Tuesday, November 18, 2014

progress report

For nearly a year now, the Hubs Handsome and I have been on a strict food regimen. It was a rocky start with me standing in the grocery store aisles reading every label on every item and tears filling my eyes. I was overwhelmed but completely convinced that I could do it. I needed to do it. It was the next step to healing my body. Mental illness doesn't give you a break. You have to be willing, ready and hold on tight for the ride if you desire change for the better. It doesn't happen all on it's own. And the minute you give it room to grow, it'll take over like a poison ivy rash. So, it takes commitment and fortitude and all the strength your body can muster up. 

The good news is a year later, the change is evident in my life. Perhaps not everyone else can see the change but the two of us have no doubts. We removed the majority of all processed foods from our diet. Most specifically, sugars and flours. Through reading and research, I was able to see how the typical sugar/sugared products we buy in a grocery store could be seriously wrecking my brain. You see, it can have a drug-like effect on the brain with absolutely no nutritional value being added to my body. That's where sugar addictions come in and why people crave sweets. It made sense. I needed to know. Months later, I was no longer having irrational spouts of weeping nearly biweekly. My brain felt less clogged and my thinking improved. 

The flour was another story. I knew some people could feel a difference if they took wheat out of their diets so it was a good try. Initially, we didn't eat breads/wheat flours at all. Then we gradually added in whole grain Ezekiel breads and home-milled-grain bread. While there was no radical change in my emotional state due to grains, I knew there were other internal issues that could be affected by store-bought flours and breads. Therefore, we have decided to do our own grain milling and now we know we aren't intaking brominated products. It's amazing now that we know when we do eat bread, we are filling our bodies with the whole grain full of nutrients that our bodies thrive on. Breads are no longer an empty calorie but a sustainable food for our brains. 

Not only have we changed our eating habits, but shortly after that I also came off of my medication (Lamictal). It wasn't a cold turkey bit so don't get any ideas without talking to your doctor. I gradually reduced my daily dose and talked to a homeopathic doctor about it. I felt like the medication was holding me back from uncovering my whole self. I felt stalled in any kind of progress mentally. Hubs and I do have a deal that if I ever get in over my head, I will get back on my medication. And coming off medication means sticking to some lifestyle rules in order not to let bipolar symptoms consume me. I have to get enough sleep and stay away from situations that are likely to break me down. I also take a high dose of fish oils and other vitamins daily that are key for healthy brains. I've only had one major depressive episode and it was due to a lot of stressful situations and no exercise. It took a while to come out but when I did, it felt really great to know we did it without medication this time. I say "we" because I could never do it without Hubs Handsome. He took the time and effort to help me. He would wake me up each morning smiling and gave me a reason to live each day. He was beside me nearly all the time so that I wasn't alone with my thoughts. He got me out where I could breathe fresh air and enjoy the world away from high-stress areas. He really was my lifesaver. 

My biggest issue these days is social anxiety. It sounds silly to some but it's truly paralyzing. My mind thinks about being around a crowd of people I know and my body freezes. I do much better in small settings and thankfully, the majority of my life consists of small settings and small places. (Did I mention we live in a bus?!) I don't know what it will take to overcome the social anxiety. I know people have their ideas and suggestions but right now, it's not my biggest priority. It takes a lot of energy to keep up a {mostly} steady emotional life and I feel like I'm there now more than ever before. My priority now is maintaining what I have and not sabotaging it accidentally. Eventually, I'll be ready to move ahead but this is huge progress for me. 

It's huge progress for us - as a married couple, as a team, as heirs together. I've always felt like such a crutch to him. I still do many days. But now I am in a better place than I've been in years. I'm thankful for Hubs Handsome being beside me all the way. I'm thankful for God's constant care for His children. I know that without either, I wouldn't be here. It's a beautiful life we live - not because it's perfect - but because we overcome together. Together, we can make it. That's what the Christian life is all about every day - working with God, working with each other to make a difference. Sometimes that difference is a chaotic mind that becomes clear again. Trust me, that's an important difference. Ask anyone who battles with mental illness if it's important to them. All of our lives are important to God - whether mentally, physically or spiritually ill. All of our lives are worth the effort. Help make a difference in someone's life - your spouse, your best friend, your child. It matters. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

no overnight depression

You're cruising along at full speed ahead. You have your sights set on typical productivity and the normalities of this beautiful life you live. It's not anything lofty you hope to achieve - simple servitude with a mix of everyday ambitions, if you will. You've kept in mind your limits while reaching forward to greater heights. You make plans, set goals, march on to meet them. You gain excitement in accomplishments and await the next arrival. 

Then in the distance you feel it coming. The winds of destruction rustling, the faint sounds of a brewing storm hastening in your direction. You haven't properly prepared for this magnitude and there's no stopping it now. You thought you had all things secured down but you were careless. You know you were in a rush to live life like everyone else. You didn't ask for it but you didn't take extra precautions either. Now it's too late. 

