For He so loved the world…

What would it take for me to willingly sacrifice my beloved son?

There are several people I would lay my life down for, but to give up my sweet children’s lives? Never…

This thought played through my mind, over and over, as I listened to the worship music and Easter sermon.

That’s exactly what God did…sacrificed his beloved son to give me a way back to him. He gave up his own son for me. This is mind blowing to think about, but then to realize he did this, knowing ahead of time that I would not only mess up over and over, but that I would turn away from him completely….why would God love me that much? Am I really worth that much to him?

How amazing…but how can I be so sure there is a God? And why do I believe this version of God, (with Jesus)?

I wasn’t really raised going to church. My parents believe in God and try to be good people, but we never prayed before eating, etc. I remember being embarrassed when I ate at my friend, Cori’s house, for the first time. The dinner looked delicious and as I took a bite, her dad gently led us in prayer. I was a little mortified, but I remember chewing my food and thinking, “Well, God, I’m grateful for this food and I know already how good it is…”

God definitely had his sights on me, even as a young girl. The faith of a child is one of the purest things on Earth and I had no doubt he was there. He placed people in my life to guide my way–my godmother: Norma; the best friend I desperately prayed for: Cori & her beautiful family, my Uncle Mark & Aunt Brenda, just to name a few. My spirit knew there was something beyond our temporary world and I grew closer to God through them.

But as I got older I couldn’t wrap my scientific brain around the plausibility of certain things when it comes to God and Jesus and the Bible. The logical part of me wanted concrete evidence, absolute proof that there is a God and the Bible is true beyond a shadow of a doubt. There’s a great book called The Case for Christ that is worth reading if you can identify with these thoughts…it’s written by a lawyer who set out to debunk the Bible and ended up becoming one of its biggest supporters.

Eventually I turned away from God. It wasn’t a sudden decision. It was missing church once, then here and there, then drifting away from my church family after separating from my ex, leaving my Bible untouched for weeks at a time, days passing by without a single thought of God. I seemed to be doing just fine on my own, without him. Until 13 years later, I wasn’t fine…slowly drinking myself into oblivion to fill the gnawing emptiness while desperate thoughts of being better off dead wrapped around me like a straitjacket (link goes to my first blog post, explaining this a little more…).

Yet he came through for me again through my art and a chance encounter with a friend from church long ago. He was right there, waiting patiently for me to realize how much I truly needed him.

I know how I feel with him in my life and now I also know how I feel without him. Concrete proof doesn’t matter to me anymore.

All I know is I am empty without him, and that’s proof enough for me.

New Insights…

I woke up yesterday morning at 2am with this intense, gnawing pain in my right upper abdomen, just below my rib cage. I tossed and turned, got up, trying to make it go away. It was easily as intense as my post c-section pain and my first thought as a former ER nurse was it was my gallbladder. I woke Nate up and told him what was going on & I was going to go downstairs for a bit. As I sat there I remembered something I had read the day before about the power of praying the Bible. So I opened up my journal and wrote…

“God, this pain is hard to ignore–RUQ, boring into my back, unrelenting. Is it my gallbladder? It woke me up suddenly and I can’t take my mind off it. Logan has a doctor appointment, it’s Dillon’s 7th birthday today & he has school. I have work, Nate has work. I can’t afford to be sick. I turn to you for healing; your word says you want me to be in good health (3 John 1:2) and that you anointed Jesus with the Holy Ghost and with power so he could heal all who were under the power of the devil (Acts 10:38). I believe in you and ask in your name to take this pain from me, heal whatever is colicky inside me. You said I can ask anything in your name and you will do it (John 14:12-14)–if it be your will, please take this pain. I have faith you can heal this (Matthew 9:20-22). I thank you for all the blessings I have in my life–too many to count and growing. I thank you for not giving up on me…Amen.”

