One Hundred

So I don’t typically jump on the bandwagon of internet “hot topics,” but the recent death by suicide of beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams and his depression hit a little too close to home for me and made it difficult for me to be okay with the barrage of negative and judgmental commentary on Facebook about the choice he made. Let me be clear, I do think suicide is a choice. However, I understand and sympathize with the heavy feeling of deep darkness and hopelessness that accompanies depression and I could easily see how living with that depth of hopelessness for so long would make suicide seem like a good idea or the only escape, even if it’s not.

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When you’re depressed you don’t think rationally and you don’t think very far ahead. It is quite difficult to see past the hollowness you feel in each empty, unsatisfying moment of your day… of your life. For me, the only way I escaped was with the support of dear friends and the constant gently nudging assurance of my Savior reminding me that He is holding me and that He is enough to satisfy. Robin Williams, for whatever reasons he had, felt he was out of options. He left a monumental amount of pain in the lives of those who loved him by choosing to end his own life, but I know that there is a God who loves and comforts. I pray for people to rise up around his friends and family to comfort them in their grief in this sudden season of loss. I grieve that Robin Williams didn’t seem to know the hope and comfort of God’s embrace. Without that, I would imagine that pulling yourself out of a clinical depression would be an insurmountable task.

A while back I read a book that changed my perspective on how to respond to disappointment, sorrow, and discouragement. The book “One Thousand Gifts” by Anne Voskamp states simply that life is full of countless blessings we often overlook and that it is next to impossible to remain sad or discouraged when you begin to recount to yourself all the blessings in your life. It is even better if you take the time to write them down. Blessings can take many forms. Any single thing from the comforting hug of a close friend to the way the sun seems to warm your skin from the inside out. Nothing is off limits if it’s something that brings you joy.

So I made a list.

I began my list back on 03/10/2013.

So far I have physically written down in my journal 230 things that I have been thankful for. I hope to keep this going for a long time, but my goal is to get to 1,000 things. I wasn’t always consistent and had gaps of times between reflection and journaling. Sometimes I would repeat something I was thankful for that I had written down several months earlier, but I didn’t want to create any inhibiting rules. I simply wrote down the things I was thankful for – the things that brought me great joy and peace on each particular day.

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So in honor of my 100th WordPress blog post (Woohoo!!!), I am going to select and list out for you 100 of those things exactly how I wrote them in my journal and the dates on which I wrote them down. Enjoy. 🙂

3/10/2013:
1. My husband Chad
2. Memories
3. Green Ink Pens
4. Ice Water
5. Straws!
6. Our Temperpedic Bed
7. Candlelight
8. The first signs of Spring

3/16/2013
9. Comfy Leather Chairs
10. Hazelnut Mochas
11. Kimmie
12. Unlimited cell minutes
13. Cardigans
14. Vineyard church
15. Sleeping with the windows open
16. Netflix
17. Pumpkin, our circus kitty
18. Soft fuzzy yarn
19. Sense of smell
20. Stories

3/22/2013
21. Cool rain
22. People I can be myself with
23. Portland, OR
24. Outdoor patios
25. Tall trees
26. Brick courtyards
27. Pita
28. Slip on shoes
29. New friendships
30. Spontaneous compliments

3/24/2013
31. The breathing room of flying first class
32. Vodka cranberries
33. Laughter that replaces breathing
34. An assuring gentle touch
35. The company of like-minded people
36. Recognition for a job well done
37. The feeling of leaving the ground behind
38. Fog lifting off the water
39. Meeting Anne Fadiman

3/29/2013
40. Moments of reflection
41. Paid holidays
42. Pumpkin flavored things
43. Honest thoughts with God
44. Changing seasons
45. Building anticipation
46. Assurance that hard times have an expiration
47. Skin turning pink in the sun
48. Zeph. 3:17
49. The joy of blessing someone unexpectedly
50. Inside jokes
51. Ever-increasing comfort with another person
52. Finishing a great book

3/31/2013
53. Church family
54. Serving in Children’s Ministry

4/15/2013
55. Advancement of medical science
56. Kind nurses
57. Small needles
58. My good sense of direction/navigation

