Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Beauty for Ashes

I got my first tattoo on Saturday, and I've found out that there are three big questions people ask a person who has just gotten a tattoo.
  1. Where is it?  This one is easy - it is on my left side just above my hip bone.
  2. Why?  I find this question silly, but equally easy to answer - I got it because I wanted to.  I like tattoos, but I've never been connected to anything strongly enough to have it permanently inked to my body...until now.
And the final question....What does it mean?

This one is a little harder to answer - not because I don't know exactly what it means to me, because trust me, I DO - but because it has such an emotional meaning for me that I find it hard to put into words.

And for some reason, I get embarrassed trying to explain it. 

Maybe because explaining it requires sharing a very deep, very secret part of me.  Maybe it's because I'm afraid I'll share that very deep, very secret part of me, and someone will tell me that it's a stupid idea.  Maybe it is just because I don't think I'm very good with words.

Needless to say, there is a part of me that wants to cover up this tattoo, keep it only for me, and never have to share my feelings about it.  But...I won't let myself do that.  I won't let myself continue to hide pieces of myself from others out of fear of rejection.  Remember those ten commandments?  Yeah, I'm sticking to them, so here it goes...bear with me, it's kind of a long story that I'll try to make short...

A year ago, I felt it coming on...the depression.  It had been years since I had felt it so strongly, and I was determined to deny that it was happening again.  I made excuses not to go see a doctor or a counselor.  I tried very hard to hide it, to handle things myself.  I was just sure that since I knew what was wrong that I could fix it with out having to bother, worry, or inform anyone else.

But, guess what?  I was wrong.  Depression is an insatiable beast.  It ate up any joy in my life before I even had a chance to feel it.  It left me angry and, eventually, numb.  Finally, by the end of October I couldn't take it anymore.  I went to the doctor, got a prescription, and that was that.  I waited for the meds to kick in and my life to go back to normal.

But things couldn't be normal again.  At the time I didn't realize how badly the depression had affected not only me, but my relationships with my husband, children, family, friends, co-workers, and students.  And, by taking a pill, burying the pain, and trying to move on like nothing had happened, I only worsened the situation.

By Christmas I was worried.  By New Years I was petrified.  By mid-January everything came to a head.  I felt like every dream I had ever had for my life went crashing down in a ball of flames.  My personal life was in ashes. 

Since then, I've been in counseling....lots of counseling.  I've learned that if I continue to hold on to the ashes of my old life, I'm on a road to becoming permanently hurt, angry, suspicious, and bitter.  I will continue to damage the relationships in my life. 

I have to let go.

And I have to change.

So what do I do with these ashes?  I have to hand them over to God.  I truly believe that He is calling me to do this; that He is promising me "Hey, I can make this beautiful for you again." 

And, I have seen evidence of that very promise in my life already.  By having faith in God's promises, by following the words He is speaking to my heart, I have seen that there is good and beauty coming out of these very hard, very painful situations.  Ever so slowly love, joy, and laughter are weaving their way back into my life. 

It's not easy.  In fact, some days are so incredibly hard that I don't know how I'm going to ever make it through.  That's when I remember this promise, HIS promise:  Give me the ashes.  I can make something beautiful.

Beauty for Ashes has such a deep, important meaning to me that I decided I wanted it permanently inked to me as a way to never forget the power and strength of God when I let him work in my and in my life situations.  It is the unceasing prayer of my heart right now.

And, to give credit where credit it due...this phrase "Beauty for Ashes" is not something I came up with on my own.  My very amazing mother-in-law has been forwarding me her daily devotionals every day throughout the last five months or so.  And one day I received one that was written by this woman, Samantha Reed.  In it, she talked about "when life breaks you" and mentioned this idea of God giving us "Beauty for Ashes."  Clearly, it struck me very deeply and immediately connected to my heart.  So, thank you to my mother-in-law (this tattoo is all your fault!) and thank you to Samantha for writing something so powerful and so touching!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Little Graduate

He graduated Pre-school on Tuesday night.  Pre-school today...high school tomorrow...  I'm such a proud Mama! 

Congratulations, Logan!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

You Capture ~ Simplicity

This weeks You Capture leaves me asking the question:  Why do I buy my children toys?

 Logan spent an entire afternoon playing with weeds that he pulled out of the landscaping.  He said he was playing transformers.  Simple isn't it?  So, again, why do I buy my children toys?

Monday, May 7, 2012

I had two goals for this month:
  1. Use my camera every day in May (I'm very out of practice)
  2. Blog every day in May (My poor blog has been so neglected)
It is now May 7, and I've already screwed it up.  I haven't used my camera in three days, and I haven't blogged in two.

Now, in my defense, May is a very busy month and probably not the best time to make this commitment.  It is the end of the school year, and work is a busy place.  Plus, we always house sit for my in-laws in May which means spending the night at a house with no internet access and crappy cell phone reception (at least if you have the same cell phone company as we do).  You'd think I could at least take a picture every day, but that doesn't work if I'm at one house, and I've left my camera at another!

