God

Love in the Time of PPOCD

Finding support and the unconditional love of a significant other when you are suffering from a mental illness can be difficult. My darling friend Lebogang Xolo is here today to talk about how she found love and support in her partner during her battle with PPOCD, (Postpartum OCD). Please show her some love and support y'all.  When I was a teenager I stumbled upon a movie called "A Beautiful Mind."  This is one movie that made a huge impact in my life, and I knew from then what true love is supposed to be like.  The last scene, where Alicia Nash (Jennifer Connelly) is still standing by John Forbes Nash (Russell Crowe)’s side, even in old age, through a mental illness, still leaves me in tears to this day.   Nevertheless, I was young and naïve.  As much as I grew up in a very stable and loving home (I was raised by my aunt and uncle) I never knew who my biological father (I now made peace with it).  Subconsciously I felt rejected, abandoned; I started searching for love in all the wrong places.  I said “Yes” to the first man who proposed.

To say this was an unhealthy relationship is an understatement.  And as Oprah put it “The signs are always there, we just chose to ignore them”.  A year of marriage and a beautiful princess later, I decided to walk out, with absolutely nothing but my daughter.  It was hard, really hard, but something deep inside me told me I’m enough, I deserve better, I deserve to be loved. I cried, studied ‘The Secret’, bargained with God, and cried some more.  I crawled, I walked, I ran, I flew, I grew stronger, and I healed.  Two years later, I made space in the closet for my future husband (that’s the power of ‘the secret’ positive thinking). I then looked up to God and my everyday prayer went something like this: Dear God Thank you for saving my life, for giving me the strength to survive such a painful divorce.  I think I’ve met enough rebound guys and well, I’ve had my fun and am ready to move on.  I am ready to meet the one you chose for me, but please please make sure that he loves my daughter just as much as he loves me or more if possible.

A couple of weeks later, he came into my life.  Just when I least expected it.  At 27 I got the same butterflies as I did at 16.  I remember telling God “If you just make him say hello to me, I’ll never ask for anything else, I promise.” He did more than that; he told me that I’m beautiful.  He was so different, so secure in himself.  A year later he quit his job and moved all across the world for me.  I knew he was the one the day he asked my daughter permission to marry me.  At 4years of age, she helped him chose the ring.  She held the ring as he proposed.

Fast forward 2 years later we have a beautiful son.  And with his birth was a start of horrific PPOCD.  When I thought I was losing my mind, my husband told me everything will be ok.  He held my hand and never missed a single doctor’s appointment.  He reminded me to take my meds, assured me that he loves me more now than he ever did and treated me the same way as he did when we met.

And so my mind goes back goes back to the movie I adored as a teenager….. A tale of love so unconditional, so strong and so pure…. Love that sticks with you no matter your past, your baggage, your illness or imperfections.  And my heart is full of gratitude, for having been blessed with such love.

She Said It: Kathryn Greene McCreight on PPD, Bipolar Disorder & Faith

My friend Audrey lent me this book a couple of months ago and I'm just starting to read it this week. The second paragraph of the first chapter made me catch my breath as I read words that seemed to explain what parts of my experience with PPD was like.  As I continued to read the following paragraphs and discovered that the author is not just a mother, but a priest, and also bipolar, my eyes stung with heavy tears and I had to pause every now and then to process the emotions I was feeling.

When I was going through my experience with PPD I felt so alone, because it seemed no one around me had experienced it, or if they had, they didn't speak up about it. I felt confused and misunderstood, mostly because I couldn't even articulate what was going on with me, and when I tried, my words left the hearer with the impression that I either just needed to pray more, take more time, or "fix" my circumstances...as a Christian I was even told that I was experiencing the depression and turmoil because I had chosen to have a child out of wedlock...the hell and pain I was reeling from were just the byproducts of my "sin" and I needed to just endure it.

When I was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder last July, I felt my faith shaken and my first question to God was, "Can I be a Christian and be bipolar?" How was I supposed to know what was real, how was I supposed to hold on to God in my lowest and darkest moments when all I wanted to do sometimes was just die? My next question was, "Are there other Christians who are bipolar? Where are they? Why don't they talk about their experiences?"

I've ranted on Facebook and Twitter about how there's a lack of open dialogue, awareness, education, and services in the Christian community for those living with severe or chronic mental illnesses. There are even far less in the African-American Christian community....I've yet to hear of mental illness addressed in a sermon or anyone in our culture openly discuss this subject.....

So when I started to read this book, the first few pages seemed to scream what my experience and thoughts motherhood and these illnesses have been like. Her words shook me, so much so that I had to put the book down a few times because my hands and arms couldn't stop shaking, my body trembling from the force of the tears and emotions welling up inside of me.

So for today's post, I thought I'd just share an excerpt, share the paragraphs I read yesterday that spoke so soundly to me and I found myself in. If you know of someone who is struggling with their mental illness, especially as a mother or even a Christian, please share this post with them as well. I hope it helps you and them the way it has already started to help me.

When I became a mother for the second time however, the hem of my mental health began to fray. Motherhood by nature challenges the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical endurance of any woman. It is a highly over-romanticized and underestimated pressure cooker, matched in potential not only for the creation of a new family but also for the destruction of both mother and child. Think-with horror-the Susan Smiths and Andrea Yateses of the world. ......of course not all postpartum suffers are this detached from reality.

.....Motherhood, I believe, was only the precipitant for an internal agony that I had been holding back for years. Maybe God had postponed my storm at sea until I could be buyoued by the hopefulness and joy that I derived from my children and husband.The experience as a whole and the experiences that constituted the eventual illness were at least bewildering and at most terrifying. The blue sky which normally fills my heart, stung my soul. Beautiful things like oriental rugs and good food like bean soup absolutely exhausted me. Noise was amplified in my ears, and I fled sound and conversation in search of silence. Small tasks became existential problems: how and why to fold the laundry, empty the diswasher, do grocery shopping. My memory failed me. I was unable to read or write (except for sermons, by the Holy Spirit's providence, I believe.) And it went downhill from there. A back and forth in and out of darkness lasted for years. ......

....I have a chronic disease, a brain disorder that used to be called manic depression and is now, less offensively, called bipolar disorder. However one tries to soften the blow of the diagnosis, the fact remains that bipolar disorder is a subset of the larger category unhappily called "major mental illness.' By the latter of my thirties, I had sought help from several psychiatrists, social workers, and mental health professionals, one a Christian, but mostly non-Christians. I had been in active therapy with a succession of therapists over several years and had been introduced to many psychiatric medications, most of which bought quite unpleasant side effects and only a few of which relieved my symptoms to some degree. Those medications that have in fact been helpful, I must say despite my own disinclination toward drugs, have been a strand in the cord that God has woven for me as the lifeline cast out in my free fall.  The medications have helped me rebuild some of "myself," so that I can continue to be the kind of mother, priest, and writer that I believe God wants me to be. "A threefold cord is not quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:12) The three cords to my rope were the religious (worship and prayer), the psychological, (psychotherapy) and the medical (medication, ECT, and hospitalization).