The pain was no better. After a bit I went upstairs, got dressed, and told Nate I was going to drive myself to get checked out. As I pulled up to the ER and walked up to the door, my pain was suddenly maybe a “2” from where it was once a “6” or “7”. I almost turned away when I heard a whisper, “Just see what your labs show…”

It was 5 AM and I was immediately brought back. Most of my favorite nurses were working–they gave me sympathetic smiles and gently joked if I wanted to see them again I could’ve just stopped by. They sent my blood to the lab and an ER doctor I hadn’t met before came in. I immediately liked him as he asked his questions and did his assessment. I was candid with him about my drinking & told him I hadn’t had anything to drink since Valentine’s Day. He told me the blood work was back and my liver labs were elevated. He recommended an ultrasound to make sure nothing was going on with my liver, gallbladder, etc.

I knew it could take a while for the US tech to get to me but I was first on his list as he came in at 6 AM. Before I knew it I was back & waiting for the results. The doctor came in and told me there was sludge in my gallbladder, but nothing emergent, but I should follow up with my primary care provider. He said it could be leftover from drinking, or it could be that my gallbladder needed to come out eventually, but not today.

What a relief. I drove home, thinking how God is good. The pain easing up just as I was walking in, how smoothly everything went, I knew he answered my prayers, and then some…

I never considered myself an alcoholic and I still don’t. I don’t like slapping a label on myself.. I definitely consider myself as someone who had a serious drinking habit and someone who was self-medicating with alcohol. While before I was chasing that buzz, the inebriation to relax, I have no doubt now I could have a single glass of wine with a nice dinner without it turning into needing a second glass, followed by a third, then a box of Chardonnay on the counter… But as someone who believes in signs, I think this was a clear sign from God maybe no alcohol is best…I don’t need it, I don’t crave it, and it’s definitely not worth my health. There’s a reason they call it the liver…you need it to live (hardy har har).

There’s nothing good that can come of my old life. There’s only so much my husband can put up with, and I know my drinking was pushing him away. Dillon would ask me to quit ‘wining’…this thought makes me cringe it’s so heartbreaking. I’ve seen what happens when people push their bodies too far with alcohol and other toxins, and it’s not pleasant. I have to much to live for to settle for a life like that.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast…” 1 Peter 5:10

This verse has been on my heart all week…this piece is slowly coming along.

Problems are a Decision Waiting to Happen…

An Unexpected Circumstance

One of the things I love most about living where we do is Dillon’s school. Right now there are 9 kids in this school that teaches grades Pre-School through 5th Grade. The teacher and her husband are amazing and I love this close knit community. Our mail lady is also one of Dillon’s classmates’ grandma, and is also on the school board, and so on. Everyone is connected!

We’re trying to be frugal, and so instead of shelling out $200 for a trampoline place for Dillon’s 7th birthday party, Dillon’s teacher & our mail lady graciously offered to let us use the school. I created his silly wrestling invites (last minute…oops) and handed them out to his classmates this week. I bumped into one of the other moms, and invited her and her son, but accidentally told her it was on Saturday. A few days later, as I was driving away after dropping Dillon off at school I saw her outside her house.

I had met her over the holidays in passing at the Christmas play but I didn’t know her very well. I pulled over to apologize for my blonde moment and update her. She graciously told me no problem but then told me her son’s birthday party was also the same day, and she would just push her son’s birthday party back and the kids could come over to his party after Dillon’s.

My first thought was respect and amazement that she was so chill, so willing to do this for Dillon. My second thought was, how fun would it be to have two birthday parties at the same time?! I threw the idea of having her son’s bday party with us at the school–they have the same classmates, so why not?

She agreed and we quickly decided how we wanted to do it–low key, cake & ice cream, a little game I had in mind, and with the main objective of celebrating Kaiden & Dillon first and to have fun second.

As I drove away I couldn’t help thinking, “What are the odds, in a school of 9 kids, that we would have two kids with birthdays two days in row, and set up their birthday parties for the same day and the same time?!”