4/20/2013
59. Lazy Saturdays
60. Thick green grass
61. Banana bread with walnuts

4/26/2013
62. Gentle touches
63. Free fertility meds!!
64. Footstools
65. Time off on rainy days
66. Surprise phone calls
67. Plane tickets to loved ones

5/9/2013
68. Sunsets
69. Quiet places to just “be”
70. Just the right song lyrics

7/29/2013
71. Comfy colors like grey, plum, and navy
72. Jacket weather
73. New books to read
74. Warm fires

9/9/2013
75. Warm beds
76. Kitties snuggling at my feet
77. A good cry

10/3/2013
78. Melody Morgan
79. Matt Chandler podcasts
80. Pumpkin Spice Lattes

1/6/2014
81. That I am not homeless

2/3/2014
82. Thankful that my Granny is finally at rest

4/22/2014
83. That Pumpkin knows when I need kitty snuggles
84. That I got a really good hug from Deena today.
85. For friends like Jennifer who text just to check on me and make me feel very loved
86. That Kimmie prays with me on the phone and loves me 12 years later still…
87. For a husband who knows the perfect silly face to make me laugh when I need it the most…

5/2/2014
88. For new beginnings

6/25/2014
89. Feeling known
90. Feeling understood
91. Ocean breezes on Florida beaches
92. Aloe Vera gel/lotion
93. Tiny hands holding mine
94. Judah’s maniacal laughter
95. Late night movies with the Carters
96. Walks with Emily Donnelli
97. Direct flights
98. A really good back scratch
99. Chad missing me

8/2/2014
100. Seeing God stir something beautiful deep in Chad’s heart

 

Life-is-beautiful
If you made it this far and you’re still reading this, congrats! 😉
The funny thing about recognizing and being thankful for all the big and little things in your life that God has blessed you with is that it makes it hard to complain, feel sorry for yourself, and it is even difficult to obsess over the things you don’t have. As many of you know, these past few years have been incredibly hard for me (with the past year and a half being the worst of them). I have had so much pain and so much longing. I have fixated on the beautiful blessings God has given nearly every single person around me and sobbed over the fact that I did not have those same things. So it is amazing to me to look back over my journal and see the progression of where God has brought me and the blessings he gave along the way. On bad days he gave me friends to hug and friends to pray with me on the phone. On good days he gave me sunshine and Pumpkin Spice lattes and great books. Every time in between He has blessed me in one way or another.

So if you ever begin to feel like life is hard, overwhelming, or just plain hopeless and you can’t see a proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” in sight…. begin to write things down.
One at a time.
Write down what you’re thankful for, even if it’s hard to think of something.
I promise that on your very worst days you have been blessed with something.

If you have a friend who is struggling with depression or anxiety, please PLEASE do not ask them to “cheer up” and “think of what they could be grateful for.” Instead, buy them a latte, give them a hug, invite them over for a movie…..

BE the blessing from God.
BE the reason they have to smile and the reason they’re thankful.

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2013 sucked (Part 2)

You know how you can be trying to think of something specific and you just can’t seem to recall the very thing your brain is searching for? Maybe where you left your keys, what your great grandma’s middle name was, the name of your best friend in 5th grade, etc. . .  I recently heard someone say that you can ask anyone what their absolute favorite book is and they will struggle to simply recall their top five or that you can ask someone what their favorite movie is and, for just a second, they forget every movie they’ve ever seen until their brain catches up.
Suddenly the thing you have been trying to think of hits you like the colloquial freight train and you wonder how you could have forgotten it to begin with.

I feel like – more often than not – this is how God finds us.

Not that God has lost us, but that, for a moment, we have forgotten him. In dark times, our brain struggles to remember Him and who He is and what He has done in our lives. We sink deeply into the drowning waters of our own fears, panic, and stress until life threatens to swallow us completely. And then suddenly, it hits us. He comes to us when we least expect it and we remember that we were once centered. We once felt calm and whole and protected.

2013 sucked because I forgot.

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Sometime before Christmas when I should have been enjoying the most wonderful time of the year, I was instead feeling like the shattered and barely pieced together version of myself that I had slowly become (as explained in my last post). I wasn’t looking for ways to feel better because feeling better required energy I just didn’t have. I felt exhausted and spent. I felt lost. . . . . . .  then came the freight train.

