Mental Health

Your Story has Power

Posted by on Apr 9, 2013 in Faith, Mental Health | 2 comments

Your Story has Power

Exactly one year ago today, I walked right out of my comfort zone and stepped into the blogosphere. I never really wanted to blog as I tend towards introversion, privacy, internalization, and solitude, all qualities that seem diametrically opposed to sharing personal stories publicly. The idea of casting the story net of my life out over the vast sea of the Internet for anyone and everyone to see made me feel a bit seasick. Nonetheless, in spite of my reluctance, I felt God inviting me to share my story in a more public way, and I accepted.

When I decided to start telling my story, I was struggling with horrendous circumstances, and I realized that all of the stories I had ever heard about overcoming came after the fact. They were told in retrospect, from the vantage point of the finish line where the entire marathon of a trial could be clearly viewed, from start to completion, with the knowledge of how all of the details ultimately worked together for good . They sounded simple, easy, and actually quite fun. Mine felt nothing like that. And I felt God speak to my heart , “All of those stories felt nothing like that in the middle either. It’s just that most people don’t share their story in the middle when they’re suffering and have no idea how it will end. Would you have the faith to show people your middle? Will you let your life serve as an example of how messy the middle can be, and how I protect you all the way through the middle as I take you to a better place? Would you be willing to be honest and vulnerable about the process?”

As I pondered those questions and my anxiety over answering, “Yes,” I picked up a book and read this:

“It is important that we remember our history with God. What is your history? Meditate on it. Record the miracles you see… I just want to put this one tool in your hand. If you will use it, you will stay encouraged every day of your life, and you will have an important key for the renewing of your mind. The tool is the testimony. Let everything be tied to a reminder of God’s supernatural interventions. Your God history needs to become a string of monuments that become reference points for the rest of your life.” Bill Johnson

So, in faith, I started to share, focusing on the testimony, the miracles. And in the process, sharing taught me and transformed me. Sharing my story saved me so many times from depression, shame, isolation, and fear. Over and over, releasing bits of my life and experience released tremendous power in my circumstances…

Power to heal, as putting my story into words helped me to make sense of it, to see the blessing in it, to feel some sense of control over writing my own ending. Because I had choices about my ending, regardless of my outcome. In the end, was I to be the character who gave up, let my family down, withdrew, and withered away? Or could I be the protagonist you root for in your favorite novel who fights, who grows in strength and courage, who overcomes? Ted Haggard’s wife, Gayle, says that in the wake of her husband’s public fall from a prominent ministry position, in her anguish, she asked herself, “Who am I going to be in this story?” Writing my story gave me the power to choose who I would be as it all unfolded, which absolutely crushed despair and terror, and healed me of the hurt and fear found in certain chapters.

Power to fight, as sharing my testimony of God’s presence in the midst of my trials released His power in my circumstances. Showing up to tell my story on the days I felt I was falling apart released something strong. It got in the face of my troubles and said, “I’m still here. I’m not backing down. In fact, I’m getting stronger every day.”

Power to connect, as being vulnerable staved off isolation and brought new depth in relationships. As I shared, other people seemed to feel safter sharing too. People started to reach out, to show me their reality, to let me in on their struggles, to say, “Me too.”

Power to overcome, as I purposed to find joy in the little things instead of allowing anxiety and depression to drag me into their abyss. In November 2011, within one week, I received two of the most frightening pieces of news I have ever heard in my life. In the aftermath, I struggled with fear, no, terror, and depression – but through blurry vision I could still make out the shadow of my little girls and I knew I couldn’t entertain these feelings and care for them adequately, I would have to choose. I made a choice to stay strong for my girls, and the only way I knew to do that from one moment to the next was to focus on the little happy things that showed up each day instead of the giant dark cloud lurking overhead. I decided that if I wrote about these simple things each day – cooking, playing, praying, exercising – along with the bigger picture testimony, I would stay accountable to keep my focus there, and maybe even encourage myself or someone else in the process. I found that no matter how small the source of joy, focusing on it made my problems smaller, and that maintaining gratitude and perspective magically generated peace and joy, in spite of my circumstances.

