December 30, 2009

fear of tomorrow

I have been holding my breath these last few weeks, wondering when the storm is going to hit again. The [not so] great part about this cute little disease is that you never know when it's going to strike. I have no idea when the next "low" is...and I'm afraid. Afraid that a week into my student teaching, I'm going to be depressed again. Afraid that the medication that I'm on, the low dose that we are slowly building on, will turn out to not be compatible with my body either. Afraid that my poor husband is going to have more terribly difficult months to deal with in the near future.

I know that I can't live in fear. I know that perfect love drives away fear--that in the presence of Jesus, I cannot-or at least should not- be afraid. But that doesn't stop the nagging thoughts, and the reality that this actually is going to happen eventually.

Bummer.

In other less depressing news, I have spent the past ten days of my life school free and LOVING it. I got to sleep in, eat whatever I wanted, be with my family, not once having to worry about homework, not once having to read something that I didn't feel like reading. It's glorious. And hopefully permanent.

And in the most exciting news of my last few days (drum roll) I finally have decided that I am capable of pulling off boots. I know, I know, where have I been right? But for some reason I haven't ever been able to convince myself that I could wear boots. Especially not tuck-your-jeans-in boots. But here I stand (sit), a boot-wearing 22 year old, proud of my new accomplishment.

Now, dear reader(s?) I am going to spend the next 9 hours of my life sitting in a cubicle reading Breaking Dawn, the most exciting aspect of my cubicle-bound existence this week.

love.

December 21, 2009

another year

Whelp, I'm twenty-two today. Age is such a funny thing. I feel like I should be around 30 by now. I don't feel like a young-twenty. But alas, here I am, a mere 22 years old. I'm done with school now. Grades have been received (I love grades) and notebooks have been put away for a while. I'm a little bit nervous about student teaching, but I have been trying to give my brain a little break and not think about teaching quite yet. Trying to just enjoy my holidays.

I haven't been writing very much lately. Haven't written in my journal hardly at all these past two years. I'm not sure why. Something changed inside my heart, and I suddenly wasn't able to bear seeing my thoughts on paper. For some reason writing on this blog is okay, but even now, with many days of experiences that I could write about, I feel stunted- like I have nothing to offer.

Yesterday at church I was pretty convicted about how I have been living my life. So purposeless, using busyness as an excuse for laziness. Bryan was pretty relentless. He said "If you are living according to the culture and rushing around to the point that you don't have time for eternal things that matter, stop it." I loved that. Just stop it. But it feels easier said than done. I don't feel like I have the energy or the time to invest in new friendships, new relationships. I feel guarded, not able to share myself freely with others. And worse than that, I feel like if I were to actually engage with someone in a spiritual conversation, I would be stumped. I don't know what to think of my relationship with God. I try not to, but it's hard to not feel disillusioned concerning the bipolar aspect of the last 10 years of my life (or longer).

I look back at times when I was super inspired and motivated to do great things, and I feel so embarrassed. People must have thought I was crazy at best. Little did they know they were right. The great thing about bipolar highs is that you feel invincible, unstoppable, energized. The bad part is what goes up must come down. And when I do come down to reality, I realize that much of what I thought I was capable of, what I was convinced I was capable of, was really just a joke.

I don't know what to expect from life anymore. I used to have thoughts of missions, thoughts of writing, thoughts of maybe even working in ministry somewhere. Now, I feel crippled, uncertain, and a little bit jaded toward the whole idea of Jeremiah 29:11- I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.

I know theoretically that this must be true if God said it. It probably does reflect his heart for all of his people, though it was written for the Israelites. But I just don't believe it. That's the honest truth. I know I should believe, but I know that I don't. A belief affects the way you live, and my life does not reflect the belief that God has something fulfilling and worthwhile for me in the future.

Anyways, this turned out a lot whinier than I was expecting. Sorry to my three readers for that. This is why I don't write anymore. Because when I write, I expose what's really there. And what's really there just doesn't seem very pleasant these days.

December 9, 2009

choices

So we met with some missionaries the other day. They're here in Lincoln on furlough right now, but they are normally living in Peru, working with a Quechua people group.

They were extremely fascinating, generous, kind people who opened up their home to us and shared their ministry and their heart for this forgotten and cast away people group with us.

