What Mental Health Isn’t

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In my life “Mental Health” has been an elusive thing.

Until just this past year every doctor I’ve seen has said something to the effect of: “Have you considered… <insert trendy new pill here>”

Just this past year I had a doctor tell me: “With your case history and the way your mom passed I don’t ever see you off an anti-depressant. If we had a pill to cure breast cancer and your mom had died of that, wouldn’t you take it?”

Sure, but it’s not really the same, is it? My mom didn’t just die because she was sick, it was this messy cluster of pain and problems.

Like losing my dad to a heart attack and losing parts of her daughter in a car/train accident while struggling with depression.

And this is the point at which mental health becomes really hard to figure out. Am I struggling because I’m sick or am I struggling because this is hard, because Life. Is. Hard?

I would never dream of deciding that for another person. Ever.

It is never my place to say “Here is where your life issues and baggage stop and your chemical imbalance begins so this is what you should or should not do.”

I can’t even figure that out for myself.

But I have figured out one thing in this past year of counseling and life and delving deep into past to discover some foundation core beliefs that are throwing me off.

I have figured out what Mental Health is not.

I always thought that mentally healthy people, people upon whom doctors would never dream of handing a Rx for antidepressants must ooze sanity, logical thought and even keeled temperaments.

But that’s not mental health… and that’s not humanity.

Here is what mental health isn’t, what it doesn’t mean:

It doesn’t mean you never yell at your spouse.
It doesn’t mean you don’t need to make lists to get things done.
It doesn’t mean you never sob for no particular reason over the state of things.
It doesn’t mean you never feel like hiding when the world feels too big.
It doesn’t mean you never get overwhelmed when life feels unstable.
It doesn’t mean you never need to call a friend, right now just to unload and vent.
It doesn’t mean you never feel like walking around with an L on your forehead because you feel like such a mess you may as well proclaim it.
It doesn’t mean you never feel like finding the bottom of a tub of ice cream

These things are not signs of mental illness, they’re just part of being human. Yet for so long I thought that they were things that were categorizing me as “not quite right” when they were normal, human reactions to the big feels of life.

I’ve come to realize that my old idea of what mental health looks like involved two things

1) Not really needing people.
2) Not feeling big feelings out loud.

This is not mental health, this is not human. 

Mental health involves healthy coping skills and healthy coping involves living well in community and feeling your feelings even when they’re really inconvenient.

And they’re going to be inconvenient.

It would be so nice if grief, jealousy, insecurity, sadness, fear, anger and frustration would only come out at the appropriate times but that’s not life, at least it’s not my experience of life on pills or otherwise.

Life happens at messy and inopportune moments and so does it’s corresponding feelings.

If I could share one thing on this topic, it would be this: It is good to feel your feelings. It is healthy, needed and natural…. normal even.

Life is a roller coaster of big feelings and we are meant to be stretched and grown and stressed and sad and thrilled. It’s terribly inconvenient but it’s really important to feel these and go there and know what’s really going on inside us.

We learn how to identify and express emotions in preschool and then sometimes it feels like we try to undo all that as grown-ups.

When your feelings get to a point where you can’t cope or where they are having a negative impact on those around you, then it may be time to seek help, but don’t feel all wrong just for having them.

It’s not my place to speak to anything you’ve discussed with your doctor. You will only ever find me supportive of your choices in that respect.

The only thing I really have to say is don’t assume that your big feelings and inconvenient emotions mean that you’re sick, feel what you need to feel, go to counseling, get to the bottom of it.

The journey to understand your feelings and negative beliefs about yourself, the world and God is worth every moment and penny you invest in it.

It’s the most worthwhile time and money I’ve invested in years and I suspect I will continue to invest in my mental health so I can be the big feels, slightly unpredictable wife, mother, writer and human person God created me to be.

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Just last month I went to a doctor who has seen me for the better part of my life and she told me this: “If you feel like the anxiety is too much, then call me and we will talk through it and figure out the best plan. But you seem to be really self-aware and stable,you’re doing really well.”

