Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Memories

I just wanted to share a few pictures with you from our Christmas holidays. We had such a good time! Our kids are at really fun ages right now (but I guess all ages are fun, right?), and I've discovered that Christmas just gets more fun each and every year! (I have more pictures that haven't made it from my camera to the computer yet, so maybe I'll post some more later.)
This picture was taken after the Children's Program at our church. Both of the kids participated, and Mark also had a part, so I got to: 1) be the official filmer; 2) give directions to stand up or stand still or sing or be quiet in the best nonchalant Mom sign language I could; and 3) continue to film even when I wanted to crawl under the pew when Hannah stood center stage to sing the final song of the program (as opposed to being back with the rest of the choir, where she was supposed to be!)

The kids probably get weary of Mommy and her camera during the holidays. There are so many photo opportunities, and I just can't pass them by! So some of my pictures include squirmy little angels!

This was right after our Christmas Eve service--the first one (6pm), that is. Our church also has an 11pm service with communion, so it is usually well after midnight before Mark is home on Christmas Eve (I guess that is officially Christmas Day). Fortunately Santa was already taken care of by the time he got home around 12:30 am--not too much assembly required for this year's Santa goodies (unlike a few years in the past!), so I was able to take care of it myself, with some help from my mom.

Nothing warms my heart more than a good picture with my kids and/or Mark. And this one will go down as one of my very favorites! A few months before Christmas, I found these cute snowman sweaters for Hannah and me to wear--our first "matching" outfit. I could hardly wait! I can remember as a girl seeing other moms and daughters dressed in precious matching outfits at Christmas Eve services and dreaming of the day that my daughter and I would dress alike. That day has finally come.

God is so good. We are so blest in so many ways.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sweet Conversation

I wanted to share a conversation with you that I had with Benjamin a few weeks ago. I was sitting in the floor, unpacking Christmas ornaments, and he picked up a framed picture of my sister, Susan:

B: Mommy, who is this?
K: That's Susan. She's my sister.
B: She used to be your sister?
K: No, she's still my sister, but she lives in heaven with God.
B: Is that for real? (he's learning "not real", i.e. on TV versus "real", i.e. real life)
K: Yes, it's for real.
B: Aww (in a sad way). Did I know her when she was born (alive)?
K: No, Sweetie, you didn't.
B: Did you know her when she was born?
K: Yes, I did.
B: (after pausing to think) So she's in heaven doing work with God?
K: (Smiling despite the tears filling my eyes) Yes, she is.
B: Do you think she watches over us every day?
K: Yes, Baby, I do.

We knew Benjamin was beginning to grasp the concepts of death and heaven, we just weren't sure the extent to which he understood--until this conversation. It was precious. I loved him saying, "So she's in heaven doing work with God?"

Wouldn't you love to know what that looks like to him in his head?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Battle

My battle began 14 years ago when I was a freshman in college. Looking back to that time, and knowing what I now know, I think the battle was fuelled by a combination of the stresses of moving away from home for the first time and starting a new chapter of my life as a college freshman, topped off with playing college basketball. That's a pretty heavy load of stress and change, and my body rebelled under that pressure.

For all I knew, that was the way life was supposed to be. I didn't know any better, having never been a college freshman or played college basketball before, not to mention never having moved away from home. But the day came that I lay sobbing on my bed, alone in my dorm room, and I realized that if someone were to walk through my door and ask me why I was crying, I would have no idea how to answer them. Yet I could not stop crying.

Thus began my battle with depression.

As always, the grace of God was present in abundance during this time. I was diagnosed with depression and began taking medication about two weeks before my best friend and roommate was tragically killed in a car accident. I shutter to think the condition I might have found myself in had I not already begun taking antidepressants.

I remember being angry about my diagnosis of depression. Internally I was kicking and screaming at the thought of being put on medication. Why did I have to take a pill to make me feel right or good or somewhat normal? It shouldn't be that way. I was embarrassed, not wanting anyone to know that I'd been diagnosed with depression for fear they would think I was crazy. And the cherry to top it all off was when my family doctor referred me to a psychologist to help me sort through this confusing time in life. Heaven forbid anyone know I was getting counseling. What would they think of me? Turned out to be one of the best moves I've ever made in life, but I certainly didn't know it at the time as an eighteen-year-old.

