December 27, 2010

Jesus - the Bringer of hope, the Reason for the season

He looked across the room at me, presents and wrapping paper scattered all over the floor, and I knew what my brother was thinking: this is a lot of presents. My sister squealed with delight as she opened another Barbie doll - just the one she had wanted. It was Mike's turn now, and we all turned our attention to him as he ripped open the paper for another surprise gift.

Mom had gone all out this year. I couldn't imagine how much money she had spent on us kids. She had always loved Christmas, and the past few years, Christmas had been wonderful, but this year was extreme. She wanted it to be special. I knew in a way, she was trying to make up for every Christmas she would be missing in the future.

This was her last Christmas. We all knew it - the doctors, the family, even my little sister, only 5 years old, knew something wasn't quite right. They had been telling her for years that it was her last Christmas, but this year we knew it was true. And so she soaked it all in, sang every Christmas carol with reverance and gusto, and breathed deeply the smell of Christmas cookies.

We shopped like it was a fever that had overtaken us. We took our time, lingered over the small shops and displays, drank coffee, ate doughnuts at the local cafe and giggled on the way home, eager to get the presents wrapped and under the tree.

She had always loved Christmas.
We kids tried to make it special for her too. We gave her gift after gift that was a meager attempt to express to her how much we loved her, how much we were going to miss her, but the sweaters and scarves and figurines didn't do justice to the emotions of that day. Words choked in our throats as we managed a simple "you're welcome" after every gift she opened. She was delighted with every offering of love, and we knew she would cherish these gifts for the rest of her life.

The rest of her life...

Only God knew how much time she had with us. In those moments, the moments that we wanted to hold on to, time seemed to go on fast-forward speed. We were too young to have figured out how to slow it down and enjoy it. Perhaps no one ever really figures that out, though I think most people try at one point or another. So we savored what we could, cleaned up afterwards, and moved on with life. Christmas, as it always does, faded quickly as the normal routine of life snuck back in like a thief and stole the cherished break, the slower pace, the special moments.

Soon it was Spring. She loved spring almost as much as she loved Christmas. It was another magical time of year - a different magic, the magic of rebirth and life. Except this Spring was a spring of endings, a Spring that brought life to the earth, but death to our family. That Spring we came to grips with the truth that had haunted us that Christmas prior. Her life, which had teetered on the edge for so many years, the life that had fought valiantly though not victoriously against the disease that ravaged her body, finally gave in to the beckonings of the grave. That Spring brought death and ushered our family into a new season all together - a season of grief, a season of loss, and season of change.

Eight long, full years have passed since that Last Christmas. Slowly redemption has crept back into our lives. Slowly change has come and brought with it traces of joy. And now, this year, came the first Christmas that I did not think about loss, did not grieve her death. This year, our family felt complete. It's different - the mother that fills the seat across the table from my dad is a different woman than what I grew up with, but she is the matriarch of our family, a gift, a reminder that death does not, nor will it ever, reign. This year felt complete.

Really, that Christmas eight years ago marked the realization that life was changing. That Spring she died, but really, because of Jesus, the Reason for all of this celebration in the first place, death was not the end of the story. Though death felt like it had the final say, we know that she truly stepped into a new season - an Eternity - of Life with Jesus. That Christmas was the last one we will celebrate with her on earth, but though my mother is no longer a part of our family's Christmas celebration, we still continue to celebrate and honor the Reason for the celebration, the Author of our story, the Savior who came to earth in the humblest of ways to ensure that death will NOT have the final say. He brought us hope, a hope that reigns over my story today, a hope that reminds me that though my mother was not with me this Christmas, she is now living with the Bringer of Hope.

She always loved Christmas. And I love that now, instead of celebrating the birth of Jesus, she is celebrating life WITH Jesus, in His presence, finally and eternally fully alive.

December 6, 2010

blessed and thankful

After writing about missing my momma yesterday, I thought it would be a nice "lift" for my heart to write about the rest of my family, whom I love so dearly and am so extremely thankful for.

My daddy...


My dad is an amazing man. He has grown so much over the past years. He is the embodiment of compassion and love that reminds me of the love and compassion of Jesus. My dad has walked through a lot of tough seasons with me, and even though things haven't always been perfect in our relationship, he has always fought to figure out how to love me - a tough struggle for the father of a bipolar, depressed, emotionally distraught, grieving daughter. I am so proud of this man, so thankful for the random phone calls to check in on how I'm doing, the big bear hugs whenever we drop by the house, and the way he has accepted my husband as a son. I love you daddy!



My brother Josh...Josh is one of the funniest people I have ever met. He is such a jolly guy. He feels things deeply, loves us fiercely, and jokes unceasingly. He is an amazing artist, a great big brother, and is becoming a precious friend to me and my husband. He loves the Huskers with all of his heart...and he loves us just as much. I always feel happier when I have been around Josh. He's the best big brother I could have asked for. Our "grown-up" relationship that we have developed over the past few years has totally made up for all of the beatings when I was younger.

My younger brother, Mike...Mike has always been an extremely passionate person. When he was younger, he was a fireball, hilarious and a bit on the wild side. Now, as an adult, he loves poetry, reading, and thinks through issues with the best of them. He hasn't always loved school, but he is becoming one of the smartest people I know. He never stops thinking, and his love for issues that he is passionate about makes me want to love and care for those issues and authors too. Mike and I have been best and worst friends since we were little. Since we were homeschooled, we spent a LOT of time together. This made for a lot of fun playtime, and a lot of passionate fights! Neither of us like losing a battle, so my mom definitely had her hands full with us. But now that we're adults, our friendship is so sweet. I love being with my brother, and I am so thankful for the man he is becoming.

My sister Hannah...Hannah is one of the sole bringers of joy in my life. She, like my two brothers, is a very passionate young woman. She loves to read, is SO smart, and such a kind, loving human being. She's a great babysitter, an amazing big sister to the youngest two, and a beautiful, godly, intelligent woman. I am so proud of her! I used to rock her to sleep at night when she was a baby...and now I find myself having grown up discussions with her, and even receiving advice and comfort from this little woman. What a beautiful creature. I love her so much.


My second mom, Dawn...I have known Dawn for almost six years now, I think. She started out as a friend, then my dad's girlfriend, then my dad's wife, and now, my mom. Our relationship has been one of figuring things out from the beginning...me figuring out how to let go of being the woman of the house, her figuring out how to not step on my toes, but to still be the wife and mother of the home. We have always had a pleasant relationship, but I am very thankful to be able to say that over the past few years, we have grown to really love each other. She has truly become a mother to me, and while I miss my mom so deeply, I cannot express how thankful I am for my step-mother. Dawn is an amazing woman, and I relate to her in ways that I didn't relate to my first mom. I am so impressed with the mother she is to my younger siblings, and love seeing her get to know my brothers and husband and interacting with them. Thank you, Jesus, for giving our family a second mother.

Nik and Eva (couldn't find a picture of them!) my youngest siblings, are precious indeed.

Nik is such a witty boy. He loves us, we know, but he's mischievous and loves to pick on the girls. I love that he's not too cool to hug us and tell us he loves us. I love how much he loves my husband. He's super athletic, super cool, and going to make a great husband someday.

Eva is the sweetest, most sensitive, loving little girl I have ever met. She is a lot like her mother in that she feels things extremely deeply, has an overload amount of empathy for people. She can't stand to see people get hurt. She loves us so much, and is such a beautiful friend and sister.