We're praying right now about what our "next step" in life is. We both know that we want to work in Missions. It's a definite option. The question is, when do we start stepping in that direction? We're not getting any younger (though I still am quite a little baby adult). I'll be graduating soon, we don't have any kids on the horizon (as far as we know) and we feel like this would be a good opportunity to start getting our feet wet in the area of missions.

The living conditions in which this family lives is quite interesting. They live in the city mainly, but ten days at a time they will trek up into the mountains (a 2 hour drive) to where their people group lives. They are still working on learning the language, and are currently building a house up there for their family to live. A one room house. No plumbing. A little stove. And an outhouse. Yes, that's right. An outhouse.

None of this phases me at first glance, but I do have to admit that on further glance, living with a little wood burning stove to cook on and an outhouse for potty time would be quite an...adventure.

The real question though is not whether that would be difficult, but rather how will I feel about live looking back on what we did with it 5o years from now? Because as hard as cooking with a wood stove might be, I can't imagine the heart break of looking back on a life wasted. I can't bear the thought of it.

It's so hard to live like a real Christian. So often I feel like I am just living through the monotony and routine of life, thinking about God occasionally, but not really making an impact on people's lives, not really building the kingdom. I'm tired of living this way, and I don't know how to get out of this routine. I know that becoming a missionary is a hard step to take, but it's where my heart has been since I was seven years old, and I just can't bear the thought of not at least pursuing what it would look like for us to move in that direction.

That's all. My heart is full, and at the same time not sure what to do with all of these possibilities. I guess we'll just continue to wait.

November 25, 2009

thankful

Tomorrow marks a day set aside for thanksgiving. I never have truly been a lover of Thanksgiving, but this year my heart finds a new home in giving thanks for what I have.

I'm thankful for my husband, who loves me despite my failures and believes in me, choosing to see me as a woman becoming who God made me to be. So thankful for him.

I'm thankful for my health. Being sick with the various medications I have been on has opened my eyes to the emotional exhaustion that being physically ill brings a person. I am thankful that although I still experience health complications, that I am indeed, as a whole, feeling good.

and I'm thankful for my education. I'm thankful to be studying to become a teacher, something that I am (and hopefully will continue to be) very passionate about.

This year, as all years since my mother died, will be a little (or a lot) bit sad for me. I will continue to miss her, especially when we are gathered with my mom's side of the family celebrating. There is always a void that only she could fill. To be honest, I hope that no one is ever able to fill her void, for in feeling the loss, it feels like I am acknowledging how beautiful and amazing she was, and how no one will ever replace the role that she had in my life.

November 20, 2009

Third times a charm

Well, started my third medication yesterday. After missing around 10 days of work on the second medication we tried, and feeling extremely druggy and groggy every morning for a week, we decided to try another medication. It kind of feels like the game that never ends. I have hope, though, that eventually we will find a medication that will work with my body.

We have been praying a lot about the future lately. Praying for my student teaching, especially. I'm afraid that, since it doesn't seem like any of the medications are really working, that my feeling "good" right now is actually just me being manic. What scares me is that I have been feeling very energized during the day and night, and often am not getting very good sleep at night. This is what happens in the bipolar cycle. You go and go and go with tons of energy, and then all of a sudden you crash. Emotionally and physically, you crash as hard as the high you were on.

I'm afraid that I'm going to crash in January, after the buzz of the holidays and school being finished. I can't afford to not go to my school for student teaching, so I'm not sure what I will do if that happens. I'll get through it, but it's still a little bit scary.

I got an email from a friend the other day, with this quote:

You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.
ernest hemigway, a moveable feast

At first as I was reading it, I thought she was maybe quoting something I had said or written once. It so clearly reflected the pain and struggle I feel when fall begins to wrap up and winter sets in. The holidays are just so painful, and even with the excitement of establishing new traditions with Jeremy, I feel so tired inside. My heart just doesn't quite know how to rejoice during Christmas. I just really miss my mom, and grieve for the loss of my first family. Although so much has been restored, there's still a huge part of my that wishes we could sit around the table, joking with each other as a family. My mom would have loved how funny Mike and Josh have become, and would delight so greatly in who Hannah is. I just wish we somehow could have those moments. Even though I love my stepmom and step siblings and rejoice for the redemption God has granted my family, I still can't help but miss her. A lot.

