Black Thursday

Annette Bisbee

OK, I’m going to broach a subject a lot of Christians shy away from…depression. I’m no expert when it comes to depression, but I CAN tell you I have experienced it. So, does this make me a ‘weak’ Christian? Perhaps I just need to pray more, read my Bible more, and have more faith. I need to push myself. Be strong, not be lazy. I need to get going. Ignore it; pretend it’s not there. These are all the negative voices of the past when the subject of someone being depressed would arise.

I experienced the worse day of depression I have ever had on a Thursday. It was at the end of a weeklong rain. Every day…RAIN. My husband was out of town, and I had a sinus issue that was also draining my energy. I had spent a day in bed with soup, hot teas and toast, along with an essential oil capsule which always helped with sinus issues. The sinus began to clear, but I felt very weak. My legs felt heavy, and I could barely move them. My feet shuffled slowly across the floor, as my body longed for rest. I really needed rest!

We had finally sold the condo, after three months of being there every weekend, and sometimes during the week. There was always something to do, making minor repairs, painting, cleaning, etc. It was exhausting. The negotiations, and the concern it would not sell had also been draining.

Then there was the upcoming event of my husband’s retirement. He seemed overly concerned that we weren’t going to survive without his paycheck, even though on paper our financial advisor assured us we would be fine.

My oldest sister had moved into a Senior Care Center, and was only 60 miles away now instead of 160. I made it my goal to be there every other week, and already it had been three weeks. The news said maybe a slight chance of rain on Thursday, but most likely none, so I picked Thursday to go.

Here’s where I tell you about my accident a year and a half ago, when an 18 wheeler pulled over into my lane…WITH ME IN IT…careening his way from the rear quarter panel on the drivers side, all the way up, past the side mirror…THAT’S WHERE I WAS…before he was able to pull away from me. I was getting ready to exit, and thank God, I had the exit lane to aim for. As I held the wheel with all my might, I hit the brakes and aimed for the lane, I feared this huge hunk of metal would consume me.

I imagined myself totally loosing control, and if I missed the exit, there was a steel fence. I remember thinking, “So, this is how I’m going to die! What will my husband say when they go tell him? How will my children handle it? I leave on a simple errand, and die on the way home?”

It was misting rain.

Obviously, I ‘m here, so I made it! But the trauma had taken its toll. I avoided the highway when possible, and when I DID get on one, I prayed a lot. If I saw an 18-wheeler, I switched lanes if I could; quite honestly, I switched lanes a couple of
times without even looking. When I was pressed to ride alongside one during a pass, I prayed a lot. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” was my most often used prayer. I now hated driving, when I used to love it… delivering cars to Kansas, Illinois, Oregon, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and New Jersey. Some of these I delivered by myself!

Okay, back to Black Thursday. I awoke, still tired, still dragging, but convinced I needed to “get up and get going!” I dragged myself to the store to buy my sister’s favorite chips to take to her. While inside the store, one of the employees with whom I had shared many conversations about life, Christianity and the pursuit of happiness, stopped me and said to wait…she had something for me. She brought back a necklace with a beautiful green stone. “I picked this up for you while on vacation, and I’ve been waiting to see you.” Tears filled my eyes as I received the
gift. I began to cry. It wasn’t the necklace; it was the GIFT that God was giving me through this precious lady, to say, “I AM with you!”

I thanked her and left the store. She had no idea of my lack of strength, or the oppressing struggle going on inside me.

When I stepped outside, it was misting rain. . .the rain that most likely wouldn’t come. It was raining in my heart, too…pouring down. Still wrestling with whether I should push through all this heaviness and get on the road, I decided I couldn’t. I couldn’t go on. I went back home, crying all the way.

I arrived back home where I started from, got undressed and back into my pajamas. I had failed. I put everything I had into going to visit my sister, but I just couldn’t do it. I tried to eat a little something, but wasn’t hungry. I sat down in my recliner, the blinds closed, no lights on, and in the dark, I listened to the rain. I wept with it.