On December 15th, we went to a Sunday evening service at church and I sat near the back with my warm cup of coffee.
I don’t honestly remember much of the message that night.
I don’t remember all the songs we sang.
I just remember one thing Pastor Fred said.
I just remember one song in particular that we sang that night.

Pastor Fred was talking about God being our Immanuel.
Immanuel means “God is with us.”
Pastor Fred said that when the prophet Isaiah spoke of Jesus’ coming (Isaiah 7:14) the people of Judah were under the rule of King Ahaz. Brief history: almost immediately upon becoming king, Ahaz joined forces with the Assyrians in order to protect himself and his new kingdom. The Assyrians had a reputation for being barbaric, violent, and ruthless. It was a very dark time for the Israelites and this alliance with the Assyrians left them incredibly vulnerable, afraid, and oppressed.

And then Pastor Fred said, “When Isaiah says, ‘Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.’ he is saying to Israel in one of their darkest times that God is their hope. He is reminding them that God sees them. He hears them. He is their hope and He is sending the Prince of Peace.”

That is when it hit me.
Hard.
In Israel’s despair when they felt like shattered versions of themselves, God was going to work a miracle. He was going to do the impossible to bring them hope and to remind them that He was and is with them.  When Pastor Fred said that, I couldn’t stop the tears that spilled from my eyes without warning.

Our Immanuel.
God. With. Us.

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Shortly after this, the sermon wrapped up and we stood to sing the closing song.
Because it was December 15th and nearly Christmas, we sang what has always been one of my favorite songs: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
The smooth melody of the music began and I felt my heart finding resolution as Pastor Fred’s words of God’s promise echoed in my heart with the powerful words of this song.
Have you ever really listened to the words of this well known Christmas carol?
Have you ever understood them in the context of what Israel was feeling?
They had no hope. They were lost. They were broken. They felt abandoned and didn’t understand why God was allowing something like to happen to them. Much of what I have been feeling the past year.

If you take the lyrics out of their poetic stanzas, you can more clearly see how desperate they must have felt:

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

God gave a promise to ransom them – to pay the price to free them from their captivity and bring them out of exile. The Son of God would be their salvation and He would wipe away every tear. He would be coming. They didn’t know when. They didn’t have an exact date or all the answers, but they knew eventually He would come and that alone was reason to rejoice.

He was their hope.

Stay tuned for Part 3. . .

2013 sucked (Part 1)

I had a good friend ask me recently where my heart and mind towards God has been in our struggle my infertility. I don’t remember ever fully answering his question and realized that since he reads my blog I must not have addressed it here either. So here goes…

Honestly last year was a hellish year for me.
I am sure that was clear to most of you reading this.

When you are wanting something so desperately and your emotions have been through the gauntlet, you can easily forget things that came so normally to you before. Simple every day things like remembering that God is good and loves you because now He feels so far away. Remembering to reach out to others for comfort and encouragement because now reaching out itself requires so much more energy than you feel capable of. Remembering what it is like to listen to music or chat on the phone on your drive home from work because now you just start sobbing now that you’re finally alone and you were just reminded once again of the emptiness you feel inside.

Infertility makes you feel like less. Period.
Less of a woman. Less of a person. Lesser than those around you.

People make comments to me all the time like, “Oh you will understand [insert anything here] when you have kids” without realizing how painful these comments can be. I even had one friend tell me to “Hurry up and get pregnant.”
I don’t need anyone to remind me that I cannot and have not done the one thing that women are designed to do. I don’t need to be reminded of all the free time I have because I don’t have kids. I don’t need to be told constantly that I don’t understand what it is like to be a parent.

I get it.

I don’t have kids.

I think about this every single day.

Proverb

All of last year was a constant struggle. I was being constantly poked & prodded, adjusting to new meds, dealing with a grapefruit-sized cyst on my right ovary, and cycling through chronic disappointment every single freaking 30 days after another failed attempt to conceive. We spent roughly $8,000 in out of pocket expenses for fertility treatments and have nothing to show for it. On top of all of this, I was adjusting to a new job and a dose of work place harassment on top of all of this. (what fun that was!)