Sometimes things happen in such a way they simply can’t be a coincidence, that there simply must be a reason. Maybe it’s divine intervention, God’s providence, his way of working behind the scenes to fulfill some purpose. Whatever it may be, it’s an opportunity. “We know God causes all things to work together for good who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” or as the Message translation says, “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” (Romans 8:28).

Worry & Anxiety…

While I found comfort in this, I was still feeling a little anxious about co-hosting a party with people I don’t know very well, how to keep things going smoothly, etc.

I went to church last night, and before I went I prayed to God that he would amplify any message he had to me. I’m afraid I’ll miss his whispers. But then, feeling a little guilty of asking him to do all the work, I backtracked and prayed that God would quiet the noise in my head and in my spirit so I could be more open to his whispers.

As worship ended and this pastor from Australia, Mark Conner, started speaking of worry and anxiety, I could have laughed. Well played, God. If this wasn’t shouting, repeating the message I’d been hearing in whispers over the past week in my soul, by bringing a pastor all the way from Australia to Montana to repeat his whisper, I don’t know what was! Pastor Mark talked of worry, a common problem of mine and laid out a solution with the acronym of ‘STOP’.

S-Specify your worries–what are you worrying about? For me, I have to write them out. If I don’t, they just swirl in my mind like a windstorm. By writing my thoughts out, it’s like releasing the leaves and debris swirling around my mind.

T-Take action on your worries. What can I do about it? This was my favorite part of his sermon:

How can you turn your problems into solutions? And use the worry–change it from a negative thing to a positive thing–let it motivate you to action. Which leads to O…

O-Offer up a prayer to God. Don’t sit there and ruminate on your circumstances…pray, listen, and do something about it!

P-Place your trust in God. Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight…”

After the sermon was over, someone asked about worry and anxiety in social circumstances, and he had the most amazing advice about charisma. “Charisma is walking into a room & instead of saying, ‘Here I am!’, saying, “There YOU are!'” Almost everyone is feeling a little social anxiety, feeling a little nervous when they’re around people they don’t know very well. But when I’m in these circumstances, the people I love and admire most are the ones who go out of their way to make me feel better, who actively engage with me, even just with a smile and a hello.

So there was my answer…get out of my own head and stop worrying about everything, and just be present and engage with others. Stop worrying about it and focus on celebrating Kaiden and Dillon.

Amazing sermon…I’ll post a link as soon as it’s uploaded!

My post from earlier this week about God’s whispers about my struggling with anxiety

Life Changer.

I thought a good time wasn’t possible unless there was alcohol involved. I’m ashamed to admit this but it is true.

When we finally give up and stop running God wastes no time. Somehow this beautiful podcast ended up playing out of my iPhone one morning on my way to work, and what followed was a completely new way for me to look at my life.

Rachel Hart just completely unraveled my warped thinking in 20 minutes and gave me freedom from something I knew I was overusing but didn’t quite know how to get away from…

http://www.rachelhart.com/podcast/enjoyment

Transcription from her website. Her other podcasts are just as amazing and I can’t get enough of them!

