Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Call Someone Who Cares

The temperature last night was amazing.  I went out for an evening run, and it was absolutely perfect.  As I was running, a memory invaded my thoughts.  My mind went back to February.  I was with my friend running a half marathon in New Orleans.  Jason and I were separated but working toward reconciliation.  I signed up for  text notifications.  It was a neat little gimmick.  As you ran the marathon, you would pass by checkpoints.  When you crossed those points, it would send a text message to the person you had chosen telling them where you were and what your time was.  I think that is the last time I "checked in" with Jason when I was away from him.  The next week he told me he was not coming home.

A few weeks later I went out of town to a conference.  It was in Orlando, and my friend and I left after school.  The trip down turned into a comedy of errors.  It should have taken us about seven hours, but we made it there in a record ten hours!  We were delirious when we got there.  It was 2:00 in the morning.  I remember going to my room and thinking how odd it was not to pick up the phone and call Jason to let him know that I had arrived safely.

This is a another part of the journey that no one tells you about. For twenty-one years I have made check-in calls.   "I made it.  I love you.  Sleep well."  Whom do I call now and tell that I am okay?  Now don't misunderstand me.  I have plenty of people who check up on me.  My mother will do this as long as she is breathing.  I have friends who take care of me.  My friend Bobbie has called me before and said, "Are your blinds closed and doors locked?"  The most persistent two are my girls.  If I am gone longer than they think I should be, I start getting, "Where are you?" texts from them.  One day I got a text from one of them that said, "Please answer your phone.   For all I know, you could be in a car wreck!"

I am very loved and cared for; however, it is just not the same as talking to your soul mate and letting him know that all is well.  You are so connected to this person, and you cannot rest until you know he is okay.  It is strange when you no longer share that connection.  Anyone who has experienced divorce, death, or even deployment of a spouse can identify with what I am saying.  

I am learning that this is okay.  I have lost my best friend, but I have an identity outside of him.  I have my family, friends, coworkers, and students.  However, these people have their own lives to live, and while they are a tremendous support for me, I am not their responsibility.  That is why the most important relationship I have is with God.  He was present at 2:00 in the morning when I arrived in Orlando, as He is every day of my life.  I don't have to "check in" with Him, because He is right there with me.   He will always be there, and He will never leave me.  I remember the old song that said, "Well, here's a quarter, call someone who cares."  I have good news.  You don't need a quarter, and He always cares!

Matthew 30:29-31  (New Living Translation) 
What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.  And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Armadillo Match Rages On

Do not let anyone tell you that armadillos are not smart.  First of all, my new tenant has befriended Anna.  Last week Anna informed Lily that we have an armadillo in our yard.  She saw him when she took LuLu outside.  She said to Lily, "He was so nice."  Can someone please tell me how an armadillo is nice?  I asked her if he was a pet, and she quickly replied, "He could be if I wanted him to."

Two days later I was outside enjoying one of the beautiful evenings.  I walked around the house to the front yard, and I saw him.  He was huge.  I had no idea that they were such large animals.  He must have been three feet long, and he was fat.  At that point I had an even harder time understanding Anna's bond with this critter.

He seemed pretty tame, and my friend had given me a crazy idea.  She said that I should try to catch him by putting a laundry basket on top of him.  The girls' friend Ross was here, and I decided he could be the man for the moment and help catch this critter.  I handed him the laundry basket and gave him the simple task of putting the basket on top of the armadillo.  It seemed easy enough to me.  Of course, I had no idea what we would do if we caught him.

Ross took one look at him and said, "No way.  That is a huge armadillo."  He just ran out in the yard with the basket and scared him off.  To top it off, he threw the basket into the wooded area by our house.  At this point, I was stomping my foot and screaming, "Ross, go get that basket."  He refused.  He was scared our friend was going to come out of the woods and attack him.  We argued for five minutes on the porch before I finally went stomping off to take care of it myself.  As I huffed away, I said, "I am tired of having to be the 'man' of the house."  Lily had joined us by now.  Just as I made my way into the deep, dark forest to grab the basket away from my nemesis, Lily and Ross screamed at the top of their lungs.  They scared me out of my wits.  I ran in the house, basket in hand, feeling like I had conquered the world.  Then it dawned on me that the armadillo was probably munching on some grub worms that he had just dug out of my yard and laughing as our adventure played out in front of him like a movie.

I think it would be fair to say that Round 2 went to the armadillo!

"It's all good.  It ain't always nice, but it's all good!"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Letting Go of a Place I Love

The girls and I went to Blue Lake this weekend.  Every good Methodist knows about Blue Lake, and just hearing those two words brings a flood of memories.  It is in the middle of Conecuh National Forest.  The camp surrounds a lake. The accommodations are somewhat rustic, but the surroundings will take your breath away.

