who gives us bread to eat.  We bless You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sets us apart to be holy and freed us from our sins.

________:  “… He broke it, and said, “This  is My body, which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  (I Corinthians 11:24)

(EACH PERSON eats their piece of matzah.)

The section after the Seder, How to Receive Jesus the Messiah, is written for your guests who have not yet received Jesus.  It’s written in an easy to understand manner which doesn’t assume any church or biblical knowledge.  I hope that this section will be useful in introducing others to the Messiah they’ve just celebrated.

The final chapter, The Glossary of Terms, sounds a little boring, but I hope it’s actually one of the most interesting.  It explains some of the terms used in the haggadah that you might not be familiar with, as well as some of the background meaning and interesting facts.

To purchase Next Year In New Jerusalem, you can use the link below.  Feel free to contact me, either on Facebook or through the comments section below, with any questions you have.

To sign up for my book updates – Click Here – This will score you the latest info about new books, specials, and occasionally, a plug for a book I think is really great by another author.

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Next Year in New …

Alyce-Kay Hanush


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Spiritual Journeys

Tools for Godly Living/Alyce-Kay are considering offering some courses in Christian topics and we would like to know what subjects would most interest people.  Here are some of the details (and see Q&A/update after the survey at the end):

  • You would not go anywhere for these.
  • The classes would meet as a teleconference call every two weeks.  If you can’t make the call, it would be recorded for you to listen to later (you’d just miss out on participating in the discussion).
  • There would be daily or weekly Bible study assignments and application projects which you would print from online (you would choose your level of difficulty by how much time you want to put into it).
  • There would be a dedicated Facebook page for further discussion, questions, and sharing.
  • Each class would be 90 days long.
  • They would be appropriate for high school through adults, as well as some junior highers.
  • These could also be used by groups; for example, church groups, Sunday School classes, home Bible study groups, families, and homeschoolers.  (If you’re a group, we can talk about how this can best be used by your specific group.  If you homeschool, we can help you determine which  school subjects these could apply to.)
  • If you’ve ever taken any of Alyce-Kay’s SoD (School of Discipleship) classes, these would be something like those.

Note that Tools for Godly Living courses are always biblically based, strong on helping you discover for yourself what God’s Word says.  They are meant for study, not for just sitting back and listening.  My personal commitment is always to bring you to a closer relationship with God and a stronger commitment to Him.

My background is a BA from Westmont College in Religious Studies (emphasis in theology and Greek).  I’ve taught Bible classes for all ages most of my life and have written my own curriculum for almost all of them, as well as curriculum for individual home Bible study and homeschoolers.  My doctrine & apologetics course for children was approved by pastors from 17 denominations, and I generally try to stick to what is appropriate for all denominations in most of my teaching.  (In other words, I try to stay focused on essentials.)

I want these courses to be accessible to anyone,  so there would not be a set charge.  You are completely welcome to take them free of charge.  If the Lord puts it on your heart to pay any amount for them, it would definitely help and would make it more possible for me to continue offering these courses in the future.

If you think you might be interested (no obligation), I’d like to know what kinds of topics interest people the most.  Please note that there are actually 2 surveys below.  You may vote for as many of the following as you find interesting.   You may also add other choices.  If you don’t find enough room in the survey,  feel free to add your suggestions in the comments area (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page).

Please  share this with your friends, church, Bible study group, homeschool group, on Facebook, etc.  Thanks so much for your help!

You are not required to fill out the contact info in order to vote, but please do fill it out, if you’d like us to let you know when we offer these classes.

Since posting this, I’ve received a few really good questions, so I thought I would share them here.

Q:  Would people outside the USA be able to join these classes?

A:  Yes!  The only thing is that it would be an international call to be on the teleseminars (including listening to the recording of the calls).  I’m sure there must be a way, since we would be recording them, to put them on mP3 or some other format that could be listened to online or downloaded, so that you wouldn’t have to make an international call.  If someone overseas is interested, then I will check around and find out how to do this.  I’ve been on teleconferences (seminars held on a conference call) with people from all over, and it is incredibly effective.  You can just sit in your own home and participate — or get together with a group of friends so you can participate together.  I really love this format!

