Tag Archives: introspection

Excess

[Imperfect Fridays are the day I take out of the week to peel back the polished layer of the blogosphere and get real with you.]

I’d like to not be vulnerable right now. I’d like to not share what I’m about to share. But, that’s exactly why I need to share it.

I’ve struggled with my weight for a long time. I was never a rail-thin kid– I always had that tummy. The one that’s adorable on kids who aren’t me, but of course, I hated on myself. When I quit swimming after 6th grade, I gained weight even more easily, all the while hitting that age where self-esteem really tanks.
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And, so began my love/hate/addiction relationship with food. And, my hate relationship with my body.

Sometimes, I look back at pictures of 15 year old me, or 17 year old me, or 21 year old me, and I just want to reach through the screen and say “Girl, you are alright. Don’t worry about your weight… yet.”
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But, I could never have convinced myself of that at any of those ages, because I just didn’t believe it about myself. I’m slowly learning is that there’s no point in trying to fix the weight issue(belief or legitimate), until I fix that heart issue.

I will never stop struggling with my weight until I stop struggling with food. Until, I come to terms with my body and come to terms with food.

Maybe that makes no sense. But, here’s the story. Between the two adoptions, I got into weight loss and exercise and eating right. I was probably at my strongest and healthiest (although not thinnest) ever. IMG_2130

Now, almost 3 years later, I’m at my heaviest. I gained it all back, and then some. Yes, that’s what you always hear about fad diets, but that wasn’t me. I was eating well– not diet food, but real food. I was going to the gym– and running and working out at home. I knew and still know what foods are healthy and what foods aren’t. I know my ideal caloric intake in a day, approximately how many calories are in most foods, the calorie deficient needed to drop a pound, and so on. I love knowledge.

So, where’s the problem?

The problem is, I’m also a food junkie. I dealt with my weight issues, not with my heart. Not my motivation to eat or my honest opinions on the person in the mirror.  Are you following?

I had the discipline to cut my calories and work out regularly, but I still didn’t like myself anymore. I still didn’t find a different way to handle my problems than “eating my feelings”. And, so when things got hard, when I felt more stressed than ever(hello, second adoption), I had nothing to fall back on. No better crisis management than my deal old friend carbs. There was no better reward or comfort than the one I found in food.

It’s a miserable cycle– have you noticed? Stress = excess eating = excess weight. Excess weight = more stress = excess eating.

Why am I sharing this? Have I figured it out?

Nope, sorry, guys, this is Imperfect Friday. This is where I air my dirty laundry and try to be a bit more real with you all. I don’t have to figure it out to share, do I?

Tonight, we spent time with some new friends and this sweet mom, a photographer, said, “do you want me to take a picture of you with Lena?” First, my brain said “NO WAY!”, but then it said “Embrace the camera. Save this moment for Lena. She doesn’t think you’re fat. She thinks you’re beautiful.” “Yes,” I told her and passed my camera off.

And, when I flipped back through my photos later in the night, I had the reaction I knew I’d have. It’s the same reaction I had when I saw our beautiful family photos in October. That deep sinking feeling most women, most people, know. “I really look like that?!”
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And now, I shared it with you guys anyways. Part of me believes that the first step to healing is to rip off the band-aid.

Not the step to dropping pounds, but the step to reconciling my body and my heart. My biggest motivation of all is that I don’t want to pass this body hatred along to Lena. Whether she’s always lean or whether she’s 300lbs, I want her to get that she’s okay… and she’s beautiful. At 6 years old, she proclaims she is beautiful. I absolutely believe that to be true. And, she frequently tells me I am. But when will she begin to see through my “thank you!” and notice I don’t quite believe it? When will she start to comprehend society’s millions of messages that thin = beautiful and look to my example for truth? And what kind of example can I be for her, at any size, if I don’t truly believe that all people are beautiful, myself included?

No answers, just more questions.

Reflection

I got a ton of nice email, comments, texts and calls after my post about depression yesterday. Thank you, all, for being so respectful and loving. I’m glad that my story resonated with you.

A big question I was asked today was “how do you feel after writing that?” Fine, seriously fine, not deceptively fine. I’m not struggling with depression right now. That was part of my motivation of writing that right now– it’s a lot easier to put everything into words when I am a bit detached from it. I felt very nervous about hitting “publish”, but I was quickly reminded that all of the love, encouragement, and hearing how people could relate is absolutely worth the potential backlash.