Still, like the quote alludes to, I hope in the future, in the times where my heart will thaw out and I will feel hopeful again. Until that time, I will continue to hope despite my feelings, which is a discipline I am thankful to be learning at such a young age.

November 15, 2009

held

Tonight I played the song "I'll be seeing you" by Billie Holiday for Jeremy. I love this song, partially because I love Billie Holiday, and partially because I love the way the song is played throughout the movie The Notebook. Listening to this song made me think of The Notebook tonight.

And then I remembered the future sorrows that may or may not be mine. Bipolar disorder is connected medically (though not in absolute ways) to dementia. It is thought by some researchers that bipolar disorder leads to dementia later on in life. Some studies say that if bipolar is treated correctly, it will not lead to dementia. This is what we are hoping for. Still, the fear is there, and as I thought of this possibility, I began to cry.

The movie portrays such a heartbreaking story as the husband stays with his wife through the gradual, horrific battle of losing herself to dementia. It breaks my heart to think of Jeremy having to deal with something as horrific as watching a wife suffer from dementia...and it breaks my heart to think of someday being lost in my own mind, having forgotten everything I hold dear. Every memory, every person, every joy.

It's hard to believe sorrows like this are commonplace here on earth. Growing old is such a horrible experience for so many. I have so many good (i hope) years ahead of me. I have to believe that the God who has held me so far will continue to hold me, no matter what I face.

And though I face the fear of what may come, I am so thankful to be facing it with someone. So thankful for the man who came quickly to my side, as soon as I began to cry tonight, and held me until I had cried my last tear. I'm thankful for the moments I have with him now, and have to trust God to preserve us in the future, whatever the future may be.

November 11, 2009

morning sickness

Sunday night I didn't get to take my medication until later in the evening, like around 9:00. Normally I'm supposed to take the little-pill-that-packs-a-punch at dinner with food. But I was gone for supper and didn't get back until late to take the pill. That night also ended up being a late night for me. We didn't get to bed until 1:00a.m. AND then I couldn't fall asleep until 2:30 (the gift of being manic. hooray.)

SO Monday morning I woke up and I felt [literally] like crap. I drug myself out of bed, got dressed, took my pills, and got in the car. Jeremy and I work at the same place, so while he drove, I slept on the way with a pillow and blanket that i keep in the car for just such emergencies.

When we got to the parking garage, I was so tired I couldn't walk in. So I slept an hour in the car. Then I dragged myself in to work. I felt so nauseous and was [literally, again] almost falling asleep at the desk. So I clocked out and dragged myself to the "quiet room" reserved for such emergencies. I slept another hour in the quiet room. Then I dragged myself back to my cubicle. I almost threw up ten times, and decided to leave. So I dragged myself [notice a theme?] back to my car. I was so exhausted and drugged up that I didn't even drive home. Oh no, I slept two more hours in the back seat of my car [with my handy dandy blanket and pillow, reserved for such emergencies]. Then I woke up, and being too groggy to think of a better option, I drove myself home. I don't even remember the drive. [God spared me the potential catastrophes that come when you drive under medication-induced drunkeness.] I got home, dragged myself up the stairs, collapsed on the couch, and didn't wake up until it was time to go to practicum.

Moral of the story: don't take medication late at night.

Unfortunately, I didn't learn the lesson thoroughly, and once again found myself taking my pill late at night.

Tuesday = a not so dramatic repeat of monday. This time, I slept on the way to work, slept an extra 30 minutes before walking in to work, almost threw up three times, but managed to avoid the "quiet room" and the oh so pathetic two hours of sleep in the back of my car.

Tuesday driving home with Jeremy, I said: "it's just the weirdest thing. I'll feel sick and groggy all morning, but then all of a sudden it will just go away. It's just a terrible sickness...in...the...morning."

Kind of like morning sickness. Kind of like what pregnant women experience.

So here's the deal. I was 100% positive that this illness and exhaustion was caused by the medication. But there is this terrible little thought in the back of my mind that forces me to take a pregnancy test every single time I think there is even the slightest chance that I might be preggers. Here is the thought: I am extremely terrified that I am going to get pregnant, and not know for a few months. Me being pregnant while taking the bi-polar medicine could equal major birth defects. I hate the thought of being on these medications and being pregnant for any longer than absolutely necessary. Thus every time the thought even crosses my mind with some semblence of a justification, I take a test.

turns out I'm not pregnant. But I still am glad that I checked.