I spent a lot of time alone, just walking through the camp and and thinking of days gone by.  The memories flooded in like a tidal wave.  Everywhere I went, there were mental pictures of happier times with my family.  They were sweet and precious, yet at the same time the grief from those memories cut deep to the core of my very being.  I read recently that grief can be summed up in four words:  something ended too soon.  I wish that Jason and I could have taken our grandchildren to Blue Lake one day.  I would love to be with him one day in the new chapel. Those things will never happen.   I have so many memories of our family together there, but no more will be made.

This weekend, I took the book of my life with Jason back out, and I remembered.

  • I thought of when we ran a junior high camp twelve years ago.  We would take the girls with us.  They were five and three.  There are lizards everywhere at Blue Lake.  The girls would go around collecting them and keeping them in a box.  One time Anna was holding one close to her face, and suddenly it latched onto her chin.  She came screaming to us as the lizard held on for dear life.  Finally, her dad pried it off.  She was left with two little holes on her chin.  I had no idea that a lizard could draw blood.
  • I reminisced about all the Sunshine Camps that we worked together.  This is a camp for mentally challenged adults.  My favorite time of this camp is Sunday morning worship.  We would always gather in the old chapel on the site.  The windows were open.  There was no air.  My friend, Alicia, would play "Amazing Grace" with all her might on the old organ as the campers sang their hearts out.  There are no purer souls on this earth than those precious campers.
  • I thought of all the elementary camps that we took part in when the girls were attending.  It was such a privilege to share these experiences with them.  I can still hear all the squeals and giggles as they would go running into the lake.  I see their sweet faces as we would take Holy Communion at Vesper Point overlooking the lake.
  • I remembered the anguish of being with Jason as he went before the Board of Ministry to become an elder with the church.  
  • I relived the Emmaus walks, Pastors' Assemblies, Confirmation Retreats and a variety of other events and retreats.
I took a moonlight stroll last night around the camp.  It was absolutely beautiful with the moon illuminating the lake.  I walked by a group that was cleaning up from a service they had experienced earlier.  I remembered the dozens of times that we held those services.  I saw couples walking together hand in hand, enjoying the quiet atmosphere away from the business of the world.  I wanted to go to them and say, "Treasure this moment.  Realize what a gift it is to walk hand in hand with the one you love."

The most emotional part of the trip was visiting vesper point.  In the Catholic church, vespers is an evening prayer service.  Years ago, someone decided to use this term for evening prayer services out by the lake.  There are three different camps at Blue Lake and each camp has a special gathering place that overlooks the lake where vespers are held during retreats.  I spent time alone at all three locations.  It was a painful reminder of a beautiful time in my life that I didn't want to end.  I had such conflicting emotions.  As I experienced and relived all these memories, I felt sadness and nostalgia.  Yet as I thought of my current feelings, I still felt indifference.  It was hard for me to reconcile these two feelings.

This morning I spent time at Vesper Point for Dogwood Camp.  That is where the strongest memories are.  When we were there, our whole family was together.  As I sat there, I realized that for now, maybe it is not healthy for me to spend time here.  I love this place.  It will always hold a special place in my heart.  But, it is a part of my past that was completely tied to my life with Jason, and the memories there are nothing but funny, sweet, and good.  I am building a new life now.  I cannot build on this new life as long as I cling to the past.  

This morning I said goodbye to Blue Lake.  I love that place.  It will always be special.  Maybe one day I will go back.  But for the time being, I need to break away and build new memories.  

To all of those who have been involved in making this camp such a beautiful refuge from the crazy world we live in, thank you!  There is a wonderful chapter in the book of my previous life about this special place.  This blog is dedicated to that place and to all the people through the years who have served there so faithfully.

If you have special memories of Blue Lake, share them in a comment below.  I would love to read them and I want those reading the blog who have never visited this special place to see it through the eyes of others as well.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Feelings of Indifference

Friends told me in the beginning of the journey that they experienced three different phases.  In the beginning, there was still the presence of deep, committed love.  It was so strong that they were compelled to do almost anything in order to save the marriage.  After being inflicted with  many battle wounds, the love turned to hate.  With time, the hate gave way to pity.

While I have experienced moments with each of these emotions, I now find myself in a state of indifference.  I really just don't feel anything.  I am not sad, but I am also not angry.  Actually, I find that as I am rediscovering who I am, it becomes easier to let go of the relationship.  

I walked outside tonight to look at the full moon.  It was gorgeous.  I sat down in the swing and reminisced a little.  Jason and I often enjoyed sitting outside in the evenings on our swing, especially in the fall.  We would talk about our day or the girls.  Sometimes we would just sit there quietly.  When I went outside tonight, it was just me.  I thought about my day.  I prayed some.  I was alone, and I was okay.  

I wondered for a moment if by some chance, he was out there looking at the moon at the same time.  He probably wasn't, but it was a nice thought.  I thought of how he and I will always be connected because we share two amazing daughters.    Just as we can be 180 miles apart and staring at the same moon, we will now live two completely separate lives, yet always be linked through the girls.  