Q:  Will you (Alyce-Kay) be teaching the classes?

A:  Yes! You know I LOVE to teach.  🙂

Q:  Will there be a charge for the classes?

A:  It will be up to each person whether or not they pay or how much. I want people to be able to do it, even if they can’t afford it, so I don’t want to charge a set amount. As a single mom barely getting by, I know how that is. Also, there are some people who wouldn’t pay, but would benefit from it, so I don’t want to hinder them either. If God puts it on anyone’s heart to pay, it would help me, obviously, to pay bills, etc, and I will be putting a lot of work into it.  It would also make it easier for me to offer more classes, as those who pay would help free me up from having to put overtime in at work to pay the bills.  Bottom line, I don’t want anyone to not do it because they can’t pay or don’t want to pay. It will be between each person and God. If you benefit from the classes and don’t pay anything, that’s perfectly okay!


Update:  The first class offered will be on Building Your Faith.  It will be taught at 3 levels (you will choose, depending on how much work you want to do/have time to do).    I’m working on writing the course and the workbook materials at this time, and will announce it here and on facebook when I’m ready to take registrations.  If you want to be notified by email, please let me know at Alyce-Kay@LifeCoachAlyceKay.com  I’ve had a number of requests for an actual bound workbook, so the workbook materials will be available for purchase as a bound workbook, or to download and print yourself for free.

Celebrating Purim as a Christian Family

By Alyce-Kay Hanush

Purim is Saturday evening, March 15, through Sunday evening, March 16 this year.  So what is Purim, you ask?  Purim is the celebration begun at the end of the story of Esther in the Bible — the time that God preserved His people through a brave, young Jewish queen.  There are some wonderful lines in the book of Esther, such as “for such a time as this” and “if I perish, I perish.”

In Jewish families, this is a fun celebration.   You get to dress up as the various characters in the story.  You get to put on plays.  (And you get drunk, but I’m not advocating that.)  To learn more about the story of Esther, the traditional celebration of Purim, and  enjoy some fun Purim songs, you can go to the playlist I’ve put together for my grandkids.

How can we as Christian families (and I’m thinking mainly of families with elementary and younger children) make good use of this celebration?  Well, most obvious is the fact that we can use it to get to know an important story in the Bible.  But i think we can go much deeper than that.  Here are some of my ideas to get you started.  I would love it if you’d add your own ideas in the comment box — and feel free to include links to coloring pages or other goodies you find online.

TIP:  You can use this list for pretty much any story in the Bible.

1. OF COURSE, read the book of Esther as a family. You should definitely read it from the Bible, and you can probably find some books at the library, online, etc.  If you own a set of flannel graphs, I think this is a great way to learn Bible stories.  You can do the story each day, then have the kids move the pieces while you tell the story again, then have the kids tell the story and move the pieces.  We modern day families tend to look askance at flannel graph, but I’ve never found a child who doesn’t love it.  (I have a set of Betty Lukens flannel graphs — everything you need for the entire Bible, along with a book that has all the stories and tells you which pieces to use.  And the flannels are lovely and vivid.  You do have to cut out the pieces, though — I hired someone to do it for me.)  http://www.amazon.com/Large-Deluxe-Bible-English-Flannelboard/dp/B000TMKE6E/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1393199685&sr=8-3&keywords=betty+lukens

2. One of the things that I love about internet is that you can print your own coloring pages.  There are lots of sources for these.  You can keep these loose, or take them to your local FedEx shop or other print shop to have them bound into a coloring book for your kids.   My daughter, Sam, who has 4 young children, especially likes this site for Jewish story coloring pages:  http://www.chabad.org/kids/article_cdo/aid/361573/jewish/Coloring-Crafts.htm