Yet while therapists and counselors, psychiatrists and medications abound, I found no one to help me make sense of my pain with regard to my life before the triune God. I write this book, then by way of an offering, as what I wish someone had written to help me make sense of the pain and apparent incongruity of that agony with the Christian life. Those Christians who have not faced the ravages of mental illness should not be quick with advice to those who do suffer. "Pray harder," "Let Jesus in," even "Cast your anxiety on him, because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7), which of course are all valid pieces of advice in and of themselves, may only make the depressive person hurt more.

This is because depression is not just sadness or sorrow. Depression is not just negative thinking. Depression is not just being "down." It is being cast the very end of your tether and, quite frankly being dropped. Mania is more than speeding mentally, more than euphoria, more than creative genius at work. The sick individual cannot simply shrug it off or pull out of it. While God certainly can pick up the pieces and put them together in a new way, this can happen only if the depressed brain makes it through to see again life among the living.

This is an excerpt from "Darkness is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness," by Kathryn Greene-McCreight. You can read her brief bio on her church's website here

Music That Moves: Rend Collective Experiment, Gungor, Switchfoot, & Newsboys

Five songs that are inspiring me today to push through.  It's hard to hold on to your faith when you're bouncing like a pinball between mania and depression on a daily basis; but being able to believe in something bigger than myself pulls me through the chaos that clamors in my emotions and mind...It's the only thing that anchors me to this life.

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains;  it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." (C.S. Lewis)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCYgQWLO8vY]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SswMKsFaHWE]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR7VOKQ0xJY]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_OTz-lpDjw]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypSz8WqRc_M]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHhzbWaAcgo]

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful... Hebrews 10:23

When The Shame Monster Attacks, Remember That You are Enough

My word for this year is LOVE. In all caps. Not sure why it has to be in all capital letters but I do know that when it came to me, that's how I saw it in my mind; in big, bold, gigantic letters, all capitalized. It seems only fitting that LOVE is my word for 2012. It's also the word God woke me up with on my 29th birthday AND is in the verse I'm meditating on this year.

"He has brought me to his banquet hall, And his banner over me is love."

(Song of Solomon 2:4)

It's only the second month of the year and I'm already pondering and learning a lot about what love is...as well as what it isn't.

Yesterday was a perfect example of what love is not.

Love does not produce or induce shame.

If someone is attempting to shame you or if you feel ashamed of who you are or what you struggle with, that person is not loving you they way they should and you deserve.

I repeat that person is NOT loving you the way they should and you deserve.

Shame and love don't go together....at all.

I had an interaction yesterday that left me reeling and full of unhealthy emotions. I felt unworthy, unlovable, incapable...and full of shame about something I only partially have control over.

My ability to be a good, healthy mother to my son was questioned and even thrown in my face as if to say, "You're a good mom sometimes BUT because of your mental illness, I'm not 100% sure you can do this."  As if to imply that despite all the work I've done to find the right diagnosis and medication, and despite my progress in therapy, NONE of that is enough to overcome the fact that I live with a mental illness. NONE of that overcomes the fact that this person saw the worst parts of me for 2 years....

It hurts when a friend or loved one who's been close enough to see you at your worst, and in your most vulnerable moments, uses that knowledge to attack, shooting you with hollow round bullets instead of love, understanding and grace.

But as bad as that shit hurts and tears your insides apart, it's nothing compared to the Shame Monster who is stirred awake by such destruction and devours you whole.

That's what happened to me yesterday. The Shame Monster came to eat me alive and because I was already reeling from pain, I let him.

But after having two conversations with supportive and loving people in my life, who know about my weaknesses and struggles, I was able to remember one thing

I AM ENOUGH

That one sentence, that one declaration was enough to shrink the Shame Monster to the size of an gnat and become something I could easily swat away.

I am enough.

I don't have to hustle for worthiness.

I don't have to compromise who I am to prove otherwise.

I don't have to work for grace or love because they are already freely and unconditionally given to me from God and the REAL friends & family in my life.

I don't have to overcompensate or prove myself to anyone.

I am enough.

Period.

And that is something I'm learning about love, loving myself, and how others should love and treat me.

We can't change other people or how they treat us most of the time. But we can change and even choose how we respond and react to them and even situations that arise and try to make us feel less than.

We can choose to respond to ourselves with love, remembering that we already are enough, which in turn chokes out shame before it can even erupt and overtake us.

And? I am a damn good mother. Yes I had PPD. Yes I live with anxiety. Yes I am Bipolar.  But I'm a damn good mama because I do what it takes to attain and maintain my health. And that....is enough. End of story

Music That Moves: Let Me Feel You Shine

This song literally had me jumping out of my chair to dance about 5 mins ago....my new battle song for when I'm in the low place and I don't know what to say to God...."If I could feel you shine your perpetual night, then maybe I could crawl out of this tonight...." YES YES YES!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMPVEmC4DRw]

This place is trying to break my belief  But my faith is bigger than all I can see  What I need is redemption  What I need is for You for to put me back on my feet 

Wha ah ooooh ooooh oooh  Wha ah ooooh ooooh ooh oh 

I swear I'm trying to give everything  But I feel I'm falling, oh make me believe  What I need is resurrection  What I need is for You to put me back on my feet 

Wha ah ooooh ooooh oooh  Wha ah ooooh ooooh ooh ohhh 

If I could feel You shine Your perpetual light  Then maybe I could crawl out of this tonight  If I could feel You feel You shine  Oh let me feel yYou shine  So beautiful and warm  So beautiful and bright  Like a sun comin' out of a rainy sky  Oh let me feel You shine Oh,  Let me feel You shine 

I lift the knife to the thing I love most  Praying You'll come so I can have both  What I need is for You to touch me  What I need is for You to be the thing that I need 

Wha ah ooooh ooooh oooh  Wha ah ooooh ooooh ooh ohhh 

If I could feel You shine your perpetual light  Then maybe I could crawl out of this tonight  If I could feel You feel You shine  Oh let me feel You shine  So beautiful and warm  So beautiful and bright  Like a sun comin' out of a rainy sky  Oh let me feel You shine  God I need a Savior  O come Generous King  O God I need a Savior  To come rescue me 

Oh let me feel You shine Your magnificent light  Then maybe I could crawl out of this tonight  If You let me feel You feel You shine  Oh let me feel You shine  So beautiful and warm  So beautiful and bright  Like a sun comin' out of a rainy sky  Oh let me feel You shine 

Let me feel You shine  Let me feel You shine

Self-Love Saturday: Make a Self-Love Contract

While cleaning up the disaster zone known as my bedroom this week, I came across a notebook I hadn't seen in a while. Curious as to what was in it, I started flipping through it and came across several entries from during & after my pregnancy with Alex.  I was blown away by reading what I had written during those times and it's very clear to me now that I definitely had some antenatal depression, which is something I wish I had the courage back then to recognize and seek treatment for. Perhaps if I had, my experience with PPD & anxiety would have been drastically different. But it wasn't and that's ok because I've learned valuable things from it, I've met valuable people from it, and I'm able to help others by sharing my experience, so hey at least it served a purpose right? Something else I came across that was rather interesting and rather inspiring was a sort of contract I had written out to myself. I'm not sure exactly when I wrote it, but reading it brought tears to my eyes, because it was full of love and compassion to myself, something that was missing a lot during the past 2 years.