When that thought entered my mind, I thought that maybe indifference isn't such a bad place to be.  If I stayed in the deep, maddening love, I could never move forward.  Being consumed with hate is the worst place to be.  It will destroy you.  Pity could be rationalized as healthy.  Yet even with that, you have to be careful.  It is easy to find yourself feeling superior to the other person as you pity him.  I know that from experience.  So maybe indifference is a good way to approach the relationship.  

I am really not sure on this one.  All I can talk about is my experience, and tonight it was a good.  I was able to think about moments from the past, acknowledge that I will always be linked to Jason through the girls, and at the same time not feel sad or anxious.  Maybe a better word for the situation is peace.  According to Wikipedia, peace is a relationship operating harmoniously and without conflict.  We are without conflict most of the time. I am not so sure we have made it to the harmonious part.  But, who knows?  Maybe we were looking up at the same moon tonight.

It was a good stop on the journey.  I hope there are many more like it.  This sweet, contemplative time was immediately followed by Round 2 with the armadillo, but that is another blog!

Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message)
Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Divorce and Death

Seven years ago, on Father's Day, my best friend buried her husband.  He was thirty-nine years old and died from colon cancer.  She was left to raise three beautiful, young children on her own.  It was such a terrible and tragic time.  I don't think that you can ever get over the death of a spouse.  You just learn how to cope.  That is what I have watched my friend do for seven years.  I am so proud of her for the amazing job she has done.

When I hit bottom back in March, I finally called my sister and told her that she needed to come.  She asked when I wanted her here, and I said, "Now."  This was 3:30 in the afternoon.  She is a school teacher, so she had to arrange for a substitute and get lesson plans.  She arrived at my house at 9:00 that night.  I knew my mother was coming with her, but she also surprised me by bringing my best friend.

Those couple of days are a blur.  It was March 17, and the next day would be my twenty-first anniversary.  The only way that I think I can somewhat describe the situation is that it was like an "out of body" experience. I remember a good friend had come over from the church.  The house was a wreck.  I simply did not care.  (Those who know me well know that I keep an immaculate house.)  She was one of the few people that I allowed in during that time because she was traveling a similar journey.  I knew that she understood what I was going through, and she would not care if I sat and cried the whole time we talked.  The girls came in.  They were hungry.  The last thing that I could possibly do at that moment was cook.  Lily said, "Mom, we are just going to run get fast food."  My friend assured me that it was just fine, and they would survive if they had to eat fast food for a few days.

She left shortly before my family and friend arrived.  Being married to a pastor, I have been through deaths with countless families.  The atmosphere in my home that night was not very different from those experiences.  My sister came in and sat down by me.  I just laid my head in her lap.  They were trying to cheer me up by telling funny stories of their whirlwind trip over.  I laughed when they did, even though I had not processed a word they had just said.

I slept with my girls that night.  I wanted them as close to me as I could get them.  The next morning my mother and sister got up and cooked a massive breakfast.  While they were cooking, my friend came and asked the girls if she could spend some time with me.  It was the day of my anniversary.  She just looked at me and said, "Well, twenty years ago you and I would never have dreamed that life would turn out like this."  She was a widow, and I was soon to be divorced.  We were both forced to start over in life, and that had surely not been a part of our plans.

Years ago, a very kind friend who had gone through a difficult divorce said to me, "I think divorce is worse than death because in death, they don't choose to leave."  I never fully understood that until now.  I still do not know that I would say it is worse, because I have watched my friend grieve through her loss.   Instead of comparing the divorce and death, I have come to the conclusion that divorce is death.

The relationship with the love of my life is dead.  I can finally say that.  Months ago, I would have been so overcome with sadness that I could not have even processed that mentally without sinking into despair.  Now I can acknowledge that fact.  It is gone and buried.  There will be no twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.  We will not grow old together.  I did not think I could ever accept those facts.  However, as the months have passed, I have gotten more accustomed to my life without Jason.  I have finally come to accept the reality that this is what will be.  I have grieved at depths to which I never knew I could go, and I have survived.  I have accepted that this marriage is over, and I am moving forward.

I have finally reached the point that I rarely grieve over my relationship with Jason.  More often, I grieve over the family that we were.  We had good times.  It is amazing that I can sit here and smile as I write this.  We were a family that played together and enjoyed each other.  Lily told me once a few months ago that she thought the whole process would have been so much easier if ours had not been such a great family.  That family, as it existed then, is gone.  I have grieved and continue to grieve for that.

Finally, I grieve over all the loss of hope that others have experienced because of our divorce.  So many people have said to me, "If you guys can't make it, then who can?"  One reason that I blog is so that people who are considering divorce can see just how detrimental and destructive it is to the adults involved and to the children.  Please hear me loudly and clearly:  unless there is abuse involved, it is not worth it.  The pain and suffering that come with this journey are so vast, and the consequences just keep coming.  Please do not think that the grass is greener on the other side.  As a good minister friend said once, "Grass is grass."  Stay where you are and cultivate and fertilize the grass.  It can be lush again.

