Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, friends!

Look at this adorable picture my friend Matt drew for us:

I love it!

I also thought I'd post our family Christmas card here. I made it and I am very happy with it. The photo on the front is from our session with Elizabeth Wiggs.

I decided I wanted to acknowledge Garrett because it just felt wrong not to. I also wanted to do it tastefully so this is what I came up with.

That verse is 2 Thessalonians 3:16: Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

Another passage especially meaningful to me this holiday season is Romans 5:1-4:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

We are thankful today for the hope, love, and comfort that only comes from a Savior.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Ultimate Source of Comfort

Christmas is rapidly approaching so I wanted to finish up the series on coping so we can move on to the holidays and then some pieces of news to update everyone on our future plans! Just to warn you, I struggle with how to proceed from here, because I feel woefully inadequate when talking about God. However, I feel pretty strongly that tonight's the night I need to write this even though I'm tired and that makes this more intimidating! But, I guess I'll just be candid and have a conversation.
I had sort of mapped out all of these articles in my head before I even started. I always planned on doing two or three posts on the things I do, what happens when "doing" isn't enough, and then on my real source of comfort. My plans got slightly interrupted when, at Thanksgiving, one of the pastors at our church did a sermon on Thankfulness that was basically this post. I highly suggest listening to it. It isn't very long and is incredibly encouraging.

I told a friend this week that I've learned something about myself during the last 6 months: I really believe what I believe about God. I think that if I didn't, I could cope with losing Garrett and with the long, hard struggle I've had getting healthy again. But...I think that's all it would be. As it is, I am not just coping. I'm thriving. I've...grown physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It's one of those things I can't describe or explain but it all boils down to this:

I believe in God and I believe he is Good.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1

I feel like I am always telling people that I can't "blame" God for losing Garrett. And that they shouldn't either. Because, really, if we want to ascribe blame and if we want to believe that God is a micro-manager, then we also have to give Him credit for all the good things He's done in the course of my life. I haven't the slightest idea how much moment by moment engineering God does (I'm guessing less than some of us might like) but in the midst of all the doubts, fears, worries, and whys, I have the knowledge that, ultimately, everything God does is Good because He is Good.

Do I know what God had in mind when he gave us Garrett for such a short time? No. Do I really like the way He's choosing to use me? Not particularly. But I do know that God is Good and there is a deep, deep comfort, a supernatural comfort if you will, in having a Something that is more than simply, "I'm hoping this is going to be okay." I know it will be. Because I know that God is Good.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:1-4

So, there you go. I do things that make me feel happy. I take zoloft. And I can rejoice in my sufferings because I have a hope that goes beyond this moment and this place.

Ben's sermon: Thankfulness

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sometimes You Can't Try Hard Enough...

I was going to make this post about the good activities I do to help me cope with what life has thrown at me this year but I decided that this entire blog is basically about those good activities. Aikido, work, art, graphics, crafting, sewing, photography...these are all hobbies I've focused on as part of the healing process.

I prayed a lot before deciding to write about this. I even talked to my counselor and Mike before doing so and they are both really supportive of the idea. I am going to talk about what I did when everything I've written about before wasn't quite enough. And please, keep in mind, I am only talking about myself in this post. I'm not intending to be an advocate for anything unless it's maybe getting counseling if you're struggling with life.

About two months ago, I started a low dose of the anti-depressant Zoloft. Really, I haven't been depressed which is a little surprising considering how tough this year has been. But I have always struggled with anxiety problems, ever since I was a kid. Those stories can wait but I'm sure I will revisit the topic one day. I had a good stretch without any major issues through most of my 20's but after I had Autumn, I could barely leave the house without anxiety taking over. So, I went on zoloft but without seeing a counselor. I weaned myself off about 6 months later and was mostly fine.

I don't regret the time I spent on Zoloft back in 2007/08. However, in retrospect, I should have gone to a counselor while I was on the medicine because a few months before I got pregnant with Garrett in 2010, I ended up going to the counselor I have now. I pretty much had post-traumatic stress as a result of how traumatic Autumn's birth was and I was terrified to get pregnant again. Seems like a premonition in hindsight, doesn't it? Anyway, my counselor has been fantastic and if you're looking for someone, I highly recommend her. Last year, we talked about me taking something to, as a friend put it, take the edge off but ended up deciding against it for a variety of reasons.