My mom sent me this NPR story from Hyberbole and a Half‘s Allie Brosh today. It’s about her experience with depression and worth a listen.

I think if you know me at all or have read my blog for any length of time, you know how much I love walks by myself. This has always been one of the best ways for me to clear my head and it helps a ton with feelings of depression, as well as everyday stress.

Today, I was able to sneak off with my dogs for a bit. The weather was perfect. It felt like spring. 70 degrees with a warm breeze. I have a feeling I’m going to read back on my blog someday and be annoyed at how often I mention the weather. But, you guys, it was PERFECT.

The clouds and the reflection in this little creek were exquisite.
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Another reflection. I love capturing these reflections with my camera right now. How appropriate, right?
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The woods at dusk. This would certainly freak some people out, but I love it. 200+ pounds of protective dogs doesn’t hurt either.
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I turned my camera to auto for these last two photos. Sorry, sorry.

My furry companions, with glowing eyes.
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These two had near-matching PJs tonight. However, they would not hold still for a photo.
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Shadows

I’ve been trying to write this for years. To share a piece of myself in the hope that it might help others. Here goes.

In grade school, I was always smiling. I was one of the teachers’ favorites– agreeable, sweet, friendly. Happy.
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I’m sure many people I know casually would still describe me that way.

But, the truth is that I’ve always been good at “putting it on”. Smiling can quickly convince people of much– that you are friendly and that you are keeping it together. It’s convenient. Smile and move on with your life.

And, a smile can be deceiving. It can be the bare minimum to get people to leave you alone, to convince them that you do have it all together, that you don’t need their help, thankyouverymuch.

I’ve mastered that use. The quiet deception.  Of course, I’m okay– I’m smiling!

In reality, I’ve lived with depression for most of my life. I first remember having the realization that I was depressed when I was about 12. By the time, I hit high school, I was profoundly depressed. At 16, you can pass off barely crawling out of bed as a grumpy teenager.

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On the outside, I was a success. I had a job, a boyfriend, and many friends. Honor Roll, Odyssey of the Mind, Key Club, choir, student government, newspaper. . .  that well-rounded, well-involved, well-liked student. And, I was living with depression. Intense, very real, very dangerous depression.

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As much as I like to keep it hidden, I’ve lived with depression ever since. There are seasons where it goes away entirely, where I can feel everything fully and happily, but there are many seasons where I live in the shadows of depression. Much of college. The fall after I met Aaron.  After we adopted Reed and Lena, those hard months while we waited to bring Gus home, and again after we adopted Gus.

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I’ve learned that many people do not understand depression. “I was depressed after I failed an exam.” “I was depressed when my boyfriend broke up with me.” It’s possible that a difficult life event can trigger depression, but more often, that feeling is just prolonged, deep sadness. Sadness is an emotion. It’s fleeting. When you are sad, the feeling is real in that moment, but you can still keep perspective on your life. And perhaps most importantly, you have a reason to be sad.

Depression is a disease. It’s a dark filter over your life. It makes the sadness sadder, the happiness less joyful, the anger more intense. It’s an unshakable weight, pulling all of your emotions down a notch, making them murkier. Or, sometimes, it makes everything duller. Where you would feel sad, where you would feel angry, where you would feel happy, all you can feel is apathy. “I don’t care.” “May I please go back to bed now?”

I chose this season to share a piece of my story with depression because this season is when so many people feel that dark cloud creeping in. It’s the season when I always fight the darkness off as long as I can, but it always finds me, at least a little. I know I’m not alone and that’s really want I want you to know, too: you are not alone. While I am not an expert and my experiences are only my own, there are a few things that I want to share, for those walking through this and those supporting them.

