I can’t really figure out what’s going on. I think God is working something in me. Bringing things to my attention. Causing me to question and evaluate. The list of things I am able to do and do well is dwindling and I really feel like He is calling me to simplify, but it really can be a painful purging process, especially when I fight it or try too hard to figure it out and/or understand why things are harder for me right now. Nothing is dramatically different except that I just am seeing things differently, although blurry. No idea what will stay, what will go, but I feel like I have been too expansive with my attentions and I am being called back to really be here where I am, even if it makes me look at myself harder. Not my favorite thing to do and I need to remind myself to turn my eyes upon Jesus. Look full into His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.
So even though I have a head cold, I am feeling pretty well this week. Working out, dieting, good outlook. But walking on eggshells because these moments of feeling good and right and happy for no good reason are few and far between anymore. I don’t want to think about it too much and ruin it, but I do want to take note and enjoy it and observe it before it passes. It’s been so long since I have felt this good. Of course, I haven’t taken my methotrexate for two weeks now. This is part of it – that shit really brings me down. But it’s a tightrope walk because pretty soon the immune system will kick in and ramp up my RA which will start the downward cycle all over again. And when I start taking it again after any kind of break, it’s always three times as bad for a few weeks before I get used to it, I guess. I HATE that drug. It makes me feel awful physically mentally emotionally but without it, I’d be in a wheel chair and not have the use, limited as it may be, of my hands and feet. I am admittedly bitter about it. Trying to find that groove to go along with the hymn, Take my hands, Lord, be glorified, be glorified….Take my feet Lord, take my heart, Lord, take my life, Lord…..
About a year ago, I FINALLY told my doctor that I had been depressed. I finally knew what that meant. I mean, I had been “down” in the past, usually, but not always accompanying my hormonal cycle, maybe a few days, at most a few weeks and then I’d bounce back. But this time I didn’t bounce back after two weeks, or two months. After about four months, I had to say something. Mine was induced as a medicinal side effect, but the net effect what the same: lack luster living, being tired of everything and everyone, feeling like I am at the end of my rope every day, all day long, but at the same time separate, foggy, far away, numb. I got off of the medicine that contributed to it, and got on a new one for the depression and it’s been a year. I can finally say that I see myself getting better. I still have ups and downs but the downs don’t go so far down as they did before or last as long, and the ups, while not euphoric, are solid. Of course, this is complicated by living with a chronic illness that gives me plenty of reason to be depressed, so it really does feel like an uphill battle. But this morning, and all this week, I have been able to focus, concentrate, and enjoy life, work, spending time with my family. My message and reason for sharing this is two fold. First, if you have been feeling down, and can’t see an end to it, don’t wait six more months before you talk to someone. Secondly, don’t hide it, don’t keep it a secret. How can people pray for you, if they don’t know. Some of us are really good at putting on a mask to hide behind. Don’t do that. YES there will be people who will be disinterested. It happens. It hurts, but the jewel is, then you know who your friends really are. Find someone to confide in. Don’t go it alone. Finally, cast all your cares on Jesus. He really is good for the load….and so much more.
It has been so frustrating lately. RA is a difficult friend to have. I am used to being able to recharge during the day and re energize myself for new projects. I am finding more and more that what I don’t start in the morning, will not be started that day. Once I get to mid afternoon, I am only much good at maintenance type work, not anything that requires energy, creativity, moderately deep thought. These things must happen in the morning. Sometimes I can push through, but of late, by the time I get to post nap time, nap or not, I am on the down hill slide to bed time. I think some of this may be attributed to the associated depression of just feeling like crap for 15 years, but I think more is going on. Not sure how to look at it – disease getting worse, long term affects of drugs, my bounce back time getting slower, or what is the take away, spiritually? I am not even sure it matters, but to be sure, my energy levels have taken a consistent and noticeable dive along with my ability to concentrate in the last year.