3. Look for the character qualities in the story of Esther — both good and bad. (Examples of good qualities:  Faith, courage.  Examples of bad qualities:  Envy, lying.)  You could take one each day and talk about them. Here is a process you could use to talk to children about these qualities, starting with the good ones.  (Parents:  You don’t have to do all of these!)

a.  Explain the quality to them.

b.  Show how it’s illustrated in the book of Esther.

c.  Give some examples from your own life or someone the kids know to illustrate the quality.

d.  Look for other stories in the bible that demonstrate the quality.

e.  Ask your librarian to help you find story books that demonstrate the quality.

f.  Ask your kids what they think the benefits were to the story’s characters of having these qualities.

g.  What would the benefits be to them (your children), if they developed these (good) qualities in their own lives? How could they do that? Be sure to reinforce that we need God’s help with these things. We can pray and ask Him to help us have the kind of faith Esther had, for instance.

h.  As you see your kids exhibiting these qualities — even just a little — be sure to praise them for it. Ask them what motivated them to do that? How did it make them feel? How would they feel if they could keep doing that? What do they think God thinks about them doing that?  Questions like these will help to reinforce those qualities and the desire to grow.

i.  Look at some of the bad qualities.  Talk about those, too.  Help them to recognize those qualities in Bible characters and in other stories.

j.  Talk through what would motivate someone to have those negative qualities.  What should your children’s response be to someone with those qualities?

k.  Ask what the signs would be that they might recognize in themselves so they can guard against developing the bad qualities.

l.  Come up with your own stories about each of the qualities.  I used to have my children dictate their stories to me — try to type them exactly as they say them.  Don’t worry about story telling skills (unless you’ve been specifically working on that).  Make sure that you include the author after each story.  You can type them up and then print them out and take them to your local print shop to bind into a family book of Purim stories. (It generally costs a buck or two to bind pages into a book form.)  You might include a smattering of their coloring pages, too.  You might want to print out a copy for your family to enjoy now, a copy for each of your children which you’ll hide away and give to them when they start having kids, a copy for grandparents.  Each book would be uniquely adorned with different coloring pages the kids have done.  Talk about precious memories!

4. After you’ve told your kids the story of Esther a few times, they’ll probably be ready to act it out. Here’s where your costumes come in.  (See instructions below for super easy Bible character costumes.)  You can let them choose parts or take turns doing various parts. Try to come up with someone they can put on a play for … this will motivate them to practice a few times … reinforcing the story and its values in their lives.

5. Learn about Persia, where the story of Esther takes place. What country is this now? Find it on a map.  Look for pictures online.  What’s the weather like?  Talk about what it would be like to live there. Can you find any information about King Xerxes? What kinds of foods do they eat there? Maybe you could include those in your Purim celebration.

6. Have 3 nights of banquets (maybe with Persian food? but any nice food is fine). Is there some big news that you can promise to share, but keep putting off, to build the anticipation in your children, like Esther did with the King?

7. The movie, One Night with the King, is absolutely excellent.  You’ll find it in my playlist, but I’ve included the trailer below.  This is the perfect time of year to watch it!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1f1Pi1DHP4

8. I would love it if you’d share your Purim ideas and resources below, in the comment box, or on my facebook page at:  https://www.facebook.com/ToolsForGodlyLiving?ref=hl   If you share on facebook, I’d love to see pictures of your activities and celebration!  🙂

Super easy Bible character costume:  Use my fancy-pancy drawing below as a guide.