I am so thankful for my family. This doesn't even count my new family - my husbands brothers and sisters and nieces and parents, who are all such amazing, loving, godly people. I truly am blessed, and I am choosing to embrace this aspect of my life, knowing that all will one day be restored. Some day I will sit with my first mom, Arlene, my second mom, Dawn, my two sisters, Hannah and Eva, my sister in laws, Jolene and Ruth, and my third mother, Karen, and we will all marvel in the story that God gave us, the way he wove our lives together, and the blessing that he brought to each of our lives through one another.

So yesterday, I grieved the loss of a mother.
Today, I am thankful for the rest of my beautiful family. I am truly blessed.

December 5, 2010

Joy, peace and comfort

My heart has been aching these past few days. I miss my mom so much, I have just been crying and crying...on the floor, in my car, in my bed, getting ready for work. The ways that I miss her are too numerous to count. I miss her all through the year, but Christmastime just brings around so many different ways that I feel like she should be here. She embodied Christmas in our family. She wasn't a good decorator (she kindly passed that trait on to me) but she loved decorating for Christmas nonetheless. We always had the tree up the day after Thanksgiving, with Christmas music playing 24/7, cookie baking extravaganzas, and even a Christmas concert at the Retirement home every year with all of her piano students.

I have so many good memories of Christmas with her. From as far back as I can remember, Christmas was full of life and love and joy... and my mom was a huge part of that.






Christmas has been hard for me ever since she died, but I've found these past few years that it's especially hard for me to even get in the mood of decorating or shopping or doing anything festive.  It's just hard to get over this hump of knowing that this is going to be a hard month, having to acknowledge that and face it head on.

Anyways, after avoiding it for a while, and debating skipping it all together this year, I decided to buck up and put up our Christmas tree today. Something inside me told me this was something I just had to do. Like brushing your teeth or eating vegetables. You don't want to sometimes, but you know, as an adult, it's just one of those things you have to do for your own good.

Today turned out to be a not so bad day. I'm very thankful for my husband, who laid on the floor next to me and snuggled up close and held me while I cried, who recommended we get a real tree when I almost cried while looking at our pathetic excuse for a fake tree, who kept up the Christmas cheer when I was on the negative side of the "cheer-o-meter".

And to be honest, although I still in a pretty weepy mood tonight, I am really glad that we put up the tree. This is the first real Christmas tree I've ever had. It smells like Christmas, and brings a smile to my face.



This year, I think I'm going to try to fight this melancholy. I don't think it's wrong to miss my mom, but I also don't want to miss out on the joy of Christmas. I don't want to passively let myself be sucked into a black cloud of joylessness. I think that I can miss my mom joyfully. I think that even in the midst of the sorrow of this loss that will never be replaced, I can be at peace, because I know the Giver of joy, the Prince of Peace, the God of all comfort.

November 23, 2010

interview about depression

This is the video that was shown at Berean a few months ago about my journey with depression. (Read more about this service here.)



If the video is cutoff or doesn't work, here is the link.

November 12, 2010

Simply hilarious. Period.

Check out the first cake on this hilarious post on Cake Wrecks.

LOVE it. I think I'll remember this for when I have daughters.

Question: Is an exam ever funny?

Answer: Yes. An exam is very funny to a 13 year old boy when it's preceded by the word "oral". That's right, this week my kiddos experienced their first oral exams in Spanish 1. Don't worry. I only accidentally called it that once before switching over to "speaking test", the safer, middle-school friendly expression.

My kids actually did really well, for the most part. It was kind of hilarious at times how completely clueless some of them were. Apparently the TWO days we spent preparing for it completely eluded some of these students, who literally forget things I say to them directly two seconds after I have said them. It honestly is one of the most baffling phenomenons. It would be very interesting/depressing to know how often middle school students are literally tuning out every word you are saying. I'm sure the numbers are close to 99.99%.

We went over the questions that were going to be on the test multiple times for two days, and still there were students that, when asked the question "What do you like to do?" looked completely baffled/clueless. "I don't know what that means," they whispered to me. As if I couldn't tell by the bewildered look in their eyes. Oh my.

In other news, one of my students reminded me this week that I am indeed working in a school with true needs.

Jeremy and I went outside to go to work Tuesday morning, only to find that both of our cars had been broken into, with electronics/stereos stolen.

I honestly wasn't super upset about it - mostly it's just the inconvenience of vacuuming out the cars and getting them into the shop that bugged me - but I decided to tell my kids about it just because it was an interesting tidbit. I said to them, "The thing I can't believe is that we didn't hear them break into either of the cars." The response I got from one of my kids was a very confident "Oh, breaking car windows doesn't have to be loud if you don't want it to be."

Good. So while many of my students have no idea what's going on in class, they are indeed learning lots of real-world helpful hints, like how to break into cars. Awesome. At least they have a possible career path if Spanish doesn't work out for them. So there's that.

November 3, 2010

You know it's time to visit the dermatologist when...

So I stayed after school yesterday with one of my students so she could take a test she had missed. Now, this student is a very sweet girl - quiet, struggles with Spanish, but very sweet. She finished her test (a rocking 21 out of 50, in case you were wondering) and handed it to me. She looked like she was going to head out the door, and then she turned back and said:

"I don't want to be rude, but you have two really big zits on your face."

"I know," I responded with a forced smile. "There's nothing I can do about it."

She didn't miss a beat. "Well, actually, one of them is really white. You could pop it."

Oh really? I could pop it? Just what I needed - zit popping advice from a THIRTEEN YEAR OLD.

"Well, it wasn't white this morning, when I could have popped it, and now if I tried it would bleed," I explained.

"Oooohhhh...yeah." She looked worried for a second, as if my world was crumbling and she alone was responsible to save me. Then she perked up. "Well, here! This will cheer you up!"

She pulled out a BOBBLE.HEAD.DOG. and pushed the head down. She grinned at me as I watched the little orange head bobble up and down. Up and down. I forced a laugh, hoping that would stop the madness and send her on her way. It didn't.

She smiled, knowingly, as if she now knew what would really make me laugh. She pretended to throw a ball up in the air, letting it "drop", and then she pulled a bouncy ball out of her pocket. MAGIC! - How did the ball get from the air to her pocket?!

I laughed nervously, wondering what in the world was going on in her head.

"Ha! Gotcha! I knew that would make you laugh!" She said triumphantly. And then she skipped out the door...leaving me behind to wonder .... what. just. happened?

October 26, 2010

oh, babies!

Nope. I don't have baby fever. But I did LOVE this documentary - Babies. It's amazing, hilarious, mind-boggling and absolutely necessary for you to see. No narration. No words. Just scene after scene of the lives of four babies from four completely different cultures, living life as only a baby can do.



(Sorry that my layout cuts off part of the screen. If you want, here is the link as well.)

October 19, 2010

What every child needs

"When a child walks in the room, your child or anybody else’s child, do your eyes light up? That’s what they’re looking for."

- Toni Morrison

I have had a heavy heart over the past few weeks regarding school. A few weeks ago, I gave my kids an activity where they were to go around to other students in the classroom asking the question "Do you like science/math/english/etc... class?" or "Do you like the science/math/english/etc.. teacher?"

I made this worksheet quickly, part of a worksheet making marathon that Monday, so I wasn't thinking super deeply about the details or consequences of the worksheet. Therefore, I quickly listed all of the classes they were currently learning: English, Art, Math, Science, History, and, of course, Spanish.

