Friday, September 2, 2016

Baby Steps

Since my last post I have made steady progress in many ways.  But it has definitely been baby steps.

There have been other times that I have headed in the wrong direction, and came back and got on track.  But in the past the road back to living with having my priorities straight was not a long road.  Things seemed to fall back into place quite easily.  Not this time.

It's almost like waking up from a long, bad dream this time.  Where did that year go?  It was almost exactly a year from Matthew's trisomy 18 diagnosis when Jessica was 20 weeks along (which marks the beginning of my falling away), until I wrote my last blog post.  Almost a year of struggling to make it through each day.  Days and weeks of being in bed most of the time, followed by weeks and months or struggling through days and nights of physical pain.

So, spiritually, I turned the corner at the beginning of May.  But, physically, I was still dealing with chronic back pain and the lovely friends that came along with that - fatigue, lethargy, psychological and mental changes, difficulty sleeping.  That meant that I just couldn't flip a switch and suddenly be everything I needed/wanted to be!

My first baby steps were to think through my priorities.  Number one was re-connecting with God.  That meant having my quiet time every morning.  That is easier said than done when you have nine children still living at home.  Waking up at a decent hour requires that I get a decent amount of sleep.  That is something that is often out of my control!  With Christy's needs for tube feeding and oxygen at night, getting her to bed take 30 minutes even with help.  And then there is my four year old who seemed to think that crawling into bed with mommy during the night was hunky dory, and I was usually too tired to fight it.  But, I needed to still make meeting with God in my quiet place the number one priority of each day.  So I did...I refused to leave my bedroom until I had done this, even if it meant not leaving my bedroom until 10 am....or even noon!

My number two priority had to become me.  I couldn't be the wife and mother I needed to be if I was unwell.  So, for me, that meant that I needed to make sure that I took my supplements/prescriptions every morning and every night, as well as my ointments, creams and magnesium spray.  The second part of that was doing my physical therapy - but this proved to be the hardest to control!  It is so stinking hard to make yourself to any form of exercise when it took all your energy just to get out of bed, have my quiet time and take my pills!  Over the past three months I have had more days where I give up and walk out my bedroom door without doing my exercises than the days when I conquered that mountain.  But, overall, I was doing it far more often than I had in months!  The last part of taking care of myself was to eat right.  I had gone sugar and gluten free after I had gotten the diagnosis of arthritis, and I needed to stick to that!  Also, in June I started Whole 30 to further reduce inflammation...more on that in a later post, maybe!

Some days, that was it...that was all I could do.  Some days, I would go back to bed.   But they were getting fewer and farther between as the days/weeks went by.

About two weeks after my spiritual reawakening, I knew I was in over my head.  I was overwhelmed every day by all that came screaming to my attention the moment I left my bedroom.  Nearly a year of pain and struggle means nearly a year of just surviving...I mean barely surviving.  Anything beyond ensuring that my children were fed and dressed were beyond my ability to handle.  And even those things were usually delegated, but they remained my responsibility.  And, if you are a mother, you know that delegating something doesn't always means it's easier...sometimes it's easier to just do it myself...if I was capable to do it, which in more and more ways I just couldn't do it - I got to where I was told I was not to lift Christy...and something like changing her diaper could even bring about hours of back pain!

It didn't take long before I knew I was literally in over my head.  My heart and my mind screamed to run and hide.  So many areas of my home were in disarray.  So many things were being left undone, or only partially done.  Yes, I have older children living at home, but they had so many ways that they were having to step in and do the work that I should be doing.  Changing diapers on three girls (yes, potty training Carese has not been something I have been able to do until just this summer, and even now it's only part time - she is resistant to this for some reason!), making meals for 11 people every day, creating Christy's special meals three times and day and feeding her, doing the grocery shopping, doing the laundry.  For so long I was literally unable to do any housework at all!  One time I tried washing dishes....ended up with serious debilitating pain for two days....yeah, not worth it!  Speaking of dishes...washing dishes in our home is a full time job, which had to be done by one of the older children as well.

So there I was, with a mental list a mile long of all the things that needed to be tended to around our home, and little ones who were quite literally screaming for my attention (they miss having a mom that can actually get out of bed!).  And then there is the behavior that inevitably rears it's ugly head when mom hasn't been present to work on the hearts and minds of her children - selfishness, laziness, fault finding...the list goes on.  Some days I would come out of my bedroom and have what I like to call "fires to put out" - you know, conflicts between children or outright sinful behavior, or the more subtle ones where they try to make you think they have done what they should have, when they really haven't.  I tell you - it was enough to make me want to run and hide (notice a theme here???).

Well, running away was just not an option.  Over the years I've heard of the occasional mother of many who just up and leaves her family.  I tell you, I now understand.  I do not condone, but I understand.  But, I knew that God had personally called me to be the mother of these children, and the wife to my husband.  I knew I couldn't quit. But I also knew I was just not up to facing this on my own.

So, I reach out for help.

I called my pastor and said I needed help.  Specifically, I needed counseling.  I was floundering.  I had thoughts that I needed help conquering.  He found another mom in our church who was qualified and trained in lay counseling.  I seemed preposterous to even need it, but need it I did.  I needed someone to look in from the outside and help me to figure out what I needed to focus on, and what I needed to ignore.

She gave me permission to have the priorities that I had put in place - God first, my health next, and then my family/home.  That was such a huge relief!  I could count any day a success if I kept those priorities straight, even if that day meant my only contribution outside of my bedroom was successfully making it to my recliner and to be present to "put out fires."