  1. Measure your child from shoulders to the floor.
  2. Get double that amount of fabric.  (For example, if they’re 36 inches from shoulders to floor, you’ll need 2 yards.)
  3. It’s a good idea to wash the fabric before sewing, just in case it will shrink.
  4. Fold the fabric in half, crosswise.  In other words, both cut ends of the fabric will be at the bottom, the fold at the top, and the factory finished edges on the sides.
  5. On each side, measure about 14 inches from the top fold, then cut inward about 10 inches.  Do this on each side.
  6. Cut straight down from there to the bottom.  This will create kind of a sleeve.  Pin these together and sew about 1/2 inch from the edge.
  7. At the top, cut out a neck hole.  Be careful not to make this too big.  It’s always best to start small, try it on, and make the hole bigger if need be.
  8. If you’re not much for sewing, this is all you need to do.  Turn it right side out and voila!  You have your Bible character costume.  If you like to sew, you can do the following steps (9-13) to make your costumes a little nicer and last longer.
  9. Finish the neckline with bias tape, or hem it, or use a fancy edging.
  10. Hem the sleeve holes.  Add fancy edging, if you want.
  11. Hem the bottom.  You can add fancy edging here, too.
  12. Clip the underarm curves so they’ll lay flatter.
  13. Seam finish the inner seams.
  14. Accessorize with rope belts, head gear, etc., as appropriate.


Newly released!  Next Year In New Jerusalem, a Passover haggadah for Christians.  Complete instructions for a Christian celebration of Passover. Scripted ceremony includes fulfillment of Passover prophecies through Christ, footwashing, and the Lord’s Supper in the Passover context. Over 150 Bible references provide an easy guide for optional in-depth study. Pronunciation and glossary included. The full ceremony takes about 3 hours, including dinner. It’s designed to be enjoyed by all ages. I hope that this will enrich your appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and that you’ll find yourself worshiping Him as you long to celebrate Passover next year with Him … in the New Jerusalem.



Depression – Dealing with it in Layers

Since mentioning depression in my post yesterday about exercise, I’ve had a number of people ask me for help in dealing with depression in their own lives.  I need to say, first off, that what has worked for me might not work for others, so what I’m offering here are ideas and some of the things that have worked for me, for you to try out.  Also, I have not suffered from clinical depression; mine has been more situational, so there may be a difference in that regard from your personal situation as well.

I know that depression is an extremely painful experience.  It also affects every aspect of our life:  Our walk with God, our walk with others, our physical health, our finances, our jobs, to name a few … and definitely our emotional well-being.  There is a billboard near my home that points out that depression can be fatal.  It really is something that needs to be taken care of.

I’ve found, in my 52 years, that dealing with most things happens best for me in what I call “layers.”  I have rarely found solutions in one action or one treatment of any problem.  Depression is no different.  For me, that has meant building a number of things into my life to help prevent depression or to fight it.  Think of it like being cold.  Putting on thermal underwear is not going to get you completely warm, but it’s one of the layers you need.  You will also need warm clothes, a bunch of blankets, and maybe a warm body next to you.

I’ll try to talk about the different layers that have helped me with depression over the weeks and months ahead.  As I’ve mentioned before, since I have a very full life, I won’t commit to writing on a regular basis — it will come as I have time.  But I also have a prayerful life, and I have to trust that God will move me to share the things that you need to hear at just the right times.

If you are dealing with depression and you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, it’s important that you speak to a professional.  I’m not a professional — I’m just someone who is walking the same walk you are, sharing what has worked for me.  And again, these things, especially what I’m sharing today, will apply more to situational depression than to clinical depression.

I guess the first and yet most difficult thing I have learned to look at in dealing with depression (and again, I’m talking about situational depression — depression that’s caused by something happening outside myself, to me) is to figure out if there is something I need to (or am able to) change about the situation.  This is a little tricky to share.  I don’t believe in airing other people’s dirty laundry publicly, so I’m not going to be able to give any specific examples, but try to see if this can apply to you.

In order to do this, when I realize I’m depressed, I ask myself some questions.

