A New Normal

I am growing tired of telling my own story.

I’m ready to move on. I find I am much more interested in dissecting what God is teaching me through my experiences than the experiences themselves. But I also realize that before I can move completely into that territory, I should conclude the telling of my journey with anxiety and depression.

(This would be where I recommend going back and reading my past posts. I don’t want to be that sequel novel that spends 50 pages recapping what happened in the first two books.)

It was early October of 2011 and 8 weeks had passed since I began this struggle. I had lost too much weight too fast. I was unable to focus on anything other than the immediate task in front of me and even that seemed like a huge ordeal. My leadership ability was non-existent, yet I was still holding a major leadership role in my church. I would worry to the point of obsession over a single issue at a time, usually something to do with my ninth grade daughter. I was not employed at the time and after getting my kids off to school I could literally sit on the couch in silence with hours passing, just sitting there staring, thinking and obsessing. Time had almost no meaning. My one saving grace, the one thing I clung to, was the Lord. I am so thankful that even in this darkest of times, I never felt distant from Him. In fact, it was almost the opposite. Thank you Jesus!

Once I received the news from my doctor that there was no physical reason for what I was experiencing I knew I had to pursue other avenues. First thing you should know: I am in NO way opposed to taking medication to treat anxiety and depression. It was an option for me right from the start. I delayed only because I wanted to discover through counseling what may have brought me to where I was and I was afraid that once on medication, I would feel better and no longer wish to examine closely what had happened to me. So I began the counseling process. God matched me with a great Christian counselor who had worked a a lot deal with women just like me: strong, independent, Christian leaders who burned themselves out by not recognizing their own limitations. Women like me who ignored stressors in their lives by pretending they weren’t stressful. Women who believed the lie that we can do everything and if we feel like we can’t then we just must not be trusting God enough.

Meanwhile, my husband finally put his foot down with me and for the first time in our 20 year marriage played the submission card. He very lovingly, very gently, yet very firmly asked (told) me to step down from my role as Director of Women’s Ministries at our church. I agreed. Meeting with the associate pastor with whom I had worked so closely with for several years was a very emotional thing. As I drove to meet him, I prayed that he would assume the role of pastor and friend rather than co-laborer in ministry during this meeting. Praise the Lord, it was “Pastor “Joe who counseled me though my resignation, not Joe “ the-dude-who-was-going-to stuck-with-a boatload-of-work-with-this-vacant-leadership-role.” He was affirming, encouraging, gave sound Spirit-led advice, prayed with me, and released me from service with blessing and love. My relief was tremendous and immediate. I seriously felt a literal load lift from my shoulders. It was glorious.

But get this. While I was in that meeting, my mother was leaving me a voice mail message.

“Woohoo! My condo just sold! I close in six weeks. Find me a place to live!”

My relationship with my mother is complicated. We have always gotten along fine but do not have a close mother-daughter bond. Since the day I left for college, other than summers, I had not lived within 200 miles of my mom. Our adult relationship was comprised of long-distance calls, emails and occasional weekend visits. And it worked that way. She had never been an easy person to be around and had already set a negative tone in her relationship with her granddaughters. But she was struggling financially and my siblings local to her were burning out. My region of the country was far more affordable and it was “my turn” to have mom. My husband and I prayed a long time before extending the offer to bring her here. We both felt this was a matter of honor and obedience that God was calling us to. That didn’t mean we were looking forward to it. The emotional stuff that came with this change for both me and my daughters was significant. I just kept ignoring it.

Until that day.

That day when I spent an AMAZING 20 minutes free of the stress and anxiety. 20 minutes of feeling like I could overcome this thing called anxiety & depression. 20 minutes before getting the message that my life was going to change very quickly and it would not be an easy change.

I have no recollection of ever before being angry at God. In all my life, I had never actually wanted to yell at Him. But that day, in the driver’s seat of my van, I let my ugliest, truest self out. I do not remember my exact words but I am sure it was something like this:

“Seriously God?? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? I just now freed myself of pressures and stresses that were literally driving me to insanity! Minutes God! Just minutes?! That is all I get? Is this a freakin’ joke? Why would you do this to me now? Do I not get any time to recover before you make me deal with my mom and all the crap that is going to come with that? And we are supposed to find her a place to live and do all the work that goes with that when I can barely keep my household going? How do you expect me to be able to do this? Why NOW? Why would you wait an entire year only to pick this exact day? WHY.”