As I drove home, I sobbed, because in the journey of living my life and not following in my mother’s footsteps, those were some of the most beautiful words anyone has ever said to me.

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This is how my first big speaking engagement went

Last week Friday I had my first big speaking engagement, which is a fancy way of saying that a church asked me to share at their women’s retreat.  

And guys, I was nervous, I started shaking about 12:30 in the afternoon and still all hopped up until I fell asleep that night, honestly just writing about it is exhilarating and nerve wracking… in the best of ways.  

But so many friends texted, tweeted and Facebooked me encouragement, let me know that they believed in me…. that I didn’t go into that room alone.

just before...

Also I bought red power lipstick, this helped too.  
Also Also my friend Anne sent me a gorgeous shirt for the occasion, this also helped because I could stop worrying about what I was wearing and worry about what I would say. 

And it went well, it went so well.  As I gazed out over the faces of all those women (a little over 100!) I felt more energized than nervous, more impassioned than afraid.  In short…. I think I sort of loved it.

The evening was under the umbrella of a winter storm and when I went to park in the ramp in downtown Holland, the van slid on ice and I had to carefully back it down.

I immediately realized that if I can survive THAT, I can talk to a roomful of women for 45 minutes.  After all, it won’t kill me or total my main source of transportation so how bad can it be?

When I walked in, the smiles of the organizers put me at ease. We walked to the room across the street where the conference would be held that evening as we chatted about the weather and having thick hair all while the wind did it’s best to whip the hood off my head.

Something I haven’t yet mentioned:  The church who asked me to come speak is the church I attended as an adolescent, the church both my parents attended when they died, the church where we held their funerals.

This was both comforting and extremely intimidating, because while they knew my story... they also knew me as a 14 year old girl. Continue reading

The Worst Part of “Getting to Know You”

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So there’s something awful about getting to know me, especially if you’re a tender hearted person.  It’s this: At some point I’ll have to tell you my backstory and I’m nearly 100% sure that doing so will hurt more for you than it will for me.

I’m used to telling this story, you’re just not used to hearing it.  My story flies in the face of everything you’ve assumed to be true about me through our interactions.

Online it seems to be a little less dramatic (I’ve rolled out the three major blows of my life here, here and here) but this could very well be because you’re on the other side of the screen and have time to compose and comment, or not.

When people meet me in person, their first impression is usually that I’m a talkative, upbeat, bubbly mother of two who’s good for a laugh.

Then, at some point, the conversation usually has to take a turn, usually not the first time we meet.

It starts with someone asking about my parents, here, I’ll just dialog it for you. Continue reading

Grief is awkward

because grief is awkward.

……  because grief is awkward……

Recently I moved back to my hometown.  Back to the place where my parents are buried and the most painful parts of my life came to pass.

It was easier to hide from and avoid the details when I was 1,000 miles away…  not always driving past the cemetery or over the train tracks where it all went down.

Yet, all of these little moments of remembering haven’t messed with me as much as this one:

I was sitting at my desk, at the office where I work a few days a week right now and someone stopped in who I haven’t seen for years, someone from my parents church.

We chatted about this and that and as he was leaving he said:

“Hey!  Tell your folks I said hi!”  

Inwardly I panicked. Boy was he out of the loop, I thought everyone in town knew our story.

Should I fill him in or just let it go?  He knew them, he deserved to know.

So I did what I have to do sometimes and laid it all out at once, the breakdown of what’s up with my family.

“I have a sister, but she was in a tragic accident and lives in a group home and my Dad died of a massive heart attack and then my mom took her life.  So I have a brother, but he joined the army and lives in Kansas for now.”

Deep breath.

Typically when I have to do this I am absolutely fine and it doesn’t phase me.  After all, nothing about my life changes in that moment.

But in that moment, remembering who we all were way back then and then explaining how it ended, It undid me. And when he left I hid in the storage room and cried.