  • Is there a common theme running through my life, a common thread in my various bouts of depression?  (For me, it has been that I’m being bullied.  Some other possibilities you may face might be abuse, financial problems, career problems, family disagreements, spiritual doubt, isolation, etc.  What are some other possibilities you can think of?)
  • Am I causing this in some way?  Am I, even to a tiny extent, responsible for this?  It’s not the victim’s fault when they’re abused or bullied, BUT what about me makes me a common target?  (You could ask yourself the same question about whatever the common thread seems to be for you:  Why do my relationships never work out?  Why am I always in financial trouble?  Etc.)  I can tell you this:  If you can’t answer yes to this question, you’ll feel hopeless and helpless, which is one of the keystones of depression.  So try hard to find a “yes” answer to this.  Finding MY responsibility in the situation, even if I can only find a tiny bit of responsibility, helps immensely because it EMPOWERS me.  If you hold no responsibility whatsoever in a situation, then there is nothing you can do about it.  When you find some way in which you affect it, you suddenly have a lot of power:  The power to change the situation.

So, for example, in my situation of finding myself bullied throughout my life, I had to come to the realization that there was something about me that attracts or enables bullies.  There was/is something about my personality that allows bullies to target me.  This was not an easy question to answer.  It actually took me many attempts over many years to come to grips with it, but the bottom line for me was my religious upbringing, which had taught me that women are less than men, that women can’t really have much say in their own lives, that women (especially wives/mothers) should always completely sacrifice their own well-being for everyone else’s.  (Interestingly, this is NOT the way my parents operate or brought me up.  It was rather, an extreme view of the church, and later, the Christian homeschool culture that I involved myself in.  This is also NOT to say that Christianity or homeschooling is bad.  I continue to be both a very strong Christian and a homeschooler.  But the particular subcultures of those subcultures that I was involved in contributed a great deal to my views of myself as a women, a wife, and a mother.)

In my own case, I had to ask myself if this philosophy was truly what God, through the Bible, teaches.  Again, this was a process that happened over many, many years.  Because I believe very strongly in the authority of the Bible, I could not just use human reasoning and say that I didn’t like what the Bible teaches.  But I did come to realize that what PEOPLE have said that the Bible teaches is not particularly right.  That journey began, I think, with my college chaplain challenging my thinking in these areas, and included people like my father arguing against a ridiculous practice in our church, pastors trying to encourage me to use my gifts (which I thought were not okay for women to use), counselors and friends challenging my mindset.  The only thing I can say is, DO NOT expect this process to be quick or easy, but DO engage yourself in it.  You do not need to finish the process in today’s blog to be able to apply the other layers I’ll talk about in the future, but getting started on this will help you in many, many ways.  Just being in this process will help fight depression because you’re taking control!

You do not have to finish answering the above question in order to answer the next question, but the above question will help keep you from “jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.”  Understanding why you keep having repeat performances and changing your philosophy of life accordingly goes a long way toward preventing future depression.

This leads to the next question I’ve learned to ask myself:

  • What can I do to change the situation so that I’m no longer being bullied?  (If your theme is financial problems, what can I do differently with my finances?  Etc.  Expect unexpected answers.  For example, many people with financial troubles have found the answer in being generous.  If your theme is relationship difficulties, look at things that you do in every relationship and examine whether you could experiment with changing one of those variables.)  This follows the saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  It may seem like a no-brainer, but seriously, if you’re seeing yourself 100% as a victim, you can’t ask yourself this question.  You have to first be able to see that you are in some way contributing to the problem, because only then will you have the power to make any kind of change.

In my own situation, I had to ask this question and take action a number of times before I was able to fully answer the previous question.  In some cases, it meant simply talking to the person and pointing out what they are doing, and/or setting healthy boundaries.  However, I’ve learned over many years that this doesn’t generally work with bullies.  They LIKE what they do.  It WORKS for them.  So I pretty much have to extricate myself from the situation.