  1. Depression will wreck you. One day, you will find yourself different. Angry, ungrateful, apathetic to the world. Not yourself. This is the first thing that I want you to know about depression, whether it is you or your loved one dealing with it. You have NOT changed. You are sick. There is nothing wrong with your attitude that can be fixed with a change of perspective. Depression is burying you. This is not your fault.
  2. There may be no why. Well, there is a biological why, but there may not be a why in your life circumstances.  Rich people get depressed, poor people get depressed. Both Christians and atheists get depressed. Anyone can get depressed, regardless of how perfectly everything in their life is going. Please, please do not ask “why” someone is depressed.
  3. It’s okay to be depressed.  Do everything you can to fight your way out of it. Seek out people who can help you. Call your doctor and a counselor. But, also, know it’s okay to be depressed. Recognize your feelings and let yourself feel them.
  4. A depressed person is not an easy person to be with. No matter how much your friends and family in your life love you, depression is hard to take. Remember how I said it changes you? It’s not pleasant to have a new, miserable version of your loved one. But, they still love you and care about you. They want to see you get better. 
  5. You are important. To quote one of my favorite T.V. shows, Doctor Who, “Nine hundred years of time and space and I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important”. The line is fiction, but the sentiment is true. Your experiences, especially these hard ones, they make you important. Your tenacity, your survival, the depth of your feeling, that can be a gift to others. You can do great things.  Many amazing people have lived with depression– Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, J.K. Rowling, Mozart, to name a few. It’s a miserable experience, but you are sharing it with some of the most intelligent, compassionate, creative people who have ever lived.
  6. Lastly, remember, this is not the real you; this is the disease. Hang on to the real you as tightly as you can.

While this is my story and I’ve wanted to write it for many years, this was partly inspired by Kevin Breel’s Ted Talk. And, I’ve also been inspired by Glennon Melton’s blog Momastery, her call for truth-telling. Ann Voskamp has also written some great stuff on her experience with depression, my favorite being What Christians Need to Know About Mental Health.

“Life is brutal. But it’s also beautiful. Brutiful, I call it. Life’s brutal and beautiful are woven together so tightly that they can’t be separated. Reject the brutal, reject the beauty. So now I embrace both, and I live well and hard and real.” -Glennon Melton

[Photo Credit: First photo was taken by a family member, likely my mother. Photos 2&3 were taken by my friend Ashleigh Millman. And, the last one was taken by me with the help of self timer.]

On Shaming

I failed again yesterday. I wrote a blog post on giving myself grace on Thursday and on Friday, I woke up to find myself in almost instant frustration.

Gus said “no” a few too many times. I caught myself telling him “no” and I began to dig in. “He says no because you tell him ‘no’. He wouldn’t say it all the time if you didn’t say it all the time.” Each time he said “no”, I dug in a little harder, repeating this thought in my head.

And, we had a rotten day. Tired. Frustrated. I seriously doubted my parenting abilities once again.

I saw down for a few minutes in the evening– to catch my thoughts or maybe just to check out. I was reading posts on my favorite parenting forum. This post in particular was advice to someone new. One part read something along the lines of “Shaming is not okay. Shaming your kids is not healthy. And don’t shame yourself either.” Great advice, I thought. I don’t want to shame my kids– I know that’s not going to teach them or help them grow into healthy adults.

Gus walked over to me. “No,” he said.

“There it is again. I wish he’d say ‘yes’ instead. This is all my fault. Don’t you remember when he said ‘yeah’? Now you can’t stop saying ‘no’ and he can’t stop saying ‘no’.

Wait. Go back. When he said ‘yeah’ all the time? Can’t stop saying ‘no’? He went through a ‘yeah’ phase. And an ‘all done’ phase. A few days ago was the ‘ma’ phase. And the very first one was the ‘papa’ phase. This is how he learns a new word. Don’t even Reed and Lena do the same thing? Repeating it and using it until they understand it?”

It hit me. It was not my fault. Sure, I do tell him “no” a bit too often when I could try something more directive. But, I had blamed myself and lived my day shaming myself over and over again.

Where did we get yesterday? No where. I don’t think we took a step back, but no forward progress was made. If anything, I dug my heels a bit deeper into the mud of mistakes and shame I am trying to wade out of.

Why share this? Why be honest and raw in such a public place? I am not alone. So many of us fail to give ourselves grace when we need it the most. Or perhaps we heap the shame and frustration on someone else. If I(or my spouse) didn’t do xyz, my child would not do this bad behavior. Maybe you are right and there is some truth to that. So begin to stop doing xyz. Parent yourself with the same grace that you want to give your child. And that means gently reminding yourself when you do xyz. GENTLY.

Today, we began a new day. Gus told me “no” and I kissed him. I asked him if he wanted to eat breakfast and as he started to say “no”, I enthusiastically said “yeayeayeah!” and we ran over to his seat. “Yeayeayeah!,” he repeated.

And today, we will mess up again. I will say “no”. Gus will say “no”. It’s very likely I’ll even begin to shame myself again. But, I will begin my day here knowing that mistakes are okay, shaming is not, and that I want our house to be full of grace.

