Tag Archives: Anxiety

Hunkering Down for Hurricane Matthew

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A little over a week ago we faced our first Florida hurricane. Threats of a direct hit over Saint Augustine kicked us into evacuation gear. Thankfully, with the majority of Florida family less than 2 hours away, we had a place to stay and made plans to head inland towards Gainsville.


When several local gas stations were out of gas and we received word that St. John’s County schools were closed Thursday and Friday, we made the decision to leave Wednesday night after Chris got off work to avoid future traffic. We packed our bags, put pjs on the kids, and headed to Lake Butler.


About an hour into the drive Norah said she needed to go potty. (Note: We are almost potty trained over here. The kids have received various rewards along the way (minus the M&M’s – I ate the one-month supply after 3 days and remembered why I can’t keep junk food in the house) and now I’m brainstorming a reward for myself because I. AM. TIRED (and the M&M’s are not sufficient).


(Chris, if you’re reading this, a massage will do. Or a mani/pedi. Or better yet? Take the kids and leave for 5 hours and don’t come back. Okay, thank you).


Although I tried to reason with Norah that she was wearing a pull-up and “Don’t you just want to pee in it so we don’t have to stop and we can get to Poppy’s house sooner?” it didn’t work.


I’m thankful it didn’t work because we weren’t to the bathroom stall before she vomited all over the candy aisle of the gas station. Thankfully, this made the candy no longer tempting to purchase. That was the only good thing about the situation.


There were ugly tears, ugly SMELLS, and lots of emotion. The majority of the emotion from Norah had nothing to do with the fact that she just threw up, or in her words, “choked,” but rather because she was wearing her new Elmo pajamas from Meme and now they were dirty. This was devastating.


Several baby wipes and a change of clothes later we headed back to the car for the remainder of the drive. We arrived safe and sound-ish with no more sickness.


The next few days were a flood of emotions as mandatory evacuations were played out – fear, anxiety, and then relief, when Hurricane Matthew hooked to the East and it was clear there would not be a direct hit on St. Augustine. We wondered about our current home (my parent’s condo) and the home we were supposed to close on the very next week. How would they hold up?


In Lake Butler we vegged out, played, and enjoyed time with family. Miles and Norah watched The Lion King for the first time. And we ate. A lot. Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, turtle pie, ice cream, etc. A cousin made the following joke on Facebook:

“So far I’ve eaten one junk-food calorie per reference to “hunker down” on the Weather Channel, so I’m going to need one of those EMT crews with a crane to get me out of the house on Monday.”

This was me. I could very much relate to this post, especially because I had previously made it to day 22/30 on Whole 30 and wasn’t used to sugar, dairy, gluten, or anything fun.


However, we did not need to call an EMT crew Monday because when we got back to the condo Saturday night (once we heard the condo had power again) I threw everything up. Again. And again. And again, sicker with a stomach flu than I’ve been in a few years. I don’t think it was from Norah because hers was very isolated – she felt fine after – and never showed symptoms again. This bug lasted a solid 24 with food sensitivity through the next few days.


Unfortunately life doesn’t stop when you’re sick and Chris had to go to work. The office had been closed with the hurricane and there was a lot to do. Since this was my first time having to take care of kids while being sick, I don’t think I’ve ever missed our mothers more. Thankfully a girl from bible study agreed to take Miles and Norah into her home (along with her two littles) for a few hours so I could get extra rest. It was so appreciated, and if you’re reading this, I OWE YOU!


As sick as I was, I was also grateful that our family and home was safe. At that point we had heard of the damage and devastation done to St. Augustine and surrounding areas. One of the first people I met here has 5 kids and her entire first floor is ruined. I can’t begin to imagine what she is going through, but I know she has faith and people in her church have stepped up and served her family over the last week.


Driving through town and seeing the damage is extremely sad. If this is the result of a category 3 indirect hit, I cannot fathom the category 4 DIRECT hit that was originally predicted. As horrible as a tragedy it is, I will say that it is incredible to see all different people harmoniously coming together for the greater good.


Last Friday we closed on our new house. It will be a few more weeks before we officially move in, but we are very excited for what’s to come. With a house, a family, and employment, we are blessed beyond what we could imagine and continue to praise God for His faithfulness and blessings over our family. We give thanks to God, “for from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36

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Christopher Columbus Day Reflection

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I was ambushed. 


