Tag: musings

Shaken

Did you ever get one of those “Aha!” moments, almost like a light bulb suddenly went off… but you haven’t quite fit the pieces together?  Almost like… something is on the tip of your tongue, in the forefront of your mind, but you haven’t quite put your finger on it?  Like… when you recognize an actor, a voice, a famous line, and you’re thinking, “I know, I know… it’s… it’s….” You’re on the cusp of figuring something out, but aren’t quite there yet.

The past two Sundays at church we have been studying Psalm 61:

Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.

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.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

Selah

We have been unpacking the ramificatons of suffering – why we suffer,  where it comes from, how God can be sovereign, good, when the world is filled with evil.  We experience painful things in life, oftentimes struggle just to get by.  We watch the news unfold about the devastation in Japan, and we wonder –  why did God let this happen?       

I believe much of the things we endure are a direct result of our sinful nature, living in a fallen world, the choices that humanity as a whole has made with the gift of free will.  When we trust God as our Savior, we are forgiven and made whole… but we are still flesh and blood, living in a sinful world.  Not all suffering is a direct result of our own choices; some things just happen. 

In his sermon Pastor Dave says, “Wherever God’s kingdom intersects with the fallen world, something shakes.   Something’s gotta give… something pops!” 

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginnings of birth pains.
Matthew 24:6-8

These verses are speaking of signs of the end times.  God’s kingdom is coming closer and closer; He is working in the hearts and minds of His people, and the fallen world is shaking, reacting in a powerful way.        

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
Romans 8:18-21 (emphasis mine)

We don’t enjoy suffering… but it’s comforting to know that despite what we feel when we experience these things, they are happening for a reason.  Instead of leaving us to sin and its demise, God in His mercy subjected sin itself to frustration and gave us a way out.  He showed up as our Savior, showed up on the cross and died for our sins – and just think, how the earth shook on that day!

I can see this on a grand scale – almost unnatural disasters, national upheaval across the world.  And I see it on a more personal level – my flesh reacting when I know I’m supposed to do something or act a certain way, resisting the Spirit.         

I’m always not-quite-figuring-it-out.  I have these glimmers of inspiration, wondering if there’s some light at the end of the tunnel and I’ll suddenly grasp a concept.  While listening to the sermon on Sunday, I wondered if I could apply this to my struggle with depression (or whatever you want to call it).  There are some moments when it definitely feels like I POP, when I’m shaken, when there’s this collision with reality and insanity… I wonder how much, if any, could be contributed to those supernatural forces swirling all around me.  Are they affecting me at the chemical level?  Are they messing with my mind?  It could be nothing, but I felt this intense parallel… except that I feel powerless to do anything about it.        

Therefore do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
2 Corinthians 4:16-17

Listen to Pastor Dave’s sermons; “Lead me to the Rock” parts 1 and 2 deal with suffering.

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This Isn’t Me

Ask anyone who knows me what kind of person they think I am.  Chances are, they’ll use adjectives such as nice, kind, friendly, thoughtful, sensitive, perhaps quiet, shy or interoverted.  Maybe good listener will make the charts – I’ve always thought so myself. *grin*

What about ANGRY?  MAD?  IRRITABLE?  EMOTIONAL?  (pause)  Yeah, okay, maybe that last one.

I don’t know when it all started, but most of my growing-up years could be marked as depressed… depressive?  I never got diagnosed, although when I stopped eating in junior high it came up at the doctor’s office and my mom said she wanted me to “beat it the natural way.”  I’ve looked at those checklists for identifying depression symptoms many times but never quite figured out how I fit, if I fit, or what it all meant.  It was hard enough just trying to fit in during high school!  I don’t know if it’s because I was young and uninformed, relying on my parents with whom it seemed almost taboo, grew up with a father who was always telling me to “change [my] attitude” and “just be happy.” 

Trying to make sense of my past seems futile.  I grew up in a loving, Christian family… but definitely wasn’t living up to the perfect standard that seemed to be encouraged and expected of me.  I have always hated the idea of blaming someone else for my problems, but I also know these things do have an impact on who we are and what we become.  In any case, who I was could have been due to any number of outward influences and inward reactions. 

We all have these dreams and aspirations, goals that we think – once we reach them – we will be happy and everything will be perfect.  Being thin was always at the top of my list, always my number one New Year’s resolution.  I did not have a good relationship with food; gave it up for a couple months.  I felt in control because I was making the rules, and I was thrilled at the numbers I saw on the scale every morning.  But the thrill didn’t last for long; I was out-of-control, hungry, and dying inside. 