All your energy is consumed in this raging tempest. Air is difficult to obtain. Rains of salty tears come steadily. Thoughts are surging around you with no particular pattern or purpose. The skies have a haze about them. There is no beauty to behold. Destruction is visible for miles.

And it lasts for weeks. Weeks on end. 

They used to call it a melancholy spirit. Now we call it depression. Either way, it's most definitely a gloomy time in one's life. There's no doubt it's a state of despondency and desperation. You beg for God to take you Home. You cry out for peace and relief. You fight to breathe but you long to die. I know that's harsh, confusing and scary but that's the truth. Depression takes over and doesn't intend to let go. Your brain longs to be released while you have little energy left to do anything about it. 

I think people underestimate the effects of illnesses in the brain. I think we underestimate the power of the brain as a whole. When we fight an illness in our bodies, our brain is the first to fight. Our brain controls every part of this physical flesh that we have been given - whether subconsciously or not. The brain is in charge. Now let's imagine the brain is backfiring. Your brain starts fighting within itself. Your brain is using your energy for it's own personal agenda. It starts to mix up it's frequencies and deliver the wrong things to the wrong places or who knows what. The point is that your whole center of a physical being is off kilter. If the most powerful part of your body is off kilter, your whole physical/emotional/intellectual self is not going to properly function. It's serious business. It's not something to take lightly, joke about or brush aside. Our bodies are gifts from God and to think of mental illness as a flippant matter is sadly misunderstanding what God intended for us. 

As I come out of yet another episode of a month long depression, I wondered how to tell you about it. You see, in a state of depression my malfunctioning brain says it's pointless to write, pointless to tell my story and most definitely pointless for me to even have a place in this life. On the other side now, I can't help but doubt and wonder if it isn't true while knowing that someone has to talk about it. I cringe at the thought of negative feedback and thoughtless remarks. I know it's easier to keep it hidden so that there won't be an awkwardness that follows me around. Then I think about the ones I love who have been here - the ones who have died, the ones who have survived, the ones who are fighting hard, the ones who feel as if they are sinking - and I type these words with them in mind. I tell you for my husband's sake who sees the beauty in the depths of the darkness, who never fails to hold my hand and never makes me feel inferior or tainted. I tell you for all the spouses and loved ones out there who need to know that we need you beside us to show us who we really are, help us find our way and never give up on us. 

Each God-given physical flesh is precious and valuable because He formed it. It's time we realized this and showed those who are fighting mental illnesses how much worth they have to us. We are so quick to throw our hands up and say they have nothing to offer just because they will live a different life than everyone else. We are more willing to ignore than to encourage, more eager to pity than to befriend them. The fact of the matter is that God knew that those with mental illnesses and depression could handle it. He knows we can come out of these horrid moments with better understandings of people, deeper relationships with Him and more willing to offer grace to others. Depression and mental illness brought me to my knees in a way that might never have happened otherwise. I never longed for Heaven until I knew mental anguish and torments. I never gave Him my whole life until I had no control of it whatsoever. 

On this brighter side of a depressive state, it's a slow process. You don't become depressed overnight, nor do you come out overnight. It's a gradual state of recovery. And I think each time, it's a little bit different as I learn more about myself and about bipolar depression itself. This episode was the roughest in a while so it's taking weeks to recoup. While talking to people was exhausting before it happened, it's even more exhausting now as I rebuild energy levels and reacquaint myself with chatter. It's highly important to be surrounded with positivity and lightheartedness. I know life is not always butterflies and rainbows. I know life is dirty and messy and ugly sometimes but throwing that on anyone coming out of depression is unwise when they have a brain that already taunts them enough with negative words. Fresh air, healthy foods, long walks, loved ones, uplifting books, quiet time, happy music, puppy dogs and sleep are all on my "get-better" agenda. I think God gave us nature and delicious food and solitude and sleep and the Psalms for that purpose. He knew we needed these things for a happy spirit and He wants us to take use of these blessings. I think sometimes we guilt people who are in recovery. We think they have it easy when in reality, it takes so much energy to recover. Let me repeat that, so - much - energy. When we take advantage of His gifts and thank Him in the process, we are glorifying Him. When we slow our life down and make it simpler in order to function properly, we are intentionally taking care of the bodies He has given us to steward. It's been hard for me to acknowledge that. It's easy to beat myself up - hello, I have depression - and to think that my life is wasted because of bipolar and depression. That's when we have to remember that He knew each one of us in the womb and gave us a purpose. Every single person with a mental illness has a purpose and a passion. It just takes a little more undertanding of ourselves to figure it all out sometimes. 