Disclaimer: I’m not a history buff. I don’t teach Social Studies. My first year of teaching I embarrassingly confused World War I and the Revolutionary War. True story. During research papers I also called Chris in the middle of class to ask who won the Vietnam War in an attempt to help a student write his paper. He conveniently switched topics after it was clear I still couldn’t help him. Bless those first year guinea pigs. Bless them.


Anyway, what I want to say has nothing to do with Columbus Day, really. I mean absolutely nothing. But, in my crazy-randomness of thinking, I made a far-fetched connection and decided to tie-in this day that teachers and students love (Yesss to long weekends! Sorry to working parents!)


Here it goes. Christopher Columbus/discovering America/interaction with the Natives – it’s controversial, I’m aware. We’re taught to celebrate this man and the day he sailed the blue in 1492. You know the story; a story, like all stories, that has more than one side.


Good educators teach both sides to the story, that although we are thrilled as Americans to have a United States of America, this exploration led to the destruction of American Indians who were happily settled in this territory before Columbus and whoever else took over. Again, not a history buff.


Whether we should thank Columbus for his ambush and celebrate the day, or boycott the National holiday altogether, I have zero opinion. In fact, a small, arrogant part of me thinks that people who have huge problems with this issue should get some new problems, because please people, there’s worse things. Syria? Human trafficking? Unclean water for the majority of people on this planet?


I digress.


Today I write you to say I am very thankful for a takeover. No one sailed their ship to my house, obviously. And, it’s not really a takeover when you ask for it…which, by the way, is a blog all on its own. When you need help, YOU have to do something about it. Don’t WAIT for someone to figure it out. Don’t ASSUME someone will notice. ASK.


So…yesterday. Chris had a school commitment (district golf outing – difficult work, I’m sure) and although the kids are teething and not sleeping as well, I was determined as ever to get to church on my own with both of them.


No one could have guessed our morning was chaotic based on our matching outfits and big smiles entering the building. Granted, 2 against 1 is never easy, so some people may have assumed it wasn’t easy getting out the door.


Who am I kidding? We bring the circus everywhere we go.


Anyway, I managed to get myself ready and the kids ready and got to church on time. I did text someone in advance to see if there would be an extra hand or two if need be.


Well, it was need be. No, the kids weren’t awful. Yes, we ended up in the cry room. But it was me – call it my exhaustion, slight mental instability, whatever. As my church friend/childcare helper/earthly savior of the day helped me put the crying kids in their car seats, the rest of the day seemed daunting and impossible. And it was only 10:30 in the morning.


“Do yall have lunch plans?” I asked.


When they didn’t, I took a deep breath as the tears welled up and went for it. “Can you come by and help me get the kids out of the car and give me a chance to get their lunch ready?”


Now, I do this most days on my own. Getting them in and out of the car, preparing lunch, putting them down for nap – this is second nature. I know how to do this on my own, and so does Chris. I don’t actually need someone to help me do this, but yesterday, I did. I needed someone to takeover.


I knew my limits. I knew I felt off. So I set my guilt and shame to the side for a hot minute and simply asked.


Next thing I know, we’re in my bedroom talking/processing/deep breathing while her 8 or 9? and 13-year old sons are feeding Miles and Norah lunch. Bless them. Bless her. Thank you Lord for community. They left and I never even fed them. I mean, whoa. Are these not the kind of people we all desperately need in our lives???


This ambush to my normal routine wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t willing to be vulnerable. People, we were made for one another! Love God, Love People. If we can get this right, all the other stuff can go to the wayside (I’ll add “for the most part” because I’m not looking to start theological discussions).


Yesterday I was shown immense grace and love. I was embarrassed at first, but later empowered by my willingness to be vulnerable. It’s in our brokenness that God can truly work in us. Only then can we experience his full power and healing.


It didn’t matter if the kids and I “looked” the part at church. Gotta love cheesy moms who do the matching outfits and don’t even attempt to deny it was completely intentional.


On the inside, I was hurting. I needed an ambush of love. And I got it.


What does this have to do with Columbus? Pretty much nothing. I
 said it was far-fetched. Nonetheless, enjoy the holiday if you’re off. Yay for my hubby being home!


Have a great week.

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Worries be gone! & Brotherly Love

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We said our goodbyes to the southeast and are back home in Illinois! Thankfully we’ve been welcomed to sunshine and 80’s, making the transition much smoother this time around for me (compared to leaving Florida in January with the inevitable snow and harsh cold temps ahead).