We all have a story, and in a world where most work overtime to stay covered, it can feel so naked to share. But your story has power, and the benefits of opening your book for others to read far outweigh the risks of feeling exposed.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” Brene Brown

~

The Art of Receiving

Posted by on Apr 7, 2013 in Faith, Mental Health | 0 comments

The Art of Receiving

From as early as I can remember, my Dad told me often that I was a “giver.” Because he obviously valued this quality, I did too. Because he was a giver and I wanted to be like him, I cultivated this quality of giving in my life. I still operate in large part as a giver, but I’ve also learned how to receive. For a person who loves to give, this is not nearly as simple as it may seem.

Over my life, I’ve given a lot for a lot of right reasons. But I also now realize that, at times, I’ve given with an underlying motive or attitude that wasn’t exactly right. All of this started to make its way into my awareness when I went through a season of receiving.

Rather unexpectedly and rather suddenly, Husband and I went from a being in a position to give to a position of having nothing to offer. Not only did we have nothing to offer, we found ourselves in a place of desperate need. We had friends and family who loved us, but something kept us from asking for help or even accepting it when offered. For me, that something was pride. I wasn’t a taker, I was a giver. And if I were to be completely honest, there was something outside of my positive motives of love and grace and generosity and a genuine desire to help that moved me to give – it felt good to have enough to be a giver, to not know the helplessness, hurt, and desperation wrapped up in my own needs.

At some point in the course of our five year downward spiral in which our circumstances went from bad to worse, we had no choice but to accept support from and lean on those closest to us. Some of our most trusted friends turned their backs on us and let us down. That was a hard and hurtful thing to deal with, but what was much, much harder and more hurtful for me was accepting help. I struggled to receive gifts instead of give them.

When my angel of a friend silently slipped in my purse an envelope full of cash that equalled the exact amount we lacked to make a full house payment that month, I wanted to say no and give it back. It hurt me to take it, but we needed it. I knew God was giving me what I prayed for through my friend – I didn’t ask for it and I didn’t tell her we needed it, she prayed for me and somehow heard the exact amount and gave it freely. It hurt to take it, but it blessed me. I learned that God works through His willing people to answer our prayers, and that to receive the answer to prayer I must be willing to receive from other people.

When my talented and accomplished childhood friend came to my aid with unique help only he could offer, I felt guilty and embarrassed to accept. But I had to. I felt obsessed with paying him back or reciprocating in some way, but I wasn’t in a position to. It was hard to let him help, but his help protected my entire family. I learned that God often sends His help through people who have skills, talents, abilities, and resources that I simply do not.

When family members helped us with some financial needs, my discomfort with taking became unbearable. I prayed and begged God to provide through a different means.  His response: “This is my provision for you right now. Take it and be grateful. I need you to learn how to receive.” My thinking started to change as I realized that I needed a shift in my understanding to grasp the balance between giving and receiving.

By the time my dear friend gave me a gift card to buy some needed items for our family, I didn’t feel hurt or guilty or embarrassed to accept, I just felt grateful. I felt humbled.

And that’s when it finally hit me. Receiving is an act of humility. Receiving says I can’t do everything by myself, other people have unique gifts that they are called to give, we need each other in real back and forth relationship.  Giving and receiving are inseparable – if one act becomes dominant while the other stagnates, things get out of balance. A giver who doesn’t receive can grow prideful, isolated, and self-reliant. A receiver who doesn’t give can become entitled, powerless, and self-centered.

The humility of receiving set this truth firmly in my heart: nothing I have is mine to give or keep anyway. Because so many people gave us so much, my thinking shifted from the subtle unconscious belief that I could control what I thought I needed to keep or what was extra to give to the idea that nothing I have is really mine. It illuminated for me the truth that everything I have comes from God and it is His to distribute. When I give now, it is with deep gratitude for all I’ve been given and all I have to give, and humble awareness of what it feels like to be deeply in need.