I met with her once a week at first.  In person a few times, but then it was easier (and better for my family) to connect over the phone.  Now it's about every other week or so, unless something comes up that I need help to figure out.  But that lifeline has been such a HUGE part of my progess!  If anyone reading my blog post takes away one thing, it is this....if you are overwhelmed, get help!!  Do not stick it out, listening to your heart tell you lies like, "you can't do this," "it's not worth it."  Get help.  Call you pastor, call up a Christian Counselor and find someone qualified to talk to.

One of the biggest ways that talking to her helped is that I was finally able to talk about some of the things that had been so devastating to me.  Things about the day of Matthew's birth(death), things about my friend, Dian, who had committed suicide (she lost the battle against undiagnosed health issues and severe sleep deprivation...two things I could relate to).  Being able to voice my thoughts where I wouldn't bring more pain to those I love was so good for me!  And she gave me permission to be sad.  That grief was a normal process.  After that, most days, thinking of Matthew or Diane was much easier...still hard and it still hurt, but it no longer tore at my soul.

I found that when I couldn't go on, I couldn't tell those close to me.  Admitting even having those thoughts was admitting failure.  Just putting my thoughts into words was so incredibly hard.  But once I did, and she helped me to fight those thoughts with the truth of scripture, they lost their power.

My thoughts of "I can't do this" became "I can do all things through CHRIST who strengthens me."

My thoughts of "No one cares about me" became "Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust."

My thoughts of "It's not worth it" became "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ"

 (yes, those are suicidal thoughts...there, I said it...I would never take my life, but my deceitful heart has been whispering these awful things to me in my darkest moments, even since my spiritual reawakening - if you have thoughts like this, you need to reach out and get help NOW!)

I needed to battle my own thoughts with the truth of scripture.  I started a thoughts diary, as a journal of scripture I can use to battle my thoughts.  I was able to see improvements.  Over time I would be able to recognize these thoughts as lies, and counter then with scripture and prayer sooner.

OH - don't let me overlook that one.  I needed to redevelop the habit of going straight to the Throne of my Savior when those thoughts came crashing it.  I've heard the phrase "crying out to God" and that the Holy Spirit interprets our groanings....but until this year, I did not truly get it.  Now I do.  I can not count the times that I have literally cried out to God in my misery.  Tears flowing, sobs wracking....crying out for strength to make it.  Physical pain, when chronic, changes you.  I can have great days, even great weeks now, and then wham, something happens and I am wracked with pain and just as fast, I am right back to depressed and freaked out.  This happened three times this week!  I can even have a great day, but then be dealing with sudden pain at night and I am thrown into that terrible place of lies and thoughts of depression.  But, now, I (usually) turn to God and cry out for help.  And He gives it...not that my pain suddenly goes away, but my thoughts are turned to Him, and I can not have thoughts born from lies in my mind while crying out to God.  I have a choice in those have faith or to fear.  Fear breeds anxiety and terror.  Faith brings peace.

So, where am I today?  I am down from 6 prescriptions to only two, which I only take occasionally (a muscle relaxant and Tylenol 3).  My blood pressure is down from averaging 150/90 to averaging 125/65!  I have lost 30 pounds since February.  I have more good days than bad.  I actually wake up before my alarm most mornings, which is set at 7:30 now.  I don't take naps, at least it is rare.  I have been the one to get Christy dressed and in her braces everyday this week!  I have been the one to put her to bed more nights than not this week.  I am continuing to research the things I deal with, like chronic pain, daily headaches...and am finding new things to try out.

One of which is CBD oil, which is made from commercially produced hemp, which is legal in all 50 states.  It has been the most effective form of continued pain relief for me.  Two dropper-fuls, twice a day, and a topical massage oil applied to my problem area, and most days I have no back pain, unless I do something to aggravate it.  But even then, it no longer ramps up into hours and days of pain.  If stop doing whatever it is that I'm doing that I shouldn't do, ice my back, apply heat and rest, my back calms down in just a matter or an hour or two, maybe even less!  If you have chronic pain or illness, I highly recommend that you research this and maybe give it a try!  You can even order right on Amazon!

The other things I do to help with my back problems is weekly acupuncture, every other week medical massage and chiropractic care.  Over the summer I was doing those things twice as often, but that meant I was away from home two afternoons a week.  As I improved I was able to spread it out so that I'm only away one day a week!

Over the last two months I was suffering from terrible pressure headaches every day.  While a caffeine pill would take care of it, it became obvious that it was not normal.  I did some research and found some things, but the best thing I did was to go get my blood tested after consulting with my doctor.  I found out , ferritin levels were seriously low, which also explained a few other things I had I started taking desiccated liver capsules.  I share that to say, don't let something like that just go on, week after week!  Get in to see you doctor and get some tests done.  I don't always do what my doctor advises, but it is so helpful to know what is wrong so I can work to correct it!

But I saved the best thing for the last!!!

On August 15, Asa Robert Langford made his grand entrance!  I was able to be there, manning the camera and watching the indescribable joy as he was born and took his first breath.  Today they call a baby born after a pregnancy or infant loss a "Rainbow Baby."  So Asa is a Rainbow Baby (Click to see professional photos from his birth).  Until you have lost a baby, you never fully grasp the incredible gift that life is.  I have also had the privilege to be able to help Jessica care for him (he's asleep in my arms right now!!).  He is so precious.  Such a rich blessing from our Heavenly Father.