In other less dramatic/terrifying news, I am really tired of feeling exhausted and sick all day. And I'm really tired of NOT being able to fall asleep at 11:00 pm when I fall into bed. I will be exhusted ALL DAY, and then 9:00pm will roll around and all of a sudden I'm rip roaring ready to go. So.Stupid.I.Can't.Even.Tell.You.

I lay in bed with my eyes closed, begging sleep to come quickly, and think of stupid stupid stupid things. I try to pray, but my thoughts get interrupted by crazy thoughts like "what if I got pregnant on one day, and then got pregnant again the next day and ended up having that crazy twins-from-separate-conception thing?"

Extremely practical and helpful to hypothesize, am I right?
thanks mania. You're super great. Please stay forever.

On a more positive note, I have been extremely inspired and motivated during the 2 hours that I am not dealing with extreme illness caused by medication. These 2 hours usually lead me to great acts of cleaning, laundry doing, blog writing and homework doing. It's possible that I might actually get through this semester, thanks to my awesome little manic high. [let's hear it for the silver lining, right folks?]

That's the extent of the ramblings for this evening.
Except for one final thought.
I am so extremely humiliated at the thought that 2 weeks from now, I will look back at this post and realize that it was indeed the very insane ramblings of an very-almost-insane person. Sad thought. But I'm going to just listen to my cute little manic voice right now, which is telling me that this is indeed the most brilliant thing I have ever written.

ta-da.
the end.

November 9, 2009

mania

I'm manic right now. People have this concept of what being manic would look like: being crazy, spending too much money, having uncontrollable energy, blah blah blah. That's not how it looks for a lot of people...especially for a lot of women.

What being manic looks like for me is being inspired, motivated, having great ideas, believing you can accomplish anything, being driven, not being able to sleep because you're mind is racing with thoughts and ideas. I'm sure it's different for every person...but for me, I just turn into the type A, overachiever who wants to accomplish great things.

I used to think that that person-the accomplisher of great things- was who I really am. But apparently it's not.

I was thinking today about all of the seasons that I had ideas that were grandiose and life changing. Thinking about the times that, as a high schooler, I pitched these ideas to people, confident they would support me. (Who wouldn't support ideas as great as mine?) And now I look back and feel embarrassed...you know that sick in the pit of your stomach embarrassment that comes when you tried really hard at something, worked with everything in you to accomplish something, and then find out it was all just a practical joke? That's how I feel. Extremely embarrassed and disillusioned.

I don't really know who I am anymore. Depressed me doesn't feel like "me"...it definitely isn't who I want "future me" to be. "I can do everything watch me accomplish things most adults can't even accomplish" me was who I thought I was. Now I'm seeing that she isn't me either.

There's a part of me that is extremely terrified that once the medication evens me out, I'm going to be boring and unmotivated and never accomplish anything worth talking about.

There's also a part of me that is terrified/confident that I will never stop having cycles of suicidal depression.

And then there's a part of me that wishes I could just be manic me all the time. Think of how clean my house would be, how amazing my lesson plans, how many books I could write, how much piano I could play. If only.

I was thinking the other day about a season in my life, probably when I was about 17 years old, that I read the story of Joni Earekson Tada. She is the woman who was paralyzed in high school and has been in a wheel chair all of her adult life. When I read this book, I remember specifically praying, giving God permission to do whatever he needed to do so I would walk faithfully with him, so that he would be everything to me. I even told Him he could let me get paralyzed if that's what it would take for me to be close to him and used for his kingdom.

I was also thinking about my mom, and how when her cancer got really bad, she lost the use of her left arm and hand. She had been a near-concert pianist. The most heartwrenching memory I have of her is a time when I walked into the living room where she was trying to play piano. She had finally lost all use of her fingers, and she couldn't play piano anymore. She sat on the bench and wept. It was the worst experience of my life. Way worse than seeing her die. Way worse than seeing her dignity stripped from her. Piano was her life, the way she praised God, the way she connected with people (she was a piano teacher for many years), the passion that had defined her for her entire life. And she lost it. It was stripped from her, leaving her with a crippled hand and a chronic disease.