So, since I was inspired by what I read, I thought I'd share it with you and encourage you to make up your own Self-Love Contract/Goal sheet. I updated some of it, especially the parts about beating depression since I now have a new diagnosis.

addyeB's Self-Love Contract

I, A'Driane Nicole Dudley,  agree to do the following:

  • Believe that I am an awesome person.
  • Believe that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who loves me tremendously
  • Believe that I am a good woman, even with all of my flaws & imperfections
  • Will be confident in my abilities as a woman, mother, Christian, student, writer, dancer, etc
  • Believe that I am beautiful. Really.
  • Battle stigmas surrounding mental illness
  • Take my medications everyday
  • Attend every therapy appointment unless an emergency occurs
  • Read God' word everyday, even if it's just one line!
  • Talk to God daily
  • Smile at least once a day
  • Be colorful-from my hair, to my clothes & accessories, to how I decorate my house...I will live in COLOR
  • Will allow myself to make mistakes & give myself room to learn from them
  • Be a strong, loving & nurturing mother for my boys without smothering them or inhibiting them from being who they are.
  • Attain my degree in social work, a masters in counseling, and a certification in DANCE movement therapy
  • LOVE myself
  • Be KIND to myself
  • Share my stories with others. Live wholehearted. Be vulnerable. Be open. Reach out. Advocate for others & myself.
  • "Recover" from Bipolar Disorder through compliance, exercise, nutrition, a structured routine, and coping strategies.
  • Dance at least 2-3 times a week.
  • Love my muffin topped, overstretched, tiger striped belly...because I'm a real woman and this belly housed my incredible boys. I will appreciate my body for what's it's gone through and given me.
  • I will paint-even thought I have no idea what I'm doing. HA!
  • Yoga...lots of yoga. Only doing exercises that work with my body not against it.
So that's my contract. It's not set in stone and is open to adjustments, additions, etc as time goes one. It's kinda like my life list, but it's a LOVE list. To me, and for me. To print out and put up where I can see it every day and remind myself to LOVE....ME.
Do you have a list like this? Would you do one? What would you put on it? Feel free to share!
p.s. A few months ago I wrote a SLS post about dying my hair and living my life in color...can I tell you that that decision was the BEST one I've made like, EVER? It's been such a freeing experience y'all. For years I wanted to dye my hair and express my creativity in that fashion but either couldn't or was too afraid of other's opinions...now? Look at me :) This is truly what it feels like to live outside the corners of your mind...

Tis the Season...For Love & Light to Win

Confession: I was supposed to write this post yesterday, but I got caught up in

  • Wrapping gifts I didn't buy until Thursday
  • Sleeping
  • making HOMEMADE PopTarts for the-boys-who-won't-eat-anything.
  • Sleeping
  • Wiping yards of snot from Alex's nose
  • Cleaning
  • Trying to keep my emotions in check
  • Having theological debates on FB with legalists who claimed my heart ain't in the right place if my behind isn't in CHURCH on Christmas morning.
  • Having a dance/rock & roll/headbanging party complete with air guitar and fist pumping

It was a busy day, but the best one I've had since Monday night...when Alex spiked a fever of 103 that stayed til Wednesday WHILE suffering through an ear infection and lung congestion.  I hated this week and the way it made my life just ooze out of me. I'm so tired it feels like I've been pummeled with Chuck Norris' fists.  The stress of it  triggered my BP which led to mood swings and a mental nosedive into a low. We won't even talk about the side of holiday blues that edged it's way onto the plate as well. (Me+ Holidays=Depression)

But I will talk about the fact that when  I woke up yesterday, I felt strength I hadn't felt all week. It pulled me out of bed and helped me face the day...and Christmas.  It helped me quietly shake off the stress of the week and live free. I was able to laugh and enjoy the shenanigans that come with parenthood.  The reality of how different life is this Christmas still lingered, but I was able to avoid it's gaze and focus on the good stuff....

...like LOVE. That strength I felt when I woke up? It was love. I could feel it emanate from deep in the center of my heart and start to spread itself to every corner, every dark place inside of me. I read somewhere this week that Christmas originated out of a week long festival or celebratory season of light's victory over darkness. You know, the winter solstice stuff. While I choose to take this time of the year to celebrate the birth of my Savior, I can totally relate to celebrating light's beating the crap outta darkness. Who wouldn't? Yesterday that's what I felt: God's love for me shining bright and pushing back the darkness I had found myself in all week long.  It enabled me to take care of myself yesterday (on Self-Love Saturday) , something I'd been unable to do all week.

Wherever your source of love & light comes from, I really hope it finds you and fights for you when you need it to this holiday season. The holidays are rough to get through, especially if you've lost a loved one, are living with an illness (mental or otherwise), or have a loved one who is. Take heart. Focus on love. Let it triumph over the darkness you're in. Allow it to lift and support you so you can TAKE CARE OF YOU....which will guarantee you can take care of those in need and those around you.

Spending Christmas single, and with my boys in two different houses definitely isn't my ideal way to celebrate....but at least I still have love to rejoice over, right? From God, from my children, from my friends and other family members....I still have love.

And that?

Is enough. My prayer is that it's enough for you as well.

I've been playing these two songs since yesterday, and they are definitely two of my favorites....

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXe8PFKsOIc]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCunuL58odQ]

MERRY CHRISTMAS y'all.

Manic Mondays (On Tuesdays): Hypersexuality, Faith, & Womanhood pt. 1

Confession: This is the probably the hardest series of posts I've ever written here on 'Confessions, because it deals with a personal and often 'taboo' subject in Christian culture. But I believe in the power of transparency, and I realize that this is part of owning my story and having honest dialogue with others, so that's why I'm writing about this particular subject. Not sure how many parts there will be  this series, but I hope that this proves to be a healthy exploration for myself and whoever finds themselves in reading these posts. Bipolar Disorder: When Sexuality Is in Overdrive - Bipolar Disorder Center - Everyday Health.

I read this article today while taking a break from doing my project on the book of Philemon. I'm in the middle of finals week and the end of the semester, (hence my absence from the blogging world) but I knew after reading this, I had to stop and write about it...