Why did I do this? I have no idea. It wasn't smart. Especially because I was already feeling rather fragile and frazzled at the time.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you what happened, but I will anyways. I walked around the classroom during this activity, and to my deep, gut-wrenching dismay, nobody liked Spanish class. Even worse - nobody liked me.

I tried not to take this seriously. I joked about how they weren't going to hurt my feelings, they could answer honestly. But, honestly, it did hurt my feelings. And it thrust me into a few weeks of a pity party/time of deep reflection/depression.

WHY DO MY KIDS HATE ME?

My kids hate me.

Everybody Hates Me.


This is what was floating through my mind for days. The mantra as I fell asleep, the first thought when I woke up. I'm working my tush off for these kids, and they hate me. They hate my class. This is all meaningless.
So, to be honest, there were three things going on here.

The first thing is that I still hadn't gotten over my distinct and serious desire for people to like me. I have never been popular. I wasn't popular in middle school. I wasn't popular in high school. I wasn't popular in college. I don't know why I thought this would change, but for some reason I still had this deep desire to be liked. And when I realized I didn't have it, a little part of my pathetic self died inside. I would have told you that I didn't care if kids "liked" me, I just cared that they learned. I think I even said something like that in my interviews for LPS. But I guess when the rubber hit the road, my words had gotten ahead of me. My heart wasn't quite there yet. 

The second thing going on - the more important, less pathetic, factor - is that I truly wanted these kids to learn. But in middle school, kids aren't extremely motivated to learn. At least not most of them. There are those few intrinsically motivated kids (like I was) that love to learn and achieve and get A's and work the very hardest they can possible work in order to achieve perfection. We teacher's don't need to worry about those kids. They practically teach themselves.

The kids we focus on are the ones that don't care. They don't care to learn Spanish, they don't care how hard you worked on the lesson, and they even don't really care what grade they get. Not really. These are the ones we focus on. To get these kids hooked, honestly, they have to buy into what you're selling. If I can't sell them Spanish, then I need to sell myself. I need for them to care enough about me that they're willing to work hard for me. And this was my problem. I was seeing a lot of attitude in class because the kids didn't care about me.

The third thing - the most important thing - was the whole reason I came to work at Park, was that I wanted to make a difference in the lives of these young humans. And I realized with this whole experience that I wasn't impacting kids. I was so stressed and frazzled and focused on getting the curriculum shoved down the kids' throats that I forgot the whole mission, the point of being there. These kids have big issues - poverty, abuse, abandonment, drug use (them and their parents) and much more. Learning is important, but so is being cared for.

"The family abode should be a safe and sacred sanctuary where
children can learn and be nourished."
- Saundra Pelletier

The truth is, most of these kids don't have safe and sacred homes that are a sanctuary for them. And for five hours a week, I have the chance to offer them a sanctuary, a place to be nurtured and cared for.

Toni Morrison said that what every child needs - more than correction or guidance or a good kick in the pants - is to know that your eyes light up when they enter the room.

This is my new goal. I may not change the world. I may not make a huge impact in every life. And I may have to taste the bitterness of failure throughout the year in terms of academics. But my new goal for the rest of the year is for my students to know that I look forward to seeing them everyday - that they matter to me - and hopefully they will begin to see that when they enter the room each day - bringing in baggage and attitudes and smelly gym clothes - that my eyes truly do light up.

October 12, 2010

thanks.filled

A year ago this time I was walking through the toughest, most agonizing, most depressed season of my life. Tonight I was thinking about my husband, about how amazing of a man he is, about how thankful I am for this beautiful gift God gave to me.

What I love most about Jeremy is that he loves people so well. He sees me for who Jesus made me to be, the woman I am becoming. He has always fought for me, always held out hope for me when I thought all hope was lost. He is such a man of faith. Within the first two months of dating me he walked with me through the third most difficult depression I have ever faced. Two weeks after proposing to me, he walked with me through the second most difficult depression. Three weeks before our wedding, he walked with me through my bipolar diagnosis. And two weeks after we got married, he walked with me through the deepest, darkest, longest depression I have (and hope to ever) face. He trusted God through every season, and always seemed so thankful to be a part of my life, even when I was depressed and had nothing to offer. He always has treated me like I am a precious gift, no matter what the circumstances, no matter how helpless and hopeless I may be.

A year ago, we went out into the country on a therapy-date and took these pictures - at that time, I found hope in capturing beauty outside of me. That was the hardest autumn of my life, but surprisingly, that fall holds some of my sweetest memories. I have never felt more fully loved, cared for, or cherished.

I am so proud of Jeremy, and so extremely blessed to call him mine. Being loved with a love like this changes a person forever. I will never be the same. 





October 4, 2010

"How did you feel after you finished taking the test on Friday?"

--"Like I don't know Spanish."

--"That I don't know a lot."

--"I felt happy and smart."

--"Hungry."

--"Bored."

--"Glad I didn't have homework."

September 13, 2010

ultimate resolve

This past weekend at church, I shared my story about depression with the church family. It was one of 12 stories highlighted during a video presentation at the end of the service. It was a short clip, basically in which I expressed the depth of sorrow and sadness I have experienced, and how lonely and despairing my bouts with depression have been. I wish you could see it. I feel like it really captured my heart in terms of what I have actually been through, what I would say to people about it if I had less than 2 minutes to share with them about my depression.

What I liked most about the way the story was told was that it shared the struggle, but not the resolution. There was no happy ending, no bow to tie at the end of the story, no quick fix. After our video played, we walked up to the stage with a representation of our struggle (mine was a black cloak - "I lived in darkness") and laid it at the foot of a cross.

It was so symbolic of what every day is like for me. There is no fix to my life. This isn't over. The story is still going on, and there could possibly be a lot of twists and turns in the road in the future... but the common theme throughout the rest of my life will be the same thing I did yesterday at the service. I will continue to lay my burden at the foot of the cross, and I will take up the burden that Jesus asks me to carry - His burden is light - and I will follow Him. I will hope in Him. I will choose to trust Him every day, even when the doubts and worries cloud my mind. I will continue to lay it at the cross, where he defeated sin and death and depression and doubt and fear. He has the victory, and so then do I. Still fighting the battle, but ultimately victorious.

There is no quick fix. But there is an end to the story. I picture if often. Me, standing face to face with Jesus, tears in my eyes (like there are now), Him looking at me with the knowledge of all I have known, and Him seeing me - fully seeing me - and finding me beautiful and complete in Him. The struggle will be over at that time. My journey will be complete, but also just beginning, for I will just have started to truly know Jesus. Our journey will continue, and I will live in eternal hope and peace at that time.

This is what I hope for when times get tough. I hope for the hug from Jesus that lets me know that it was all worth it, that I fought a good fight, that I ran the race with endurance. So now, I stumble and fall.  But I press on with the hope and knowledge that Jesus sees me, knows me, and finds beauty in my journey right here, right now.

August 15, 2010

One year


One year ago today I committed my life to my best friend, the man I knew God had reserved just for me, my amazing husband, Jeremy.

This weekend, we were planning on celebrating our anniversary in Omaha. We were all packed up driving out of town, but my husband missed the turn to Omaha. I lovingly pointed out to him that we were going the wrong way and he grinned at me and said "Isn't this the way to Omaha?!" I looked at him, clueless, and he surprised me with "we're going to Kansas City!"

Now I know to some this may not be a big deal, but I have never been to Kansas city and have long talked about wanting to go shopping in the plaza. So my husband took me to Kansas City where we stayed two nights at a delightful hotel. And on saturday, he gave me (lots of) money to go on a little teacher-clothes shopping spree. It was SO much fun! What an amazing husband, right?

