Friday, October 13, 2017

A glimpse into my walk with anxiety

Anxiety. I have debated long and hard about writing this. I don't know why the Lord has called me to share through blogging, but He has, so I am trusting that He is walking through these posts with me, and helping me to express what He desires me to share. So tonight, with shaking hands, I am writing just a piece of my story, in hopes that others can find encouragement. Including myself.

As I sit here in my living room, staring at my son's deflating football balloon from his second birthday, I am at a loss for words. When something has been a part of you for so long, it's hard to know where to begin. I can't remember a time in my life that I wasn't anxious. I can't even tell you how many years I was experiencing panic attacks without even realizing there was a name for my suffering, but I know it was long enough for me to assume that it was normal to feel the way I did. It would take me so long to describe the triggers which set off my anxiety, so I will highlight what I remember most.

When I was young, it was a persistent and nagging feeling that something wasn't right. I don't think I could've described what wasn't right, but it left me hyper, overly talkative, and usually annoying to be around. As I moved into the middle school ages my anxiety became more consuming and manifested in obsessive behaviors. I can remember a phase of covering my mouth when talking to my friends because I was sure I talked in a "weird" way. I also remember always carrying cough drops because I was terrified I'd have a coughing attack at an inopportune time. The obsessiveness moved into my athletics after I heard drinking milk could give you a stomachache while running. Since I was a cross country runner, I was diligent to not have anything with milk or milk itself during cross country season, and if I accidentally did, I'd obsess over it in my mind for days, sure that something terrible was going to happen.

Moving into high school, the obsessiveness worsened. As I started to excel in cross country, I became more paranoid and started making myself go to bed at 7pm the night before races. This developed into a battle with insomnia and a reliance on Tylenol PM which probably worked more like a placebo than anything else. I would also make sure to get home from school as soon as possible so that I could eat dinner early (cause, ya know, I needed 12 hours to properly digest that dinner) and start my routine of stretching and packing my bag for the next day. I would fantasize about how wonderful I'd feel when the race was over, and console myself with the rest that would follow.

When I started getting into my adult years, I was noticing how emotionally off balance I was. During college, I would have nights that I would just cry for hours, sometimes I'd punch a wall or sometimes I would roam the streets of our small town into the late hours of the night, just hoping someone could save me from me. I felt totally paralyzed when it came to studying, sure that I would fail, anyway, and that there was no use trying. If I wasted one hour of time, I would throw in the towel and give up completely. My battle with bulimia was also at it's worst, and I would frantically binge and purge over and over as if the food could permanently console me, but as soon as I'd finish purging, I felt emptiness like I can't describe, and total powerlessness over myself. Around this time I started thinking more about God, the guy who I always claimed to know but He felt like a third cousin. Someone I knew existed, but someone I felt so disconnected to that it didn't matter He existed.

I was having trouble making phone calls, trouble answering the door, trouble going to the post office to mail a package. I can't tell you what I was afraid of, I was just afraid. I ended up failing out of college and moving in with my now in-laws. During that time I found some healing, I grew in my relationship with Christ (I believe this is when I was saved), and I made a once-and-for-all recovery from my 6 yr battle with bulimia. Sam and I got married and everything felt wonderful for awhile.

Now, as a mother to two, I still feel my anxiety. I felt it when they were newborns and I couldn't make them sleep or stop crying. I feel it when something bad could happen to them, but it doesn't, and I replay what could've happened over and over. I feel it when we've all had a hard day, and I feel like I will ruin the kids, forever. I feel it as the days get darker, earlier, and it seems as if the darkness is an entire world of it's own. Threatening to suck me in forever. I feel it when we all get sick and we're stuck at home for a week, but I'm sure we'll never get out of the house again. I feel it when I have a deep conversation with someone and can't stop analyzing my words. I feel it when I'm on a bridge because I know I won't, but I know I could jump.

I feel it, but it doesn't navigate my life and all my thoughts like it used to. I feel it, but I know that I am a child of God and that He promises He has a plan for me. I feel it, but I know He is in control so I don't need to be. I feel it, but I fight it with verses, and hymns, and prayers. I feel it, but I know I don't need to be afraid anymore. 