We had a similar conversation in October before I decided to start back on the medication. I seemed to be in a fuzzy area where I didn't absolutely need something, but it might be worth trying, especially with the holidays coming up. In addition to my counselor, I talked to Mike and to Stephan, who works in a rehab facility, and ultimately asked my doctor for a prescription when I went to see her for a lump I found. By the way, I don't have cancer, thank goodness, although it took 3 mammograms and an ultrasound to determine that. Scary stuff.

I cannot tell you how glad I am that I did it. I am only taking 25 mg although I have a prescription for 50. The counselor told me that if I felt well on the 25, there was no reason to bump it up. I don't feel numb, like a lot of people say when they take anti-depressants. And if I did, I'd ask for an adjustment. I am always surprised at what side effects people put up with when they don't have to (I know some medical side effects are unavoidable and preferable to the actual disease but some side effects are completely unnecessary).

What I do feel is...not overwhelmed. I had a ton of things on my to-do list. I was sick for so long and so many things were left by the wayside, from the wreck of my pantry to all of Autumn's clothes that didn't fit still sitting in her drawers. Some days I'd be so overwhelmed by what I had to do that day that I'd just sit on the couch and not be able to do anything. I don't really have days like that anymore. I mean, I accomplish so much and feel like myself again.

Even better? When things in the house aren't perfect? I don't angst about being the WORST WIFE AND MOTHER IN THE WOOOOOOORLD anymore. I can chill out knowing that I'll wash the pots and pans in the morning and right now, I'm just going to snuggle with my family. And occasionally the cat who really likes my electric blanket (I don't care, I just want her to sit with me).

So there you go. I listen to good music; I read good books; I choose to spend time with my good friends and my good family; and I take Zoloft. But this series isn't over yet. :) There's one more thing I wanted to share with you.

(by the way, the images in this post are from a blog called Hyperbole and a Half. She has a good post on depression here but don't click that if you don't like strong language)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Some Serious Weight and Fitness Milestones!

I cannot believe it's been 10 days since I last posted! Time goes by fast. I have been thinking I needed to write. We've been doing a good bit of prep for the holidays. It's all random stuff, too. I mean, we got the tree up and the decorations down from the attic but I've also cleaned up the pantry and the laundry room and I'm almost done with my playroom curtains. I discovered that I am terrible at hanging wreaths on the windows with suction cups but the wreaths are all up and the garland is on the balcony so I guess it doesn't matter how messy it was doing it! Incidentally, growing up, I used to fantasize about having a balcony. How funny is that?

I'm still working on my coping and what not to say series but I thought I'd hop back into blogging with a fitness update.

First of all...I am now (drum roll) 110 pounds!!! Seriously, everyone, that is 11 pounds since September 21. I forgot to get Mike to take a photo of me today and the outfit I usually wear for fitness pics is in the dirty clothes basket but the above photo is from late October...6 pounds heavier than I am now! That photo is at a good angle but you can really see the difference today in my jawline as well as my waistline. This is pretty exciting because, as you know, I've been making an effort not to overdo anything. I don't starve myself and I don't exercise like a fiend. I'm simply trying to find a healthy balance for myself and my family.

As far as my martial arts, I feel like I have hardly missed a beat in my aikido training. I think all the visualization I do when I have downtime or can't sleep is doing a lot of good in that arena, as silly as it sounds. I definitely have some issues with strength but my technique recall, footwork, reaction times, and flows are much the same as they were before. Same thing happened at the seminar I was at a month ago. How amazing is that?

Strength-wise, I have made major headway. I went to Mike's TBS class on Monday. It's not an easy class. I took it pretty easy through it but I was able to do it. A few weeks ago, I couldn't have even done the warmup. I'm teaching 3 kids aikido classes and now that I'm not all sinus-y, I'm back to regular adult aikido classes. Also, check out what throws I did on Saturday at aikido. I did try to do these about 3 weekends ago and I could barely manage the simplest one. The guy went over but it was ugly and I ached around my hernia surgery the next 2 days. This time? No problems! I did stop after a few just to not test my luck. (You can just skip to the middle and see a throw or two. Also, we aren't quite as, um, dramatic as these guys are).

Seriously, I am so encouraged and excited about all of this. I'm now within 5 pounds of my tentative goal. I can wear most of my dresses and jackets now as well as a number of my old shirts. I can still only wear a couple of pairs of pants but I'm getting there! I'm continuing to work on my core strength as well as my stamina. One thing that did NOT go especially well Saturday was randori, or Aikido's version of sparring. I did okay but I was so ridiculously winded. But hey! I'm happy with what I've got so far! Six months ago I would never have thought I'd feel as well as I do at this moment. :) My doctor says that 6 months ago she never thought I'd feel as well as I do at this moment! God is good.