Sunday, December 11, 2016

My One Self

I listened to a Ted Radio Hour podcast (titled Headspace) the other day and a few things Andrew Soloman said intrigued me-mostly because I could certainly relate.

"The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality."

"Depression is something that is braided so deep into us that there is no separating it from our character and personality."

"There's no sharp line between personality and illness. There's not a self that is the undepressed self that is more real than the depressed self. There's only ourselves." 

I have felt like two different people for a very long time. In fact, when I'm depressed I feel like a totally different person. And when the fog lifts I feel like I've been in a daze, like I've checked out for the last two weeks. What I do remember is fuzzy and I am certainly not proud of how I acted as a wife or mother.

If I say that I don't want my depression to be an excuse for my behavior, I can't just 'space out' for weeks at a time and blame Depressed Abby for the chaos, fallout, and sometimes hurt feelings that are left in her wake. It's easier to say I did it because I was depressed. It's easier to have a scapegoat.

The truth is that I am a busy woman with depression. I have many roles: wife, mother, friend, worker. I don't want to split myself in two anymore. I need to embrace who I am at all stages of my depression--on both good and dark days. And honestly, I think owning it will help.

On bright, beautiful days I know that I am a daughter of the King. I know that I am doing my best to be a respectful and loving wife and mother. I am a giving and caring friend, and a hard worker. I lose those truths on dark days. I forget that I'm still a daughter of the King when it's hard to get out of bed and get dressed. I believe the lie that I'm a terrible wife on the days I cry to my husband and then rest on the couch while he graciously loves on me by feeding and caring for our kids. I feel like a flake when I cancel on my friends, when I can't be social, or am slow at work.

Writing this on a bright day makes aligning these two people seem easy. But it's going to take work to remember I am the same person next time I have a dark day, week, or month. When you move so far from one end of the spectrum to the other, it's hard to remember you're the same person. Depression has a way of stealing your future and your hope. It's the most debilitating part.

I need to claim the same truths on bright days and dark days. I need to write them down, commit them to my memory and my heart, ask others to remind me, and tell them to myself. Next time I'm crying over failure, fear, and exhaustion I will remember:

God loved me so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for my sins and save my life.

My husband showing love to me is not a burden or an inconvience.

Brady and Nola were gifted to me by God because I am ALWAYS the best mother for them.

Claiming those truths won't suddenly make my dark day bright, but it will help me remember who I am. I want to be myself regardless of how my depression makes me feel on a particular day. I don't want to run from my depression anymore. It is as much a part of me as my stubbornness, my joy of sunshine, my love of cooking, and everything else that makes me who I am.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Let's talk about Sex, Ladies.

This post got really long, but I can do what I want, it's my blog. :) I wanted to start with a quick reality check of my life. I want to share what God is teaching me, but I don't want my life to appear all roses all the time--It most definitely is not.

SAD RANT. I have 2 kids and a dog. My house is for sale, and the offer extension for the home we want to buy is up in the air. It's the only house we want right now. So if our house sells and the offer falls through we are basically homeless. Whatever. Speaking of selling our house, since my last post we have had 3 showings and an open house. Another showing today at 1. Showing are encouraging, but also a ton of work. No one really lives in a spotless home all the time. Well, unless you're my one friend who will admit to being flat out crazy about cleaning. Now,  correct my first sentence-I  am a sick mom and I have 2 sick kids . This cough just will not stop and now dizziness and nausea have shown up.  I finally gave in and went into the doctor. I have vertigo, then I don't have vertigo. Also, this may or may not be mono. Just rest. Easier said then done when you work outside the home and have 2 sick, but still active kids. Plus I also like to build up my hubby who is also shouldering where our family will live, balancing our finances, and kicking butt at his job. And don't forget to enter in MOMGUILT over spelling tests, reading progress, and this new level of stubbornness my youngest and strongest-willed child has developed.