“Whether or not you are enjoying yourself, whether or not you’re having a good time depends on the thoughts running through your mind while you are doing something. Now, most of you do not think about enjoyment in this way. You believe that an activity itself is either inherently enjoyable to you, or it isn’t. But I want to show you that that’s not quite how the think-feel-act cycle works. And this is a big issue for everybody really, but it’s in particular a big issue if you want to change your drinking, because of course, drinking and enjoyment are so often linked together.
So I have two examples that I want to give you, examples that I think will help show you that it’s not about an activity being inherently enjoyable or not, but it’s about what you’re thinking while you’re doing that activity. So my two examples are dancing and painting. I think both of these are perfect examples. I hear so many people say, “I hate to dance. I don’t dance. Dancing’s not my thing” or, “I’m just not artistic. I’ve never been any good at stuff like that, like, that’s not something I do. I don’t like it.”
But here’s the thing. Have you ever really watched little kids dance and paint? Right? Like, when you see little kids that are dancing or painting, and sometimes doing both of those at the same time, they are just like, “Yeah, let’s do this. Moving my body is fun. Playing with colors is fun.” Right? Enjoyment is available to them because they don’t yet have all these thoughts running through their mind that adults do, or even you know, older kids do.
They aren’t thinking, “Do I look stupid? Am I doing this right? I feel ridiculous. I don’t know what I’m doing. That painting is so much better than mine. This is ugly, I’m no good.” Right? Really little kids are just like, “Yeah, this is great. I love it. I love moving my body. I love painting.” And I know some of you will come back to me and say, “Yeah, but the reason I have all these questions doubting my ability, the reason why I’m questioning whether or not I’m a good dancer or whether or not I can actually paint something that looks okay is because I’m not a real dancer, I’m not a real artist.”
But here is the thing that I want you to consider. A dancer is just a person who moves her body to express what she is feeling. And I’m pretty sure that all of you listening are capable of moving your body in some way to express how you are feeling. And the same is true with an artist, right? An artist is just a person who uses materials around her to bring her ideas to life.
Now listen, you have ideas. I know you do. There are materials around you to express those ideas, but whether or not you are willing to use them to create something, whether or not you are willing to move your body to express how you feel, now, that is a whole other story. But there is no doubt in my mind that you are capable of doing both. And the reason that you don’t enjoy it, the reason that you’ll say, “I’m no good at this. I’m not a dancer. I can’t paint. I’m not creative” is because of all the thoughts you have about what you are doing and or what you are making. So really, whether or not you enjoy yourself when you move your body, or when you bring to life an idea depends entirely on what you’re thinking while you’re doing these things. This is how the think-feel-act cycle works.
Let me tell you, if you are on the dance floor and you are thinking, “Oh my god, I look so stupid”, you’re going to feel embarrassed. And guess what, your action is going to be. You’re probably going to sit down. Right? You’re probably going to move to the far wall and lean against it, or go to the bar and get a drink, or go to your table and sit back down.
And if you look at something that you have drawn, and you think, “God, that’s terrible. This is terrible”, guess what? You’re going to feel ashamed and probably crumple up the paper and throw it away. But the dancing and the drawing, or the painting, it didn’t make you feel anything until you started judging it with your thoughts. So I have some bad news, but also some good news for you. Whether or not you are enjoying yourself at any given moment is up to you. It’s your responsibility. Now, I know for some of you that’s kind of bad news, because it’s like, “Jeez, another thing I have to be in charge of”, right? But I think it’s fantastic news. Because if it is up to me, then I can look at what I am thinking, I can pay attention to how the think-feel-act cycle is working while I’m doing something, and I can change it.
So I can start to enjoy things that I may have previously told myself, “You look like an idiot. This is no good. This work is junk.” I can learn how to enjoy things just by changing my thoughts. I don’t have to go out and become you know, a master dancer or a master painter. I just have to change the thoughts that are running through my mind.
And the truth is that nobody can change those thoughts but you. This is why it’s your responsibility. No one gets to crack open your head and tinker with your own think-feel-act cycle. That’s what you get to do. So yes, it is up to you. But this is great news because if it is up to you, then what I am telling you is that there is always the possibility of enjoying yourself in what you are doing. If you are willing to pay attention to your thoughts, if you are willing to notice how those thoughts make you feel and how you act as a result of how you are feeling, then you can decide, “Hey, do I want to keep this think-feel-act cycle? Is this thought really working for me?” And if it’s not, then you can challenge your thinking on purpose.
