Wednesday, September 29, 2010

She Speaks 2011

What are you aiming at? I aim to attend the next She Speaks conference.

In April of 2008, I was an 8 month veteran of blogging, and had only just begun to realize I might have found my calling in life: to write. I stumbled onto the information for a conference for Christian women wanting training to speak, write, or serve in Christian ministry to the best of their ability. It was all I could have wanted.

It was also sold out.

It also happened to be the weekend of my husband's birthday.

And I wasn't nearly ready for it yet.

But I resolved to attend in 2009. Just my luck, they added a blogger track that year, and Emily was one of the speakers! Unfortunately, by that point I was nursing a newborn, and I had learned from difficult experience with my firstborn that I just need to stop and go nowhere for six months or my milk goes away. So no conference for me that year.

By early 2010, I was floundering with my personal purpose. I didn't know what I wanted or where I was going. The conference seemed distant, beyond even the fantasy of attending.

But here we are, at the end of 2010, the most recent conference barely in the rearview mirror, and I think 2011 will be my year.

  • I have a renewed sense of purpose.
  • I have three years of experience with putting thoughts to print.
  • I have a few publications to build my confidence level.
  • I have at least eight viable book ideas.

Oh, yeah. It's my year.

Now I just need friends! I've got one IRL friend aiming to come with me, but I would love to talk through this year with any of you who also aim to attend. What are your ambitions? Which track would you attend?

I know, the new conference info has not even been announced yet, but you know and I know that they will announce it sooner or later, and it's not too early to start making a plan.

My burning question right now, that I can't figure out where to ask, is this:

If I am a writer desiring speaking training, would I sign up for the writer track or the speaker track? And yes, I already know the smart answer... I am going to have to attend three times so I can take advantage of both, plus the blogger track! But seriously, which one to choose first?

  • Are we aiming at the same goal? Talk to me about it here!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Falling In Love All Over Again

Click here

My love for my firstborn has been fought for, scratched out of the shock of adjusting to motherhood, built on the strong tension of two firstborns raising the first firstborn of the next generation.

  • I love her deeply, because her arrival forever divided my life into before and after.
  • I love her fiercely, because she represents all I want to pass on to a world I will never see.
  • But I find it hard to love her lovingly, passionately.

I hold her to high standards, because I know the world does not wait for those who don't keep up. And yet she marches to her own drumbeat.

I get so frustrated with her for being her own person. She didn't do well with swimming or karate. I received calls from her teachers twice in the first three weeks of school. She just lives in her own world!

I forget sometimes, the gift we all have, of being allowed to make our own mistakes. We all get to come to this world and draw our own conclusions of it, to be shaped by our experience and to live with the results of our own choices.

This 30 Days of Excellence challenge, noticing excellent qualities in my kids every day in September, has blessed me so richly. Either it was really well timed, or it changed my perspective, for by September 2 I began to notice myself falling in love with my firstborn more than ever before.

In the month of September I have begun to appreciate her so much. She has begun to confide things in me that reassure me she is listening, she is getting the things that are important to me:

  • She loves science.
  • She loves being weird like me.
  • She wants to own an alpaca farm when she grows up.

She came home from school a few days ago saying,

You were so right, Mom, about what you said yesterday. When someone would say to me, "You're weird!" I used to say back, "No, you're weird!" But today when someone said it, I said, "Thank you!" and he did not know what to say or do! It was so great!
This kid gets more awesome every day!

She still struggles with focusing in school. Maybe she always will.

But her character has begun to emerge, and I love it! She is really becoming the young woman I have always wanted her to be.

This morning before school, I read her the story of Samuel anointing David the next king of Israel. The point was that we look at outward appearances, but what's important to God is what we are like on the inside. And what's important to God is really all that matters.

Then I took her shopping after dinner. We were picking out clothes and she said:

Everyone's going to love my new clothes! Oh, wait. Well, really it doesn't matter, because I know God doesn't care about my clothes as much as he cares about the rest of me. But I still like my new clothes.
I don't know why I am so astonished, but here I am, declaring myself thrilled to realize my daughter is growing up, growing into herself, showing some character qualities that were always important to me. And I like the person I am beginning to see!

We had so much fun shopping together tonight, just the two of us. I really like my daughter. Her emerging personality and character are an amazing gift that I find I am only just beginning to unwrap.
tuesdays unwrapped at cats
Linking up today to Tuesdays Unwrapped.

A Terrible Role Model

Next up, Judges 13: The Birth of Samson

Ahh, Samson. How I don't love thee.

God's Promise: Judges 13:1-5
After a succession of relatively brief leaders, God loses patience with his people again, and delivers them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years. This marks the longest period of punishment yet in the chronicles of the judges.

God has apparently just taken Israel out of the equation as far as the repentance bit, because here we don’t even see them asking for help or relief from their oppression. Maybe after forty years there isn’t anyone left who even remembers life without oppression from the giants. Maybe God, being the ultimate Know-It-All, realizes there won’t be anyone calling out to him and he even has to do that part this time. What better way to underscore the fact that we are truly nothing without him?

So God goes down to chat face-to-face with an ordinary Israelite woman... well scratch that. According to the culture of the time, she’s actually a bit of a broken useless woman, because she has not given her husband any children.

Anyway, there she is, doing whatever she does all day that every other woman wishes she could be doing but can’t because of all her bratty kids hanging on her apron, sticking their fingers in the stew pot, eating the laundry soap, and so on. And God himself appears to her in Awesome form and says:
Look, I know you’re a bit of a broken, useless woman (we won’t go into the fact that I had a little something to do with that). But it’s for a greater purpose. You are going to have a child, and he is going to be Extra Special.

So, start treating yourself Extra Special. Observe my rules for food and don’t drink any alcohol (someday everyone is going to figure out my rules make sure you stay healthy before anyone else knows how to keep food healthy). Once your baby is born, don’t ever cut his hair, which will mark him as Extra Special from birth.

I am going to use him to rescue you dumb, faithless people from the Philistines. (Even though ya’ll are so messed up nobody’s even asking me to help. At least I remember that I promised to watch out for you.)

II. Manoah’s Prayer, Judges 13:6-8
Amazed wifey goes to her husband and tells him what just happened, more or less verbatim. And what does husband do? He looks for an action plan! He prays for the Lord to send his messenger back (not realizing it was God himself) with more information.

Amazingly, the Lord returns. Manoah quizzes the angel:

What is to be the rule for the boy’s life and work?

I think I would be looking for the same kind of information here. If I am about to get an Extra Special child, I want to make really sure not to mess it up!

And the angel simply repeats the previous exchange:

Your wife must do all that I have told her.

That's it?

Now if I were ever to second guess the wisdom of the Lord, I might be tempted right here. Because I know what comes later, and it’s just not pretty, and I have to wonder, how did it go so wrong from this point? Manoah has begged for more information, more instruction, and the Lord evidently feels he already has what he needs.

God’s leadership training is simple: Do what I command.