...or rather about my experience with hypersexuality as a woman trying to manage BP.  About being a Christian who struggles severely with this symptom of BP and what how I believe it impacts my walk with God...

About a year ago, I started noticing that I was having very sexual dreams, which was out of the norm for me. While sex isn't something I dream about normally, that's not what bothered me about the dreams. What bothered me was that I was constantly dreaming about having sex with women, which was definitely something I had NEVER done before. I also started noticing that I would have days (possibly a couple of weeks...or a month even) where all I would think about is having sex.

Now, let me say this. (Again, I'm being transparent here, so understand my disclosure serves a purpose) I lost my virginity at 16 and didn't have sex again until I was 20-when I met my next boyfriend. While I enjoy sex, I'm not the type to have "friends with benefits," one night stands, or even casual sex with strangers or people I don't know very well. I tried having a casual sex relationship once and I hated it. (and it didn't last very long). The only other person I "casually" had sex with was my ex...but I had known him for over a year. We were friends....and then we were dating...and the sex? It just happened. In other words, if I'm sharing my cookie jar with you, it's because I know you, I trust you, and we're in a monogamous relationship.... and even then, depending on how my spiritual health is, sex might not even happen under those circumstances.Sex and being intimate with someone I care about is awesome, but I've never been the type who felt like I had to have it regularly if I was single. I had more of a "take it or leave it" attitude concerning sex...if I was taking it, I thoroughly enjoyed it with my significant other...if I was single and leaving it, I was perfectly okay with that.

So while I enjoy it and I don't mind exploring my sexuality, I've never been a slave to it...or felt like I was at the mercy of my desires....until I started having dreams about trysts with women (and liking it) and found myself getting into these moods where it's all I seemed to think and fantasize about.

These moods would always catch me off guard because after having Alex and starting Zoloft, I had noticed that my sex drive or desire for it had dropped significantly, which is pretty normal after pushing a bowling ball-sized object out of your vagina and starting an anti-depressant. I would have days or even a couple of months where I wouldn't even think about it, or it didn't feel like a need that just had to be satisfied...and then I would find myself  waking up with my hands down my pajamas....dreaming about random sexual encounters with total strangers....and wanting to jump on top of my ex every time I thought of or saw him.

If you're reading this and you're a woman, I'm sure you know how um...aroused you can get as you draw closer to your period, right?  (yep, I went there and said the p-word-go ahead, you can squirm a little more, it's ok) Well imagine those feelings multiplied by, oh I don't know, maybe a thousand or so and you'll get a picture of how I would feel in these moods. They would totally consume me, I felt like some kind of pervert or sex addict. It was so bad sometimes that even my ex would look at me and be like, "uh...yea...NO!" and would ask if I was okay. You know it's bad when you're so overwhelmed with needing to have sex that it decreases your partner's desire for it.  Yea....ouch.

One of the frustrating things about feeling so sexual was that no matter how much I had, it never satisfied the need, it only intensified it. I even took to pleasing myself which while I've known other women who do it and it's not  a big deal, it was for me because it was something I had never done. These feelings weren't just about trying to explore my sexuality or what I "liked." It was literally like a wildfire just burning out of control. I tried everything to uh...satisfy it, squash it, ignore it. It literally became a highly agitating state to be in, and I didn't really understand what was going on....

The even more frustrating part about my hypersexual feelings was the fact that because I'm an unmarried Christian, I felt endless amounts of guilt about what I was experiencing. And the shame. Oh the shame that would consume me and still does at times was all encompassing. I felt...dirty. Full of lust. A lustful, sinful woman who just couldn't control herself. I didn't know how to talk to anyone about it, let alone God. I felt guilty for wanting sex as much as I did, guilty for having it as much as I was, guilty for pleasuring myself (masturbation is a no no in Christian culture, apparently), guilty for just any and everything about sex. It was awful and the guilt and shame I felt only fueled my depressive moods, tying me down in the gravity wells these moods placed me in.

During these states my mind would swirl with racing thoughts: Was I just consumed with lust? What was wrong with me? Was God disgusted with me? Angry with me? Did He understand? I would stand at the altar at the end of service, begging God to help me stop compromising, asking for forgiveness and desiring to be and do better. Then a few days would pass or maybe a week or two and I'd find myself right back in the same state: hot, bothered, and full of this urge I lacked the ability to control...

Since my diagnosis in July, I've learned so much about BP and its symptoms I feel less guilt and shame because I know (for the most part) what's causing it. Learning that it's a symptom of my disorder and not necessarily a reflection of my character has brought me to a place of acceptance about it. I still wrestle with what to do about these feelings when they arrive and become overwhelmingly intense, but I don't beat myself up over having them anymore...

My questions to God these days are more about management and how to maintain celibacy until marriage. I'm rather frank with Him about it and I believe He's far more understanding about it than I originally gave Him credit for.

Hear me: I'm not trying to justify my behavior, so Christians don't crucify me. I'm also not trying to use this symptom of my disorder as an excuse to just be all "A'Driane Gone Wild." But I am trying to manage, understand and walk this issue out in a way that is spiritually healthy and doesn't "taint" my relationship with God.

I'm also trying to be more open and honest about this issue, which is something I don't think enough of us Christians do...

I'll talk about this and more about my faith, hypersexuality and how they impact me next week. Until then....any thoughts? Feel free to share...

A Tumbling Out of Thoughts

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhI4CpAH8wM]

It's been a rough couple of days.....it seems like for every forward step I take, I have a day or two where I take three or four steps back...sometimes it's a series of events that trigger the relapse or regression....more recently it seems as though I'm hyper sensitive; the slightest touch triggers me & sets the pendulum in motion, even if it's just for a few hours....or a day.

Being triggered and having an anxiety attack or falling into a "mood state' reminds me of three things: how fragile my own strength really is, how important it is that I stick to my wellness plan & keep finding coping strategies to add to it, & my need for God....for His love.... It reminds me that He's really the only one who can really bear the full brunt me when I'm like this, and it reminds me that even when I'm at my lowest, He's still there, walking with me, "fixing me" along the way.....

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TsR1yiAe9g]

(you should definitely go to youtube to watch this...trust me it's worth the click)

Taking care of myself & believing in someone outside of myself are the only ways I know I'll make this "manageable" & be able to put it in it's proper place. Under control. So I can live. So I can mother. So I can be the better parts of me more often.

I'll get there. Until then, I'm going to do my best to just.....breathe & keep moving.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEXhAMtbaec]

Thank you #PPDChat mamas (every single one of you-those I talk to consistently in The Twitter & those of you I've never met who sent me hugs & love last night), The Band, & Katherine Stone for being there and reaching out these past two days. Thank you for being that safe place I can go to when I need to just say exactly how I'm feeling without worry or fear of someone thinking the worst of me. You all are seriously the best therapy :) And also to my Pastor....thank you for reaching out, for your prayers, and for your words of encouragement this week. They are always timely & invaluable.

