Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Quite Possibly the PERFECT Day!

Okay, so everyone has one of THOSE days (and quite possibly many of them). You know, where whatever can go wrong does. But have you ever had a day where everything that could go right, does go right? I think I've just experienced one of those days myself...... in my very own family none the less. It goes like this..........

Sunday morning was upon us again. Our children simply love Sundays. It is the one day they get to see their best friends and run through the halls where we meet for church each week, chasing each other in reckless abandon, all the while mom and dad are too busy preparing for the gathering to stop them. This morning in particular, was special in my mind. Garrett was given the honor of preaching and his topic was adoption. I was going to give a short testimony and sing a solo that would help to emphasize his point. I had been feeling a bit apprehensive about singing a solo since the song Garrett chose required my full vocal strength and I could feel the cold I had gotten 2 weeks ago still lingering by a thread, but there none the less. Alright, enough about what we were going to do it was time to get ready to go do it.

We woke the kids, who all seemed to be in stellar moods. When asked by the youngest," Where will we go today?" and upon finding out it would be a church day, she threw her little arms around my neck and crooned loudly,"Ooooh, thank you." Like by some great power of my own, I had willed the day into existence. It made us all smile and there was a good feeling all around.

There was cooperation in our midst as we breezed through the getting ready to go process and loading ourselves into the car. A usual tantrum of one sort or another usually erupts and keeps the tension high, but not a whinny voice of rebellion broke the calm morning air this day, to the relief of all.

In the car we prayed through the A.C.T.S. prayer, as is now our custom on the way into town. Everyone went in their right order, one after the other without having to be reminded it was their turn and with each saying more than just one thing on the subjects of ,"You are.., Confess.., Thank You's..... and Pray for....." Even the youngest, who refuses to participate on a regular bases, had her heart set on praying this morning.

At church our focus changed from immediate family to our church family. Garrett and I warmed up and practiced with the worship team. We have been part of the worship team now for 3 months and are loving it. The practice went smoothly and a run through of my solo alleviated any lingering fears I had had that I might not have the vocal strength or nerves to sing the whole song the way Garrett had written it so many years ago.

During the service, worship went smoothly. None of our kids caused a commotion or tried to come up on stage as in weeks past. They sat unattended and payed attention. People seemed to be worshiping with us and not yawning from a previous late night out or an exhausting week of being over worked and underpaid.

Garrett preached on the Lord's adoption of us. Saul translated. The two worked like one on the stage. It is like poetry in motion to watch. There is not a lot of pausing for these two as when other people translate. Garrett spoke fluidly and so did Saul. Both were preaching at the same time so it seemed. I videotaped some of it. Then Garrett invited me up to share a bit about my adoption experience. I choked through most of it since I am still so raw with emotion right now and felt confident as I looked around at the congregation that God had touched some of them through my pain as I saw a few people dab at a tear or two in their eyes.

Near the end of the service I came up to share the song "Abba Father". Garrett played the guitar while I sang. Being a perfectionist I can say it was not the best I have done, but God is giving me the capacity to be okay with not being perfect and not feeling like a complete failure because I wasn't. We had the song translated on power point so people could understand the words and I know the message was brought forth and that is what we had intended to do. That being done, I went back to my seat to take my place by our boys. And to my complete delight and utter surprise, was greeted with comments from them that went like this," Was that you??? You're AMAZING!!!! That wasn't a recording was it, that was you singing? You sing soooo great! Why don't you do that more often?" Little did they know that I would ride on a cloud for weeks from those powerful words they spoke into my life. I think I will never need a complement again. These little rascals know me and have seen me at my worst and yet they poured forth words of kindness and awe that I could see came straight from their deepest parts. They were not holding anything back. They were not trying to make me feel good. They were really impressed. I have done so much to un-impress them by not being a good manager of my temper, that to have impressed my boys was truly an honor and privilege for me. My boys think I have an amazing voice:) I wonder if that is how God feels when we sing to him? It has helped to give me a whole new picture about worship and how God responds when we give it to him.