I hope what I have shared has helped someone.  It is such a struggle.  Chronic pain/illness is something you just can't understand until you experience it.  I hope that in the future I will be compassionate to those I meet who are dealing with such difficult trials.  But I have also learned that people who deal with this, are more likely to not go out...I have only gone to church a handful of times this year.  So, please, take a minute to think of someone in your life that you have lost touch with because they have fallen to a chronic health problem.  Give them a call, ask them how you can help.  Did you know that the population of people who deal with chronic pain or illness have a super high suicide rate?  I can tell you first hand, that even just asking "how can I pray for you" will mean the world to them!  Just let them know you care!!!  I can count on one hand the number of people in my life who have actually asked me that question.  I had no idea....

But let me end on this note.  I now have hope.  I have fought many battles this year, and some I have lost, but most of those were before I came running back to God.  As long as I keep holding tight to His loving hand, I know that I will keep winning the battles.  I may still have those very dark difficult moments in the middle of the night, but I know that if I keep taking control of my thoughts in His power, I will continue to have victory and be able to bring glory to God in my life.

2 Cor 10:5 - We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Phil 4:8 - Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 

And, just to make you smile...I got these amazing photos, while he was awake, when he was just 10 days old! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Into Darkness (and Back out by Grace)

This is a letter of sorts that I wrote just over a month ago.  I have waited to post is until I had the opportunity to give it to each of my immediate family members and interact with them about it.  I also wanted to wait and see where God was leading me and know that this was really the life changer that I thought it was. The first part is a kind of "cover letter" explaining why I wrote this and was especially important when I was giving this to people who I love and from whom I had hidden so much from.  So, without further explanation, here it is:

This is my testimony of sorts, relating to the past few years as I reeled and staggered through trials and hardships and turned my back on God, which landed me in a world of darkness, despair and depression. How I attempted to cope erroneously, causing me to flounder again, sinking into the blackness.

I share this with you because I have lived the secret life of darkness in front of you and I am sure you sensed that something was terribly wrong with me. I allowed my sin to cause pain to those I love, and to make our home unpleasant and unproductive. I am grieved that I have caused you pain and sinned against you so many times, lashing out in anger and pain and even pointing out your faults and sins when mine were so great they were causing me to drown, as I pulled you with me. I am so sorry for being such a poor example to you. I will be praying that God will use what you have witnessed in me to draw you closer to Him. That He will enable you to avoid going down this same road in your lifetime.

Please forgive me. Please pray for me. Please do not let the hurts I have inflicted on you to fester, but bring them to God to find healing and peace.

My Journey Into Darkness and Out Again by Grace

I am writing this as a testimony to what I have come to understand as a huge shortcoming in my life and how God, in His amazing grace and patience waited patiently for me while I foolishly stumbled into the darkest valley of my life, until I finally was able to hear His voice and follow His call to find my way back into His light.

I believe this began long ago, but this sin/foolishness took a long time to bear the ugly fruit that overcame me this past year. I did not understand that I even held the erroneous belief because it was so subtle.

I have face trials and hardships in my life by reaffirming my beliefs about God, who He is, what He desires of me and what His promises are. While that is correct, it is missing the most critical aspect of being a child of God. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

For years I was able to “get by” and not even realize that I held this erroneous beliefs, until the past year or so, with multiple trials and afflictions, when I came face to face with my foolishness. I reached a place of darkness, pain and despair that I have never reached before. My pain was so great that I recoiled, reeled...staggered under it. The beginning of the slide into darkness began in the winter of 2013. I began to allow painful situations to fest. I did not come to God to seek understanding of His purpose for the trials in my life. As time went by more trials and disappointments and pain were added, piling up, but I would stuff my pain and confusion and “try not to think about it.”

This began a process of drifting away from God. I allowed my quiet time and prayer to become more infrequent and more something to do and a meeting of myself with God. I was becoming more and more inwardly focused. The more inwardly focused I became, the more responsibilities I gave up on, the more I saw myself failing as a wife, mother and friend. The feelings of failure led to feelings of guilt until I began to further withdraw into my self to avoid the guilt, pain, and shame. Even going to church was more that I could face more often than not.

All of this withdrawing was well in place when, in May, I got word that a very dear friend, whom I had lost touch with in recent years, had committed suicide, and in ube, we received the diagnosis that my grandson, Matthew, has Trisomy 18 and was not expected to live after birth, if he lived that long. That began a time of completely shutting down...emotionally and spiritually. This also marked the beginning of physical and medical difficulties for m (chronic back pain, repeated sinus infections, tooth abstractions and stomach problems). Adding to all of that Christy was diagnosed with sleep apnea that required her to have oxygen via a nasal cannula while she slept. This let to late nights and subsequently to sleep deprivation for me.

Instead of running to God and pleading for His grace and strength, I shut down, turned inward, began escaping reality in whatever way I could find. I believe that much of my physical hardships were brought on or increased by my stuffing my problems instead of clinging to God and admitting my inadequacy.

IN August I suffered yet another sinus infection and also had to have a tooth removed in September, and ended up with a jaw infection. I spent entire days in my bedroom, shutting out everyone and everything, escaping into the world of an online “sim” game. I sought comfort from strangers instead of God...sought companionship from those who would expect nothing from me..sought to escape from the pain and misery that surrounded me in the real world.