My flower beds are showing the signs of fall.  The summer annuals are beginning to die away.  One of  my favorite flowers is a black-eyed susan.  We planted  several of them last year.  After the planting, they just went limp and eventually withered away.  I was so disappointed.  In April I was beginning to have some hope that life could go on.  I walked outside one day, and to my surprise several of these plants had come back.  It seemed to have happened overnight.  I watched them over the next few weeks.  They grew to be at least twice as big as they were last year and were covered in blooms.  They were breathtaking.  They had lost everything and withered away to nothing.  While in the ground, they had endured a long, cold winter.  Yet they had survived.  Not only had they survived, but they had come back stronger and more beautiful than they were before.

I have experienced the death of something that to me was amazing, wonderful, and beautiful.  But I know that God has new life in store for me.  I am already experiencing it, and as the following verse says, my joyful anticipation of what lies ahead deepens every day!

Romans 8:18-21 (The Message)
That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Amy Vs. The Armadillo

So just as the holes in my heart are beginning to heal, holes are back yard are beginning to appear, and I am mad. I spend hours every week keeping my yard beautiful. I have about three squirrels that call this place home, and I am happy to have them.  They are so entertaining. I get such a kick out of watching them scurry along the top of the fence.  They could entertain my dog, LuLu, for hours on end. However, now I am a little upset with the squirrels because I think they shared the news with their armadillo friends that life is good here, and they should move on in.

It all started when I noticed a few holes about two weeks ago when I was cutting grass. Then last week they had multiplied. There were about twenty holes. Now my back yard looks like isometric graph paper.  I called my gardening mentor, Jim Williamson, and before I could finish the description, he said, "Ah, you have an armadillo." Are you kidding me?  First there were snakes, which by the way, continue to be a problem, but that is another blog. Now, this? Oh, I am just angry.

I have talked with several people about how to handle the situation, and the general consensus is a 9 mm. I was reading an on-line article about dealing with these varmints.  I found one quote from the article hilarious.  "A few hundred holes in one's lawn can quickly transfer a flaming liberal conservationist into a blood-lust killer." Well, there are three problems with this.  First of all, I have never seen my armadillo.  I just know he is there.  I read that the best time to catch them is at 2 a.m.  If I stayed up until that time of the morning, I would be a varmint to my students the next day! Secondly, I went target shooting once, and let's just say that  I am not going to ever pursue a career in law enforcement. I am afraid that if I chose this option, I would end up with a few holes in my fence or possibly even my foot. I have a vision of the armadillo rolling on his hard shell back laughing at me. Truthfully, even if I had the time or were a good shot, I just could not choose this method. I am really aggravated with this guy, but I know he is just searching for food.  I just wish he would not rate my back yard as a five-star restaurant.

So for all the PETA members reading this, please don't show up in my front yard with "Save the Armadillo" signs. I am opting for the humane option of catch and release.  Just this morning, I called in the troops on Facebook. Within less than thirty minutes, one of my students responded that her family has a trap.  Hopefully, I can borrow the trap and catch the fellow. I will take him to a lush habitat where he can dig for hours on end and live happily ever after.

I will keep you up to date as the war rages on!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Laughter Abounds

Today is a day for laughter.  Every day is not like that, so when these days come along, we treasure them! It all started with a quick day trip to Louisiana with my crazy friend, Lisa.  She had a very important meeting and asked me if I would go for moral support.  I am so thankful for my friends.  They all bring different dynamics into my life that help complete me.  Lisa brings me laughter.

We were on our way home.  We were exhausted, and that always make things funnier.  I heard Lisa yell, "What in the world is that?"  It was a van covered in this padded material.  There were huge portraits of famous women airbrushed on the fabric.  Eyeballs with long eyelashes adorned the top of the van.  Then we saw the front.  I thought Lisa was going to lose control of the car.  It had huge pair of sunglasses over the windshield, a nose on the hood, and lips on the front bumper.  The picture was made complete by a large, homemade nose ring.

I had to take pictures.  Lisa was screaming, "You are such a dork!"  The elderly hippie driving the van was laughing.  I just have to share the pictures.

Lisa said, "Only in New Orleans will you see a sight like that."

When I finally made it home, I settled in to rest for a while.  One of my "other kids," Robyn, was at the house.  She seems to be the quiet, innocent type, but she doesn't have me fooled.  Lily left the room and made the terrible mistake of leaving her Facebook page open.  Thanks to Robyn, Lily came back with the following photo as her profile picture.
Lily quickly changed it, but I decided that we had not had enough fun with it.  I posted it on my page.  The comment said, "Lily's senior portrait.  Like it?"  As you can only imagine, in just a matter of minutes there were many responding comments.  I prepared myself for what was coming.  Make no doubt about it, Lily will get even.  When I went to shower, she posted the following picture as my new profile.