It's a life long illness. It'll never be cured. It'll never just disappear. It will linger near no matter what I do to prevent or ward it off because I have am imperfect brain. And that's ok. It's ok because depression showed me a God I didn't truly know before. A God who loves me even when I am lethargic in bed with no desires, no motives, no reasons. He is a God who sent a Saviour to die for me  - my imperfect being - so that I might have redemption. He is a God who Comforts me when I hurt beyond my wildest imaginations. He is a God who shows grace and mercy for the imperfect - all of us. This is a God I long to live in the prescence of one day. 

Mental illness showed me that. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

stolen lives

It lurks in the corners of your mind.
It casts a shadow over pleasant thoughts. 
It lingers near wherever you go.
It comes out to play at the worst of times.
It haunts the innocent.
It hurts many lives. 
It kills too many lives.

It is mental illness. 

In the cruel world we live in, mental illness is often overlooked. Not so much because people aren't aware, but because the world becomes too busy with self-ambition and personal gain to acknowledge and help. Instead of instant thoughts of compassion, we cast instant judgement. Instead of sacrifice and gifts, we offer up complaints and insults. The sufferers are listed as burdens and annoyances. The hurting are deemed worthless to society. 

All the while that is happening, mental illness is slowly killing people with precious souls. Souls that have been created in the image of God. Souls that need saving. 

As another statistic of mental illness, I know what it is like to be consumed by an illness that you have no control of whatsoever. It takes your emotions captive and makes your thoughts chaotic. It leaves you without energy and will. It takes you so far that all you want to do is make it stop. You want the emptiness to be gone, the mess of your mind to be free. And when you have the energy, you will do what it takes to end the static, the voices or the pain. Sometimes, what it takes isn't pretty. Sometimes, it takes your life. Some of us never have to go down that road because we have the people beside us everyday to help us never reach that point in life again. Many don't have that privilege though. Many feel like there is only that one option left. 

Suicide is the saddest death I have ever known. It is close to my heart because I have been in the depths of that dark world. I know the helplessness that comes with it. I know that there is more pain and hurt and sadness than one can imagine in an individual when it has succeeded. Suicide isn't a selfish act. Suicide is a way of escape when there looks like no other way. Suicide is a last resort for the sufferer. And until you have been in the pit of a full-blown, head strong mental illness, you can't understand it. 

My plea, my urgent request, is that when you come in contact with the homeless, you ask them their whole story before you pass judgement. One of the biggest contributions to the massive amount of homeless people in the States is mental illness. It destroys families so these people have nowhere to go. It eats away at their beautiful minds until they are left friendless and fortuneless. Be their friend. Be their help. Be the one who cares. 

If you have a mental illness, don't stop seeking help. Listen to your family before it drives you away from them. Don't let it take you down that road to despair. Do all you can to be a fighter, a survivor. You are needed in this world. I need you as my fellow fighter. 

I am among the survivors. Somedays I feel like the lucky one but I know I am a blessed one. I have a husband who has been there all the way, through thick and thin, no matter how bad it became. I have a family who has listened and done all they can to understand. I have friends who have continually been there to offer words of encouragement. Above all, I have a Heavenly Father who listened and answered the prayers of many people. If you haven't yet, start praying for all souls everwhere with mental illnesses. They need those prayers. We need those prayers. It's not a one-time event, it's a lifetime battle. It's an everyday, all day fight to live the abundant life in Him. 

One of these precious souls taken by mental illness showed me a heart I will never forget. It was raw and real. It was polite, tender and honest. It was full of the Word of Truth. It was funny and friendly, but scared and shy. It was mistreated and abused, but loving and compassionate anyway. It was a heart of gold spoiled by illness and other's sins. It was poor to the world but priceless to God.

(In memory of Julian Burton, my friend, neighbor and brother-in-Christ.)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

eat it and weep

Three months ago (February 1), I started a new eating plan. Or maybe a new not-eating plan. At the time, I was overwhelmed with what my all new no-eating plan entailed - or what I could actually still eat. I finally have a clear defining line and I'm here to share it with those who have been kindly inquisitive.

- no white sugar
- no other fake substitutes commonly called sugars
- no white flour
- no caffeine

I think that covers it. 

Yes, I'm still eating gluten but I would say it has drastically sloped off since we only eat ezekiel bread or fresh milled wheat bread. As far as I can tell, I don't think that's affected me. We don't eat a lot of grains anyway so I'm pleased with that aspect of it.

So, now for a few questions that I have been asked and my answers: 

First question: Have you stuck with the plan? 
A big-fat yes. 

I never expected it to be as easy as it has been to change my food intake. Now, everyday hasn't been easy but overall, it's been a fairly smooth course. Thinking back, I believe the second and third weeks were the toughest. I was craving sugars and pizza and all that jazz. But I made it through - no cheats! Ok, no intentional cheats. I will tell you that there have been some slip-ups that were unknown at the time. Whether by a misunderstanding or by guessing when eating-out, maybe half a dozen times I did eat a small amount of sugar. Without a doubt, I knew it not long after when my heart felt like it was pumping out of my chest. I was so mad about it to. Haha. I consider those lessons in communicating my plan better to others and being pickier about what I eat out. 

