Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Change of Word for the Year 2014


I wrote last week about my word for the new year- I said that it was going to be HEALTH.  I honestly didn't pray at all about it... just assumed that it made the most sense :-).  Health is one of my goals, but it isn't supposed to be my focus. 

I spent quite a bit of time in prayer yesterday, and it was amazing.  God has taught me so much this year, and I have come a LONG way from where I was a year ago... actually, I've come a long way even in the past few months. 

With all the time I spent with Jesus, I came to one conclusion: my word for 2014 needs to be LIVE. 

LIVE life.
LIVE for Jesus.
LIVE to give.
Eat and exercise to LIVE.
LIVE to love others.
LIVE to serve.
LIVE to be who I am called to be. 



These aren't "resolutions," just what I feel God telling me to do this year... I have just survived for far too long... It's time I LIVE. 

This is my song for the year- Running to You by Shane and Shane
"My heart just started beating; Your breath filled up my lungs.  My eyes are finally seeing what You've done and who I am!
To You, I'm a dead man raised, a liberated slave.  I'm running.  To You, my hands are raised.  I'm giving everything!  I'm running!
I'm running, I'm running, I'm running, running to You!"

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Weekly Meal Plan: January 6th-12th UPDATED

*****UPDATE... Apparently I did make this plan too early... I have made some changes based on some crockpot recipes that I have found (and other recipes that I like).  I moved some of the recipes from this meal plan to the following week... so they are still being used, just a week later!

I realize this is pretty early to write/publish a meal plan for the second week of January when it isn't even January yet, but I'm doing some early prep/shopping, so I wanted to go ahead and have it written! 

One thing to keep in mind... some of the recipes/meals aren't considered "Paleo" because they contain dairy or legumes, and I'm okay with that.  My goal is mostly whole, real foods! 

Breakfasts and lunches will be in list form, and the dinners will be listed by day (based on what is going on at home that evening). 

A few more things to know are that we will probably do the same meal every Wednesday (because of church) and Friday (because of game night).  I also typically do a roasted chicken once a week because my kids love it, and I can use the leftover chicken in other meals.  I try to keep it as simple as possible!

Breakfasts: (alternate the following)
  • Green smoothies (my favorite is kale, frozen banana/pineapple/mango, Greek yogurt, and raw or almond milk), boiled egg
  • Grain-free banana bread, fried egg
  • Scrambled eggs and veggies (zucchini, bell pepper, onion)
  • Uncured Bacon and scrambled eggs
Lunches: (alternate the following)
  • Boiled egg, raw cheddar, zucchini muffin, raw veggies and hummus
  • Uncured ham, raw cheddar, paleo bread with raw honey, raw veggies and hummus
  • Salad: Spinach, kalamata olives, sliced bell pepper, sliced uncured turkey, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette (1 part olive oil and 1 part balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp fresh pepper)
  • Leftovers
Dinners:

Monday, January 6th
Crockpost Whole Chicken
Roasted asparagus (I linked this recipe because this is basically how I make it!)
Quinoa (cooked in chicken stock)

Tuesday, January 7th
Skillet Honey Pork Chops (recipe from eMeals)

  • 6 boneless pork chops
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon pastured butter

Season both sides of pork chops with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-
high heat; add pork chops, in 2 batches if necessary, and reduce heat to medium. Cook chops until well browned and juices run clear, about 10 minutes; transfer each batch to serving plate, and cover with foil. Add onion and thyme to skillet; cook 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in ¾ cup water; increase heat to medium-high. Bring liquid to a boil; simmer until liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Stir in honey; add butter, swirling until melted. Serve onion mixture over pork chops.

Sweet Potato Planks (also from eMeals)

  • 4 medium-size sweet potatoes, cut into wedges about ½-inch thick
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with foil. Toss sweet potatoes with oil in a large bowl; sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper. Toss well. Spread sweet potatoes on baking sheets. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until tender, turning once or twice.

Wednesday, January 8th
Burrito Bowls
  • Cooked Pinto Beans
  • Brown rice
  • Leftover chicken (from Monday)
  • Avocado, tomato, and raw cheddar
Thursday, January 9th
Venison Vegetable Soup

Friday, January 10th
Game night foods:
  • Coconut oil/sea salt organic popcorn (melt 3 tbsp. of coconut oil in a pot, pour in 1/4 cup popcorn, cover, and move pot back and forth until all corn is popped)
  • Raw veggies with mashed avocado
  • Fresh pineapple, apple, and banana with honey Greek yogurt
  • Uncured salami
  • Raw cheddar
Saturday, January 11th
Citrus Chicken Thighs (this recipe is modifed a bit from Emeals)
  • Marinate chicken in 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup lime juice, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Pan-sear chicken in olive oil
Roasted veggies- diced/sliced sweet potato, onions, bell pepper, broccoli with olive oil/sea salt
Quinoa (cooked in chicken stock)

Sunday, January 12th
Baked sweet potatoes with Kerrygold butter and coconut sugar or sucanat (or baked russet potatoes with all the toppings), salad

Snacks:
  • Raw veggies and fruits
  • Apple or banana and nut butter
  • Homemade Lara bars 
  • Boiled eggs with real salt
  • Raw cheddar cubes
  • Nuts and seeds with coconut chips and dried fruit
  • Paleostix

Transitioning to Nutritious Foods in a Balanced Way


One of the things that I have struggled with in the past (when eating nutritiously) is balance.  I completely clean out my pantry (because that's what all the blogs say to do), and throw out anything that is not nutritious.  I focus 100% on a specific way of eating, and I lose my life in it.  It only lasts for a little while because I realize that living that way isn't real life... especially with a full time job. 