Mathew's death and birth was a turning point for me, but not in a good way. I survived those three days by focusing on what I needed to do next for Jessica and Jon. I went three days without any sleep. Witnessing the silent moments after his birth broke me. I had to leave, I nearly passed out. Alone I cried as I have never cried before. And then I went on. I did not cry out to God, I did not share my grief with anyone. I just did the next thing, even when I couldn't stop crying anytime I was alone. I sought help in the refuge of sleeping pills. Be busy or sleep was my goal each day. I recoiled, I withdrew, I was free-falling into a dark pit of despair. I reeled and staggered under the weight of this loss. The disappointment was beyond my ability to comprehend. I had to do whatever it took to escape the pain. I quit reading the Bible, I avoided prayer. Going to my place where I have my quiet time would mean facing this raw pain. I just couldn't do it. I could not even speak to another living soul of what I was going through. How the memory of that day was hitting me at odd moments, and the raw pain would come back like a knife. I began to feel fragile, as though it would take just a small thing and my tenuous hold onto reality would break. I even began to have panic attacks when anything presented itself as a crisis (big or small). My back pain grew to epic proportions and I had to seek both chiropractic help and physical therapy, but they only eased the back pain enough for me to function for a few days at a time. I began to be on muscle relaxants full time. The anti-inflammatories I had been taking shredded my stomach and I was no longer able to take those after a time.

Just before Thanksgiving I knew I needed to do something. I knew I needed help when I began to have thoughts of wanting to really escape. Run away. It was all just too much. I know I had to do something, I knew I was fragile, about to break. I felt would up so tight I was going to explode. The emotions I was holding inside were creating a pressure that was reaching a breaking point. I reached out and asked close friends to pray for me. I sought counsel from a pastor as well as friends who had or were dealing with grief. I began to read the right book. I thought I was finding the answers. I found some relief. I was no longer alone in my pain and despair. I found comfort in God's promises and reassurance in what I believed about God.

I thought I was doing the right thing and that eventually everything would work itself out and that I could find a new, healthy normal again.

But I was wrong, seriously wrong, only I didn't know it yet, not for quite a while. These coping attempts had worked for me in the past, but they were leaving me without any true relief. I felt as though God had turned His back on me. My infrequent prayers seemed to die as I uttered them. My relief was temporal and short lived. My grief and disappointments, despair and discouragement were just below the surface. Still very much there and could crash in on me at the slightest provocation and overwhelm me.

I continued to have ever increasing medical problems....High blood pressure became a constant problem, my back problems hit an all time worst, my stomach was diagnose as having erosive gastropathy (the lining of my stomach was being eroded away), and my hormones were completely wreaking havoc on me. The reality of my friend's suicide began to torment my dreams, I'd even think I saw her here and there when I was out of the house running errands. I was finding less comfort in the books that I was reading and felt a wall between me and any friends. I couldn't speak of my heartache without feeling that I would be engulfed and overcome if I even dared to voice my pain.. My physical problems created crises that put me in the hospital twice. I asked people to pray for me, yet I could not pray.

The walls I had erected to protect myself were firmly back in place. My quiet times once again decreased and my escaping and stuffing instincts returned, only stronger now.

Things began to improve physically as I began to get to the root of a few of my problems and get the treatments and medications I need to address them. But spiritually and emotionally things were not improving. I was able to get an injection in my back that relieved me of all back pain for eight weeks and I began to feel like I could actually do things again and began to tackle home projects that had been pushed to back burners for months. But nothing was taking away the pressure that was building inside of me. It would show up in bursts of anger, in an underlying state of being easily irritated. I was unable to find joy in anything. At the end of April, I attended a new Bible Study and while there, amidst friends, I felt like a foreigner. Like the Bible was not mine, that prayer was something foreign to me. I felt out of place and like a hypocrite. I no longer belonged in a Bible Study. My back pain began to come back during that week, so I made an appointment with the Pain Clinic for the day after we came home from Colorado.

The next day came my big trip to Colorado with two of our children who were competing at the national level of Bible Quizzing. Somehow everything came together to enable me to go with them. I was feeling quite healthy and I seemed to be able to get things together enough at home to cover the care of the children who remained home. The first night of the conference I attended the worship service and the music went right into me. I couldn't sing it. I could not honestly sing those lyrics. But they revealed to me something that I had not seen before. God opened my eyes to the fact that I was in bondage, in slavery. I could not honestly sing praise to God. The theme of the conference was Galatians 4:7 and it was there right across the stage...”No longer a slave, but a Child Of God.” And the song, “No Longer Slaves” was sung and tore into my soul. I couldn't sing, all I could do was hang my head while tears coursed down my face. The words rushed through me...

You unravel me with a melody,
You surround me with a song of deliverance from my enemies
'Til all my fears are gone...
I'm no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.
From my mother's womb You have chosen me,
Love has called my name, I've been born again into Your family,
Your blood flow through my veins...
I'm no longer a slave to fear, I am a Child of God!
I am surrounded by the arms of the Father,
I am surrounded by songs of deliverance,
{I've} been liberated from {my} bondage...
I am a Child of God.

I knew that God was moving in me, but I couldn't quite grasp what He was showing me. Before I had time to really think it through, the service was over and I got very busy with the quizzing. Each day, this would repeat. I'd cry through the worship service, and I just knew God was trying to get me to see, but I just couldn't. I'd leave each day without answers. Saturday night I stayed up really late and got to share some of my struggles with another mother there. But I knew that I was only sharing that I was in a dark place, that I had railed miserably and had turned my back on God....that I had reeled, staggered under the grief. She said she would pray for me. The next day it was the day we went home. Busy long day of traveling.

The next day I went to my Bible Study (the first one I've attended in over 4 years). At the end I shared with them that I knew God was trying to show me something, and that I had been through the hardest year of my life and had failed. I asked that they would pray that I would be able to find time to be quiet before the Lord and see what He was trying to show me. I asked them to pray but once again I did not pray myself.