You can maybe decide that you won’t say things to yourself like, “I look like an idiot. This is terrible. This drawing is terrible.” Right? You can start maybe just as a first step, talking about the things that you are doing and the things you are creating in a more neutral way.
Now, here’s what most of us learn to do unconsciously. What we end up learning to do is outsourcing our enjoyment to things that give our brain dopamine. So the things that we consume, what we eat, and of course, what we drink, becomes how we teach our brain to seek out enjoyment in so many different situations.
And I hear this all the time. I hear people say, “If I go out to dinner and I’m the only one that’s not drinking, it’s going to be so boring”, “If I go to the party and my glass only has club soda in it, I’m going to be miserable.” But I want to tell you this – if food and drink are the best things about who you are with and what you are doing, then you are doing it wrong. Really.
I am not saying that that means you can never enjoy a glass of wine, or eat a piece of cake. But if the thought of going to a party and not consuming things for pleasure leaves your brain thinking, “Why would I even bother going?” then that’s something you really want to know about yourself and pay attention to.
The reason why you’re convinced you’ll be bored and miserable if you aren’t drinking or eating is because you’ve become so dependent on consuming things that give your brain dopamine as the primary way of enjoying yourself and having a good time. Now, this is not your fault. No one ever sat you down and taught you about the think-feel-act cycle. No one ever said, “Hey listen, if you’re not enjoying yourself, you really need to look and see what’s going on in your mind. You really need to pay attention to the thoughts and see how they’re making you feel.” We don’t get that information. And so of course, for many of us, when we’re in situations, especially situations where drinking is really common and we find ourselves feeling a little uncomfortable, or a little anxious, or a little insecure and we don’t really feel like we’re enjoying ourselves, we don’t know what to do. And reaching for a drink seems like a really good idea. It seems like, “That’s how I’ll have a good time.”
Now, the problem is if that becomes your sole way of changing how you feel, of enjoying yourself, of having a good time. You can see how you would very quickly become dependent on it. That’s exactly what happened to me.
I like to think about, you know those water wings that little kids wear when they’re learning to swim? You’ve got this kind of inflatable armbands that helps keep the kids afloat while they’re still learning. Imagine if you wore those armbands every single time you went swimming. Every time you took a dip, every time you went into the water, you had those water wings helping you stay afloat. Now, what if you did that for years? Maybe even decades. And then one day you went into the pool without them. Your brain would freak out, right? Your thoughts would be, “Oh my god, this is so hard. I don’t like this. I feel really uncomfortable. I need my floaties.” So you would probably get out of the water and you would probably decide, “Yeah, I don’t really like swimming without my water wings, so I’m going to pass on doing that in the future.”
This is what is happening for a lot of you who don’t like having a drink in your hand when you’re socializing. You’re in the water without your floaties, and your brain is like, “I do not like this. This is not enjoyable. I am feeling uncomfortable, why would I choose to do this?” And I get it. I didn’t like it either. It seemed like I always had struggled to enjoy myself socially because I was feeling so much anxiety created by all my mental chatter, the thoughts that I had about not fitting in, that everyone was prettier or smarter, more successful.
And so I was feeling all this anxiety and insecurity and awkwardness, that’s what was being created in my think-feel-act cycle. Of course, I didn’t even understand how the think-feel-act cycle worked. I just knew when I went to college for the first time and I started going to parties, and I felt that way, and I had no idea what to do with these negative emotions, and I had no idea that they were created by the thoughts running through my mind.
What I did start to unconsciously learn was that if I could start to get a buzz going, if I could get a drink in my system, that I seemed to be able to feel better and enjoy myself. I seemed to finally be able to have a good time. The problem was the more I did that, the more my brain was like, “Hey Rachel, this is the solution. Let’s just grab a drink.”
I started to get to a place where not having a drink felt like not having my floaties, right? I didn’t like it. It didn’t feel good. I was like, “Why would you do this? Why would you go to a party and not drink? Why would you go to a bar and not drink? Why would you go to a baseball game and not drink? I don’t like this.” My brain was so used to getting dopamine as a way to have a good time. I just had no idea the sort of power that I had in my own mind, with my own thinking, to create enjoyment for myself.
I didn’t even realize that I was the one creating the fact that I wasn’t enjoying myself. Because here’s the thing – the more I reached for a drink to quiet the chatter and to finally have a good time because I was giving my brain dopamine, the problem was all those underlying thoughts, they were still there. They were still unchanged. And every time is tried going out and not drinking, and then I didn’t enjoy myself, it was because my thoughts were unchanged, but of course, what did I think? “Oh, it’s because I’m not drinking.”
