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18 December 2014

Christmas Post Link

Check out my guest blog post (and all the other great stuff) at the Doormouse House. Merry Christmas!
http://www.doormousehouse.com/2014/12/making-christmas-merry-well-be-home-for.html?m=1

27 October 2014

Mental Illness, Part 2: The Red Flags I Ignored

As I mentioned before,I didn't want to admit that I might have depression. So when the symptoms began showing up, at least as early as my teen years, I ignored them.  I pretended they were normal.  I don't know, maybe some of them were...my depression is largely tied to my hormones, so a lot of those same symptoms were probably typical of the hormone fluctuation in teenagers--I just didn't outgrow them when I should have.

I had low self-esteem...I thought it was because there wasn't much to like about myself.  And I know that is a problem for a lot of teenage girls.

I had horrible mood swings.  My parents could tell you that my teenage temper could take a scary turn.

Many times I would prefer to sleep, daydream, read a book or watch TV than to interact with real people in the real world.  Some of that is just natural introversion, but a lot of it was escapism.  I didn't like myself, I didn't feel confident, I couldn't control the real world.

Maybe those things don't seem like a huge deal alone, but they took control of my life far too often.  However, there were some HUGE red flags that I ignored.  There were a few instances when I should have sought immediate professional help (probably should have been hospitalized), and I hid it for fear of being judged.

One that comes to mind in particular was the first time I dropped out of college (yes, you read that right...sad that I have to say that...).  I was having some major health issues, and fighting with my roommate a lot.  I stopped sleeping, largely due to the health, but the depression probably played a part.  I spent most of my nights in the bathroom I shared with 11 other girls, partially to avoid waking my roommate and starting another argument. I started missing or being late to classes because I waited until my roommate was up to try to sleep.  Or I would have to leave in the middle of class due to my health problems flaring up.  Eventually it became clear that I wasn't going to get the good grades that I was accustomed to, or the medical testing that I needed, unless I dropped out of school and came back after I got a diagnosis.  We did the necessary paperwork, and home I went.  Where I spent 2 weeks locked in my bedroom, eating only when my parents brought me food, leaving only to use the bathroom.  Refusing to see my friends.  Contemplating suicide.  Yes, you read that right.  I was contemplating suicide, yet I continued to deny that I might have a problem with depression.

I was eventually coaxed out of my room to go on a trip to the local apple orchard with a good friend.  That was the beginning of some healing for me.  But I never admitted the darkness with which I had wrestled, and I never got the help that I needed.  It would take several years, a tragedy, and dropping out of college AGAIN before I was forced to look at my depression honestly.

Please, please, PLEASE, if you have any thoughts of hurting yourself or others, seek help immediately!  Don't wait until it is almost too late, like I did.


22 October 2014

Why I Choose to Celebrate Halloween with My Kids (and Why I Totally Respect You if You Don't)

I know I promised more posts about mental illness, and they are coming, but this is a timely subject on which I feel led to share my thoughts.

Halloween is such a controversial topic in Christian circles.  Many choose not to celebrate, some celebrate with alternatives such as "Harvest Festivals", some celebrate traditionally (with or without feeling some measure of guilt).  My extended family has fallen into all of these categories at different points in time, and it is only recently that my husband and I have chosen where we want our nuclear family to land.

I have chosen (and Hubby has been reluctantly supportive) to celebrate Halloween in a semi-traditional-but-slightly-unique manner.  We made this decision for 2 reasons:  1) Halloween is a popular holiday in our neck of the woods, and the neighborhood is out in full force.  Participating affords us the opportunity to get to know our neighbors, and let them get to know us.  This in turn has led to open doors for witnessing to at least one family, and we hope more in the future (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 3:15). 2) We don't want our kids to live in fear of any day, or to see anything as beyond the redemptive work of the God who created every day/thing and is going to redeem them all (Romans 8:19-23).

So how do we celebrate something with so many evil associations in a God-honoring way?  We must be careful not to fall into blindly going along with all of the world's traditions. (Colossians 3:17; Romans 12:2).  This is a difficult line to walk, and I have great respect for those families who choose to "run to the other side of the street" as it were.  Here are the guidelines that rule our family Halloween celebrations at this time.  We are open to changing them, or giving up Halloween altogether, if in the future we find that these guidelines no longer meet our goals for raising godly kids.