Not a lot of difficult instructions, just the same set of rules already outlined in the scriptures. A couple simple special qualifications, that’s it. Maybe we have a tendency to screw up God's rules because we are over complicating them. After all, he only gave his people ten basic rules to live by.

III. The Boy Samson, Judges 13:24-25
Despite my knowledge of the terrible path about to be trod, all still shines bright with promise here at the beginning. Manoah’s wife gets her son, whom she names Samson, and together they do their best to raise the child in the ways of the Lord.

How could they raise him perfectly, though? They live in an era when few worship the true God. His upbringing likely includes a deeply flawed foundation of tribal history and local pagan influence.

Manoah, of the tribe of Dan, raises his family in the land given to Dan as a tribal inheritance. Except that Dan never ran off the people already living there, so the tribe still lives like nomads. Nomads probably don’t do much farming; they probably tend more toward raising livestock and a fair share of raiding established villages for grown food & supplies. Safe to guess that Danites were scrappy bruisers.

The Lord blesses the boy Samson while he grows, and begins to stir his heart with longing for change. We find out later that Samson possesses unusual strength, and evidently quite a strong personality. These qualities lead him headlong into confrontations with the Philistines so intense they begin to crumble the domination under which Israel suffers.

The next three chapters describe a young man so obsessed with gratifying his every whim, that his Extra Special qualities all but disappear. He breaks every rule for his Nazirite life, from touching a dead body, to getting drunk, to eating unclean food. In the end, he even reveals the wrong thing to the wrong woman, who breaks the final rule by cutting his hair. He is a womanizer, a gambler, prone to fits of anger. I am so not attracted to this man as a role model.

And yet... God still used him in exactly the way he had intended. His life began with purpose, and ended in fulfillment of that purpose. He is mentioned in the list of Hebrews 11, those faithful who were promised rich rewards in God’s kingdom and died without seeing fulfillment of that promise.

God can use anyone. God can make the best of any situation. And God will get his way.

This is the one I follow: Not the womanizer. Not the out-of-control personality. Rather, the one who raised him up and accomplished his purpose through him. The one who remains faithful to the faithless, and who can use broken, foolish people to shame the wisdom of this world.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Ahh. I love a fresh new look. Clean lines, pleasing colors, and rearranged boxes work together to present the message in a compelling new way.

This change represents more than appearances, however. You may have noticed a new tagline up at the top and in the new Blog Focus box:
Fixing eyes on the wonder of unseen reality.
This arose from an interest in exploring the wonder of the world all around me, combined with a chronic need to put meaning to everything I see.

I found these words of Scripture this last week, and felt they perfectly express the heart of what I want to share with readers:
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. . . . So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 4:18
Enjoy the facelift. Hopefully the content itself will also begin to experience a facelift, as I seek to bring the unseen to light.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How Hard Can It Be?

Bear with me, I need to talk through the Judges lesson that I am attempting to write at the moment. I have lived and breathed with these judges for over a month now, and they are beginning to drive me crazy.

Well, not so much the judges, although they deserve their own piece of my frustration. But the people of Israel are so... bullheaded!

The book of Judges covers the period of Israel's history between Joshua's leadership during the conquest of Canaan and Saul's ascension as the first monarch. And while the names and places change from chapter to chapter, every story for hundreds of years has the same elements:

Sin. God's people never fully conquer the Promised Land. They allow the native Canaanite peoples to continue to live among them. Soon they start allowing their children to intermarry with them; then they begin to put up statues and worship idols like their neighbors.

Punishment. Eventually God calls a stop to their disregard. Keep in mind, the people committed to follow him. They agreed to his leadership of their nation! So when God stirs up one or the other of the surrounding nations to attack the Israelites, all is fair. But apparently when they get attacked, it takes God's children some time to recognize that this is God trying to get their attention. The people are oppressed for anywhere from 7 years to 20 years each time.

Seriously, it takes 7 to 20 years to figure out they are being punished for their faithlessness? Is it that difficult to notice a connection between their oppression and the fact that they are so far from living like God's holy people that they are almost indistinguishable from their pagan neighbors? Big duh.

Restoration. Eventually they get the message, and call out to God for relief from their misery. I have no idea what they do leading up to this point each time, perhaps try all the other foreign gods first? When they keep getting no answer, do they keep looking elsewhere for assistance? However it happens, they finally get so miserable that they come crawling back to the one place they know they can get real help: the God they committed to follow.

Once he agrees to restore them, the Lord raises up a leader to help these tribal groups come together and overcome the enemy. The enemy is never meant to crush them; only to bring them back to restored relationship with their God.

Sin... Unfortunately, the people only remain faithful to God for the remainder of their generation, until the death of the judge who led them to rescue. Does this mean they did not experience true repentance? It sure begins to look like it.

This seems so undignified. I would think they would prefer to learn quickly, to save a little national pride. But they don't seem to be very good students of history.

How hard can it be to stick with God?

Unfortunately, I begin to see that the people pretty much represent human nature. We all have a tendency to draw near to God in times of difficulty, then to charge off in our own direction the moment we have a bit of restored equilibrium.

After the fall, pride began to dominate our nature. The last enemy to be destroyed may be death, but I am convinced the one right before it will be pride. Pride runs strong within us, perhaps as the primary attribute of the Father of Lies.

Pride whispers in our minds that we know better than God. And it leads us away from God so quickly the moment we start to listen to the whisper.

This pride in our nature keeps us in constant need of walking close to God. The people of Israel could never seem to grasp this, but I hope and pray that I can be sensitive enough to learn from their national failures, to closely follow the path he has marked out for me.

How hard can it be? It can be very hard.

With a little discipline, perhaps I can make a better showing than the Israelites. Fortunately, I am comforted by the knowledge that God never gave up on his people. And I know he will never give up on me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Indigo Files: Day Five

Is it really a happy pill? A magic bullet? Perhaps it slices, dices, makes julienne fries!

Day 5, May 17. Monday: 6am came too early today. Had a finicky stomach all day, and a racing heartbeat. I feel anxious, but don't know about what. I'm all over cold sweaty, too, but it's dang hot & humid outside so it could just be Texas in May. Just trying to keep a couple bites of food in my stomach, and keep doggedly attacking whatever comes next. I hope I don't have to give up coffee altogether. I'm about to switch to decaf if the heart rate doesn't settle down soon.

Got lots of blogging done today, but the housework is coming unraveled. Not too worried about it, but I do need to focus on that next. Unfortunately, the happy pill doesn't do the housework for you. Baby has been extra fussy today. It's going to start bugging me pretty soon, happy pill or no.

Bedtime: Turned my light out by 10:30, slept totally unconscious of anything until the alarm went off. And then 35 minutes longer until Boo came in to get me. She deserves an extra special responsibility award for getting herself up and dressed without me for most of this semester. I will have to remember that.

Between slumber and wakefulness lies a misty twilight world of disputable reality. As one emerges from this twilight into the light of morning, sometimes one can literally sense the fog rolling away.