I share this part of my story for one reason only. To let you know that God can take it. He can take your worst. He already knows your worst so why try to hide it from Him? Everyone has at one time or another had a moment when you wanted to scream at God that “it’s not fair!” Don’t waste your time trying to deny or hide this fact. I am not saying it’s a good idea to pitch a tent to stay in this place for a lengthy period of time, because of course it is not. Just know that you are human and flawed and real, and God loves you deeply in spite of it.

Well, I continued in counseling and that did wonders in walking me through not only my past but my present. We did get my mom moved to our area. This did take a tremendous amount of time and work, but God is gracious and we made it through and she was settled by Thanksgiving. My then 15 year old daughter probably summed it up best: “Mom, be thankful. What would have happened to you if you got that phone call from Grandma before resigning from Women’s Min.? You might have driven your van off a bridge.” She was joking with me of course, but her point was made. I selfishly wanted more me time, but God’s timing is always best…even if we have no idea why right now.

By Christmas I was feeling much more anxiety-free. However the detached, unemotional response to depression very much lingered. I knew it was time for meds. The only thing keeping me from starting them was a planned trip to St. Petersburg, Russia just after New Years. I didn’t want to start a new medication and leave the country for 10 days having no idea how I would react. So I took my trip, most certainly not getting all I would once have out of the experience but still very blessed, and saw my doctor upon my return.

For those of you nervous or opposed to medication, let me tell you about my doctor’s words to me. He talked to me about how my brain had retrained itself to respond in a certain way to stress and anxiety and how it had gotten so good at it that it started responding that way all the time. For example, I may normally have reacted with anxiety to the thought of preparing for an event for 500 people. Soon my brain was reacting the same way when I thought about having to make a grocery list or schedule some appointments. Sometimes it takes a medication to dull that response and give our brains a chance to re-train themselves. I adored his very simple, very rational explanation. It made me realize that I am treating a physical thing, just like I would take antibiotics for an infection. The medication wasn’t a forever thing. It was a means to allowing my brain to heal. I know you doctor and science types are cringing at my over-simplified reasoning. But I do not care. I just know there was in fact a physical reason my mind was doing what it was doing and there was a way to fix it.

I started on a low dose medication immediately and felt a difference in about a week. It was truly amazing. I did feel a little sleepy and had to play with when to take it to best manage to sleepiest hours. The medicine did not make me who I was before. No medicine would do that because I had become a changed person through this experience. It did allow me to regain my focus and attention span. It allowed me to gradually and consistently regain lost territory in my life. It made me wish I had started on it in October. Life lesson learned.

I stayed on the medicine for about 8 months and then spent another 3 tapering off. I no longer need it, but am fully aware that there may come a time again when I do. And I am okay with that.

A friend just asked me if I think I am back to “normal.” You know what? I believe I have reached my “new normal.” I will never again be the same person I was before Anxiety came into my life in August 2011. That is because God used the experience to dramatically change who I was deep inside. Or maybe “change” is the wrong word. Perhaps what He did was use this experience to tear me down brick by brick. Then He rebuilt me brick by brick. Only, when He rebuilt me He tossed away an awful lot of bricks and used only those bricks that He has purpose for in my life.

I would not choose to go through this experience again. But I am extremely grateful for how God had used it in my life and pray that I will never forget the lessons it taught me.

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Raising Young Women

As I type, I am 2 days into a lovely 3 day girls-only getaway in the mountains. It is a wonderful time in a rustic “cabin” (really an ancient house that’s been in the family forever), with a gentle river and beautiful mountains.  I love this annual weekend. It started 10 years ago as a scrapbook/sewing/anything you want to do weekend for the adult female of my husband’s family. Few of us scrapbook or sew anymore. Mostly it is about relaxing, eating, visiting and laughing.

My girls have always wanted to know when they would be old enough to come.  I don’t recall there ever being a time when we officially decided this so this year when my nearly-17 year old daughter asked to come I thought it was time. Two other cousins of the same age also wanted in.  Well, you can imagine my surprise when this was not universally accepted as a good thing.  A dearly loved, fun loving, especially laid back cousin led the charge on not welcoming this generation just yet.  She brought to my attention that at some point it was decided that 18 or 21 were the magic ages of admission. So the girls were told “not this year” and left to deal with their disappointment in their own ways. 