Decorations
We do decorate our house for Halloween, mostly the front porch area which will be seen by trick-or-treaters.  We want our home to look festive and welcoming to our neighbors, so that they will know we are "open for business" on Halloween, and so they will want to come interact with us.  We don't do anything scary, undead, or occult, though.  Mostly we use jack-o'-lanterns, with a few kittens, bats,  leaves, and scarecrows thrown in.  More on jack-o'-lanterns...

Jack O' Lanterns
We have lots of cardboard jack-o'-lanterns for the windows, as well as real and faux lighted ones.  One specific faux lighted pumpkin (Funkin) is painted teal (more on that later), and now that Buddy Bear is old enough to help, we are starting to carve real ones each year.  Before or during carving, we read The Parable of the Pumpkin Patch by Liz Curtis Higgs--which I encourage you to read no matter what you choose to do about Halloween!  As we decorate with jack-o'-lanterns, we remind each other that Jesus cleans out our gook (Psalm 51:10, among others), and makes us a Light for Him (Matthew 5:14).

Costumes
I'll be honest, there is no deep spiritual significance to our use of costumes at Halloween.  We just like cosplay for fun.  We wear Halloween-style costumes for birthday parties and our annual church New Year party as well.  We like to play dress-up.  But we have very strict rules about the nature of our costumes.  Nothing undead.  Nothing occult.  No serial killers or anything bloody like that. Nothing too sexual/revealing.  Weather appropriate.  We mostly choose cartoon characters, literary characters, superheroes.  I like to do group costumes.  Sometimes it is a struggle to get Hubby to participate, but he's coming around to it (this applies to other times of year as well, so I see it more as him being a fuddy dud that is learning to have fun).

Trick-or-Treating
I'm kinda not a big fan of trick-or-treating, for various reasons, but we do it as long as we are going with other families with whom we are trying to build relationships...sometimes the walk on Halloween is the only time I get to chat with the other busy neighborhood moms, and the kids bond as well.  If there is ever a time that we don't have friends to go with, we will stay home.  And there is never going to be a time when I let my kids go without me--it is a witnessing opportunity for me as well, plus a safety issue.  If they are too old to take their Mommy trick-or-treating with them, they are too old to go.  Period.

Treats That We Hand Out
Some kids have allergies.  But even kids who don't get waaaaaay too much unhealthy candy on Halloween.  So we give out allergy-friendly, non-candy items.  This year, we've added a teal pumpkin and a sign to our decoration, so that families with dietary restrictions know that it's safe to come to our house (check out this link and this link to learn more about the #TealPumpkinProject).  In striving to be a witness to our neighbors, we also make sure that these items have some sort of Christian message, or at least Christian symbolism on them.  It might be as simple as slapping a cross sticker on a cheap bottle of soap bubbles, but it lets our neighbors know that there are Christians in our home.  Especially because we make sure that what we hand out is safe for everyone, it shows that we as Christians care about our neighbors.

There are lots of good, Biblical reasons NOT to celebrate Halloween.  We have close family and dear friends who are adamantly against it, and we would never try to force our choices on them.  I consider this one of what the Apostle Paul referred to as "disputable matters" that should never be divisive within the Body.
Romans 14:5-6
In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 
(NLT)
Colossians 2:16-17
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
(NIV)

Keep It Kute!

23 September 2014

Mental Illness, Part 1: We Don't Talk About That

Recently, a young woman I knew in college reached out to me on Facebook.  We were in the same college/young adult ministry at church, and we got along well enough, but she was a bit younger than me and we ran in different social circles.  We've both since married, had children, found different church homes...she's even moved to another state.  So why reach out to me?

Because she had recently been diagnosed with an anxiety panic disorder, and she knew that I had been diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder.

According to the CDC, 1 in 10 US adults report depression.  According to the NIMH , 18% of  Americans over 18 struggle with anxiety disorders. Since this vibrant, friendly young lady surely knows more than 10  people, why did she need to dig into the past and find a friendlyish acquaintance to ask about the condition?

Because we don't talk about mental illness.

I first met depression face to face as a teenager.  Two of my closest friends in youth group had depression.   My best friend rarely spoke of it.  I was able to, for my own comfort, ignore the fact that she had it.  But my other friend was more...vocal.  Once she was diagnosed with depression, everyone knew about it.  And we had to face it.  We had to decide what we believed about it and how to respond.