So it was for me, that first week. I felt myself growing more alert, more present, as the haze of my dark night burned away. The sense of self returning seems so strange when you didn't fully realize you were gone.

And as I became more aware of my surroundings, one fact became crystal clear: my time to develop personal discipline is now. Depression has its roots in the physical, but mental state plays a part, too. The times in my life I have felt most depressed were times when I was not happy with my situation. And through the years I have come to identify my unhappiness as rooted in lack of self-discipline, also called self-control.

Ahh, self control. You are one of the noted benefits of the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives. Funny how physical is tied in with mental, which is rooted in emotional, which is based on the spiritual.

I know better than to think of this serotonin booster as my magic bullet to happiness. Life is much more complex than that. So my intent is to work with the pill: to use my energy boost to do the housework; to develop a daily routine; to set writing goals and work toward them; to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep.

Everyone struggles with this kind of discipline. Someone close to me shared their opinion of this pill: We do not indulge in a happy pill. It's a normal pill. It puts us on the same playing field as the normal people (not the perfect ones).

I can't share enough what a difference I feel in my outlook now. The housework is still there, but somehow I have the courage to keep going on it long after I would have six months ago. The kids still drive me to the moon with their bickering, but I find many moments when I am able to stop and take a breath to regain my composure. Again, everyone struggles with these things. They are part of life.

But I am not buried deep within myself, wishing the days away. I am finding enjoyment in my kids, marveling at their complexity and creativity. I have energy to invite friends over, to make plans to go out, to be more involved in my church community. Basically, I have my annual fall burst of energy, all the time.

The road may be long and involve more tweaking of the treatment as time goes on. It may sometimes be difficult. But overall, I feel so blessed at least to have had this window of time when I can recapture who it is I want to be, and write about it so that if I lose my way again, I can look back and remember why it's worth it to fight this fight.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Farmers' Market Fun

Q: How do you follow a Friday evening assembling dinner entrees to fill your freezer?

A: By visiting the Farmers' Market Saturday morning, for produce to fill the crisper!

Since watching the documentary Food, Inc a month ago, I have been trying to grow more knowledgeable about the origins of the food I feed my family. I've got the Batch Party process under review, thinking about how I can buy the meats & ingredients with identifiable origins while also sharing the assembly process with my friends, but that's a whole other piece of the puzzle.

For now, I am at least reducing the amount of processed food I purchase, and choosing locally sourced food whenever possible. This week I made it to the Brazos Valley Farmers' Market and for $13 came away with a pound of carrots, a pound of onions, two pounds of potatoes, a 2 qt container filled with sweet red peppers, a quart ziplock bag of spinach, a pound of okra, and 3 pounds of blackeyed peas, still in jackets.

On my way home from the Farmers' Market, I happened along a country property with a large hand-lettered sign reading, "PEARS FREE." I made time to stop and chat with the lovely lady of the house, and went home with two shopping bags full of sweet, crunchy, cooking pears I picked myself.

Saturday night we already had dinner plans, but Sunday dinner was bound to be divine given the contents of my kitchen!

Of my ten entree choices, I went with Dijon Pork Chops.

Boo literally spent hours shelling the blackeyed peas for one side dish. I was so proud. Rooster joined her for awhile, and the two of them amused themselves opening each pod and exclaiming, "Look! These peas have black eyes, too!" They didn't tire of it nearly as fast as I expected, but I still ended up recruiting Boo's next door neighbor friend to help finish the job. Eventually all the peas were shelled.

Then my Louisiana neighbor not only told me how to cook the peas, she sent over a bit of Crisco so I could make them authentic. I'm still not sure what was more hysterical about that whole exchange: my horror at the idea of using (a teaspoon of) Crisco, or hers at my suggested alternative of bacon fat.

I mean, c'mon, at least I know where the bacon fat came from, and it was something I ate, and it's tasty! I don't really know what Crisco exactly is, but I think it's related to death.

I just enjoyed laughing at both of us. It's fun. I love that we entertain each other.

Later I sent over a taste test for her to approve. Crisco and all, she pronounced my peas authentic. I might be learning how to be a little bit Southern. (May one claim such a thing?)

Meanwhile, once the girls finished shelling peas, I put them to work peeling/coring/slicing the pears so I could cook them into pearsauce. The pears were exactly as promised, sweet and crunchy. Sprinkled with a little cinnamon sugar, they paired nicely with the chops and peas.

Dinner rounded out with a salad including the spinach from the market, and everyone pronounced it a spectacular meal.

Well, everyone except Boo, who privately confided to Louisiana Sammy afterward that those peas weren't very tasty, considering how much work it took to shell them.

I can't say as I blame her.

tuesdays unwrapped at cats
This post is linked to Tuesdays Unwrapped. Today I unwrap the pleasure of preparing new food; something I got directly from the farmer or picked off the tree.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Freezer Full of Fun!

Friday night I got to participate in what I hope becomes a new trend for my household: Batch Cooking through Menus, Meals and More. This is a home business started this summer by a friend of a friend, who became a direct friend after her son and my son became friends when placed in the same kindergarten class. LOL. The serious explanation is that I have really enjoyed getting to know Elizabeth, and I so appreciate her combination of listmaking skill, shopping prowess, and knack for good freezable recipes.

The ultimate selling point that got the Captain's signoff was that she uses very few casserole-type dishes. Another nice feature was that I could request to split several of my entrees. Each of her recipes feeds six, and between the five of us we usually eat about three adult servings. Thus I came home with the same amount of food as everyone else at the party, but it was packaged into more usable portions for my family.

The way it worked was that she offered a list of about 20 choices, evenly divided between chicken, beef and pork entrees. Each participant in the Batch Party chose 2 recipes. Then the night of the party each of the five of us assembled our two recipes, times five.

Depending on the participants, the party could also involve just one recipe per person. Also, I think the available entrees list varies from time to time, and can be customized to the preference of the participants.

The end result made for a great photo opportunity there on my kitchen counter. For a grand total price under $135, I came home with ten meals using almost 20 pounds of meat, seven of which were divided into 2-meal portions. The three crock-pot roasts did not divide, but usually I cook a bigger roast anyway and either use it for a company dinner or reinvent the leftovers.

Next time I will take a cooler, because the cardboard box someone happened to have on hand to give me almost couldn't take the weight of all the goodness.

I was impressed that all that food actually fit into my freezer. Fortunately, it was mostly empty before I arrived home with my treasure.

I can't decide if my favorite element of this is the convenience of someone else doing all the shopping and directing, or getting new recipes to try on my family. I am so bored with dinner, and this is a great jump-start.

Now the hardest problem I have is deciding which meal to serve next.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Indigo Files: Day Four

Read other entries about dealing with depression here.

My first three days on drug therapy were overwhelming, to put it mildly. I experienced pretty much every side effect on the list, although many of them began to taper off after the first day. I experienced no more hallucinogenic nights like the first one, for which I was profoundly grateful.