After church, we broke down the stage and purposefully headed home without a whole lot of socializing. This was the day we had set aside to get the house ready for Christmas. We were going to go into what the kids call "The Dark Forest" and chop down a Christmas tree. Our first time ever to chop one down. It felt so much like "Little House on the Prairie".

We have 3 forests. Two of them are mostly Elm trees. All their leaves have fallen to the ground. You can see all the way through the trees to the other side now by just standing at the forest's edge. The other one is full of Pine trees (evergreens) and they are so close together that they block out ALL of the sunlight. When the kids go exploring deeper into this forest midday, they have to take a flashlight with them. Thus the name, "the dark forest."

We had been scouting out the trees for a few weeks now as we would drive by them each day and thought we spotted one that would work near the edge of the forest just down our dirt road. We got all dressed in our winter gear, grabbed axes, saws and camera equipment, of course, and headed down the road to find our prize! It was a sight that delighted my heart as I brought up the rear. Our dog and his puppy joined us for the adventure and really made the picture complete. I was bursting inside for the unity of family it felt like this activity was bringing us. Everyone was excited to be together and get our tree.

After looking at some possibilities we finally settled on one in particular. It wasn't a perfect tree at all. Some of the branches went here and there and it looked like it had two tops, but it was the right size and we decided we rather liked its imperfections. It gave it character and we are a family with some characters of our own so we set to chopping it down. It was quickly discovered that the ax was not the way to go and the saw was. Everyone took their turn at sawing, but Ezra was made for the job and so he fell the tree with great enthusiasm and encouragement from us all.

Next was the job of carrying the tree back without dragging it through the mud on the way. The "men" took on this task while us "ladies" took our time bringing up the rear. Well, really Sonshyne did her best to help carry the tree and keep up with her brothers while Hevenlee and I scurried to keep up and document it all with pictures while I held her hand and tried to avoid the huge puddles from the nights previous down pour. But the first 2 sentences just sound better:) And since this is my "perfect day" story, we'll just stick with that. Choose what to remember right?

After we got the tree in the house, all trimmed up and in position, we got out the lights and ornaments. Now it was time for fun Christmas music! Traditional Kids music was the unanimous choice and we set about singing songs, like 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer' sung by the "Gold and Silver Choir", while decorating our tree with the Lithuanian straw ornaments I found at a great price. Our kids were eager to help hang the ornaments, though I had to fight the temptation to redecorate the tree later so that it was more pleasing to the eye. Our tree still has no ornaments at the very top. I just smile when I look at it and think the kids won't remember the way the tree looked but they will remember that they got to be part of the experience and that is what is important here.

When the very last ornament was hung, we turned out all the lights and had the official lighting of the tree! It took Ezra a few moments in the dark to hit the switch, but when he did it was wonderful. It is always my favorite moment when the Christmas tree lights come on for the very first time after we have spent so much time getting the tree ready. It officially felt like Christmas!

We played the "Frosty the snowman" and "Rudolph" cartoons on the TV, while we cleaned up. They are the same cartoons Garrett and I grew up watching each year when we were little. We lounged around the rest of the evening and had popcorn and other finger foods for dinner. I think we even squeezed a card game in there somewhere.

Sitting in our living room together getting along, with a fire in the fireplace, all the candles lit and loving and enjoying each other reminded me of a Norman Rockwell painting. It was a day I will cherish for many, many years to come. It is a day where our family really bonded with each other and a few weeks later we are all still talking about it with fondness in our minds. It is a day that we are all longing to do again and thinking of ways to do it. God knew we needed a day like this day. It is a day like this day that will get us through many, many days, like the usual days. It is also a day like this day that will keep us thinking on how to make it happen again. I am looking forward to creating another day like this one soon.......