It was awkward and painful.

Grief is awkward.

Usually the moment I explain my backstory is no big deal and it doesn’t hurt … much.  In fact, usually I end up feeling worse for the person on the other end of my story and find myself trying to make them feel better about it all.

This is always my least favorite moment of “getting to know you.

Grief is awkward.

Sometime this is because you find yourself suddenly hurting, stinging from an unexpected, painful memory…  in public.

 

Maybe a song comes on in church and you crumple to the pew and burry your head in your hands, or you see something while you’re out and about that brings everything crashing down on you.

The people around you see this and don’t know whether to intervene or let you have your moment.  They may wonder what’s going on, they may speculate or they may grab you a tissue… even if it’s tender and sweet… it may feel a little awkward.

This is because you suddenly have to “go there” with someone you may not be ready to “go there” with.

But this is life, and life is awkward.  It’s a big jumble of experiences we weren’t expecting and feelings that arrest and overwhelm us at the most inopportune moments.  

Since it’s bound to get awkward… here is a list (that I’ve developed from years of awkward moments) that may help you.

1) Breathe. If you stop you will pass out and that’s super awkward.
2) Gain perspective, everyone has experienced pain and can likely identify with what’s going on.  You’re not the first person on the planet to hurt.
3) Drop your shame, you have no reason for it, healing takes vulnerability and it’s not always pretty. Shame is just going to lengthen the process.
4) Remember that we were created for relationship and that this forced, accidental group therapy may very well turn into something lovely, if you let it.
5) When you say the wrong thing (like: “your mom” to someone who doesn’t have one or “do you have kids?” to someone who is infertile) apologize but move on in grace.  What you’ve just learned isn’t new information to the person you’re chatting with they’re probably okay… so you can be too.

Overall remember that life is just messy and uncomfortable.  You will fall apart sometimes, and it will usually be in public.  I think this is because God’s trying to teach us to be real…. although it’s not my favorite method of his. 

The more we all admit this messy awkwardness and stop pretending that grief and pain are quick and easy, the less awkward moments we will actually have.

And we will create authenticity…
And community
And generally feel less alone in the pain of it all.

And that my friends is a very, very good thing.

What Mama Did: The Song and The Dance

I’ve been spending the week reading LisaJo Baker’s series, “What Mama Did.”  Lisa invited some friends to share their stories of what their mothers did that left a mark on them.

What are we doing as mothers that will leave a mark upon our kids? Perhaps it’s not what we think.  Tell me all about what your mama did that made her yours…. 

It’s been bittersweet for my heart to read through these this week, an odd mix of joy and jealousy.  So many of the lovely memories my Mom endeavored to make for us were marred by her mental illness and eventual suicide.

Yet the longer I spend on my own motherhood journey, the deeper I understand my own mother, it this this is a universal experience for all parents.

The more I reflect on our memories together, the more I uncover the truth of who she really was.

As I dig into my past I emerge with pearls, moments where she was exactly the woman God created her to be, nearly free from the depression that gnawed too often on her heart.

I’ve already told you about the warmth of enjoying her muffins on the rug and the way she would curl up and read books with me, both of the memories are precious to me.

Dancing-Feet-300x225 Yet this week I’ve been reflecting on my Mother’s singing and dancing.

I remember vividly the gray plastic CD player that sat on our kitchen counter, and the cassette boom-box that preceded it.  Both of these devices were usually playing Celine Dion or Cynthia Clawson… a bit of Josh Groban in her later years.

They rarely played “kids music” because when mom sang and danced it was because something in the song freed her heavy spirit to do so.

Something in weaving of THOSE words set to THAT music left her no choice but to dance with us across the linoleum flooring.

She never sang without dancing, even if only with her hands.

I remember a childhood vacation that is completely soundtracked with my mother singingly “Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling.  Calling to you and to me, come home, come home all you are weary, come home!”