My family has vacationed in St. Augustine, FL since I was a baby. I may have mentioned this previously, but St. Augustine has always symbolized peace and strong family ties. Despite every move as a child, St. Augustine was the one predictable thing my brother and I could rely on; therefore, it’s a special place. And now that my parents are retiring there, it’s not just the vacation spot anymore; it’s home.


Dad still works in Chicago and there’s no telling when he’ll retire. It’s funny, because even 5 years ago I cried and cried about my parents’ impending move to Florida. Part of it was because I was still relying on them too heavily for my emotional well-being, part of it was because I never thought I’d actually end up in the Midwest and I was already jealous of their destined nice weather. Mostly it was because I knew I would miss them terribly.


I can’t tell you how many countless times “the move” has been brought up in therapy. It’s hilarious, really, when I think about how much wasted energy has gone into this one-day-this-is-going-to-happen-what-will-I-do fear and anxiety. It’s also very sad.


Consuming your thoughts with the world of “what-if’s” is not only anxiety-provoking, it’s debilitating, and it shows a lack of trust and faith.


We can’t control our thoughts. Period. Try to tell yourself NOT to think something, and that thing will be the only thing you CAN think about. But allow your thoughts to simply be thoughts, nothing more, and they lose their power. Better yet, give them over to God, and then they’re really in the best hands.


One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 10:5.

It states, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”


When I’m worrying about the future, focusing on the what-ifs, I’m taken away from the present, missing out on what’s happening now. Christ says “I know the plans I have for you” in the book of Jeremiah. There is no reason for me to allow endless worry into my thoughts. But when it starts to happen, I let God capture them and turn my mind towards good. Rather than continuing the cycle of fear and doubt, I put my faith in Him out of obedience. That’s what that verse means to me. And let me tell you, it’s become quite the life verse through this CrazyMAD journey. Does that happen all the time? No. But it’s the goal.


Transitions have never been easy for me. They’re fun and exciting, but challenging, too. In the past, coming home from a trip (especially one where I am blessed to see lots of family) could take me 3 days or more to get out of a seeping depression, wishing to be back, struggling to move forward with reality.


I am so thankful that this time it didn’t even take 24 hours. Rather than staying under the covers, pity-partying my way through the post-travel days, I’m happy to be home with my family of 4. Even as I write, Miles and Norah are chasing each other through the house (yet again), with full-on smiles and squeals of glee. Thank you, Lord, that I’m not missing this precious moment.


Well, this was going to be a post about our family vacation, but it turned into this instead. Hopefully the message is exactly what one of you needs to hear, and if not, maybe there’s a family member or friend who could benefit from the words instead.


More to come,

Rachel


Side-note: When I reflect on how or why I’m doing better emotionally right now, there are variables to consider. I see doctors less frequently and dosages have lowered, yet I’m feeling stable at this time. There’s no doubt that sunshine and warm weather plays a huge role in my treatment, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s partly accepting my weaknesses. I know worrying about the future is a place of feebleness and vulnerability for me. Rather than fighting it, trying to make it better on my own, I’m letting it be, so Someone stronger and more powerful can combat it instead.


Once again, does this happen all the time? Heck no! But it’s the goal.


Double side-note: Thanks to my brother, Brad, who I realize now most likely inspired this post. One thing I love about our relationship is the openness and honesty we have with one another. One night on vacation we were out along with our spouses and a random conversation suddenly turned intense, resulting in some harsh words and hurt feelings. However, through this discussion, Brad reminded me that living the Christian life isn’t about looking the part and following the rules. It’s a heart matter. And the more we see our need for God, the more we can be used and live our best life for His glory.

I love that I not only have an earthly brother, but a brother-in-Christ. Let me tell you – only a spiritual connection like that could turn our heated debate into all four of us bowing our heads in prayer and hugging it out. Were people looking at us like we were crazy? You betcha. But who cares? Now that’s some cool God stuff right there.

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2 Corinthians 12:9

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.

Rat Race – The Search for Satisfaction

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And here it is. The time has arrived. I’m ready to tell you what’s coming, what I’ve been looking forward to, what has pushed me through the long and cold Chicago winter.

 

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Wait for it…

 

Wait for it…

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

So, I have some bad news, which is, that there is no news. At least, there ain’t nothing new coming from me. Were you hoping for a pregnancy? Did you think there was a different job? New location? I WON THE LOTTERY!!! Nope, nope and nope. Same ol, same ol in this crazyMADDENing world.