Stinky Baggage

Posted by on Feb 13, 2013 in Mental Health | 1 comment

*WARNING* graphic poo information follows…

One of my household responsibilities is cleaning up all the dog poo in our yard. I’m not sure exactly how this not so appealing job fell on me, but somehow it did. Hmmmm. Add to list of “discussions” to have with Husband about redistribution of household tasks. Sounds like man’s work to me now that I think about it.

But anyway. This may not sound like a huge deal, the cleaning of the poo, but you just. don’t. know. We have two very large dogs. They make very large poo. And I’m not sure what exactly we’re feeding them, but they make a lot of poo. It’s a nasty job.

I try to do it every day, and when I’m able to maintain this schedule the job is gross, but it’s doable. Scoop poop, place in bag, throw in trash, wash hands, 5 minutes total. Somehow in all of the busyness, house guests, and snow surrounding the holidays, though, the task got away from me and I went more than a month without scooping the poo. Suddenly one unseasonably warm January day, I found myself out in the yard, lugging around a giant, full-to-the-brim bag heavy with dog poo, feeling like it was impossible to clean up the mess that had accumulated as the poo piled up day after day, week after week, with no tending to keep it from escalating out of control. I couldn’t even recognize the nice landscape of our yard anymore. I just saw a lot of ugly stinky crap, taking up residence and taking over where clean and pure and beauty used to live.

Where am I going with this absolutely disgusting story? Well, as I was dragging around my stinking bag of poo, I had this thought…

How many of us are dragging around a stinking bag of $&!? in some way or another? You know, hurts, anger, resentment, unforgiveness that we’ve neglected to clean up for so long that it has just taken over the once lovely landscape of our lives?

Much like my yard full of dog poo, hurts and anger that are cleaned out regularly are pretty manageable, but those that are allowed to accumulate over time until they start to take over require some serious heavy lifting to remove. And like my yard full of poo, there comes a time that it either seems easier to let the crap continue to collect, or the crap no longer seems noticeable because it has become a permanent fixture. And just like a yard full of poo, all of this eventually really starts to stink.

So the day I realized I had to clean up, I was outside with Bug and Bear and I saw that this was too much mess for them to play happily and safely. The mess was disrupting my enjoyment of our usually pleasant yard too. I figured my neighbors were probably noticing and keeping their distance as well. The crap in your heart does the same thing you know – affects your family’s enjoyment and health, grosses you out on the inside, and repels the people who do life with you.

I want to point out that I’m not talking about significant traumas or deep wounds here, those things are not so simple and the emotions involved more confusing. I’m simply talking about the day to day issues, relatively small in the grand scheme of things, that evoke hurt and anger. 2012 was a difficult and painful year. Some people, some strangers, some friends, hurt me terribly, caused my family significant harm. I’m over it. It’s not that I don’t care that these things happened, but I do care less about holding the hurt and anger than keeping myself and my family physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy and happy. In many of these instances I could have retaliated, but it would have come with the hefty price tag of my peace and joy. I think spending my days with young children who marvel at absolutely everything with wide-eyed wonder makes me very aware that the time is short and I don’t get these days back. Do I really want to look back one day and realize I sacrificed my life, my joy, my children’s joy, because someone (who may not even matter all that much) did something that hurt, but that’s over?

I am not saying that I pretend my hurts and anger don’t exist in an act of denial, but that I do the daily discipline of scooping the poop. It takes daily maintenance to keep out the crap of unresolved emotion and bitter unforgiveness, but keeping up with this daily scooping out prevents a massive shoveling job later. Yes it can be a gross job. It’s definitely messy. But taking my hurts to God every day, going through all of the messy feelings with Him until they’re not so powerful anymore, and then letting it go with forgiveness, cleans up the mess before it makes my whole life look like crap. Scoop poop, hand off to God, call it old trash, wash up my heart, then move on with no time wasted.