I don’t know where all the blackness came from, but it was there, hovering over me like a heavy dark blanket. I had no good thoughts. It was all sadness. I didn’t feel I had anything to look forward to anymore. I missed my mom. That scared me because not long before my sister died, she cried and cried to see Mom. Was I going to die? Nothing made me feel joy; even thoughts of my grandchildren whom I love with all my heart didn’t seem to offer a reason to live. They didn’t really need me. They had good parents. I had done a lot of traveling and there was no place in particular I wanted to go or anything I really wanted to do. Life was hard. Life was unsatisfying. Life was a struggle. Life was full of heartaches. I was tired of the fight. Empty! Totally empty. I felt like someone had picked me up by the heels, and given me a good shaking, completely draining me of every ounce of me I had inside. I had nothing more to give…absolutely nothing!

This is where I tell you that 2 years earlier, I had been diagnosed with a Meningioma Brain tumor, which was benign. The last visit showed the tumor had shrunk 24%, but was it growing again? During every checkup, the location of the tumor prompted the question, “Have you been having any depression?” I would answer, “No, not really.” (I usually got up early every morning, had my coffee, devotion, and got busy. Cooking, cleaning, shopping…I always had plenty of energy). Well, this must be the YES, REALLY! I AM DEPRESSED! I promised myself I’d drive to the doctor and ask for the surgery immediately if this feeling continued. Should I go now? If I did, would it be the end of me? Blackness. Total blackness. So, I just sat there.

You might ask, “Why didn’t you call someone to pray?” Or, “Just tell someone to come sit with you?” I couldn’t! I absolutely was emotionally paralyzed, (if there IS such a thing), from the darkness I was experiencing.

And so I sat there. Every once in awhile I breathed a prayer, “Jesus, help me.” I thought of the necklace, He was close by, I knew. I remembered the words my mom used to say, “Just hang on. Things will look brighter in the morning.” I hung on, hoping she was right.

When my husband called that night, I asked him to pray for me. He said he would, and I urged him, “You don’t understand I am in a really bad place, I really need you to pray for me.” I explained it, but I knew he didn’t understand.

The next day, I received flowers. I was a little stronger, the weather was clear, so I went to see my sister. I struggled through the entire visit; I didn’t want her to feel my depression. Although Friday was better, it was not good.

Saturday morning was a different day. While pouring my coffee, I saw a Robin fly to the corner of my deck. I had seen a nest in that direction and had checked several times, but it was always empty. I opened the back door to see 4 little baby Robins in that nest, and the sound of the door opening scared away the mom. I decided to take my coffee outside and observe.

The mother bird came back and sat on the deck rail, a worm hanging from her mouth. She looked at me a few seconds, then flew over and fed her babies. When she flew away, I thought she finally trusted me, but no, I spotted her in a nearby tree, her eyes upon me. I got up to get a closer look at the babies, and she immediately appeared on the deck again, ready to intervene. I moved a few steps closer, after all, Robins aren’t mean, I assured myself. Immediately, she flew toward me, swooping only a few inches from my head. I returned to my lounger and sat back down.

Wow, that mama bird really loves her little ones. I thought to myself.

Now, I don’t claim to hear the voice of God often, but I heard Him loud and clear. It wasn’t an audible voice, but from within, “Yes, and not one of them falls to the ground without My knowing it, and how much more do I care for you?”

It all broke loose inside me. Tears began to flow and I began to thank Him. “Thank You, Jesus! I know You really care for me. Thank you for the birds, and the lesson You’re teaching me today. Thank You for Your Presence, Your Love.”

Some of the anguish and darkness began to lift. I sat quietly, watching the birds, and meditating on God’s Word. He loved me and cared for me. He wasn’t as far away as I had thought. Even when I couldn’t see Him, He was watching, making sure the enemy didn’t get close enough to harm me. And as His Word assured me, “He never would forsake me, or leave me alone.”

After awhile, I went back inside. I decided to find some worship music on YouTube, (I LOVE YouTube. You can find anything you need there). For the first time, I found DappyTKeys Worship Music, and chose the video, “Worthy Is The Lamb.”

I wish I had the words to convey the experience I had on that Saturday. It was like Jesus Himself, swooped in on me like that mother bird. He didn’t leave my side the entire day. The worship music was so anointed, and I sang along with it, weeping most of the time, my hands lifted to Heaven. But THIS weeping was from gratitude mixed with cleansing. I felt every emotional impurity lifting from my mind and my body. All the emptiness I had felt the last few days was filled up with His Presence. My spirit was renewed, my mind was renewed, and my body felt free.

By Sunday, I was able to worship with my whole heart. Jim didn’t come home till the following Wednesday, and when I shared what I had gone through, he apologized he didn’t know it was that bad, but assured me he had prayed for me.