The sweatiness, however. . . ugh. That side effect lingered. Palms, forehead, elbow pits, all perpetually sticky. I started to feel menopausal, frequently finding myself asking, "Is it hot in here, or is it just me?" Of course that would be a side effect; it's a side effect of living in Texas. But when I would ask, the people around me would look at me funny, so I got the impression it was just me. I am not a fan of feeling sweaty. But I'll tell you what: it's a small price to pay for the benefits.

By the fourth day, I was starting to come out of my side-effect induced haze. I started thinking about whether God gives depression to test me, and if I am taking the easy way out by relieving it with medicine. Maybe he wants to teach me something about relying on him, and I am taking the non-God-reliant way by choosing medical treatment. After all, the apostle Paul had some kind of physical ailment that he prayed God to remove, and God's answer was, "My grace is sufficient for you."

I definitely desire to allow God's grace to be sufficient for me in my challenges. But what if there is a treatment available? Then perhaps, God's answer is get treatment.

For one thing, depression carries a genetic link. And after watching another member of my family struggle with this for decades, I have a pretty good sense that this is not a matter of needing more exercise or better eating habits. This is part of me, and it will not just go away. Even if it does come and go, I will likely be fighting depression for the rest of my life. So I could ignore it and try to power through the next 20 years of child-rearing and pray for the best. Or I could acknowledge its presence and attempt to conquer it.

For another thing, depression is considered a medical condition, because it involves imbalanced serotonin levels in the brain. That's a physical fact. And medication can improve serotonin levels. I realized that if I had high blood pressure or diabetes, I would try to improve my health through lifestyle but I would also take the appropriate medication. I would pray for God's help to manage my health, but I would still take the appropriate medication. I think depression is the same. I can pray for God's presence in my struggles, and I can resolve to manage my health through lifestyle change; but I can still justify taking the appropriate medication.

If nothing else, I just finally came to the point of admitting I needed a crutch to get me over the hump while I develop better prayer and lifestyle habits. Because it's incredibly difficult to pull oneself out of a mental pit when one does not have the energy to make good decisions.

Also, if this is merely a crutch, this allows me to be present in the lives of my husband and kids during these critical years of our life as a family. I don't want their childhood to be tainted because I was too proud to admit to a treatable condition.

So I will continue with this therapy at least through the winter. Perhaps I will continue through the years my kids need me so heavily. And maybe, I will continue on it for the rest of my life. Whatever it takes, because right now I am feeling like this pill gave me my life back.

I am more patient with my kids. I (mostly) have more energy to keep my house clean. I have been blogging like a fiend all summer. (Have you noticed?)

Mainly I just feel like I am the person I want to be, without all the things that have weighed me down and dulled me. And I am so grateful.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Garden Time with Boo

File photo of sunset from our backyard 11/08,
before any other houses were built behind us

The Garden Calendar Strikes Midnight
Crazy enough, I have been waiting for yesterday, September 15, since July. Trust me, I enjoyed myself in the meantime with summer & a hundred other things. But the 15th marks the official plant date for snap peas and lettuce seeds, and after dinner last night that is exactly what I did!

I think I will have access to my photos again very soon, at which point I will be able to show you
  • the peppers I planted in July,
  • the artichokes that may or may not ever do anything besides keep getting bigger and thistlier,
  • the watermelon vine that experienced a renaissance after the death of summer,
  • the cantaloupe started from seeds of a great Kroger melon,
  • and the crazy lima bean plant from Rooster's preschool project that just keeps making lima beans. I wish my dad were closer because he is the only person I know who admits to liking lima beans, and we have them in spades.

This reminds me that I now have a list of three things I'm going to have to learn how to cook and like them if I want to garden in Texas: lima beans, peppers, and okra. Those all grow like gangbusters here, so while I intend to keep growing other things, I may as well go with the native crops too. But if you happen to know how to cook any of those three things, please let me know!

My new garden additions as of last night, which I will also share photos of as soon as I figure out that new network photo drive thingy, include lettuce, peas, and cauliflower. I feel like a proud mama all over again!

File photo of someone else's artichoke plant

Tending a Different Kind of Garden

And speaking of "Mama," I had a great evening gardening and talking with Boo since the Captain went out with some friends and Rooster put himself to bed for the night before dinner. Lulu got herself filthy from head to toe played in the yard while we worked the dirt, scattered seeds, and shelled lima beans.

At one point Boo said,
"Wouldn't it be so amazing if, when Lulu grows up, she ends up being a gardener because she has spent so much time out here watching us in the garden?"

Yes, it would be amazing.

What's just as amazing is watching this eight-year-old child grow into herself. She is developing quite an interest in gardening and science, just as I have always hoped. She has taken quite an interest in the lima beans (have I mentioned they are quite vigorous?) and last night decided she would like to start selling the lima beans:

"...and I'll set out a little stand right next to Kroger so people can come to me and get their lima beans, and you can come and check on me like once an hour, to see if I'm selling any and if I need you to go home and bring me some more..."

My dad will be so proud.

I am even more proud of one other thing she brought up last night out of the blue:

"Mom, would you ever force me to be friends with a mean person?"

I had to stop and think about that one. So, as I do whenever I'm stumped about the right answer to a difficult childhood question, I thought about what the Bible would say. And I was able to share this attempt at kid-size theology:

In the Bible, in Proverbs, we learn that a wise person chooses his friends carefully, but someone who hangs out with people who make bad decisions usually ends up making bad decisions too. So generally, you need to choose to stay away from friendships with mean people.

However, people who love God are also supposed to share that love with the people around them. And how will mean people ever learn God loves them if everyone who loves God refuses to be their friend?

Then I learned that she had a specific friend in mind, not the one I had thought she was referring to. I was impressed to realize that she is showing discernment in her interactions with this friend.

For the record, I think by mean Boo refers to that whole range of immature behaviors that are common to kids. Most kids, including Boo, behave mean some of the time. But in her question, I think she was trying to assess how much control she has over her friendships.

Together we strategized how she can be friendly with this girl, who has nice qualities but also some pretty typical elementary mean moments, without being drawn into the friend's habits. One way is by inviting her to come to our house, and planning some structured activities that we can work on together.

I am really looking forward to this. For four weeks I have intended to start planning a variety of after-school activities for my kids, such as baking, kitchen science, and crafts. Not only does it help me spend intentional time with them, but it helps structure the hour after school when our neighbor hangs out until her mom gets home. Now I am starting to catch a vision of having the house open to my kids' friends and getting to pour a little love on them at the same time as I make memories with my daughter.

I am so proud of how she is growing up, and I look forward to seeing where she grows next.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Indigo Files: Day Three

Today continues the story of my first-ever week of trying antidepressant therapy. By sharing this journey, I hope to offer courage for my readers who constantly struggle with feelings of being overwhelmed and sad for no reason. Those are deep enough pits to dig out of on their own, without adding in all of the normal stressors everyone else deals with.

My message to you: you are not alone. The more of this story I share, the more I hear about others who have gone there before me, and who are now cheering me as I take control. If you think you might benefit from this kind of therapy, it is time to make an appointment with your doctor.