Of course, sometimes in the process of scooping the poop I realize there’s a discussion to be had. Husband! We need to talk about who scoops the poo…

 

Happy New Year

Posted by on Jan 2, 2013 in Faith, Marriage & Family, Mental Health | 6 comments

Happy New Year

At the start of every new year, I take some time to fast and pray, to shake off all the dust from the past year, to get fresh vision for the new year. As I seek direction for what I should fast and for how long, I usually sense God asking me to set aside something that I’ve unknowingly and unintentionally started to turn to for comfort or security that’s not Him.

A few years ago as I was preparing for my fast, I felt Him asking me to give up arguing and complaining for the entire month of January. Kind of incredulous, I checked back several times. Arguing and complaining? Is that it? I thought for sure He’d pull out the big guns – chocolate, coffee, dinner, wine. Nope. Just arguing and complaining. For one month. That’s it.

On January 1, I set about my fast with a spring in my step and deep gratitude that I could still enjoy my morning coffee and evening dessert. This was going to be sooooo easy. I wasn’t much of an arguer and complainer to begin with, right?

Wrong. Of course, it turned out to be the most difficult fast I’ve ever done. I could hardly keep myself from feasting at a table of arguing and complaining for three square meals a day and snacks in between. I felt like I was starving without it. Wasting away.

During this time, God revealed to me how much arguing and complaining I was doing in my marriage. He showed me that the problem wasn’t just that I was arguing and complaining, but that my arguing and complaining had become tools I used to defend and protect myself. They were bad and unsuccessful ways to cover up and manage a lot of hurt and resentment I held in my heart towards Husband. Because I was not handling this emotion in the right ways, I was acting it out in all the wrong ways.

God used my month long fast from arguing and complaining to show me the truth underlying my actions, to help me clean out my unexpressed emotion, and to begin healing my heart. He gently redirected me to pour out my concerns about my marriage to Him so that He could help me, rather than erecting impenetrable walls of defensiveness, rudeness, and hardness towards Husband because I did not know how else to help myself.

At the end of the month, I felt impressed to tell Husband about my fast, to apologize for all of my arguing and complaining, and then to talk to him about my hurts and anger. In that order specifically. Honestly, I can’t remember exactly what the outcome of that conversation was. I imagine that it was great in some ways and hard in some ways, that it brought some resolution but left some conflict to be worked through at a future time. What I do remember vividly, though, is that my heart felt cleaned out of bitterness and resentment afterwards. I did not need to argue and complain to protect myself any longer, I needed to focus on keeping my heart healthy regardless of what Husband or my marriage made me feel in the course of a day. I remember with great clarity that, following this experience, something changed and shifted in me and my marriage for the better, and it has remained better since.

As I was preparing to ring in 2013 with a time of quiet reflection, this story popped into my head and I wanted to share it. I do not think this is an uncommon pattern in marriage. Changing this way of relating in my own marriage freed me up in so many ways and left me feeling better about myself, my life, and my family.

I plan to spend this next month of January as I usually do, and this year that includes taking a break from social media and blogging. Happy New Year! I’ll see you in February ~ Celia

 

Thanksgiving

Posted by on Nov 22, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Faith, Marriage & Family, Mental Health | 0 comments

Thanksgiving

The past year has easily been the hardest year of my life. When it started, I thought I would crumble under the weight of it. As it progressed, though, the strangest thing happened. I found joy in the little things. I realized that life goes on, and I had a choice – I could crumble, or I could rise above. All it took was one glance at my babies, my little girls full of wonder and excitement over absolutely everything in the world, and the choice was clear.

Years ago I made a habit of writing down ten things that made me happy at the end of each day.  It changed my perspective. I found myself looking for the positive in my life, job, and relationships instead of noticing the negative because taking note of good things throughout the day made my list easier to construct at night. That simple task changed my heart.  I learned that circumstances really have very little to do with how we feel and perceive life. The choice we make of where to place our focus affects the condition of our hearts, and our heart condition has everything to do with the level of joy and gratitude we experience.