I went to the Pain Clinic that afternoon and they said that I could have another injection since it had worked for two months, that I might find longer relief with a second one. I was able to make an appointment for another SI injection for the very next day!

I didn't have to wait long for that answer. That very evening when I came home I went straight to my bedroom. I didn't even want to eat dinner. I grabbed my notebook and a pen and began to pray, and cry and write. And then it dawned on me...I finally heard what God was trying to tell me, to teach me.

I needed Him. I needed to come to Him broken, empty and worthless. I had to admit defeat. I had to embrace the fact that I had turned to works to save me from my trials and heartache. I had been attempting to fix myself. My faith was in my faith, my strength was depending on the strength of my convictions. I had missed the most critical aspect of being a child of God...God Himself. I had to understand and embrace the fact that I am completely and utterly unable to do anything without His enabling, and that His enablings only come when I have come to Him, empty and broken and humble and seek His face, His grace. I had only prayed at the end of my efforts, like He was the last resort, only to go to when all other efforts had failed. I only sough His help to fill the gaps left from my works.
But these coping mechanisms were just that, mechanisms. And they were useless to carry me through the severe trials. I had failed God.

I opened my heart and soul and cried out to God. I wrote even as I cried and prayed, not even looking at the page. I confessed my sins of being self centered and self righteous. I asked Him to forgive me for turning my back on Him. I beseeched Jesus to teach me to truly become like Him. I confessed my sin of daring to blame others for the mess I had become. I confessed to sinning like Peter and taking my eyes off my Savior and giving into the waves of fear and doubt and sinking into the blackest of oceans. I confessed that I had listened to my deceitful and arrogant heart and had walked astray. I begged God to teach me to cling to Him and Him alone. To free me from the bondage to fear, and my slavery to sin. I begged Him to open my eyes to be able to see myself as He sees me. To see my sins so that I could confess them.

Then I looked up scripture that spoke of comfort and peace (the idea just came to me then). I knew I needed both and that I could only find them in Christ, and only as a gift from God, not of my own doing. I used the scripture to pray...I begged Him to create in me a clean heart, a deep abiding love for Him, a passion to serve Him in all I do, to take away my arrogance and pride and self-centeredness, to teach me to be others minded and selfless, to rescue me, to create in me the instinct to run to Him when facing trials, to enable me to sing His praise and to worship Him in truth, to create in me an appreciation for all He has and is doing for me, to grant me an abiding, soul deep ability to know Him as my only comfort ans strength, me ever present help in trouble, to lead me beside still waters and comfort my soul, to trust that He is always with me and that His plans for me are good, and to cause me to become more like Jesus, to teach me to not allow my heart to become troubled, to not give in to hear, to enable me to put my hope in Him alone, to enable me to praise Him even in the midst of the darkest storm, to enable me to not worry about anything but to come to Him in prayer.

He began to answer my prayers even as I was writing them. I began to feel a sense of peace and to feel the heavy darkness lift. my time at the conference, I have heard the song, “No Longer Slaves”, over and over again (I had never listened to the words before), as well as others, and they continued to minister to me and steer my thoughts back to God. After pouring my heart out to the Lord that night, I was beginning to find peace and feel the hope of finding the end of my journey through the darkness. But I had to return to “reality.” I told no one, I needed time for this to settle. The very next morning, I opened my Bible to where I had last been reading in the Psalms (months ago). It was Psalm 107. What I read astounded me. Right there I read what could have been written about me. Words and phrases that depicted my self inflicted free fall into darkness....

”they wandered....hungry and thirsty...soul fainted within...
then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;
He delivered them out of their distresses...
Give thanks...For He has satisfied the thirsty soul....
There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in misery and chains.
Because they had rebelled against the words of God
and spurned the counsel of the Most High...
They stumbled and there was none to help.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;
He saved them out of their darkness and the shadow of death
And broke their bands apart.
He sent His word and healed them....
Their soul melted away in their misery,
they reeled and staggered and were at their wit's end.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble
and He brought them out of their distresses.
He caused the storm to be still so that the waves of the sea were hushed,
then they were glad because they were quiet.

What also struck me was that in this passage the author stated over and over, “let them give thanks to the Lord” and then in vs 22 “...and tell of His works with joyful singing” and in vs 32 “Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people.”
So I must not remain silent. I must share my story and what God has done for me. I was a fool and I embraced my pain as I turned my back on God. But I thank God that He was patiently waiting for the day that I would hear His voice and see His plan for me. I praise Him that He opened my eyes and ears and enabled me to hear His voice.

I have a long road ahead of me. To break the patterns and habits that led me into darkness. To confess my many sins against my family and friends. To cling to my Lord when the waves threaten to cover me again. I praise Him, for He does all things well. I will be learning to trust Him as I have never trusted Him before, and to praise Him even when I am in the midst of the storm.

Since that time I have begun to enjoy the Bible Study and have returned to my prayer journals and have been working to and asking God to remind me to come to Him when difficulties come. I still find myself trying to go it alone, but I am also running to Him as well, so I'm making strides in the right direction. My back pain was relieved for only two weeks, so I am once again dealing with back pain on a daily basis. I had my follow up appointment and the options given to me were not ones I want to pursue at this time, but through several circumstances, God has led me to try acupuncture and my first session resulted in 5 hours of no pain and lessened pain in the next few days. I will be going back regularly for a time and I'm hopeful that with my dietary changes and acupuncture I will be able to heal my back.

Here are a few more songs that have been ministering to me.

(Laren Daigle)

I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

I will trust in You!