  •      I have also learned to ask myself if the situation I’m in is actually SERVING me in some way.  This can mean that it’s serving me in an unhealthy way — for example, avoiding making my own decisions.  If it’s serving me in an unhealthy way, I have to take action to stop being unhealthy.  BUT it can actually be serving me in a healthy way — for example, I choose to live without a lot of things that people consider necessities because I believe very strongly in homeschooling my children.  I know this is a sacrifice that’s for a limited time, but will have lifelong benefits for them, so it’s very, very much worth it.  Again, this empowers me, because I understand that I’m CHOOSING to live the way I live for a reason.  There’s a saying in the Bible that talks about this:

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  (Hebrews 12, NIV)

What this means is that Jesus went through what He suffered because He saw how it would benefit us — and that made Him happy to make the sacrifice He was making.  The author of Hebrews says that we should fix our eyes on Him and think of Him as an example of how we should look at things, so that we can keep on and not be discouraged.  Sometimes, when we ask ourselves whether our situation is serving us in some way, we discover that we actually WANT to stay in the situation, because staying in it will produce the long-term outcome that we want.  It helps us not become discouraged, because we know that we’re sacrificing for something we think is important.  If this is the case, it can actually fight depression just as well as getting out of the situation.  However, you may need to set up some way to remind yourself about this.  I’ve found that telling key friends and also setting an alarm on my phone calendar to remind me helps a great deal.

  • If, in asking myself these questions, I find that I need to change my situation in some way, my next step is to ask myself: What do I need to do to change that situation?  And what are the steps I need to take to do that?  This takes planning.  It may mean staying in that situation for a while longer so that you can leave in a way that won’t amount to more or worse trouble.  (However, you’re CHOOSING to stay and you are in the process of TAKING ACTION, so you’ll probably start to feel less hopeless and helpless and you’ll find that the depression is starting to become less and less.)  The important thing is to not do something drastic on the spur of the moment, but to really think (and pray, if you’re a praying person) about the steps you need to take.  It’s also very helpful to have someone else help you think (and pray) through these steps.

I know I’ve actually started with the most difficult layer of dealing with depression, but for those of you who’ve asked, my heart aches for you so much, and since this is the longest step of the journey, I wanted to put this out there and ask you to consider starting on this part.  Most of the layers I’ll talk about in the future will be much easier to accomplish and can be accomplished even as you begin to answer these questions.

I also know that there are times when depression is so overwhelming that even trying to think about a layer like this is more than you can handle.  If that’s the case,  set this layer aside for the time being and come back to it later.  Some of the layers I’ll talk about later will be easier for you to step into.

Again, the things I’m sharing are things that have worked for me.  I really don’t know if they’ll be any help to you.  Please feel free to share your journey with me, through private messages and in comments below.




About to Embark on a Health Journey … Join Me?