One of the mistakes that I made in the past when trying to go gluten-free/doing the Paleo/Primal way of eating is trying to replace the baking that I did with gluten-free baking.  Instead of just focusing on eating meats/eggs/cheese/veggies/fruits/etc, I was trying to bake all these foods that didn't turn out really well... which left me frustrated... and left me giving up.  I will do some baked-foods, but not a whole lot... and the ones that I will do will be simple!

I also have decided that completely gluten-free is unrealistic for a busy life (especially for someone who doesn't have to omit it for specific health issues).  Like I said in my last post, 80/20 is my goal... and my focus will be more on adding nutritious foods into my diet and less on taking foods out.  Over time, adding in the nutritious foods will decrease the "bad foods." :-)

It is SO easy to get lost in all the blogs out there and feel that unless you're doing everything the way they say, you're failing.

I don't have time for that way of thinking, nor is that healthy.

I've learned so much over the years about eating nutritious foods, and I'm going to do my best to put that into the new lifestyle of eating well/exercising.  And if I "fail," I'll just give myself grace and move forward. 

I'm working on a post with my meal plan.  This plan will start the week January 6th (we won't even be home until the 1st, and that's mid-week... I like starting my meal plans on Mondays!).  I'll be working towards transitioning until then... slowly adding things in. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Word for 2014: Health


When I started teaching full time, I pretty much let everything else go by the wayside.  I decided at the beginning of the school year that I needed to be able to focus on my family and my job, and that was all I could handle.  Now that my mental health has improved, I realize I can now move on to the next important thing: my physical health.

I try to always come up with a "word for the year" as a focus (because let's face it, New Year's Resolutions typically fall flat by about mid-January).  My word for 2014 is HEALTH.  In this, my friend and I are going to work together to eat more real foods and exercise regularly.  There are a few things that are necessary to make this work (for both of us... we're both full time teachers): simple, inexpensive, and balanced.  The goal is a more Paleo/Primal way of eating (low grains, more meats/eggs/veggies, but not dairy-free), but I cannot obsess over it, so I'm thinking of making a goal to eat this way about 80% of the time.  That's where the balance comes in. 

Coming soon...
  • My weekly meal plans with simple real food recipes
    • These will include breakfasts, to-go lunches, and simple dinners
    • These will also include the prep work that will be necessary to make this work
  • My weekly grocery list
    • The main stores that I shop at are Costco (for bulk items) and Trader Joe's (for the weekly foods)
    • I will also use a local food co-op for raw milk, yogurt, cream, and eggs (it's not necessary to do this, but I have the resource, so I will use it!)
  • My exercise plan
    • Yet again, keeping it simple to be consistent
I have been trying to get back to eat better/exercise more consistently but have struggled to due to no planning (and I NEED accountability).  That's why I'm starting the new year with a plan: it'll help me to follow through!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Difference Between Anxiety/Depression and "Normal" Emotions



I have struggled with anxiety and depression for years.  Years.  I don't remember a time that I didn't struggle with it.  I remember feeling like the world was ending on a regular basis as a kid.  I remember freaking out inside on a regular basis... especially in high school.

Losing Joey the way I did, then losing other people in my family, then moving, then moving again, then having babies and struggling with postpartum issues, then changing jobs, then........ well, life has been hard...

Like I've mentioned so many times on here and my old blog, it all hit really hard this past summer.  I think all of the things that I've been trying to "be strong" through just overwhelmed me, and I wasn't able to be strong any more.

Often, I believe out of trying to be encouraging, people would tell me that my feelings were "normal."  It was normal to be overwhelmed and have feelings of anxiety.  It was "normal" to feel depressed at times.  It was normal to have bad days.  It was normal to be frustrated with my kids and yell.  It was normal to feel like a bad mom.  It was normal to need alone time.

What I don't think they knew about telling me that how I was feeling was "normal" was the fact that it made me struggle to hope.  I assumed that because this was "normal," I would live in the deep pit that I lived in for the rest of my life.

I was told to focus on the good in my life; I have so much to be thankful for.

I was told that it was a choice... I could choose to live in anxiety/depression, or I could choose to live in peace.

Again, because of all of these words, I felt more defeated.  I kept thinking that I was doing something wrong; I should have been able to stop those feelings.  I have no reason to be anxiety or depressed...

Now that I'm not living in the deep pit of anxiety and depression (which I attribute to finding the right combination of medications and counseling), I now know that those "words of advice" were all wrong. 

I'm not here to make anyone feel bad... just to shed some light on what anxiety and depression is like, and they are not "normal" feelings that can be controlled.

I had a bad day yesterday.  I came home feeling as though my ability to control my class was completely gone... and that must mean that I can't teach (never mind the fact that it was the day before Christmas break and it was "Winter Party Day").  Then, out of stress, I wasn't the nicest to my kids.  Then, even though it was our 10 year anniversary, I didn't pay any extra attention to my amazing husband, even though he deserves the world.

I woke up in the middle of the night after a bad dream (I won't even go there), laid in bed, and over-analyzed everything for a little while.

The beautiful thing, though, is that this over-analyzing didn't last the rest of the night.  I over-analyzed for a little while, prayed, did some of my some relaxation techniques that I learned in counseling, and was able to fall back asleep.

Then this morning, I woke up, spent time with Jesus and felt refreshed.  I'm not worried about things anymore; I'm able to move on.