And then, on top of that, I opened up my gift this morning- a pair of diamond earrings! He's a keeper.

Anyways, it was a beautiful weekend of eating and loving and shopping and eating some more. It was a great way to celebrate what has been for us a very adventure-filled and delightful year.


We ate our wedding topper today- it was actually still pretty tasty. 

Happy anniversary, darling. Thanks for an amazing 365 days. Here's to thousands more!

July 28, 2010

When the darkness will not lift...

"Where should you start? Start at the easiest place for those in darkness. Start with despair. Despair of finding any answer in yourself. I pray that you will cease from all efforts to look inside yourself for the rescue you need. I pray that you will do what only desperate people can do, namely, cast yourself on Christ. May you say to him, 'You are my only hope.' "  [When the darkness will not lift, John Piper, pg. 21]

I think what Piper writes about here is a key aspect of actually surviving depression. Acknowledging that Jesus is our only hope doesn't mean that we will never again be depressed. It doesn't fix everything. It doesn't mean that we aren't in a pit. But what it does mean is that we know, even in the midst of sorrow, that Jesus is the only one who can rescue us from the darkness. And knowing this deep down, at least for me, helped me continue living in times when the despair was more than I thought I could bear.

The hope of Jesus Christ kept me going. It didn't keep me happy or keep depression from ever returning...but still, hope is hope. I believed in the secret parts of my heart that Jesus was faithful, that His mercies were new to me every morning, and that he loved me. I didn't always recite this to myself, but I believed it in the secret parts of my heart. And when I was desperate, I would somehow always end up in that dark, secret corner of my heart, and I would find that truth. With that truth came the peace to help me fall asleep in the arms of Jesus, or the strength to get me out of bed, a feat that I see now came only from God.

Believing this truth, that there is hope in Jesus, is one of the ultimate acts of faith a believer can face.  It is a choice to believe that even though God does not currently appear to be doing anything to help the situation, He is indeed good, and He is indeed our perfect source of rescue, redemption and restoration. It's a choice to believe that he could do what it took to fix the situation, and so since he isn't, it's because this is something that God is choosing to let me experience. It sucks. I don't understand it. And I can't say that I always felt rosy feelings when I thought "God is good, even though He's not helping me be happy." But I do know that that thread of hope is what kept me going. 

Piper continues on later in the book with an explanation on waiting for God to rescue us.

"One of the reasons why God loved David so much was that he cried so much. I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with weeping... It is a beautiful thing when a broken man genuinely cries out to God. Then after the cry, you wait. I waited patiently for the Lord. This is crucial to know: saints who cry out to the Lord for deliverance from pits of darkness must learn to wait patiently for the Lord. There is no statement about how long David waited. I have known saints who walked through eight years of debilitating depression and came out into glorious light. Only God knows how long we must wait... we can draw no deadlines for God. He hastens or He delays as he sees fit. And His timing is all-loving toward his children. Oh, that we might learn to be patient in the hour of darkness. I don't mean that we make peace with darkness. We fight for joy. But we fight as those who are saved by grace and held by Christ." [pg. 35-36]

I think that not knowing how long the depression will last is one of the cruelties of depression. If I knew that it would be over in a week, I doubt the depression would be as difficult. Sadness is sadness, yes, and it's never enjoyable. But not knowing whether you'll ever be happy again, whether you'll ever not cry yourself to sleep...well that is a mind game that can only be laid at the foot of the cross.

If you are a friend of someone who struggles with depression, this is one thing that I think is important to understand: God is absolutely a part of their struggle, and He, in His time, will provide rescue. This might not be good to actually say to the person who is struggling, but it is important for you to believe, as their friend, because you are an anchor in their life. You are there to believe the things that they cannot believe, to pray the prayers that they cannot pray, and to hold onto Jesus and hold onto them. You are a lifeline, an agent of grace in their time of darkness- no matter how long that may be. You are the hands of Jesus, and I think it is just as important for you to believe that rescue will indeed someday come as it is for them to believe it.

I'm not a huge fan of poetry, but I do love hymns, and this hymn that John Piper includes after he talks about waiting for God is absolutely beautiful.

Give to the winds thy fears,
Hope and be undismayed,
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears,
God shall lift up thy head.

Through waves and clouds and storms,
He gently clears thy way;
Wait thou His time; so shall this night
Soon end in joyous day.

Far, far above thy thought,
His counsel shall appear,
When fully He the work hath wrought,
That caused thy needless fear.

Leave to His sovereign sway
To choose and to command;
So shalt thou, wondering, own that way,
How wise, how strong this hand.

July 19, 2010

looking back

Here is something that I wrote back in April a year ago, not even a month after we got engaged. I had no reason to be sad. I was happier than I had ever been, looking forward to spending the rest of my life with an amazing man starting just four months from the time we got engaged. No, indeed I had no reason to be sad. But there I found myself. Here's what being sad for no reason felt like.


...April 30, 2009

Here I am again. So depressed. Numb. Not sure what it feels like to feel.

I’ve been “happy” for months…but when I look back at the past 6 months of my life, I see a lot of shallow happiness, and a void in the places where I used to think, ponder, and relate to God. Ever since I started taking meds to help “even out” my moods, I have felt weird. Stable. But not like a real person. Not a human with feelings.

Last week, I realized that in the busyness of school, I had put off reordering my meds and had gone two weeks (time flew by) without taking my meds. And we definitely noticed it. All of a sudden I wasn’t stable. I was weepy. Sad. Ridiculous. Depressed. Suicidal. Hopeless.

And I can’t help but wonder–is that who I really am?
I hate the fact that I can’t be happy without a pill. It scares me to think that my future “happiness”–if you call numbness happiness- depends on a little yellow pill.

Last night I told Jeremy the truth–that when I think about the future, I’m very afraid that it will find him sitting in a room alone, crying, wishing that last summer when I was depressed, he would have gotten out. Wishing he hadn’t married me.

I don’t know how it’s okay for anyone to feel the way that I do sometimes. It shouldn’t be possible to be this sad for no reason. To be so numb. So lifeless.

it’s weird, because even when I’m happy, I’m not really happy. Even when I feel good, I don’t really feel alive deep down.

I hear people say that spirituality isn’t about feelings, that you have to just read your Bible when you don’t feel like it, praise Him even when it doesn’t feel right. And I just wonder...would they say that if they knew what it was like to feel dead inside more often than not? Would they say that if they truly knew how it is to not feel anything except blah and numb? Because honestly, this isn’t about me not “liking” God. This is about not being able to enter into my own life. I feel like a spectator. A bystander. Like someone dreaming, watching themselves go through various activities, have conversations, “live life”...and from afar I find myself asking, Is that really me? Is this really my life?

I feel bad for my fiance. I think about ending my life for his sake. I know this isn’t logical, but it sometimes does feel like it would save him a lot of heartache. I’m sure it will be hard having a wife who is depressed for the rest of her life. I’m sure it will be heartbreaking to hear your children ask “why is mommy always so sad?” And I’m quite positive that having wife who doesn’t know how to relate to God, who doesn’t know how to function in a state other than numbness, surely isn’t a life to desire. How can a man walk toward marriage with a woman that is sure to be more of a burden than a help mate? How can he bear to see his dreams dwindle and fade in light of my struggles, in light of my deep limitations?

...happy spring.
here’s to hoping my spiritual winter will end someday too. for good.



