Depression: The days no one talks about.

We all know that fun-loving girl who loves to get a crowd laughing. She isn’t above embarrassing herself to create joy, laughter and bonding with others. Connecting with others causes a euphoria, a false high to bottoming out lows.  The connection and camaraderie feeds her soul. Communication, sharing, and involvement makes her feel heard, necessary and valid. But when the last person leaves and the silence sets in – she waivers between appreciating the silence and depreciated worth. She laughs more than anyone you know, but cries when the world can’t see.

Depression belongs to very convincing actors, often comedians, class clowns and lighthearted people who mostly are fun and overly selfless. Because in selflessness, making someone else happier, someone else whole– we forget temporarily that we are lacking and broken. And, no one wants to be or admit that we’re broken. The truth though is that we are all broken.

Broken carries a stigma, broken doesn’t feel fixable, broken feels heavy, insurmountable, and nearly impossible to share. Depression sometimes feels like screaming as loud as you can, and no audible sound comes out. Your body is paralyzed, your voice is mute and your mind deceives you and plays games that only the enemy can win. We need to know people feel this way. We need to make others aware that depression exists and what it looks like. Depression is not taboo, it is real.

Stop for just a moment, right where you are in reading this and think of a time that you felt the most alone, that you felt hopeless, unlovable, unreachable and non-existent. If you’ve never felt this before, I am asking you to imagine it, imagine your child feeling that way, a spouse, or a friend, a co-worker, maybe a neighbor even. And, then think how often you didn’t even realize someone was battling depression. Battling – suffering – living… these are words used to describe it

Most people won’t recognize depression. That is why so many are shocked when they learn of a loved ones suicide attempt or death. People won’t always understand you or me. They can’t see the feeling in your eyes, when life pulls you down as if it swept your feet from you in an undertow. They won’t understand that your heart is not built like theirs and even though you’re stronger than most and have made it through some awful things, you still get hurt. Words hurt, silence hurts, absence hurts – not being visible to other’s hurts, but the hardest is not being understood.

If you know me, I am willing to bet that you wouldn’t consider me as someone who lives with depression, but I do. Depression exists in a menagerie of personalities and those it affects can range from suffering from or living with depression. I live with it. The days I am speaking of are the very days getting out of bed is more difficult and truthfully sometimes impossible. Are those days often? No. I’m fortunate that when my depression hits, I know my lows intimately enough to know what I feel, is not always actual and I trust my God.

Depression robs us of hope, the heaviness of this spirit is meant to crush you, and wants to steal your faith, and isolate you. If I am feeling something that is heavy, I feel it only to process it and then to release it. The healing is in the release of the lies, the release of the shame and the release of the enemy’s hold on us. 2 Tim. 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Depression is the devil’s playground, he makes you think, say and act like someone else. He pulls you into a swinging motion of highs and lows and moments when he fools you into thinking you’ve beat it, only to celebrate and feast at the moment you fail again. Resilience is tricky, it manifests in you a sense that you can just pick back up where you left off and try to get further this time. And some like myself, can. But some don’t. And a few of the ones that can’t will never speak of it until it is found in a scribbled note written with fear and pain in a moment they feel completely alone.

I don’t want you to write that note, or find that note. I want the idea of that note to fade away as an option. It is not weak to admit having depression, it is not weak to ask for help or to talk to someone who can help. That is strength and powerfully beautiful. That is loosening the enemies grip and reminding him that God is in charge and what he has set you apart for, is no longer the enemies playground for deceit and pain.

Resisting the enemy, places you in faith. Action creates faith, and with courage you can make the enemy flee. The opposite of depression is gratitude. Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness – Isaiah 61:3

Take back your life, minimize the suffering and know it gets better. You can call these numbers below, and visit these sites for more information. You are fully loved and deserve to feel safe to heal.

Sucide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/ 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line: https://www.crisistextline.org/ TEXT: HOME to 741741

National Helpline: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline 1-800-622-HELP (4357)

There were ten passengers on Kobe’s helicopter.

This helicopter carried nine legends, leaving behind their own legacies, loved ones and heartache. It’s impossible to adequately honor each of them enough. Siblings were lost. Spouses were lost. Children were lost. Eternity though was gained for those nine. I have a sneaking suspicion that they are playing one heck of a basketball game in a heavenly stadium where the hoops are lined with gold and the ref is wearing a sweet pair of Nike Mamba Focus shoes with his golden robe.

When the reports came in along with the rest of the world, I sat saddened. Being a wife and mother, it hit too close to home. Every news channel, sports channel, and every social media outlet was about Kobe & Gianna. It was heartbreaking, but I began to wonder about the “other passengers on board” and set out to know them as best as I could. And, as I did, it hit me that we’re missing the ultimate reverse-pivot, crossover fadeaway; there was undoubtedly a tenth passenger on board.

