Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Finding Joy

I love Christmas, but if I'm being totally honest, there is a lot of stress associated with the Holiday season. For some people, Christmas is a sad and depressing time of year, for others it's stressful or lonely. The financial strain, the busyness and sometimes family issues can be tough this time of year. My fellow blogger Sarah Markley is encouraging us to recognize the joy in our life that is already there. I try hard to be a positive person but sometimes it's easy to get buried under all of the stress of life. I am joining Sarah in her quest to recognize the joy that is right in front of us.

This morning I awoke to the sound of a snowplow outside my window. It is a sound I have known my whole life and it makes me excited to get out of bed and look outside. It was picturesque! The snow was bright and each branch of the trees had a beautiful white layer. It's one of my favorite things about winter!
The view out my backdoor this morning

I am lucky enough to be a stay home mom at this point in my life and there was not anywhere tht we had to be today. I got to have time alone with Rya this morning because Roman slept about 2 hours longer than she did. We played and talked and giggled. I marvel at how precious she is and I love watching her grow. I didn't let Roman take a nap because he's been so hard to get to sleep at night so we had some time together. He needs one on one time and I love listening to him "think out loud". He's so smart! One of the ways he shows love is to come up and ask for a high five, then to pound knuckles, give a kiss and then a hug. It's always in that order. If I ask for a kiss, I get the whole routine.

There's a fire in the fireplace and I'm snuggled under a blanket with Hannah listening to my two year olds have a conversation about what is a "boy thing" and what is a "girl thing". This particular conversation was about the color of socks. They tend to banter back and forth like a grouchy old married couple. I am very aware of the gift that they are in our lives. It was three years ago this week that we were asked to be their parents. Oh how it has changed our lives!

I got to Christmas shop yesterday at the Mall of America with my mom and sisters, an annual tradition that we all look forward to. Hannah was home with the twins. It's very interesting having teenagers and toddlers at the same time. I never know what new things they will learn from the "big" kids. Today they showed me something new Hannah taught them. She asked a series of questions and they answered appropriately. "Where's your clavicle? Where're your ribs? Where's your phalanges? Where's your gluteus maximus? Now shake it"! That made me laugh really hard!

Lastly, I feel very blessed to have Hannah home from school after attending only half days this year. She and I get to spend a lot of time together. I have no idea what next year will bring or where she will be but for now I love each day I get with her. She is so special to me!

I am choosing to not focus on the cereal spilt on the floor, the fact that my insurance company hasn't yet sent us a check for the vehicle my son totaled last month or the call from my husband saying he wouldn't be home until 11 p.m. tonight. Those are in fact part of this day but they will not steal the joy of all that is good in my life.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Reflection

I'm really excited about Thanksgiving this year.  I don't know if I can properly put into words how I feel but I'm going to do my best.

This time last year was our first Thanksgiving in Minnesota.  I was deeply grieving the move and looking back, I was slowly sinking into major depression.  I was trying to be happy because moving home to Minnesota where all of our family lives had been my dream for the past 19 years.  My husband had given up a thriving medical practice that he loved to move because it was what I wanted.  He was frustrated with me because I got what I wanted and yet I was miserable.

In our married life we have moved 4 times to 4 different states.  We've lived away from family and therefore had created our own "families" each time we moved.  When we moved to Minnesota from Indiana we had been there for 14 years.  I had known my children's friends since most of them were born.  We were very connected.

Upon returning to our hometown, I found that my family really didn't know me at all and my college friends had 19 years of shared experiences that I didn't have.  All of which only added to my feeling of loneliness.

Fast forward through a year that has included financial strains, major depression, a lot of stress, one child undergoing drug treatment, 6 children learning their way in this new life, the loss of a beloved pet, some rocks in our marriage,  a totaled vehicle and a miraculously unscathed child.

I am healthy and happy in a way I haven't been in quite sometime.  My son is 4 1/2 months drug free and working hard to remain that way.  My husband and I have worked through hurt and anger to find we have a new appreciation for each other.  It's like being newlyweds only we have 6 kids!  There are some really neat new friends in my life which is amazing because for me, friends are like air, I must have them!   I'm getting to know my family and they me.  It's wonderful to have them nearby. I am so thankful for all they have done for me this past year.

It's amazing the difference one year can make!  I feel so appreciative of the people and the things around me.  I had a strange dream last night but perhaps it will help you understand how I am seeing things.  In my dream, I was pointing out the beautiful things around me and people were laughing at me because they were just ordinary everyday things, but to me they seemed amazingly beautiful!

This year when I give thanks, it will be for my husband, family, friends, health, children and safety of my family.   I really hope it doesn't sound trite.  The depth of my thankfulness is so great that I won't be able to do it justice with words, but God knows my heart.

Psalm 30:11-12
 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bucket List 2010

A Bucket List is a list of things that you would like to accomplish before you "kick the bucket".  I certainly don't plan to die anytime soon but I have been taking stock of where I've been and where I'd like to go.
There are many things that I am passionate about.  I would like to take these things and broaden them.  I also need to play more and I'm coming up with a list of things I'd like to do.  If you know me well, perhaps you can suggest something for me.
1. Learn to sew
2. Travel to Italy
3. Run a marathon
4. Write a book
5. Get my Master's Degree
6. Visit Alaska
7. Go on a mission trip, meet our child we sponsor in Mozambique
8. Start an adoption agency and continue to be an advocate for all sides of the triad.
9. Play on a broomball team
10.Help change the way adoptions are done and decrease costs
11. Read the entire Bible and memorize more and more scripture.
12. Take dancing lessons with Kevin.
13. Raise money or start a foundation to offset the cost of adoption.