...Looking back on this make me praise God from the depths of my heart for healing me. Though my life isn't perfect, and I still have fears when looking toward the future, I can't deny that God has taken care of me thus far, has preserved my life when ending it seemed the only logical move, and has set my feet on a rock. Even if I find myself in a pit someday in the future, having been there often in the past, I finally realize that Jesus will be there with me. And having the hope of Jesus being there with me makes the pit seem a bit less scary.

July 18, 2010

Expectations within the Church

My friend Jake asked me to write a guest post for his blog recently. He has been focusing his blog lately on gender issues within the church, and asked me to write about being a woman as a member of Christ's church. I chose to write about the passage in 1 Peter that says a "quiet and gentle spirit" is the path to beauty in God's eyes.

If you are interested in reading this, you can visit his blog:
Notes from a Small Place

After reading it, I would love to hear your thoughts. What do you think it means for a woman to have a "quiet and gentle spirit" ?

July 15, 2010

When is it time to go on an anti-depressant?

One of the blogs that I read on a regular basis is Abraham Piper's blog, 22 Words. Recently he asked the following question on the post 2 questions I have about antidepressants and the physicality of depression

"1. If antidepressants help with a physical malfunction in the brain, how come so many people treat them as a last resort? We don’t attempt to talk away problems in other parts of our body–athlete’s foot, stomach flu, throat cancer, etc.–before we use medication.

2. On the other hand, if depression is a physical malady, why is it diagnosed with conversations in an office rather than tests in a lab?

I’m not trying to make any kind of point with these questions. I’m genuinely curious (and ignorant)."

If you are interested in this discussion, I would recommend that you look through the responses that this post received.


After pondering for a while, I decided to respond (something that I am usually too shy or uncertain to do).

Here is the response that I gave:

"Having lived with depression for 7 years before I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, I have been through the run of different medications. I guess just through personal experience, I would say that meeting with a Christian counselor and letting spiritual community minister to me and help me through deep emotional struggles like grief and anger with God helped me reach a place of emotional and spiritual healing. At this point, when I knew all other factors were “okay” and found myself still suicidally depressed on a regular basis, we knew it was time to figure out if there was something else wrong with me.

I went on an anti-depressant after a few years of counseling. I think that choosing when to start on an anti-depressant is something you decide upon with a doctor and wise counsel, because I do think that often there are physical factors at work along with emotional struggles. As my physician pointed out, it is a “chicken or the egg” question…did the physical depression cause me to become emotionally distraught with a skewed view of truth, or did my emotional/situational struggles trigger a depression that programmed my brain into a chemical depression? My understanding (though possibly wrong) is that it is possible that if you are situationally depressed for a long enough time, your body actually can become conditioned to that situation, and it turns into a physical issue.

All that to say, I think it would be foolish to not try medication if it seems that counseling alone (and continuing to work with God to align your heart and mind with the truth about who God is and who we are in Christ) does not seem to be working. For me, however, after years of counseling that righted the emotional issues, it still took a correct diagnosis and two medications found through trial and error for me to reach a place where I have been without suicidal thoughts for 8 months now–a major success and reason to praise God for healing through all the various people and means that He used to bring it about.

Anyways, thoughts from one who has recently been through the rigor of being diagnosed with a mental illness. Thanks for your concern and interest in this. It is nice to see Christians trying to understand this and right any misunderstandings that might have been programmed into their brains about how “good Christians” don’t struggle with things like depression or mental illnesses. It’s a lie that keeps many people in captivity, and it’s time to start educating each other with the truth about this situation."


What do you all think? When do you think it is right for someone with depression to start on an anti-depressant? I'm interested in any thoughts you might have, no matter what your background. Let's discuss.

July 14, 2010

ashes, mourning and the Answer to all of my questions

I have been mulling over the future quite a bit lately. A lot of our couple-friends are newlyweds, and one of the main conversations that comes up often is the topic of having children. When are you going to start trying to have kids? How many do you want to have? Have you thought about adoption?

A year ago, I would have said that we would probably wait two years until we started trying. I would have said that I wanted to have five kids, Jeremy wanted to have three, so naturally we'll have five. And I would have said Absolutely Yes adopting is an option.

But now, everything has changed.

Having children, which is something I have dreamed about since I was a little girl, always seemed like it would be such a natural thing for me. I knew that raising children would be hard, yes, but taking care of children has always been something that I loved so much, so having a family of my own has been a dream since I saw my mom holding my little brother when I was two. And I have always loved the thought of being pregnant.

Now, the thought of being pregnant is full of so many fears. How will my body react to all of the physical changes? How quickly after I go off the medication will I start to feel depressed again? What if I decided to stay on the meds- would it hurt the baby? Will I get postpartum depression? Will I physically be able to handle the late nights and tiring days of having a newborn?

Beyond that, I'll probably want to go off the meds when we start trying to have kids, just to remove any risk of the medication harming a baby, which could mean months of being off the meds.

At this point, it's becoming apparent that I will probably have to quit my job during pregnancy. I just don't know if I could handle being off meds, pregnant, hormonal, and stressed and exhausted. It just makes me so sad.

And adoption...adoption is something that I have wanted to do for so many years. At first Jeremy wasn't so sure about it, but recently he started talking about it, and we realized that he had had a change of heart. For fun, I started reading up on adoption websites about international and domestic adoption. And that's when I realized that during the screening, one of the things they check for is if either of the potential parents have a mental illness.

Duh. Of course people with mental illnesses would be flagged. We're unstable. The future is unclear. I don't know if that means they have a deeper process of investigation, or if they say No no matter what if you have a mental illness. Who knows, maybe God will surprise us and adoption will still be an option. But it still made me sad, realizing that our options are becoming more and more limited.

Here's the beautiful thing that my heart keeps clinging to, though.

At this point in my journey, it's looking like God's going to definitely have to be working miracles for things to turn out. If we choose to have children, God will have to support me physically and emotionally the whole way. If we try for adoption, God will have to open all of the doors and hearts of the people throughout the process. Either way, He will be glorified, because it's all so far out of our control. And we will see our God be Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides. We will see His faithfulness in new ways, and will learn that there is nothing on earth that we need apart from Jesus.

It feels like things are out of my control, but isn't that always how it is? Life is never in our control. It feels like it is sometimes. We like to plan when we're going to have babies, how many, what we'll name them, how we'll raise them...but ultimately, Man plans, and God directs His steps.

Do I think it's bad to dream or think about the future? No. But I guess I'm learning that for me, thinking about the future means borrowing a lot of fear and grief. So I'm learning to think about the future WITH Jesus. I'm learning to talk TO HIM about it, and discuss the options and alternatives, keeping in mind although this news has been a shock to my system, He is not surprised by this twist in my story. He wrote this story, and is still in the process of making things very beautiful.

That's what I love about Jesus. He is a restorer. He brings beauty from ashes and bestows crowns of beauty upon those who mourn. Well, here I am with ashes and my fair share of mourning. Now I get to wait and watch Jesus do His thing.

The other thing I have been thinking about is something my friend Renee shared with the college group a few years ago. She was telling us about a time in life where she had a very difficult decision to make, and she was worried about the future, what decision she should make, whether it would be the right decision, and what if she made the wrong decision? And after much praying and grieving, Jesus spoke to her heart. And he said "Renee, whatever decision you make, I will be there with you." And that was the answer to her questions. Not a specific This way or That way, but rather Jesus reassuring her that He would be with her wherever she went, that she was never out of His grasp, that He would never leave her or forsake her.