Friday, September 22, 2017

You are the God who sees me




If you haven't caught on by my blog posts or social media posts, motherhood has not come easy to me. Especially stay-at-home, round-the-clock, no breaks motherhood. I'm not sure it's easy for any mom to be followed around all day by little people who constantly need something, although I certainly have mom friends who carry through motherhood a little more lightly than I. For me, it was a shock that I wasn't finding joy in being a mom. Since I was little, I knew I ultimately wanted to be a homemaker. I'd dream of having 6 kids, speaking in a sing-songy voice all the time, always smelling and looking beautiful, having an endless supply of energy, and of course never having a Mom body.

Well. The news that being a Mom was less than stellar was broken to me the very night my first was born. I sat on the toilet, after giving birth, with the nurse staring at me waiting for me to pee. I looked down at the cushion of what was left of my once baby-filled belly..sagging and scattered with stretch marks. And then I left that bathroom to a colicky baby who treated me as a human cow for months to follow. When I wasn't nursing that tiny alien, I was either crying from exhaustion, bouncing her on an exercise ball, or doing a combination of all three. I thought it would get easier. It didn't.

If it wasn't sleep deprivation, it was loneliness, or boredom, or frustration. And when one little alien became two little aliens, it didn't feel like a blessing, it felt like a curse. I wanted to be a mother for all the wrong reasons, and boy oh boy has the Lord used motherhood to expose all the ugliness in my heart!

Being a stay at home mom is a very unseen and thankless job. As I navigate through sibling rivalry, sorting out discipline, choosing what their bodies are fed with, scheduling out days that don't all look identical, folding and putting away laundry, doing the dishes (by hand right now), vacuuming, washing the windows, making the beds, changing diapers, cleaning up puke, putting the toys away.....the list goes on. Nobody sees me. Nobody is giving me a raise or a pat on the back. Nobody is nominating me for employee of the month. Nobody is seeing my bad days and asking if I'm ok. Nobody is seeing my good days and admiring my work. It is quite possibly the most unseen and isolated job out there.

But this is good. This is very good. It has taken over 3 years of working out some deeply rooted sin and fighting against a self-absorbed mind, but God has shown me that He sees me and that it's enough that He sees me. As His child, I am not working for anyone else, I am working for Him and for His glory alone. Let's take a look at Genesis 16, which has humbled me and made me deeply thankful!


 Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her. The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” And the angel of the Lord said to her,
“Behold, you are pregnant
    and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
    because the Lord has listened to your affliction. 
 He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
    his hand against everyone
    and everyone's hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”
So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered. And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

This is such a beautiful story. It is simply amazing that the Lord spoke to Hagar, told her to go back as a servant and submit to Sarai, and then told Hagar that she'd give birth to a wild donkey of a man. The Lord wasn't saying "Go back, and Sarai will die and Abram will dote on you and you'll give birth and live happily ever after as a perfect little family". But yet, after all of this was said, Hagar simply said "You are a God of seeing" and she obeyed his commands. It was precious enough to Hagar that the Lord knew her and saw her that she was able to submit to a life that looked less than stellar, and was able to trust that the Lord was equipping her and would give her joy. 

I'm encouraging my heart to reflect on this story in all the moments that I feel unseen. He sees me. He sees me. He sees me. I'll end this with a prayer. 

Father God, precious Lord. Thank you that I don't have to work for man, but that I can serve joyfully for you. God, I pray that my life would reflect you and not me. I pray that when I desire affirmation from people, or praise, or fame, or attention, that I would run to you in my need and that I would be filled by your perfect love and your perfect sight. I pray that I would serve my family selflessly and confidently, knowing that you, and you alone, equip me in all my many moments of weakness. Thank you for your patience as I figure out this motherhood gig and thank you for trusting me with these little souls regardless of my weak and sinful heart. Thank you that in my imperfection, you offer my children a perfect parent in you and love that will surpass anything I could ever offer. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Saying Goodbye to Bean

 Bean snuggling with me while I was very recently pregnant with Grace

Today I unexpectedly had to consent to euthanizing our darling Bean cat. When I woke up this morning, I had no idea that I'd be sitting here this evening writing a blog post about our 4 year old cat dying.

