Friday, April 11, 2014

on marriage and work

Today is my 16th anniversary, and tomorrow I get to watch my baby sister marry her best friend. Marriage is the best kind of hard, and I can honestly say every moment has been worth it. We hear too much about divorce and ugly parts and not enough good. The good is that after 16 years, marriage can be very, very good.

You don’t get there by chance. It’s not enough to be in love with each other. (Can we just for a moment talk about that quote about how a successful marriage is about falling in love many times, always with the same person? No. Just no.) It’s not enough to live together. It’s not enough to just have romance. It’s not even enough to have children together. You intentionally put one another first. You intentionally sacrifice. You intentionally become vulnerable and build trust.

There is work, and it is hard some days. Some things come into our lives, into our marriages, and they are the messiest kind of ugly. They are traumatic and difficult, and dark times sometimes threaten to overwhelm. That’s how I know it’s by God’s grace that we’re here. It’s by His grace that our hardest, most despairing moments didn’t tear us apart. It’s by His grace that we’ve been able to build something so strong and true that I don’t doubt it. Ever. And it’s by His grace that we learn to never, never rest in that, never take it for granted, never forget that our marriage deserves all of us every single day.

And…off my marriage soapbox. Since I still have packing and ironing and playlist-making and all of the other wedding preparations to do, I’ll just leave you with my favorite love poem. Visit John Blasé’s site. You won’t be sorry.

Love Poem No. 7

Of all the things we’ve meant to do
I’m most happy we’re still together.
That’s what we promised on that late
June afternoon, to grow so intertwined
only death could hope to unravel us,
and even then, seeing what a pain in the
ass that would be, death might relent
and decide to let us pass on, together.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

springtime cometh

My unofficial hiatus from writing lasted a bit longer than I had hoped it would. I’ve been reading a ton, writing a little, and hoping for the day when I have uninterrupted time while my children are gone or sleeping to write for real. It turns out I’m not that great at writing while my children are awake. I simply cannot muster the multitasking skill it takes to write seriously with my children present, even if they’re quietly engaged elsewhere. We have a lot of children which means that one of them is nearly always awake. Nearly always, no matter the hour. I wish I were exaggerating.

I hope spring is bringing a change. We’ve had two or three successful long naps for Sweet M in her crib - a huge accomplishment considering she has only been willing to sleep in her crib at nighttime until now. My oldest has a new job delivering papers, baseball season is starting, and long afternoons of fishing are nearly upon us. The middle three will spend every waking moment outdoors, most of them on the trampoline, as long the as the weather accommodates. It’s almost time to stock up on popsicles, and in spite of my deep and intense love of all things winter, I could not be happier about it.

My health still isn’t cooperating quite the way I’d like, but I have an appointment with my endocrinologist in two weeks. That visit will give me a next action step no matter the outcome. In the meantime, having the emotional symptoms partially under control allows me to deal with the physical things with a little more sanity. Plus: springtime. If you’ve never lived in the North, you have no idea what it is like when those first few warm March days arrive. People say the South is friendly, but I’ve lived in the southern regions too, and they got nothin’ on Northerners who are collectively seeing the sun for the first time in months. We all emerge from a mutual depression, and there is nothing in life – not pain, not health problems, not sorrow, not stress – there is nothing that holds a candle to our joyful demeanors.

We’ve been on several walks around our little neighborhood when the weather has allowed. Our lakes haven’t been this full in awhile thanks, I’m sure, to the excessive snowfall this year. The joy that springs up in my soul when I inhale the spring lake air and listen to the ripples against the shore, when I send my son off, fishing pole in hand, and talk with the neighborhood kids while I swing side by side with them at the park – it fills my entire being with air. I get really frustrated in our tiny little house, particularly in winter, constantly murmuring about the ridiculousness of seven people sharing less than 1300 square feet. Then I remember that this beauty is my backyard. There is nothing else in this world that speaks peace to me quite like the water. IMG_2606

April is National Poetry Month, so I leave you with this favorite from e.e. cummings.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

For everything which is yes. Life and love and wings. I am at rest.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

recovering my life

I have so many words that have been burning up my soul this week, but a IMG_2588sick and clingy baby has made it virtually impossible to do anything. Any time I’ve had to write has had to be spent writing for other things. A schedule mix-up today has left me with a brief amount of time this morning while most of the children are still sleeping, thanks be to Jesus. I’ve been longing to write down some of the stuff from last weekend (as well as share the morning sunrise view from our hotel room – look how pretty!), and I’ve been so fearful that I will lose it if I don’t get it written soon. Thus, this post will not begin with any poetic transition of any kind. I hear the baby stirring, even as I do some last edits, so you’re just left with what it is….