I have to say, we didn't respond well.

We attended a caring, Bible-based, church with lots of good "programs" and lots of good people.  I don't remember any sermons or Sunday School classes on the topic of depression, but I know there were a lot of people who had depression (I didn't know that at the time), and I know there were a lot of people who didn't have depression and didn't understand that it was a medical condition.  We were never explicitly taught as much, but there was an underlying vibe that "Christians don't get depressed" or "depression is a sin".

I tried to talk my friend out of being depressed.  I tried sweeping it under the rug.  I began to doubt that she was even saved...a few years later in college, I told her as much.  I failed to love her.  Because I was SCARED.

Guess what?  The Bible never says anything about a chemical or hormonal imbalance being sinful.  But it says an awful lot about being unloving, hypocritical...being afraid of anything but God Himself.

My friend may have, at times, handled her depression in a sinful way.  I don't know.  I know she is a sinner, saved by grace, just like me.  I know that I handled her depression in a sinful way.

Could it be that the young lady in the opening paragraph only knew to contact me because everyone else with mental illness keeps silent so that they won't be treated the way I treated my friend when I was a teenager?

So what is the Biblical response to depression?  How do we make the church a welcoming place for those who suffer from mental illness?  The two verses that come to mind are:

Galatians 6:Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (ESV)
And
Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (ESV)

I also think of the story of Job.  We don't want to be "Job's Comforters" to our friends with depression.  We don't always know why God allows suffering, and in most cases we can't even come close to judging whether a suffering is the direct result of sin.  So don't try.  Just LOVE.

I'll talk more about my own journey with depression in a later post...whenever the kids give me time.  But I want to leave this one thought...I think I was so scared because I didn't want to admit that I might have depression.  And I was so scared of having depression because I was scared that people would think I wasn't saved.  






29 July 2014

Family Command Center

So, the Bear has been taking an interest in doing chores and earning money lately.  I don't mind paying good money for the housework to actually get done (since I rarely get a chance with Bitty Bear still nursing 'round the clock at almost 13 months). But it was hard to keep track if I didn't want to go help him fill his piggy banks after every chore.  So...

The Family Command Center was born.  At first, I was just trying to find a chore chart...but then I remembered that I needed to replace the wall calendar...and that Hubby is always losing my keys because he forgets that I commandeered the hat hook he had before we were married...and that Hubby and I had never remembered to put the diaper bag in the same place twice...and that we all constantly forget to take our vitamins...and that the Bear frequently misplaces library books (we've only been late once, but I don't want to become that homeschool mom).

I'm just going to be real with you.  This got way more expensive than I planned.  I told Hubby that I'd seen other bloggers do stuff like this for about $50.  Those other bloggers obviously weren't at the end of their rope, needing to get organized yesterday, and had time to wait for everything to go on deep clearance.  But even though Hubs is usually the frugal one, and I was in tears over the price tags, he said we needed to do it right the first time, since we are planning to use it at least until we have an empty nest.  I love that I have finally gotten through to him that it is cheaper to buy quality the first time than to constantly replace.


Here is the Command Center in all it's glory.  No, we can't open the pantry door/back door all the way anymore.  What of it?

I got the big chalkboard at my local teacher supply store.  The parts that I wanted to have on there permanently (calendar grid, menu grid, family "established" sign, Bible verses) were done with oil based paint pens (black, white, silver, gold).  "Funny" story about the days of the week being black on white.  I had written them all in white, but I decided to decorate around the ones on the calendar with silver, and it ended up looking kinda stupid.  Then I put Monday first on the menu and basically had a meltdown. So I used Po-leesh Remover of Nai-eel to get some of the paint off, then painted over the damaged area white (because acetone does damage chalkboard). Then I re-wrote the days of the week in black. #problemsolving  Each member of the family has his/her own chalk color, so that we know if an event/shopping list item/memo is specific to someone (and so we know who is responsible for feeding us on any given night).


I got the hooks at my fave craft store Hobby Lobby.  They were closed when I came up with the bag idea, so I got the canvas bags, fabric markers, and stencils at Michaels.  "Apothecary" holds our daily vitamins, "Bon Appetit" has things like bibs, and "Al Fresco" contains reusable snack containers and other things we need for eating outside of our home.