This is the difference between depression/anxiety and "normal" emotions: I don't live with it day in and day out.  I don't have a 500 pound weight on my chest.  I don't have an upset stomach 24/7.  I don't lose sleep every night.  I can breathe normal.  I can use the relaxation techniques because I can remember to use them.  I can enjoy life.  I can enjoy my family.  I can handle bad days.  I can see the good and be thankful.  I can live with a positive attitude because I feel positive.  I feel like I can persevere through the hard moments.  I know that life is hard, and I can handle that.  It doesn't make me struggle to live each day.  I have peace.  I have hope.

No one really understands the depth of anxiety and/or depression unless they've experienced it.  

I don't hope that on anyone; though, know that if someone is going through it, just love them :-).

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Amazing Music

I just thought I'd share some of my favorite musicians and songs.  I'm a sucker for good music, and well-written lyrics.  I'm thankful that God uses people to glorify Him through music.  
Enjoy :-).













Saturday, December 7, 2013

Reflection during Ice Days

Today is Day 2 of Ice Days at home.  We have about 4 inches of ice on the ground, and we really can't go anywhere.  We'll see how much longer it lasts... it's not supposed to warm up enough to melt the ice till tomorrow or Monday.
Yesterday, I mostly just spent the day relaxing, not thinking, playing games with the kids, working on a few things.
Today, I have started the day with Jesus, and have started some reflection.  I thought I'd share :-).

I will admit that there is some randomness to this post... bare with me :-).

I have an online journal through Penzu.  I haven't used it as much lately, but I was just reflecting through some things that I wrote a few years ago, and God truly spoke to me through it.

I wrote this after my first Kenosis trip to Colorado (our church's 8th grade leadership trip).  This trip was the summer of 2011.  I taught 2nd grade the year of '10-'11 and taught 4th grade for the next semester, then left because I couldn't handle the difficulty.  Now I wish I hadn't left, but honestly, I think we are where we're supposed to be now... and I wouldn't have learned all that I learned if I hadn't.  God can use anything :-).  I am where I'm supposed to be right now, and that's all that matters.

Jesus, while on was on my trip these are some things that I heard LOUD AND CLEAR:
1) Time with YOU is necessary... everyday!
2) Being outdoors takes away anxiety!
3) I am a teacher... that is my calling... it doesn't make me less of a mom, it makes me who I am. Denying that is denying my spiritual gift, given me to serve You.
4) Use the time and money that we have to love others and to make memories as a family... don't waste time and money!
5) Ignore Satan's screams of lies... and listen to the quiet whisper that is Jesus.
Then, this past week, I have learned a few more things:
1) Philippians 4:8... Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think of these things.
We all know that we are all imperfect... why dwell on it? When I struggle with thinking of negative things... turn my thoughts to things that are good.
2) Be who I am... I am passionate about everything... I think deeply, love deeply, feel deeply, and hurt deeply... I process out loud. I like to share what God is teaching me... and through that, He helps others. It's okay! I can't please everyone! And I'm SO glad for that realization!!
3) As I have read my journal and old blog posts, I see Your calling ALL OVER the place... and I have listened to Satan's screams for far too long... I am a teacher!! 

He has made His calling on my life SO clear at some points in my life, and during moments of extremely high anxiety, I have thrown that calling away because I was deaf to Jesus' whispers due to screams of Satan.

I also lose sight of the fact that He has called me to teach for HIS glory very easily.  I often make it about myself... how I am viewed as a teacher.  How good of a teacher I am... and I often miss the mark.

I'm currently reading Comfort Ye My People: The Real World Meets Handel's Messiah as an Advent devotional (it's amazing by the way), and this was part of today's reading:

"Think about this for a minute: 
What am I offering to God?  My work?  My money?  My talents?
Are those things being offered in righteousness?  Or is something in the way of a righteous offering?
What stops me from making my offering in righteousness?"

Now that I know without a shadow of a doubt that my calling is teaching, how is He being glorified through it?  Or is He?
I often find myself getting caught up in pride.  My pride gets in the way of His glory, and I'm learning very quickly that I need to let go of some things.  Is my work about Him?  Or my own glory?  Do I spend my time working on plans, activities, etc for the benefit of my students?  Or my own glory?  Do I desire for Jesus to be seen in me?  Or am I too busy wanting to be seen as a "good teacher" that Jesus isn't even in the picture?

Am I offering my work to Him?  I should be, but some days I'm not so sure.  Is there something in the way of a righteous offering?  Yes, myself.  My pride.

If my focus is more on His glory and not on how good of a teacher I am, the anxiety that is with-in it actually diminishes... because I no longer have to worry about it... because it's not about ME and how good of a teacher I am.  It's about Him and loving through Him.

I also reflect on how we use our money... not so well.  I struggle with a righteous offering of our money because I view it as our money, not His.  I also struggle with faith in this area.  We've struggled financially for years, and I have a hard time letting go of "our money."  I talk all the time about giving, but actually doing it comes much harder.  I'm working on this area, and I know that God knows that I desire to give more.

Good thing is, God's grace is sufficient, and He doesn't NEED our money... it's just all about our heart on this issue.  And His grace is even sufficient for my heart on this issue :-).

Reflecting on these things has been so good, and I refuse to get caught up on the "shoulds and shouldn'ts," I just know that God will continue working in me and through me as He is growing me to be more like Him.  We all have things to work on... and I'm thankful that His grace is always there for us even in the midst of the ugliness.

On another note, I'm so thankful for these days at home with the family.  Here are some pictures :-).