“God sometimes brings joy into distress to give us comfort.” Beth Moore

This Thanksgiving I’m so incredibly grateful for all of the joy that has brought comfort in the midst of distress.  The happiness I’ve found in the mundane of the day to day – my family, my marriage, my children, my crazy dogs, my wonderful friends, the beautiful scenery surrounding our new home, the simple things like cooking and driving and running and praying.  I’m grateful that this year has taught me gratitude as a lifestyle and cultivated an attitude of joy in my life.

 

 

The Good Enough Person

Posted by on Nov 13, 2012 in Faith, Mental Health | 4 comments

The Good Enough Person

I’ve noticed a nasty bug going around lately. I’m managing to stay healthy even though I’ve been exposed, but I’ve had a terrible bout of it before that seemed nearly impossible to overcome.  Worse than the flu, it drained my energy and enthusiasm for life.  Worse than food poisoning, it poisoned me on the inside so that I had trouble keeping anything good down when I needed it. Like any contagious illness or infectious disease, it left me more isolated and alone than I wished.  Perfectionism. Unlike a physical illness, it was hard to diagnose, treat, and make a full recovery because I didn’t even recognize that the symptoms were pointing to a greater underlying illness.

I see perfectionism running rampant, destroying quality of life and relationships while people continue under its unmanageable burden unaware. Perfectionism is easy to identify, really, and it’s everywhere if you start looking.  The symptoms are control, judgement, unforgiveness, bitterness, high demands and expectations, blame (of self or others),  fault finding, criticism, and of course, appearing perfect. Despite the appearance of perfection, it stinks underneath, and I’m tired of it.  I think other people must be, too.  Recently I posted The Good Enough Mother and it was by far the most popular thing I’ve ever written on this blog.  I wondered why, because I thought it was okay but it was by far not my favorite thing I’ve ever written. I think it got so much attention because it gave mothers, who are expected to present so perfectly so constantly, permission to just stop it already, to just accept their imperfections as a beautiful, important even, facet of their mothering.  I think it relieves people to hear mothers say publicly that they’re not perfect and that it’s okay to throw that pressure right off and move on – all the better if the imperfect mother is a child therapist who should know better!

So here’s the next installment: I’m not a perfect mother and I’m not a perfect person. I’m not a perfect spouse or cook or friend or Christian or therapist or anything.  Neither are you. We’re not perfect people, and we’re not meant to be – we are meant to be imperfect people connected to a perfect God.  And that is where our medicine comes from to cure the malady of perfectionism – it’s a heavy dose of grace.  Grace first and foremost received for ourselves every day from a God Who loves unconditionally and forgives freely. Then grace given to all of those imperfect messes around us, which incidentally, happens to be everyone. Grace is easy to give when received – it overflows out of your heart to cover over the mistakes and imperfections of those around you.  Whatever is in your heart will overflow and make its way out.  In that way, the ugliest thing about perfectionism is that the pressure we put on ourselves to be a certain way overflows out of us to magnify the mistakes and imperfections of others. It is absolutely destructive to self and relationship.

Can we collectively agree to kick not just the Perfect Mother to the curb, but also the facade of being able to achieve perfection in any part of our personalities or lives? To throw the choking, life-sucking pressure of perfectionism right off of ourselves and move on? Instead, we could give ourselves permission to just stop it already, to just accept our imperfections as beautiful, important even, facets of our personalities. Truly, when submitted to God in humility and shared with others in transparency, our weaknesses and blemishes become what draw people to us, what exude grace and acceptance, what encourage people who are struggling. Growth and change are important pursuits, but the pursuit of perfection steals joy, vulnerability, and peace. The pursuit of God and grace transforms you effortlessly into someone better while relieving the pressure on yourself and the people around you to perform with perfection.