I was trying to think what this must have been like for her, trying to imagine her confronting God, and realizing that the Lord is always using these experiences for our good. I wonder if perhaps my mom, after having been stripped of this major "definer" in her life, found more of her identity in Jesus, and in being chosen, saved and redeemed by Him.

And then I thought of myself, and how I don't know who I am anymore. And through many tears and frustrating thoughts of "what-ifs", I found my heart wanting to not be defined by my illness, but rather to be defined and identified as a daughter of God, chosen and beloved, the Bride of Jesus, sealed as a part of His family.

I realize with feelings of agony that life on earth is just really really hard. I don't even know how to think about the future without fearing what may come...but I suppose I am also learning that the traces of beauty and redemption that God leaves along the path of suffering are indeed worth it. Oh, that I might know abundant life in christ, even in the midst of sorrow and suffering. That I might be found fully identified by Christ, no longer a slave to sin and the consequences of sin, but made alive by the resurrection of Jesus. He is making all things new. Oh, please, let that include me as well.

November 6, 2009

my lot

I have been feeling really good lately. Other than a bit of grogginess from the side effects of the medication I'm on, I have been functioning very well. I wake up tired but happy, energized, glad to be alive. I fall asleep happy, [still energized...am I manic?] and glad to be alive.

But in the secret whispers of my heart, I have been wading through fear of the future. Even writing this now, tears flood to my eyes...tears that I have tried to suppress.

I'm so afraid of who I will be 10 years from now. Will I always have to be on medication? Will I be a stable mother? Will I love Jeremy well? What about my dreams, my hopes, my grandiose goals for my life? Will I be a good teacher? Will I be sad all the time? Will I get to live overseas? Will I ever get to live out the dream that I've dreamed since I was 7 years old?...will I get to be a missionary?

I think toward the future and I feel so defeated and hopeless. I hate this illness. I hate it so much. I used to be such a risk taker, so fearless, so capable.

And now, I sit crumpled in the corner of my heart, pondering whether I will be able to stand the "me" that I am becoming. I wonder if I will regret or resent my life. I wonder if God will be able to use me, if any missions board would believe in me enough to support me.

I feel crippled. yes, that's the word. I feel like my heart, my emotions, my hopes are crippled.

I think about the book Hinds Feet on High Places, and I wonder if my fate is the same as Much Afraid's...to walk with the companions Sorrow and Suffering. Is that God's will for my life?

Oh, I have such a hard time embracing that. I feel so self-righteously entitled to a season of life that doesn't include sorrow or suffering. And to be honest, for a few months I actually thought I might be emerging from 10 years of sorrow into a life of knowing God's presence, rejoicing, serving and feeling alive. It doesn't appear that is the lot God is giving me.

I think about the verse in Psalm 16: the Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup. You support my lot.

He is my inheritance. He is my cup. He supports that which he gives me to walk through.

Oh God, the simplicity of knowing you and loving you have never really been mine, not without the puffy eyes and choked voice that comes from my journey with sorrow and suffering.

How long, Lord?

How long? Will I really be like this forever? Is it not enough that I've dealt with this for 15 years? Oh Jesus, I need your salvation now more than ever. Be my refuge, please. I have no where else to go.

November 4, 2009

prayer

So I'm reading this book right now. Slowly plodding through the deep issues associated with prayer. Does God hear us? Does he respond? Does he change things according to our prayers?

It has been a very refreshing read for me. Philip Yancey is the most thought provoking, honest, bold writer I have ever read. Especially in the real of Christian books. He isn't afraid to challenge Christian's thinking, and he definitely isn't afraid to question the way God does things... but he does so in a non-blasphemous way. It's really just another way that he honors God: by exploring Who he is and why he does/doesn't do the things He does.

I really want to learn how to pray. I want to believe in it. I want to know God. I want to want to want to be with him daily. I wish my heart desired him more. I'm not afraid of being honest with God...but to be brutally honest to all three of you readers, there is a secret part of me that is still hoping there's a way out of reality as we know it.

What I mean is, I still secretly am trying to find a way to not be an eternal being, to not be accountable for life, and to not long for significance that will probably never be mine. I'm trying to find ways to love God and trust Him in the midst of all of this, but right now it feels like every dream I have ever had, every aspiration, ever hope, has been smashed by the hammer of BI-POLAR syndrome. Not to be dramatic...but any decision I want to make, any dream I want to pursue, is overshadowed by the one question: what if I fall apart again? What if I can't handle the weight of it. What if I never feel good on medication? What if what if what if?