Another question: How has the new plan affected you? 
Mentally: Clarity! I have recognized a fog lifting even more. 
Emotionally: I haven't had a hysterical-overwhelming crying episode. I mentioned it to Chris and a few days later was reading through "Change Your Brain, Change Your Body" and a story which told of a lady who had stopped eating sugars and the same thing happened - no crying fits. In that moment, yes, I felt justified in my realization. 
Physically: Initially, I lost about 8 lbs but soon gained it back as I started eating more of the good foods. Now, I'm back to my normal weight. Other than that, I don't have the "bread belly" that's typical when eating a lot of grain. 

Those are just the things I have seen up to this point. I know that the longer I keep it up, the more good I will see. I'm pleased with the results. At first, I was a little - a lot - disappointed because I was unrealistically hoping for perfection and complete relief. But I think when you have a mental illness, you are always hoping for something to take it away. However, like I originally said, this isn't to cure me but to heal me. And I truly believe it has started to heal my brain. 

Third question: What do you eat? 
FRUITS! Any and all! That's my favorite. Other than that, the main weekly staples right now are eggs, tomatoes, avocados, beans, brown rice, potatoes and cheese. Foods we throw in here and there are broccoli, squash, corn, bacon, chicken, hamburger meat, nuts, fresh-milled bread or pancakes and dairy. We are simple people with simple palates so we don't need complicated recipes and meals. Typically, once we find what we like, we are content to cycle those through the week. I don't force us to eat foods we don't like but I do want to make sure we are getting our color foods with lots of nutrition. 

Final question: Do you eat any kind of sugars? What about sweets?
We eat honey. We eat quite a bit of honey, in fact. It's good for us and my incredible grandparents have given us enough to eat for a while so we are gobbling it up now! We also enjoy fruits much more these days. It's funny because you hear about people saying that fruits are sweet but when you eat sugar all the time you don't think so. Now that we don't eat refined sugars, I get it. Fruits are a treat anyday for me - especially strawberries. And then when we get a craving for something more like a cupcake, we either go up to a coffee shop in Nashville where they also sell gluten free/fake sugar free/etc. brownies, cookies, and such or we go to the special aisle in Kroger where they have natural foods. We try not to do that too often but it's a fun way to treat ourselves in a healthy way! 

The hardest part has been when we are with others eating out or on gospel meeting like occasions. People are really great at trying to understand and accomodate us. It's hard for ME to be ok with being so picky around people though. I've always been the eat anything and everything girl so it's a big change to actually have to tell people my limitations. But like I said, people have gone out of their way to be supportive, even if they don't understand what exactly I am doing. I'm incredibly grateful for that kind of encouragement! 

Originally, Chris was just a (very strong and encouraging) supporter, less of a team-player. I mean, he didn't need to do this for the reasons I have so there was no point in him having to undertake such a big step. Now he has completely jumped on board with me and there has been nothing that can compare with how blessed I feel about his decision to join me. I'm not sure if y'all realize it but this is not an easy task for him because he loves doughnuts and biscuits and ice cream and all that yummy deliciousness. (Who really doesn't love all those things?!) But for about a month, he has not touched them. Nor has he complained a bit. I do feel incredibly loved! 

The last three months have shown me what I can do to take bigger steps in the right direction to full mental health. With this plan accomplished and set for life, I'm ready for the next challenge. This coming week I have an appointment with a homeopathic doctor. We will see how that goes and I'll let you know when the outcome occurs! 

A big thanks to all who have been generous with your words of support and encouragement! A big thanks to Denise Skelton for making brownies and bread! A big thanks my family for adjusting the family recipes to fit this new plan! A big thanks to those who feed us when we are with you for accomodating our changes! 

Monday, April 7, 2014

morning has broken

"Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlight from heaven. 

Like the first dewfall, on the first grass. 
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden, 
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass. 

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning. 
Born of the one light Eden saw play. 
Praise with elation, praise every morning; 
God's recreation of the new day. 

Morning has broken, like the first morning. 
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird. 
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning, 
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word."

In the peaceful, calm side of my brain, morning is one of my favorite times of day. In fact, it might beat out the sunset. I love the newness, the quietness, the stillness of an early morning. I love that nothing has been touched yet by mankind. 

