Disowned Desire

One of my favorite questions to ask people is what they would do with their days if money wasn’t an issue. If you woke up tomorrow and didn’t have to worry about paying for anything and knew your basic needs (food, shelter, etc) would be met, how would you spend your days for the rest of your life?

I truly believe that’s whatever you say is your passion, and God made it your passion, your desire, for a reason.

It took me until I was in my 20’s to realize how truly good I felt inside when I was creating art. I knew I loved my art classes in middle and high school, that I was good at yearbook, but instead of pursuing these, I let my rational brain convince me that was a terrible idea–that there is no way I could make a living doing either of these, no matter how much I loved them. So I went to nursing school instead.

I love spending time with patients, but in my heart of hearts I know nursing isn’t my calling, and that’s okay. I think everything happens for a reason, and I would love to be able to use my nursing skills someday on mission trips. For now, I know I’m where I’m supposed to be, in a job with an amazing supervisor and co-workers who see and value me as a person, and not just a warm body.

Going into the summer, I added up how much of my paycheck would be going to pay for daycare for Dillon & Logan. I looked at my house, the stress of the daily 2 hour long morning rush to get to work, followed by an hour rush to get home to help Nate get dinner on the table, followed by getting the boys to bed, to maybe get an hour to relax before bed.

But I didn’t see any other way. This was my duty as a wife, and mom. Being ill recently gave me time at home with my boys, and made me realize this is where I belong. I adore our daycare provider, but *I want to be the one to raise my boys*. So why was I jeopardizing my mental health to pay someone else to raise my boys when I want to?

So I added up how many of my hours were going to daycare, I sat down with Nate and told him my thoughts. Wanting to be able to take care of my boys, to be able to do more to keep our house in order instead of trying to do it all on the weekends, to help my mental health by not having to race here and there to get to work every day.

It’s scary, the idea of dropping my hours, but once Nate gave me the okay, I knew it’s the right step. I talked to my boss, praying everything would work out. It was a win win for both of us. My hospital is being proactive with the concern over Medicaid budget cuts, and looking to trim their expenses as much as possible. By going from 40 hours a week to 24 hours a week, it helps my supervisor trim her budget to make them happy, and it lets me be home with my boys by working three afternoons a week, Monday through Friday, based on when our Medicare reports are due.

I’ve been asking everyone what they would do if they didn’t have to worry about money. But what would I do?

I would keep up these hours, working as an RN, because I love the idea of doing mission trips when the boys aren’t so little, and being a nurse is an added bonus.

I would spend time with my boys, enjoying and capturing the little moments that make up life–the lazy summer evenings, the morning giggles, and trying to catch all the firsts while keeping in mind I never know when their last time doing such and such will be…the last time I pick Dillon up in my arms, the last time Logan sleeps in his crib, the last time I change Logan’s diaper (that one I won’t mind so much!).

I would keep getting up early to see the sunrise over the Highwoods and spending my quiet time with God to start my day.

I want to plant more flowers–to have a greenhouse to grow vegetables without worrying about the crazy Montana wind, and to plant a shelter belt with lilacs and honeysuckle. With bird houses and sunflowers everywhere.

Nate graciously let Dillon and I have one of the downstairs bedrooms as our craft room. I would create art to my heart’s content, while learning how to create art on the iPad as well. I would keep filming and sharing my process with others, because I love watching other peoples’ videos and learning from them.

I’m getting there. After reading an article about wasting your life living for Fridays and thinking about it, I realized I agree. I don’t believe God wants us to live a mediocre, unfulfilling life to just get by. I think there’ s a reason we have a desire to do certain things, and when we ignore those desires, we start looking for ways to numb that feeling of discontentment. For me it was drinking wine and zoning out playing Candy Crush. But when I’m on my death bed looking back on my life, the thought of wasting all this time in this way is terrible!

Society ingrains in us that we need to be ‘good’ and ‘nice’ and do whatever we can to fit in. But when I think about it, I don’t want to be thought of as ‘nice’. How boring! I want to be known as being passionate about my faith, about people, about my art. Why are we doing things we don’t really want to because that’s what we think society wants us to do?

John Eldredge writes in his book, Desire,

Christianity has come to the point where we believe that there is no higher aspiration for the human soul than to be nice. We are producing a generation of men and women whose greatest virtue is that they don’t offend anyone. Then we wonder why there is not more passion for Christ. How can we hunger and thirst after righteousness if we have ceased hungering and thirsting altogether? As C.S. Lewis said, “We castrate the gelding and bid him be fruitful.”