So why would I post a blog titled “Are you excited for what’s coming?!” Not fair, right? And yet, there is a method to my MADness. I hope you hear it, and really listen. It’s a message I have to remind myself of regularly, a lesson worth learning and relearning, and relearning…

I have been convicted. While sitting in bible study, Betsy Corning, writer of Entrusted with A Child’s Heart shared a segment on “Wishing life Away.”

In this case, the context was specific to motherhood. With the monotony and sometimes isolation of caring for babies fulltime, it’s easy to take for granted what you have right in front of you, easy to forget that each and every day is vital and important as God shapes those little blessings into the people they are and will be.

It’s incredibly tempting to fall into the trap of once this happens or this happens or this happens, something will be better, or perhaps easier.

 

When they can crawl…once they feed themselves…after they start walking…as they start playing together…etc, etc, etc.

Please don’t mistake my seemingly lack of gratitude. I know there are thousands of women out there right now who would do anything to get pregnant, and I know I am beyond blessed. But, I still catch myself wishing life away.

This is because “What’s coming next?” is always on my mind, looking ahead, preparing for the future, gearing up for what’s to come. What will be that next thing or event to drive me forward?

Of course this doesn’t just creep into the area of motherhood, but ALL areas of our lives.

When I get my driver’s license…when I turn 18…when I make more money…when I get married…when I get a new car…when I go on that vacation…when I lose 10 pounds…when I have children…when when when WHEN WHEN WHEN WHEN

It’s that moment, or event, or season, or thing and everything falls into place, right?

Wrong.

But it was supposed to! And maybe it does…for a second. But it’s only a temporary satisfaction that leaves us wanting more, asking ourselves, “Now what?”

In one of my favorite young adult novels, The Outsiders, Cherry Valance says it best:

 

‘”Rat race is a perfect name for it,” she said. “We’re always going and going and going, and never asking where. Did you ever hear of having more than what you wanted? So that you couldn’t want anything else and then started looking for something else to want? It seems like we’re always searching for something to satisfy us, and never finding it”’ (Hinton 38).

I want to see the array of cars and blocks and books and Tupperware – oh thank you Lord for Tupperware – all over my once-clean house and feel content.

I want to watch my kids giggle and play and allow myself to feel like I’m doing a decent job.

I want to leave the dirty dishes and messy kitchen to sit with my husband, enjoy the evening, and know it can wait.

I want to look at the bottle of pills on the counter and actually accept the fact that it doesn’t make me less of a person.

I want to glimpse in the mirror without makeup or combed hair and believe God made me in His image, and He made me beautiful.

I want to sit with today, experience it as it as, and feel satisfied. I want it all to be enough. It should be enough.

But like Cherry says, I’m on a constant search for satisfaction. It’s been a lifelong pursuit and struggle that swallows me up as I strive for order and predictability and sadly, control.

Go to school, get good grades, find a job, fall in love, throw a wedding, have a baby. Or two. 🙂 

Those are not bad things. In fact, those are wonderful things. But they’re not something you do because you’re looking for what’s next, ready to check something else off the list.

This continuous search for “having/feeling/being enough” traps me in the impossible realm of perfectionism, when in fact I know I am not perfect and will never be.

As a Christian, I want to think I hold my standards high to be more like Christ, and I hope sometimes that is the reason. But I know more often than not it’s to feel good and be “good.” Because if you do good, feel good and be good, that has to be the formula for satisfaction, right?

Wrong again.

Can you relate? Have you experienced the endless cycle of dissatisfaction? Through an eating disorder, various medications, hospitalization, and continuous anxiety and depression, I know firsthand you can have the most abundant and blessed life on paper, and still feel empty on the inside. I am fortunate to have faith in Christ where at least I know I can be made complete, that there’s wholeness, and a perfect love that exists. But for those without that hope, I am sad.

Yes, it is sad knowing there are so many people out there with this same problem, on a constant search for satisfaction. Then it’s truly devastating when you recognize what first world problems these really are, to have too much and yet still not have enough, when there are people hurting, starving, experiencing war and persecution daily.

I want to share this message with every young person out there so they can start learning now. Get rid of your imaginary checklist. There is no magic pill; there is no special formula. It doesn’t matter how many A’s you get, how much scholarship money you’re awarded, how “good” you do at ANYTHING if you can’t find the satisfaction and contentment somewhere in yourself, just as you are, as an incomplete and imperfect human being that can never fully be filled without something (or Someone) greater.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t look ahead. Puh-leeze. I’m the type-A planner, people! Of course I like to plan. And I’m not saying you can’t look forward to things either. There are wonderful things “coming next,” such as spring after the long winter, birthdays, wedding, babies, and this upcoming Easter.