Day 3 (May 15): Saturday.
I am starting to notice a trend in my day. This pill is a time-release 24 hour capsule, and it seems like the release time is set for 12 hours. I am active all day, but keep noting a racing heartbeat exactly 12 hours after I have taken it. So I am trying to take it as early as possible. Have cut out all caffeine after lunch, haven't had dessert, and will be trying for early bedtime as often as possible. Maybe if I can get to bed before my body starts fighting sleepiness, I won't have as much adrenaline in my system.

This afternoon I went berry picking in the fields behind my house, with a dear friend and her kids. We had so much fun, and I felt especially lighthearted and alive. I am starting to get excited about baking with these berries. Promising, because me thinking about cooking is always a good sign that I am in my happy place.

At bedtime I have noticed I startle really easily. Guess when you take uppers you can't just turn them off during those times you need to be down to recharge. I really hope this passes, or my heart may not hold out long enough for me to enjoy the reduced anxiety level!

Overall, the day felt mostly normal. I don't feel boisterous, just mellow. My husband seems to think he has gotten a new wife. Generally, I feel more present, more able to enjoy each moment.

I had a great idea this morning that I have been waiting on for about two years. The idea concerns my Wonder book, how to organize it and what perspective to write from. I don't know if I have increased mental clarity, but I can say that this morning is the first time I have had this particular idea, a compilation of lots of thoughts I have had over the years. Perhaps the time has almost come for me to write it. Write the rest of it, anyway, since I already wrote about 25,000 words in November of 2008.

The connection between the idea and the drug therapy did not occur to me immediately. But as I excitedly started sharing my idea with the Captain, I was brought up short by his curious look and gentle laugh. "I think your pill is already working," he smiled. "You have not seemed this interested in anything in a long time."

The Captain also took over the bills today, something I have been wishing to happen for about three years. He is taking charge of the money, a topic that chronically brings me anxiety; and it doesn't seem to do that to him. I guess because he is taking control.

I feel good because I am taking control, too. Taking control of my well being.

Next time I'll share more of my thoughts related to prayer vs. taking a pill. That may never have been one of your concerns, but I still feel I'm walking a fine line.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Gideon: From Timid Farmboy to Bold Leader

Okay, I have reached the point in my Judges assignment where I am reading and writing about Gideon. (Judges 6-8). This fellow provides quite a character study.

Gideon is so awesome. But just in case we might be tempted to put him on a pedestal as a super-human, he turns out to be just as totally human and fallible as any of us.

As the youngest member of a totally insignificant family in the clan, Gideon hides in a winepress so the oppressors of the time, the Midianite raiders, will not see him trying to thresh a little wheat to help feed the family for a day or two.


When approached by the angel of God (God himself, presumably walking the earth looking like a man) and addressed as a "mighty warrior," Gideon complains bitterly about how the mighty God has abandoned his people.

When given the mission of going to war against the Midianites, Gideon plays the part of the skeptic. He asks the most holy God to prove he Is who he says he Is by waiting for Gideon to go prepare an offering.

God agrees.

I can just hear the elevator music playing while the Most High God patiently sits on a rock and waits for Gideon to kill a goat and stew it up, and bake up a loaf of flatbread. (Insert muzak version of "The Girl from Ipanema" here).

An hour or two later, Gideon finally returns with a basket of meat and a pot of broth to offer to this personage waiting under the old oak tree. God directs the young man to put the meat and bread on the rock by the tree, and pour the stew over it. Then the rock bursts into flame, fully consuming the offering.

At this point, Gideon suddenly realizes, Oh.My... This really IS God! Oh no! I was testing him and now he is going to kill me!

I am not saying I would have responded any better. However, I have to wonder: what was he thinking during the past two hours while preparing the goat and the bread? Did he expect the man with the crazy warrior talk to be gone when he returned? Was he planning to expose this visitor as a lame magician when he would artlessly strike a match under his robes and throw it on the sacrifice? Or maybe he expected the visitor to consume the offering more like an ordinary human would, by eating it.

I have no idea what was in Gideon's mind through all this, but from the minute that food was burned up, that was all the sign he needed. Whatever this visitor appeared to be, Gideon knew him for the One True God, and was appropriately humbled. From that moment on, he followed God's instructions to the letter.

Don't you sometimes wish God would show up so obviously? I do. It sure might save me from a couple of wrong paths, or give me confidence that I am on the right one.

Shortly after this exchange, all the bad guys of the region meet up together and prepare to make things really bad for the people of Israel. By this time Gideon has already started building a reputation for rebellion against the local gods, and it is time to summon the other tribes to go to war with him. He has completely missed the part about "go in the strength you have" but it seems to be okay, as the Lord patiently waits for the farmboy to catch up with his sovereign vision.

When the volunteer army of 32,000 men shows up at Gideon's front door, he has apparently gained enough confidence to ask God for another sign, to show the army and convince them.

Did you notice that Gideon was originally threshing his wheat in a winepress instead of on the threshing floor? Threshing floors were built out in the open, so the wind could blow away the chaff during threshing. But the raiders would watch for clouds of chaff, then sweep in and steal all the grain. So the people took to threshing their wheat in secret.

Threshing Floor

Now that he has an audience of 32,000, Gideon steps to the middle of the unused threshing floor. He holds up a bit of wool and asks the Lord for a sign: "If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised--look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said."

And that is what happened. To the tune of a bowl full of water squeezed out of that fleece in the presence of 32,000 witnesses (Judges 6:36-38).

I imagine God is snickering up his sleeve, in whatever way God would do such a thing. He already knows what is about to happen. He knows he isn't going to need 32,000 warriors to accomplish his plan. He knows it isn't going to matter whether any of that army actually believes the sign the way Gideon had.

But he waits patiently while the short-sighted humans have their faith built.

Later, he returns to building Gideon's faith.

He tells Gideon:
You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Isral may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, 'Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave.'
Two out of every three men takes him up on his offer and goes home. From 32,000, Gideon now has an army of 10,000.

The Master Planner is not finished yet:
There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, 'This one shall go with you,' he shall go; but if I say, 'This one shall not go with you,' he shall not go.
By the end of this second test, only 300 men remain to fight the Midianite army of 15,000. No way can anyone claim victory in their own strength with an army this size!

But after he cuts the army down to size, God in his grace provides Gideon one more reassurance of victory:
If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.
And indeed, when he hears the words of one Midianite to another, sharing a dream about Gideon coming to overtake the camp, he worships God. Finally, the farmboy catches the vision that the battle is the Lord's battle, all Gideon has to do is follow directions. Then he runs back to the camp and stirs the men into action, promising that the Lord has already given them the victory!

I love this Gideon. Despite a lack of training; despite his initial doubts and questioning of God; despite his impossibly futile band of men, he rocks the house of Israel in listening to and obeying God's direction. And God delivers a God-sized victory through this humble, timid farmboy.