Wow. He continues,

“Duty reduces the dance [of desire] to a drill. It’s as if you showed up with a bouquet of flowers for your anniversary. Your wife is delighted, but then you say, “Think nothing of it, my dear. It’s my obligation.” … A woman doesn’t want to be an object of duty, she wants to be desired, and so does God!

To be Christian isn’t about being ‘nice’. It’s about desiring God so badly you can’t stand it, and what’s beautiful is He promises us if we draw near to Him He will be right there. He wants us to desire Him…after all, isn’t this why He created us to begin with? And what better way to bless us than by giving us a desire to pursue the very gifts He gave us to begin with?

Faith like a Child

I catch myself coming to this quiet time thinking, “Okay, God, what are You going to give me?” like a young child asking for a toy when his parents take him to the store to get food.

It makes me think of a recent sermon at church about worship. It’s not about me, and “the feels”. It’s about Him, and remembering everything He has done and being grateful for His love. I am so blessed, yet it’s so easy to be greedy and demand more, forgetting everything He’s already done.

My Skillshare class is so close to being done. I’ve poured so many hours into film editing, something I’ve never done but finally am figuring out after trying 3 different programs. Nate and Dillon gently let me know I needed to put the computer away and spend some time with my family.

I put away my laptop and went outside. It was the perfect temperature, and rare for us, barely a breeze.

After Nate made me a typical of Nate, perfectly roasted s’more, Dillon and I drew on the water cistern covers with charcoal. The horses were loving on Dillon after they were watered. Even Foxy, the skittish mare, was feeling friendly.

The evening turned darker as heavy cumulus clouds rolled in…rain was coming. Dillon was fading fast and asked me to hold him. He’s getting much too big for this but I picked him up anyway (trying not to think that this might be the last time I pick him up and hold him like this) and he wrapped his arms and legs around me. I spotted the first star and after reciting, “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight…” I told Dillon to make a wish.

He looked up and sleepily said, “I wish I could sleep with the horses, and the cows, and God.”

So instead of coming to my quiet time with God asking for a toy, I’m coming with the faith and thankfulness of my sweet boy.

Uncertainty & Worry

God knows how much I like to know ‘the plan’–uncertainty scares me and leaves me feeling vulnerable. Yet He is the one thing that will never change. I need to not lean on my own understanding and turn to Him. My devotional led me to Revelation 22:8-9 in my Bible. I love the notes that explain the verses.

It seems perfect timing–a little backstory–It’s 5:30 AM, Logan and Nate are still sleeping, Dillon is lying on the bed, getting over a head cold and watching his iPad, and we’re in our new ‘art room’ downstairs. The $20 desk we found on Facebook is perfect for him to sit next to me and create his art too. It’s turned in a space to keep my art & crafts without them taking over the house, and a space we can retreat to and not worry about having to be too quiet like we did upstairs. Nate takes one look at the ‘clutter’ and shakes his head, but I see organized chaos, a happy place, my heaven on earth.

This morning is the first time I’ve come down here to do my devotional, instead of sitting upstairs on the couch. It only seems fitting, perfect timing, that I would find this footnote in my Bible for Revelation 22:8,9:

“The first of the Ten Commandments is “You shall have no other gods before me”. Jesus said that the greatest command of Moses’ laws was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. Here at the end of the Bible, this truth is reiterated. The angel instructs John to worship God, and worship is a major emphasis in Revelation. The first step toward meaningful worship is a desire to know God. If we thirst for him, the Bible promises that he will provide for us and satisfy our needs. Would you like your worship to be completely transformed? Confess any sins that might be hindering your fellowship with God. Then ask God to stir your heart, to instill within you and unquenchable thirst to know him. Meditate upon how God has revealed himself in the Bible, and ask him to reveal himself to you again. When you see God in a new way, worship will be your only fitting response.”

It seems like there are times when I can hear Him whispering clearly, and other times He feels so painfully distant I can’t hardly try to call out.

But this footnote gives me black and white instructions on how to approach Him as I do my daily devotions:

1) He promises that if I thirst for Him, He will provide for me and give me what I need. It might not be what I had in mind, but He has never broken a promise and I can only see a pixel of the great billboard He has planned.

2) Confess anything that might keep me from hearing God and ask for forgiveness. I can always tell if it’s sin because it makes me uncomfortable thinking about it–like this morning I know I’ve been letting my pride and ego get in the way of putting together this Skillshare class, looking to Instagram for approval. I need to be humble, and trust everything will work out the way it should. Like my mom said, if people like it, they will find a way to get it without me beating down their door.

