Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dibs on Being Me

For the third night in a row, I'm having trouble going to sleep. I think it has something to do with a certain campus minister husband leaving the country with a team of students to visit and help orphans in Haiti. But I could be wrong.

I had originally pulled up my blog tonight after seeing a commercial about women who have just had a baby 'suffering from unsightly stretch marks' and was going to comment on it in a snarky way...something along the lines of, "Suffering? Really? Because I -- and I'm sure thousands of women living with infertility -- would take that kind of suffering in a heartbeat."

See? Snarky. I apologize...sort of. Just hard to hear things like that and not have a reaction.

Anyway, I got on the blog and became engrossed in many of my old posts. Some about my former wound, some about wanting another baby, and many about how much I adore my husband and son. And in some of those posts, I sound so strong and sure of myself. I sound happy. I want to go back and ask that woman to hold on to what she has, because there are days when it seems I've lost that forever.

No, I know I haven't. It's just that I'm...different than I was back then. I didn't know I was headed into this world of longing for another child and not seeing that dream realized. The experience has placed a shadow over my heart, and I fight for the sunlight but it's a battle I lose on many occasions. I know I need to work on my relationship with God. I love him, I trust him, I won't leave him...but are we super-close all the time? I have to say no. And part of me hates admitting that, but I've come to learn that I am human and I am weak, and God knows all of this. He knows me better than I know myself. Scary but true.

This is one post that I have to leave unresolved. I'm not living in a sitcom world (but oh, how I wish I could for just a day!) where, after about 20 minutes of silliness and conflicts, the music swells and all the pieces come together. There are things I wish were different, but I would never trade my life for another. This one, with all of its love and yes, broken pieces, is mine...dibs.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Oz, Censored

I apologize for the uncouthness of this photo. But just to let you know, I did alter it a bit. That's really a no-no for the photo purists, but I was afraid I might alienate some of you. Not really...but the un-altered version did take away some of the cute factor of Oz (or 'Ozzy-Bear' as he is known in our house).

When I look at this photo, it just makes me smile. This little guy, who we adopted back in October, is nearly one year old and is one of the funniest cats I've known. It's no joke that animals have different personalities. Junebug, our nearly-eight-year-old cat, is grumpy and likely to snap if she is in one of her moods. Oz, on the other hand (or paw?), needs love and attention almost constantly. He is playful and cracks me up in the way he pounces on simple things like door shadows. Oz has been a fun little addition to our family.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Haiti Bound

Casey and a group of our students will be traveling to Haiti in less than a week. Great things have happened within this campus ministry since last fall. Milton Jones, president of Christian Relief Fund, came to give a talk to the students in October. That same evening, church members and Rebels for Christ raised enough money to sponsor three children for a year! Their pictures hang framed in our student center. Two of them live in Haiti, one in Africa.

But Casey and the RFCs went one step further by deciding to take a trip to Haiti and help install water filtration systems. Money has been raised for two of those systems -- praise God! -- and also to send this group over for about ten days. Along with installing the systems, they will get to meet two of the three children that we are sponsoring. How awesome is that?

There was a time a few months ago when I considered joining the group and traveling to Haiti as well. Being a mom to a young child, however, caused me to hesitate. For one, it would be both of his parents flying out of the country...and I can't guarantee that something won't happen. Besides that, they will be gone for about ten days. I could not see myself leaving Miles for that long. We've left him for a week at a time, going on anniversary trips. This is so different, though.

I have told Casey how much I want to be taking photos in Haiti, documenting the whole experience. But I would choose being with Miles over that any day, and there will hopefully be more trips to Haiti in the future, ones that might involve Miles accompanying us when he's old enough. I have struggled with the thought of Casey going on this trip, and I think most of it is due to the depression and anxiety. But I've gotten better each week, and the meds are helping greatly with that. I will also spend a few days with my in-laws, giving me some help and Miles a fun time with his grandparents.

But it would be great to know that Casey and this group of students have some prayer warriors in their corner for the next few weeks. I'll have my concerns about the trip, naturally, but I am so very proud of them for the work they'll be doing to God's glory.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Solitude and Survivor

I'm sorry. For those friends or family to whom I have not given much of myself lately, those are the best words I can think to say at the moment. I am here, and yet I'm not. My brain, my heart...they are filled with noise and pain that I yearn to quiet and ease.

Back in March I posted this link after our fourth in vitro attempt failed. We got the negative test results on the 16th of that month, and at the moment of 'the phone call' with the IVF coordinator (whose job I do not envy) I remember my body going numb and cold. One week later I was having trouble remembering big and small details of the previous days. I knew I had bought some shirts, but had to ask Casey where we'd gone to get them. I knew we'd visited his parents for a weekend night, but didn't remember the drive there or much of the visit itself. I was actually shocked at how big the gaps were in my memory.