I didn’t yet understand how the cycle worked. I just believed that going out and not drinking was one of those things that was obviously inherently unenjoyable, which is a pretty problematic thought to have when you’re trying to change a habit. Your enjoyment is up to you. You can either decide that you want to hand over the responsibility of enjoying yourself to the things that you consume, especially the things that give your brain dopamine, or you can make the choice to take responsibility for it, for you to be in charge, to not need dopamine to convince yourself you’re having a good time.
Because if you leave all those thoughts unchanged, if that think-feel-act cycle just continues to loop over and over and over again, except in those moments when you have enough dopamine to cover it up, well, you can see where you’re headed. You’re headed to a life of wearing floaties.
Now, on the flipside, there is so much freedom to know that you don’t need anything outside of you to enjoy yourself, that your enjoyment is up to you. You don’t need to be consuming something, you don’t need a drink or a buzz to make sure that you have a good time. There is just tremendous freedom there.
You know, obviously, I have practiced now for years understanding this and learning this for myself by not drinking. And like all things, it’s become easier with practice. So I’ve talked about on the podcast before, the very first wedding that I went to when I had decided I was going to take a break, and it was really hard. I mean, I was probably – I think I was maybe a month in, maybe a little bit longer, to taking a break, and I remember dreading going to this wedding.
I was so worried about it, but I went, I really – it was important for me to go. I really wanted – I wanted to go, even though I was afraid I was going to be miserable, and I remember when the music came on, and I was like, “Alright Rachel, go out on the dance floor, try to be a normal person.” But I was so hyperaware of my dancing. I was just like, “Oh my god, this is terrible. What am I doing? What are my arms doing?”
My body had never felt so uncomfortable because for so long, I mean, I just – unless I was by myself in my house you know, I was really never dancing without a drink in my hand. And so I was out on that dance floor, really trying my best, but just thinking, “This is terrible. I look weird. I feel awkward. I know technically that I like this song that is playing right now, but I do not like what is happening.”
And it was really challenging. It really was because my brain was like, “Listen, when we’re dancing in groups, the way that we enjoy that is by making sure that we’re drinking. This is just how you do it. You taught yourself that at 17 and we’ve been practicing it ever since then.” And so it was really hard for me to do it that first time. But I kept doing it. And I think about my own wedding a couple years later, and I’ve also talked about that on the podcast before. And you know, there was an open bar at my wedding. I didn’t drink. And I will also tell you that I was the first person out on the dance floor, and my husband and I joke about this because I was so impatient about wanting to dance. So we were sitting at our table and I kept kind of leaning over to him and saying like, “Is it time yet? Like, when is the dancing going to start? I think this is taking too long. Why isn’t the DJ playing anything? I think we should be dancing already.”
I was really, really, really excited to get out on the dance floor. And he was like, “Rachel, calm down. You are the bride, you are the very first person who was served dinner. There are people, there are guests who still have not gotten their food yet. Take it easy. We’re going to dance.” But I was so excited to get out there. And once I finally did, once all those people finally finished eating, which let me tell you, I still think it took a really long time, I didn’t have a moment of self-doubt or insecurity.
But I had practiced so many times in between that very first wedding that I went and I wasn’t drinking, and then my own wedding, I had practiced so many times really understanding and paying attention to, “Hey, if you’re not enjoying what’s happening on the dance floor, it’s because of everything that’s going on in your head. So if you want to have a good time dancing, you need to either change the thoughts in your head, or go back to drinking, or decide you’re never going to dance again. Those are your choices.”
And I practiced changing my thoughts, and that’s why I could be in such a different place a couple years later. So here’s the thing – if you’re not enjoying yourself, it is time for you to question a couple things. Number one, what do you really believe creates your enjoyment? Write this down. Answer this question for yourself. Is it what you’re doing? Or is it what you’re thinking about while you’re doing something?
Number two, what are your thoughts about not drinking and also enjoying yourself? Does your brain think that’s possible right now? Does your brain think, “Okay, I won’t drink, and I’ll be really healthy, but I don’t think I’ll have that much fun.” Really get those thoughts down on paper.
Number three, think back to a time recently where you did not enjoy yourself. What were you thinking? What was running through your mind? I want you to try and capture those thoughts so that you can start to really show your brain that it was your thinking.
And number four, just ask yourself, “Will it be possible for me to change my think-feel-act cycle, for me to learn how to enjoy myself and take responsibility for having a good time if I’m always covering up how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking?”