I am still having a lovely weekend, as I knew I would. I am not bitter and have quite enjoyed spending time with the one who voiced the opposing opinion to having the next generation join us. But I still wish my oldest daughter was here. This is not because I especially miss her. I just find myself thinking time and time again “I wish Paige was here to see or hear this! She would love this.”

Whether your own daughter or someone else’s, there has likely been a time when you have looked at young woman and found her lacking in one or more ways. They have so much to learn. I submit to you that young women need to spend time with women ahead of them in life – and not just their mothers in the setting of their home. They need to see their mothers interacting with other women. They need to see their aunts, cousins, grandmothers, mothers, and family friends of all ages talking, laughing, and experiencing life.  They need to see these older women out of the box of their family role, as just women. Women they can learn from. Women who are multidimensional.  Women with pasts.  Women with stuff.  There is so much to be learned from these amazing women, some of whom will not be with us for many more years due to illness and age.

At this point in her life, my daughter needs to see me as more than a mom. She needs to see me in action interacting with others as a friend, daughter, counselor, niece, etc. 

I think many of us, myself included, have bought heavily into the idea of “me time” and hesitate to share this time with our daughters. When my children were very small, breaks like this we necessary for my very sanity.  However at this stage of the game that isn’t really the case.  And I have started to realize that very soon I am going to have all the “me time” in the world because my children will be grown.  By the time my daughter is 18 or 21 she may not even be free to join us.  Who knows where she’ll be at 21? And will a weekend in the mountains with her old relatives even be appealing at that point? Who knows.  I do know that she WANTED to be with us this year and I feel like my sweet relatives are missing the boat on a wonderful opportunity to speak into her life as she matures into young womanhood.  And it makes me sad.

So please, if you find yourself with the chance to spend time and invest yourself in a young woman’s life, take it.  Sacrifice your “me time” and make the investment.  It will matter.

Not-So-Typical Transformation Tuesday

If you have any sort of social media account, you are familiar with the “Transformation Tuesday” trend where people post pictures of themselves before and after. Nine out of ten times these posts annoy me because they aren’t transformations at all, they are just people growing up or aging. But every once and a while someone will post a great one. Like before they lost 125lbs and today. Or before they fought breast cancer and then after they beat it. At any rate, today’s steady stream of Instragram’s “transformations” got me thinking about my own.

It’s nothing too dramatic and I don’t intend to be all serious about it. In fact, today we will take a light-hearted look at the transformation of my brain.

I think in images. This is something that often gets me in trouble, as the images that sometimes pop into my head are laugh-out-loud funny. So I do. Usually at the wrong times. But, I digress. Since I think in images and word pictures, let me show you a pic stitch I made to depict the transformation of my brain. I will explain after.photo

Have you ever heard that men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti? Meaning that men tend to think in neat little boxes and focus on one thing at a time, while a woman’s thoughts are more interwoven with one another? Well, that’s not where I’m going with this! I just really like food and strangely enough can relate my life to it. My illustration is simplier.

Up until two years ago, my brain was a nice plain waffle. A place for everything and everything in its’ place. A virtual filing cabinet of life. A neat little box for everything, but kind of boring really. Nobody had to see what was in any box I didn’t want them to see. It was organized and efficient. Clean and uncluttered. Useful, but kind of generic. You feelin’ me?

Then wham! It went from being a waffle to a bowl of spaghetti. (I was originally going to use scrambled egg for this illustration, but do you know how unappealing pictures of scrambled eggs are? Yuck. So the Italian in me went with spaghetti.) Just a whole lot a stuff going in all different directions. No order. In fact most of the time you couldn’t sort out where a single thought began and ended. A big lump of chaos. The picture doesn’t show it, but go ahead and mentally toss some marinara sauce on that pasta just to add to the mess. Be liberal with it.

Now for picture three. Doesn’t that look yummy, by the way? Today I am back to being a waffle. But this time my waffle is a bit messier. There is syrup sliding around from one box to the next, berries and whipped cream color and flavor different boxes at the same time. Things aren’t as neatly filed away in this waffle as the first one. Life is more interesting, and way more honest. I have noticed that people, especially women, are much more comfortable with this waffle. It’s welcoming and not intimidating or cold.

To put the spiritual spin on it, God took my plain waffle, tossed it way, left me with spaghetti for a while, but then brought me this beautiful plate of yumminess. He took the basics He provided me with at conception, and added His berries & whipped cream of grace, love, patience, understanding and so much more. And I think that is about as far as I can carry this food-based illustration.