Someone commented and said, "It looks like Facebook chaos at your house tonight!"  Lily begged me to leave it up, just for a while.   One of my Slapout kids said, "Ms. Amy, please change that profile picture.  It is completely hideous!"

I am so glad that God gave us the emotion of laughter.  Here is one important truth that I have learned.  When one has traveled to the "dark places" in life and experienced the depths of sadness, it makes the laughter even more delightful.  

The book of Proverbs tell us laughter is good medicine.  This is so true!  I thank God that we had a good day filled with so much laughter.

"Laughter on one's lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life."  ~Hugh Sidey

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ready for Fall

I love spring and summer. I am cold natured. You can ask my students. I keep the room much warmer than they want it. Last year I tried to convince them that because of budget cuts, we could not keep the temperature below seventy-eight degrees.  The other day one of my students said, "Ms. Adams, I am hotter than a hooker in church!"  I just never know what they are going to say!.

Needless to say, I enjoy the summer.  But even I get ready for fall to roll around.  There are so many great things about the fall.    I just love it when I walk outside in the mornings and there is a "nip" in the air.  There is so something special about Friday night football games when it is cool.  I grew up in farming country, and there is nothing like the smell of peanuts being harvested.

Amazingly, I am even ready for winter when it rolls around.  I love bundling up in sweaters and coats.  I love sitting around a firepit with the ones of love.  Of course, winter also means it is time for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It's the most wonderful time of the year.  The perfect winter happens for us in the South about once every ten years when we get a light blanket of snow.

Thankfully, our winters are relatively short.  Since I am so cold natured, that is a good thing.  I usually end up with outside duty on the coldest days of the year.  It is just painful.  So when spring begins to show itself, I am ecstatic.  I love those first few warm days when I go to the beach.   It is absolutely perfect.  The wind blowing makes it a little cool, but with the warm sun beating down, it is perfect!

Here is my point:  I love all the seasons.  They all have their drawbacks, but by the same token, there are so many wonderful things about each season.

I talked with my friend, Rachel, recently.  She said to me, "Amy, I know that God has a wonderful new season waiting for you."  I remember in the beginning of this journey thinking that I did not want to transition into a new season in life.  I liked the one I was in just fine.  It was wonderful, and I loved it deeply.  But that season has passed.  As much as I wanted to cling to it, it has passed away from me as easily as the summer gives way to fall.  Now I can sit around and wish for the long, lazy days at the beach.  I can walk in my backyard and regret that all the daylilies have ceased blooming.  On the other hand, I can think about going up to the lake and seeing the beautiful, breathtaking trees in all their glory as they change colors.  When I go into my backyard, I can look over at the firepit and just imagine all the good times to be had sitting around it with good friends.  I can almost taste the s'mores now!

So in the same way that I look forward to all the joys of fall, I anticipate the new season in my life.  I have seen glimpses of it, and it is turning out to be really good.  I really enjoyed the last season of my life.  I hoped that it would never end, but it did.  Now I have a choice to either sit around and long for the happy, lazy days of summer, or I can look forward to the delights of fall.  I choose to look forward.  My friend is right. God does have a new season for me, and it will be good.    And you know what else?  Some of those summer days were pretty hot and miserable, so the cool days of fall are going to feel really good!

Psalm 23:6 (New Living Translation)

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Breaking Out of the Prison of Depression

Today I am going to write about anti-depressants.  This blog is going to be very personal and extremely hard for me to write.  I know that because of the varying opinions on this subject in the Christian community, some people will not like what I have to say.  Just please remember that I am sharing my journey.  Everyone's journey is different, and others may not have chosen the path that I chose.  I am simply sharing from my heart what has worked for me.

Back in March, I hit the bottom.  My life as I knew it was over.  My partner, soul mate, and best friend was gone.  There was one weekend that I spent the entire weekend in the bed.  I only came out for a few moments at the time.  I could not eat.  I will never understand  how emotional trauma can affect your body in physical ways.  I literally went weeks with absolutely no appetite.  I resorted to drinking protein shakes just to get the nutrition.  For about two weeks that was the only nutrition my body received.

I had been spiraling down to this point for several weeks.  Up until that weekend, I was still running at least four times a week.  I was staying in scripture, and I was surrounding myself with supportive people.   I was seeing a wonderful, Godly therapist who was helping me process through this difficult time.   However, I finally reached the point where, in spite of all these things, I still spiraled into "the dark place."

After I had done everything that I could do to pull myself out, I knew that I had to go see my medical doctor.  I shared what was going on and told him that I had finally reached the point that I could no longer function effectively.  He recommended an anti-depressant.  He described the situation to me this way.  When our bodies go through intense emotional trauma, it is as if the wiring in our brains is short circuited.  The chemicals get all out of balance, and things are just not right.  He offered to put me on a medication that would help stabilize the chemicals and with time help me begin to feel a little more like normal.  He assured me that it was not a quick fix.  It would take a few weeks for the medication to do its job.  I agreed to the treatment and started the medication.