I know what you’re thinking, how have we not heard of this tenth passenger? Is this some crazy conspiracy theory? No! Allow me to explain.

First, though I need to breakdown a few words and the meaning in terms of basketball. The first is, Reverse: to change course, go back to where you came from. The second is, Pivot: a movement in which the player holding the ball may move in any direction with one foot, while keeping the other (the pivot foot) in contact with the floor. The third is, Crossover: player dribbling switches the ball rapidly from one hand to another to make a change in direction. And, lastly, Fadeaway: a jump shot while jumping backwards away from the basket.

So, how do we tie these nine lives to being a reverse-pivot, crossover fadeaway? If you’ve ever heard Kobe speak, he not only mentions but credits, God. He said, “God is great” during his trials and tribulations and specifically spoke of how God carried both he and his cross to bear for him. Prior to boarding the helicopter Kobe and Gianna received communion at church. Receiving communion, is knowing that, those who receive it, the body and blood of christ, will have eternal life with our Lord in heaven. Reverse, returning home. Pivot, remaining grounded. Crossover, entering heaven. And a fadeaway – taking a step back as we talk about this loss from another perspective. Are you following now?

Hillsong United has a song titled, Another in the Fire. This song can be tied to many scriptures but Daniel 3:17 is where I am focusing today. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to commit idolatry. King Nebuchadnezzar witnessed a fourth person in the fire, and while even the guards outside of the fire perished from the scorching heat, the four were never harmed. The fourth person was God. As we were singing this in church yesterday, clear as day – it hit me. The nine people aboard that helicopter were not alone. They were protected before the crash, and during the crash that led them home. There was a tenth person on board, and that was God.

God loved all nine on board. And, I’d love to share with you what I learned of them. What family members were left grieving their loss? What their legacies we were and how we can honor them as people instead of others.

legend is “an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field” and to many there were more than one legend on board. There was more than one parent/child basketball duo – there were three. There was more than one father on board, there were two, technically three because the pilot, Ara, counted his girlfriends children as his own. There was also more than one mother on board, there were three. This helicopter carried family, it carried legends and it carried strong believers of faith.

John and Keri Altobelli left behind a daughter, Alexis, who is a junior is highschool and a son J.J. who is a scout for the Red Sox. The Altobelli’s were considered the “first family” of OCC (Orange Coast College) where John, 51, known as Coach Alto, coached for twenty-seven years. He loved the game of baseball – but Alyssa, his daughter, only 13, loved the game of basketball! And, she was phenomenal. Keri, 46 was a wife and mother who practically raised her children at the baseball field. Within minutes, JJ and Alexis went from a family of five, to a family of two. Suffering a loss more than any junior in high school should ever face, and much earlier than any man should lose a father and stepmother, as JJ has. The Altobelli’s were legends to their family and their community.

Christina Mauser, 38, of Huntington Beach, was the woman known as “MOD” mother of defense to the mamba team she helped coach, will be defending her family from heaven now. Her youngest daughter will be 4 on February 4th, a golden birthday without her mommy. I read today that heat refines and purifies gold. Our faith, like gold, when tested, when held to the fire, can either be refined & purified or perish. A lesson this family is surely living now. Her husband, Matt, has to set aside his own grief in losing his best friend and wife, a woman he humbly admits could kick his butt on the court anytime – to comfort their three young children, ages 3,9 and 11. Another definition of a legend is “a story people talk about concerning people who once existed” and these three children have a whole new perspective. Their mommy was a legend off the court, and she was a legend on the court to a group of young mamba ladies who looked up to her.

Sarah Chester, 45, and Payton Chester, 13, were an adorable brunette duo that had smiles that changed the mood in a crowd. Smiles that made my heart smile, smiles Sarah’s 15-year-old boys Riley & Hayden will never see in person again and Chris, the husband and father – will miss every second. Payton’s principal said she made everyone feel like someone. That’s a legend in my book. Riley and Hayden both have #14 with a ❤ on their Instagram bios for their little sister which I found to be a touching tribute.

Ara Zobayan, 50, was the pilot. He left behind a girlfriend, Tessie, of eleven years and her two children, which were like his own. He had a private job but was a “put a smile on your face kind of guy.” He wasn’t a father, but he was every bit of an example of a man I would hope to be at his age. I mean he’s got about 15 years on me, and what he was to my kids, my family, the way he let us into his life, he’s the kind of guy you just wish the world was infected with.’- Jesse Clark

This helicopter carried nine legends, leaving behind their own legacies, loved ones and heartache. It’s impossible to adequately honor each of them enough. Siblings were lost. Spouses were lost. Children were lost. Eternity though was gained for those nine. I have a sneaking suspicion that they are playing one heck of a basketball game in a heavenly stadium where the hoops are lined with gold and the ref is wearing a sweet pair of Nike Mamba Focus shoes with his golden robe.