On Beat Up Faith, Re-Focusing My Gaze, & Resetting My Mind

So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

This scripture jumped out from behind some corner of my mind this morning while I was trying to sleep, which led to the following confession:

My faith is taking a beating.

The events of this summer have left me asking God about 5 million questions. Some I've received answers to, others I have not.  And I am yet sure that there are still even more that I won't get the answers to-at least not in this lifetime....and I'm learning to be okay with that, because since God knows me better than I know myself, He already knows that as strong as I might try to make myself appear, I probably wouldn't be able to handle the reality of those answers. At least not right now, and like I said, maybe not in this lifetime. So they're left hidden from me, and He leaves them unanswered.....

My faith is taking a beating, but not in the sense that I'm giving up on it. Or Him. Unlike what I went through last summer, where I questioned this thing called Christianity, I'm not in a spiritual crisis, I'm not rejecting Him or what I believe to be true...I'm not in a state of doubt....at least not about Him being my Father & Jesus being my Savior. What I am questioning, what I am doubting (a little) is this place I'm in. I feel like I've been relocated. A couple of months ago He told me on the altar that I've turned the page into a new chapter in my life, but just as soon as those words gave me some peace, some hope, and I was starting to feel like things were settling, the ground I had been standing on....shifted. Drastically. Changed.And left in the aftermath of the quake were some things I knew without a shadow of a doubt would sustain the shaking and then there were others that had fallen, left completely dismantled from it's sheer force....leaving me to wander among the rubble, wondering if they ever really belonged there in the first place....wondering if what had been erected in my life over the past couple of years was built up out of my own selfishness, my own desires, the consequences of my own mistakes....or placed there by Him. Had I been holding onto and fighting to protect things & people that didn't belong in my life? Had I been hearing wrong, those things I thought He told me in secret? Those promises that I had been holding so close and so tight to my heart-were they born out of His plan for my life or my plan for me? Or are they a part of the plan, but I sabotaged them somehow because I have a hard time giving up control?  If I was wrong, and had been erecting buildings out of my own selfish desires or because I was too afraid to just let Him do the work, then I understand why the earthquake came. I get it. I understand why some have fallen away and what remains has stood strong. Afterall, the bible says, "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain." (Psa 127:1) But if I wasn't wrong....and if this is all somehow part of the plan, how things should  be going....then I don't understand, and that is why I am having some doubt.

So yea my faith-it's taking a beating. It's being stretched and pushed and pulled in every direction, causing everything in me to strain & bulge from the pressure, pushing me to go deeper, stretch out further and reach out to Him in response. And as painful as it is, I don't mind really. Because I believe that despite the pain that can accompany it, growth is necessary, especially when it comes to faith. Maybe that's what it maybe that's what it means to go from "faith to faith, & glory to glory?"  Perhaps.....So even though I don't understand some things, right now, faith in Him is what I'm holding on to.

The hard part about standing in the rubble though, with beat up faith, in this new, unfamiliar place I don't recognize is that I don't know who to trust, who to confide in on a human level. I've learned the past 8 months and pretty much my whole life that people don't like mess, and they can take but only so much of it, for varying reasons, all of which I understand and don't blame them for. I know first hand how going out of your comfort zone can take a lot out of you, making you uncomfortable and uneasy. Dealing with others & their "stuff" is icky, especially if you have your own "stuff" to deal with.  But as Christians, aren't we supposed to bear one another up? Aren't we supposed to be loyal to one another, even when it's tough, when it's messy? I have, over the past months had a handful of people who have stuck it out and waded through the muck & mire of my "stuff" with me. I've also had amazing support from an online community of Mamas who are always a tweet, FB post, or direct message away. And I can't even put into words how grateful I am for them-for all of those who have chosen to remain close inspite of my "messiness".  But I've also had others who have backed off, walked away, stopped calling, texting, have pretty much stopped being my "friend." I'm sure they have their reasons, and I don't blame them. But that doesn't change the fact that it hurts. It doesn't make the loneliness I feel any easier to bear, especially during the moments when I feel as though I'm losing it, or now that I've been diagnosed with something that freaks me out to a degree. Maybe being a Christian and having a mood disorder or being bipolar isn't a that big of a deal. But if it isn't, then why aren't more people in the church talking about it? Why don't Christians reach out to those who are suffering from such things? Shouldn't the response be different? On a human level, I understand the desire to retreat for self-preservation purposes, but on a spiritual level, I'm struggling to grasp how that can even be an option.

So while the beating my faith is taking isn't making me retreat from God, it is making me retreat from people. From Christians. From church. For the reason I mentioned above and for others as well that involve some shame and embarrassment about the things that have happened this summer. Even from my family. People's responses or lack thereof just leaves me pretty uncomfortable & gun shy. I don't know what to say when they ask "how are you? what's going on?" , because quite frankly I have a hard time believing they really want to know. Or even need to know. Or should know. I have a hard time believing that if I do tell them they can handle it. From what I've seen so far, most can't, it's too much for them to bear....so....I retreat.

And I'm starting to welcome the retreat because the lesson I'm learning through all of this is that I've got to rely less on people and more on God. I've been letting what's happened & the actions of people get under my skin & cloud my vision.  I've got to refocus my gaze, stop paying attention to how beat up I'm feeling, how freaked out I am about some things, how lonely I am & how hurt I feel & just focus on what's above the clouds in my skies-Him....His purpose for me....my kids....my health, my goals...I've got to take some time & work on me. Let Him work on me. I need some time to find the treasures He's got laying in the darkness I'm fumbling in. (And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches.I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord,the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name." Isa. 45:3)

That's why I'm glad I'm in a new apartment, gearing up for another semester at a new school. One with an environment that I know will challenge & stimulate this growing process I'm in.  I'm glad I'm "away" in a sense. Glad I made some tough choices to let go of some responsibilities (ie no more consulting).

So I'm hoping that being in this new place, despite it unfamiliarity & despite how beat up I'm feeling affords me the chance to push the reset button on my mind, & help me zero in again on what's important.

Here's to looking up and seeing the bigger, more beautiful picture He's painting of my life. Here's to taking the beating.

Making Lemonade Without Sugar Having Joy Without a Reason

Soooooooooo as if the current pile of stress in my life couldn't get any heavier or wackier, it just did this morning. On the first day of a very crucial "I'm praying and hoping things I need to work out, work out" kind of week. The day after God told me, "Hey, I got this-just do what you can and I'll do the rest. No worries. Just trust me kid." The day after a much needed 2 day break from my boys that left me feeling relaxed, and ready to get back in the ring. And then....another ingredient was added to the stew, another brick on the load added to see if I'm going to let the pot boil over, or buckle under the weight. Well guess what, LIFE? I'M NOT. (And yes, my hands are on my hips and I'm sticking my tongue out at you)

I have no internet so I can't work, no car so I can't drive, and the little money I have is for emergencies, not fun. The Earth and the Sun have launched their evil plan to scorch and choke us to death with heat and humidity, so going outside might not be an option. And I'm moving this weekend.