It was not a miracle drug.  It did take time for it to really start taking effect.  Even then, I still had some difficult days.  But, in the big picture, it did help me in my day-to-day functioning skills.

The last time I saw my doctor, we talked about my going off the medication.  We decided that it would probably be best to stay on for a few more months.  This morning, I forgot to take it .  On the way to work, I thought to myself, "Maybe I can just go without it."  Here is the critical point.  Once one decides to go on an anti-depressant, that person must follow the doctor's advice.  One just does not need to decide that he doesn't need the medication anymore, or it's not effective, and then just cut it out cold turkey.  By the end of the afternoon, I felt like my head was swimming, and I just could not process things.  I realized that I needed to come home and take the medication as soon as possible.

My doctor is strongly in favor of my coming off the medication, but this step needs to happen the right way.  When he and I decide that time has come, he will guide me through the process of stopping the medication.

I had this on my heart to share for a couple of reasons.  For me, I had done all I could do to help myself, but it finally came to the point where I needed more help. I am not embarrassed about that.  If I had high blood pressure, I would not hesitate to take blood pressure medication.  Secondly, playing doctor is great when one is a child.  But when one is taking real medications, it is crucial to trust the professionals who know what they are doing and can help the individual handle these things in the best manner.  I know so many people who have just decided that the medications are not working for them, and they quit cold turkey.  They end up in a worse situation than when they started.  It is a fact that sometimes a particular anti-depressant may not work for someone.  Those persons should go to their doctor and let the doctor help them work through the process of finding one that does work for them.

Surviving my bout with depression has been the most difficult thing I have ever encountered.  No one should ever fool himself into thinking that a pill can cure it.  That is just not realistic.  For me, the medication has been and continues to be very helpful.  But it is by no means the only piece to the puzzle of overcoming depression.  I have had to do my part through reaching out to God through prayer and scripture, exercise, an amazing Godly therapist, and wonderful family and friends to help me through.  It is a complicated process, but it can be overcome.  There can be life again, and that life can be abundant and full of much joy!

Isaiah 61:3 (New International Version)
To all who mourn in Israel,
        he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
        a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
        festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
       that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

One of the greatest books that I have ever read on depression is "Bright Days.  Dark Nights."  It is written about the great preacher and theologian, Charles Spurgeon.  It is the story of his great suffering with depression.  I would strongly recommend it for anyone who finds themselves in the "dark place."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Survivor's Club

We moved to Pensacola three years ago.  I have heard hundreds of "Hurricane Ivan" stories.  There is this common bond shared by those who weathered that storm.  Someone described it as "The Worst of Times and the Best of Times."  Everyone who went through the storm has his story.  I have often said that I feel as if there is an "Ivan Club," and we are not a part of it!

Many of our friends chose not to evacuate.  They had weathered several hurricanes before and felt as if this one would not be any different.  But different it was! Some of the people that we know personally were in fear that they would not survive the storm.  The stories are all a little different but basically the same.  The morning after the storm, they walked outside and surveyed the damage.  It was catastrophic.  This is what made it the worst of times.   But they had survived, and now it was time to rebuild.  This is what made it the best of times.  People came together and helped each other.  Now the only reminders of Hurricane Ivan are the pictures and the stories.

I am not a member of the "Ivan Club"; however, I am a member of another "Survivors' Club." In the storm that I recently weathered, I felt at times as if I would not survive.  The winds blew, and the waters rose.  But we made it.  Now we are rebuilding.  We have made it through the worst of times.  We are moving forward and gaining strength every day.

I have three goals set to help with this process.

  • Read at least two books a month and start a plan to read through the Bible.  I hope to share things that I learn along the way.  
  • Spend as much time with family and friends as possible.  Keeping busy with people whom I love and who love me is a great source of hope and healing.
  • Lean on God every day of my life.  There are days when I just have to say, "God, I can't do this.  You are going to have to hold me."

There is a song by Natalie Grant called "Held." There is one section of the lyrics that I particularly love:

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
and you survive.
This is what it is to be loved,
and to know that the promise was
when everything fell we’d be held.

Sometimes when what is sacred to you is ripped away from your life, you feel as if things would have been better if you had not survived.  I did survive my sacred marriage being torn from my life, and now I have to move forward.

Nowhere in scripture are we promised that life will be easy and we will not have trials.  But over and over again, God does promise us that He will  be with us, and He will hold us.  As we begin the rebuilding process, He will be with us every step of the way.  On the days when we are tired and weary, He will hold us and carry us through.

I am about to take my youngest and her friend to shop for a Homecoming dress.  It is a rite of passage.  Life sure ain't always easy, but with sweet moments like these, it is still good!