There is beauty in God lending us our loved ones. No ones days are promised, we are all on loan, living on borrowed time and possibly if we’re lucky, double overtime. Toby Mac said it best in his song, 21 years, about the loss of his son:

“Is it just across the Jordan
Or a city in the stars
Are you singing with the angels
Are you happy where you are
Well until this show is over
And you run into my arms
God has you in heaven
But I have you in my heart” – Toby Mac

Mom in the passenger seat

I’m unsure of the exact moment I stopped grabbing the “oh &#$%” handle or stomping the non-existent brake on the floorboard as she drove. I’m not even sure when I stopped turning down her radio so she could pay better attention while driving. But I must have because today I found comfort in my new seat in her life; the passenger seat.

When she reached over to turn the radio up saying, “oh this is a really good song” instead of turning it down, I just listened to the words. For a moment in time, I stopped what I was doing and revisited the feeling we all can remember as a teenager. Those times when music was the only thing that “got” us and the words touched our souls. For a parent, it is like a window into your child’s heart. I wonder how many parents realize that, that their child is letting them in even when it seems like they are drowning us out.

As she drove with one hand on the steering wheel, instead of nagging and insisting on two hands at ten and two, I focused instead on her tiny painted baby-pink fingernails. She has these perfectly petite little fingers that hold delicate turquoise rings. Loosely hanging from her dainty wrist is a black and white H.W.L.F. bracelet. A bracelet that to some means nothing, but to us, means she loves Jesus and is proud of it. So proud in fact she bought them for her brothers and friends too.

She sang and intermittently interjected little snippets of life she just had to tell me, and I tried to not get caught taking a photo of her driving. She said, “mom, you do that every time!” and I just smiled because she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t know the feeling a mother has when she is living in one of those stand-still moments. A moment where nothing major is happening, but your heart is clicking and storing away these mental photographs for a memory you’ll treasure always. A memory that includes her button nose barely clearing the steering wheel, and her teeny-tiny jeans with holes in the knees.

I wonder if she ever looks at me the way I look at her. You know, the way you look at someone you are inspired by, and fiercely protective of? There is effortless beauty and confidence in much of what she does in life, just naturally. She releases and loosens the hair tucked behind her ear and it just falls gracefully framing the same sweet face I can recall wiping tears from as a toddler. Just for a moment it is just the two of us of again and she breaks my visit down memory lane by saying, “this song reminds me of you and dad” and as I listen to the song (Josh Ward, Together) I realize, she does look at me the same way.

The simple moments, those are the ones that don’t just catch you off guard, they take your breath momentarily. As I watch from my new position beside her, it brought on those sweet tears that fill your eyes just enough without falling. The tears that say, “wow, God, this is you blessing me” and just taking it all in. It’s almost as beautiful as her side profile as she confidently takes on the open road in front of her, not just in this truck today, but in life in general.

The passenger seat is where I’ll spend the majority of my years as her mother from here on out. It is where I will support, listen and guide from a new view, perspective and as a bystander. It is where you can still see the full picture, but are no longer in control. It’s the waiting room at the doctors office, the phone call that they’ve made it safely, and sometimes the bare minimum when it used to be an over abundance. It’s the supporting role and no longer the lead.

It’s a beautiful place to sit as you are reminded this is their life, their choices and you’ve done exactly as you were meant and trusted to do. You’ve raised someone who is capable of making decisions, and not just surviving but excelling on their own. It doesn’t come without some sadness and moments of worrying just as you have before, but it comes with a peacefulness of knowing they’ve got this. They are in the drivers seat of life, and though they are buckled in safely, it will be a beautiful, crazy ride with a proud mom in the passenger seat.

If I woke up sixteen again, I’d most likely do these things differently…

Any revision that would alter my children or my husband being mine was off limits! However, I’d be lying if my mind didn’t wander with other events or even some rather questionable choices. So, I began to play around with some tweaks here and there of what I would do just a little differently. Here’s what I came up with in absolutely no order of sense or occurrence;

I would hurt fewer people.

I would not put the edible underwear in the freezer, in plain sight, by the ice cream with young children in the house. (I know!)

There are a majority of life events that I would never alter, even some very painful choices, losses and lessons – because those molded me into who I am today. Truth be told, I’m proud of who I am today. I’ve never been one for regrets. I firmly believe the path I chose, tested me purposely, and grew me intentionally. Without God’s grace and mercy, I wouldn’t have found the path he made for me in the wilderness I created.