I can't idolize him, because in the end he made some really big screwups that haunted Israel throughout the next generation. But that's probably how God wants it, because he doesn't want us to look to human leaders for models; rather he wants us to look directly at him as the source, and to see how much God can do through one ordinary person.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Words of Encouragement

On the surface, a card is just a piece of paper with some pretty words and maybe a picture. But to the one who receives it, the words have such power to lift, to heal, to inspire. It is so simple to send, and the rewards far outweigh the cost.

Funny thing, though, do you know who also gets a blessing from a card? The one who wrote it. We have all heard the truism, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," and I have to say that my experience with encouragement echoes this.

A few days ago I received a package of encouragement cards as a free gift, with the sole requirement being that I give away at least one by today and share about it.

This week has been FULL of changes in the weather,

working on my fall garden...
choosing new paint colors for my house...
and the beginning of fall commitments like MOPS and Small Groups...

Not to mention the big time and emotion suckers of

sick kids,
writing deadlines,
and unresolved conflict.

And I have had no idea how I was going to have time to send a card.

Actually, all I have had time to do is collect addresses and begin writing.

I am so excited because I know exactly which five cards to send to the first five people on my list, and I eagerly look forward to praying over those tonight as I write.

But first...

I did write one.

It is sort of a letter of encouragement. More like a dressed-up letter of apology to some dear friends, with whom I recently shared some harsh words. But the sentiment is still true.

I shared a card that says:

You've been on my mind
in my prayers
and close to my heart,

and that's where you'll stay.

This relationship, which I never thought would be in any doubt, has suffered some serious cracks. But after weeks of agonizing over it, I finally gave up on the "who's right, who's wrong" blame game, just shared what I could fit on a card.

I hope it brings some restoration, because I am tired of having an important part of my life out of whack. It's draining.

So I share my profound thanks with Dayspring Cards, for sponsoring this challenge, and with in(courage), who gave me a deadline. When I looked into my heart, I knew this had to be God's way of offering me a chance to come back.

I don't know yet how my card or my words will be received. But the important work, the work in my heart, has already been done. And in that lies the real blessing of this particular encouragement card. God has used it to encourage me that there is always a way back to restored relationship.

This post came about because of my recent visits to (in)courage, where I have found a community of women sharing encouraging words with me day after day. "I thank my God on every remembrance" of them (Philippians 1:3).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

30 Days of Excellence: Starting to Feel Challenged

It's not supposed to be difficult, this finding positive qualities in my kids. Specifically Boo.

Yet for some reason tonight I find myself literally Googling images of this:

Nah, Boo isn't really the problem. I am beating my head against the wall with this Judges study. I distract myself with things I shouldn't be even thinking about this month,

like picking new paint colors for my house, to go with the new hand-me-down furniture you haven't seen yet because I haven't worked out my photo storage problems yet...

oh, and my garden...

But I digress.

In the midst of trying to focus on this Bible study and finding a thousand other things to occupy my attention, I got a phone call at the end of school on Friday from her P.E. teacher, telling me she has trouble following directions in class.

Like, I already knew that.

And no, I don't have any wisdom or tips for you. I'm sorta drowning in it myself, and was hoping you might have a helpful word for me.

But in the absence of that, we all sat down again on Friday night and laid down the law again about how important we find following directions.

She is a good kid with good intentions. In these 30 days of noticing her good qualities, maybe it's okay to keep repeating things over and over. I do love that she shows initiative.

I just don't love the messes it makes and the people it hurts when she doesn't pay a lick of attention to anyone else while she is going after what she wants.

I really hope we have a breakthrough soon. I can't believe it's the third week of school and I have already been called by two of her teachers about behavior problems.

In good news, we had fun watching a terrible musical together last night. She outlasted little brother and sister so we ended up with just three of us. I had a glimpse of how fun it will be to be friends with her when she grows up and comes home as an adult.

And today I enjoyed watching her impulsively plan an art show, and end up spending tons of time making ads while not actually creating any art. I got a laugh out of that.

But for now I think I just need to go to bed. All this banging my head against the wall has given me a headache and I'm just blaming it on my firstborn. I'll be back when I have something nicer to say!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Indigo Files: Day Two

This post is part of a series describing my first week on therapy after deciding to take control of the depression that sometimes dominates my spirit.

Sometimes you have to go down before you can go up.

After my crazy first night, it took awhile to work up my courage to take pill number two. What the heck was that last night? Am I in for more of that? What is it worth to me to do this? I sat down after I got Boo off to school, and read the drug sheet more carefully. Hmm, common side effects include: nausea, headache, dry mouth, dizziness, insomnia. Loss of appetite, sleepiness, diarrhea, anxiety. Well there you have it then.

Then I discovered it was also time for my usual monthly dose of irritable and ick. Which could also explain some of the symptoms. And which was not at all helpful to my general state of feeling good about myself. It is rough feeling sick because you have an empty stomach, but being too nauseous to eat anything. Kinda like morning sickness, only this feeling lasted all day.

It so happened that Rooster's preschool graduation was this afternoon. Almost didn't think I could go, but it was really important to him and to me to observe this tiny milestone. Afterward I was so glad I did go, because by the time it was over I had been broken a little out of my very small world. It was a step back in the right direction. But only a small step.

By the end of the day my internal filters had gone haywire. Every sound, every vibration in my house had me nearly quivering with hyper-reaction. Talk about walking on eggshells. I couldn't chill out with a beer or glass of wine, because those are depressants. That was sort of a bummer; but seriously, what's the point of taking an antidepressant if I'm going to turn around and depress myself all over again?

The Captain is my hero, because he went out to the garage and found me a set of noise canceling headphones. Wearing these giant earmuffs, I ate dinner and watched a movie with the kids, and everything seemed much more manageable. As long as I shut out most of the sounds and kept a couple bites of food in my stomach, I seemed to be normalizing a bit. I ate a whole sleeve of Saltines by myself today.

Through the whole miserable, overwhelming day full of side effects, my honey (and my primary behavior observer) repeated that I seem more stable. I didn't have any angry outbursts. It's like anger got put a level of effort further away on the other side of a wall of cotton, and it's just not worth it to me to reach for the anger. This is the kind of result I was looking for; if I can practice what it's like not to snap to anger over every.little.thing, maybe I can develop a new habit of patience with the kids.

After last night's scary experience, I was a little nervous to go to bed. But I had to turn off! My awesome honey left me alone in the room tonight while I fell asleep. I went to bed at 10pm and slept until 6:30 with no interruptions except him coming to bed at midnight. Success.

By day three I was recovering enough to start thinking bigger. I'll share about that in a future post.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I Love Those Lips

In the process of recovering photos off my nearly dead photo storage drive, the Captain has actually been looking at the archives. He has found SEVERAL old drives with data on them, including old photos stored on computers we don't use any longer. On those drives were stored photos as far back as Baby #1's birth (when we converted to digital--we don't have much from before that), which I haven't seen since we packed up and moved from Michigan in 2004.

Of course, like any good kid or kid at heart, he must occasionally stop and play with what he finds.