Needless to say it seems to have been impossible to get free time, interenet access, and my computer all in one place together!

Noramlly I'd call any project that has gone this off course an utter fail and scrap the whole thing.  But...I'm working on not doing exactly that.  You see, I have a really bad habit of quitting anything that isn't going smoothly and perfectly (according to me, of course).  This is because...

It is easier for me to quit than admit failure. 

It is easier for me to quit than to pick up the pieces and try again at the risk of failure.

It is easier for me to quit than to do something less than perfect.

It is easier for  me to quit than to face possible rejection.

Sure, I get to live a life where I can truthfully say to people, "Hey, I've never failed at anything, and I've never done anything less than perfectly."  It's not an untrue statement, but it is also not an honest statement.  Because, sure, I haven't failed, but have I really lived?  What kind of life am I living if I never take risks?  What kind of lives am I teaching my children to live if they never see me taking risks?

If I am ever going to push myself to do more, to be more, than now is the time.  If I am every going to face my fears of rejection and failure than now is the time.  If I'm ever going to learn what it truly means to live and be happy than now is the time.

So, my little May challenge that I've started for myself...well, I'm going to keep working on it.  Sure, it is not going to be what I planned it any more, it is not going to be perfect anymore, but it is going to be because I'm not going to quit.  And that, my friends, is a pretty big step for me!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Why oh why?

I just got this blogger app for my phone & I just want it to work right! Why oh why can't I get the darn thing to work?! Well, here goes try number 8,657,892... Will it be my first post from my phone or is it doomed to fail as well? Let's see...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

breaking the fast

On Sunday I gave myself a challenge:  a three day fast.


For weeks now I have been feeling this push to do this.  It almost felt like a compulsion - I had to do this!  I haven't been able to figure out how to put into words why I needed to do this.  It was an opportunity to grow closer to God, a chance to gain some life perspective, a reminder about what in my life I do have control over.  It was a desire to do all of these things and more. 

So.....for three days I have done nothing but drink water, Vitamin Water, and Gatorade.  There were times that were very easy, other that were more difficult, and there were moments that were down right excruciating!  But in those moments of weakness, I found strength in God.  In those good moments I found real joy in my life and what I am doing.  And in the difficult moments I found out how good and supportive my friends are.

At six o'clock I reached my goal!  And this is how I celebrated:

My husband - my friend - Justin brought home these leftovers from my new favorite italian restaurant and left them for me to celebrate my first meal in three days with!  I don't know if I can ever fully express how amazing and supportive he was through this entire process.  I honestly believe that his presence made all of this easier for me.

There is a tough road ahead of me, many challenges to face in the very near future.  This process has shown me that with the support of God and my friends I do have the strength to make it through any difficult time ahead.  I am starting to see myself more clearly, my value and worth.  I am starting to discover my own personal happiness - a happiness that exists despite the storm I have lived in for these past few months.  I can see hope for the future, no matter what that future holds for me.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Taking Charge ~ My Personal 10 Commandments

So over the last few months I feel as if I have completely lost control of my own life.  It is my own fault really.  Sure, bad things have happened to me in the last few months, but I am the one who chose to react the way I did.  I was the one who chose to let my hurt and anger consume me, to focus only on things I had absolutely no power to change.  And, by doing all of this, I have lost control of my own life, of the things that I do have the power to control and exact change upon. 

Now I'm here to proclaim that I am taking charge again.  Except this time I'm only taking charge of me.  This time I'm going to take care of me so that I can better take care (not take charge) of the ones I love.

Here are my 10 Commandments to myself:
  1. I will not put God at the end of my "To-Do" lists.  I will make Him a central part of my life through prayer, Bible reading, small group, and church.
  2. I will not bury what I am thinking or feeling because I think by doing so I will save someone else from being hurt.  I will however work on sharing my feelings in an appropriate, loving way at an appropriate time.
  3. I will not let the opinions (or preceived opinions) of others dictate how I feel about myself.  I will focus on the qualities and characteristics in me that I know are positive, and I will find value, happiness, and love for myself.
  4. I will not be afraid to try new things.  I will take on new challenges even at the risk of failure.
  5. I will not take my friends or family for granted.  I will lean on them for support and understanding when I need it, and I will take every opportunity to let them know how much I love and appreciate them.
  6. I will not place impossible expectations on my children.  I will let them be kids and take care of business accordingly.
  7. I will not want for things I do not need or let a sense of entitlement take control of my life.  I will focus on the things I do have and thank God every day for the blessings He has given to me and my family.
  8. I will not criticize my body anymore.  I will however work hard to take better care of it by exercising regularly and using some self-control with food.
  9. I will not make excuses for not doing the things I love.  I will make time to work on my photography skills, read, scrapbook, blog, and play the clarinet.
  10. I will not obsess about the state of my house.  I will get things done when I can, and I will delegate and ask for help as needed.
I've taken the first step to taking charge of my life, and I'm throwing it out there for everyone to see.  Pray for me.  Keep me accountable.  Be my friend.