Tomorrow I will be starting to become a runner.  It's strange, in my mind I am a runner.  It's just that my body doesn't know it yet! Wish me well!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Seeing In Color

I have dreamed about being able to write this post for 8 months.  I've struggled with depression since the birth of my 4th child in 1998.  In March of this year I was diagnosed with Major Depression.  For two weeks I was literally catatonic.  I just sat in bed, unable to feel anything.  I did not talk.  My eyes were open but I saw nothing.  My brain was frozen and I became 'stuck inside myself'.  

Following those two weeks, I continued to be very depressed but could hold short conversations.  I really didn't want to be around anyone.  I preferred to be in bed but I could not sleep so I just sat there.  My computer was my friend.  I played solitaire for hours on end.  This went on for over 2 months.  During that time I was unable to care for myself or my family.  After that I slowly began doing a little more.  I was still stuck inside myself and not able to get out fully.  

I desperately wanted to be well.  To feel something good.  To be a part of the outside world.  I saw a Psychiatrist and a counselor.  I'm going to be honest, depression is a terrible thing!  It's a thief and it robs you of time, happiness, the ability to receive love, and so much more.  It is made worse by the fact that there is no specific cure.  There are many medications which may or may not work and the only way to figure out what works for one specific person is through trial and error.  

It has only been in the past few weeks after my most recent medication change that I have begun to be "me" again.  I hear myself laughing, I mean really laughing and it feels so good!  

I wrote a post about only being able to see shades of gray while I was sick.  This is no longer true.  I am seeing things with new eyes!  I'm not usually someone who admires nature but I have seen the most beautiful sunsets and blue skies lately!   I have a new appreciation for what it means to be able to experience the kind of joy that warms your soul and fills you up.  

Ironically, despite being extremely depressed, I grew so much spiritually.  That may seem strange considering some Christians equate depression with spiritual warfare or a lack of faith somehow.  Not true.  I was hurting deep inside and there was nothing anyone could do for me.  I had a dream that Jesus was in a sleeping bag on my floor right next to my bed.  In my mind's eye I could see Him right beside me.  I felt his presence.  I was so alone emotionally but not spiritually.  I read my Bible and experienced God in a way I hadn't before. 

Now I am learning to let go of some pain and anger that I carry as a result of feeling abandoned, let down, and hurt by others during this time.  I don't really blame anyone, I just think depression is very hard to understand.  I don't think people know what to do for someone with depression and many people feel helpless to not be able to "fix" the person.  I was also vulnerable in a way that I had never been before.  I'm used to being a leader, in charge and the one people turn to.  My depression was shocking to the people who know me best.

I have a new appreciation for my health and what it means to take care of myself.  I owe it to my husband, my children and to myself to make sure I am healthy.

I know that in my life, it has been through the difficult times where I've grown and been used by God the most.  I  look forward to perhaps helping someone else as a result of my experience and I thank God for the ability to see in color! 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Get the Plank Out!

It was just an ordinary day in the Emergency Room until the trauma call came. A 5 car motor vehicle accident. My job as a social worker was to stand outside the trauma room, out of everyones way and wait for family to arrive or a wallet with information to contact family. I would then wait for the family to arrive and be there to comfort them, help them obtain information about their loved one, and then walk with them through what would undoubtedly be a traumatic experience.

There were multiple seriously injured people.  It was the worst motor vehicle accident I had ever seen come through the Emergency Room.  Standing on the outskirts of the commotion, I could often learn a lot. On this night, a family of 5 was passing through the state in route to a residency interview. Both adults were instantly killed, and each of their three children came through the Emergency Room. There was a four year old with multiple injuries, though not serious. A three year old that was pronounced brain dead and became an organ donor. There was a tiny 18 month old who was a CPR in progress when she arrived but her injuries were too severe and she died.

A truck driver was also very seriously injured, but his injuries were not life threatening. A man in his early 20's was the last to arrive. He was disoriented and combative. He needed surgery for internal bleeding. I could sense the tension in the Emergency Room. The staff, understandably, was dealing with a great deal of emotion especially considering that there were children involved, but this was different. They began to be short with this man which was not characteristic of their usual professionalism.  I soon learned that he was the driver of the car that caused the accident and his breath smelled of alcohol, and this fact combined with his combativeness and disorientation caused everyone to assume that he was a drunk driver.

The next morning, I read the patient chart. He was a newly diagnosed diabetic who had suffered a diabetic shock (ketoacidosis) while driving. He was a newlywed with a beautiful wife. He was a nice young man who had the misfortune of having a medical emergency while driving and as a result, his life would never be the same.

Ketoacidosis can be smelled on a person's breath. This is due to acetone, a direct byproduct of the spontaneous decomposition of acetoacetic acid. It is often described as smelling like fruit or nail polish remover. It is easy to mistake the smell as alcohol.  Ketoacidosis can occur when a person with diabetes becomes dehydrated.  

This experience was a HUGE lesson for me in not judging others without having all of the facts.  Over the years this has come to mind time and again when I have found myself making an assumption about someone else.  I wonder how often I have missed out on a possible friendship or opportunities to help someone or show compassion simply because I formed my opinions of someone or something without having all the details?  Pity!

Luke 6:42
How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

At times, I clearly have a plank in my eye.  I have been guilty of jumping to conclusions with those I love as well as those I don't know.  

Mother Teresa said, “If you judge people, you don’t have time to love them.” Isn't that the truth?  It's time wasted.  After all, it is the ultimate commandment to love others.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

Jesus help me to open my heart to the people I come across and the experiences I am given.  Help me to love first and to not form opinions and judgments.  Help me to concentrate on removing the plank from my own eye before I ever begin to point out the speck in the eye of someone else.  Help me to practice love and acceptance with those closest to me first whom I tend to most harshly judge.