For a bit of background, we found Bean, and her brother Eko (who ran away), near a dumpster just a month after Sam and I got married. These precious babies were just 3 weeks old and abandoned, so of course I insisted that we had to adopt them, and Sam wasn't hard to persuade. We bottle fed these kitties around the clock, taught them how to eat dry food, use the litter, etc. They were part of our family right away! Bean chose me as her favorite parent. She slept on me constantly, and was especially attuned to me while I was pregnant with Grace and Finley.

Earlier this week, Bean started acting strange, but we thought she had just been injured while playing outside, so we made her a little cozy spot to get some R&R and made sure the kids were extra gentle with her. This morning we decided we should probably take her to the vet to get her checked out so I started calling around to see if anyone would take her, but was turned down several times and eventually told to take her to the pet emergency center. So I packed up my cat and my two kids and off we went.

On our way to the vet, Bean had a seizure that lasted a couple minutes. I realized, in this moment, that she was probably not going to be coming home with us alive.

When we arrived I hauled my crew inside while busy techs asked me a hundred questions to which I mostly answered "I don't know what's wrong, I think she's dying" and we were eventually brought to a room to wait for Bean's prognosis. Meanwhile, we're in this little room, and Finley is loosing his mind because he's tired from refusing his nap today. I'm trying to keep myself together and the vet comes in to tell me that Bean probably has a brain parasite, is totally blind, and that she would recommend that I choose to euthanize her. So I said yes. I said yes, but I said yes with tears in my eyes.

I've always tried to be the girl with mega strength. The girl who doesn't need to cry, or grieve, or mourn. The one who can hold it together in front of her oblivious toddlers (or husband) through any storm. But God reminded me today (as I blubbered goodbyes and love yous to my cat) that I really am only human, I really do have a small capacity for burdens, and I really do need to draw on His strength in all moments. So off we trudged, dead cat in a box in one arm, toddler in the other, and a bouncing 3 yr old trailing behind. On our drive home Grace enthusiastically said "well that was a really fun day, can we go back to the vet soon?!" and I thanked God that she didn't understand what had just happened to Bean..although I know I'll have to tackle some tough questions through the next few days.

Psalm 18:6
"In my distress I called out to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From His temple he heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears" 

 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

It's a Bit of a Fixer Upper



Last week, we stepped foot into our new (to us) home. We were greeted by about 600 spiders, a thick layer of grime on our feet, the wafting smell of dead mice, 4 different schemes of wallpaper, and some really sketchy aromas in our 50's style bathroom. We couldn't have been more excited!

(Exhibit A. bathroom straight from the 50's, possibly with a hint of mold)

I know that more than one person will walk through our home in the next year, thinking to themselves "What in the world were Sam and Annette thinking, and why do they love this home so much?!" ...The answer is simple--We see the potential, and it is absolutely thrilling that we get to carry out that potential, as a family, and make this our home.

This is exactly how Jesus loves us and pursues us, He intimately knows the dark corners of our minds. He has slept in the cobwebs, He's inhaled the poisonous mold, He has touched the dirt on our feet. He sees us, He knows us, and He still loves us.  Not only that, but He sees how beautiful we can be, He sees our potential, and He tells us that all we need is to trust in Him, and allow the Holy Spirit to come set up shop in our hearts.

Every home, no matter how nice, will give out in some way or another. Whether that's a leaky basement or an infestation of fleas, we can be certain that our dwelling place will need repair. Man is no different. We are desperate for Jesus! It doesn't matter if you're the home that has been built with the best of materials, or the home that is perhaps crumbling a bit and hard to look at. Both are equally as needy.

Sam and I were so in love with this home, that we offered $10,000 over the asking price. Not only that, we were willing to overlook anything that came up in the inspection that would cost under $2,000, in the spirit of keeping things simple and appealing for the seller. This was a sacrifice for us and we had to trust that this was really what we wanted and be willing to sign up for some hard work and potentially some suffering.