Last weekend, I opened my conference weekend with what amounts to an hour of quiet. Other women were in the room, but it’s basically a room full of different stations for prayer, art, reading, and reflection. I don’t think it was an accident that when I sat down and looked out on the beautiful lake, the first verse that I read was this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Every fear I had that my expectations for the weekend would not meet up with reality faded at that moment. It was like my whole being breathed a sigh and just let go. The weekend felt way more relaxed than last year. I’m sure partly because I was more comfortable with everything, but mostly because I knew what I needed and God was faithful to deliver.

The very first person who prayed with me asked me what I needed. I simply told her I had thyroid disease, and it had been a struggle lately. She immediately smiled, said her mother-in-law also had thyroid disease, and her name is Suzanne. A lot of people misunderstand thyroid disease as something that basically amounts to the fact that you have trouble losing weight, but her specificity in praying against thyroid disease and for my clarity in pursuing treatment came from someone who was familiar with everything that it means. Just a small confirmation that I was exactly where I needed to be at that moment, and the same was true for her.

I ended up crying a lot more than I expected through the weekend. (I’m sure some of it was because I just needed to, but let’s be real: PMS is no joke.) There were so many small moments that just built rest into my soul, and a couple of big ones that just brought me to my knees. To be honest, I was a little nervous about some of the weekend schedule, including the main speaker. I’m not quite sure why, but I tend to be cautious towards most things ‘evangelical orphan care’. I think we too quickly become rescuers/saviors and dismiss not just the children’s pain and loss but the dignity of the birth families as well. This speaker however: not like at all. She was exactly what I needed, and I knew it from the moment she stepped on the stage later that first evening because she opened with this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Even when I came home, back into the chaos of a large family in a small space, back into the everyday with children who tend punish me a little for leaving, I can breathe deep with those words. There’s nothing heavy or ill-fitting about this if I keep my eyes on Jesus. He’s teaching me daily those unforced rhythms of grace. If I’m keeping company with Him, then I’m living freely and lightly. Rest.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

working for the weekend

I’m getting ready to head away for a conference for the weekend. If there were ever a year where I needed this more, I’m not sure what it is. Thankfully, I don’t have the anxiety over going alone like I did last year (mostly because I’m not going alone this year); I am really just filled with excited anticipation. Well, and a just a little bit of anxiety over leaving my sweet M overnight for the first time in the eight months she’s been home. Ok. yeah. There’s some anxiety still.

Last year, we had just said goodbye to Baby D less than a month prior. I was wrung out emotionally. The grief was still fairly intense, even through that whole weekend. I remember what it was like to sit in my grief. Feeling alone. Wondering if I’ll ever feel quite normal again. I wept during sessions, during singing, just when talking to a lady I met in the hallway. Perhaps the intensity of the rest and peace I gained during that weekend last year was in direct correlation to the intensity of the emotions I felt in the weeks and months before.

This year, I’m not coming off of that kind of heavy emotionality. In spite of those terrible two weeks or so when I was fighting the health-related anxiety, in spite of the stress of two funerals this past week and another likely to come soon, I still feel fairly stable and sound. But I need rest. I feel it with every fiber of my being. I need alone time. I need a long walk looking over that beautiful lake, just me and Jesus. I need my shared room with an old friend, my dinner table with newer friends, and prayers with friends that I haven’t yet met in person. I need to sit in a roomful of mamas, remembering that I am not forgotten. I need to be reminded that I am called, changed, and connected to the One who knew every bit about me, even the ugly stuff, even the health-issue stuff, yet still knit my very being together.

Life is hard sometimes. Whether or not you do foster care, have adopted, have children at all, struggle with health problems or habits or anything else: life is pretty hard. We have to seize joy and rest and peace where we find it, and sometimes, when we can’t find it, we have to intentionally make space for it. Even if you don’t happen to be headed to Lake Lanier with me this weekend, find some joy. Get some rest. Fill yourself with peace. You need it too.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

facing my fear

Now that the mental fog of my week and a half of plumb craziness has lifted, I have words again. (I think my husband would argue that I had words all along; they just didn’t make much sense for awhile.) I had a bit of regret over publishing the last post, but at the same time, I don’t particularly want to forget how terrible I felt. One of the things that I lost after my first severe bout with this illness was the realization of how bad it actually was. I kind of want to remember that part. It helps me keep perspective.

I think perhaps the most difficult part of the past couple weeks has been the exposure of one of my deepest fears. The fear that all of this - my family, my health, my stability, my sanityj - will come crashing down. Particularly, I fear not just that I would lose all of those things, but that it would be my fault. That I will be the one who destroys my family and my home, who falls into terrible life choices or loses her mind or loses her health. That I will ruin the lives of everyone around me.