I'm trying really hard to believe that God knew the plans he had for me long before i was conceived. That he know I was going to be bi-polar. He knew how it would affect our life, our marriage, our future family, our ministry. And still, here I am, still emotionally unstable, possibly manic, wondering if God actually hears or responds to anything I pray.

I wish my heart could conform to the image of His Son.
Until that day, I suppose I'll just keep reading about Prayer and hope that something will eventually soak in and change me.

November 3, 2009

new life

I have been missing my mom a lot lately. I'm not quite sure what triggered this longing, but I find myself thinking about her throughout the day, remembering who she was, wishing she were here to see me all grown up. I wish I could talk with her about marriage and family. I wish we could have been friends as adults. I know that God isn't a thief...but still, I feel robbed at this point in time.

I also find myself grieving not only the present, but the past. There were so many things that I experienced when I was younger, things that I didn't know how to process. Now I look back and see the shambles of my childhood and adolescence, and I feel so much sadness for the situation. This fallen world brings so much pain. Death is not what we were created for, and I think that no matter what age a person is when they die, we still feel a huge sense of loss and longing for things to somehow be made right. I know that Christ is making all things right. I know that this is not the end of the story. But knowing my mom for only 15 years doesn't feel right or good at this point in time. Seeing my sister call someone else mom, no matter how great our step mom is, doesn't feel right.

I miss her. She would have loved me and comforted me through this season in ways that only a mother can do.

I remember the night we found out her cancer was "back", our pastor came over to be with us. We were sitting around the couch, crying, talking, and he asked if he could read any of our favorite verses. My favorite verse at the time was Revelation 21:4. Now, reading the entire passage, my heart finds such hope in what's to come.

3And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,

4and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."

5And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new "

[revelation 21:4]

I can't wait for the day that God is among us, wiping the tears from my eyes, eliminating death and suffering and pain and separation from us. I can't wait for the day that He makes all things new. Until then, this life in the body is carrying out the death of Christ, and in that death finding new life.

November 2, 2009

all better

I have been feeling really energized lately. Even happy sometimes. I don't cry for no reason these days. It's...strange. Strange how quickly things change. Strange how normal I feel. Strange how hard it is to remember being sad.

There's a certain unknown factor that us been added into the mix of decision making/planning for the future. Everything that I want to do, everything I aspire to, feels limited by the possibility of longterm depression. Can I teach? Could I live abroad? Could I dare to be a missionary? I dream and hope, but in the end if just feels like too much of a risk.

I know life is complicated, and things are always going to have an aspect of difficulty...it's just hard when I realize that I am the complication. I am the difficult aspect. I'm resigned to trust the Lord with my happiness and to try desperately to be content where I am at right now. I don't do so well most times, but baby steps are all I can manage.

October 28, 2009

halfway there

We only have 8 weeks of school left in the semester. Eight short weeks to finish [and start] my research project. 8 weeks to do final projects. Take final exams. Teach a high school class once a day. Prepare for teaching all day/every day starting January 4th. So much to do.

The neat thing about life right now is that I don't feel miserable. Something kind of clicked, and all of a sudden I'm happy again. It's almost disconcerting how quickly this can change. Sometimes I feel like I'm two separate people.

I'm not complaining though. It feels good to be productive and happy. It's quite possible that I'm manic and this is just a high before another bottom-drops-out low...but I'm just hoping that this is the medication working. For right now, that seems like the best option/solution. Let's hope it doesn't screw me up.

October 20, 2009

momentary afflictions

On Sunday, Bryan taught in the book of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Therefore we 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. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

He talked about how for the believer, the rewards in Heaven will not be jewels or stones, they will be the words from the Lord: well done, faithful servant. I thought about that, and it resounded in my heart. When I stand before Jesus, I don't want a crown or wealth or status in Heaven...I just want Him to draw me into His arms, and I want Him to tell me that I did well. I struggled well, and that I was faithful. I want to see the story with eyes anew, and I want to hear Him tell the story...my story. I want to hear from His perspective what these struggles were. I want to know that something special, something unique, was birthed out of the death that I die each day. And I want Him to know that the only reason I learned to struggle well was so people would see Him through my sadness.