I will praise You Lord my God
Even in my brokenness
I will praise You Lord
I will praise You Lord my God
Even in my desperation
I will praise You Lord

And I can't understand
All that You allow
I just can't see the reason
But my life is in Your hands
And though I cannot see You
I choose to trust You

Even when my heart is torn I will praise (trust) You Lord
Even when I feel deserted I will praise (trust) You Lord
Even in my darkest valley I will praise (trust) You Lord
And when my world is shattered and it seems all hope is gone
Yet I will praise You Lord

I will trust You Lord my God
Even in my loneliness
I will trust You Lord
I will trust You Lord my God
Even when I cannot hear You
I will trust You Lord

And I will not forget
That You hung on a cross
Lord You bled and died for me
And if I have to suffer
I know that You've been there
And I know that You're here now

Ten Avenue North

So you thought you had to keep this up
All the work that you do
So we think that you're good
And you can't believe it's not enough
All the walls you built up
Are just glass on the outside

So let 'em fall down
There's freedom waiting in the sound
When you let you walls fall to the ground
We're here now

This is where the healing begins,
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken within
The light meets the dark

Afraid to let your secrets out
Everything that you hid
Can com crashing through the door now
But too scared to face all your fear
So you hide but you find
That the shame won't disappear

Sparks will fly as grace collides
With the dark inside of us
So please don't fight
This coming light
Let this blood come cover us
Hi blood can cover us

This is where the healing begins,
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you're broken within
The light meets the dark

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

My Journey Out of Depression

**If you saw this post already, but it seemed weird, that is because it wasn't supposed to publish yet!**
  I had only collected what I wanted to share and thought I had only saved it, yikes!  Well, here is the edited version!

A rose from Matthew's graveside service
placed by me on our daughter,
Johanna Marie's grave
Last December I wrote a blog post that resulted from just taking the first baby steps out of the blackest hole I have ever found myself to be in since I rededicated my life to Christ back in 1984.

Since that post I have been slowly moving in the right direction, with some setbacks.  Openly sharing what God was doing in my life through difficulties brought unexpected blessings!  I have people praying for me, others have shared their times in the dark places, and I have been given two books that have blessed me along with How Can I Live, by Kay Arthur.  I will be putting quotes from these three books that have spoken to me in this journey throughout this post.  I hope you find them helpful!

Jessica's Blog Update
These last four months have been an ongoing challenge to me in many ways. While the loss of Matthew in October has lost some of it's power, talking about or even thinking about the events surrounding his death, birth and burial will nearly always bring me to tears.  I have once talked with a doctor about it's effect on my health without crying, but only once and that was quite recently.  The effects of caring for a medically complex, disabled child, long term pain from my back and the emotional stresses associated with Matthew's death and it's effects on Jessica as well as the rest of my family have taken it's toll on me physically.  

Just before Christmas I had a tooth abscess that required a double root canal, thankfully they were able to take care of it right away as it was only days before Christmas!  We had a most wonderful Christmas!  Not any photos, but everyone agreed that we had a wonderful day together as a family!  The best part????  Jessica and Jon announced by way of a very cute shirt, that God had blessed them with life again!  She is due with this precious life mid August and so far everything is going very well and her little one has taken up being quite active recently!

As a follow up to a previous ultrasound of my thyroid (back in June it became suddenly enlarged), it was found that the large nodules in my thyroid had grown some, even though my thyroid had been reduced in size substantially through the use of herbal tinctures and essential oils (Endo-Flex by Young Living Oils).  This meant I had to have a biopsy done.  

 This was an unpleasant procedure, but thankfully they got a good sampling and it is benign!  I do have to follow up again later this year.

Just after Christmas we purchased some cabinets with doors to store our school and therapy supplies!  This was a wonderful improvement, especially after we got magnetic locks!  Now everything stays put away unless a big person is helping to get it out!  This has made both myself and the children who have the job of keeping the schoolroom tidy very happy!

After December my back actually got worse. Even with physical therapy and weekly chiropractic adjustments, plus anti-inflammatory topical cream and muscle relaxant, I ended up with the most crazy, shooting sciatic nerve pain!  This caused quite a stir with my care providers so I got some imaging done.  The imaging via X-rays and an MRI revealed that I have significant arthritis in my right SI joint as well as misalignment of my L4 that has cause arthritis to build up between L4 and L5.  This was a shocker to me.  But there is hope!  I have researched and found that arthritis can be reversed with proper diet and exercise.  Since the diagnosis 6 weeks ago I have gone sugar, gluten and grain free (sugar for 6 weeks, gluten and grain for 3 1/2 weeks)....which means I am back on the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating! So far I have lost 10 pounds.  Tomorrow I will be going in to have a cortisone injection into the SI joint in hopes of reducing the inflammation in order to allow my body to heal itself.

The next adventure in my health journey was the development of high blood pressure.  I am sure it is the result of the chronic back pain (chronic pain is defined as three or more months of unrelieved pain...I'm going on a year now) on top of the other emotional, spiritual and physical stresses in my life.  My doctor thought it would be best to put me on a low dose of BP meds.  It didn't go so well.  After just three doses of a diuretic type of BP med, I ended up overnight in the hospital due to racing heart rate (100 - 120 resting) and shortness of breath. After a dozen or so cardio tests, they determined that I was right, it was a reaction to the medication.  On the bright side, we now know that I am in excellent cardiovascular health! So then I was put on a beta blocker.  This didn't go well either, and left me with unrelenting fatigue.  After four weeks of trying to tweak the meds, and my fatigue only getting worse, I finally got the doctor to agree just last night to quit all BP meds, checking it twice a day at home, and try a supplement called Nattokinase, which was actually recommended to me for Christy as a substitute for her aspirin that she takes as a stroke preventative (we aren't giving it to her yet, I'm still researching and need to get in contact with her neurology doctor).  I learned that it can be very successful at reducing elevated (not high) blood pressure, and since my BP was only elevated and not into dangerous territory, we are going to give it a try!  The fatigue is already lessened today (I took a half dose yesterday, and had already been weaned off the beta blocker Metropolol last week, but was still taking Lisinopril, an ACE inhibitor whatever that means!).  I have high hopes of being functional again soon!