You can find the song "Held" on Natalie Grant's "Awaken" cd.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Scared by Threes

I have teenagers around my house all the time.  It is such a joy.  Where there are kids, there is life.  And let me tell you, we have life around this house.

One of the girls' friends was over this weekend.  We have a walk-in pantry.  He was standing in the pantry, and he called me in there.  "Ms. Amy, have you noticed that there are threes everywhere in your pantry?" I had never noticed it, but he was right.
  • Three bottles of syrup
  • Three boxes of raisins
  • Three boxes of waffle mix
  • Three boxes of pop-tarts
  • Three boxes of brownie mix
There were several things that I had in multiples of threes that were in stacks of threes.  Then we saw the paper towels.  I had ten rolls of paper towels, but I had nine of them together in three rows of three.  The tenth one was on a different shelf all by itself.  Ross said, "Ms. Amy, this is really scaring me."
We all had a good laugh!

I went to the computer and googled, "What does the number three mean?"  The first thing that came up was "personal completeness."  That was perfect.  I don't believe in numerology, but I just couldn't resist sharing this with Ross.

This concept of personal completeness is something that I have certainly been working on.  I was talking to a good friend today, and she said, "Do you ever see yourself with someone else down the road?"  I told her that I could not answer that question right now.  I am sure that at some point there will be someone else in my life.  But for now, I want to take the time to rediscover who I am.  I want to find the things in life that I enjoy.  I want to treasure every moment that I can with my girls.  I want to laugh with friends.  For twenty-one years, my life was defined through being a wife.  Now I am redefining myself.  I am rediscovering things about myself that I have buried deep within.  Yes, I am happy to say that I am moving toward personal completeness, and it feels really good!

I was telling my same friend that story, and she told me that the number three also relates to comedy.  I am not sure what I think about that, but I can tell you this much.  We laugh in this household.  Yes, we have tears.  There are moments of stress over school.  There are numerous fights every single day between the girls.  They argue over sharing clothes with each other.  Finally, they can bring me to tears at times because they can make one great big mess in this house.  But in the midst of all this chaos, we laugh hard, and we laugh often.

Personal completeness and laughter.  I really like that.  And they are nothing for Ross to fear!

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves. ~Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Old Friends, New Memories

I had dinner last week with several friends that I had not seen since high school. Years have passed since we all walked the halls of Dale County High School. When we saw each other last week, many looked very much the same; there was a little more gray and a lot more wrinkles. (I can cover up my gray, but darn it, I just can't cover up those wrinkles.)

Life has happened through the years since we wandered those hallways. There have been great joys with children and even grandchildren. Careers have flourished, and accomplishments have been made. But there has been great sadness. We have lost some of our class members. Others have lost parents, spouses, and even children. Many of us have been affected by the epidemic of divorce. Jobs have been lost and relationships destroyed.

I think what makes the friends of your adolescence so special is that those relationships take you back to a time in life that was carefree. Life was simple, and it was good.

There are so many fond memories when you revisit that time in your mind. For those of you who call Dale County High School your alma mater, take a minute and walk down memory lane with me.

Remember the traditions.
There was that stupid "blue dot"? Sorry if it is sacrilegious for me to call it stupid, but I never understood that thing. I have to wonder if there ever was a meaning to it. If so, it had to have been the best kept secret around.

Remember the teachers.
Aimee Parrish. "You know what this is?" he would say as he rubbed his thumb and pointer finger together. "It is the world's smallest record player, and it's playing "My Heart Bleeds for You"!

Monroe D. Neal, Jr., the Third. Every week he would tell us to have a good weekend and "Please attend the church of your choice!" He started most every day discussing personal hygiene with us.

Mr. Faust. We all spent the first three years of high school dreading the day we had to take him. He had the reputation of being the hardest teacher in the school. He retired with our graduating class of 1986. We always liked to brag and say that he just couldn't handle teaching anymore after dealing with us. The truth is, we were all intimidated by him. We never said a word in his class.

Oh, those were good times with good friends. I was telling someone that the really great thing about your friends from high school is that you can go twenty years without seeing them, and when you finally get together, it feels completely natural. You just pick right back up where you left off. You just have a couple of decades on which to catch up.

I am so thankful that I have been able to reconnect with these friends of my youth. The first twenty years of my life after high school were the best of times. This year has been the worst of times. But in the midst of the grief and heartache, so many of these friends have reached out to me and offered me words of hope and comfort. Many have simply said, "I am so sorry." Sometimes that is the only thing that can be or needs to be said.

There are two points to this blog:

First, to all of those friends, thank you. You have shared this unplanned journey with me and helped make it a little easier.

Secondly, if you have old friends from your past that were a special part of your life at one time, look them up. They will help you reconnect with parts of your personality that have been lost along the way.

Proverbs 27:9 (New Living Translation)
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.