That is what I hold to more than anything. Whatever happens, wherever we end up, Jesus is there with us. HE is my inheritance, my portion, my cup. He is ultimately the one that we live for, the One through Whom we live and breathe and find all meaning. For today and tomorrow, Jesus is my answer.

July 1, 2010

Lost

I promise this is the last time I will write about this, but I've been dwelling on it quite a bit because I'm doing Breaking Free by Beth Moore right now, and we're talking about broken-heartedness, loss and grief right now-- three things with which I am well acquainted.

What I want to share is the sense of loss that I feel when I look at the fact that every season of my life will be affected by my being bipolar for the rest of my life.

I have been struggling with this for some time now, and after doing this morning's Bible study, I think I know now why this has been such a bitter aspect to accept.

I was nine years old when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was young, but a very capable little girl. I took on a lot of responsibilities at that age- both physical and emotional. I took care of my sister, I cleaned a lot, and I tried (as best as I could) to help take care of my mom.

When I was 13 years old, her cancer returned, this time with vengeance. The doctors here in the states told her there was no cure, and the prospect of doing chemotherapy again just to help extend her lifespan was more than she could handle, since the chemo had almost killed her twice throughout the last season of treatment. So as a 13 year old, one week after finding out my mom had cancer again, she and my dad flew to Mexico to do alternative treatments. I was so heartbroken. I feel like I grew up so much in those 3 weeks she was gone. All of us kids went to different homes to stay. I felt so alone.

When she returned, although I had my mom back, life just got harder and harder. I was older now, so I took on the responsibility of helping my mom bathe, get dressed (she had lost the use of her left arm, so she couldn't dress herself), do daily chores, go grocery shopping, cook, and take care of my sister. And then it got worse. Toward the end of her life, she had diabetes, so I was trained to take her blood and give her shots four times a day. I gave her some of her last baths, and had to see how the cancer had ravaged her body and left her so wounded.

In a few words, I'll just say that by the time I found myself sitting by my mother's bedside on the day she died, my childhood had been stripped away, never to be recovered.

I have grieved the loss of my childhood for years. I felt like within the last year or so I was finally "getting over" it...and now, I feel like in some ways, I am grieving the loss of my adulthood. I know that seems silly, and honestly, I am very prepared for the fact that life only gets harder from here. But I think there was this secret part of my heart that thought "maybe I'll have a break for a while before things get hard again."

I suppose the lovingkindness of the Lord that never fails will have to be my support, since it seems like God will continue to allow various trials and difficulties to come our way throughout the rest of our life.

My deepest hope is that at some point, I will honestly be able to say that it is all worth it, because it has helped me know Jesus more. I'm not there yet. But until I am, I will keep trusting Jesus in the small ways that I know how to and believe that He is faithful to complete in my life the work that He began in me.

June 30, 2010

Permanent

One of the aspects of being bipolar that has been hard for me to handle has been the permanence of the illness. When I was dealing :only: with depression, there was a hope that I would get through it, and that would be the last time I would ever have to deal with it.

Now, I understand that most of the time that's not how it works for people with depression either. But still, there was the hope that something environmental or spiritual had triggered my depression, and when I got that taken care of, I would be happy again.

Having bipolar disorder is a whole-life type of a thing. It will affect me when I have babies. It will affect me through hormonal changes in life. I will always have to take medication to stabilize my body's brain chemistry. For the rest of my life.

I know that this isn't a huge deal on many levels. People with diabetes deal with this reality. People with even more serious diseases like cerebral palsy or disabilities like being paralyzed have to deal with the permanence of their situation. But this is my lot in life, and for me, it's still a little bit difficult to get used to.

When I came back from Europe, my body kind of went crazy (in the literal sense of the word?) and I started to feel moody and depressed and irritable; I just didn't feel like myself, definitely not up to the par that I had been feeling before we left for Europe. After discussing this with my counselor, I discovered that people with bipolar disorder have a terrible time adjusting to changes in timezone. I changed 7 time zones. So it made sense that my body was going nutso.

The whole key to managing bipolar (besides a good medication) is finding stability and balance for your life. Eating regular meals, getting good amounts of sleep with a regular bedtime, having a routine, etc... So traveling for two weeks, being in different hostels every night, getting 3-4 hours of sleep some nights, eating new foods, walking a lot...all of this took a toll on my body. And then when we came back, with the time zone change, the chemistry in my body was all out of whack.

This is something I will have to take into consideration for the rest of my life. I'll learn to manage it and expect it and plan for it, but still, every family vacation we take for the rest of my life will have to allow for mommy to resettle into her routine.

Thinking about this all has brought to mind two verses.

"All the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness and truth to those who keep His covenant and testimonies." (Psalm 25:10)

Amy Carmichael said once that "I just have to believe that "all" means ALL."

That's what I'm choosing to believe...that all of the paths-including the path God has me on right now- are filled to the full with lovingkindness and truth.

The second verse is from Psalm 16:5 - "The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot."

The lot in life that God has given me...He is the one who supports it. There is comfort in knowing that whatever lies ahead, whatever roads God leads me and Jeremy, God will be supporting us the whole way. And the beautiful thing is, in the midst of all of it, God the LORD is my inheritance. He is the goal.

I realized last night as I was re-reading Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb that with the diagnosis of being bipolar, God has guaranteed that Jeremy and I will have to cling to Him and seek His guidance and support for the rest of our lives. In every change of season, He will have to be our rock and refuge. And I decided that there are way worse things in life than being in a place where you have to depend on Jesus completely for survival.

June 28, 2010

There

Yesterday I sat for two and a half hours and talked with a good friend. It was a deep conversation, one with many tears and memories. I told her about my life lately...about how blessed I feel that my medication has helped me feel so good and normal these past few months, but how I still feel all twisted and messed up inside my heart. I'm happy and stable, but there's still not something right about my relationship with God--which has always been a priority in my life.

I feel confused, beat up, and (not to be dramatic, but...) a bit traumatized. These past two years have been tough on me. I feel like I have just emerged from war... a battle for my life. After struggling and fighting against suicidal thoughts for months at a time, being depressed for years (almost ten) and not knowing which direction was up in terms of how to process my spiritual life in the midst of all of this, I feel very uncertain of which way to go from here.

Yesterday we traced some of my issues with prayer back to an experience I had when I was fifteen years old.

I remember I was sitting in my room, crying, thinking about how my mom was dying, and suddenly this compulsion came over me, and I realized with a horrified feeling in the pit of my stomach that I hadn't been praying enough for my mom. All of these voices from people who had told me that my mom could be healed and we needed to pray for her filled my mind, and I felt so guilty, like maybe it was my fault that my mom hadn't been healed, maybe if I just prayed hard enough we would see a miracle.

For the next two weeks, I prayed harder than I have ever prayed in my entire life, trying to believe and ask by faith that God heal my mom (because you have to believe when you ask, right?) I tried to convince myself that I believed it could happen, even though so much doubt filled my heart. I asked God over and over for her healing, thinking that maybe, like the persistent person in the parable Jesus told, God would eventually get tired of my asking and just give me what I was asking for (that was the interpretation I was taught, at least.)

On May 8, after praying my heart out for two weeks, I sat beside my mom, held her hand, and encouraged her into the Kingdom. "You can go, Mom" I told her. I knew it was her only option, and I wanted her to know that I understood. And then I sang It Is Well. It was one of her favorite hymns.

