Sunday, February 26, 2017

An Update-Stream of Consciousness Form

I'm still alive.

I've been working really hard.  I've been trying to keep up with caring for my family while working full time, but there are some days that I come home and all I can do is feed them dinner, clean up the kitchen, let the dog out, fold the laundry and then fall asleep before 9 pm.  That's usually what happens if I lay down at any point during the evening.

Ironically, I've also been struggling with insomnia more frequently. 

The election really did a number on me in quite a few ways.  True confession:  I haven't regularly attended church since election day.  I can't handle the silence on the critical, heartbreaking current events I find there.  I can't handle the fact that our president was voted in by the evangelical majority.

It feels like yet another betrayal in my religious life.  I still love Jesus.  Prayer is hard right now, but I am reading my Bible.  I still trust that God is working in the world even though it seems like evangelicals have traded political power for Jesus' preached principles and example of lifting up the poor and needy.

I'm not looking for answers.  I'm not looking for platitudes.  I am a Christian.  I don't identify as an evangelical anymore, but I don't know what I am.

  I'm using the anger I feel towards current events fuel my work, which feels more important every day, even under the threat of defunding from our president.  I turn to the words of Jesus frequently-"The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me."
I'm realizing the importance of self-care.  Yoga before bed, spending time alone in my locked  bedroom listening to sad music, taking walks with the kids, talking with trusted friends about my political and religious struggles have all been helping me feel more human.

I'm realizing my people are out there.  People who feel and think the same way I do.  People who don't instantly panic when I identify as more progressive politically than I used to be and don't panic at my doubts and the flaws I see in the evangelical community.

So that's where I'm at.  I'm not sure when the next update will be as I'm still trying to keep my head above water in this ocean called life.

I'm still here.  And I'm still swimming.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

It'll All be OK

"When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth—people getting no sleep day or night— then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it."
-Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 

"He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"
-Revelation 21:5  

So yeah, it's been a while, hasn't it?

I've been working hard at my new job as a paralegal at a law firm that assists people living on low incomes with housing, bankruptcy, family law and social security cases.  I love it, but it is hard, emotional work.  Sometimes I come home and fall asleep on the couch before 8pm fully dressed.

During the week my house is a disaster, so weekends at home are devoted to cleaning and lots of napping.  The kids and the Hubs are all right-Hubs loves hearing the stories I can tell when I come home from work and the kids love their new daycare.

But sometimes when I go to bed at night, I can't shut my brain off, and I get angry.

I feel angry about the times I have to say no to people that call or stop by with cases that we can't take.  I feel angry that many of these people have been or are in really terrible situations, and may very likely find themselves there again due to the culture of poverty.  I feel angry about the unbelievable ways people can be so cruel to each other.  I feel angry that the systems and people that are supposed to help our clients, but can't or won't.

That's why I've planting myself in Ecclesiastes and the Psalms lately.  I've found comfort in the hard emotions found in these books.  I'm relieved that I'm not the only one who struggles with the way this world looks like it's going to hell in a hand basket.

It drives me crazy that I can't understand why things happen the way they do, or why there is so much pain and suffering in the world that is met with only more pain and suffering.  But I have to believe that Someone is in control.  I have to believe that true justice will be served, and that it will all turn out ok in the end.

So like the author of Ecclesiastes writes, I can't comprehend what goes on under the sun, even for one day.  And I can try and understand, and I can rail against the circumstances, but I know I can do it all within the safety of believing with all my heart that there is a God who will make all things true and right.

Sometimes, that's all I need to remember to make the tough days worth it.


Friday, February 19, 2016

A Prayer for Friends

I lay down to sleep with a sigh.

My friends, people I care about, they are going through hard things.

Unspeakable, unfair things.

I pray, "Are you sure You know what you are doing?"

And within the sting and the heaviness in my heart, I laugh at that question, and I think You laugh with me.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord."
 (Isaiah 55:8.)

I wonder if I should be scared of a scolding, of a lecture when I open up my Bible to read this verse in context:

"For you shall go out in joy and be lead forth in peace,"


"Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress, instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle, and it shall make a name for the Lord."

Dawn breaks through the darkness.

I rest in knowing that even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, it is only a shadow.

Your joy is our joy.

Your love is our love.

Your redemption is our redemption.

I rest here and pray for this peace for my friends' hearts,

And I thank You for Your intimate love.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Trauma: A Testimony and Some Tips

I've been sitting on this post for a while.  It's a vulnerable topic for me as a person who has experienced trauma and will probably feel the effects of it for the rest of my life (if you want specifics, ask me for details.  I'm not all about airing everything on the interwebs!)

Trauma has become a hot topic in the academic and media worlds.  We've heard a lot of talk about safe spaces, trauma-focused therapy, etc.

As American culture goes, we're still ambivalent about the topics of trauma and mental illness.  Our "pull yourself up by the bootstraps," individualistic culture likes the ideas of rules, order, independence and perfection rule the roost.  Sometimes, these ideals can become an even bigger burden on a trauma sufferer's back.

So when we hear of a friend suffering from a traumatic experience, the advice we give tends to go in that direction-the direction of "you should."  Here are a few examples I've heard.  As someone who has had symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression, I've also tried most of these.

- You should get out of the house more (Sorry, the agoraphobia kind of kicks that in the butt..I forgot to mention I have that tendency too!)

-You should exercise more (This one does actually help and is included in my self-care plan, but it didn't *cure* anything.)