But in the bipolar, anxiety-ridden, depression-leaning side of my brain, mornings are dreaded. Don't get me wrong. I'm not controlled by the fear of getting up. I'm fighting the feeling of it not being worth getting up. Depending on the day, I know what I will be like at the end and I don't even want to begin it. It's that socially exhausted, intellectually draining, emotionally empty feeling I get on a Sunday. Honestly, Sunday is the ultimate dread. To know that I will be around people who expect the socially outgoing and conversational (no matter how awkward) Melissa they are used to seeing all that day long fills me with a desire to hide instead. To know that I simply want to pour my heart into worship to my God who has constantly been my only reason to go - and uses much energy as I feebly try to give Him my all - but to be side-tracked by (almost always loving and friendly) brothers and sisters who (most usually) care for me. To know that something will discourage me because the Devil seeks, especially on the day Christians devotedly come to Him to worship and among the family of God, to break us and take us. I can't tell you I look forward to it. But I am not the only one who feels this way and you need to know. We don't feel like we can share this bit of our life. We are afraid of you looking down at us as weak. We are afraid you will think we don't want to worship our God or that we don't care for our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Sundays aren't the only mornings dreaded though. A typical day doing typical things is also hard. To feel as though you have no place even though intellectually you know that to be untruthful. To face the unknown of a day in which you have no idea what will happen is intimidating when you know your limits. 

Knowing yourself doesn't always have its perks. Sometimes, it's depressing. Literally. You know what will exhaust you. You know what will take everything you have stored up and be left to recoup again. It makes you want to completely avoid those situations. And the fact of the matter is, you are supposed to avoid those situations if you expect to live a steady life. It's not always possible though. 

One of the hardest parts to deal with is when you have to follow through with a situation knowing that it will leave you empty, knowing there's something else you would have rather used your energy accomplishing. Sometimes, you feel like others take what you want to give someone else. Sometimes, you feel like others take what you want to give in a different service to God which you feel is more important, more fulfilling of His will. Yet, you try to realize you are in your present circumstances for a reason. God has brought you to a place to learn, grow and prepare you for your future for Him. So, you face the days trying to remember that as you drag yourself out of bed. You focus on the things you love - for me, that would be homemaking, loving my husband, building a close-knit family among those who are like-minded Christians - and take the rest on head-on anyway.

It doesn't always work out like that though. Somedays, it's too much and you don't get up. Somedays are recoup days. You allow people to just assume you are sick. It's easier that way. You have to tell yourself that God knows and cares. You don't let depression creep in again. You can't let that happen. You love life too much to be controlled by a darkness. You remember your dreams. You let your mind and body rest so that you can get back up. 

It's hard. Mornings are hard. Waking up is hard. Getting up is hard. I don't think I can express that too much to you. I want so bad to wake up in the morning and be excited. I don't know the last time that happened. It brings tear to my eyes to admit that. For me, as someone who sees how beautiful a morning can be, it hurts to automatically, without intention, to dread a morning. I want to be that person who gets up and enjoys the sunrise. I want to explore nature early in the morning. I want to awake before the world. And I hold on to the fact that one day, I might do that. 

I love life. I love experiencing the ordinary as it becomes extraordinary. I love finding adventure wherever I go. I love being a wife, a friend, a relative - whether through blood, marriage or "adopted" relatives. Most of all, I love being a Christian. I love that God wants me to serve Him my whole life while He loves me unconditionally. 

But I also love that one day, I can love being alive eternally with absolutely no hindrances. I don't know what it's like to feel like that and it fills my heart with longing to know that one day I will have that too. 

One day, I can experience eternal mornings in eternal happiness.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

hand over the pants

I don't wear the pants. 

In fact, I don't want to wear the pants.

If I wear the pants, I'm defying God's pattern. 
If I wear the pants, I'm responsible for my duties, as well as his duties.  
If I wear the pants, I'm essentially saying he is a child and incapable of being my leader. 

As a young married couple, the hubs and I often hear the words, "We know who wears the pants." 

So, what does it mean to "wear the pants?"

From what I've heard, I believe it means that the wife "is the boss" and "runs the show."

Here's my plea to married women, hand over the pants. Give them back to your husband. When he asked you to marry him, he was asking for that role. 

We all know that Ephesians 5:22 tells wives to submit to their husbands. We have heard that means we are to obey him. But more importantly, it means to respect his decisions as the spiritual leader of our families. He should be the one who ultimately makes the last call. As a Christian husband, he has a huge responsibility in his hands to be the head of the house. When he is allowed to take that responsibility, knowing that we are completely supporting him, he is fulfilling God's plan for the home. 

Wives, when we take that away from him, we are disobeying God's pattern for the home.

Wives, when we even jest about "wearing the pants", we are taking a small piece of his God-given manhood. It's his chance to prove to us how much he loves us. It's his way of taking care of us. It doesn't mean he will always make the best call but he wants to make the best decisions, regardless. 

Wives, when we publicly declare we "wear the pants", we diminish his value and he feels it. He knows exactly where he stands at that point and it isn't in the leadership position anymore. He feels disrespected and unworthy. He will gradually fall right into that place you put him. 