This past Tuesday was a dark day for me. I pushed through work, busied myself at home, and kept mostly quiet at small group. I was putting my kids to bed-an hour and a half past their bed time. Guys, I was 100% drained. My lack of patience and uncompassionate attitude towards my over-tired children manifested itself into an actual weight in my chest. I was heaving for breath and crying as I tucked them into their beds, praying they would just comply and close their tired eyes. This Momma was done and went straight to bed. Praise God His mercies are new every morning!

End sad Rant. Now, lets talk about SEX.

I recently listened to a podcast on Song of Solomon. When you're struggling you should go to the Bible first. And we all know the sexist book is Song of Solomon.

Here are two things that most stood out to me.

In Chapter 5 the couple is already married. Their love and love making is described as wine that they can drink deeply. So lets talk about wine.  While wine was a very common drink in biblical times, it's mention is often followed with a warning about over-consumption. We are not to get drunk on wine, do not over-indulge, everything in moderation, don't lose control as a result of your drinking, etc.

But here--when it's the passion and ecstasy of love making, the couple is encouraged to drink deeply.

"Oh, lover and beloved, eat and drink! Yes, drink deeply of this love!" Song of Solomon 5:1

There is no mention of limiting this passion, no warning of over-consumption, nothing telling the lovers to reign it in. No, it's quite the opposite. They have waited for each other, and now they are encouraged to lose themselves in passion, to partake in all the pleasure that God designed sex to be.

As I mentioned before, I like wine. So let's take a look at getting drunk on wine. I know this may not be the most "Christian" way to describe what I'm trying to get at, but I'm going there. Getting drunk on wine can start out to be very pleasant. First of all, wine engages all your senses. It pulls you in with it's delicious scent. It's pleasing to your tongue. And then it takes over your body as the alcohol hits your system. Your inhibitions go down, you feel lighter and happier, and your body may even feel blissful with a bit of tingling. (But hello! Spoiler Alert! Alcohol is a toxin in your body. The Bible tells us not to get drunk on wine for our own physical and emotional safety. Also, hangovers are absolutely not blissful.)

Sex can have all the above mentioned rewards of wine. It will make you feel amazing, exhilarated, and leave you satisfied. And when you wake up in the morning you will still have all those blissful feelings.

If sex is so great, then why do I find myself not wanting it?  

Well, the answer to that question lies in the second lesson I took from Song of Solomon. Solomon and his bride compliment each other on everything. Seriously. Every. Little. Thing. And they do it so eloquently--even using descriptions of gazelle, deer, and flocks of goats--and it still all means lovely sentiments.

However, I don't think that simply giving compliments is the key. The key is that they genuinely believe these compliments. Let that sink in a second. Solomon or his bride did not look for the hidden selfish agenda, didn't feel like that they were being buttered up, and they especially didn't think, "yup, I guess he wants sex tonight." Don't even pretend, I KNOW I'm not the only one who has had that flash of selfish reaction to a compliment from my husband.

Solomon and his bride genuinely believed each other. They built each other up in pure, unadulterated love. For example, take a look at how the bride's opinion of her dark skin changes as the book progresses. Her lover told her over and over, in many different ways, that he was attracted to the very thing that made her feel self conscious. AND SHE BELIEVED HIM. It made their relationship real, raw, and very very exciting.

So here's my challenge.  Start taking a pause when your husband gives you a compliment. Watch his face, see his eyes light up and spark. Take a second and realize that desire IS FOR YOU. I'm gonna be honest here: he is probably thinking about sex. But that's not WHY he complimented you. Think of this, HE WANTS YOU. Despite your self-perceived flaws (which he doesn't even see,) despite your sins, and despite how you may have treated him earlier. You are the absolute pinnacle of perfection for the woman he desires. Let that truth settle on your heart first, and your body's desire for him will soon follow.

You are the absolute pinnacle of perfection for the woman he desires.

It's not going to happen overnight-you may have a lot of cynicism to break down. Or maybe it will, but in a few weeks you have to start all over again. THAT'S OK. Solomon and his bride had to check themselves too. You know what the solution was? Complimenting each other. We have great power in our words.