I am more than blessed.  I am so amazed at the fact that for the first time in years, I am able to enjoy life.  I am not weighed down by the burden of anxiety, and I love life!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Simple Advent Season


Last year, I pulled out all the stops.  I found all these amazing ideas for homemade gifts on Pinterest.  I went to Hobby Lobby and spent a fortune on items to make these homemade gifts.  I found amazing Advent activities in which we would do fun activities every. single. day.

And I failed.  Miserably.

When I say I failed, I mean that the gifts didn't get made, the Advent activities rarely happened, and I was extremely stressed by the season.

I spent almost my whole Christmas budget on items to make gifts, then I didn't have time to make them.  I barely had any money to buy gifts after that...

The kids went to our numbered envelopes each day to find what we were supposed to do that day, and if it was too difficult, I said "not today."

It was too much.

This year, I decided to have a Simple Advent Season... one in which the focus is on Jesus and love, and not on activities and hours spent making gifts.

I decided to do all of my Christmas shopping online.  I did most of my shopping before Thanksgiving, and all the gifts are on their way.  I decided to keep the gifts simple, and as much as possible, buying gifts through websites that support people in other countries.

The kids are each just getting a few gifts that they want, some books, and we got a family gift of a telescope this year.  Stocking stuffers are simple, and they are things that they need and/or can use.  No more junk!

Other family will be receiving things that were purchased through the website Ten Thousand Villages (a website in which all items are made in other countries and the money actually goes back to support the individuals that made them), gift cards that are helpful or enjoyable, and some picture gifts.  We also purchased some chickens for a family in need through World Vision in our kids' names.

Our family naturally does activities that are fun during the Christmas season, there's no reason to force it.  Doing things like watching Christmas movies, drinking hot chocolate, making Christmas crafts, baking, making scented playdough, are all things that we do... we don't need a specific day to do them.  That just causes anxiety when it becomes impossible to keep up!

Here are a few blog posts that I found helpful to promote the simplicity of the Advent Season:

Girl Talk: Advent Reading For Kids

Advent: Why It Matters (and how to do it sanely)

Advent with the Jesus Storybook Bible

Printable Advent Jesus Storybook 

We'll be following the Girl Talk one pretty closely; though I don't have some of those books so I'll be subbing some with these:






I purchased this for the Kindle: 

I'm not assigning certain days to our readings because I don't want to set myself up for failure again.  We will read each day, and I will choose what I feel like reading that day :-).    

I'm so excited about the simplicity that we have decided on this year.  I don't feel one ounce of stress, but only joy!

Will you join me?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Small Home, Simple Living

We have lived in this house for a year and a half now.  It has been a learning experience... it is considered a tiny house in Frisco.  Frisco is filled with lots and lots of "McMansions," and it's abnormal to have a house under 2,500-3,000 square feet, let alone one that is only 1275 square feet.  Growing up, this is the size of house that I had.  But it was more common in the tiny town of Kyle, TX (it was tiny back then... not so much now).

Having lived in a big house at camp (about 2,800 square feet), a "decent-sized" house in Oak Cliff (about 2,000 square feet), and now this one, I can tell you a few things that I've learned.

A house, is a house, is a house.

We weren't happier in a big house.

We weren't happier in a "decent-sized" house.

A house doesn't make a family happy.  Period.

In fact, I have found myself learning to be more content here than ever before.

I have less stuff, which means less mess.

Our family is always close together, literally.

Our mortgage is very small which means a lot of things... including the fact that we'll be able to start paying off debt (after Christmas we'll be hitting it hard!)... we'll be able to "live" more... doing the things that we love to do... and even more importantly... we can give more.

This house means living simply.

In this year and a half, we have made many memories... and they have included lots of playing games, cuddling on the couch, fires in the fire place, baking together in our tiny kitchen, and kids playing happily together (using their imaginations!).












When I talk to people about our small house, I constantly hear that a big house isn't worth it... it is harder to clean, harder to keep up, more expensive, and the family is always separate.  So I wonder, why do so many people live in big houses?

This video is amazing because it allows people to think about how the size of a house does not equal happiness; bigger is not necessarily better.  I couldn't live in a house that small with three kiddos, but the idea behind it is amazing.



Robert and I would love to buy some land in Colorado one day and build a small house there :-). We would love to be able to just go backpacking and white water rafting whenever we want!  We'll see!

Monday, November 25, 2013

I Love the Lord because... (Psalm 116)


This quote from my friend Rachel's blog post, How to Live in the Dark of Depression,stands out to me today: Maybe we only learn how to live free after we’re locked in the prison of our days.

You see, until recently, I struggled with understanding why God would "allow" me to be in the depths of despair... I didn't understand why God didn't pull me out of it.  Why He would allow me to feel as though my world was falling apart all the time.  Until recently, I saw no good in it.  All I could see what the darkness.  All I could feel was as though I would never be out of the prison of anxiety and depression.  I walked around with a knot in my stomach and too much on my mind.  I was unable to live "in the moment" and love my family the way I felt I should... which just added to my anxiety.

Last summer (2012), I thought that I had been freed from my anxiety.  I felt a weight lifted; I felt more free than I had in years.  But it didn't last long.  Grandpa died on Thanksgiving day last year, just a few days before the third anniversary of my brother's death (and I had spent the week with him in the hospital).  I sunk right back into the deep despair that I had felt for years before.  Then I struggled with the feeling that maybe I will always feel like I'm in prison.  That "feeling" spiraled into an immense panic attack that lasted months.

I'm thankful for that months-long panic attack because if that hadn't happened, I would have never sought the treatment that I needed.  And even bigger, I wouldn't know what it truly feels like to live free.