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Seasonal Depression and my Birthday

It has been an interesting month +. I have had little energy to do much more than exist and make it through each day. Then all of a sudden, a few days after my birthday, BAM! I have energy! It is weird how family issues can stay with you for so long. Here I am living a great life, but my son's birthday comes in November and my depression begins until my birthday in December is over. I just discovered this trend last year. I can see how it has been happening for most of my life but finally named it last year. It's name is George by the way;)

This year I gave myself permission to check out here and there when I knew I couldn't pretend any longer. I stayed home more and connected with people less. For me, being an extrovert and all, this was a good thing. If I struggled with depression on a regular basis I could see how isolating would be a bad thing, but for me, it is important to pull back at such an emotionally fragile period of time each year. I have a hard time being around people and often find it hard to be tactful in so many situations. It seems safer for my relationships if I am around less during this weird time. It is amazing how hard it is to explain this to people while it is happening. "I'm sorry, I can't be around you right now because I don't have it in me to be polite to you....." For some reason the "tact" goes right on out of my capeabilities.....

For many years I thought I was a big flake. I was always so energized for the beginning of the school year to start in September. I would get all involved in everything. I had the time, the enthusiasm and the energy to do it all too. Then a few months go by and we enter November and suddenly it is hard to make it to any of my commitments. Everything seems overwhelming and I begin to not care much about anything anymore. The pressure in November mounts until December comes. The three days before my birthday seem to be the biggest stress of all. Then my birthday.....which you think would be the worst day of all, but I guess I resign that it is happening and it does feel good to have people wish you a happy birthday all day, so the day turns out fine. Then a few days later BAM! energy back, problem is most of my commitments are now over because they usually involved programs or events that occured on or right around my birthday making everyone too busy to celebrate me much at all. They have to cut something out you know! (Yeah, I know, poor me! wah wah wah.) Christmas is exciting and New Years brings with it a whole new vitality. January, my favorite month of the year! A crazy cycle eh? It has only taken me 38 years to see it too!

This year was a little different. I decided to be aware of every little detail of this strange cycle. Only a week before my son's 13th birthday I felt the black cloud creep into my life. I don't know what the connection to my first born son's birthday is except that he represents my first child and as he gets older he gets closer and closer to leaving me. (Yes, this IS all about me). I think I mourn the loss of, "when he will move out", every year. I told my husband that I probably won't shed a tear the day he really moves out because I have cried about it every year already! Talk about gearing up! This is shear madness. There were a few days in there I thought,
" Maybe I'll need to get on some antidepressants", but then the black cloud drifted away and I began to find my rhythm again.

Along with this crazy cycle comes irrational and constant anger directed mostly at safe people ie; my husband and children. No one can do anything right and everything is wrong. I am certain that it is mainly because everything is wrong inside me, but my poor family suffers through it. And of course my children are powerless to stop it and by now my husband is afraid of me and just trying to make it through the day unscathed.

Seeing all this go on around me and being very aware that I am creating the insanity and damaging the relationships I long for with the ones I love, only feeds into my insecurity, intense feelings of being insignificant and self loathing. It reafirms, in my mind, that I truly don't deserve what I have. All this kaoss leaves me frazzelled and grasping for control. The result is masking it all with more anger. It is a viscious cycle that leaves me reelling out of control emotionally and grasping at anything to try and find some sort of grounding.

I wish I could say I chose to lay in the arms of Christ during this trying time, but I did the exact opposite and stayed under the covers longer and as often as possible throughout the day. I had been getting out of bed now for almost 2 years early in the morning to pray, but I had no energy, drive and definitely no desire. I decided to stop fighting it and cave in, knowing it would pass in a few weeks. God graciously allowed my children to get sick so I was forced to stay home with a few sick kids for about 2 weeks. I was almost sad to see the last of them recover and go back to school. Never before have I longed for a kid to be sick so I could have a reason not to go out and face the world. It is funny that I could not find it in me to give myself permission to stay home and take care of myself in such a way. I will make plans for next year I suppose. I will stop trying so hard to pretend I am okay. I will stop trying to make sure everyone else is okay and take some time out to let others take care of me for a change.