Me and my sweet friends, Tracey, Melanie and Felecia

Friday, September 10, 2010

I Kissed a Frog, Literally!

You just never know what adventures await you. Last week, it was cool outside. I decided to go outside and trim some of the shrubs. I was getting hot and tired. I thought to myself, "If I ever get rid of this house, I will move into one with a backyard the size of a bathtub!"

I was about to wrap things up for the night. I noticed that the Confederate Jasmine was growing wildly out of control on the pergola, and it needed to be tamed. I reached up with the clippers. I looked up and began lopping off the unruly shoots. The next thing I know, a frog lands right on my lips. He quickly fell to the ground and hopped away to another hiding place.

I was so offended! I mean, all my life I have heard fairy tales about the Princess and the frog. She kisses the frog and he turns into her prince. Well, first of all, I did not get a prince. Secondly, I was left with nasty, slimy lips.

When we are young, we all think life is going to be a fairy tale. Unfortunately, it does not always work out that way. Often, the frog is just a frog, and we are just left with a bitter taste on our lips feeling violated by life. Many times, I am tempted to wallow in self pity about the tragic ending to my fairy tale. Then I stop and think about others in my life.

My very best friend from childhood lost her husband to colon cancer. She was left with three beautiful young children to raise alone.

I watched a wonderful loving couple lose their precious, vivacious little boy to a heart condition. They only had three short years with him.

We had some very dear friends who were members of our church. The father was picking up his teenage son from the movies just two days before Christmas. He had a massive heart attack and died that night. He was buried the day after Christmas.

The stories go on and on. We all have experienced tragedies ourselves or with others. Life usually does not turn out to be the fairy tale for which we hope. So what will we do? Will we become angry and bitter, or will we put our faith and hope in God? I believe with all my heart that He can take our tragedies and redeem them. He can turn them into the fairy tale that He longs for us to have with Him.

I love the Message Paraphrase of James 1:12:
Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.

Well, after I realized that I had kissed a frog, I came inside and washed my mouth out for about five minutes. The girls and I got a really good laugh from it. I posted on Facebook, "Tonight, I kissed a frog. Regrettably, he did not turn into my prince." Many people thought that I had been on a date, and it was a metaphor. That made us laugh even more. I am doing well, but I'm not quite ready for that! This is the point: we laughed. Life may not be the fairy tale we hoped for, but we are still going to laugh! We know that deep inside, God has great things in store for us. The ride may be rough, but there are some good sights along the way. We are going to take time to stop and enjoy every one of them, even the slimy little tree frogs!

I am so thankful to my good friend for introducing me to John Claypool.  His books have been so encouraging and helpful in dealing with tragedy and loss.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It is what it is, but it will become what I make it!

My friend saw this sign in Priester's last week. "It is what it is, but it will become what I make it!"

I wish my life had not turned out the way that it has. I would give anything to turn back the clock, but I cannot. It is what it is. However, that does not mean that my life has to be over. I cannot remain stuck in "It is what it is." I have to move on and make it become something beautiful. I am convinced that no matter what our circumstance or situation, we have the opportunity to make it be the very best that it can be.

How do I begin the process of rebuilding my life?

I am learning to let go of the past. Last weekend I joined some friends from high school for dinner on Saturday night. Ironically, the place that we chose for dinner was the same restaurant that Jason and I went on our first date and where we went the night he proposed. We actually sat in the very same booth both nights. I walked by the booth, and I said goodbye to that part of my life. I was not sad. I smiled and was thankful for the many friends in the other room that were a part of my new beginning. I rejoined them in the room and had a wonderful evening.

I am learning that it is okay to be solo. A friend asked me Saturday night, "Where is your husband?" I laughed and told him that I was divorced. He said, "Well, congratulations." So many times I find myself feeling like the odd man out in a crowd. It was great to laugh and acknowledge that while I would not have chosen to be single at this point in my life, it is not the end of the world. I can actually go places by myself and have a really good time!

I am learning that God has a future planned for me, and it will be good. As I said earlier, my life is not over. I have no idea what that plan is, but I trust Him completely. Right now I believe with all my heart that his plan is for me to enjoy my girls. Last weekend I had seven teenagers in the house. That many kids certainly bring life wherever they are, and it is contagious. It was great therapy! As for other aspects of my future, who knows? God does! In His time, it will be revealed.

I have a very sweet friend older friend from Slapout. About twenty years ago, she lost her only son to leukemia, and her husband died from a heart attack all within a year. You would never know that she had been through such horrific circumstances. She is the most positive and optimistic person that I think I have ever met. One day I asked her how in the world she handled such devastating loss without becoming angry and bitter. She said, "It makes your faith stronger. You can become better, or you can become bitter." She chose better and has become an amazing inspiration to me and many others. Her "it is what it is" was horrific. Yet she has made her life into something beautiful. It is my prayer that God gives me the grace to take my situation and make it all that He wants it to be.

James 1:2-4
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.