I've learned more about myself and how God intended for me to live in the past several months than I have in my whole life.  I've learned how to live.  Truly live.  And love.  Truly love.  Love my family, love those that God has placed in my life, and have self-compassion.

I believe that learning self-compassion has taught me not only how to have compassion for myself, but for everyone around me.

I'm so thankful for the depths of despair, because without those depths, I wouldn't know how to truly live in freedom.

Psalm 116: 1- 9I Love the Lord
1I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
2Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
4Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”
5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
6The Lord preserves the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
7Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
8For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;
9I will walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.

I love the Lord because...
He is God.  He is my Creator.  Savior.  Healer.  Counselor.  Redeemer.  Provider.  Sustainer. Freedom.  Merciful.  Gracious.  Slow to anger.  Rich in love.  Life.  Love.  Faithful.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Hold on to Hope


I realize that the majority of my posts have been about my mental health... I have had a really tough, but productive few years, and that has been my life.  I have been working so hard on getting better.  Some days have been really, really hard as I've been sorting through things and working on this area of my life. 

People who haven't known me until recently really don't know or understand all the things that I've been through/been working through the past several years, but that's good.  I feel like I can start fresh for once... my past isn't following me anymore. 

I'm finally feeling as though I am getting "better."  Like truly better.  For good.  Between finding the right medication and working through things with my counselor, I feel like a new person.  I have this ability to do something I have never been able to do... balance.  I don't feel extremely anxious or extremely happy, and I like that.  Used to, I didn't know how to live in the middle... I always lived in extremes.  I didn't know how to "just live."  And I'm learning what that feels like... it feels like peace.  I have moments of anxiety still, but I've learned the tools to cope/work through it, so it doesn't linger like it used to (I used to be anxious 24/7). 

I also don't feel the need to live in my past anymore.  The difficulty of the past has followed me for so long, but I've worked through so many difficult things and now I feel like I can move forward.  I still have some work to do (don't we all?), but I've come a long way. 

I'm so thankful to God for this ability to live in peace.  I can't even put it into words.  I'm almost thankful that I went through the extreme anxiety because it pushed me to finally get help!  So while it was REALLY hard, it was a productive hard.  

I'm excited about the future.  I enjoy each new day with my family and know that we have a lot to look forward to.  Even the simple things... like baking Christmas cookies, good coffee, cold mornings in front of the fire, playing games... are big things to look forward to now.  And the bigger things like getting debt paid off, going backpacking as a family, and going on trips with the junior high at our church are so exciting.  I haven't been able to look forward to anything, really, for years because everything caused me anxiety.  And while my job can cause me anxiety (teaching is really hard!), it causes me a lot of joy as well!  I finally feel like I've found the place where I'm supposed to teach long-term, and that brings peace.  I have always given up when it got too hard, but I don't feel the desire to give up this time- I feel the desire to persevere and continue to grow as a teacher.  I learn every day... and that's what teaching is all about... being open to change and growth and enjoying the process along the way. 

Here I am... not defined by my anxiety anymore.  I am Courtney- a daughter of the One True King that feels joy, sadness, and hope.  I am a wife and mama to a wonderful family.  I am a teacher that loves what I do and finally can't imagine doing anything else.  I love the outdoors.  I enjoy the little things.  I don't need a big, fancy house to be happy.  I don't need a lot of things.  I need my Jesus, my family, and the ability to do things that I enjoy.  I have the ability to feel peace even on a hard day.

It's not about circumstances, but about knowing that God has a plan for His glory, and for our good. 

If you are in the middle of a very difficult time in your life, know that it won't and doesn't have to always be that way.  I truly thought I would never get better... even a month ago I wasn't hopeful.  Boy what a difference a month makes!

Hold on to hope.  Even if it's just with your pinky finger :-).  Know that joy will come.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Peace and Blessings


I have been working through so much this past week.  Instead of focusing ON the anxiety, I decided to see if I could figure out why I was anxious (often times I'm so anxious and I don't know why).  Tuesday morning, I woke up super anxious and Robert asked me if I wanted to talk through it.  Even though much of the time it doesn't help, I decided to talk through it.  With-in 5 minutes I figured out what had been bothering me for the past few weeks.  I literally felt a weight lift right away.  And it has been gone (mostly) ever since.

This week, when I have had moments of anxiety, I went to the root of it right away and tried to work on WHAT was making me anxious before it took me over.

I think the peace is a combination of finally finding the right medication, and finally learning how to work through it.  I feel that God has brought me to this.  It has been a prayer for so long, and this summer I finally came to a place in which I couldn't live with it any longer.  I gave in and sought treatment.  God is using this team (the doctor, counselor, my family, and friends) to help me, and I'm so thankful for that.

It has been an amazing week.  I have enjoyed each day.  For the first time in a LONG time, I walked around feeling joyful, and it has allowed me to enjoy things so much more.  I have been able to SEE the blessings that God has given our family.

This past Thursday evening, I was able to truly "be in the moment" with my kids for the first time in a while.  I'm typically so anxious that it's hard for me to enjoy them.  I cuddled with Levi in his bed while he shared with me all that he's learning and doing at school.  He showed me with his finger in the air how to make a letter E and e, he told me all about playing with cars, blocks, puzzles, etc.  He sang a little bit of the Christmas program to me.  He told me about Daniel and the Lion's Den.  It blessed my heart to hear just how much others are pouring into him and how well loved he is, even when I'm not with him as much.
I listened to Ethan read to me and sat in awe of the fact that just a few months ago I thought he was really going to struggle with reading.  Instead, he's doing great.  He's reading on a level C, which is amazing, and he writes complete sentences.  He also made 100% on his first math assessment.  He's so into everything that has to do with learning.