Wives, when we hear our husbands say they know who "wears the pants", it's apparent something isn't right in our home. Have we gone behind his back and changed a decision he made? Have we battered him with words for a decision he made? Have we neglected to praise him for being the one who takes that God-given responsibility? Have you asked him lately if he feels like you trust him? 

Being a husband can't be an easy role in this modern day world. Men are constantly being told they are incapable of making adult decisions in life. In reality, men are just as equipped as we are but in different areas. Sometimes we as wives think we know the right way to do it, but maybe it's just another way, not the better way. Maybe our way isn't God's way at all. Even when he makes a call that ends up not going exactly the way he had planned, we can value the fact that he was willing to put in the effort anyway. After all, how many times have we made bad decisions? How many times have we messed up in a situation? We must be willing to admit we aren't perfect either.

If your man has already been put under you as the lesser figure, it might take a while for him to be ready to take the lead. He will have to be encouraged with words of respect and trust. He will need to feel like you really want him to take the lead. Some men will not even have much of an opinion about some decisions that need to be made but knowing that you are thankful he trusts you to make that decision is a big deal. However, what you say and how you act can contradict each other. Make sure your attitude, your decisions, your words, your tone all are coinciding with one another to show that how you respect him.

Your husband "wearing the pants" doesn't mean he doesn't include you in those decisions, either. It means you work together as a team to find the most godly way. Each decision we make will ultimately lead back to a spiritual decision, whether it be the budget, raising the kids, shopping or even what you serve at the table. Your husband has been chosen by God to have that final say. We can't deny him that responsibility as Christian wives.

Wives, it's no small matter when we "wear the pants" in our families. It's serious business to take on that role for ourselves. We are telling God that He didn't know what was best when He planned for man to lead the home. We are setting up ourselves to stand at judgement and be judged for taking his role. I don't want to be there. I want to be lead. I want to be a wife who trusts him to make spiritually wise decisions. What about you? Are you ready to step back and allow him to fulfill his God-given role?

It's time to let him be the man God desired. 
It's time to hand over the pants. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

apartment blessings

About one month ago, Chris and I moved into a studio apartment in downtown Chapel Hill. This apartment is in an old, two story brick house which has been divided into six apartments. This old brick house is by one of two red lights in our tiny town. Seriously, it's smack dab in the middle. 

Which means that this country girl who grew up in the woods now has neighbors on her right, on her left and on top. And this country girl is absolutely, 100% on board with this decision. In fact, it's been a blessing.

Life is surely full of surprises. 

When people started asking us why we moved from a small camper to a studio apartment, we really didn't have a good answer other than we were ready for the change. We weren't getting claustrophobic. I wasn't getting cabin fever. We really had no complaints, just challenges that we knew came with any situation. When the opportunity was presented to us, we discussed it, prayed about it and felt it was the right decision for us at the present time. 

Since then, we have the chance to sit back and think on the changes. This is what we have found in our musings. 

1. The Space.
Our camper was between 100-200 sq feet. I'm not sure the exact measurements. The apartment is a studio, meaning it has one room (approx 14x13 but that's a rough estimate), one bathroom, and a closet. My first reaction when we walked in was, "Wow, it's big!" I know. How silly. But it's been a year since we lived in this much space. Quite frankly, since we have moved into the apartment we have missed being able to talk to each other when we are in the bathroom. Now it's around the corner and we have to actually leave the main room to go in there! Here's my point. We had all the space we needed before when we lived in a camper. We were able to dine comfortably, sleep in a full size bed, and actually get a shower, unlike many people in the world. We had accomodations that people in third-world countries might not have in their entire lifetimes. We were beyond blessed to live in that camper. Now, we sleep on a "click-clack" sofa bed, shower in a normal size shower with hot water which lasts the whole time, and sit at a "real" table for our meals. We have a washer and dryer. We have a sewer system again. We feel like we are living it large because we have MORE than enough space. 

2. The Noises. 
A child crying. The upset momma. A car horn honking. A dog barking. The laughter above. The feet on the stairs. The sirens blaring. The birds tweeting. These are the sounds I hear most every day. These are the sounds that have shown me that apartment life isn't so bad as I thought once upon a time. There's life all around us. Happy people, sad people, animals and vehicles. It makes you aware. It makes you remember there's so much out there to know, even in a tiny town. It makes us smile to hear the laughter upstairs. It makes me happy to hear the birds each morning as I thought the nature would be left behind once we moved into the "city." In fact, I feel like I live in the bird exhibit at the zoo. Minus the poo. The noises aren't a distraction. They are a once hidden blessing. 