Perhaps it was a little dumb. Perhaps it only left you hungry. (Sorry about that!) But I hope it at least got you thinking about the stages and seasons God takes us through and how He transforms our minds in the process.

I’m really praying He redeems something out of this wacky post. 🙂

 

 

I Read a Book. So What?

I finished a book yesterday.

Yup, I read a book, a real book with hundreds of pages and no pictures, in less than four days. It captured my attention, pulled me in, and made me neglect some basic parental responsibilities like cooking meals. It was glorious! 

I know this is not a big deal to most of you and once upon a time, it wouldn’t have been for me either.  I love reading and always have. I was the kid hiding under the covers reading long after I was supposed to be sleeping. Reading a book a week was typical, and more than one was not uncommon. I just loved books.  Plenty of non-fiction, but let’s be honest, it was the fiction I flew through.  There was nothing more fun than finding a new author and reading all they had written. I was a card-carrying member of not one, but TWO book clubs! (One of those didn’t actually read many books – that’s another story for another day – but it still clung to its title of “book club.”) So it was quite out of character for me to suddenly find myself unable to read anything with more words than a cereal box.

In case you haven’t read my previous blog entries, let me fill you in real quick. Two years ago this month I lost my marbles. My puzzle pieces fell apart. My brain became something resembling Hammy, from the movie Over the Hedge, all hopped up on a triple espresso. I had very quickly fallen under the control of some pretty bad anxiety.  Lots of things, spiritual, psychological, life-stage, etc., contributed to where I found myself.  The result was constant fear, tears, nervousness, lack of concentration & focus, no organization or the ability to think through the simplest of tasks.

Losing my ability to focus and concentrate meant that reading books and watching television lost all appeal to me.  Even if I was interested in either of those things, my brain simply would not let me relax long enough to enjoy them. It was the strangest thing. I could sit and literally stare into space for hours thinking about everything at once or nothing at all, but I couldn’t wrap my brain around reading a page of text or formulating a meal plan & grocery list. When my kids returned to school, I could easily pass hours with nothing to show for them and little notice of the passing time. It was the weirdest thing I had ever experienced psychologically.

Something good thing did come from this, even then. I became used to sitting still and quiet. When some of my focus finally returned after a couple months, I was for the first time in my life able to understand how to just be.  I learned what it meant to be quiet before the Lord, to meditate on the His Word. Never before had I just sat for an hour, thinking on a verse, talking to God some, but mostly just listening. Letting Him whisper into my heart, bring thoughts and people into my mind, and calm my wrecked spirit.  And this is how He began to both heal me and change me. Learning to be still, to take time, and to rest took me 42 years. Sitting quietly had always felt so passive, lazy even. Who had time for that? I’m to be a Proverbs 31 woman, I’ve got to go, go, go! God taught me the hard way how wrong that thinking is. Apparently I’m a slow learner.

Over the past year and a half I have read some books. But even the best of them took me quite a while to finish. I could easily walk away from one, leaving it half read, and never return. (Gasp!  I know, right? What kind of book-lover does that?!) So this week, when I finished one in four days, forgot to make dinner one night, and stayed up way too late reading, it feels like something of a milestone to me. A milestone worth celebrating. God has restored to me a love that has given me such pleasure through my life.  I think it’s kind of cool that He did it right around the two year anniversary of when I lost it. 

I am so grateful.

PS: The book I read? Unwritten by Charles Martin. He is a favorite author of mine. An early book of his, When Crickets Cry, is one of my top 10 favorites of all time.  Look him up. You’ll thank me.

Footnotes

Hey friends. I just re-read my last entry and wanted to add a couple notes.

First, I use the term “crazy” a lot.  I do not mean to minimize or offend those who suffer with mental illness.  I suffered from anxiety and depression, which is a different animal than other types of emotional/mental disorders.  I joke about just everything in my life, even while I am in the pit of pits.  I did generally refer to myself as crazy as a self-deprecating style of humor and a way of coping. I sincerely hope I didn’t offend anyone.

Second, in reading this again, I realized that I really rushed through. I was surprised by how emotional I became when trying to write how I felt during that time. It was so scary, yet such a time of dependence on the Lord that I am still overwhelmed.  I think I rushed through the telling because I just couldn’t park there for long without becoming mired in it.  I didn’t expect that and I am sorry. So the writing is truly awful but the sentiments are real and somewhat raw.  I hope to do better the next time. 🙂

Thanks for reading.  I think there are like seven of you. And I appreciated each of you.