I hate "super" spirituality. I hate false fronts and cliche words. That is not where my heart finds rest. I don't find rest in quoting Romans 8:28. I find rest in the arms of the One who wrote those words to me. It's not a trite quote that brings me comfort, nor is it a solid resolve to do the right thing. It's in knowing that God wove me in my mother's womb...it's knowing that when asked whose 'fault' it was that the boy was crippled or blind, Jesus answered "It's no one's fault--it is so that God will be glorified."

I don't believe that this illness is anyone's fault. Rather, it is God's purpose and gift for my life. Oh, that I may learn to struggle well, to remain faithful in the really tough times, and to continue to look to Him, even when the darkness hides His face from me. Oh, that I may learn and truly know that God is the God who hears my cries. He is the answer.

October 16, 2009

the cutest

Yesterday I taught the entire class period at the school where I have my Spanish practicum. I had to video tape the whole hour for my Methods Prof. to view, so last night Jeremy and I watched it together while I took notes. It was pretty hilarious to hear what kids are saying in the background when I'm trying to facilitate activities, and funny to see the guys in the back goofing off while...well, actually, all the time.

So last night were laying in bed, and I thought Jeremy had already fallen asleep when I he said, out of the blue, "Kayla, you just did a great job teaching today. I'm really proud of you."

It was the cutest, sleepiest voice I've ever heard. I Loved it with all of my heart.

I've been feeling...happy. At least for the past two days. It feels really good...but also really strange. Strange to see things through a different lens, to feel the stark contrast between my thoughts a week ago, and my thoughts now. I wonder if I have had a "swing". It's possible. I started taking meds again, but I don't think they could be affecting me this way already. Either way, I guess I don't care. It just feels good to be able to laugh and be positive and kind and not want to be in bed all day. It feels good to be alive. Finally.

October 15, 2009

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so muck seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

st. francis of assisi - 13th century

community

I've been struggling with the concept of community lately. I find the definition generally provided by the Church to be weak at best. Is gathering with a group of believers really the definition of community? Even if the only thing we talk about is how much we like the decorating, or what type of invitations so-and-so is using for their wedding? Is that community?

What about all of us sitting around with our Bibles, talking about a passage, trying to figure out what it means. Is that community? Or does community actually entail something deeper, something raw, something honest? Can there be community if people don't talk about their stuff honestly? Is there true, God-honoring community when people pretend that all of this stuff makes sense?

I find it hard to be around Christians sometimes. Hard because I don't get prayer like they seem to. I guess I don't have the faith that it takes to talk flippantly about struggles of the past, as if that's the biggest struggle we'll ever face. I don't believe with all of my heart that God hears us. Oh, I know that He hears us...but I don't know it in my heart, in a way that brings comfort like it does to others. Apparently no one else struggles with wondering whether the Bible that we have is accurate, or whether we really have the ability to sit down in our ignorance and determine what the author was trying to say without any prior training or knowledge of the culture, language or history of the book. Apparently I'm the only one.

But if I'm not the only one, then why are people so afraid to say it? Why can't we all be honest about this and finally get to the root of issues? Why are people even afraid to admit that they have issues? I don't get it. And I have a hard time connecting with people when I share my heart honestly, bear our junk before others, and they all just smile and nod knowingly and reassure me that "they're here for me." As if they are the helpers and I am the one in need.

Oh God, please save me from safe Christianity. I don't want to life another day pretending to have it all together. I'd rather be raw and messy than a tidy-sit-in-my-corner-and-pray Christian. Please help me to love radically even those that make it difficult to call myself a Christian.

October 13, 2009

like a seed

I've been giving God the silent treatment these past few days...maybe a week. For a while I had really come to terms with this diagnosis. I had decided that if Jesus asked me to "die" every day for the rest of my life...even if this meant emotional depression every day for the rest of my life, that I would accept that as being from his hand.

But this is a hard resolve to keep, and slowly my heart slipped from that stance, as the lies kept being whispered in my ear. He doesn't hear you. You'll never be happy again. Your husband regrets marrying you. It would be better to just end your life now than be miserable for the next sixty years. For a while, I was denying these lies and trying to replace them with the truth. But to be honest, when the lies start hitting at 6:45 in the morning and continue until 12:00 at night, day after day after day after day, it's pretty exhausting.