Starting back in June, I began to have irregular menstrual cycles, even skipping some cycles.  While this was not a bad thing (I have been dealing with perimenopausal symptoms for over ten years now and am hoping to be in menopause soon), it became something of a concern when starting the first of the year I began to have weeks of heavy spotting.  My doctor referred me for an ultrasound (yet another medical test!) and it showed that I had a thickening of the endometrial lining (this is called Endometrial hyperplasia (EH)), and some of the endometrial cells had migrated to the uterine muscle (this is called Adenomyosis).  The EH was what had the doctor concerned because if left alone, it raises my risk of cancer in a big wayOur conservative plan to deal with it was to put me on progesterone for ten days, which would stop the bleeding (but it didn't) and then when I stopped taking it, it would shed the extra lining (but it didn't). I ended up in ER with hemorrhaging. They put me back on the progesterone and doubled the dose which finally stopped the bleeding.
  Another ultrasound revealed that none of that had improved things, in fact the lining was a bit thicker (normal is 10 mm, mine was 24mm). Plan B was put into effect and I underwent a non-sedated D&C (they wanted it done as soon as possible, and scheduling worked much better for a non-sedated one).  While I never want to do that again and would rate the pain as an 8 even with pain meds on board, I am glad it was done and have had no bleeding since.  I will be meeting with the gynecologist tomorrow for a follow up and making a plan for my going off the progesterone.

My journey is not complete yet. I still struggle.  I feel fragile.  It doesn't take much and that darkness threatens to come back and surround me.  But I know that it is not what God has meant for me.  For He says, 

" Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:29, 30) 
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm youplans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to youYou will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11 - 13)

And now for some family news from the past few months... but be sure to read to the end, as I saved the best for last!

Sometime around the en of January, Christy added to our excitement by somehow getting her G-Tube pulled out and not telling us about it.  

She had been fussy earlier, but we could not find the cause of her discomfort until later when I was going to change her diaper and found her Mic-key Button hanging out in her shirt.  Enough time had passed that we could no longer get it back in by ourselves. So Jessica came with me and helped me take her to Seattle Children's hospital.  Jessica went to the house of a friend (Molly) to sleep until we were done, which wasn't until 1am

They inserted a series of smaller to larger catheters, slowly dilating the opening in the stomach, until the Mic-key Button could be reinserted.  Then we all went to Molly's to sleep until morning.  Christy was a lovely traveling companion and was an exemplary ER patient!  She was as happy as could be except when they were putting in a new catheter!

Christy impersonating Darla from Finding Nemo
and they snuggle together!

somebody loves her daddy!
they play together....

I almost forgot - I guess Daryl thought I was getting more that my share of medical attention, so just a week after my overnight in the hospital, he ended up in the ER with kidney stones!  It has been a very long time since he was admitted to the ER, over 11 years in fact!  

Somewhere around January I think, the care of Esther's hair became a burden to both myself and Esther.  She loves to twist her hair, but this creates dreadlocks very quickly.  To keep the peace I trimmed her hair very short and we are both happy about how easy it is to care for (but sad to see it go just the same!). It has already grown out some.  I am hoping that she will have outgrown her playing with her hair by the time it gets long!

At the end of February I was able to attend two women's retreats, two weekends in a row! While it was taxing physically, I so needed to go.  The first was the Above Rubies Retreat at Black Lake Camp (south of Olympia, WA).  I was encouraged by the teaching and by connecting with women from last year and making new friends too!  The second was our church's women's retreat, and the focus was on disappointments.  So much to take in there and I am still planning to take the time to go through and look up all the scripture again and read my notes.

The popcorn stitches say
"I Love You to the Moon and Back"
On a bright note, I have begun some new projects.  I crocheted a doll for Carese and knit some scarves.  I also made a baby blanket and finished it just last week!

Carese, 4 years ago this week!
We celebrated her birthday yesterday.
I also got glasses especially for playing the piano, and they work!!!!!!! I have not been playing the piano much at all for the past ten years, but today I tried out my new glasses and they are marvelous! I played for over an hour. I can not describe how thankful I am to be able to play without the frustration of not being able to see my hands if I was looking at the music through my bifocals....It was like seeing a best friend you haven't seen in a decade, or going home for the first time in forever, or like being able to the most favorite thing you have ever done after not being able to do it in over a decade...SWEET!!!!!

Weaving it's way through these past months is the ongoing concern over my dear niece, Andrea.  For years she has been living the live of an addict.  Homeless, hopeless and lost. But not forgotten.  God had not forgotten, her mother certainly had not, and I had not. Her prayers were ongoing as she feared for her daughter's life, and mine as well, both for peace for Lisa and salvation for Andrea.  In God's perfect timing, Andrea came home and is in the process of getting into a wonderful Christian rehab program that she will be in for two years.  She has had to do much to find her way out of addiction - detox, dental surgery and more.  You can read more about her journey out of addiction, and her needs at this moment.  Please take a moment and follow this link to her story and how you can help. If you can't monetarily help, please share the link on your social media!  Thanks!