3. The Place. 
I think sometimes we take for granted our places of abode, whether in a nice suburb or in the quiet countryside. We want to live the comfortable life in a spacious house away from neighbors who might not always be kind and considerate. Which isn't a bad desire at all. But I think we tend to feel like we deserve it if we have the money to get what we want. And we might even feel that if someone doesn't have that picture perfect house in a family friendly neighborhood, they are a step below us. Perhaps, we forget about the fact that Jesus promised a mansion in Heaven, not on earth. Jesus said where your treasure is being laid up is where your heart is also (Mt. 6:19-21). Jesus said give all you have to the poor and follow me (Lk 18:22). Jesus said what is your life if you gain the whole world and lose your soul (Mk 8:36). Jesus said it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven's gates (Mk 10:25). You see, the measure of a man isn't in where he lives, what he makes or what he has but in who he is. God owns it all. He is just letting us borrow it. The way we spend it will be the way we are judged. With the more we obtain on earth - whether it be a big house, a big income, a big family, the greater our responsibility to use it, spend it, raise it for His glory. Chris and I have all the living space we need. And the space we do have, well, we will be judged by how we use it. 

4. The Souls.
We are surrounded by them. Literally. On all sides are souls. Most are lost souls. Going where the souls are presents opportunities and an obligation, as well. There's a mission field where one lost soul is beside you. That pretty much sums it up right there. 

Camper life was an adventure for us. A huge learning experience as we were faced with the realization that we had all we needed right there. We found out that regardless of what we heard, two people actually get along better in a small space where it's necessary to communicate and grow closer. We dealt with the good and the bad of owning your own "home." It wasn't always fun but it was an experience we will never regret or forget. 

Apartment life will be yet another adventure along the way. We have an incredible landlord (big shoutout to our Christian sister who we have learned has a HUGE heart and a TON of patience as she has dealt with busted pipes all winter). We now park on the street every day and walk Maisie right in front of the whole town, especially when it's a red light. I never saw that happening in my lifetime. And you know, I believe God has prepared us for this step because we wouldn't be here if He hadn't. 

It's a blessing to live in a country with so many amenities and comforts. It's a blessing to have a little, comfy studio apartment to come home to every day. It's a blessing to have peace in knowing that God will always take care of us, no matter where we are or what we do as long as we are following His will. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

a step towards a healing

No refined sugars.
No refined flours. 

That's what's happening in our kitchen now. 
That's what's not going into my body anymore. 

Starting today

I know what you are thinking. It's the latest rage and she's jumped on board - for now. You're thinking it's what all the so-called coolest kids are doing to be health savvy, just a diet fad that will fade away. So, all this talk about these ingredients harming our bodies has lead many back to the old days of non-processed foods but it's time consuming and boring. All they must eat now is spinach, carrots and that card-board bean bread.

Fact: Processed ingredients can harm our bodies.
Fact: It is a popular lifestyle currently because some people want to have a healthier body and some people just like to jump on the latest popular train.
Fact: We will eat spinach, carrots and bean bread sometimes. It's not as bad as you think.

Fact: My mental health is closely linked to food. 

I'm not saying that bi-polar disorder can necessarily be "cured". As of right now, I don't know if that's possible. I do know that food changes our bodies in different ways. Some people gain weight more easily. Some people have allergies. Some people develop internal intestinal issues. Some people's brains are altered to think wrongly. I think I fall in the later category. 

I'm on a mission to heal my body and my brain. 

(I didn't say cure.)

Here's the big deal.

God gave me this body. Ultimately, it belongs to Him. I believe I have an obligation to Him to keep it in tip-top shape, as much as is possible. Our bodies will run down. Our bodies will have ailments and hurts and illness. It doesn't mean I can't take control in the way that I know how and that is exactly what I will do. 

This is not an obsession. This is not a diet, persay. 

Food won't be ruling my life. I will simply be conscious each time I eat what I am putting in my mouth.

This is a lifestyle change based on biblical principles - eating what God created from the ground, from the animals. God intended for our bodies to be able to serve Him. In order for me to serve Him more readily, I want to maintain a steady and stable mind that is able to make logical conclusions. 

This is also a lifestyle change based on much study. I don't fall for the diet fads. I know what I like to eat. I know how much I can eat. I've always eaten exactly what I wanted, when I wanted it. However, for years now I have known that food is linked to the brain. Up until this year, I have not followed through with that thought. Now is my chance. I have read books on bi-polar disorder all along but have changed my direction and am currently reading all I can on bi-polar meets homeopathy meets food meets meets anxiety meets lifestyle changes. I'm ready to take a step further, other than just taking a pill each morning. This is something I can take charge of and I feel as if it's a necessary progression for me. 

I'm still on my medication for bi-polar disorder II. I will remain on my medication until I go to see a new doctor and get feedback on my options. It has been proved that a change in eating habits (combined with other lifestyle changes) can eliminate mental illnesses, or at least the effects of those illnesses. Not at all am I endorsing everyone come off of your meds and just eat "real food". Not at all am I saying that I think medication isn't always necessary. For four years, I've been on medication for a reason. It helped me get on track. I can think reasonably now. I wouldn't be making this decision if it weren't for the medication allowing me to think with an open mind. 