Perhaps it’s just that we have such exposure to families in utter destruction. Perhaps it’s that I realize that my own brokenness could easily take me to that place if I allowed it. Perhaps it’s just the continual reminder of my own physical frailty (not that I’m that much more frail than others, just that our bodies do not always function as God intended) that makes me fearful. I guess it doesn’t really matter why. Facing our deepest fears is a tricky business.

The thing these past two weeks reminded me of, however, is that grace is enough. Even if I would destroy my family and my health through my own choices, God can cover that. He is big enough. Even if all of this life that I live would be taken away because of disease or accident or even death, God is big enough for that too. His grace is sufficient even for that. My family will make it. My husband will make it. Even if I fall off the deep end, I can make it too.

We are surrounded by those who love us. Beyond the pharmaceutical assistance to get past the worst of the anxiety, I’ve been carried by the support of my friends and family: tangible grace in my life.

It’s long conversations with my sister-in-law, just hashing out the worst of my feelings and symptoms, being willing to accept her offer to drive an hour just to help me deal during the hard parts (even though ended up not being necessary), and knowing she holds me up in prayer.

It’s a sweet friend who understands chronic illness, who can encourage me to trust my body, and who just becomes the presence of Jesus to me.

It’s a cousin who calls long-distance (long-distance. is that a thing still?) unexpectedly to just let me know she’s praying.

It’s another friend who is praying Scripture, the very Word of life, over me and my family.

It’s a healing practitioner who does the same thing during our sessions.

It’s my mama who encourages me to do what needs to be done to maintain until we can figure out what’s going on for sure.

It’s just sheer grace, all of it.

So, now that I’m thinking more clearly and the emotional symptoms are largely gone, I’m left with the certainty that my body is not functioning the way it should and the uncertainty of what the next step should be. Even though the fear is still there, I will not be overcome. I can trust. I can rest. I can fall on grace. It’s gonna be alright.

 

 

-Want to read more about others’ deepest fears? Check out this brilliant series over at Momastery: Sacred Scared. We all win when we admit life is messy and often hard, and we’re all just doing this whole thing together. Everybody’s got stuff. Let’s be grace to one another.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

calm my anxious heart

One of the most difficult aspects of battling a chronic autoimmune disease, particularly ones involving the thyroid, is the mental struggle. Grave’s Disease carries with it a significant risk towards depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, and other mental hang-ups. Chronic disease is insidious, and sometimes when it’s worming its way through your system, you feel nearly overwhelmed by the depth of it.

For me, the mental part has been the symptom that I fight least often, but when those things do come, they come with a force that is both completely unexpected and completely shattering. Which is what’s happened to me over the past week. I went from being a little suspicious that my thyroid levels were not regulated to battling an anxiety and obsessive thought process that I have not felt since the early days of fighting Grave’s Disease.

Mental illness is just not something we typically talk about with any kind of real vulnerability or honesty. While mine is not a traditional mental illness, but rather mental symptoms with a physical cause, from what I can gather, the net result is the same. The way it takes over every part of your life, makes you feel so out of control, and the resulting guilt from the effects that you know your mental state is having on your family…that stuff is all the same.

I’m functioning, but I feel like I’m functioning on the edge. This probably isn’t noticeable to anybody but my family and closest friends. I doubt the people sitting beside me at church or on the bleachers at my son’s basketball game or the ones who talk to me in waiting rooms know that it takes nearly all of my strength to just sit there still when I feel like I want to jump out of my skin. I obsessively clench my hands to help diffuse the tension. My eating is wonky, I have intense hot flashes, I can’t sleep. I obsess about things that are wrong and or that even just might be wrong. I can’t focus, I can’t complete tasks easily, and I cry nearly all of the time. Also? I am hateful to my family. I literally cannot control how irritable I am. It’s that stuff that becomes the worst part. The part that makes you believe it’s a moral failing. That you’re a bad person. That if you were just more self-disciplined or more like Jesus or just more….that you could get past this on your own.

This isn’t a complaint post. This is an explanation post. It’s both a reminder and a confession. Vulnerability comes hard for me sometimes, and this particular issue makes me feel like the lowest of the low. It’s embarrassing, and as much as I don’t like to admit it, it’s partly embarrassing because of how I refuse to consider these things about others. I don’t know what burdens people bear. I get irritated before I give the benefit of the doubt. I judge when instead I should always show mercy. I am not the person that I hope others would be towards me.