Lastly I want to share with you a concept that Kay Arthur talks about in her book, God How Can I Live.  She heard it said once that there are 5 D's: Disappointment, Discouragement, Defection, Despair, Demoralization. (I like to add a sixth, but I'll get to that in a minute). 

 The first one is Disappointment.  When things in your life bring you disappointment, how you react to it really counts.  If you react with pain, bitterness you open the door to the rest of the D's.  

The second D is Discouragement.  To quote Kay,
"Discouragement and disappointment are like twins. You own the door to Disappointment and you will find discouragement dashing in right behind....The cure for discouragement is encouragement. Encourage your heart by looking at your God and His promises......"

Once Disappointment and Discouragement have taken up residence in your heart, Dejection, Despair come over for a party.  The more they party, the more alone you feel.  The more you dwell on your problems, the more unable you become to face them.

Then you become demoralized.  No ability to go on.  No inspiration to continue the fight.  Demoralization is extremely dangerous.  In my opinion, this allows for thoughts of self harm or suicide to come in and be the life of the party too.

I've added a sixth D - Depression.  The dark place where no light shines.  Crying becomes a daily event.  Laughter is only a memory.  Friends become distant (either imagined or not).  This extreme self focus becomes a vicious cycle.  You are depressed, so you dwell on your problems, your problems make you depressed.

"If you are in the dark, if your spirits are sunk in gloom, do not despair, for the Lord Jesus was there. If you have fallen into misery, do not give up, because the Father's well-beloved pass through the denser darkness. Believing soul, I'd you are in the dark you are near the Kings cellars, where the well-refined wines on the lees are stored (Is 25:6). You are in the Lord's pavilion, and you may speak with Him....
Trust Him, and He will cause His light to shine on you. Lean of Him, and He well bring you out of the gloomy wilderness into the land of rest.
May God help you to lean on Him."

Beside Still Waters by C. H. Spurgeon

But there is hope!  I was there.  I went through the 6 D's step by step without even realizing it.  It started with strained relationships, then Matthew's diagnosis, followed by physical challenges, ending with Matthew's death and birth and the physical/emotional strain of that week.  Instead of turning to God and taking my thoughts captive, I gave into avoidance techniques, recoiling in pain.  But God didn't leave me there.  He gently led me to come back into the light of His Word and the truth of Who He IS and His great love for me.  Step by step, I left those D's behind.  I fall at times and snuggle up with a few of the D's, but I become aware of it quicker these days.  That and I have gathered a few friends in the battle.  I reached out.  When I couldn't get myself to turn back to God, I reached out to friends whom I knew would help me.  They have prayed for me and encouraged me in these dark days.  They continue to be there for me, when other friends failed and left me to my own devices.  Friends who are just friends when things are going great in your life, are not true friends.  Do not dwell on that.  And most of all, remember your true, heavenly, indwelling brother, Jesus, who sticks closer than a friend (Proverbs 18:24)

So dear one, if you are reading this and you are allowing the 6 D's, or any of them, to take up residence in your heart, please reach out!  They love it when you shrink in to yourself and tell yourself that no one understands.  I understand.  There are millions who understand (just read through the Psalms...David understood!).  Don't keep these aweful D's a secret.  Reach out and tell someone where you are.  Find help.  Find that helping hand to guide you on your journey back into the light.

"If you're God's child, you will never again have just you to depend on. No, you've been blessed, right here, right now, with grace....The answer is Christ! He is with you. He is for you. In Him, you really have everything you need. You simply have not been left to yourself"
Paul David Tripp

I just love it when my three very different daily devotionals dove tail.  So many times all three, or at least two of them, will deal with something that I am currently wrestling with.  Only God can put things like that together.  It's like He planned this, to show me that He cares so much and even something so small as two different readings in two different books on the same day with work together to minister to me!

For those of you with ongoing physical struggles...the real, day to day struggle to just physically meet your own needs, to make it to appointments, to just get out of bed, let alone get dressed.  This quote from Spurgon is just for you:

This is counsel for you who are temporarily laid on the shelf. Some of God's best workers have been laid aside for long periods. Moses was forty years in the desert, doing nothing but tending sheep. One greater that Moses, our blessed Saviour, was thirty years doing- I will not say nothing, but certainly doing no public work.
When you are retired or inactive, prepare for the time when God will use you. If you are out on a shelf, do not rust; pray that the Master will polish you, so that when He uses you again you will be fully ready for the work.
While you are laid aside, pray for others that are working. He'll them and encourage them.....Spend time in prayer, that you may be fit for the Master's use.

 Beside Still Waters by C. H. Spurgeon
From the devotional titled Laid Aside for a Time, based on Exodus 3:1

And From one of my favorite novels, also talking about this topic:

“It will not hurt either of you as long as you have health. And if that fails, God will provide for you in some way," said her father. "He is rich, and could give you more now if He saw that it would be good for you. Never forget that.”  

― Elizabeth Payson PrentissAunt Jane's Hero

Thanks for taking the time to read through yet another long blog post.  I pray that your were blessed by what you have read.  If you have made the journey out of depression and into the light, please share in comments so others may be encouraged that they can also make it out!

****Please, This is Not The Whole Story!  This was the beginning, but God had BIG lessons to teach me, and I spiraled back down in the black hole of depression again after posting this blog post!  PLEASE READ MY NEXT BLOG POST, INTO DARKNESS AND BACK BY GRACE

While everything I wrote here is true, I had avoided a true heart change and had not gone to God, Himself, for healing and restoration, that happened at the beginning of May, and this is what I wrote about in my next post (see link above).