That's a lot of lemons folks. Enough to make your mouth pucker. But I vowed to myself that the boys and I were going to have a good summer, one that we enjoyed before I got back into the full-time student grind this fall. It hasn't gone the way I planned or thought it would, it hasn't been what I expected. But I see how through it all He's been teaching me the difference between happiness and being joyful, and how to pursue the latter inspite of the circumstances.

So, I'm just going to take this latest round of events as a chance to just take a little vacation and focus on joy. A vacation. In my apartment. From everything. No internet & no Facebook, Google +, & Twitter on the Blackberry. Not even the Bible on my Blackberry. Not even blogging. Maybe a phone call, maybe a text here or there, but that's it. I'm going to spend the week finding a way to keep two wild boys occupied, writing/journaling, reading, building forts, coloring and creating some meals on a serious shoestring budget.

I'm going to make the best tasting lemonade EVER this week. It won't be easy to sweeten without any sugar, but I'm sure He'll show me a way. So, I hope you all enJOY your week, try your best to keep the heat from evaporating you, and are productive in whatever it is you do in your corners of the world.

As for me and my house-we on vacation ya'll. Blog you next week! ;)

“Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes, even if the olive tree fails to produce and the fields yield no food, even if the sheep pen is empty and the stalls have no cattle — even then, I will be happy with the Lord. I will truly find joy in God, who saves me.” Habakkuk 3:17-18

addyeB

A Control Freak Who Hates Being Controlled Lets Go

Confession: I can't handle being nagged, micro managed, or controlled to a degree that borders on unhealthy. I grew up with a control freak of a father so to me my inability to handle such things is no surprise. He made every decision from what I ate to what clothes I wore to how I did my hair.

Growing up this way made me determined to fight for and maintain some sort of independence for myself, almost to a fault I admit. Because I was robbed of the ability to think for myself as a child/teen, trying to learn to do so as an adult has been a challenging one, one that involves a lot of second guessing myself and my decisions as I navigate up the hill. I also appreciate people's advice and the wisdom they dispense but even if I totally agree with them, sometimes I just have to see/learn for myself. Not because I want to rebel or be defiant or think I know better, but because I'm trying to experience it so that I form my own conclusions and learn more about myself and my life. But don't get me wrong-I always keep the wisdom or advice I've been given in the back of my mind as a reminder or a gut check that tells me when I've gone far enough.

Being in the military, I was at a base where our every move was micro managed-It drove me and my co workers crazy. That's one reason why I didn't stay in. That's not to say I can't follow directions or listen to authority. I can and do, but when it starts to feel smothering or too restricting something in me can't take it.

When I come in contact with people who exhibit as much stubborness as me or control freak tendencies I usually reach a point where I just give in. I don't do well with power struggles-I figure if you want to call the shots that bad, who am I to prevent that? So after awhile it just drains me so I retreat, concede, and try to be as supportive as possible while praying for the best outcome.

So I grew up with a control freak dad, have had to fight for the ability to think for myself and have independence and don't deal well with being micro managed. Oh and I concede to those who's stubborness or need to control outweighs mine because I'd just rather let the other person have it.

All of this pretty much adds up to the fact that its hard for me to let God have control in my life. Surrendering and conceding to people is easy-I can physically see them and what they do. But I can't see God. Sure I feel Him, sense His presence when I worship Him or try to talk to Him. But I can't see Him, I can't see what He's doing, I can't peek over His shoulder and see what He's working on when it comes to my life. And that freaks me out. So that turns me into the control freak I despise. I become the resistor, the one who holds tightly to my independence and my constant need to figure it out on my own with an iron clad death grip. But at the same time my heart yearns to surrender, to let Him take control. Its just that from my experience the people I've given control of my life to (or they just took it) have just jacked it up or abused it, myself included.

So I'm trying, very hard to learn to let go. Loosen my grip. Let God do His thing and just trust in Him and not my own thoughts. I'm putting down the chisel and walking away from the urge to carve out my life and just let Him do it for me. His designs are better anyway. I mean afterall, I'm not handy with a hammer and nail-Jesus was a carpenter. I suck at drawing, God is the master illustrator, the ultimate creator.

And He keeps telling me that if I just let go and focus on Him, His design for my life will take shape and come to life. He knows what I want, what my heart desires, and although I didn't do it because I thought I knew better, I spent the past two years trying to carve it into what I thought it should be. I wanted to try and keep what I thought was my family together but well...I couldn't. Especially with a partner who was just as stubborn and controlling as me.

So I'm done fighting. Done carving. I'm letting go, I'm losing control. And praying that while I can't see what He's doing, He's working out the kinks in me and working out His plans for my life and that of my children.

Did I mention this is SCARY?! I'M FREAKING OUT!!!!!! UGH! Pray for a chic! :)

addyeB

Letting the Dust Settle Into Something Beautiful

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR7VOKQ0xJY]

I woke up this morning and in my mind's eye all I saw was dust. Everywhere I looked, in every area of my life, I just saw dust, like a sandstorm had blown through my life and left a finger thick film on each piece of it.

Aside from dirtying things, dust is annoying because too much of it can make you sneeze, cough, gag...and a host of other bodily reactions I'm sure aren't pleasant. It's also irritating because it's so hard to get rid of and even when you swipe it away with some pledge, it comes back not long after. You might even find that you've gotten rid of the dust, but the tiny little particles of material from whatever you used to clean it up with are left behind, in it's place, seemingly immune to the cleaning agent.

So what's my point? Simply this: You can't get rid of dust. You can buy the best cleaning solution/furniture polish/super-microfiber rag that money can buy, but dust is always going to be there annoyingly sweeping itself back over your walls, appliances, baseboards aka YOUR LIFE. So what do you do about it? Well, as I laid in bed with Alex's foot in my ribs and Brennan's dragon breath scorching my cheek, I thought of this song and about how God really can make beautiful things out of anything. If He could create the Universe and every single particle & organism in it, is it really hard to believe that He can make something out of the dust in my life? The dust that makes me sneeze, that causes me pain, that makes me (or my house) look dirty, that can seem to overtake me?

Here's the thing about dust, er LIFE. It's always there. Causing you pain, being annoying, being difficult to get through, creating messes that are a pain or really tough to clean up....but the God who created the stars out in galaxies we haven't even discovered yet can take the dust in your life, in my life, and use it to challenge us, stretch us, grow & develop us, even mold us into who He designed for us to be before we were even a thought in our Mama's bellies.