 

 

Joy and Sorrow

Posted by on Oct 31, 2012 in Faith, Mental Health | 1 comment

“Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

The top of my home page says “It’s about finding joy in the little things.” Sometimes I think about removing it because I wonder if it makes sense to my readers – I write about a lot of things and not all of them seem to relate to finding joy in the little things. I choose to keep it there because it serves as a reminder to me of why I write, and more importantly, how I want to live. Life is hard right now. When I see “It’s about finding joy in the little things,” each time I write about my life, thoughts, or experiences, it reminds me that what I’m really saying is “There’s still so much joy, even in pain, when I take time to notice it.” It reminds me that every day I have a choice – will I let my problems wreak havoc on my life and spirit, or will I choose joy on purpose? I choose joy. I choose to purpose to look for joy each day. I choose to focus on what’s joyful and wonderful in my life instead of what’s sad and hard. I choose to stay connected to the source of my joy, my God, because the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Most importantly, I choose to find the joy that arises as a direct result of my struggles, and surprisingly, that has been easier than I could have imagined.

Paradoxically, joy and sorrow go together. I can think back over many difficult experiences in my life that led to a tremendous blessing. Looking back, I know that I wouldn’t trade the suffering because it produced something wonderful.

“The source of anguish can morph into joy. This is not a swap but a transformation, wherein the same thing that gave you a nightmare becomes your source of joy. The very thing that was your horror becomes something so very dear that you can not imagine what you would do without it.” Beth Moore

Even in the midst of my trials, I can identify so much good that has arisen from the pain. Really, the trials have changed me in ways I would not want to undo. I wouldn’t trade what has happened because I don’t want to be the same person I was before. I would not do without my new passions birthed from a greater sense of compassion for people who are hurting.

“God will take your pain and turn it into your passion…passion from pain is a gift from God.” Beth Moore

“If you will trust God with your anguish, it will birth something precious to you.” Beth Moore

This is not to say that I stuff all of my emotions down inside and turn a blind eye to difficulties in an attempt to deny they exist. On the contrary, the anguish often becomes overwhelming and I cry my eyes and heart out to God for help. I am in a battle, mostly in prayer, to see difficult circumstances transformed and removed from my life. But it’s taking a while and I refuse to let my life be ruined in the process – I refuse to let my joy be stolen.

“I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” 2 Corinthians 7:4

I find it easy to keep this irrepressible joy alive because I really do believe to the depths of my being that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28) – I believe it because it says so in the Bible, and I believe it because I see it in my life. I believe and have experienced that trials, hardships, and heartaches can become the most beautiful things and make the most beautiful people. Pain produces.

“The things we try to avoid and fight against – tribulation, suffering and persecution – are the very things that produce abundant joy in us. Huge waves that would frighten the ordinary swimmer produce a tremendous thrill for the surfer who has ridden them. ‘We are more than conquerors through Him IN all these things’ – not in spite of them, but in the midst of them. A saint doesn’t know the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but because of it. Paul said ‘I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.'” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

“You did not know you were in labor, but all of this was labor. Maybe at the peak of the pain the baby is just about to get here – are you really going to give up right before the baby is born?” Beth Moore

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” John 16:20

How Will I Know?

Posted by on Oct 17, 2012 in Bug & Bear, Marriage & Family, Mental Health | 0 comments

How Will I Know?

“How will I know, if he really loves me? I say a prayer with every heartbeat. I fall in love whenever we meet. I’m asking you what you know about these things.”

Please don’t tell me I’m the only one old enough for that song to conjure up images of dancing around with my middle school friends, belting out the lyrics alongside Whitney into our hairbrushes, daydreaming about “the one” and all the ways we would know he really loved us.

Fast forward to our adult selves. We found “the one.” We realize that it doesn’t look a lot like the Whitney Houston song in real life, but it’s still great in its own real-life way. Now the question has changed from “How will I know if he really loves me?” to “How will I know if I’m ready to have a baby?” It never became a hit song, but I bet that question weighs even heavier on the minds of women contemplating starting a family than the question of love weighs on the hearts of dreamy preteen girls.

After Husband and I were married a couple of years, we started talking and dreaming about adding a baby to our family. We had enjoyed some time of adjusting to marriage, traveling, and just being together. We knew we wanted to have children. We were financially stable (at the time, anyway). We certainly weren’t getting any younger. Everything seemed to line up and point to it being the right time and the right plan. Except there was just a bit of nagging doubt on the inside of me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to have children, it was just that becoming a mother seemed like the most life-changing, earth-shattering, death-to-self kind of thing I could ever choose to do – and somewhere along the way, I picked up this notion that to have a child, one must be completely prepared, totally sure, perfectly equipped, and fully without doubts.