2013 sucked.

So where was my heart and mind towards God in all of this?
Well, it was all over the place.

I started out in the beginning of 2013 feeling ready to tackle whatever God brought before me only to quickly dissolve into a heaping pile of painfully raw emotions. It is hard to feel like God is your Healer when your body is riddled with brokenness. It is hard to maintain a strong faith when you build it up every cycle only to have it come crashing down with the negative results of your efforts. I soon began a negotiating process without even realizing it – worshiping God in my pain and subconsciously thinking, “See! See, God! I am worshiping you! My heart must be in a good place. Now, please grant me my heart’s desires!” and feeling incredibly let down when nothing changed.

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Denial and negotiation led quickly into cynicism and a deeply underlying numbness.
I felt like everything was hard. Having fun became hard. Talking on the phone was a chore. I didn’t want to be on Facebook seeing everyone so happy with their families and announcing a bazillion pregnancies and living the life I have wanted for so long. I didn’t want to answer emails from friends or text them or even cook a decent dinner for Chad and I. I lost my appetite most of the time and felt like nothing could pull me out of the pit I had been slowly sinking into.
I was unhappy and exhausted.I believe fully that I had become clinically depressed. Nothing made me happy anymore and every single moment I was alone I was wiping tears from my eyes and clenching my teeth to prevent the too-common onslaught of tears. I kept telling myself I was okay and I wasn’t, but I pasted on a smile.

I also wasn’t a good friend, wife, daughter, sister, co-worker or anything in 2013. I already know this because I’ve lost touch with some people and have already been “gently chastised” by another good friend of mine for not keeping her the loop. If I wasn’t myself with you or if I seemed distant, I am so sorry…

I tried my best to keep myself glued together while I was shattering in a million pieces every day and I didn’t have any energy left for anything or anyone else.

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Stayed tuned for Part 2…

Video of the Week

I am going to try and start a Video of the Week posting. If it gets to be too much I might change it to video of the month. Of course, I could just call it Video of the Week and not post one EVERY week, since it is my blog and I make the rules. haha. We will see how it goes…. 🙂

This video had me and Chad laughing so much! It is very satirical and melodramatic. (aka – I loved every second of it.)

Enjoy!

Lost the Plot

I’ve been in a mood lately. Well, actually I have been in several varying moods lately, but this one in particular has been to listen to a lot of the music from my childhood/teens. Most of the music is Christian stuff, since that is all we could listen to when my Mom was monitoring. 😉

But thankfully, growing up in the mid-late eighties and nineties means Christian music was actually pretty good (at least I think so!) and contained, in my opinion, some pretty amazing, revolutionary lyrics depending on the song/band. My personality tends to be drawn towards sad stories in books, music, and movies – but I am also drawn to really serious, heavy stuff. Not heavy metal music, but heavy lyrics. Lyrics that call unto the deep places in us that we bury and hide and distract ourselves from far too often – places that when sparked produced butterflies in our stomach and a tightness in our chest.

One song that popped up on my playlist today from 1996 was exactly like that. It touched a deep place in my spirit as a 13-year-old girl and it continues to reach me as a nearly 30-year-old woman: Lost the Plot by the Newsboys. Despite this band having way too many cheesy or funny songs, this song (and handful of their others) is powerful and moving and leaves me with a reverent and healthy fear of the Lord once again.

Have you heard it?
No?
Remember the song, but not the words?


(Below are the words, since that is the whole point.)

With all the media hype surrounding political and social changes, it can become confusing why we’re really here. Our happiness, the American Dream, and society’s acceptance of us are not the point of the story we’re here to live out. Though Christ calls us to love, he calls us to direct people to Him.
He is the story.
He is the plot.
He is the happy ending.
Allowing ourselves or others to live in our comfort and sin leaves us comfortable, distracted, and apathetic. Grace is a means to enter the throne room. God’s kindness is so we can be led with grace to repentance.

Grace is not our reason to live comfortably, while we ignore the voice of our Shepherd for the lure of our culture.