Making Mistakes

I have not been writing much lately. I have a hard time writing when I am stressed. Everything seems to come out negative or frustrated and I have a tendency to say things which just aren’t honest, valuable, or uplifting. I don’t shoot for all of those things in every post, but I try to at least find one– especially honest.

Life is stressful. Having someone’s life in your hands 24/7  is a big deal, especially someone tiny and sneaky who seems hell-bent on putting himself in the most danger possible. I find parenting so hard and sometimes I question whether or not I am really cut out for it. I get angry, frustrated, and tired often. I am weak and tell myself that I am not enough.

Last night, I was praying about that, and I wanted to share something that I wrote…

I ask God, “did I hear you wrong? Did you create me for this life?” 

I dare to question if I am capable, instead of resting on and seeking counsel in my creator, my husband’s creator, my children’s creator, my friends’ creator– the creator of all things and the author of all of our stories. 

I can tell God that I am not able. I can let go of any of my own weaknesses and my own strong will and instead ask him to work in me and through me.

I can chose to never be more than I am today. I can chose to “stay stuck” as a friend of mine would say. Or, I can chose to be more. Simon to Peter. Saul to Paul. They could have held on to their weaknesses and never grown into who Christ called them to be. Simon Peter could have given up and only been known for his denial of Christ, but instead he became the rock of the church. And Paul could have lived in guilt over his persecution of Christians, instead of sharing the gospel throughout the Roman empire. What would the church and the gospel be without Peter and Paul?

I am human. And it is okay for me to make mistakes. But, it is not okay for me to know myself by them and build my life around my mistakes.

So, I am choosing to be more. I am choosing to belong to a kingdom that is not of this world. I am choosing not to limit myself, but to let Christ renew and change me.

This is one of my favorite verses, and I know I’ve shared it a few times before, but I need to share it again.

But he said to me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That’s why I delight in the weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Good Morning, Mama

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Good morning, mama.

I’m guessing yesterday didn’t go quite like you hoped. Maybe you forgot to use your gentle voice as you told someone “gentle hands.” Maybe you slept through your alarm and someone was late for school. Maybe you didn’t get the dishes/laundry/dinner done quite like you planned. Maybe your day went incredibly well, but still, bedtime still ended in tears.

I want you to know that you are loved and beautiful, apart from all the mistakes you made. All of your successes and all of your mistakes, no matter how big or how small, aren’t a factor in this. You are beautiful and you are loved, because you are a child of God. Created in his image.

Again, today, you will make mistakes.

It’s okay! You are not perfect. You were never made to be perfect in this world.

In fact, there’s no perfect answer. No right answer. None of us could do your job correctly, at least not every minute. This isn’t a math problem or some mechanics that need to be repaired. There’s no manual. No parenting book can walk you through this entirely. No expert can always give you the perfect advice. No, you are a human, and you are caring for, loving, carefully raising a human. A unique, beautiful, loved, fearfully and wonderfully made person. This is a journey, like training for a marathon, each step strengthening you to make your next. And you are not alone.

You were made to run this race with God, to take this adventure each day with God. To grow with God. To seek God and learn to love like God loves you. You were made to rely on God.

So, today, persist. You will make mistakes again. It’s part of parenting– it’s part of all life, in fact. Pray. Forgive yourself and let go. Learn. Begin again.

You can do this. Press on.

Love,

me

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Missing out on what?

This was not part of my plan. I did not want to parent 3 children before my 25th birthday, nor did I ever imagine I could. Sometimes, I feel crazy… actually, I always feel crazy when someone asks me my age, or when I am with people my own age. Yes, I am 24, and my husband and I have adopted 3 kids internationally. Yes, it is crazy. No, it was never part of MY plan. That’s what I often want to say, sort of shrugging off my own participation in the matter.

But, no, you know what’s crazy?

Missing out on this…
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or this,
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or this.
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My best moments aren’t spent being 24, being carefree or whatever 24 year olds do… my best moments are spent with these 3, loving these 3 and being loved by them.

Missing out on the way Gus runs into my arms and slobbers all over my face. Missing out on Lena’s tender hugs, which make me feel like the most special person in the world. Missing out on Reed’s silly jokes, which make me laugh until my stomach hurts.

I won’t lie… there is a cost– a cost to adoption and a cost to parenting, but the reward?

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Extravagant.

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” -Art Williams