Jesus invested in us, as humans, in a much more sacrificial way! He purchased us, by His blood, on the cross. He came to earth, as man, and suffered for us! His agony was so immense leading up to the crucifixion, that His sweat became like blood as He prayed to the Father (Luke 22:44). But even still, He died for us, while crying out "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46).

Do you see what a "fixer upper" you are?  Bask in His grace and His mercy, and allow yourself to be transformed and remade by the Holy Spirit. Invite Him into all of the dark corners, and even the clean corners, because even those spaces are dirty. Steep in His truth as watch your life be taken into His hands!

Father, Thank you so much that through you, I have been remade. Thank you that I am a new creation, and that you are able to use a sinner, like me, to advance your kingdom. Thank you for pursuing my dirty heart. Thank you for loving me perfectly when I am unlovable. Thank you that I can trust that your ways are best and that I can walk confidently with you, knowing that you only want good for me. God, I invite you into my heart today and everyday, and ask that you'd rebuild all the broken and ugly pieces. I pray for more of you, and less of me.
 In your name I pray. 
Amen.

Monday, June 26, 2017

I'm Going to Ecuador?!

Acts 13:47-49
"For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.' And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region."

It was just a few months ago that I was sitting in church, listening to the announcements, when something caught my attention. Our church was looking for a team to be sent to Ecuador in July 2017. This is a yearly routine at the church I attend, and normally I thank the Lord for those brave enough to volunteer, and that's that. This year, though, as our pastor spoke of this opportunity, I was insistent that my husband, Sam, should most definitely go! 

For a few weeks I nagged him and made him send in the e-mail saying he was interested, and then when it came time that the team needed some true commitment, Sam said "I don't think I really want to do this. why don't you go?" .....Crickets chirping.....Me? I have to be honest that the first thing holding me back was that others would look down on me for leaving my kids and husband for a week, 'cause hey, doesn't a "good" Christian wife send her husband off to do things like this?! God quickly revealed to me that he is not picky about who spreads the gospel, and that actually my situation of being a stay at home mom made me uniquely available to this opportunity. So I put my "yes" in Him and committed! 

A year ago I was talking to a sweet friend (Kaitlin!) after she had just informed me she was going on the Ecuador trip. I was in awe of her bravery and how simple she made it seem to just pick up and go as the Lord called her to do. I remember saying something along the lines of " I can't ever see myself going on a mission trip. I don't have a strong theological background, or the means to 'convince' people of Jesus." I remember this conversation and my fears so clearly, but I had it all wrong! God has shown me that it's not about how much you know, but rather how much you love Jesus with all your heart, mind, and soul. He supplies the rest as you grow in relationship with Him! I am no longer afraid, because I know HE will equip me to touch lives and love on people who have never known the love of Jesus, it's not about 'me' at all.

The Lord has supplied, abundantly, to make this trip possible for me. Friends and family far and near have donated generously, a hiccup in my passport application was corrected quickly, and my in laws even agreed to come watch the kids so that Sam wouldn't miss any work. I am extremely grateful all around! The Lord has been strengthening my heart each time I read scripture, and I am clinging to His promises for the various anxieties I carry. 

Now, at just 4 days from departing, I can only ask of your prayers. Pray for each of our hearts, that we would joyfully accept whatever the Lord has for us in Ecuador, and that He would unite us as a team for His glory. Pray that there would be more of Him and less of us (John 3:30). And lastly, pray that My in laws don't despise me too much after wrangling our two toddlers for a week ;) 

Until next time, 
Annette



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Unshakable


I have felt the arrows of attack this week. Satan tempts me..I can hear his call to internalize and be self focused. I can taste the bitterness planted in my heart, I can hear the song of self pity playing loud and clear. He tempts me, and I fall to my knees and I pray, because it's a scary world, without God. It's a fearful thought to ever stray from my heavenly father.