When I would make a mistake, when I looked in the mirror and came face to face with the reflection of who I had become as a person, I was sickened.  I would get so upset with myself; cutting seemed to be the only way to release the anger, the bitterness, the sadness, the emotions.  I don’t know what I was crying for most at the time – it wasn’t for my outward appearance, I know that.  I just wanted to be free from the turmoil.  I felt so alone.

Funny how some things never change.  I still struggle with some of the same things, though I’ve grown and matured (at least, I’d like to think so), have learned healthier ways of dealing with things.  Over the past few years I’ve wondered on and off if I suffer from a chemical imbalance, and even went to an endocrinologist when I was apparently not ovulating and unable to get pregnant.  I strongly believe that being put on birth control at an early age to stop a two-month period (translate: hemorrhage) may have had some sort of impact on the entire cycle in my body, which is one of the reasons why I will never take hormonal birth control again unless my life depends on it.

Everyone’s different, I understand that.  We have different tendencies, tolerance levels, personalities, and I suppose we get used to operating a certain way.  Reminds me of my grandmother, my dad’s mom – she was in the hospital a number of times before she passed away a few years ago, and her vital signs were so weak she shouldn’t have survived that long.  Her body had simply gotten used to operating at that level – it was normal for her.  Sometimes I wonder if that’s how I’m operating; perhaps I’m a walking zombie, and this has become my norm.

Sometime last year, I had this intense feeling of dread, knowing I was going to hit the wall emotionally – it felt like there was a pattern to the craziness.  I told Phil it seemed like I had two “normal” weeks out of the month, followed by two during which I had no control whatsoever and was overcome by this horrible person.  I would yell, scream, have mommy tantrums – I was impatient, intolerant, unhappy, and then I would sob for how horrible I was acting.  I didn’t want to take care of the kids (though I would do so anyway, begrudgingly), didn’t want to be around anyone, everything seemed like a nuissance, and I just wanted to nap the day away.  Eventually, those emotional days would pass, and I felt more calm, happier.  Who was that other person?!  Maybe I had imagined it.  Then it would happen all over again.         

I’m no stranger to apologizing, admitting I’ve messed up… but recognizing that I may have a more profound problem has been a sobering realization.    And admitting it to other people isn’t easy.  Phil has been supportive, but opinionated in his stance on diagnosis/treatment.  Talking things over with Nikki shed some light on some areas I’ve struggled with, and Becky’s openness with her struggle with depression has been encouraging.  Not many people know what I’m going through. 

I thought I saw some light at the end of the tunnel when I came across the symptoms for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), and even printed out a symptom tracking sheet, but was further confused when my mood swings seemed more random than I initially thought.  The thought of tracking more than one month seemed impossible – even analyzing my moods and feelings (emotionally and physically) at the end of the day for the few weeks that I did was a draining process. 

One of the documentaries I’ve watched since changing my eating habits is Food Matters.  I thought it was going to be more like Food, Inc., a commentary on the food industry, but it was more geared towards modern medicine, and using food to be healthy as opposed to prescription drugs (think: “you are what you eat”).  I was particularly interested in the use of vitamins for the natural treatment of depression (niacin, vitamin c, and B vitamins, to name a few).  Since then I’ve come across some other resources for treating depression naturally

Even going the natural route, the possibilities for vitamins and supplements – nevermind diet itself – are endless.  I already eat a pretty healthy diet, albeit there could always be improvement.  Which things and in what amounts should I try?  And if that doesn’t work, do I try something else, or rework the amounts?  The options seem overwhelming.  Becky wrote a great post recently about getting help for depression, and though I feel confused about what’s even going on with me, I’m going to start by talking to my midwife at my next appointment.

There’s a part of me that feels like I just have a bad attitude; I need to pray it away, just get happy and make myself feel better.  Focus on something else; change my perspective.  But then I’m in the midst of the storm, feeling like I’ve been overtaken by a completely different person, and I know this isn’t me.

It’ll Grow Out

Whenever I contemplate getting a new haircut, I hem and haw over different styles, picking out pictures so I can best portray what I’m hoping to achieve.  Before I’ve even made a decision, I’ll have bad dreams about chopping all my hair off, consumed with an overbearing sense of misery and regret.  I end up pining for those long locks once again, and have instant haircutters’ remorse.  I wake up, relieved to find I still have my hair. 