I might forever remain on my medication. I might be able to supplement instead after having changed what goes in my body. But I won't let bi-polar disorder and anxiety run my life. I might not be able to control the fact that it's there but I can control what it does it to me.

It's been an uphill climb all the way these four years. I've most certainly had falls, slides and stumbles on the way. It has been slow. It has been harder than I could have imagined. I have missed the feelings you get with a high. I have still experienced the depressive lows to an extent. But I have made it to a place some people never are able to reach. 

It's true that when you walk through a challenge you can't see what's happening to you immediately. It overwhelms you to the point you feel like it's no use sometimes. If you keep chugging, you'll get to the next checkpoint. You'll see that it's been hard but it's been worth it. You feel the success. Even when it hurts, you know you can't give up now. You've come too far. You've experienced to much. You've been challenged in ways that have made you see life in a whole new light. That's the best part to me. Your eyes are opened to the error of past thoughts regarding mental illness as a whole. You're suddenly in tune with a whole new set of people. You feel like you've sky rocketed to a different planet which sometimes dissappoints but overall is far greater. Everything around you comes to life with deeper emotional connections and an appreciation for the simple beauty. Though I can't say that I love the illness, I'm thankful for the lessons learned along the way. I'm thankful for the opportunites that have come my way, the bonds that have been formed, and the bigger picture.

As Chris and I had our final hurrah last night (pizza rolls, Stouffer's mac and cheese and Julia's Bakery), it has made me trepidacious in knowing that I do like to eat bad food just like everyone (most everyone) else. I will initially miss my Grandmother's grape salad, JELLO No- Bake cheesecake and chicken and dumplings. Perhaps, over time, I will be able to let them go with no extreme longings. I've heard it's the case. And the upside to it is that you get to experiment with other ingredients that can be just as good to the taste. I'm all about the trying new recipes - as long as they turn out good, that is.

This is not a cheat-on-the-weekends change. It's a completely cut it out. There will be places I can't go to eat. There will be times when I have to ask what's in it. There might be occasions when I'll bring my own food. It's not because I am trying to be rude. It's not because I'm a health snob. It's not because I think I'm better than you for my change.

It is because this can make my life better, my mind more stable. 

I'm nervous about the way people will receive this complete change. I know it sounds crazy and hard and some people won't want to ever cook for me again. That's ok. I'd rather people not feed me than make a fuss about me not eating something. Thankfully, Chris will be my support system when I feel the pressure. He's my rock through it all. He has been on board with me from the start about this lifestyle change. But when I leave the comfort of our home where we can completely control our food intake with no wonders, I enter into a realm of fast food, fancy restaurants (ok, probably not) and fellowship meals. I already get a queasy feeling knowing that there will be comments or funny looks made everywhere I go and my lack of a sufficient response won't help the situation. I know I'll finally get to a point where I can handle the criticism and whatnot. In the meantime, I'll just cook for everyone. Just kidding. Don't show up at my house. We have a mini fridge so obviously I can't make enough for the whole neighborhood.  

If you also have made a similar change in your life, keep it up. You have a purpose in mind that will be challenged by many around you. Remember that this is about making a full, godly life for yourself in order that you might be better equiped to serve others. Whether you have a mental illness or any other kind of physical ailment, you have decided to take control of a bad situation with the help of God. We can do this and supporting each other in our changed lives will only make us stronger. This change will make us stronger. This should encompass your whole life; emotionally, spiritually, physically and intellectually. God desires for each of us to be the best we can be for Him. This is your chance. Take it. And then praise Him when you accomplish it each day.

If you think we are crazy, you might be right and we will accept that heartily. We want to be more than a mental illness. We want to challenge ourselves because it's easy to think you've no hope. While you watch us live this changed life, step into our shoes. You might not be affected by what you eat in the way we are but wouldn't you want to better your life if you could? We aren't obsessed with the fads; we are focused on mental health and bodily healing. We are surrounded by many who chide us for our decision but you can be the support each one of us needs to not give in when we go down a grocery store aisle only to find out that all kind of sauces and salsas and whole wheat breads have sugar in them. Who knew? Be the friend who celebrates this life with us. Be the friend who acknowledges that though we are different, we are still serving the same God with the same goals in mind. This is our way to get there. Think about it. 

Food is an intregal part of this life. God intended for us to feed our physical bodies in order to nourish us. He created all kinds of foods with texture, taste and appeal. There's a world of goodness in food. I'm seeking that goodness for my tastebuds as well as my health. There may come a day when I cut out even more foods but right now, I think this is a step towards a new healing. The word healing actually means the process of making or becoming sound or healthy again. That's what I'm setting out to do. 

So, my friends, let this challenge begin!