Yesterday, I stood at the counter, chopping vegetables, listening to Ephesians, and ignoring the cries of babes who would not take a nap. It was another one of THOSE battles...you know, when you think you've aligned everything just perfectly so that the kids will nap. And then they don't. In my experience, this has triggered one of two responses. The first (and most common) has been to throw a tantrum in my mind, which consists of something like "My kids hate me, I don't deserve this, I'm so sick of this, etc." The second response, and the one I'm working to implement always, is to take it to God in prayer.

When I take my cares to Him and allow Him to overflow my heart with truth, life, and hope, the missed nap and uncooked dinner seems much less significant. He gives me endurance when I feel depleted, He gives me time when I thought I had none, and he gives me patience when, by nature, I'm prone to snap. He gives me humility on days when I just couldn't clean or cook, and my poor husband walks into a train wreak.

He reassures me, always. He tells me "Annette, it's ok. I am bigger than your messy house, and your tired eyes, and your fighting kids." He says "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28). He says "Cast your anxiety on me, because I care for you." (1 Peter 5:7). He says "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10). He Says "Draw near to the throne of grace, receive my mercy and find grace in your time of need." (Hebrews 4:16).

When I feel like my worldly troubles will overtake me, and my past will bring me down, He reminds me that "I have not received a spirit of slavery which leads to fear, but a spirit of adoption as His daughter which I may cry out, Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15). He reminds me "This is the only race worth running." (Timothy 4:7). He reminds me that I should "Be in hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the ages began." (Titus 1:2). And finally, He reminds me that "He is so rich in love and mercy that even when I was dead in my sinfulness, he made me alive with Christ" (Ephesians 2:4-5).

I am safe, I am saved, and I am satisfied, through Him. Life is not stable, the days can be long and difficult or sometimes short and gleeful, but through His truth and love, you can remain unshakable. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The armor of God in motherhood

If you know me even a little, you know that I love my podcasts, John Piper sermons, and worship music. Basically anything I can put on as encouragement during the kids' naptime while I do the dishes, clean, or whatever needs done. During my worst bout of depression I played "Oceans" over an over during the day and it helped ground me to the truth, even in my desperate state. I was listening to a podcast last night and a quote really jumped out at me which basically said that Satan attacks right before or after God has a mighty plan for us. We can see this in Peter 5:8 which says "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour". It makes so much sense that the enemy would mess with the minds of believers, especially when we're about to do great, God glorifying, deeds.

With that being said, yesterday was "one of those days". I woke up feeling unprepared, I didn't feel like serving joyfully, didn't feel like stepping into the work God has trusted me with, I felt snappy and irritable and wanting to go back to bed. Yesterday, I wanted to be a "victim" in a life that God has blessed me with. I wanted to snub my nose at His glorious plans and do it my own way. I could feel my heart diverging from the truth and immersing into self-pity and self doubt. Do you notice a trend here? I was entirely focused on me! I had my head down, instead of looking up to our glorious Father, and he reminds me (ever so patiently) that if I would take my eyes off me, things would be SO much easier!

Ephesians 6: 10-18 says:
" Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people."

We can stand firm in truth   
-Philippians 1:6 "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
-1 Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."
-Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

With the breastplate of righteousness in place
-2 Corinthians 5:21 "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." in other words, we can stand clean before God, even as sinners. 

The Gospel of peace 
-Romans 8:28 "Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won't he also give us everything else?"

The shield of faith 
Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

The helmet of salvation
-Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

The Sword of the Spirit
-The Bible! Pray through scripture, meditate on it, fill your minds with God's mighty words of truth and promises!

Pray in the Spirit
-Romans 8:5-7 "Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will."
  
Ephesians 6 is such a beautiful piece of scripture, especially for us mamas! I am training myself to pray through this during the difficult moments and remember the truth of these words.We, as Christians, have been gifted with the armor of God...what then can touch us! Take up your armor, in faith, and in confidence, and be ready for attack, but also rejoice in the beauty of our almighty and his deep love for us. Hold your screaming child and remove yourself from the situation, and replace God. Serve while knowing that he is with you. answer those 1000 questions your toddler is asking while praying for patience and endurance. Put on the armor, and fight whatever lies the enemy is attacking you with and, as always, walk confidently in the perfect peace that God knows and understands you and your situation.