But I didn't understand, and all was not well. I wanted it to be. I tried to be okay. I tried to believe that God hadn't been toying with my heart. Why would he prompt my heart to pray for my mom, only to have the answer be such a resounding and obvious "no"? What was the point of even praying? I didn't want to be a cliche. I didn't want to look back and hold resentment toward God for not answering my prayers...I knew God was bigger than I could understand, and I wanted to be mature enough to handle a "no" answer. I tried to be a grown up. But it was too much. My heart was broken, and this unanswered prayer would haunt me for the next 7 years.

I recounted this story to my friend, and she asked me a very poignant question. "What would you say to that 15-year-old girl now, if you could go back to her and talk to her about that unanswered prayer? What do you think she needs to hear?"

I didn't know. I cried, wishing I knew what to tell my younger-self to make it better, but I just didn't know what to say. Pointing out God's goodness didn't seem appropriate. Talking about God's sovereignty would have been a blow to the face. God's perfect purposes weren't much of a consolation. I didn't know what to say.

We talked for a while longer, discussing the lies that have been "truth" in my mind for such a long time, lies about who God is, lies about who I am. We talked about the Bible, and how my heart has such a hard time being open to this oh-so-familiar book. And then, in the midst of this conversation, I started to weep. I don't know where the thought came from- probably the Lord- but all of a sudden I knew what that little girl with the broken heart needed to hear.

"He was there." I choked out. "I would tell her that Jesus was there. He was there in the in the room with her while she was crying out to God. He was there when her mom's spirit left her body. He was there. He never left her."

And I realized that this was what that little girl inside me needed. Not a lesson on the theology of God. Not a discussion of his goodness. Talking specifics were too difficult at that time...I didn't trust discussions about God- too complicated and messy. But Jesus...Him, I still trusted. I don't know why, but even after all of this, I still trust Him. And for some reason, that was all I needed to know--that all along, through the depression, through nights where suicide seemed like the only answer, through nightmares and memories that seem like nightmares, through death and grief and loneliness...through it all, he has been there. He has never left me.

"But as for me, the nearness of God is my good." [psalm 73:28]

June 25, 2010

Switzerland

Our second stop on the journey was Switzerland. We started in Zurich, which was an...interesting introduction to Swiss culture. Let's just say that the receptionist laughed mockingly at me...twice...in the span of one hour. Mean Swiss Lady. I was a little bit bitter, and may have commented on how I hated Switzerland once or twice. But that was an overreaction. Switzerland turned out to be extremely delightful.

We spent the first day in Zurich, where we walked around for a while and then ate a sandwich in a park. Sandwiches were the cheapest thing we could find to eat. This little park was the only seating we could find.

It was so precious...there were pregnant women and moms pushing strollers everywhere. One such adorable mother came and sat down near us with her little girl. She lifted her out of the stroller, laid her out on a blanket, and sat there beside her, smiling at her baby. I looked at Jeremy longingly, baby fever setting in. And then we looked back, and there was the mom, with her...well, "mother-parts" out for the whole world to see, breastfeeding. So many things wrong with that situation. Breastfeeding in a park. In front of us..three feet away from us. While we were eating. It was so "natural" and "beautiful" that we decided we should probably give her some privacy.

It wouldn't be right for me to not let you all know that this was one of many times this happened to us throughout our travels. Lets just say that this aspect of Europe definitely left an interesting mark on Jeremy.

Anyways, enough about breastfeeding.

Here are some shots from Zurich:











After Zurich, we took a train to Interlaken, which is, if you're not up on your German between (Inter) two lakes (Laken). It was so beautiful, and the people there were extremely kind, friendly, and fun! We stayed a great youth hostel, watched the first soccer game there, and ate our first officially Swiss meal.




This sausage was very...Swiss-German. It was good, but I couldn't finish the whole thing! And to be honest, dipping it in mustard wasn't exactly my cup of tea.



This slab of chocolate was just one of those things that we had to try. We didn't really think to check the price for this small piece of chocolate (about the size of our hand...) before we purchased it. Ten francs later, we were enjoying this corn flakes chocolate bar and two little truffles. They were worth it.




The hike through the mountains was just beautiful. It was warm, but not blistering heat, and it was very peaceful. There weren't cars allowed on the path, so it was just fellow travelers walking to and from the mountain pass. Up to that point on our walks through airports and back and forth to hostels, I had been setting the walking pace at what Jeremy endearingly referred to as "grueling". At one point he mentioned that if we were actually playing Oregon Trail, little Marta would have died from the strenuous pace. What can I say? I have long legs and a purposeful stride.

On this walk, however, I proved quickly that while my gait is quick, my stamina falls in the "quite lacking" category. We had plans to hike for a few hours up into the mountains. But about an hour and a half into it we weren't even close to being "into" the mountains...so I turned decided to Jeremy and said "it's time to go back." He, being the sweet husband that he is, didn't even comment on how big of a weenie I was being. We went back and made it to the hostel in time to watch the first World Cup game. All in all, it ranked up on the top 3 days of our trip for me.






After Interlaken, we took a train to Langnau, which is the area where Jeremy's great-great-great(?) grandparents had a farm. We ate at a little pub (very quaint) where we received directions (in broken English) into the hills of Switzerland to Aspi, where this farmstead was located. We decided to walk because, as Jeremy assured me, it "wasn't that far." And honestly, it wasn't a long walk. Unfortunately it was uphill...and just as bad, it was downhill on the way back. Walking downhill was easier, but it was such a steep walk that I ended up getting terrible shin splints. I could hardly walk the next day! Oh well. It was beautiful and very fun to see where Jeremy's family came from. It was pretty hilarious trying to communicate with the people of these various farms. You see, we didn't know exactly which farm house was the one his grandparents had lived in, so we were planning on just asking around. We had a letter translated into German that we handed to everyone we met. They read it curiously, but always finished reading the letter with a shake of their head and a simple "no". That was all they could communicate, because none of them spoke English. But shaking the head is (mostly) universal, and we understood quickly that nobody knew where this farm was.







So the directions that we had gotten from a relative who had been there before led us to the right area, but we never quite nailed down which one was the right farm house. All the same, we had a great time. I ended the little adventure with a quick run behind a shed...when I emerged, Jeremy was ready with his camera to capture me holding up a victorious "one" and "two". Can you guess what I did behind that barn?



All in all, a very triumphant time in Switzerland.

June 24, 2010

Spain

We started our trip in Spain, spending 3 1/2 days in Madrid and 2 days in Barcelona. We absolutely loved Spain. It was really fun that we were able to speak the language, and it was fun for me to watch Jeremy explore the different facets of the Spanish culture--both goods and bads.

Here are some aspects of Spain that we enjoyed:

...In Madrid, the metro was super easy to figure out, and made getting around to different parts of town very easy and enjoyable. Our favorite part of the metro was the voices that announced different stops. "Proxima Estacion (said in man's voice), Chueca (said in woman's voice).

...We loved our hostel in Spain. It was hot and loud, but cozy and located really close to a cute plaza and a metro stop.

...One of my friends commented on my facebook pictures that she thought it was funny how many pictures I had of food. What can I say? We loved the food. Everywhere we went. Food Food Food. And in Spain, I was especially in heaven. I loved the pastries, and had at least one every day I was there.



Also, I loved the candy (as I mentioned in my post before the trip...) and spent quite a few more Euros than was maybe necessary on those delicious sweet gummies. I'm sure my dentist will be impressed.