As I was reflecting, I began thinking about all of the other blessings in my life as well.

Karis amazes me.  Her love for learning is constant.  She is a reader and writer.  She reads all the time.  She has a journal in which she writes poems and stories.  She does really well with math (everything comes pretty naturally to her).  She is sweet, and likes to help take care of things.  This afternoon, I'm going to teach her how to bake my bread because I want to eventually pass it on to her and maybe make it her job :-).  She's super excited about this!

Robert has been there for me in "sickness and in health" for sure.  He's there in my best moments, and he's there when I struggle to function.  He takes care of everything when I need him to.  He's my best friend.  I love spending time with him.  I love just sitting with him.  I don't know what I would do without him.  We are celebrating our 10 year anniversary next month, and I can't wait to spend time with him, alone!!  The day after Christmas, we are leaving our kids with my parents, and we are headed to Brownwood State Park to stay in a cabin for several days.  We will get to relax, play games, go hiking, and just be.  It's going to be so refreshing!

I'm so thankful that even though we're not doing exceptionally well financially, we are doing better than we ever have, and it will only get better.  Because we have struggled financially for so long, we are in the "catch up" phase.  It'll take us a while, but once we're caught up, we can start getting ahead.  At this point, it's refreshing to be able to buy groceries, gas, and pay bills without worrying how we're going to make it.  God has provided for our needs, and that's the most important thing!  Before I got this job, we struggled to make it from one pay day to the next... we couldn't buy much food or gas... we couldn't do anything extra.  It was very hard.  It's nice to be able to buy groceries and even go out to eat once in a while.  We can buy clothes and shoes for the kids.  It's just nice to have our needs met!!!

I'm SOOOO looking forward to Thanksgiving break.  I have plans for the kids!  It's going to be so fun and relaxing!

Praise God for His peace and joy!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Constant Battle


The feeling of panic.  That thought that everything is falling apart.  My heart racing.  Feeling as though everything I do is wrong, all the time.  The knot in my stomach.  The weight on my chest.  The knowledge in my head that nothing's really wrong, but the feeling in my heart that everything is wrong.  Feeling as though I'm just annoying everyone around me.  The frustration of knowing how I *should* feel, but not being able to make that happen.  The constant self-criticism that causes even more anxiety.  Knowing that the more I think about my anxiety, the worse it gets, but not knowing how to stop.  Feeling like the walls are closing in.

I had such an amazing week the week before last, but this week has been tough.  I don't know what about it was so tough, but it was.  I had many anxiety attacks, and I feel as though I'm just always annoying everyone around me with it... which just makes it worse.

I've come to the point in which I am pretty sure I have found the "right" medication, but my anxiety is much more than what medication can help.  I went to my psychiatrist on Thursday, and she said that we are going to continue on the treatment that I am on for now.  I went to my counselor a few hours later and felt as though I was falling apart.  Though, the "exercise" that we did truly helped me and I spent the rest of that day feeling much less anxious.  And Friday as well.  Yesterday, the anxiety hit me again, full on.  And this morning when I woke up, it was there very strong as well.

I think it's time to start working on some of the "homework" that my counselor gave me.  So many things to work through...

While this time of my life is incredibly difficult, I believe that working through these difficult things instead of just trying to move past them will bring the true healing over time.  It may take a long time, but I am hopeful that it will come.  I've seen glimpses.

Typically, when something is too difficult, I find a way to end it.  That's why I've quit my jobs so many times.  Because teaching is incredibly difficult.  I have made the choice this time to work through the difficulty... to persevere.  I'm praying that I grow through that decision, and that God will bless it.  I desire for Him to be glorified through all that I struggle through, and I am confident that He will be.  

My desire to shut down today is very overwhelming.  I'm sitting here knowing that I should take the kids to church (Robert is there working right now), but the ability to get up, get myself ready, get them ready, then head into a very large/crowded church makes me feel more anxiety.  So instead, the kids are enjoying themselves by playing with homemade pumpkin spice playdough, watching Christmas movies, and being kids.  We will have a devotion/praise time at some point, but in the meantime, we are just going with things this morning.  And I will not beat myself up for not taking them to church.  They go every Wednesday, and that's good :-).

My homework these next two weeks involves working on self-compassion.  Quieting that constant self-criticizing voice in my head and heart and realizing that until that voice is quiet, I will always deal with this anxiety. The voice that I always hear in my head is what I hear from everyone.  Even though most people are incredibly full of mercy and grace, I can't hear that.  All I hear is criticism.  The reality is that the self-criticism is the voice that I hear from God as well, which is incredibly skewed.

There's a lot more that I'm working through right now... including the reality that I know God sometimes chooses to not heal people, to take lives, and to allow very difficult things to happen... So much hurt and loss in my life and the lives of family and friends... and that's so hard to bear.  My counselor and I are working through this as well.  My heart is not hard, but I'm in a place off not understanding and questioning.  I see so many around me hurting, and I want so desperately to be able to pick up their pieces, but I can't.  God will see me through this, just like He'll see them through it.  He is bigger than my questioning.  I know that.

Those that are my close family and friends, please know that I am fighting through this and will not give in.  Please know that I love you and truly care about your life situations, but sometimes I don't know how to see past my anxiety and/or I can't take on anymore hurt at the moment.  I love you all and know that God will give you what you need in the midst of your hurt and loss.