I got these babies at Hobby Lobby, also.  I couldn't bear to use the oil based paint on them, in case I ever wanted to do something like this. I made those nice, straight grid lines with masking tape. All of the chores the Bear can earn money for are listed, and we can check them off as he does them each day of the week.  That way, we can wait until Saturday night to pay him.  His check marks are blue...presumably someday Bitty Bear will add pink check marks.  We had extra room on the second board, so Hubby came up with the idea of checking off if we remembered our vitamins.  We have spaces to mark for who gets to take what day as a Sabbath each week, and plenty of room leftover for prayer requests.

We keep our chalk markers in this little tin bucket (yay for no chalk dust in the kitchen, plus wet erase means the kids can't accidentally rub out important info), along with an envelope sponge and a scat and snot wipe for erasers.
I can pretty much guarantee that Hubs won't put his hat here, knocking my keys into his snow boots or behind the shoe bench.  Bonus, enough room for the far-off day when the kids need keys.  Command Picture Clips hold important mail that we need to see again (like this postcard from Sherlock's vet...although I *still* haven't remembered to call). I'm thinking about sticking the wedding invitations we have lying around up there, too.

Hubs has always kept his lunch box in this area.  It is now also the designated diaper bag spot (no more searching an entire floor--or 2--when running late) and I've added the basket I used to use for Bitty Bear's photoshoots as a place to keep library materials (and outgoing Mary Kay products that I need to remember to bring to my clients).  Sherlock seems to approve of the new arrangement.

Keep it Kute!


17 April 2014

The swing is the thing!

We have a great playground across the street.  My only complaint is that they took the swings down before the Bear was even old enough to use them.  So, if we won this, we wouldn't have to walk halfway across town to get to a swing set.

http://giveawaytools.com/share.php?giveaway=672011465

17 March 2014

Contest!

http://momandmore.com/2014/03/supercool-art-review.html

I would really love to win one of these for the Bear.  He would probably get a big kick out of the dinosaurs, and maybe space, but what I really want is the zoo.  It would be great for home-school lessons, and to incorporate with our trip to Fort Wayne zoo this spring!

01 March 2014

Dance in Your Undies

And he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!" Mark 7:9

A little context here: The scribes and Pharisees were looking for dirt on Jesus, and they thought they literally found it on His disciples' hands.  See, the disciples hadn't washed their hands exactly the right [ceremonial] way before eating. The Pharisees had added TONS of laws to God's Law, oral tradition passed down (supposedly from Moses), which was given the same weight as the actual Word of God.

Does that sound at all familiar?

"If you were a real Christian, you wouldn't watch that TV show."

"If you were really godly, you would serve in xyz capacity."

"You aren't a wife of noble character because you work outside the home."

"It's a sin to play cards."

"Dancing is of the devil."

Oooh, let's tackle that last one, shall we?

2 Samuel 6:

12Now it was told King David, saying, “The Lord has blessed the house of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, on account of the ark of God.” David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. 13 And so it was, that when the bearers of the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. 14 And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was [h]wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouting and the sound of the trumpet.
16 Then it happened as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
17 So they brought in the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 18 When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offering, he blessed the people in the name of theLord of hosts. 19 Further, he distributed to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women, a cake of bread and one of dates and one of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed each to his house.


20 But when David returned to bless his household, Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!” 21 So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the Lord.22 I will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my own eyes, but with the maids of whom you have spoken, with them I will be distinguished.” 23 Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.


What if all those other "ought tos" and "not good enoughs" had just as little biblical basis?

Now, sometimes we are sinning, and our siblings in Christ need to call us on it.  But often, the "rules" we impose upon each other either have nothing to do with Scripture, or are someone's interpretation/extrapolation of Scripture.  

Maybe they are being hypocrites like the Pharisees.  Or maybe they've just found something that works for them in their relationship with God, and they want to share.

So next time someone tells you what you should or shouldn't be doing as a Christian, don't get mad and defensive...and don't start beating yourself up.  Simply say, "Thank you for your concern."  Then, weigh their "advice" against the Scriptures.  If the Bible says the same thing, then it's time to start living it.  But if the Bible says something different, or is silent...well, just dance to the tune God is playing for you.