This morning, after several weeks of photo withdrawal, I open up my email to find this:

This makes my heart happy.

I am inspired to learn Photoshop better, so I can make my photos look more awesome.

Funny thing, when I ask the big guy about how to make this photo, he pulls out his iPhone and shows me a free app he has downloaded. This photo isn't even from the archives, and he didn't even use Photoshop.

He never ceases to amuse me.

I'm still inspired.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bad News, Good News

It's a good news, bad news kind of day. As in:

The Good News:
We are finally getting rain!

The Bad News:
We are drowning in water. I can't mow because the grass is too wet. I keep filling my rain barrel and accidentally draining it into my already over-wet yard (three times!). But not to worry, more rain lurks on the horizon!

Only I prefer to hear my bad news first, so I can end on good news:

The Bad News:
I don't have a photo library this week because my photo drive died. It really puts a cramp in my blogging style not to have photos to remind me what's worth posting about.

I want to tell you about the first day of school, our trip to the Reptile Farm last week, and our new kitty. I want to show you my garden, a whole bunch of spiders and cool bugs I've found lately, my new crock-pot mac'n'cheese recipe, and some cool eclectic furniture we "inherited" from a family friend.

I want to post a photo of Boo with her braces off today, of Rooster lying sad and sick on the couch watching movies for three straight days, of Lulu's first day out of the house without me, at Mothers' Day Out yesterday.

Today, I don't even have archive photos to fake a story with.

The Good News:
My computer genius husband persevered until he found a program that rescued 13,000 files off that photo drive. I don't know if that's all of my photos, or if they are all pristinely uncorrupted, but it's more data than I was starting to fear I had. I still don't have a place to download new photos off my camera, but I can accept being patient better than I can accept being without hope.

And not to worry anyway, these fun moments will probably pass by the time I get my photo storage issue solved, because I will have new moments to share by then. That seems to be the trend of my life, that I have a constant stream of interesting things inspiring me to write. Really, I consider myself fortunate to be surrounded with notable people, places, things and ideas almost every day.

The Bad News:
I've got a Knot in my personal life that I've been trying to unravel, and it's dragging me down. This is a difficult situation in need of some redemption, but not really appropriate for processing here. I am trying to work through it but it's a pretty big knot and I can not move forward until it gets addressed.

The Good News:
Of course you might know that every.single.thing around me speaks to this situation, from the Tinkerbell movie the kids have been watching this week to the life story I heard last weekend, from the book I am reading for small group this fall, to the Bible study I am working on writing. I am confident the issue will get addressed soon, or the entire universe might just contract and close in on itself from too much emphasis on a particular thought.

The Bad News:
Speaking of that Bible study series, which was assigned in March, which is due in three weeks, and which I just basically started working on two weeks ago, I am totally being challenged on this. Wrestling with God's treatment of a faithless nation takes concentration.

What don't I have this week? Concentration.

I have the aforementioned Knot. I have a baby that just realized her #1 and #2 playmates headed off to school, so she's turning to me and to every.single.thing in this house that is not baby-proofed. Which is actually a lot of things. I can't take my eyes off of her.

Did I also mention my #2 child who has had a fever since Sunday morning and has been home from school all week? Or my #1 child with an ortho appointment today to remove her braces? Maybe I didn't mention yet that I randomly invited friends over last Saturday night, or that I've agreed to lead a home group for my church this fall.

MOPS is starting tomorrow morning. Fall planting (all 20 peas, 6 cauliflowers and 5 kinds of lettuce of it) is this week and next.

Who can concentrate with all this going on?

The Good News:
I am really looking forward to MOPS and fall planting. I got to put Lulu in Mothers' Day Out one day a week so I can at least have one three hour window a week to concentrate. And yesterday I kicked some Bible study butt (can I say that?) during that window.

Also, at least I'm not depressed on top of everything else. That little square normal pill is coming in really handy right now, helping even out my response to all the stressors present in my life at the moment. I have a lot of strong emotions, but the sad indigo note merely comes and goes without stopping and camping out.

This is also good news because do you know what's depressing? The Israelite nation in the time of the Judges. Having to live and breathe God's judgment of a family of people who simply couldn't put two godly generations together back to back. I may be getting in some good return kicks, but this study is intense.

And the Best News of All:
The more I wrestle with the stories of Judges, the less I see of faithless people and inadequate leaders. The subtext of this book really underlines God's faithfulness. He made a covenant with one nation. That nation defied him and made mockery of him over and over, but every time he became angry and punished them, his purpose was not to destroy them or the covenant. Think how easily he could have just blown them all from the face of the earth after they repeatedly turned away from him to worship other gods.

Instead, the punishment was always given to bring the people to a point of repentance, after which they were restored to relationship with him. Punishment as a means of restoration. That's good thinking material. Good for my difficult situation, good in parenting, good to just ponder.

And that is all I've got today, just a crazy stream of consciousness. Not even any photos.

I am sure you will survive. Now I've got to get back to my new friend Ehud, the left-handed judge.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Indigo Files: Day One

tuesdays unwrapped at cats

Today I unwrap an unusual gift for the Tuesdays Unwrapped series. Today I unwrap Indigo. Indigo describes a part of me that I allowed to dominate me for a long time, that I finally took action to put in balance. Today marks the beginning of the story that will be told throughout the month of September.

Think of the colors of the rainbow. We usually speak in terms of three primary and three secondary colors: Red, Yellow, Blue. Orange, Green, Purple. Six colors that make up most of our verbal crayon box. Yet there are seven colors listed in the colors of the rainbow when we use the acronym ROYGBIV. Red, Orange, Yellow. Green. Blue, Indigo, Violet.

So what is Indigo? The bastard child? The elephant in the room? The unmentionable? Do we leave it out because it doesn't fit into our tidy primary/secondary color wheel interpretation of color?

Indigo fascinates me. It lends depth to the deep end of the color spectrum. It justifies that some things in life do carry more weight, and that's the way it's supposed to be.

I have chosen to describe the melancholy aspect of my personality as the Indigo. It really is a gift, because without that melancholy element, I wouldn't always be thinking about the world, or feeling the need to write about it. However, Indigo was ruling my life, and I have finally taken action not to eliminate it, but to get it back to its proportionate place in my personal spectrum.

The enemy lives in darkness. When we reveal our darkest struggles to the light, the enemy can no longer whisper his lies into our hearts. My hope is that by sharing this experience and bringing it to the light of day, someone else might be Encouraged that they are not alone, Empowered to reach for help, and Inspired to bring their own situation to the light.

So here we go, the first week of taking control of the Indigo. My experience, my thoughts, my world.

(May 13) Day 1: 11:30am, first pill. Had a bit of an upset stomach, but an otherwise good day. I have a lot of good days, so it's hard to know if it was just a good day or if the pill made a difference. It's probably too early to see results, but I'm still looking. The Captain says I seemed more consistently stable throughout the day. Makes me wonder if I only mentally record the moments when I feel good, and blank out the ones when I'm irritable and overwhelmed. I told him I'm putting him in charge of noting changes in my disposition. I think he's got better perspective than I do.