I know this post is uber long, but here are some other amazing tangible tips I've heard or gathered to help boost your spirits and initiate the mood. Do what you need to to feel confident in your looks. I promise your husband will be excited about you regardless of how you look. But if you feel sexier in lingerie, then go get some! If you feel more confident with your make-up on, then wash your face after. Make your bedroom a haven where you are only husband and wife--not a mom and dad. A friend suggested getting a back rub to start the mood. Find what works best and put it into practice.

I hope this blesses your heart and your relationships. God has done great work in mine as I let these truths play out in my life.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

I Just Need to Start

God and I have been wrestling with this for a long time. I've been avoiding this for a long time. This project has been heavy on my heart and I've simply decided not to do it. I can't see it clearly, I don't know if anyone will read it, if they will show me grace, if it will even help, and I don't have a thorough and well thought out plan (if you know me you know this is TERRIFYING.)

I'm a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, worker, and team member. I suffer with self-doubt, self-worth, depression, anxiety, jealousy, and all sorts of sin. I've been on medication, off medication, and back and and forth again. I spend a significant amount of my time crying. So much so that if I disappear to my room, my son immediately asks if I'm crying. I am quick tempered with my husband and children. I like wine a lot. A LOT.

But here is what I know for a fact. I am no longer a slave to sin.

When I first learned this concept, being free from sin, I understood it on such a elementary level. Jesus saved me from my sins. While this is true, I don't think that's what Paul is talking about in Romans 6. It's not just freedom from the punishment my sins deserve. It's freedom from a life wrought with sin. I don't have to fear anymore. The weight of sin can no longer weigh me down. I have a choice, I have the Spirit of God to help me, and I'm free. More specifically, I don't have to fear the unknown about obeying God's call on my life. I'm free to be obedient and to receive his generosity as He sees fit.

So here's where I get hung up with my depression and anxiety. It is so real that it intertwines itself into every little part of my life. When all you want to do for the day is lay down and watch TV, even the simpliest of tasks feel monumental. Taking care of my family suddenly feels like a punishment--and because depression is so illogical, the punishment feels like it's never going to end.

Things I Loathe About Depression
Physical aches and pains.
Mood swings.
When selecting an outfit brings me to tears and negatively changes my opinion of myself.
Feeling in a trance for weeks at a time.
Honestly not caring--which then makes me feel like a terrible person because I do want to show empathy for others.
Thinking my current situation will go on forever.
I miss wanting to sew, knit, garden, read and cook amazing things.
Where on earth did my sex drive go?!?

Each item on this list makes it incredibly easy to just lay down for the day and give up. I know that because I've done it. And my husband, even though he doesn't always understand, shows me love by letting me shut down. I do mean to brag when I say that God blessed me with an amazing man.

I don't want to need to shut down. I want the good that God has planned for me. I want to be the woman, wife, and mother I see when I'm praying over my day. I do not want to use depression and anxiety as a justification to sin. I don't want it to stop me from creating beautiful fruits of the Spirit. I don't want it to stop me from having sex with my husband. I don't want it to separate me from my friends and family.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb. THANK YOU for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous--and how well I know it. 
Psalm 139:13-14

God in His sovereign wisdom decided that I would have depression and anxiety.  He didn't give it to me so that I could wallow in self pity over wearing the wrong shoes with a certain cut of jeans (yes, it happens.) He gave it to me so that HE would be glorified when I overcome through HIS strength. It is easy--absolutely not. Am I going to fail miserably most days--without a doubt.

Like Paul, I've begged God to take away my depression. I've begged for a stronger desire for empathy, love towards others, and to physical want my husband. The best solution in my mind is for God to just take it away! Problem solved. But what does he say to Paul when he begs for his thorn to be removed?

Each time He said to me, "My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness."
2nd Corinthians 12:9

I pray his power works through my weakness. I pray He uses my life experiences to help other's with depression.

Next week: How to love and care for your husband when you don't want sex. Spoiler alert! I don't actually have the answer, but I'm working on it!