I don’t know where all the darkness came from. Was it the constant stress of the auto accident that had reached its peak? Was it burn out from all the stress I had been under? Was it just a trial, an attack from Satan? Did I let myself get run down, by not eating right? Was it from the sinus infection that had drained me? All the rain? I don’t know! But I DO know WHO took it away from me!

All I can say is, “THANK YOU, JESUS!” The last song on my worship video was, “Hallelujah, You have won the victory. Hallelujah, You have won it all for me.”

That’s been almost 3 months. I’ve been up and at it again since then, feeling positive and good.

If you’re suffering from depression, I pray God gives you comfort and hope. Don’t be ashamed to reach out. Take care of yourself. Get the proper rest, eat right, start your day with worship and reading God’s Word. If you can’t reach out, pray for God to lay you on someone’s heart to pray for you. Call me. I will always pray with you.

After you’ve done all you know to do, stand, and wait, “Till Morning Comes.”

There are a lot of natural causes for depression: Weather, Smoking, Thyroid Disease, Lack of sleep, too much TV, Noise Pollution, too many decisions, Insufficient Omega3, and Family Relationships. To read about these, go to the following site.

http://health.facty.com/conditions/depression/10-causes-of-depression/3

The Cotton Patch

It was in the spring of 1953. We finished up the biscuits and sausage gravy, and washed the dishes. The cotton fields were waiting, but first Mom prepared as much as possible toward lunch, because she worked right alongside Dad and the rest of us. Some of us “looked” the beans, picking out the stones and odd-colored beans, sliding them to the side. I was only 9, but I still did my share. We washed and added the Great Northern beans to the pot, and added water, dropping the bean pot down into the slow cooker. That was the strangest thing, that stove. It was electric, with 3 burners on top and an opening or ‘well’ that had a special pot that fit down in it. Even more surprising, it was safe to let the beans cook in there while we were gone, (Ahead of its time, if you ask me). *

Everything done, I was ready to head out. My attire this morning was the same as every other morning, a soft cool cotton dress that was no longer fit for school. And of course we were never allowed to go without our homemade bonnets that mother had sewn, inserting the cutout cardboard to help keep its shape. My sister Sue remembers this job.

I hurried outside. Dad was sitting on the concrete porch in his long-sleeved shirt, straw hat and overalls – his jug of tepid water at his side. It was a familiar sight. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why he wore all those clothes, when it was for sure going to be hot again. And why would he take his own water, without ice to drink and refuse to drink our ice water?

“That stuff will kill you,” he’d often declare. “…Working in the hot weather, your body burning up, then drinking ice water…. it’s not good for a body!”

He handed me my hoe. “Here, girl. ”

We headed out. We formed a long line, Dad, Mom, Paul, Naomi, Sue, my baby brother, Denzil and me. Denzil was too young to hoe cotton, but I wasn’t. I watched as my older brother, Paul carried our special gallon jug of water – the one dad refused to partake of. It was filled to the brim with ice, the spaces filled with pump water. I listened to the clanking of the ice, and watched the sweat from the jar pouring onto Paul’s shirt, but he didn’t seem to mind.

I was already skilled with the hoe, including turning it backwards and vaulting my way down the long, weed-infested path that led us to the cotton patch. The vaulting usually waited until I was on the way home, and excited to leave the searing heat of the field. The gentle breeze along with the cool night air deceived a person into thinking the day would be tolerable. I took a deep breath, inhaling the sweet aroma of the nearby Honeysuckle vines.  I would roll around in them and smear myself with its perfume if I could.

Upon arriving at the cotton patch, we were greeted by the pungent odor of fresh dirt, disturbed from yesterday’s hoeing. I liked that smell. It was almost clean.

Paul took the shovel from the fence where he left it the day before, and dug a hole under one of the huge trees that helped line the property of our land owner, You see, we were ‘sharecroppers, ‘ working for someone else. (As I grew older, I learned to feel embarrassed of the fact that we worked for the father of one of my classmates). Paul carefully placed the gallon of icy cold water in the hole, and packed the cool loosened dirt around it. This would keep it cold until we hoed all the way down that long row to the other tree line, and back.