Besides the pressure that comes with picking out a new haircut, knowing it will change how you come across to others and possibly how you perceive yourself, there’s also this feeling of potential.  This style would be so versatile, I could do this, I wouldn’t have to worry about that.  The world is my oyster! [pause] Okay, maybe not that much potential… but change, whether big or small, always carries with it a certain potential and the excitement of the unknown. 

Throughout the years I’ve had my hair all sorts of different ways.  Growing up, it grew past my butt; I would sit on it in class and the strands would get caught in the seat.  Ouch!  I loved to braid it and do all sorts of silly things to it. 

As I got older, I would make self-deprecating comments about my looks, and people would remark, “But you have such pretty hair!”  I don’t know if it was in direct rebellion to those comments, or a sort of passive-aggressive retaliation to my Dad’s [chauvinistic] opinion that women had to wear makeup and have long hair to be beautiful, but I just wanted to break out of that rut.  

My dad was mad when I cut my hair; he didn’t speak to me for a while.

Since then, I’ve experimented with different lengths.  When I got married, my hair was short (just like it was when Phil met me – *swoon*). 

Once you bite the bullet and cut all your hair off, pretty much anything goes. 

But I’ve grown it out a number of times, wanting to have long hair again.  

Every time I contemplate a change, though, I get that familiar knot in the pit of my stomach – What if I hate it?  What if people don’t like how I look?  What if my husband doesn’t think I’m beautiful?  I’ll be this way FOREVER!  

Despite always being fed up with my hair the longer it gets (it’s dry, frizzy, and I can’t wear it up because I get bad headaches), there’s always part of me that holds on to the idea of long hair.    

I wonder… what is it that makes some of us so attached to this accumulation of dead cells on our head?  What’s the big deal, anyway?  And does it really define who we are? 

Sometimes just dressing a certain way can make  you feel different – in a suit, you  might feel more polished, refined, professional; in a comfy pair of favorite jeans you may feel relaxed; in a lil’ black dress you may feel playful and sexy.  How does a certain haircut or hairstyle make you feel?  What does someone else’s style say to you?  There are many things that can make an impression, and I think someone’s hair can be one of them.  And it can definitely leave it’s impact on your self-perception.  

For instance – I often see short hair on a women as something that denotes self-confidence, strength… is it because she’s going against the social norm?  I don’t know.  Maybe this is why, the longer my hair gets, the more I think about cutting it short.  I blame my upbringing.

Though I’ve slowly been growing my hair out again, I began feeling that familiar itch recently.  

Out came the magazines, the narrowing down of ideas, and yesterday I once again bit the bullet.  I’m never fully satisfied with the outcome, but always manage to fix it when I get home.  Honestly, on the way home I was freaking out, wondering why the hell did I just do that?!  I’m having to get used to myself with short hair all over again. 

I always mourn the loss of my hair, and this time was no different.  I’ve been trying to figure out why that is – now that I have short hair, am I less of a woman?  That’s silly, and yet… I feel the need to wear more makeup, bigger earrings, to compensate.  I’m loving the ease of short hair, and it definitely feels fun.  And my head’s so light!  Though I may at times look in the mirror and criticize my hair, I try to remember, It’ll Grow Out. 

Thankful & Unafraid

Sometimes I’m afraid to be happy, truly thankful, when something good happens.  I’m painfully aware that I haven’t been joyful through the storm and I’m ashamed of the contrast.

I have often feared that God toys with me, uses me as His plaything, or if nothing else uses me as an example of what happens to disobedient children.  I cringe as I say this, knowing how silly it sounds; I know it’s not true, but there are times when I feel it.

When it felt like my marriage was falling apart shortly after Phil and I got married, when we couldn’t get pregnant year after year, dealing with a constant thorn in my side and pleading with God to remove the painful splinters I could feel all over.  There are endless reasons to feel that God doesn’t hear, doesn’t listen, doesn’t care.  He never promised that we would be free from hardship, and while He can see the Big Picture and knows what’s best for us, it’s easy to try and take control of the reigns and tell Him what He needs to do for me.