Til next time…

Tears, Tears, and Then There Were Tears

I’d never really seen myself as a person who worried a lot about things.

I’ve always been pretty laid back and most of my life has been lived in a happy-go-lucky sort of way.  Things were never perfect (not by a long shot!) in my life, but my personality was that stuff just didn’t get to me.  I’d like to think that it was an impressive trust in God and reliance on Him in all things. But it was probably more a result of my upbringing that trained me to make a decision and go with it, not to worry over what I could not change, suck it up, move on, work it out, get over it, etc. Whatever the reason, I was not the anxious, worrying type.

So it was strange when I began to worry, and even obsess, over how we were parenting our almost 15 year old daughter. She was (still is!) a beautiful, bright, Jesus-loving young woman who, while not even close to perfect, had never given us any cause to worry. Suddenly every decision we made in regard to rules and boundaries took on monumental importance in my mind.  I was scared senseless that we were going to make a wrong decision that would surely ruin her life forever. I’m wish I could say that I am exaggerating for the sake of dramatic content, but I’m not. My thinking became illogical and I knew it. But I also felt powerless to stop it.

Then there was the panic attack. At least I think that is what it was. Maybe it was just a breakdown. I was in the process of planning an annual women’s kick-off event for September. For whatever reason, no one, and I mean literally no one in a church of 700, was stepping up to help. I had called upon a trusted friend that I knew would do what she could. I was driving alone when I listened to her voicemail message letting me know that she couldn’t help either because it was back to school night at the high school and she needed to be there. Suddenly, everything hit me like a giant wave of emotion.

Why could no one help? Why did no one even care? Why bother doing this if no one could be bothered to help? Why bother with any of it at all? Did anyone even care? And the biggest injustice in my mind, I would miss my first child’s first back to school night of high school because I had to run an event that NO ONE CARED ABOUT ANYWAY.

I started crying the most uncontrollable and rib rattling sobs I think I had ever cried. I nearly drove off the road before safely stopping. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. And I couldn’t stop crying. Even once my brain kicked back in and told me to stop being so stupid, I couldn’t stop the flood that was coming from my face. It didn’t feel like a cleansing cry. Honestly it felt helpless, out of control, and awful.

After that day, the tears came constantly and often without warning. I remember one night sitting in the den with my husband. I was talking about the stress I was feeling and started crying uncontrollably. I could not stop. I was rationally talking to my husband while at the same time sobbing. Half my brain was going “what the heck? get it together Jill! this is silly” while the other half was completely out of my control. My poor husband was just standing there completely helpless and somewhat baffled. I looked at him laughing and crying at the same time and said “Aren’t you glad I waited 20 years to go crazy? You wouldn’t have known what to do with me like this at 5 years.” He replied, “I still have no clue what to do with you like this. Difference is I don’t want to run for the hills. I’m right here and not going anywhere.”

Lord, I love that man.

I cried my way through August and into September. I ended up cancelling that women’s event and everyone lived just fine without it. Imagine that?  A small group of women had formed for the purpose of planning a women’s retreat.  While leading my first meeting with these gals, I cried the entire time. The agenda was tossed out the window and an impromptu counseling session replaced it.  Those four women became my closest friends and allies as I walked through the next few months. I am crying right now as I remember how God brought them to me just when I needed them. I cannot adequately express the love, support, laughter, logic, prayer, and care they gave me. And they brought plenty of tissues to every meeting I led from that day forward.

So the analysis began. Because my drop into anxiety was so sudden and I had significant weight loss as well, we all genuinely thought there was a physical cause. Hormone imbalances, thyroid issues, diabetes, and the like, where some of the ideas we tossed around. Even my pastors were convinced there was something physical going on.

At the end of September I was supposed to go away for an annual girls’ weekend in the mountains. I had loved this weekend for 8 years and had been looking forward to going.  The morning I was to leave, my husband found me curled in ball, crying my heart out, fearful of going four hours ways with limited contact available with home. What if I broke down there? What if all the kind, but nosey aunts started drilling me about what was going on? I simply could not do it. I didn’t stop crying until I made the choice to stay home.  I was convinced I was insane.  And I was scared.  Scared enough to finally go to the doctor.

My husband went with me to my doctor’s appointment. I am so glad he did because it felt like he could validate the claim that I really had become a different person.  That his organized, calm, efficient wife could no longer make a simple grocery list.