So last night I lay in bed, and my heart was just as hard as stone. I had had a great evening with Jeremy, but as usual as I settled into bed, the tears started coming. Usually the thoughts that plague me are, well, that was a worthless day. Your life is worthless. Nobody even cares that about what you did today. It was all meaningless. So then I cry and feel miserable and fight suicidal thoughts. It's a lovely cycle.

I laid there crying, apologizing for being such a terrible wife, trying to believe my husband's affirmations that he loves me, that he's in this with me, that he doesn't view me as a burden. Eventually I gave up crying and rolled over to go to sleep. And as my thoughts fluttered around and I fought tears, I felt the Lord asking Why won't you let me near?

Because you made me to be a sad person.
I replied. Because you won't take this away. Because there is not actually any future for me.

And then, in a miraculous moment, truth actually broke through to my heart and I remembered that He loves me, he knows my innermost thoughts, he is writing a story of hope and restoration for me life. I remembered that when something dies in God's kingdom, He always raises something better to life through that death. Just as Jesus told us that a seed must die in order to bear fruit...Just like Paul said: that we always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

And so I came to grips once again with the death of Jesus that I am being asked to carry so the life of Jesus will be revealed in my life. Not an easy thing to do, and yet it is what Jesus is calling me to. And so I will stand up again and continue to move forward, even when I'm sad, even when I'm hopeless, because I know ultimately my hope lies in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

With a sigh of relief I let go of the lies and clung to truth. And I let God near for the first time in a long time, and was reminded that "In His presence is fullness of Joy, at His right hand there are pleasures forever." [psalm 16]

October 9, 2009

pink peonies



last night, after a very long (I repeat, very long) day, I returned home to find a vase with three pink peonies sitting on the table. a gift from my husband, who knew my heart needed a lift.

I am so thankful for the man I married. He has been a sweet comfort, encouragement, and rock to me these past two months...well, ever since we have been dating, actually. But especially in the last two months, as I have struggled through the depression and distress of the diagnosis, been on and off meds, been in bed crying, stayed home from work, he has not just supported me, he has loved me and seen me through the tears. When I look at myself in these low times, I see and feel like a very worthless human being. Hopelessness runs rampant in my heart, and it's often difficult to even see the future as something good. Jeremy doesn't see me this way. He sees me through the eyes of Jesus. He believes that there is something good ahead...that even this season right now is good, because God is good to us.

I love him so much and can't imagine being safer or more loved by a man than I am with Jeremy.

thanks God.

October 6, 2009

press on

Four and a half weeks ago my doctors and I decided that since my body wasn't responding to medication well, it might be a good idea for me to stop taking the meds for a stint of time, just to see how I would feel without them. I was hoping for a glorious recovery, to suddenly discover that I don't feel sad or depressed, that I can life a normal life and be happy without a pill. I started to feel more energized and normal at first. Now I just feel like I'm in a pit. I'm so frustrated and so tired. All I want to do is sleep. I took a sick day yesterday, but life goes on. Here I am at work now, tired and not really wanting to be trudging along in this struggle we call life.

So we're trying to decide what to do now. What's the right decision when medication makes me tired and zombie-ish, but not being on meds doesn't feel so great either? There are so many people out there who feel like taking pills for a mental/emotional struggle isn't godly. If I could just trust Jesus enough, right? But that doesn't seem to be how this works. I do trust Jesus, and we pray for healing. He is my refuge, my hope. But still, my options feel very limited. Jeremy doesn't think I should quit school, which seems like a nice option to me. I am contemplating eliminating work... but it's hard to make rational decisions when everything inside me feels a teensy.bit.crazy.

I used to hate quick-fix Bible verses. It bugged me so much [and still does] when people would quote scripture flippantly, as if saying a few words would fix everything. The truth is, there are no quick fixes. But I do find solace and a bit of grounding in Truth--not quick fix verses, but life-giving Truth.

For the LORD will not reject his people;
he will never forsake his inheritance.
Unless the LORD had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
When I said, "My foot is slipping," your love, O LORD, supported me.
[psalm 94:14,17-18]

For now it seems that the best option is to press on, believing that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead will carry me through this season of inner-death and struggle. Maybe He will raise me from the dead as well.

October 2, 2009

Psalm 94:19

When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought joy to my soul.