Turns out I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD was no stranger to me, because the events of 2006 following Miles' birth had greatly affected me. But this time the symptoms were much more acute, and because I was in better health I noticed them more quickly. In my mind, there are so many worse things that can happen in life which might cause post-traumatic stress. I almost felt silly  thinking that this was what had taken place for me. Yes, the news for us was bad and came after three years of our struggles. seemed like a big reaction for me to experience.

I have thankfully had the opportunity to see a counselor who Casey and I trust greatly -- had sessions with him last year, and Casey has joined me for sessions this year. In counseling we are looking for tools in coping with my emotional 'stuck-ness' (for lack of a much better word), and tools that will help us listen to one another in the midst of grief. Our marriage is a strong one and we don't intend letting it go by the wayside. Casey and I have always agreed on being proactive in this.

And as much as I don't want to be tied to daily meds, I began taking anti-depressants almost immediately. I know that for me it is a tremendous help. Side effects? Yes...and I don't like them. But while I struggle to function in daily life, they are something I must endure for a while. I feel as though I must take them, not just for myself, but for my husband and my son. As much as my heart wants to skip those large looming clouds on the road of grieving, I would never choose to miss out on those small sparks of joy I still experience from day to day. Yes, sparks of joy, because with Casey to hold me and Miles to fill my heart with his laughter, there is no denying that joy is going to get through the cracks in my sadness.

I don't know how many of you watch the show Survivor, but this latest season included a twist where the person voted off doesn't immediately go home but instead goes to 'Redemption Island.' They stay there and wait (three days?) for the next eliminated player, and the two duel it out to see who stays on the island for a chance to get back in the game at some point, while the loser goes home for good. As of now, Matt -- self-proclaimed Christian -- has spent about three weeks on Redemption Island. Three weeks. That's more than half the game, and nearly all of that time alone.

I always find it interesting when a Christian is on these reality shows. Well, not so much that they're on the show, more when they start talking about it in terms of what God's will is for them on that show. Can they hear themselves talking? Recently I found myself so irritated with a statement like that I said to the TV, "He doesn't care that you're on the show!" I mean, of course God cares about the person and loves them. But is God really putting effort into the outcome of a reality show? Really? My guess is that he has more important issues on his mind.

But I digress. The aforementioned Matt now has my attention. Here he is, this nice, young Christian guy...I never found him disagreeable, just a bit unfocused on what he was saying. The intentions to 'honor his God' as he put it were definitely there, I only had trouble with believing that the best way for him to do so was in the run for one million dollars. On an island. Alone. I'm by no means this great Christian example, but even I know that there are better ways to honor God than trying to win a bunch of money in a game where most people excel by lying and backstabbing.

What the producers unwittingly did in creating this 'Redemption Island' twist, however, was to force a sincere Christian kid into more solitude than he ever wanted, and in last week's episode the effects of it were clearly showing. Up until then, Matt seemed strong and confident and was winning every single duel that came his way. He gave the glory to God, and I would scoff in my usual way that God didn't really care. Yeah, I liked the kid and was cheering him on...but I wanted there to be more. And now the solitude had all but broken Matt. He was crying on camera, saying that God had been carrying him for the past few days. But the best part? Now he said he was done with the game. That was it! That was what I'd been waiting for! Matt had used his time of forced solitude to be with his God, and he had had a breakthrough: the game didn't matter. At the next duel he faced, Matt looked broken and maybe a bit wiser. He somehow pulled out yet another win and said something like, "I guess God still wants me here." Well of course that bugged me, but not as much this time. And the woman who he beat in the duel mentioned before she left that because of Matt's example she was going home and getting involved in a church. That, in my mind, is the closest reason to God wanting Matt on that show.

I digress once again. Why, you might be asking, would I interrupt my talk of PTSD and depression to discuss an episode of Survivor? I promise it fits. When we were watching Matt breaking down and breaking through because of his solitude, all I could think was, "I wish I could do that!" And maybe that sounds like an unusual thing to wish, but I am in an unusual place in my life. Counseling and meds can help, no doubt -- but at this point I still need something more. And so Casey and I have decided that I will take a weekend in the next couple of months and spend it in solitude with God. There are ways I could find some moments of solitude where I am right now, but I believe what will truly help me grow is being in another place all alone for a good stretch of time. I've found one place online that is very appealing: it has little cabins specifically for spiritual meditation and solitude. And I know this is what my heart needs because I normally wouldn't want to do this, and yet I can't stop thinking about it.

Eleven years ago I was in search of solitude. I found a horse ranch two hours from my home and spent a night there in the bunkhouse. Sitting under the stars on the tiny balcony, reading my Bible and journaling about the experience, I could feel my soul being renewed. I remember how it felt and I long for that again. Just me and God, tending to the wounds in my heart.
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