Husband was feeling really ready to move full speed ahead into parenthood, but with my mixed feelings and ambivalence about it all, I started asking around among the mothers that I knew. I asked a loved and respected mentor at my church who had adult children (and looked to be the poster mama for family life perfection) how she had known she was ready to start a family. Her own story of ambivalence prior to having children, and even after her first was born, shocked me. I asked a professional colleague with two school-age children if she had experienced any doubts about getting pregnant and having a baby. Again, I was surprised to learn that she had questioned whether she really wanted to have children at all. I asked close girlfriends with very young children how they had felt before having a baby, and the answer was that they were unsure and full of doubts. Absolutely every woman I talked to expressed the same mixed feelings about having a baby, the same doubts about their readiness and ability to be a mother, the same nervousness at giving up so much of themselves to care for another. Each of these women decided in the end that the desire to have a baby trumped all of the questions and doubts, and each became an incredibly attentive, committed, amazing mother.

Knowing that my doubts and mixed feelings were normal and did not disqualify me entirely from motherhood, we took the plunge and added sweet Bug to our family, then two years later our beloved Bear. In the years since I had my own children, a great number of friends have come to me with the same concerns in their early stages of contemplating motherhood. They ask the same questions – How did I know? Was I sure I wanted a baby? Did I struggle with feeling like I wouldn’t be a good mother? Did I feel nervous at the thought of the lifestyle change that having a baby would bring? My answers were much like those given to me when I asked the same questions of any mother I could find – I didn’t know for sure, but I knew enough. I struggled greatly with the feeling that maybe I didn’t have what it took to be a good mother, but I knew I would do my absolute best for the children entrusted to my care. I was terrified at the death to self that I knew would come from giving up my body for pregnancy and nursing, sacrificing my familiar life for something I could not in any way comprehend, relinquishing my freedom to focus on myself and my own needs in the interest of someone else completely dependent upon me, but I knew that it was worth it to experience creating a life that was a little combination of my self and Husband’s self.

I’m not saying that this is the experience of every woman, but I do think it’s a far more common experience than anyone really talks about openly. As a result, we are left feeling like motherhood is all black and white – either we know and commit completely with no doubts whatsoever and we’re meant to be mothers, or we have questions and doubts that mean we probably don’t have what it takes. In reality, ambivalence is such a normal state of motherhood, from pre-conception, to pregnancy, to birth, and through childhood, that I think were we not to feel so ashamed and afraid of it as mothers, we would get more comfortable just accepting it as a part of the job description.

Rock Solid

Posted by on Oct 11, 2012 in Faith, Mental Health | 0 comments

Rock Solid

Last night, Husband used the words “rock solid” to describe me. As in, I’ve been “rock solid” through a lot of difficult things we’ve faced.

I kind of chuckled inside. I would guess most who know me outwardly would not use the same words to describe me. I’m often described as soft spoken. I am moved to tears with emotion over just about any and everything. I think I seem soft.

Plus there’s the fact that I used to struggle with fear, fear of just about any and everything. But the truth is, I don’t struggle with fear anymore. I’m not scared, not even of those things that appear threatening in my life right now. Do I ever feel fear? Of course, but it is fleeting and transitory, and it disappears once I recognize it as a reminder to pray. Do I ever break down? Of course, regularly, but the breakdowns release emotion and then quickly pass instead of breaking me down. I have been, overall, rock solid through our trials.

Except it’s not me who’s rock solid. It’s God in me.

Let’s go back to the beginning. I’m soft. I’m emotional. I tend towards fear. I’m prone to breakdowns. Left to myself, the trials that my family has faced would have broken me into nothing, completely unraveled me. They have not, only because I know the Rock, the One Who is Rock Solid, and His strength to my softness, His unconditional love to my emotions, His faithfulness to my fear, have changed me from the inside out. Him in and through me has changed the way I think, feel, and respond when trouble presents itself in my life.