As I write this, I almost feel as though I'm posting a scantily-clad photo of myself on the Internet for all the world to see. The clothes we wear cover a variety of imperfections and perceived faults. The facades we wear can do the same. To disrobe myself on an emotional level for all the world to read is a bit scary. Ninety eight percent of those reading this will have no idea that depression has been a part of my life. I've had to work to come to terms with this being a part of who I am.

But I also know first-hand that God can indeed "make all things work together for good, for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose."

Since my battle began 14 years ago, this depression has dotted the canvas of my life. I've learned that for the most part, my bouts or episodes or whatever you want to call them are brought on by high stress--good or bad. One of the times I crashed the hardest was just a few weeks after Mark and I were married--the happiest time of my life. It was especially frustrating and sad to look at myself in pictures from our honeymoon in Hawaii and wonder where that person had suddenly disappeared to. Other times have been more obvious--the sudden death of my sister, moving to a new town.

But my recent episode came completely out of the blue. Unexpected. No obvious explanation. Frustrating.

My last post was on October 15--not quite two months ago. That was when I realized I was not going to be able to pull myself out of the slump I found myself in without some outside help. That last post detailed the trip Mark and I were about to take--a trip I was very excited about. A trip that I had looked forward to for weeks. A trip during which I spent much of the time fighting the darkness and anxiety that threatened to overwhelm me, not wanting to let Mark know what was really going on inside of me. Not wanting to ruin the trip we'd been planning for so long. By the time we were headed home, I could hide it no more, and I spent much of the four hour trip home in tears. Great way to end a vacation.

So that explains my absence these past several weeks.

After I was diagnosed with depression and became more aware of its prevalence in our society, I made the decision that I would try to be as transparent as I could when the right situations presented themselves in order to let God use me to help someone else who might be travelling this dark, lonely, frustrating road. That was a very hard decision to make. It meant letting my guard down and allowing others to see that I don't always have it together. That became especially difficult when this Type A perfectionist became a preacher's wife.

There are many lessons I've learned on the battlefield of fighting depression:
  • God's grace is indeed oh so sufficient. He is so much bigger than even depression and strong enough to carry me for as long as I need to be carried.
  • Despite what you see in others in the comings and goings of everyday life, you never know what battles they fight behind closed doors. I can't tell you how many times I've heard from those I've shared my story with, "I had no idea. You seem like you have it so together. You seem like everything is going so well." My personal battles have made me much more compassionate in this way, and I try hard to never forget this when dealing with others.
  • God can use medication as a means of healing. This is a controversy, especially among Christians, and I'm not here to debate anyone. But it is my own personal belief that medication is one of the avenues God uses to help those of us fighting our way through this strange monster called depression.
  • God can use counseling as a means of healing. I have become a very strong advocate for professional, Christian counseling and have personally experienced the difference it can make. God is our ultimate source of healing, but I believe He uses many different avenues to do so. I have learned that there is no shame in receiving counseling, and I believe it is a good idea, even when life is rocking along and going well. We take our cars in for periodic tune-ups in order for them to run efficiently, so why not take ourselves in for a periodic tune-up?
  • Satan loves an opportunity to kick us while we are down. Even though depression is not always a spiritual issue (again, a controversial opinion), there certainly can be a spiritual side to the battle that must be addressed and fought against as well. Praise God, victory is ours to claim because "He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world."

I have missed my bloggy friends these past several weeks, but my time has been and is continuing to be focused on getting myself as healthy as I can for the benefit of myself and my family. It's hard to be the wife and mommy I want to be when there have been days that just getting out of bed is an accomplishment.

I am doing better. I am on the mend and focusing on enjoying this beautiful Christmas season that is upon us. I am drinking in every ounce of joy and excitement and wonder that is a part of every day when experiencing Christmas through the eyes of a four-year-old and two-year-old.

Talk about good medicine.