I’m also not saying you shouldn’t strive to succeed, to work hard and excel in your endeavors. Hard work is important. Just don’t buy into the lie that once the “what’s coming next” actually happens– whatever it may be – that all will be well.

So I guess the message is this – DON’T BE SURPRISED IF YOU GET TO THE TOP AND YOU FIND IT’S NOT ENOUGH.

I’m currently running the rat race, but I’m ready to call it quits, man. Stop the endless search of what’s next or how can I do or be more to feel satisfied. It’s time to bask in some contentment, allow myself to feel that maybe life as is is enough. And maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll feel like I’m enough, worthy of who I was created to be.

 

Is anyone else going and going and going, running this endless rat race? If you are, or you know someone who is, share this post. Then stop and sit awhile with me. Let’s enjoy today, and at least for a short time, forget about what’s coming next.

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‘Tis the Season for Presence

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In my last post, I disclosed one of the lowest points in my personal journey – being hospitalized for anxiety and depression. Countless blessings have come out of that terrifying (and back then, shameful) experience, but I want to share one blessing in particular that I’m reminded of this very week as it is coming up on two years since the passing of my grandma, “Mema,” Rachel Lawson.

A big focus in the anxiety program is mindfulness – the state of being conscious or aware. Before my hospitalization, at least the first time (as I laugh out loud, which is perverse, I know), I wasn’t living mindfully. As I mentioned in “The Fall(ing),” I raced throughout my days in a constant state of urgency. This allowed me to avoid the underlying anxiety and depression that were taking over my life. If I was too busy to stop, I didn’t have a chance to really think or feel. In the moments those thoughts and emotions did surface, they were unbearable. Hence the running, running, running.

Now this program wasn’t about getting rid of the negative thoughts and feelings – it was about accepting them and taking away their power, sort of like the whole “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond” thing.

As we know, anxiety is often worrying about the unknowns rather than simply living, focusing on the present. One fellow patient said, “I’m always going back and forth between the guilty past and the fearful future…I just want to live in the now.” Those words have stuck with me like glue.

So among all the homework and sessions of acceptance and commitment therapy, we practiced mindfulness, a helpful skill that saves you a lot of negative time and energy. When I walked out of those hospital doors on the day of my graduation a month later, I felt truly present. However, my ability to be mindful was tested immediately; I didn’t even make it to my car before receiving the phone call that Mema wouldn’t make it through the night.

We had known about it for a few years; Mema was fighting a battle with Alzheimer’s. The diagnosis was one all too familiar having just experienced the journey with my husband Chris as he lost his Papa Madden from the very same sickness one year earlier. To those of you who have lost a loved one to this debilitating disease, I am so very sorry. Our family knows the truth – you don’t just lose them once. Instead, it’s a slow, steady departure, until one day…they’re just gone.

I met my family at the memory care center to say our goodbyes. We held her hands, we prayed, we sang. It was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. The tears were overflowing as I mourned the loss of our special bond and the finality of it all.

But more than that, I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude. In her last hours—those very final moments—I was THERE. I mean, I was more THERE in those hours and minutes than I had been anywhere in the last year. The program taught me how to be present. If she had passed even just a few weeks earlier, I would have missed it, too caught up in my own guilty past and fearful future to experience the beautiful, spiritual journey as she passed from one life to the next, Jesus waiting for her with open arms. Being present for this moment changed my life.

Mindfulness. Presence. Being THERE. I don’t think I’m alone in this struggle. We get so caught up in the past and future that we miss what’s happening right in front of us. And then when special moments are happening, sometimes we’re so busy capturing it with our phones or cameras that we miss the experience all together.

The Bible tells us to be still, but it’s hard to do, especially during this time of year. Throughout the holiday season, we race through our busy days, making our lists and checking them twice (especially twice in the twintastic world!). ‘Tis the season for presence…but if you’re in the giving spirit, I’ll take your presENTS, too 😉

My goal? To be more mindful this month. I yearn to peacefully take in the joy of the Christmas season with a full heart of gratitude. I want to see the blessings in front of me as they are, right now, in this moment. Will you join in?