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:


  • 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!!


  • 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


  • 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.  :-)