May we not be so easily distracted.
May we remember the greatest story ever told.
May we not become a free-range sheep.
May we remember that Christ is not Santa Claus – our happiness is not the plot.
May we remember his sacrifice.
May we remember the joy of our salvation.
May we remember our first love and count the days until His glorious redeeming return.

When you come back again, would you bring me something from the fridge?
Heard a rumor that the end is near, but I just got comfortable here.

*sigh*
Let’s be blunt.
I’m a little distracted.
What do you want?
Headaches and bad faith are all that I’ve got.
First I misplaced the ending then I lost the plot.

Out among the free range sheep, while the big birds sharpen their claws.
For a time we stuck with the Shepherd, but you wouldn’t play Santa Claus.

*sigh*
Let’s be blunt.
We’re a little distracted.
What do you want?
Once we could follow, now we cannot.
You would not fit our image, so we lost the plot.
One we could hear you, now our senses are shot.
We’ve forgotten our first love – we have lost the plot.
Lost the plot.
Lost the plot.

Yeah when I saw you for the first time, you were hanging with a thief and I knew my hands were dirty and I dropped my gaze. And then you said I was forgiven and you welcomed me with laughter. I was happy ever after – I was counting the days.
When you come back again, we’ll be waitin’ for ya.
When you comin’ back again?
We’ll be ready for ya.
Maybe we’ll wake up when – maybe we’ll wake up when – you come back again.

LIES.

Let’s be blunt.
We’re a little unfaithful – what do you want?!
And are you still listening?
Cause we’re obviously not!
We’ve forgotten our first love – we have lost the plot.
Why you still callin’?
You forgave – we forgot.
We’re such experts at stallin’ – now we’ve lost the plot.
Lost the plot.
Lost the plot.
Lost the plot…

When you come back again, could you bring me something from the fridge?
Heard a rumor that the end is near, but I just.
got.
comfortable.
here.

 

 

Hope Deferred Makes the Heart Sick

I am starting to really understand the meaning of “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” 
I feel like my heart is gasping for air.
I feel like I am unraveling.
My heart feels bruised, weak, and lethargic.

A very small few of you know what I am about to write about and some of you don’t.
Because I am a writer, I work through things best by writing it out – venting it all.
So just tread lightly, if you will, with your quick comments and well-meaning one liners.
Let me explain.

Chad and I have been trying to have a baby since August.
Not exactly trying as long as some couples, so it goes without saying that others have been “waiting” longer with no results.
But that is not my heartache.

All last Fall with one exception shortly after getting off birth control, I became very regular.
Literally, my periods started on the 28th of every month for4 months like clockwork.
30 day long cycles.
I was mostly fine every month I didn’t conceive and got my period instead because deep down I just logically knew that this would be a process.
I was determined to enjoy the process and just keep going at it, so to speak.

After my period on December 28th, I did have another period until February 4th.
Eight days late.
Naturally, I got my hopes up.
However, I did not have any weird side effects or symptoms – just a missed period.
A few negative Home Pregnancy Tests (HPTs) after Jan. 28th and I was just stuck waiting.
When my period started on February 4th, I was sad.
I was sure I was pregnant even though I didn’t have any other symptoms.
I just assumed I was too early in my potential pregnancy to have symptoms yet.

I went to my OBGYN for my annual exam and she told me to begin Ovulation Testing Kits that month.

So for 20 days in the month of February I got up in the morning, peed on a stick, and waited 5 minutes to see if it would say I was about to ovulate.
I got 2-3 different days where it seemed like it was a positive result on the test (those things are way too hard to interpret!) and so Chad and I made good use of those days (and a few days after even) trying to make a baby.

Because my period was late and came on February 4th, I wasn’t due to start my next period until March 7th.

March 7th came and went.

March 10th came and went.

No period.

I started feeling somewhat hopeful and excited.
At this point I started having certain symptoms.
I will spare the personal details because some male gender’d friends of mine read this blog, but the important factor is that I didn’t know that some of these symptoms could even occur in an early pregnancy. I had the symptom first and then had to Google it to see what caused it. The most common result was always early pregnancy.
So then I REALLY started getting my hopes up.

(If you want to know what they were, message me.)