Or a car ride with her in college when she hijacked my Disney Hercules CD soundtrack and belted “Go the distance” over and over again.  “I will find my way, I can do the distance! I’ll be there someday, if I can be strong.  I know every mile, will be worth my while…” 

When I re-read those lyrics, they tell me more now than they did at the time.  She needed to believe that Christ was calling her, that she could go on another day.

My Mom showed us the vulnerability of her soul through the lyrics of songs and the freedom of soul dancing, she taught us that words set to music can set you free.

She modeled the need to resonate with things, and to allow ourselves to become overwhelmed as our souls connected with something essential, eternal.

The freedom of the soul moving to words set to music, that’s what mama did.

 PS I did not know this was supposed to be a 5 minute friday when I started writing it Monday.  I should have.  Forgive me, I’ve been sussing through it all week.

Letters to my Mother {Day 18} So we’re 30

Dear Mom,

Every mother has her day where she wakes up and her baby is 30.

Your day would have come this past January, and then Kel, your son in law turned 30 on Tuesday.

So, we’re 30 now. And to tell you the truth I’m fine with being on the other side of my 20s.

For me the 30s are when you come into your own, feel comfy in your own skin, and gain immeasurable amounts of grace.

We spend our 20s blaming our patents for our issues and baggage.

We spend our 30s realizing they were people just like us. Trying their level best to live and love well. Continue reading

Memories and Milk Glass

Last night the Verkaik women gathered together for a girl’s night.  We joined up to laugh, devour appetizers and catch up.  We try to do this any time the “out of towners” come back for our summer visits.

However, last nights gathering had a unique purpose, to absorb the history of all the dishes, antiques and memories that fill up my Grandmother’s curio cabinets and shelves.  To divide and receive, so that we may eventually take these heirlooms and integrate them into our own homes and stories.

There was a silent battle for milk glass, a confused googling over what exactly a “hummel” is and a hilarious roar when we found a little german sculpture of a naked couple intertwined in a passionate embrace.  We decided that our unmarried cousins must use this as a cake topper…. come on ladies, please?

At one point my Aunt Ruth commented that all this colored glass and delft made up my Grandma’s life, spoke of her journey, her memories.

These dainty cups and delicate plates came from California, Vietnam and Washington.   A few pieces remained from my great grandmother’s original journey across the Atlantic from The Netherlands to America.

There is something about a tea kettle that floated past lady liberty in an old wooden trunk that takes my breath away.  So much hope, and adventurous fear contained in a small silver vessel.

We each left that night with a piece of my Grandmother’s story, but more than anything we could hold in our hands we all left with a deep sense that our most cherished gift was the gift being a woman of this family.

We’re daughters, nieces and granddaughters, whether by birth or marriage, who will carry this family into the future.  We will retell and create the stories of “us.”

Of course we will cherish the vases and plates and retell their stories, but more than that we will carry and tend the flame of identity that is infused into our blood and bones.

Every time we gather I feel inner warmth and each time we part I feel less complete for the distance.

I’m honored to be a woman in this story, my grandmother’s second granddaughter, chosen to carry her legacy into the future.  To glimpse of her life in delicate blue delft and share it, and so much more with my own daughter and granddaughters.   I will teach my Daughter to love almond paste, appreciate delft and make blueberry buckle and pea soup.

Lineage, we all have a story that spans forward and backward from this very moment.  We are all part of some collective “we” and if your family has left you story-less, I must remind you that we are brothers and sisters together you and I.  Loved children of a God whose story includes all families in an infinitely redemptive tale that has neither a beginning, nor an end.

Today, may you see all that you carry and cherish, and may you share it into the future.

Road Trip & Hungry for Connection

Good morning from Holland, Michigan!  We had a somewhat safe drive up North save for a very intense blown tire while I was driving the van just outside of Chicago at rush hour.

Luckily God provided with a durable spare and a nearby tire shop.  Total props to Kel who laid down on the dirty highway shoulder to take care of business, he’s a real life super hero.  Send Capes.