My birthday was on Monday this year, so the Friday before it I decided to send the kids to school, see Garrett off to work and stay home alone. While no one was around I was very productive. I got laundry folded, made a crockpot dinner and tried my hand at homemade bread (which turned our great). Then as soon as everyone got home I escaped to the safe haven of my room and ducked under the bed covers. When Garrett came in and layed next to me I began to cry. I just cried and cried and cried. I knew this was coming and thought I would have done this all morning, but I guess I needed my man by my side to be sweet and understanding. He was:) and so I was safe. He held me in his arms and I felt the gloom lifting as the tears flowed out. What a great thing God did when he gave us the ability to cry. I have determined to cry whenever I feel the need and not apologize for it ever again! It was a sweet release. A much needed cleansing. I could breath a breath of fresh air for the first time in a month when I was done. The mourning and loss were over...............the cloud was lifting.

I don't know what the point of all this is. I do know that I do not plan on living this way for the rest of my life. I know next year will be tough again, but I am determined that this is not going to rule my life. I will not give in to that. I can take the time right now to reflect on what helped and what did not and make those necessary changes for next year when I begin to see it coming again.

What helped? I got many personal letters about how our friendship matters. When you are fighting overwhelming feelings of insignificance it really helps to get notes and letters from friends telling me what I mean to them. It is especially important to get these from my family members who I care so much about. I can't tell you how often I began to cry over the simplest statements made by a sister or cousin during this time when they said they were proud of me and admired my decision to move overseas. All the rest of the year I know these things, but during this bad time I can't seem to recall it. The silence becomes deafening.

It also helped to limit my time away from the home. This year especially I was able to minimize my involvement in extra activities. I noticed when I was home for 2 weeks with a few sick kids at a time my anxiety level went down and I was much more comfortable in my skin. When I would go out and do activity after activity (which is customary around this time a year and often expected) I would begin to not be able to cope with the simplest of issues. The whining tired child who needed kind words and a loving touch would receive a threat of consequences instead. At home I am needed and I am significant and I can also rest. Also, someone else planning my birthday party was helpful. I know it is hard to plan for "the planner", but it was so nice to have a small celebration that I did not plan. It made me feel significant and special (thanks Sanna).

What didn't help? Asking friends to keep in touch extra through the month of November and not having them do it. It is really hard to put myself out there and ask for help because if I ask for help and expose the area of my weakness and then the need still goes unmet it just feeds right into my deep feelings of insignificance. If I don't ask and no one knows then at least I know why. The other thing that really rubs me raw are all the reasons why you "can't come" or "couldn't remember" around this time. I have heard them all, over the past 38 years, as to why this season is too busy for me to be remembered, but all I hear in there is that I wasn't important enough to be remembered. After all we do what we really want to do and we remember what we really want to remember (that is what repeats in my head). I guess some examples would be,"Sorry I forgot your birthday, I was so busy with such-n-such....." or 2 paragraphs detailing all the reasons why you were too busy these past weeks and couldn't possibly have found a way to send an email in this wired world we live in. I don't need an "oooops I forgot" birthday wish. You don't need to tell me you forgot, I already know that. It doesn't matter that it is 3 or 6 or 15 days late when you remember. A Happy Birthday is a Happy Birthday whenever it is remembered and no apology is necessary when you do remember after all! (there is no anger intended in this last paragraph, just raw facts and how they effect me during this time, sorry if the truth touches a nerve or two, I don't hold on to any of it after my birthday is over.....weird huh?)

Boy, am I glad this season is over for me. I hope to be better prepared next year so that it is not such a tough season to get through. Thanks to all those who prayed me through this season and for so many of you who sent emails. It meant the world to me!