This is obviously is very discouraging. I am to the point where I am looking at giving things up that I can no longer do. I haven’t sung in Masterworks Chorale for about five years. I miss it – love singing The Messiah every year, but I know that I would be severely challenged to make the rehearsals and the performances are physically so taxing for me – were five years ago and I can only imagine it to be worse now. I don’t sing solo any more because it is just so stressful. As well, my throat is continually hoarse, from meds, from disease activity? Who knows? But it is somewhat uncomfortable sometimes to sing. As well my allergies have gotten worse over the last few years, so add continual post nasal drip to the mix. Loverly. So I don’t sing much anymore.
I don’t craft, I don’t sew, I mostly only homeschool and design and I am feeling it in those departments, as well. Homeschooling actually figures in nicely, because I am definitely past the half-way point. Kaitlin is in high school and will be managing herself more and more. Ian is now to the point where he can do some of his school work on his own. I expect his abilities to make leaps and jumps this year. All of this will make life easier for me. But of course I always have higher hopes for what I can do with them during the year and often end up crossing things off my list, or pushing them back to another day, another month, another year. Not happy about that. And recently had to turn down a design job. They didn’t care for what I made originally and I just couldn’t for the life of me manage to sit down at the computer and give it another try. I just am losing my inspiration, my drive to create, and I feel like I am in the trenches, just figuring out how to SURVIVE. I don’t have a bucket list, but I do have a list of things undone, things given up, dreams deferred.
I am sure good things come from all experiences – when I identify them, I will let you know. For sure, I am learning that my plans are not His plans and my kids are really His kids. I trust that He will provide what we truly need to have, try, experience, lose. Maybe that’s the take away here. He just keeps taking things away, one at a time, until I don’t have anything with which to distract myself. Maybe that’s just a normal part of aging, and I get to have a head start from my friends that are my age. I still try to find joy but honestly it is a lot harder. I spend a lot of time just doing nothing but wishing I was doing something and feeling like I am deficient in the areas of marriage, homemaking, parenting. I just keep waking up and trying again.
This week, and I am surprised it has taken so long because I have had back pain since I was pregnant with Henry 20 years ago, I am having intense pain in my lower back, to the point where I can not really be on my feet for very long. If I over do it, it sets of a period of muscle spasms that are difficult to appease. And still there are stacks everywhere – school books and plans, clean laundry, idea books, magazines, socks, shoes, dirty laundry, photos, dust. It never ends. It doesn’t wait for you to have a good day. Neither does being a parent – a wife. If I am not careful I will send myself into an emotional spiral, so I am going to end it here. If you are a praying person, pray for my back, my weight, my focus and outlook. I feel quite tarnished, bloated, and useless.
Bit of a ramble…I read this article and found myself nodding…it IS ok to say no…even when you get the blank stares from people, or have others preaching to you about ministry as if THEY got to choose it for you. But I think we need to put some guard rails around the conversation. Is it ok to say no? Of course. We really CAN’T do it all. And we know our own strengths and weaknesses and what we can handle SO true. So if someone asks me to organize a meal for church – the WHOLE church? Yeah that is SO outside my comfort zone, heck it’s in a whole other continent from me! My concern, based on my own tendencies, would be that we might use this conversation to justify being completely self serving, to justify not doing things that really need to be done, but we don’t want to be bothered. I am not suggesting that the linked conversation is going there – just for ME I need to make sure those guard rails are up. I am selfish and have a tendency to maybe only focus on my needs sometimes. And while I have a good reason for that, I really think we need to take these issues to the Lord. I do not remember to do that often enough. Usually it’s an afterthought when I realize that I have over committed, or said “no” at the wrong time. My son asked me the other day, “Mom, can you teach my Sunday School class again?” And the yearning in his voice for time with me just doesn’t translate in the typing of the precious question, but it was a no brainer. Do I WANT to do it? If I am honest, no I don’t. But I believe God will bless our time together and the three months in the fall will fly by and I get momma points, right?!?