This is how we roll in a tire shop

seriously blown and smoking tire.

We are still recovering from our 1,000 mile, straight thru car trip but I am excited to share with you the link to the online version of my first published, print article with “The Banner, The Official Magazine of the Christian Reformed Church.”

Hungry For Connection

“I feel as if I’ve been hungry for a long time. Absolutely starving, really—I mean the kind of hungry you feel when you’re ready to tuck into a holiday feast complete with pie and appetizers. The thing is, this hunger I’ve got is not for food—although I love food; don’t get me wrong.

What I’m really hungry for is time to connect with friends and family. I crave a long, satisfying meal filled with delicious food, infectious laughter, and that comfortable feeling you have when you know you are completely safe with someone. When you don’t fear judgment because you know you’re loved and known.

Most of my communication these days comes from texts, tweets, and e-messages in at least a million forms. These forms of relating are like saltines for my hungry soul. When you’re so hungry you could eat your own arm and someone hands you one saltine, it’s a joke! You might be thankful for a little something to chew on, but you need a whole lot more than one salty little morsel to satisfy your hunger.”

To finish up this article, go to the Banner’s online magazine to read on.

As for us, we’re off to the beach.

The longest journey- the week I lost my mom

 I’m positively in love with my home state and try to make it back as often as I can, especially in the summer when I long to escape the Oklahoma heat. The summer before my mother died was no different, Kel was unable to get away from work so it was just Noelle and I who boarded that early morning flight. Braving the trip without Kel would turn out to be a mistake, I needed his strength to survive a two week stay with my Mother. It was beyond painful to stay in that house which died the same day my father did. Every second spent there was a reminder of how much we’d lost and continued to hemorrhage with the passing of time.

Our visit wasn’t going well, the depression was absolutely consuming her, but I was too close to see the disease. All I could see was shell of the woman who raised me, yet no longer knew me. All of my confusion and anger shot out like steam from a kettle and I spewed out dozens of unfair questions and accusations. As I went through the transformation into motherhood I had to decide what kind mother I would be in light of the example I’d been given. I longed to have a relationship with the woman who’d given me life, bathed me in the sink and read me a thousand books. Yet, I knew in my heart she was no longer available to me, even though she was sitting right across the room. If I’d known this was the last time we’d ever speak face to face, I would have done everything different, hindsight is a clear, cruel gift at times.

The next morning I boarded a plane and flew home, happy to leave that house behind once again, determined never to stay there again. A few days later, on Father’s Day my brother called and told me that Mom had attempted suicide by overdose. When I talked to her later that day she blamed it all on me, on my words, my lack of support. We cancelled our Father’s Day Dinner and spent the evening at a low end rib joint here in town. I poked at my smoked turkey and canned beans, trying to muster up the energy to celebrate Kel in spite of the nauseating emotions of grief, fear and anger.

As my pregnancy progressed, so did her depression and in spite of the events of Father’s Day I continued to hope, begging God to break through her crust and heal her. One night in October my husband twisted my arm to stay up late and watch a movie. We laid on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and against all pregnancy odds I stayed awake until the closing credits. Just before we climbed into bed I heard phone from the other room. I mumbled at Kel to grab it, and just before he did he called out “It’s your brother!”
I glanced at the clock, it was too late for a routine phone call, my throat tightened, something, someone wasn’t right. I saw Kel lean against the dresser for his brief exchange with my brother. When he hung up, he looked at me with a heavy gaze. I couldn’t tell you his exact words, but it went something like this: “Your mom died, she killed herself, she walked out in front of a train… at the same tracks as your sister’s accident.”