-You should go gluten free/eat paleo (I did this.  For a month.  My symptoms got worse because it triggered more anxiety for me, but I still feel better physically if I lay off of gluten, so I've kept that as a key factor in my self-care.)

-Get more sleep (Hard to do when you're having panic attacks and/or waking anxiously during the night, then taking naps during the day only to find yourself lying awake once bedtime hits.)

-See a counselor (I have done this multiple times in my life.  It does help and I wish the stigma surrounding counseling would lift in our culture.  I gained invaluable tools to help me relax and manage stressful symptoms better.)

All of these are good things, and it's ok to give this advice if a friend struggling with these issues asks for help.  But may I suggest a few other ideas?

1.  Listen.  If your friend has been through a traumatic experience and is comfortable enough to verbally process it with you, just listen.  You don't have to fix it.  Often just talking out the fears and anxiousness can bring clarity to you and to your friend.

2. Touch them.  Ask permission first, of course, but a hug, holding a hand or laying a hand on their shoulder can do a world of good in both calming them and letting them know tangibly that you're there.

3.  Support them.  If they need space, give them space, but still feel free to check in in a non-invasive manner. Just be there.

4.  Be patient.  Life is messy enough when it is "normal".  When you're working through trauma, weird things can trigger anxiety or panic for your friend (if you need an example, watch the "Noel" episode of the West Wing.  It's a great case study of PTSD and how it can effect a person.)  Even when your friend successfully works through his or her issues, there are still relational patterns deeply ingrained in him or her that he or she will need to work through.

5.  If they go on medication, don't judge them for it by telling them how much they're messing up their body or that they don't have enough faith.  Scientific research shows that trauma can effect how someone's brain functions, and we shouldn't write off medication as an option if all other self-care attempts fail.  This summer, I went on a low dose of an anxiety medication and I feel better than I have in a very, very long time.  It hasn't solved everything, but it has lifted the fog from my brain so I can react to life more objectively instead of anxiously.   I am also sleeping better now, which has done wonders for improving things.

6. Pray.  Pray for your friend.  Pray with your friend if they want you to.  Jesus is in the business of healing minds and hearts, miraculously and through science.  As you walk this path with your friend, remember His care for them and for you.

As someone who has suffered from the effects of trauma and has studied it, I can't tell you the significance of some of the above practices have been on my life.  My husband has been especially supportive in my search for wholeness and health, and I wouldn't be better without his concern and care.  I thank God for him and for those who have been on this journey with me.  I hope this testimony and these suggestions can help readers and those they care about through this sensitive and vulnerable issue.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

All Things New

Yesterday I drove to the dermatologist.  I've been doing this every three months for a little over a year because my body decided my skin was a foreign object it must attack.  I have white spots on my hands, feet, elbows, legs and hips.  I tell my kids they are my Dalmatian spots, and Hubs and I make up stupid songs about vitiligo (the medical term) to "Cotton Eye Joe."  Laughing about it makes me feel less self-conscious, and the meds are working, so that is a good thing.

Fall is my favorite season to travel.  The roads were clear this morning, the sun was bright and the earth was just on the verge of the blazing glory that is fall.  The intense, vibrant color before the shadow of death that is winter.  Funny, how such brilliance happens before such brokenness, only to be replaced by the new life of spring.

As I gazed at the immense space and beauty of nature on the drive, I felt small and thought about brokenness.  The brokenness of my body.  The brokenness of nature.  The brokenness of the cross.

If I look at the pain and the suffering and how nothing in life seems to work out, it's easy to get lost in the dread of the coming winter, real or imagined.

But in the midst of the pain and imperfectness, God makes beauty come from the ashes.

Someday I will have a new body free of disease, and an inheritance that will never spoil or fade.

Someday I will live in the light of God's glory, and the groaning of creation will cease.

All because of the power of the most horrifying suffering-the death of Jesus on the cross.

As I drove to the dermatologist, I was reminded that God is making all things new.  He has turned death upside down.  Brokenness will be healed, and I can trust Him to bring life.  Remembering this gives me hope, and I pray it does the same for you.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Daily Prayer

Help me to hide in You today.
Not in my plans,
my morals,
my food,
my books.
To hide in You.
I want to run to You for love and acceptance,
instead of basing my worth on my children behaving well,
or staying under-budget at the grocery store,
or having a clean house.
I want my heart to crave You again.
Forgive me for choosing to wander.
Give me grace to love You above all.

Monday, April 6, 2015

I'm Not Dead!

Hi blog friends!  I know it has been quite a while since I've posted, but take heart.  I am still reading and writing!  Since I started a graduate certificate on child and family advocacy, I've been up to my eyeballs in human services essays, analysis of human service agencies and social policies,  and welfare reform (The welfare reform book almost made me want to put my head through a wall.  I now simultaneously respect and abhor politicians a little bit more.  Ambivalence much?)  I've also written approximately 48 pages on these subjects with one more paper to go! 

All that to say, hopefully I can return to a more regular creative writing and pleasure reading schedule sometime this summer, the earliest being the 2nd and 3rd week of May.  I will then have a brief hiatus from schoolwork until my 8 week summer course on family policy begins (more academic reading..yay!)  I swing between wanting to clean my entire house during those two weeks or lay on the couch binge watching Bones. 

So yeah...that's my life right now.  Caring for my babies and our newest addition of a fur baby (a sheepadoodle named Cupcake), chores, grad school, eat, sleep, repeat.

It's a busy and somewhat stressful life at times.  But it's mine.  And I love it.