Any revision that would alter my children or my husband being mine was off limits! However, I’d be lying if my mind didn’t wander with other events or even some rather questionable choices. So, I began to play around with some tweaks here and there of what I would do just a little differently. Here’s what I came up with in absolutely no order of sense or occurrence;

I would hurt fewer people.

I would not put the edible underwear in the freezer, in plain sight, by the ice cream with young children in the house. (Gag gift, but still, I know!)

I would fight harder in certain situations but less in most.

I would not act on every impulse praying it was God, knowing it wasn’t.

I would attend my grandfather’s funeral even being disowned.

I would not take the position at the jail.

I would save myself, value myself and respect myself more.

I would not go to the hemp festival, or eat that ganja ball, or wear that shirt without a bra pretending to be a hippie. Actually, I’d probably go without the bra again! (Oh, the days before breastfeeding babies.)

I would beg no one to stay. Ever!

I would not sneak out that one time and go to that one party.

I would be more diligent in washing my face. (random I know, but dang it Jessica!)

I would not cheat, lie, marry, forgive or trust him.

I would know my worth lies in God’s hands, not anyone else’s.

I would not skip reading the instructions before using a tampon for the first time. (Okay, younger than sixteen but still… a necessary edit!)

I would re-do a majority of 2008-2009 with heavy edits, a diet and a healthy fear of God and a improved conscience.

I would not let a man ever lay hands on me, or stay with him after he did.

I would find and use my voice much sooner.

I would not leave my mustang with a manual transmission, in neutral in the mall parking lot – while I went shopping.

I would be more spontaneous.

I would not join any AOL chat rooms and talk with anyone who’s screen name was whippedcream24/7. (If you’re shaking your head, I am too – don’t worry!)

I would be a single mom much longer, and a stronger mom who focused on her kids being loved instead.

I would not say that “thing” I said at a softball game once, to his new wife.

I would apologize less for who I am and celebrate myself more.

I would not see trauma, abandonment and failure as a weakness. I would see a therapist and focus on healing as a strength.

I would let her keep him.

I would not drink warm Blackberry MD 20/20 behind the school gym during summer school.

I would stand up for others more in highschool. Including myself, especially during my senior year with those awful girls who cornered me in the bathroom. (If only I was who I am now, then!)

I would not attend a girls’ night in that rural city where a backyard holds too many secrets.

And, the final thing I would do differently if I woke up sixteen again, I’d get up at 2 am and join my dad in the kitchen for a grilled cheese sandwich.

What about you, what edits or additions would you make?

We got married on New Year’s Eve. In our living room, wearing slippers.

My son and daughter stood beside me, and his son stood beside him and at about a quarter to midnight we shared vows that held more meaning and love then ever uttered by either of us before. We counted down with our friends to midnight and shared our forever kiss under our chandelier, in my $20 Ross Dress For Less dress, wearing our slippers in our very own living room. My heart was finally home.

Fuzzy leopard slippers no less. When I look back at photos of the night I married my best friend, I can’t help but smile. For as long as I can remember I wanted to get married at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Is there anything more romantic?! There is something about the excitement behind whoever you kiss at midnight being who you spend the next year with. Which meant if you married at midnight and sealed the vow with a kiss, you’d spend all your years together.

Both of us having been divorced were well versed in those vows not holding weight or sealing much of anything. However, as we dated we both taught each other what commitment looked like, felt like, sounded like and meant. This time around we wanted a different outcome, and when that is your goal, changes are a necessity. To be honest I think we both felt as though we were unlovable and unwanted when we first met.

Our Living Room

Neither of us had any intention of marriage and that was the last thing I needed to try once again. We were friends though, at first. I remember my daughter being upset when I said I was going to date my now-husband. She said, “mom, that is gross he is your best friend, you can’t date your best friend!” and she was really upset about that. Little did she know that him being my best friend is exactly what I needed. That and a whole lot of time.

We dated just shy of a year before living together, and three years before he proposed in the snow with the help of our kiddos. Then I waited a year of being engaged before we were married. Four years of our seven years together were dating and learning about what committing to not just each other, but to our children meant. And, that was the best decision for us.

Finishing Touches

We invited a few of those closest to us and decided to turn our living room into a ceiling to floor billowing ivory chiffon dream. Beneath the chiffon, our normally plain walls were covered in lights to add to the ambiance. I found a beautiful chandelier and with the help of friends and family, we pulled together all the little Pinterest ideas my heart could handle. It was nothing fancy, just love. Beautifully simple love.

Home sweet chapel.

My son and daughter stood beside me, and his son stood beside him and at about a quarter to midnight, we shared vows that held more meaning and love than ever uttered by either of us before. We counted down with our friends to midnight and shared our forever kiss under our overstock chandelier, in my $20 Ross Dress For Less dress, wearing slippers in our very own living room. My heart was finally home.

A love of a lifetime is worth at least a million tries and this love is priceless.