And know that even though I may look like I have it all "together" on the outside, that's not the truth.  I just choose to fight every day (which is exhausting).  God has been faithful to give me what I need, when I need it... even when I don't feel like He has.  Even on the days in which all I can do is go to bed at 7:00, He's there.  Even when I feel like not going anywhere because I can't handle being around a large group of people, He's there.  Even when I feel like just yelling, He's there.  I fight through the anxiety most days and try to be the best mommy that I can to my kids, the best teacher that I can to my students, and unfortunately, sometimes my hubby has to pick up the pieces at the end of the day.  I'm working on it.  I can't be all things to all people, 100% of the time.

Here I am, bearing it "all," asking for prayer and compassion.  The reason why I share is because I know I'm not alone, and because I know being honest is what will help with my healing.  Healing... that's all I want.  I want to live a life of peace more than just here and there.  I want God to be glorified through my healing, and I trust that He will.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Weekly Meal and Exercise Plan


Our schedule has been so crazy that our meal plans haven't been working out so well.  We have been eating out way too much lately!  I'm going to be more intentional this week so that we will actually stick to a plan :-).  I want to feel better physically, and that will only happen if I eat better :-).

Here's our meal plan:

Dinners

  • Monday- Roasted chicken, sweet potato fries
  • Tuesday- Chicken tortilla soup (with leftover chicken)
  • Wednesday- Baked sweet potatoes or baked potatoes with toppings
  • Thursday- "Burrito bowls" (beans and brown rice, avocado, tomato, raw cheddar)
  • Friday- Finger foods (game night!)
  • Saturday- Pan-seared lemon-pepper chicken and roasted veggies
  • Sunday- Leftover night!!


Lunches

  • Peanut butter and raw honey sandwiches, fruit, and veggies
  • Boiled eggs, raw cheddar, fruit, veggies, quinoa and black bean chips
  • Turkey and cheese sandwiches, fruit, veggies
  • Whole wheat pita bread, hummus, fruit, veggies


Breakfasts

  • Pumpkin muffins, fruit
  • Cottage cheese, fruit
  • Scrambled eggs, toast with butter and raw honey
  • Green smoothie, toast


On top of these healthy meals, I am taking Nordic Naturals Cod Liver Oil and Garden of Life Raw Women whole foods vitamin daily.

Exercise Plan
My plan is to do Yoga on Monday/Wednesday/Friday (evenings) and run on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday (mornings).  I really want to run a 5k on Thanksgiving day, and at this point, I'm not sure that I'd be able to!  We'll see :-).  I guess I could sign up for it, then I would have to do it :-).

Saturday, November 2, 2013

So Much to be Thankful For



I have struggled with anxiety for years (as you probably know by my posts over the years).  As of my last post, I really assumed that I would never know what it feels like to NOT struggle with it.  I have tried everything.  Medication (5 different ones).  Food change.  Exercise.  Relaxation/breathing techniques.

All of these things helped some, but honestly, the "help" was only temporary.  The majority of time, I walked around with an enormous weight on my shoulders and chest (it literally felt that way).  Everything that didn't turn out perfectly hit me as a blow to the stomach.  I always worried about what was going to "come up" next.  I over-analyzed everything, and felt as though everyone was annoyed with me all the time.  I had extreme paranoia about everything.

All of the difficulty of the past few years was also weighing on me.  All of the death in my family, the constant changes, having little ones in the midst of everything... I carried that around as heavy baggage on top of the constant weight of everything else.

I knew I was feeling awful, but I didn't realize how bad I was feeling until this past week.

A week and a half ago I went to the doctor again, feeling extremely defeated.  I told her that I felt like I would never get better and that I would never find the right medication.  The new one that I had started 2 weeks before was making me extremely worse and I felt like a complete mess.  My heart was constantly racing, I was always nauseous, I was freaking out about everything.  It was awful.  Just as bad as this summer when I had shortness of breath for a few months.

She reminded me that I'm okay, and we WILL find the right medication.  The feelings of defeat were just feelings, and she continued telling me that we will get this worked out.  I'm thankful for her because she's very practical and she focuses on more than meds.
She told me that she REALLY wants me to start doing yoga and getting back to running.  Also, she told me that I really need to get back to taking a good fish oil and whole foods multivitamin.

She took me off of the medication that was making me feel worse, and decided to try me on another one.  I was skeptical because of all the issues that I have had over the past several months, but I figured we could try it.  This particular medication was highly recommended by a friend of mine who had gone through a similar journey... she's tried almost all of them with lots of bad reactions.  She started taking this one and she said it changed her life.  I thought I could give it a try.  

I also went straight to Target and bought a beginners yoga kit.  And I went to the store and bought some more cod liver oil (I was out) and a whole foods vitamin.  I began yoga and running again this week (only exercised a few times, but some is better than none at this point!).

The pharmacist said that the new medication would take 7-10 days to start working.
I felt it with-in 2 days.  Immediately, I felt a weight lifted, my heart stopped racing, and the knot in my stomach went away.  All of the things that typically bother me deep down have been more "normal."  I don't really know how to explain the difference, but it is as if a cloud has been lifted and I can think normal for the first time.  I still have normal emotions (sadness, frustration, etc), but the extreme anxiety that I have felt for years is not there.

My desire is to slowly get back to eating real foods again (I have NOT been eating well) and become more regular with my exercise.  One thing at a time :-).

I'm so thankful for the team of people that have been so diligent to help me get better.  From my family who has been listening to me and praying for me, my husband who has allowed me to be alone anytime I have needed it, to my doctor and counselor who have been trying everything possible to help me.  I have some amazing friends that have been there for me through the really rough days.  I feel like I've been a drain on so many, but all of my family and friends have been there through it all.  I'm so undeserving.