Something’s Happening…

I’m sitting here with my Bible that’s been unopened since probably the last time I went to church. There’s still flyers in there from Great Falls Christian Center from 2005.

This has probably been the longest I haven’t had a drink since I had Logan. I’m not even craving wine. Last Thursday, I was sitting on the couch, a moment to myself with Nate & Dillon in town, & Logan in bed. I’m Pinteresting, looking for ideas for my art. I stumble on Kelly Rae Robert’s, one of my favorite artists, website. I would love to learn some of her techniques. She has online classes that pique my interest. I click on Spirit Wings and my soul leaps. I read it and know I need this. I look at the price tag…$149. I mentally calculate how many Black Boxes of Chardonnay that would be (about 7 ½, or about 3 weeks worth)…and make a promise to myself that I will not buy wine and with this money pay for this class instead. I buy it and start reading. Her words start to amplify the whispers I’ve been carefully ignoring for the last 10 years. My desiccated spirit is soaking up her words and I’m desperate for more.

I try her lesson, feeling awkward, not used to journaling anymore…my art journaling had consisted of progressively becoming more buzzed until what looked promising ended up looking mediocre in my eyes. Despair was evident in my pages. I keep going but my soul takes her lesson to a different direction. I let my spirit take over as i create and I am in love with what I created with Kelly’s help. My words slip out from a song that pulled me through when I was at my worst, “Battle Cry” sung by Jussie Smollett. “Fear inside my brain I’m terrified And doubt takes over love I’m paralyzed No giving in, no giving out No…I refuse to lose this battle Let whatever come my way I am stronger than my rival No, I will not fall today.”

I will not fall today. I will not fall today. I will not fall today. I will not fall today.

I repeat it over and over as I work. I will not drink today. I will not give in to my negative thoughts today. I will not numb myself today. I will not fall today!

I have no religious thoughts as I work. I had planned to make my girl looking down, serious, beaten but determined. Somehow she ended up to the heavens instead. I pour my heart and soul into this canvas that weekend, waking up at 2:30 AM Saturday morning, wide awake. I work through until 7:30 AM when my boys wake up. I feed them and a few hours later go back downstairs.  My sweet husband realizing I need this time, lets me pour 20 hours into my work, each minute pulling back another layer from my buried spirit.

Monday morning I stumble on a podcast by Rachel Hart that changes my entire outlook on life with the Think, Feel, Act cycle, and the realization that I have come to depend on alcohol to have fun. Somehow in my mind I had come to believe if alcohol wasn’t involved, it wasn’t fun. What? She gave me the revelation that I had the power to decide if I was going to have fun…I didn’t need the situation/people I was in/with to create the fun with me. It was okay to feel awkward and dance. Why would I choose to sit and watch others dancing, knowing I wanted to but too worried i’d look silly? It was okay to have fun without alcohol. With each word she spoke to me another shackle fell away and I fell out of Chardonnay’s spell I didn’t need a glass of wine to “treat” myself after a long day of commuting and work. I didn’t need a glass of wine or six to get me through the evening until I passed out like a “responsible” adult at 8pm. I didn’t need alcohol to make it easier to be around my boys. I didn’t need alcohol, period.