I climbed onto the bathroom counter and curled into a ball, no small feat in my third trimester. I didn’t cry and I didn’t scream, I just stared at Kel as we looked at each other with a mutual, “Oh God, Now what?” We knew that we needed prayer and so we called our friends Jenni and Tiffany, who cried before I was able to. They started prayer chains and helped us through travel plans. Plane tickets were astronomical and bereavement discounts were a joke. The most practical choice would be to load up our mini van and drive through the night. We ran laundry and drifted around the house in shocked trances. Around 1 AM there was a soft knock at the door and it was friends from church delivering a travel basket with healthy snacks and gift cards. I remember being so strangely calm that I gave them a few grocery bags of fresh food, so it wouldn’t go to waste in our absence. I know that I couldn’t rest until a thousand things were set in motion and so instead of crumble, I focused on meaningless minutia.

 

When I allowed me mind to feel all I would think was: “How could she do that?” I had no

Her rocking chair, in her empty bedroom

idea she was that determined, that ballsy. I was terrified they would make me identify her remains and that my mind would never recover from it. Finally at 3 AM we carried our 1 year old Noelle to the van and started down the longest and darkest journey of my life. Our baby girl bounced in her car seat for the first 5 hours, thrilled about the surprise late night car party.

Our phones constantly lit up with blessings, assurance and text messages, bringing a steady stream of light to our darkness. So many people stayed awake that night simply to remind us that they were on this journey with us. That road trip lasted a grueling 21 hours and I can’t say I’ve ever been as tired as I was when we finally arrived at my Aunt and Uncle’s House.

We awoke, still in our nightmare and headed to the funeral home to arrange all the details that accompany death. We were greeted with the aroma of chocolate chip cookies instead of the usual lilly and chemical smell funeral homes typically provide. My family waited for me in the parlor and parking lot. I melted into the arms of all those who I’d longed to embrace from the moment the phone call had arrived.

Ron, the most amazing funeral director in the world, guided us through the details. He was young and compassionate and although we were planning a terribly unexpected funeral, the planning flowed from us easily. We chose the white casket, “The Old Rugged Cross” and James 1:12: “Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” The one detail I couldn’t figure out was the flower arrangements. I wanted her funeral to feel like fall, perhaps mums or sunflowers? Fall had been her favorite season, in better days she raved about the vibrant leaves and fresh apples. I couldn’t escape the questions, how could she take her life in her favorite season, with a grandson on the way and a wedding to plan? How could I have missed it? I was wracked with guilt, why was I so hard on her? Always placing healthy mom expectations on a woman who was so clearly sick and hurting.

I coerced myself into a trip the mall to buy something appropriate for all the formalities. Who plans for a funeral dress when buying maternity clothes? I also needed to grab something for my daughter to wear. You have no idea how macabre it is to select a funeral dress for a 1 year old whose grandma just killed herself. There was something about having a perfect plan for our clothes that provided a retail therapy, a false element of control.

The next few days flashed by in a haze, I was soley sustained on adrenaline, a sense of duty and cans of V8 V-Fusion. It took all my strength to honor my mother and get her body into the ground, to tie up details and be strong. I knew there was a house to sell and a lifetime of “stuff” to sort through. I could do anything, and go anywhere but her house, the place she ran from to end it all. I hated that house and had dreams of standing in the front yard in my pajamas while it burned to the ground.

We had planned two visitation shifts at my parents church and I walked through the doors knowing I would be viewing her body for the first time. More than anything I wanted to jump into my car and drive home to the safety of our home. Perhaps this was just an awful dream I would soon wake up from, or more accurately, a nightmare. Maybe I would jolt awake any minute, sweaty and shocked in our bed back home in Oklahoma. Denial is the first stage of grief, and it was all so unbelievable, that denial was a sweet companion.

The woman in the casket looked like my Mother, but only barely. Her body had suffered from impact, and everything was all wrong. It’s a picture I don’t like calling into memory. I didn’t linger there in front of her casket didn’t touch or caress her cold hands more than once. I fingered her wedding ring and then prepared to receive mourners and friends a good length away from the casket. I endured 4 hours of visitation and stood on aching feet to greet visitors and receiving condolences and confusion with all who knew and mourned my mother.