I can’t remember Denzil’s placement in that field. It was probably walking alongside Mom. I know one of his jobs was to walk up to the next field to the Spring, and refill our water jug. One day I even got to leave the cotton field and go with him. I was thrilled until we arrived only to see a snake swimming in it. We ran back quickly with the empty jug, enlisting help.  I tried in vain to make that MY job alongside Denzil, but mine was to hoe that cotton and leave enough space in between for the newly sprouted plants to grow. Each of us had our own row to hoe.

It didn’t take long for me to see the others disappearing before my eyes. It was discouraging. Mom and Dad were way ahead, then Paul, Naomi, Sue…and WAY in the back was me. Paul hoed the row next to mine. Once I noticed him looking back at me, but mostly I kept my head down, working hard to catch up.

Then it happened! Just as I got ready to place my hoe, I noticed the cotton had already been thinned. I looked ahead, it was still thinned. I started running, running, running, dragging the blunt end of my hoe behind me. I ran all the way up to stand alongside my big brother Paul. He was smiling real sheepishly, as I giggled and thanked him. It was the first but not the last time that Paul did this for me.

Later in life, he went through divorce. Then when mine happened, he spent hours on the phone with me. He was so full of love and wisdom. “You can make it. Don’t let it get you down,” he would say. I believed him, I trusted him, and I made it through. His having been there ahead of me made my row a little easier to hoe.

Last year at the age of 78. my brother Paul went to live with Jesus. Perhaps he’s helping prepare the way for me. So I’ll wait till I catch up, standing alongside him and giggling to see him.

I miss you, big brother.

 

*Although everything in this story is true, I can’t say they necessarily happened the same day. They are all memories while working the cotton patch in Charleston, Missouri. Dad lived to be 86. Maybe he was right about that ice water.

This picture was taken later that same year, picking – not chopping the cotton. Yeah, I’m a cotton picker. From left to right: Annette, Mom, and Sue. Notice the cotton sacks over our shoulders  the most I ever picked was 98 lbs in one day.

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Our Unknown Visitor

Many memories come to mind when I revisit my childhood. One in particular came to visit today. It was in the springtime of 1953.

We were the Smiths and the Jones lived across the street…. honest to goodness truth. About 20 yards behind the Jones’ house were the railroad tracks, the view partially blocked by the grain elevators. We were at the end of Cleveland Street with only two houses closer to the tracks than we were. I wasn’t sure which side of the tracks we were on – the wrong side or the right. My 7-year old mind hadn’t yet acquired such knowledge.

Our house was a huge, white, two-story, which could have easily housed 4 families, but since the Smith family included 4 boys and 4 girls, we easily filled its quarters. It was said that Dad saved up $3,000 and paid cash for it.

In the afternoon of this particular cool spring afternoon, I was watching the sun stream across the pretty fabric on the old, Singer, treadle sewing machine, as mom diligently created a new dress for me. I watched the little dust flakes waltzing in the sunbeams, mom’s feet keeping rhythm with the foot pedal….up and down, up and down. I was in a half-daze when I heard a knock at the front door.

“Come in!” my 9-year-old sister called out. (You see, in those days, we didn’t lock our doors, neighbors and parishioners from dad’s small church often stopped by for a visit).

The front door opened into the hallway, which separated the rooms to the left and to the right. The huge wooden staircase leading to the boys’ bedrooms, stood in the middle. I caught a glimpse of this woman, and sat up straight. Her eyes wandered in all directions, and landed on me, then Mom. She didn’t wait to be invited. With a commanding presence she barged right into our living room, and plopped herself down on the couch. Mom stood from her labors to see the somewhat large and very tall woman intruding into our home.

My mind was at full attention, as my kind-hearted mom asked “Hello. How can we help you?”

Tightly clutching her flat but roomy-looking purse, she gently touched the zipper at the top, sliding it open, and then closing it, slowly.

“Well,” she blurted out. Her voice was as commanding as her presence. “I’ve never been in this town before. I just got here from Arkansas….just got off the train, and I’m looking for a place to spend the night.” She continued, “I’m down in my back, I have no money. Word on the train is, you’re good Christian people who will lend a hand to one in need.”

“Well, we really can’t offer a bed, ma’am. You see, we are going to church services tonight, uh…in another town.” That was true.

“That’s not a problem,” she bellered. “I can stay here while you’re gone.