Tuesday I’m in Hobby Lobby, about to check out when my husband returns my text to get this piece of art on sale. I apologize, leave my place at the checkout counter and grab it. As I come back, I see a friend from high school…my best friend’s older sister’s best friend, Mel. I say hi, thinking she’ll just want to say hi and continue on with her day. Instead she gives me a hug and we start talking like we just saw each other last week. She’s moved back, is doing well. Church comes up, and I ask her where she’s going. New City…the same church I called home so long ago. She tells me there’s a Saturday service and I know I’m going, whether it might be -40 or blizzard outside.

I start my Jeep and head to work, realizing things are happening unseen but so obvious they’re almost palpable. I am hopeful. Instead of trudging through my days I’m joyful. I look forward to being around people and enjoying their spirits and not thinking I need to have a drink to make them interesting. I look forward to laughing because it feels good. I look forward to continuing to soak up each moment with my beautiful boys, giggling and playing with them, creating art with them, creating memories that I will remember.

He’s been right there all along, I have no doubt. I could hear him whispering but for some reason I just couldn’t let him in. I left GFCC after my ex-husband and I parted ways. Really, I can’t even say the church “slighted” me, but it was awkward with our mutual friends. I finished nursing school and met a man who quickly became my best friend and love of my life. Dillon came along in March of 2011 and life was good. I started working in the ER, a job I loved but was hard to leave at work sometimes. I’d come home and decompress with wine, journaling my thoughts…the loss of a young patient, a woman in excruciating pain, the breasts she’d fed her children with ravished by radiation. The look in a father’s eyes as his son was carried away, his spirit no longer with us. Eventually I realized I was missing out on too much of Dillon’s childhood and miraculously my former job was open…a job I could work from home if needed and had amazingly flexible hours, Monday-Friday. I was carrying the burden of feeling like I needed to have one more child and dealing with infertility for over 2 years. I finally got pregnant but miscarried early. In those dark days I turned to God once again in my brokenness, writing to him in my art journal, angry, pleading, then accepting his will. We moved out of Great Falls to a beautiful property and the following month discovered we were pregnant. Logan was born in December 2016.

I had everything…money was a little tight but my husband was amazing, my children were amazing, my home was amazing, my job was amazing.

Why was I contemplating suicide? If everything is amazing and I have no reason to be depressed, then the problem must be me. I became more and more overwhelmed. “At war with my heart and mind/Fear inside my brain/I’m terrified/And doubt takes over love/Paralyzed/Ohh darkness clouds the light…” I even have a plan…as a nurse I know this is bad. I don’t tell anyone how I’m feeling. This is really bad.

July 2017 we have a family camping trip. Everyone is having an amazing time and I am miserable. I don’t even want to be in my skin, I don’t want to be around me. My younger brother and one of closest friends, Cory, pulls me aside. His usual joking self is gone and he’s looking at me. I eventually spill my thoughts, crying and confessing how miserable I’ve been, even telling him how I had thought of just ending it. He helps me realize how depressed I am and begs me to get help.

I go to my doctor and she realizes I have post-partum depression and starts me on a medication. Life gets easier and the darkness is easing up. I’m still overwhelmed most days, trying to get two boys out the door every morning, keeping up with my job. I’m drinking more now than ever, to the point I’m hiding it from my husband. I’m no longer so depressed but I am still so empty. I live for the moment I can go home and have a glass of wine. I have no reason to drink. Motherhood is hard but billions of other moms do it. And I even have a husband who cooks, cleans, does laundry…

I heard his whispers all along. Maybe I needed to walk through the valley of the shadow of doubt, maybe I’m just a stubborn child who has to learn for themselves that they really can’t do it alone. Everything is amazing, and yet I still cannot do it alone.

So God, here I am. I’m ready.willnotfalltoday2018