3) Ask God to stir my heart, to instill an unquenchable thirst to know Him. It’s so easy to look to other things to try to fill that “God hole” in my heart but nothing can, at least for very long. This has been a painful, eye-opening, breath-taking experience turning away from alcohol, seeing an art therapist, confessing to my family, friends, co-workers, feeling the highs and lows without self-medicating. The lows are painful and uncomfortable, but they make the highs so much sweeter. And when I’m feeling that itch to get away from it all, to self-medicate, to do something when I’m feeling down, I’m realizing it’s God calling me, telling me it’s time to get away for a little bit and recharge.

4) Meditate on how He has revealed Himself in the Bible, and ask Him to reveal Himself to me again. This one is a little harder for me to decipher. I guess what comes to mind is reading a Bible verse about God taking care of birds who don’t worry about anything and promising to take even better care of me–then seeing sparrows, swallows, hawks and robins throughout the day and feeling reassured by His promise. The gentle tugs, the little things that catch my eye when I think I should be reading something else, those are the things I’m realizing I need to pay attention to…those are the moments when I find Him the closest.

5) “When you see Me in a new way, worship will be your only fitting response…”

As I finished up this post I refilled my coffee and let Teddy out. As I waited for him I looked at the horizon. I loved the way the clouds are wispy so I snapped a picture just as two birds flew in the frame. God is good…

Never a Dull Moment

I know I’ve been MIA lately…I’ve been putting together my Skillshare class! Thought I’d pop in and let you know all is well. If you’re squeamish, you might want to stop reading here!

Last night I let my gray cat, Gracie, in as we were getting ready for bed. She darted in like she always does and headed for our bedroom. I crawled into bed and was looking at my phone when I heard Nate yell some not so gentlemanly things. Apparently Gracie had a live mouse in her mouth when she came in and it was loose in our bedroom. It headed straight for our closet. Nate threw some shoes on and started pulling shoes out of the closet to find it. I grabbed our other cat, Duma, with the naive hope she would take care of the problem. She just laid down and watched Nate and I (me very searching very tentatively & praying Nate got to it before I did).

In the midst of our search I tried to be optimistic and asked Nate–at least she brought it in our room so we knew about it, right? And won’t this be something we’ll look back on and laugh? Too soon.

Nate luckily found it first and…took care of it. I have a picture I sent to my brother but out of respect for my mom I won’t post it here.

Lesson learned–make sure the cats don’t have any live objects before letting them inside…

We’re All Just Walking Each Other Home…

It’s been a crazy last few weeks, and I am finally on the other side. I feel better, mentally and physically. I’m ready to get back to work and get on with all these projects and ideas I have. Spring is finally here, and I finally feel good.

But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t embarrassed. Really? TB? Cancer? And I put this out there for everyone to read just how bonkers I was acting?

My dad warned Nate when I first started the prednisone that it could have some interesting side effects. Poor Nate has just kind of sat back and watched me over the last week, shaking his head.

I know someday we’ll look back and laugh at this, but yes, it is embarrassing.

Yet why is this so embarrassing in a way any other disease would never be? Why am I so embarrassed that I needed a medication that had side effects that put my mental health in a more fragile state?

And why is any topic related to mental health so taboo?

I never thought I had an issue with anxiety. Life is full of stressors, and it’s your body’s fight-or-flight response. If anything, I felt like I was weak, because everyone else seemed like they could keep their shit together except me. I knew stress is part of life, and I knew it was not normal to self-medicate. If you have to hide it from your loved ones, it’s not normal. I knew this, yet I couldn’t, wouldn’t reach out to anyone because I was embarrassed.

Once I started going back to church again and realized I didn’t even miss the wine, I couldn’t help but wondering…so I asked my mom if she thought I traded in one addiction for another–wine for God. Her answer made me cry. No. My faith is not an addiction. My faith is what is good for my soul, and it is what my soul needs. I don’t need to hide my faith and I don’t think I could if I tried. There is nothing wrong with relying on a higher power for inner strength.

I know I have to give myself time–alcohol is a depressant, and one I relied on a for a long time. I’m not going to be 100% overnight. It’s okay that I might have some anxiety. It’s what I do to manage it that’s important. I have my faith, my family, my art, yoga with Adrienne, etc.

One thing that really helps is I started listening to my soul more. More and more I realize how the littlest things make me think, “Yes! This makes me happy!” Seeing a bald eagle in the air, the sunrise, scratching the new cow under the chin like a cat, going for a walk, tickling my boys and dancing to music as we eat breakfast, talking to Nate as we cook dinner…all these little moments add up and make you realize that hey, life is good!