I know that I might be sharing "too much," but I want to share because I know that so many struggle and feel hopeless.  Don't give up!  Sometimes it takes a while (years for me), but things will eventually get better!  I am living testimony to that.

At this point I am so excited about life and all that God has blessed me with.  I have an amazing husband who has been there with me on even the darkest nights.  I have beautiful, bright, healthy children.  I finally feel that I have a career that I can and will stick with for years to come.  I know now that God has called me to teaching, and even though it is an incredibly difficult job, I know He will give me what I need to get through each day.  My co-workers have been understanding on the days that I've had to take off to go to the doctor/counselor.  My principal has been incredibly supportive and understanding through all of this, and believes in me.  I'm so thankful for the place that I work, because that was not the case before.
We have all of our needs met, and more.  It's so nice to be able to buy groceries without worrying about spending money.  After we get caught up, we'll be able to put money in savings and pay off some debt.  Eventually, we might be able to buy a little bit bigger of a house (but we're content with our current house!).

I pray each day that God is glorified through me, and I know that He will be, even in my lowest points.  Because He the strength in my weakness.  He is the Light in my darkness.  He is the joy in my struggle.  He knows what I need, when I need it.  He has brought me to this form of treatment, and I'm so thankful for modern medicine today (despite my past complaints about it).  I know that there is a time for everything, and this is my time of peace and joy (after years of struggle).  Life is harder, but God is good.  :-)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Believing Lies- Today's Post #2

Yes, I realize that I already wrote a post today, and here I am posting again.  I'll be honest, since I wrote my post earlier I've been thinking a lot.

You see, I am fed lies from Satan, and I begin to believe them.

I believe that because I struggle with anxiety and depression, I must not have joy.

I believe that because I struggle with anxiety and depression, I must just be a self-centered person who doesn't care about others.

I believe that the way I feel doesn't matter and I should just stop talking about it.

I believe that I annoy others by how I feel.

I believe that I should force myself to feel another way, and if I don't, there's something wrong with me.

And all of these thoughts/feelings that I have are lies.  Just another way to be down and not able to focus on serving Jesus.

I don't enjoy anxiety.  In fact, most days I wonder if I'll ever live without it.  And that is very difficult to grasp.  I constantly hope that some day it'll just go away, but the reality is that it may not.  What do I do with that?

I honestly don't know.  I am sitting here in the midst of yet another anxiety-filled evening, and I wonder... why?  I wonder how it affects my family.  My friends.  My co-workers.

I make changes and hope that the change will help.  Then I realize... it's not circumstances... it's ME.

I am praying that God will lead me in the right direction so that I can have peace once and for all.  But I struggle with having faith that He will do that.  Can you pray with me?

Not About Me, All About Him


One of the things that I struggle with in the midst of anxiety and depression is being completely focused on myself.  I don't like it; I despise it actually.  But when I'm having anxiety attacks, all I can think about is what it is I am anxious about... and it usually involves something about me, myself, and I.

Typically, the anxiety is happening because of what someone thinks about me, how I'm affecting someone else, what I'm doing wrong, what I'm not doing, fear of the future, fear that someone might be taken from me, what I've been through...

Instead of focusing on the joy of the LORD, the joy that He brings to me through the blessings, and how I can benefit others, I am focusing on myself.  I am full of pride and fear, and the Lord doesn't call us to live this way.

Recently, an old friend of mine (from college) was taken Home to be with Jesus.  She left behind a husband and three babies (6 and under).  My immediate thoughts were of doubt, frustration, and fear.
All of feelings (and weight) of the death of my brother, grandfather, and cousin came up.  Instead of grieving for her and her family, I again made it about me.

Today, I had the privilege of listening to her husband preach at her memorial service (here's the sermon: Meg Was, God Is- you may have to scroll up and click on the correct sermon), and I am blown away at not only her selflessness, but the fact that her husband knows without a shadow of a doubt that the Lord is sovereign and good in the midst of this terrible tragedy.

Here I am anxious about trivial matters, and she, who was an amazing, joyous, godly, people-loving woman was taken Home to be with Him, leaving a hole in her family and community.

I can't even begin to share with you how sick it makes me that I focus so much on myself.  I only hope that when I die, these things could be said about me.

I don't want to be anxious any more.  I don't want to be depressed any more.  I want to be focused on Jesus and loving others.  I want my first reaction to be prayer, not anxiety.  I want to rejoice and be joyful always.  I want to have this joy that others and the Bible speak of.

As I move forward, my desire is to learn to train my mind to be joyful and hopeful; not full of fear and anxiety, but love for others and my Savior.  The only way that I can truly do this is by saturating myself in scripture and going to Him in prayer constantly.  It's not about me, but about Him and others.

I feel like I don't have the words to even describe what God is teaching me in the midst of this.

I don't understand everything in this life, but I do know that He is sovereign and He knows what is best.  He has a plan for His glory, not mine.  When I think about the fact that I am serving Him through teaching the majority of my day, and I don't understand why He doesn't have me home more, I know that He is sovereign and He is good.  He has me serving Him the way He does for a reason and a purpose.  He "fills in the gaps" when I can't be where I think I should be.  It's not about me, but about Him.

When I don't understand why people are dying that are serving Him faithfully, I know that He is sovereign and He is good.  When I don't understand why there is so much pain on this earth, I know that He is sovereign and He is good.  It's not about ME and what I can understand, but about the fact that He is sovereign and He is good.

"Not to us, but to Your name be the glory."

My prayer is that God would give me peace and joy and that He will give me what I need to live a joyous, others-focused life.