So as I sat here with half my cheek melting away(4 yrs old is too young for halitosis isn't it?) thinking about the recent dusty events & situations in my life, I heard God challenging me & my OCD to put down the dust rag....Put the pledge back in the cabinet for a second and just let Him take care of it. "I know it looks Sahara desert dusty right now, AddyeB and that is throwing your OCD into overdrive, I know you're freaking out...but watch the wonder & beauty I create out it-watch the beautiful things I make. If I can make man out of dust, what other wonders can I create if you'll just sit back & let me do what I do best ?"

Well God, it's like 6am, and since my mind's already been blown for the day I'm just going to lay here and marinate on what you just knocked me upside the head with....and watch you make beautiful things out of my dust. Just please remember to pass me a mask when you really get going-I have a feeling it's going to get thick in here for awhile and I don't want to choke.

Recovering With a Smile

I'm smiling right now. I'm not really sure why, but I am. I should be crying. I should be a wreck....But I'm not. I'm smiling a little. I do feel some twinges of sadness, when I think about what I had hoped would be, but I'm not reeling from the shock and pain of it like I was before. Strength. That's what I felt this morning when I woke up. Quiet strength undergirding me, carrying me, making me feel stronger than I've felt in months. Strong like its going to be okay, I can do this, we will make it through these choppy waters, God has never failed me even when I mess up strong. Even the tears I shed a couple of times felt strong.

Acceptance. I felt acceptance.

I did feel some twinges of fear, some "OMG what am I going to do!!!" But the strength I was feeling in my gut spoke louder than the voice of fear.

And I'm smiling. Because I've let go. Of the ambiguity. Of the uncertainty. Of the game of hot and cold. Smiling because even though it looks grim right now, and even though it will hurt from time to time, I feel in control. Of my emotions, of my health, of my life. I haven't felt like this in....I don't know how long. Smiling because I'm looking at my boys and they are smiling at me, Brennan with his loving gaze and Alex with that ever present mischievious and playful glint in his eye. He climbs into my lap, Brennan starts doing one of his silly dances to the Fresh Beat Band, and I laugh. One of those deep down from the gut laughs that leaves you gasping for air. And its in that moment that strength speaks loud and clear in my head: "See? I've got you. All you've got to do is just trust Me and let my joy be your strength. You'll get through this. "

I don't know why I let circumstances, situations, or mistakes I've made give me amnesia and forget-He will never let us go.

And so, I'm just going to keep smiling :)

Are Problems Necessary?

I saw this on Faith Baby's Facebook page (who by the way has adorable clothes for wee ones):

Every problem is a character-building opportunity, and the more difficult it is, the greater the potential for building spiritual muscle and moral fiber. Problems also force us to look at God and to depend on Him instead of ourselves. 

"And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4"

Just wanted to share their post because it's good food for thought ( at least it is for me), especially when deciding what's better to strive for: a life of happiness, or one filled with joy

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.. "

James 1:2-4 MSG

Still Standing

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4KiGN1j1No]

"Shadowfeet" Walking, stumbling on these shadowfeet towards home, a land that i've never seen I am changing; less and less asleep made of different stuff than when i began And I've sensed it all along fast approaching is the day when the world has fallen out from under me I'll be found in you, still standing When the sky rolls up and the mountains fall on their knees when time and space are through I'll be found in you There's distraction buzzing in my head saying in the shadows it's easier to stay but I've heard rumours of true reality whispers of a well-lit way You make all things new.... When the world has fallen out from under me I'll be found in you, still standing Every fear and accusation under my feet when time and space are through I'll be found in you

So much has been going on in my world the past 2 months and my emotions are definitely a little worse for the wear. But my battle weary heart is still fighting with each beat, my aching feet continue to move my body as I strive to dance through the rain that's pouring over me. Listening to this song today reminded me of His promise to me that no matter how much it looks like my world is falling apart, no matter how painful this growing process is, I'll make it, and be who He created me to be at the end. A better woman, mother, friend, believer, counselor, dancer, writer, teacher....and no matter how lonely it may feel, I'm never alone, because He's right here with me, and it's in Him where my refuge & peace are found.

I couldn't ask for a more beautiful battle cry to carry me through....

"When the world has fallen out from under me I'll be found in you, still standing Every fear and accusation under my feet when time and space are through I'll be found in you."

Navigating Consequences & Faith

I believe wholeheartedly in the power of transparency, but there are times when even I shrink from wanting to talk about something. After a lot of thought, some back & forth pros vs. cons discussions with myself and of course God, I finally decided to that if my blog is called "butterfly confessions" it wouldn't really be fair of me to not divulge a crucial change that has occurred in my life. I can't gloss it over or act as though it's not going to have an impact on myself or my future writing, because it is. So....here we go. I'm a Christian. I love God and Jesus Christ is my Lord & Savior. But look, here's the truth: I don't have it altogether. I don't have all the answers. There's alot that I don't understand. I have doubts. I have fears & anxieties. I fall short of His standards every day-several times a day. Sometimes I'm more concerned about my own selfish desires & what I want more than I am about what He wants for me & my life. That's just the truth. Do I desire to do the right thing & live a life that's pleasing to Him? Yes, very, very much. But I'd be lying if I said I do, all the time, everyday. I'm an imperfect being-that's not an excuse, it's simply a fact. There are things that I, even as a Christian, struggle with. And when I give in to my own selfish desires instead of turning away from temptation, when I let my flesh overpower me, I sin. And those sins always have consequence(s) that have to be lived through & dealt with.

2 years ago this summer I gave in to some selfish desires that led to sinning & some consequences that myself, my boyfriend, & my oldest son have had to live with ever since. I wasn't married. I had sex. I got pregnant. I had another child. Out of wedlock. A pretty much normal occurrence these days, but not very Christianly, eh? Yea, I know. The guilt I felt over it rocked my relationship with my boyfriend, myself & with God. The shame & guilt over what I had done pretty much kept me from enjoying much of my pregnancy-I tried. I desperately wanted to. I eventually came to a place where I realized that while God may not have been please with me, He forgave me. But I still struggled with the guilt. And shame. And judgement. Not from God but from people. And it depressed me. That, along with health issues, & the challenges one would expect from two different people with two different lives having to learn how to merge & grow together into one, into a family, ravaged my relationship. To say it's been a roller coaster ride is putting it mildly....

A little over a year ago, I wrote about one challenge in particular that I was struggling with: moving in together or continuing to live in two separate places. Marriage was something that was talked about, but we weren't even close to, so that wasn't an option. Having the baby meant I wouldn't be in school, which meant no GI Bill benefits to pay my bills. Living in two separate places would put a strain on our finances, especially with him being the only one working....but I felt I couldn't compromise...and neither did he.....long story short, we broke up and were stuck with two leases for another year. Two rents, two car payments, daycare for two kids, two utilities payments....yea, everything has been double for the past year. Once I went back to school I was able to start carrying more of the financial weight, but a year later we're both pretty much broke. We've made it through the year, but the strain of dual living arrangements has destroyed us financially.