I realized how a lot of things didn’t make me happy–not truly. Candy Crush, politics, The Bachelor/any reality TV show–and were just…fillers. I don’t watch Netflix anymore. I watch SkillShare and learn new art techniques. I read books that move me and I talk to others who make me feel happy when I interact with them. I spend time with Nate outside, or marvel at Dillon’s amazing personality that is emerging as we talk.

I started to listen to podcasts (Rachael Hart especially) about the think-feel-act cycle (which I believe is cognitive behavioral therapy–retraining your brain to think of things in a non-judgmental, non-threatening matter). This was huge. I never realized how pessimistic I was before and by re-framing my thoughts I completely changed my outlook on everything.

I started paying attention to what I was eating. There’s a reason they call foods like Chicken Noodle Soup good for the soul. By eating too much processed food and not enough real food, my body was missing out on nutrients it needed. Now I would love to start growing some of my own food. I also started eating more dark chocolate. 🙂

I felt like I was doing better, and I like the idea of treating these negative feelings without pharmaceuticals.

But going off my antidepressant/anxiety medication while being sick was not the best idea. And there’s nothing wrong with needing to keep taking it. Maybe in the future I can wean off it, but for now, I just need to let my mind recalibrate and know this doesn’t make me any weaker of a person than a diabetic who needs insulin.

As for putting it all out there, there are times I wonder if I’m going to regret it. But the more I open up about my struggles, the more people open up to me and reveal that they’ve been going through something similar. The idea of anyone suffering in silence breaks my heart.

We’re walking around, trying to pretend like we’re fine when we should be reaching out to each other and realizing that we are not alone.

Do Not Let Your Hearts be Troubled…

Friday started as such a beautiful day. I took Dillon to school, Logan to daycare so I could get some rest, then on a whim decided to take the back roads via Bootlegger Road home. The standing water on the side of the road left various ponds; swans, geese, and even a few Mallard ducks graced me with their presence. Dillon came home from school, we napped, then he got Logan as Nate went to buy a plow from a retiring farmer. We came home and Dillon left to go to the circus.

Then after Dillon left for the circus with his friend I looked at my hospital results. My CT scan report said a 1.5 cm opacity in the right upper lobe, likely infectious–follow up with CT in 4 months to make sure it was resolved. Despite my ER doctor reassuring me it was infectious, my mind went to the worst case scenario after looking through the CT scan report.

I Googled it. Dear Lord, everyone knows how much I love my Google search, but please break my Google search engine when it comes to me looking up anything medical pertaining to me!!!! I am a nurse, not a doctor…I know enough to scare myself silly and not enough to be practical!

After wasting so much time wondering, “What if…” I finally made myself do my devotions and dear old Oswald is waiting for me. I feel like Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest is like my discipline devotion–he’s not afraid to tell me like it is, even if it does make me flinch sometimes–he has a way of getting to the core of any idea or belief that is not of God and exposing it.

“Have we been slandering God by daring to worry when He has said, ‘Seek he first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you?’

By worrying, I am pretty much telling God I don’t trust Him and I believe He means to leave me in a lurch, despite all that He has done and how often He has shown me the opposite.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid…” John 14:27

I woke up Saturday feeling worse. Despite Oswald telling me to trust God, I was miserable and couldn’t help thinking of the worst. I think it was because I had taken my last dose of the prednisone that I felt like let me function—and my neck was killing me. Motrin, narcotics, nothing was helping but heat. (Nate should have been a doctor–he took one look at my posture on the couch with my cell phone and diagnosed it–text neck!!) We had arranged for the boys to have their pictures taken Sunday and Logan still needed his first haircut. His hair was getting so long my daycare provider’s husband started to tease me when I was going to get it cut. As Nate attempted to hold on to Logan at the beauty shop the ER called for me. One of my cultures had grown out strep. They added on another antibiotic after I told them I was still feeling pretty crummy. In less than 1 minute this phone call resolved my worries and reassured me. Then I found this page on the internet that explained more about strep pneumonia and it made so much more sense.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/why-does-it-take-so-long-to-recover-from-pneumonia/2016/12/30/cc4f9ca6-b5ad-11e6-b8df-600bd9d38a02_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.465f94fff9c1

By letting my heart be troubled by worries, I am telling God I don’t believe in His promise, or His character. “His peace is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest…” Philippians 4:7

Sunday night.

Dear God,

It was a good day today. Put together the chicken noodle soup blog post, spent time with my boys, Nate was ecstatic his new plow worked beautifully with his tractor, then Chelsea came out and took pictures of the boys. I pray for healing–I’m ready to get back to normal & see what You have next for me. I love Sarah Young’s message this morning–

“When your mind spins with a multitude of thoughts, you cannot hear My voice…”

“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them and they follow Me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand…” John 10:27-28

Amen…