There are times it is wise to say no – when it will negatively affect your family. And if it is something that makes me absolutely crazy and unhappy, then no one else will be happy either, and we nix the activity! ;) That is justified I think, under certain circumstances. As I read through the comments, I felt a little sad for myself. Unfortunately for me, sometimes I am forced to say no by circumstances outside of my control. Sometimes Mom doesn’t feel well. It is awful to say no, we can’t go for a walk, go on that field trip, have that play date, because I don’t feel well. It has gotten to the point this year where I am saying no to almost everything. It is sad. Suffering with RA and depression – really makes for a bummer of a mom. And sometimes I have to be selfish, not for my comfort, but for my health. When I over do it, it can make me more sick, and has sometimes gone so far as to make it so that I can not take care of my family. That’s to be avoided if possible. And sometimes people don’t understand, or think I am being selfish. I can’t help that. But others don’t always understand how I can be smiling, but not feel like I can make an extra trip across town in the evening, or go out of town for a girls’ weekend. But I have to say no anyhoo.
The sermon at church this morning was about biblical contentment. Not the self-serving worldly contentment that many are seeking, but that which is born out of faith. Biblical contentment, pastor said, is not stress free. (darn it!) Our sufferings are meant to be felt, to have an affect, to bring change. And it’s ok to lament – we don’t have to be stoic about it. That’s me, sometimes. We are definitely meant to enjoy earthly blessings – sunsets, rain, sticky kids, popsicles, cuddling on the couch, good food, a good book. It is ok to enjoy them – but the enjoyment of them should not be our major focus. This made so much sense to me…I had a thought not too long ago, in relation to my inner dialog about food, “We live like we are on permanent vacation!” (And I think this is a lot of what is wrong with our country – everyone wants to be on permanent vacation – no one wants to pay the bills, just reap the benefits of someone else’s sweat, but that is a topic for another day.) When things become the focus, they become idols. When God is the focus, they are blessings. Gratitude is being content with God’s plan for you RIGHT NOW. If we experience biblical content, it is because we conform our desires to God’s will. That almost sounds backwards, doesn’t it, to the general conversation in the world? Pastor said, not in so many words, to fulfill your ministry. Spend a little less time thinking about yourself, and a little more time thinking about others. I know that will get comments, but I agree, and it is NOT easy to do so. Honestly, I don’t WANT to think about others. I am tired of thinking about others. No one gets up early and makes MY breakfast! No one spends hours and hours and weeks and months making sure we have the right materials selected for each child to learn all that they can learn in the coming school year! No one makes my bed, does my laundry, scrubs the floors, cleans my desk, makes my life easier. (Not all true, but I am in the middle of a rant and heading toward a purpose, so grant me some leeway!) I just keep thinking, “God, forgive me for my unbelief!” I am tired of self sacrifice (you know all moms are about that to some degree) – I don’t understand it – I don’t get it – and I am not sure I want it! “Forgive me for my unbelief.” But God tells us in Philippians 4:13 – come on you all know it – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Not a cute saying to put over your kitchen. Pastor pointed out – this is giving us the person of Christ to go WITH US through each valley. Makes me cry because I have been ignoring Him, and when not ignoring Him, kinda mad at Him. Truth. Elsewhere God though Paul tells us “and my God will supply you, according to the richness of His grace and glory, all that you need.” ALL that you need. RICHNESS of His grace. So before I say “no” or want to feel sorry for myself, I want to ask HIM what should I do? I am not sure that I have ever had the right kind of contentment – God has been generous and patient, but I still don’t get it. Again, biblical contentment is conforming our desires with God’s will. Worldly contentment is working to conform our lot in life to our desires. And desires are ok – that’s sometimes how God shows us His plan for us, but putting the desire for something in our hearts, but when the desires become the focus, we have a problem. True joy is the subtle conviction that God is in control. This joy involves accepting God’s authority and plan, and operating within that precious circle of truth.