Fun Fact: By this point I had also lost 25lbs. off of my 150lb frame. Now, I would totally be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy this particular side effect of crazy and that I was actually looking pretty good physically. Well from the neck down anyway. My eyes were constantly puffy and tear-filled and I’m sure my face must have been on a regular rotation between sad and stressed.  I would NEVER in a million years recommend this type of a weight loss plan to anyone!

Anyway the doctor ran a ton of tests.  She too was thinking something was likely out of whack with my thyroid or hormones.

Early one morning about two weeks later, the phone all came from the doctor with my test results. My husband had stepped from the room while I talked to her.  He came back to find me off the phone but crying (shocking, right?) my eyes out.  I am sure I totally freaked him out.

So, what’s wrong?
My reply?
Absolutely nothing. I am perfectly healthy. Which means I am officially crazy.

And so the next leg of my journey began. And it would turn out to be an incredibly humbling, spiritually challenging, eye-opening, and sometimes painfully slow journey.

A Perfect Storm

I’m coming up on an anniversary.  Not a wedding anniversary, although that is this month too, but a life-change anniversary.  I don’t have an exact date for this anniversary, just August.  August 2011 will always be remembered by me as the month my life, or rather I, began to change.

Let me use this blog entry to set the stage.  Perhaps you will see yourself in who I was before things changed.  I think I was pretty typical of many women in our churches today. 

The year was 2011 and I was buzzing happily through life as a wife, mom to three kids (8, 11, and 14), part-time church secretary, director of a thriving women’s ministries program, school volunteer, and all around go-to girl.  Life was good and I was feeling fine.  I was sort of aware that maybe I had too much on my plate and after praying and talking with my husband decided to quit my job at our church.  Between the office job and Women’s Ministries it felt like I was pretty much working full time.  While the office one paid, Women’s Min gave me flexibility and fulfillment.  So at the start of summer I left my job and enjoyed a great June & July at home with my kids. 

I had always made a habit of taking July “off” from Women’s Ministries stuff since June was filled with cleaning up details from the previous year and August & September were such busy months of planning and start-up activities. Toward the end of July, I started noticing a knot in my stomach, but this was not the usual knot of excitement and anticipation of the coming ministry season.  This one was a sort of dread.  I was feeling discouraged and cynical.  Not great attitudes in ministry. 

It is also important to note that this was a summer of great transition for my oldest daughter, and therefore me.  She was headed into high school, there was this boy hanging around all the time, friendships were shifting and life was both exciting and emotional.  My husband and I had always challenged the prevalent view of parenting teenagers and the “just get through it until 18” mindset, yet we still found ourselves following the popular standards set by Christian culture & the parents we knew without really questioning the “whys” behind some of the rules. We began to question and challenge our own thoughts and approach to parenting our kids as teenagers.  I read Age of Opportunity by Paul Tripp and realized we were not alone in wanting to make these coming years excellent ones. 

 At the same time, I read a few books that got me thinking about how I was living life as a follower of Christ. Having a Mary Heart In a Martha World by Joanna Weaver was a women’s class at church, and Quaker Summer by Lisa Samson & The Reluctant Prophet by Nancy Rue were picked up because I love these authors and love to read good stories.  But the Holy Spirit used these three books to get me thinking about what jobs God had set out in advance for ME to do. I started questioning whether I was filling my time with lots of good things, just not the things He had for me.

 Oh! And we were in the process of trying to sell my mother’s home 200 miles away so we could move her here to our area for a variety of reasons, but primarily financial.  I had not ever lived near my mother in my adult life and the relational complexities that came with this potential move were huge. But I was pretty effective as denying their existence.

So as July came to a close, I was feeling the beginnings of a perfect storm of emotional, spiritual, and mental stuff.  I was dreading the work of ministry, questioning and analyzing my parenting style, method and goals, dwelling on God’s purpose for my life, and facing the reality of creating a new kind of relationship with my mother.  Any one of those things alone might have been stressful.  Combined, they broke me.

August began with stress, frustration and lots of tears.  And most of the time, I couldn’t have explained why.  Today I can list those stressors with very little effort, (thanks to some really good counseling!) but at that time I was blind to the fact that they were stressors at all.  In my own kind of arrogance, it never once occurred to me that I couldn’t handle everything and then some.  I would soon find out how wrong I could be.