“I’ll see if my husband has any suggestions. Cecil!” my mom called out. She wasn’t about to let this woman stay in our house – especially with us gone. Cecil was in the room within seconds. Had he picked up the distress in her voice?

“Yes,” he answered as he walked into the living room, a surprised look on his face to see our unknown visitor.

By the twinkle in mom’s eyes, you could see she was cooking up something and it wasn’t a pot of beans. She smiled as she explained, “This woman has just gotten off the train, and was needing a place to spend the night. I explained we wouldn’t be home tonight.” My mom paused, then continued. “I was thinking maybe we could call Mr. Harrison. He always has an extra room.”

With, great strength, this large woman leapt to her feet. “You ain’t callin’ no sheriff on me!” she exclaimed, and off she went.  She found her way out the front door, as quickly as she came in, dashing back toward the railroad tracks.

For the next few weeks, our unknown visitor provided many nights of entertainment as our imaginations filled in the blanks. And even now, I remember it vividly, as I allow my mind to wander, ‘New in town?’ How did she know the sheriff’s name? ‘Down in her back?’ She certainly showed no evidence when she practically ran to get away. “What was in that purse that she so mysteriously and slowly unzipped, then re-zipped? Was it a knife…or maybe a small gun?” Who knows?

 

 

 

 

 

Angels Watching Over Me

IMG_1979Driving to work, my heart was heavy with grief. I was newly divorced and was suddenly thrust into the role of sole provider. Questioning God had become my favorite past-time, but mostly He just assured me of His love rather than explaining purpose for my situation. I had reached my limit and began to wonder, “Is God still here? How am I going to make it.” 

For some (unknown?) reason, I had an urge to change lanes. Just as I did, the car which had been behind me, hit the car in front of him, (which had been me), that car hit the next and out the sideview I saw the last car which I was already passing, also get hit. A four car pile-up appeared in my rear view mirror.

My heart raced, this time with gratitude replacing my grief. “God You really ARE here! Thank you, Jesus!”

 

True Story of Tragedy and Triumph

Little Johnny was only 5 and as far as he knew his life was ok. Then that tragic day came. A loud “BOOM” and daddy was on the floor. Dead. The gun still in his hand.

Life went on, Johnny was all grown up – he thought. He was on his now. Mom was remarried and all was okay. He had learned to be funny to cover the pain, the memory and the responsibility he felt that daddy was so miserable he wanted to die. Was it his fault?

Soon he found a new friend…the bottle. It brought him the comfort he couldn’t get anywhere else – at least for a little while. One gulp and it started to quiet the torment; and it stuffed the feelings that he couldn’t express.

The problem, it was never enough. What drowned his sorrows once was now taking the whole bottle. It was interfering with his work and his relationships. He was very good at his profession but after a few weeks he again turned to the bottle, missing work, showing up late, and having trouble relating to others. He lost another job.

Then he met a wonderful young lady who loved him very much.  Then one week little (big?) Johnny could no longer control his life. He drank till he passed out, woke up drank again, passed out, woke up and he drank again. His young lady got him to the hospital where the doctor said he was dying.

She called her mother to come and pray for him. He was glad someone cared enough to reach out to him. Seeing he was at the end of his rope he agreed he needed to accept Christ. As Sis Anderson visited she also asked about his father and what their relationship had been.

Johnny explained he never really knew him, and he shared the incident that he still remembered though it had somewhat faded. It was a horrible thing that made Johnny very sad. If he had been bigger, maybe he could have saved his life. Somehow he felt responsible.

As Sis Anderson listened to Johnny’s story, she began to realize this horrible memory was ruling Johnny’s life. So, she asked him, “So since you feel responsible, do you think you deserve to die?”

“What do you mean?” he asked with a furrowed brow.

“Obviously you’re trying to kill yourself, Johnny. You’re throwing your life away just like your dad and now you have a choice…totally give your life to Jesus and don’t drink anymore or die just like your daddy.” She paused for a moment. “I doubt your dad would want you to die, do you?”

“No,” he admitted.

“Then let’s pray.” Sis Anderson bowed her head and Johnny joined in. He asked Jesus to take control of his life and he repented for trying to destroy himself. Afterward he said he felt like a new man.

note from author: Johnny doesn’t drink anymore. He’s still funny and often entertains at a comedy club. He’s the proud daddy of a 1-year old ‘junior’ who favors him a lot. He is living a successful life, holding down a job and starting a new business of his own.