Let’s fast forward to today.

Today I am 15 days late for my period.
I have taken 4 HPTs and they were all negative.
I had my doctor’s office to a urine test – it was negative.
Yesterday they did a Quantitative HCG Blood Test. This is a blood lab test that checks your blood for even the smallest minuscule amounts of HCG (the pregnancy hormone) to determine if you’re indeed pregnant. It is considered very accurate.

They rushed this lab work, so I could know by the end of the day my results. This was largely due to how anxious I had been feeling about my missed period + all my symptoms + the negative urine tests. When I told the doctor my symptoms as she prepared to draw my blood, even she said it sounded very promising that I was in fact pregnant. She assured me that some women just do not have positive HPTs for unknown reasons.

They called me about 2 hours later. My HCG levels were less than 2.

“You’re not pregnant.” the nurse sadly told me.

So herein lies my heartache.
I am not nearly as sad that it is “taking a while to get pregnant” – I am sad because my body is tricking me! Like some kind of sociopatheic, twisted joke!
I would so much rather NOT be pregnant, get my period, and be able to move on in hopes of trying again next month than to think for WEEKS that I am pregnant with no way to confirm it through tests!
I have never skipped a period.
I have never been so irregular!
I don’t know how to cope with the grief of the roller-coaster ride that gets my hopes up and then brings them down crashing and burning.
It may sound dramatic to you, but maybe you just can’t relate.
Most of my friends got pregnant easily or had “surprises”
Most of my friends who had a harder time trying to conceive never went this long with a missed period only to get “negative” test results.
I need to know that this can happen and has happened to other people, so I don’t feel so isolated by all of this!

I have not been able to stop crying after I got that phone call.
I left my friend’s house and cried the entire 45 minute drive home.
I hugged Chad when I got home and cried.
We lay in bed together talking through it and I continued to cry.
We fell asleep at 7:30pm or so and slept until 11:30pm.
I woke up sad.
I wanted to cry.
I felt a little better talking through it with him, but here is the real issue:

I STILL FEEL PREGNANT.

I still have ALL my symptoms.
The biggest two that are drastically affecting my day to day functioning are the fact that I am ALWAYS tired.
ALWAYS.

Last week during Spring break I would sleep until NOON, need a nap by 4pm, and want to be in bed by 8 or 9!
I am exhausted.

The other thing is that I am supposed to be on this weight loss program, but I have lost any and all desire to eat.
Food just sounds disgusting.
I can barely make myself drink water or eat a bowl of cereal.
I am not vomiting or anything, but I have no appetite and the thought or smell of certain foods makes me nauseous.
So I will go way too long without eating just because I don’t even want to think about it, and then hours later my stomach is growling and I have to make myself eat something that doesn’t sound good.

My symptoms don’t stop there, but like I said I will spare you the personal details.

My question is this:

Can a person get negative urine tests and a negative blood test and still be pregnant?!?!
I read online about hundreds of women it has happened to, but it doesn’t seem like doctors acknowledge that it’s possible?

If you are a woman, has this ever happened to you?!

How can I feel all these symptoms and not be pregnant?
If I am indeed not pregnant, what is WRONG with my body?

– – And please, PLEASE don’t comment and say all the things I already know. Say you wish you could be here. Say you wish you could relate and that you’re praying for me. Say you love me and that is all. But please don’t tell me cliche’s and one-liner like you’re handing me a 99 cent greeting card to magically make all my sorrow go away. It just doesn’t work that way. I am sorry if that sounds harsh, but I already know God has a plan. I do trust Him implicitly. I know God’d timing is best and I know God has His hand on my life. I just already know all these things. I just don’t feel happy about it at the moment because I am still coming to terms with the sense of loss and anxiety I feel. I am allowed to feel sad. I just need to know that someone out there sees me, hears me, and is including me in their prayers. And maybe, just maybe somebody reading this can relate and let me know that I am not the only one whose body is tricking them into false hope and the dark realm of delayed fertility. – –

– –

– –

Side note:
I have a doctor’s appointment on the 29th to try and determine what is wrong with my body. I will eventually get answers. It is just that the wait between then and now is what has me so sad, heart sick, and anxious.