I take the compliment, Husband – sometimes I don’t want to be rock solid anymore and in those moments it’s nice to know that at least it means something to my family. But then I’ll turn that compliment back towards you, God. Thank You that Your grace is sufficient for me, that Your power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Thank You that You see me and take note of my life’s distresses (Psalm 31:7). Thank You that You take my burdens upon Yourself every day so that I don’t need to worry about shouldering them, because You care for me (1 Peter 5:7).

If you live in fear, you’ve just got to get to know Him Who is Courage, Strength, Grace, Love. Not because He is a self-help program that will magically show you how to fix your life in a few easy steps, but because a relationship with Him is so absolutely life giving that you can’t help but be changed by it.

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2

The View From the Top

Posted by on Oct 1, 2012 in Faith, Mental Health | 0 comments

The View From the Top

Since my family moved to Colorado a little over a month ago, we have been in overdrive taking in all of the scenic views, mountain air, and outdoor activity. On Saturday and Sunday mornings we leave the house as early as we can, find a mountain to hike, and spend our days outside soaking in this new place we love. Each week, we have progressively worked our way up to more challenging trails and terrain. We take our kiddos everywhere with us – partly because we enjoy them and partly because we have no one to leave them with – so these hikes involve getting a 1 year old and 3 year old up a mountain in addition to ourselves. Bug and Bear have turned into little mountain ladies, I am amazed at how they can keep up with us on some pretty strenuous hikes, but the fact remains that they have short legs and they always wear out just as we’re nearing the summit of our hike.

The hikes have developed a predictable pattern. We start out strong, all of us, full of energy, determination, and conviction that we can get to the end of the trail where the stunning overlook awaits. Bug runs most of the way up yelling, “Mommy! JOG ME!” That kid has a future as a personal trainer, I’m telling ya. Her yelling motivates me, and so I do as I’m told and JOG HER. Husband brings up the rear with Bear, who walks most of the way but occasionally needs to be carried over a rough patch.

After about an hour, we all start to wear out a little. We start asking the hikers passing us on the way down how far we are from the top. “Oh, about halfway,” they always say. Always. We are halfway, then 5 minutes later still halfway, then 10 minutes later still halfway, and so on and so forth until we start to feel that we’re not actually moving at all, that we have, in fact, come to a complete standstill despite all of the energy we’re expending to continue upward. We have no way to gauge our progress and it feels like we’re no longer getting anywhere.

Me: “I’m feeling done with this. I think it’s still really far. The girls are wearing out. Maybe we should turn around.”

Husband: “No. I’m not quitting.” Long pause, heavy breathing sounds… “Unless your wisdom is really telling you it’s better to turn around.”

Screw wisdom, I’m not about to be the quitter in this bunch! So onward and upward we go. The last part of the trek up to the peak is always the hardest, longest, most exhausting part. Honestly, it stops being fun for just a little while. But then all of a sudden, we’ve arrived, just when it felt like we never would, and we find ourselves at the top looking out over the most amazing view, breathing in the fresh air, feeling full and invigorated and thrilled. It was so worth it.

On our last hike, the whole process reminded me of what it feels like to pursue a big dream, to work hard towards any meaningful goal. The beginning is always so full of excitement, energy, and optimism. It feels like you can conquer the world with your big ideas and unique dreams! You run forward with all of the enthusiasm and determination you have in your being so that you can reach the top and enjoy the view. But then come the obstacles – the climb is steeper than you anticipated, the people around you aren’t giving the guidance and help you need, it’s taking much longer than you planned, your legs seem a little too short to finish as strong as you started. Sometimes there’s an absolute failure and seems to be no reason to continue. Maybe you should quit, you start to think. You were too ambitious, you have too much slowing you down. It’s perfectly respectable to just head back down and do something else, something easier.

The thing is, you are probably closer to the top than you realize. The last leg is always the hardest, longest, most exhausting part. But all of a sudden, when you think it will never happen, the path opens up and there you are.

The view from the top is always worth the climb.

 

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