So one of my goals in TFGL is to explore healthier living.  I’m not an expert on this.  If you read my mission statement carefully, you’ll see that I don’t set myself up as an expert, but rather, I want to share my journey with others, so we can learn together — i.e., I want to learn from you, and you can possibly learn from me.  Mostly, I think that walking alongside each other can really bolster one another.
This summer, I’ve set a goal to really be intentional about making some massive improvements to my health.  (Why not just start now?  Well, I have been working on this for the past couple years, but I want to take some more drastic steps.  It’s been noted that if you want to start a major new habit, you’ll be more successful if you plan a date in the future to start it, and map out how you plan to do it.  That’s what I’m working on now.)
I’m going to be specific about my challenges and goals in the next few blogs, so that if you have similar goals or challenges, you can decide whether you want to join me in this quest.  I am NOT a doctor or any type of medical professional … just a normal person (well, “normal” might be questionable), so I’m not giving advice, just sharing what I’m doing.  If you decide to do any of this along with me, it’s at your own risk, so be sure to engage your brain, please.  You may not want to address your challenges in the same way I do.  We can still journey together, learn from each other, and most important, encourage one another.
Keep in mind that I have an extremely limited income and I don’t like to take medications, I like to do things naturally … so I’m planning to see how much I can improve through diet, exercise, and some healthy habits.
My doctor recently told me that, other than the basal cell carcinoma (nonaggressive cancer) I recently had removed from my ear, I’m very healthy.  I’m 52 years old, but my cardiac age is 42.  I’m obese (more on that later), but that hasn’t affected my health … yet.  My labs are perfect.  My blood pressure is borderline when I check it at WalMart, but right on target when I’m at the doctor’s office.  I don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs.  I rarely use medications, and I eat much healthier than the general population.  I exercise regularly.  I also practice stress reduction.  I see myself as being in very good health.
I do have some problems I would like to improve, though.  They are:
1.  Obesity.  To be honest, my main concern here is my looks.  I want to be able to wear hippie-type clothes and they just don’t look good on a fat person.  But I also know that, if I don’t take care of this soon, I probably will develop some health problems.  Diabetes is my greatest fear.  I’m not ready to say how much I weigh.  But let’s just say I would like to lose 100 pounds and I’m 80 pounds over what is considered a healthy weight for my height.  (If I can figure out how to post pictures here, I’ll post a before picture.)
2.  My right knee.  I have pain in this knee and sometimes swelling.  For a short time a few years ago, I actually used a cane.  One might assume that this is because of my weight.  However, my left knee doesn’t have problems.  My wonderful massage therapist in Tennessee, after working on me for 2 hours one day, asked me if I sewed for a living. No.  Hmm, I would swear you have a syndrome that we see in seamstresses who work a sewing machine pedal for hours on end.  Oh, well, yeah, I use a pedal for the transcription work I do.  Bingo!  Seems that having my leg in the same position for 8+ hours a day has caused the muscle behind my knee to atrophy, making for all manner of problems with my right knee.  As I’ve worked on improving that, my knee has definitely improved, but I have a way to go.  I need to work on building that muscle back up, strengthen and improve flexibility … And losing weight wouldn’t hurt, either.  One of the doctors I used to type for said, when you walk, you’re putting 8 times your body weight on your knees, pressure-wise.  So if you lose 25 pounds, that takes 200 pounds of pressure off your knees.  (I want to lose 100 pounds, so um yeah, do the math.)
3.  Loosing flexibility.  This goes with age, I suppose, but probably also because I sit in one position for 8 hours a day, as well.
4.  Eye sight.  My eye sight has been poor since I was a kid.  I have always just accepted this (along with it getting worse as I age), but recently have been reading about some things that may be able to improve eye sight and I want to try them out.  Used to have a lot of floaters, but what I’ve been doing so far seems to have taken care of them completely.
5.  My recent bout with skin cancer … and a personal history of severe sunburns as a teenager.  If I don’t do something about this, I may be looking at more cancer in the future.
6.  Other skin problems:  Occasional acne (makes me look younger, right?), actinic keratoses, ruddy complexion (rosacea?).  Like any woman, I would love to have beautiful skin.
7.  I have at times struggled with depression.  It seems to be situational … but we aren’t guaranteed that life will be easy on us and my life tends to be stressful, so I want to make some changes that will help me take things in stride better.
8.  A family history of stroke and heart problems.  Stroke on my mom’s side.  Heart problems on my dad’s.  I’ve had premature ventricular contractions since 25 and palpitations most of my life.  They’ve gotten to be daily, often several times a day if I’m stressed, and sometimes lasting a minute or so.  I’m not worried about these and my doctor doesn’t seem very concerned, but I’d like to get rid of them.
In my next blog, I’ll talk about what I’ve been doing for these challenges so far and where that has gotten me.  In the following blog, I intend to share my goals for making some pretty drastic changes.  I’ll try to share websites and other resources that I’ve used to come up with my plan, and which show some of the research that’s been done in these areas.

As I’ve mentioned before, I make no promises about how often I’ll write.  I work full-time-plus and homeschool my kids, as well as a legion of other things.  But when I have time, I want to get this out there … and maybe someone will want to join me.  ???  Think/pray about possibly doing that.  I would love to have some fellow travelers on this journey.