11:30pm, bedtime. Woke up in a cold sweat at 12:30 because the Captain was watching a thriller movie tonight, of all nights. Some post-apocalyptic story about plants trying to kill the remaining people. Had such a huge adrenaline rush that I couldn't go back to sleep. Finally got up at 2:30 and staggered out of the room, hoping to find another place to sleep. The sofa was covered in a pile of unfolded laundry, but I was overcome with a wave of nausea and dizziness, so I just allowed myself to crumple to the floor. Dozed there for an hour before returning to my bed.

Not five minutes later, the baby cried out in her sleep and I felt it necessary to rush upstairs to help her. She was asleep again by the time I got there, but more nausea and dizziness swept over me. Couldn't make it back downstairs, crumpled up next to the crib on the mattress where Boo slept last time we had company. Dozed for another hour, then made my way back to bed about 4:30. Had to get up at 6am, felt sick and migraine-y like I had pulled an all-nighter.

What just happened? Sometimes when we start along a new path, we can't tell right away whether or not we should have taken this one. All we can do is feel our way forward, and trust that God will direct us to continue or not.

"Trust in the Lord, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The morning of the second day dawned bleakly. But the first day was ended, and sometimes that's the best you can say about a difficult experience. I will share more about the second day in another post later this week.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Half a week of Excellence!

Click here

After only four days of observing my kids' excellent qualities, I am starting to fall in love with them all over again. Especially Boo, as my love for her has been so earned. I could spot excellent qualities in the other two any given moment, but my special challenge has been to catch Boo doing what I want her to be doing. And this week has already helped change that.

On Wednesday, Boo took initiative to plant some flowers. On Thursday, I realized how much she does to entertain Lulu when she's home. Now that she is in school all day, Lulu is not quite so content.

Side note: I just last week figured out Lu's name for her sister: Momo. So close to Mama I almost missed it. When I told Boo, she glowed with pride. I love making that girl glow.

On Friday, we decided to adopt the Captain's brother's #2 kitty, Luna. Theirs is the house where my new little Light Princess recently came home to live. Between two kitties and now two kiddoes, their little kingdom was growing a little crowded. The Light Princess' mama started to discuss finding new homes for the kitties.

Then we had a mouse in our house this week. After four days of taunting us with his chewing noises, he finally got bold enough to run on my counter. So the Captain set up a death tunnel for him, and it worked the first night. Friday morning, I mentioned how I was a little disappointed we had caught the mouse so well, because I had been hoping to make a case for adopting Luna. Strangely, he looked at me with a new expression (besides the usual, yeah, you know we don't really want a cat).

Together we decided that Boo has been really wanting a cat, and we really love cats, and maybe it's time for this family to have a cat. It took the remainder of the day to work out bringing the cat home.

Right before bedtime Friday night, we covered the kids' eyes and brought them into the room where a pet box awaited. I asked, "What is one thing you want more than anything in the world?" And she actually responded, "A pet." Right on cue, Luna meowed from the box.

As soon as she realized that we had indeed brought home a kitty, Boo immediately burst into tears and flew into her daddy's arms, saying, "Thank you!" over and over. The fact that she already knew this kitty just provided icing for the cake. For the remainder of the evening, she choked up several times as she repeated, "I have wanted a kitty so much for such a long time. I still can't believe it!"

About the most gratifying experience for a parent is to give your kid a really good gift and have them be appropriately grateful. She totally delivered on this one.

I was reminded that God also loves to give his children really good gifts. And as one of his children, I can make his heart happy by being appropriately grateful for those gifts. Healthy children. Really a pretty nice house. Two cars. A husband who loves me devotedly. It's a ridiculously good list, truth be told.

Luna perches on the back of the couch at her previous home,
above Angus, who did not come to live with us.

After a very full Friday, Saturday was pretty quiet around here while we prepared for some friends to come for dinner. Once the friends arrived, Boo did an unusually good job of following directions, especially the one about leaving the kitty alone and not taking her friends in the laundry room to visit.

Late last night I spent a few moments reflecting with the Captain about how this week has helped me fall in love with my firstborn. In so many ways, she still is not where I would hope her to be. Yet, in so many ways, she exceeds my desires. She truly has no interest in the common "Hannah Montana" mentality of many of the kids around her. She would much rather be reading her science encyclopedia, planting lima beans, or finding caterpillars in the back yard.

This wild and beautiful creature lives in my house. I love her more every day, and every day I get a little more excited about where her life's journey will take her.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Putting the Oboe Player in His Place

Do you dream in color?

Do you think in terms of shapes and patterns, similar to a game of Tetris?

Does your day-to-day life have a soundtrack? Do you hear a steady stream of music running through your head, offering advice on every situation from "I can see clearly now the rain has gone" to "It's easy like Sunday morning"?

These questions may have just revealed the depth of my bizarre inner nature. Or perhaps they illuminate intimate thoughts shared by many.

For several years, I have felt what I think of as a dark slash across my soul. It is a painless yet torturous weight that settles across my chest. It comes and goes with the seasons, with my level of stress and fatigue, with my general state of mind.

In color: I imagine I am looking at a canvas of my life, done all in natural whites, pale greens and tans, with an angry diagonal slash of dark purple running through the middle.

In music: I hear a beautiful symphony full of light springy notes, only the oboe player seems to be playing a mournful solo in counterpoint to the cheerful tones of the rest of the orchestra.

It's not that I don't think purple has a place on my canvas. The painting does have more depth with whispers of deep purple here and there.

It's not that I don't think the oboe has a place in my symphony. A few scattered deep notes can lend weight and contrast to emphasize the light and airy theme.

It's just that I don't want them to dominate. That's not me, not the me I want to be.

Early this summer, I decided I had had enough of the heavy dark purple oboe notes. I was done with the constant fatigue, sense of being overwhelmed, and feeling out of control of myself.

So I went to my doctor and talked to her about depression.

She prescribed me a little pill that some call a happy pill. I have come to think of it more as my normal pill.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing more about my first days on this medication. It took me about three years of soul-searching before finding the courage to ask for it, and I still can make arguments for and against it.

I probably don't have the most severe depression of anyone out there, but neither do I think I am imagining its tangible presence in my life.

I may attempt to continue this therapy only for six months until I pull myself together. Or I may continue for the rest of my life.

What I do know is that in three months, the heavy purple slash has all but vanished. My energy level is increased, my contentment is noticeable to my friends, and I haven't felt overwhelmed. Despite the stress of having three rowdy kids at home all summer.

There's still room for improvement. This pill is not a magic bullet to fold my laundry or pull me off Facebook to tend to my children. But some of the weighty baggage is cleared away, and I feel dramatically empowered to make the necessary changes to my personal discipline habits.

Best of all, the oboe player has given up his solo act, and is now playing a more background part in my symphony.

This post is the first in a series that will last through the month of September. A whole month blogging about depression, boy that ought to be uplifting!