We love-love-loved the Tapas. This was Jeremy's first experience with Tapas, and they did not disappoint. Our favorite was Patatas Ali-Oli (french fried potatos with a mayonnaise/garlic sauce. It's amazing.) and then this really cute Catalunyan restaurant we went to served the best tapas we had, included skewered mushroom/shrimp, which was my favorite of the trip.







The yummiest beverage we had was Sangria, a mix of red wine, orange juice, and sugar. It was a delicious refresher on the hot days when we had been walking for hours. Jeremy and I already have plans to try to reproduce it...but I guess technically to reproduce the entire experience we would have to walk around in the blistering heat for two hours without a rest and THEN sit down and drink some heavenly Sangria. Maybe not.



And the orange juice. Oh the orange juice. Fresh squeezed by this magical machine, I ordered a cute little glass of it every chance I could get.



...We did discover (well, I remembered this from last time) that Spaniards happen to be a very...loud...group of people. We know this first hand as we heard the partying and celebrating (that was happening everywhere in the city, I assure you) right outside our hostel window until the not-so-wee (6/7am) hours of the morning. That's right. They were up all night, every night. And they love it. I actually have a missionary friend who theorizes that Spaniards need less sleep than the average human being. How else could they party so long and still function like normal human beings, with jobs and everything? This isn't just the kids partying. These are people in their late twenties with jobs and responsibilities. My only thought is that maybe the siesta Spain shuts down for gives them a little bit of extra rest needed to continue to thrive in their cherished night-life. All in all, though it was a very loud experience, we couldn't fault them for their night life...and I suppose if we lived there long term, we would just have to adopt the mentality of "if you can't beat em, join em."

...One of the funny things we experienced in Spain, both Madrid and Barcelona, is that when you are walking in the plazas and down sidewalks, people will just walk right into you without saying excuse me or anything. I don't know if this is just part of their lack of need for personal space or what, but it became a running joke for us. This actually happened to us in Rome too, which was a lot more fun, because then we could dramatically say "Eh, scusi!"

...We took a flight from Madrid to Barcelona, and our flight left at 8:00 in the morning, which meant we wanted to be there at 6:00. Unfortunately, the metro didn't open until 6, and then we had a 45 minute ride to the airport from where we were staying in the middle of the city. So that turned into quite the "Home Alone" experience, that included us running through the airport, huffing and puffing, looking frantically for the right counters (it was extremely confusing) and finally collapsing into the waiting area, tickets in hand, thankful beyond belief that we had made our flight. It was the first of many travel adventures for us.

...I found the old ladies in Spain adorable!! They will dress up just to go walk around the plaza. This group of ladies (though I couldn't discreetly get a picture of their faces) was particularly adorable to me.




..In Barcelona, we absolutely loved the architecture by Gaudi. La Sagrada Familia and La Casa Batllo were both very beautiful and unique. We unfortunately didn't get to enter La Casa Batllo, which according to some pictures we saw in a guidebook is amazing inside, but we still enjoyed the outside.



La Sagrada Familia



La Casa Batllo

...And Barcelona was just amazing. It was our favorite place of the whole trip. The people were so kind, the beach was amazing (super warm, but with a cool breeze blowing the whole time) and the food was delicious. We had a blast. And we definitely want to return to spend more time looking around the city. The funniest part of Barcelona for me was that I was craving ice cream SUPER badly for hours, and we walked everywhere and could not for the life of us find an ice cream store. And then, finally, we spotted one in the distance. And then, twenty feet down the street from it, was another ice cream store. Two ice cream shops, literally neighbors. Amazing. Thanks Spain. I was tempted to get ice cream at both places, just to prove a point (I'm not sure what that point was, other than that I love ice cream), but I decided that being a glutton was not one of my vacation goals, so I stuck with two scoops from one place.

All in all, Spain was very good to us. We can't wait to return some day. Hasta Luego, Espana.

June 21, 2010

You Know You're in Europe if...

...you pay 2 francs/euros to use the bathroom
...you refer to said restroom as the "water closet" (WC)
...you find yourself celebrating (possibly out loud) when restroom (that you paid 2 francs to use) has paper towels
...you refer to Diet Coke as Coca Cola Light
...you are willing to pay 6 Swiss francs (approximately $6) for a small bottle of said Coca Cola Light
...you are served Coca Cola Light in small wine glass with lemon (so fancy!)
...you (choke) don't get...free...refills (sob)
...you find yourself pretending to understand when people speak of measurements in kilometers or centigrade
...you eat delicious, lighter and sweeter and more-perfect- than- you- knew- was- possible pastries every morning...and afternoon...and night
...you're running down non-moving escalators to catch the next train
...your menu comes in four different languages
...you don't eat dinner until 10:30 pm (this is specific to Spain)
...there is a bank on every corner (specific to Switzerland)
...the streets are narrower than my apartment hallway (Spain and Rome, mainly)
...the cars are smaller than the toy trucks toddlers drive in the U.S.
...there is a candy or chocolate or ice cream store on every corner (Europe=heaven in this regard)

May 28, 2010

Home

The following quote is taken from The Last Battle, by C.S.Lewis. It's taken from the end of the book,where Peter and Lucy and Edmond are leaving old Narnia, headed for a new land. Their hearts are heavy, because they're leaving everything that have known and loved about Narnia. But then, when they begin to step into New Narnia, they realize that it's different, very different, but that in some ways, it was the same. It was their old Narnia, but it was new. And then, he explains:

"It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time there were somehow different -- deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know.

The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can't describe it any better than that: if ever you get there you will know what I mean.

It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then he cried: "I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this." (The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis)


This passage is taken from the last book in the series of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis. I have been listening to a series of sermons about heaven lately, and the pastor read this passage at the end of one of his sermons where he had spoken about what heaven might be like.


I find it interesting how the average American (and probably European too) has this concept of heaven that is extremely influenced by Hollywood. We think of fluffy clouds and floating and pansy looking angels and golden gates with apostles walking around, tablets in their hands, reading off their list who is allowed into the pearly gates.



I honestly don't think this concept of heaven could be more wrong. Since earth was created as the original paradise--God's original intent toward a perfect world--it's so silly that we assume God would make heaven be so different from what he originally created as a perfect earth. From what the Bible says about heaven, it will be earth redeemed, possibly much like this passage from The Last Battle hints at: very similar, but all together different from the earth we knew before.


I get so excited thinking about walking through heaven and seeing places that are familiar, but perfected. A new earth, created by a forever-good God who loves us more deeply than we could ever fathom.


I love the thought that we won't stop creating or doing what we love to do once we reach heaven. We'll still have holy work that we will participate in because God created us to do things: to work with our hands, to create, to write, to be artists and teachers and writers and lovers of literature and explorers and animal lovers and gardeners and singers and musicians. I love the thought that I might get to write forever in heaven...or that I'll get to keep learning about who Jesus is, a God that I don’t think we will ever grow tired of hearing and knowing about. I'll get to hear stories of the saints that lived on the earth in the beginning, or in countries I never got to visit. I love the thought that I'll get to be friends with Andreza, the little girl I support through Compassion International. Or that I'll get to introduce my husband to my mother and watch her delight in him, and him in her.


I love that I'll get to worship with believers from every nation and tribe and tongue. There are so many mysteries to the picture we are given of heaven. Who knows how it will work. But we know that it will be amazing. It will be everything our hearts have ever longed for here on earth. It will be God’s dwelling place. We will live in his presence. It will be our REAL home, and my heart will finally find rest in the presence of my Lord, Jesus Christ.