This post is the hardest thing I’ve done in a very long time, but I need to write it out. At a time when writing comes so difficult for me, I need to put my words to page. To release some of the anxiety through shaky thyroid-tremor fingers while the experience is fresh. If I wait, I’ll forget. I’ll excuse and rationalize my way out of the full extent of my symptoms.

This week they’ll draw my blood yet again as they’ve done every eight weeks for the last eight months or so. My meds will be adjusted accordingly, and in a couple weeks, I’ll probably start to feel better. In the meantime, I do yoga, drink my weight in hot tea, and try every possible herb that may help. I pray. I sing. I cry. I hope beyond hope that my children do not remember these days when they’re older.

So if I’m not writing often, now you know why. If I flush when I see you, partly that’s my illness, partly that’s my shame. If you have a loved one that battles a chronic disease, then please remember this story and show a little compassion. It’s harder than you think, and the worst thing about it is that it never goes away. Thankfully, I know I don’t have to live in this place for long. I know even if anxiety is my constant friend, if obsessive thinking is never far from me, even in that I can find joy and peace. Because He who promised is faithful, and I know His promises.

Tonight, I’m clinging to the promise that my soul finds rest in God alone. The promise that He is faithful even in the struggle. The promise that His power is made perfect in my weakness. The promise that I am never abandoned or destroyed, and no matter how bruised, I will not be crushed. The promise of healing, even though that healing will almost assuredly come at the hands of traditional medicine. All of His promises are Yes and Amen in Christ Jesus, and tonight, I say Yes. Amen.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

what I’m into-January 2014

what I read:
I finally finished Allegiant – Veronica Roth, and I didn’t hate it like people said I might. I mean, it was a little boring, I think it read much more like a prequel than the conclusion of a trilogy, but I still quite enjoyed this series.

I re-started an older series that I hadn’t finished – The Book of Mortals – where I left off at the second book: Mortal – Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee. I was amused to see how much of the storyline echoed the Divergent books. The setting is different, but the similarities in basic plot background are strikingly similar.

I’ve used Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours for my daily prayers for a couple years now, but this year, I’m mixing it up a bit and switching back to Common Prayer – Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro. Major plus: The noon and evening readings are the same everyday. I find that comforting. The thing I really wish was different: I miss the Scriptures being printed with the day’s prayers. I hate having to look them up separately and too often find myself skipping that part.

I am in the middle of Jesus Feminist – Sarah Bessey, and I am savoring every last word of it. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this later, but it is just beautiful. I’ve cried, used my highlighter more than is really necessary, and just treasured the truths that Sarah so lovingly writes about. Plus, I’ve learned a couple things too, and I do so love to learn while I read.

Other books I read: When Helping Hurts – Steve Corbett and Brian Fikert, Dinner: A Love Story – Jenny Rosenstrach, The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook, 2001-2014

 

what I listened to:

Mostly old stuff. Except for Switchfoot’s new album, Fading West, which I think is…ok. It just hasn’t struck me as very interesting yet. I enjoy it and am continuing to listen to it, but I don’t think it’s the most remarkable album they’ve ever put out.

 

what I watched:

Praise be to Jesus, Community is back. More importantly, Dan Harmon is back. It is everything I hoped it would be, and every episode so far has been golden.

Rounding out the sitcom fun is Parks and Rec and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I have some fears about the loss of Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe. We’ll see how the rest of the season goes…

Parenthood is back to the weepy episodes, I guess. I’ve spent entirely too much emotional energy thinking through this whole Joel-Julia thing. (spoilers if you’re not caught up. skip the rest of this paragraph.) What is up with Joel? No second chances? No discussion even? No excuses for Julia’s behavior, but geez. Could he just give her a break? I’ve been trying to put my finger on why this whole part of the storyline bugs me so much, and I think it’s just because they’ve written him as the very-best-husband-in-the-world-ever for so very long that this whole plotline seems a bit out of character for him.

In my spare time, of which there’s been quite a bit since I’ve been snowed in and single-parenting for many days this month, I’ve been rewatching Veronica Mars in prep for the movie. I loved Veronica Mars, and the year it was cancelled was a sad time for me. It holds up, so if you’re interested in a new show that ends terribly and abruptly due to an unfortunate cancellation, go ahead and watch it. Random trivia fact: the episode I watched the other night had Joss Whedon in it. As an actor. Weird, I know. (My love for Joss Whedon and my absolute commitment to anything that he puts on film is another post for another day.)

 

What did you read, watch, or listen to this month? Comment below!

Linking up with Leigh again. Want to expand your reading list? Visit the link-up! I keep my GoodReads page open while I read through the posts to add all the things I want to read next.