The morning of her funeral arose grey and threatened rain. We gathered at the church to share our common pain, to give an outlet for the mangled mess of our emotions. Just before the service they closed the casket and we said goodbye to her face for the last time. The music started and we followed her body into the church, I wept through her favorite hymns and managed to sing “The old Rugged Cross” through the tears — when I was 9 she made me promise I would sing this hymn at her funeral. Mom’s friend Kathy spoke the perfect words on her behalf: “I love you, forgive me, move on with your lives”. 

Pastor Tom read Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” This brought comfort because we deeply believed God was keeping that promise to my Mother that very moment. He urged us not to feel guilty or responsible, that we couldn’t have prevented her end. He assured my family and I that it was alright to feel a dark sense of relief that her suffering and our worry was over. I’m forever grateful to Pastor Tom for honoring my mother with the perfect balance of wisdom and love. His task that day was not an easy one.

My husband, brother and uncles bore her body to the hearse which would take her to her final resting place, in the earth beside my Father. Family and old friends gathered for lunch and Noelle flitted from table to table bringing fresh life to a hard funeral. My mother’s tiny granddaughter was a sweet reminder, that on the darkest days, God gives new hope.

We drove to Georgetown Cemetery and laid her body into the ground on that cold autumn day which never delivered the forecasted rain. After they lowered her into the ground, I walked away, still shrouded in a fog of shock. I rubbed my cold knees as Kel wound our van through the cemetery maze. Driving away, all formalities behind us, brought a paralyzing fear. I would have to return to my normal life with so much pain to sift through. How on earth would I navigate through this new life, heart and sanity in tact? I was now one of those people children of suicide, this new chapter was forever a part of my story.

I longed to do an “I dream of Jeannie” blink and bring our family instantly back to the safety of our home. Far away from the cold reality of this cemetery plot. It was late in October and the holiday season, normally my favorite, loomed ominously on the calendar. There would be Halloween Costumes and Turkey, Christmas shopping and New Year’s toasts just before our son made his arrival. To be honest I had no idea how I would get through any of it, I just allowed my spirit to groan to God in faith that he would lead me day by painful, grace-filled day.

Peace through Peach Jam

Lately I have been struggling with my story, my past and all the grisly details of suicide and funerals.

Some days, as you all well know, the devil gets the best of my inner monologue and I feel “less-than” and as my friends Hannah & Heather put it, “like a total hack.”

Today I can’t get through life without this antidepressant.
Today I am not a published author, I hardly made progress.
This morning I wept publicly at the coffee shop trying to write about my Mother’s death.
Over breakfast the kids screamed and I wondered if there would ever come a season of greater peace and less chaos.

It’s noon on an unexpectedly hard day and I’m going to focus on what is and all that I can do. I can’t publish today, I can’t get my daughter to pee in the potty or teach my son to wait for food without screaming and pulling my pants down with his impatient tugs.

but.

I can go let out my friends dog while they finish adoption paperwork in the city
I can make a bath of freezer jam and zucchini bread from beautiful local produce.
I can tell my husband that his support is everything
I can confess to God that I’m a mess and I need his grace
I can stop caring what the people in the coffee shop right now think as I cry over my laptop
I can read my daughter “Count on Donald” again, even though I hate it
I will leave 10 encouraging notes to friends, both online and local
I will write that friggin trash check so the truck continues to haul away our nasty diapers and coffee grounds.

I will see all of this as something real, though it is small, it is beautiful.  I can’t conquer mountains today, but I can take these little, life giving steps.

I refuse to be defined by what today is not, I will feel peace and purpose on all the beauty that today holds.

Peach Jam and children’s books are enough for me today, and this is a priceless thing.

Want to partner with me in sharing all that is and forgetting all that isn’t?

Slice off a piece of zucchini bread and smear it with peach jam as we believe that we can and tell the voices of “can’t” and “aren’t” to go to Hell where they belong.

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linking up with Joy in this Journey