There are things I’m constantly struggling with, trying to improve upon.  I feel guilty for not taking the time every morning to spend time in the Bible, pray and talk to God.  My mommy check-list takes priority.  When things happen that make me question whether or not God’s really in control, I falter in my praise, my heart and hands are heavy and I don’t lift them in worship at church.  I know all about being refined by fire, but I balk at the process, not wanting to face one more thing that needs improvement.  I fail to keep it all in perspective.  As David Burchett puts it in his article on refinement, “There is no joy in the trial but there is joy in the knowledge of how God uses such events in our lives.”

When God “comes through” for us, I feel like, finally!  But then comes the fear, feeling that He will take His blessing away because I’ve handled the tough times so poorly.  I lost my one-day-a-week job at the end of December, and although Phil had been encouraging me to quit for a long time, I felt a little lost for not having made the decision when I was ready.  And really, I don’t know if I ever would have been ready to give up the security of providing financially for the family, even in the smallest measure.

Phil had been struggling with a bitter work situation, waiting patiently for God to open another door for him, give him a way out.  For a while now he has been trying to get on a paid fire department, taking courses, getting his EMT license, keeping his files up-to-date so he could apply when there was an opening.  Each time we got our hopes up, thinking this is it!  But each time the answer was no.  The last time the door was slammed shut in our faces, I took it hard.  My heart hurt deeply for my husband, knowing what a wonderful person he is and how hard he was trying to take care of his family.  I would get teary-eyed as Phil would pray at the dinner table, thanking God for his blessings and continued provision; he has always had big faith despite our situation, while I waver in the winds of doubt.  Even though my heart wasn’t always in it, I would insist God has something better, God has something better around the next corner – we just don’t know what or when it is. 

Much of life is spent waiting.  Waiting in line, waiting for dinner to cook, waiting for naptime and a much-needed break, waiting for a phone call or e-mail, waiting for an anticipated movie, waiting for love, waiting for more.  We were waiting on God, like we’ve done so many times.  He has proved time and time again that His timing is perfect (my children are perfect examples), and this was no exception.

Yesterday, Phil had his background check and physical for a fire department job he had applied for at the end of last year.  He had been “formally recommended” for the job last week, but was told it didn’t mean an offer for employment.  He found out the chief of the department had been trying to contact him to get his size for a new uniform even before all the paperwork was done, and I thought, doesn’t the chief have better things to do?  HE GOT THE JOB!!!

Phil has an official start date at the end of March.  He has been enjoying the downtime between jobs to focus on his own business as self-employed contractor and drum up side jobs, and this will afford him some time to tie up loose ends with current contracts.  He was also able to stay home and watch the kids a couple days while I was sick a couple weeks ago, something that wouldn’t have been a possibility were he working for someone else.  He’ll be on a paid fire department, we’ll have healthcare and dental! (we’ve never had dental), and he will have more time off to devote to his side jobs and spending time with the family.

We celebrated last night by going out to eat at a local pizza dive, and Phil was almost giddy.  He said he was most happy about being able to take care of his family in the long run.  Today, the kiddos are at Meme and Pepe’s for the day, and I’m in the unusual position of being by myself.  I made breakfast late, and I haven’t had to utter a single word since Daddy left with the kiddos left this morning.  Peace!  I wondered what to do today with all this free time, and decided to start with a couple devotional books.  I dusted them off the shelves, and read a few pages as I ate breakfast.

Phil gave me Hearing from God Each Morning last year, knowing how much I struggle with devotionals.  Gram gave me Fear Not Promise Book, and there were some verses about fear.  I like Phillipians 4:6-7:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

When fear rules our lives we worry and yearn for safety in things.  Max Lucado expounds:

“The fear-filled cannot love deeply.  Love is risky. 

They cannot give to the poor.  Benevolence has no guarantee of return.

The fear-filled cannot dream wildly.  What if their dreams sputter and fall from the sky?

The worship of safety emasculates greatness.  No wonder Jesus wages such a war against fear.”

God is good.  His timing is perfect, and we are taken care of.  Today I am thankful and unafraid.

irony

I went to the dollar store after work today, and of course couldn’t resist buying something sugar-y. I settled for a box of Snow Puffs, which are a pretty yummy toned-down version of Snowballs – they’re “fudge cookies with marshmallow and coconut,” and they’re not too big and don’t contain an excessive amount of calories. Anyhoo… so I’m sitting in my car afterwards, munching on one of these puffs, when a car pulls into the space in front of me. As I took another bite of the sugary treat, I noticed the license plate – it read “PUDGY.”