So back in April, after I had gotten accepted to my school of choice & was jubilant over my upcoming graduation, we were faced with the same question: were we going to live together or not?  After breaking & making up for the second time, we had pretty much decided that this, our family, was what we were going to make work, regardless of our differences or circumstances. No more running. No more walking away. No more giving up. We have kids we're raising, my boyfriend is the closest thing to a father my oldest son has had the past 2 years, & despite our growing pains, we are best friends. We just are. And while we are in a much better place than we were even just 6 months ago, and marriage is definitely part of the plan, it's not happening tomorrow...so the question became whether or not we wanted to go through another year of like the one we just had. The honest answer & conclusion we came to is no. Even if we wanted to, we can't. Our circumstances just don't give us the room to. It's not feasible, financially especially. So again, I was faced with truth versus my circumstances. Compromising. As I've said before I've learned some lessons about compromising. Hindsight is always 20/20, so looking back I can say that it's best not to compromise when it comes to issues such as this at all. But once you've made the compromise that leads to a sin that yields it's consequences, what do you do then?

I've thought long & hard about this for months. Prayed about it. And the conclusion I've come to is that all you can do is navigate the waters as best you can. Would it be better to never get in the boat in the first place? Yes. Should I have not put myself in this position? Yes. But I did, and part of being an adult is accepting responsibility for your actions, and that's what I've been trying to do for the past two years.  Be responsible. Live right. Please God. I don't always hit it right on all three counts. But I've been navigating the seas of consequence the best I can and begging God for mercy & grace as I ride through each tidal wave. And when I made the decision to move in with my boyfriend, I did it with a prayerful heart. A heart begging for a sign, or a door to open, or a way to avoid this. But....there was no sign, no doors opened & the waves that lay before me proved  unavoidable. So I'm doing what I have to do, especially for my sons, until the season comes when I can do something different. That's all I've got folks.

I know this isn't the "Christian" way to do things. I know this isn't considered Godly. I know this isn't ideal or traditional, I know people will have their opinions & judgments about me "shacking up" with my boyfriend. I'm not sitting here pretending like I don't know these things, or like I'm comfortable with this or like this is how I want my life to be. I'm not even going to act like I think God is okay with this. I honestly don't know the answer to that question. I've asked. But I've also asked for understanding. For mercy. I want to be married. But I don't want to force someone into marrying me-what's the good in that? That's not healthy. I truly believe that it will happen when it's supposed to....so until then...I keep navigating. I keep putting up what boundaries I can (like being celibate) & not allowing guilt or shame about my situation to keep me from drawing back from Him.  I keep praying with each step I take that I'm using this experience to grow, learn, & lean heavily on Him...trust in Him....ground myself in Him so that I give in to my own desires less & bend toward His more. And I honestly wouldn't be in this relationship if I didn't believe I wasn't supposed to be-I've struggled & prayed over that too. And well....I'm here.

I'm not asking Him to "bless mess". My prayer instead is that when I make mistakes, mistakes that break me, that He will help me wade through the mess those sins create, building me back up in the process. No more shame. No more condemnation. No more guilt. Just more navigating....and giving myself to the building process :)

Kissing Happiness Goodbye

My pastor brought up this subject a few weeks ago in his message and its been weighing down my thoughts ever since... What does it mean to be happy? What is happiness exactly? How do you go about attaining it? How is it maintained? What's the difference between being happy and having joy?

I've heard the phrase "level of happiness" a lot in the past 2-3 years...I even told myself and others 2 years ago, that that's what I wanted to be, HAPPY, and that's what I was setting out to pursue: HAPPINESS. I set out for this like you do with any journey: with an expected end in mind, a goal to reach, something tangible to obtain-"I'm going to carve it out, a nice slice of HAPPINESS a la mode," I told myself....but I'm 2 years into the journey and I'm not any happier overall than I was back then. That's not to say that my life hasn't improved any, I haven't grown as a person, it doesn't mean I don't have anything to be happy about. Even with the growing pains, health issues, parenting stress, some anxiety and occasional depression, and just LIFE in general, my existence and quality of life is not a miserable one. It may feel like it at times, but especially when compared to others, it is not. I haven't lost my home in a tornado, flood or catastrophic earthquake. I don't have to fear about nuclear reactor meltdowns near my home, I live in a country that despite its many problems, I am free to go, do and say as I please. I may be a woman, and considered a minority, but I still have some basic rights-like being able to drive (unlike in Saudi Arabia) and I can freely worship who I want. (Who Jesus? Yup, that's how I roll.) My children have clean water to drink and I may worry about what I'm going to cook for dinner, but I at least HAVE a dinner to worry about...1 in 5 American families can't say they have a dinner to EAT.

So when I think of all of this I'm left asking myself: "A'Driane, why the h--- aren't you happy?" As is what always happens when I ask myself something I don't know the answer to, I turn to ask God. Sometimes I have to wait for the answer...others I barely get the question formed in my brain before He's intercepting it with the mind blowing response and I'm left sitting there dumbfounded at the truth He just sucker punched me with.  Guess which time this was? (Hint: I've had the dumbfounded look on my face for weeks now)

The reason I'm not happy, (and maybe this is true for those of you paddling in the boat with me) is because I'm chasing an ideal that is ultimately elusive, one that really can't be apprehended unless you've got some things settled within you and a certain attitude adopted first. Don't stop reading, yet, bear with me, we're going somewhere I promise :)

See here's the thing about chasing after happiness, or rather something about PEOPLE who chase after happiness, people like me. We set out like conquistadors on this quest to find happiness by setting in our minds this expectation that once we find it, VOILA-we've made it, we can jump in its fountain and be magically transformed into happy people for the rest of our lives. We will smile all the time, problems won't shake us, no matter what we encounter WE WILL BE HAPPY. Is there a problem with this kind of thinking? I believe so.

You see, one of the problems with this, is that ok, let's say you get there-you reach the benchmark or level you've set as the qualifier of what you think will make you happy in this life. That's awesome, that's great, life is phenomenal, you feel all enlightened and possibly fulfilled...but what happens when you leave cloud 9 and descend through the stratosphere back to earth? Because you know that will happen right? Because we're living this thing called LIFE. And this thing called LIFE is wrought with imperfections and imperfect people we have to deal with on a daily basis. Imperfect people who hurt us, betray us, violate us, fail us...these people get sick with awful diseases, they die...You yourself are imperfect so you are bound to hurt others, possibly get sick and we all eventually die. So what happens dear friend, to your happiness then, what becomes of your precious treasure when LIFE has rocked you to your core? How do you maintain that level you worked so tirelessly and tenaciously to attain?

Here's the thing about LIFE: It eats away at your happiness. It just does. You can talk about all the rainbows & sunny skies all you want-the weather will always change, the skies will inevitably go grey for a spell and rainbows? They only come out after storms :) Sure it can enhance it, don't get me wrong, but life is all encompassing....some days it buoys  you up, other days situations and circumstances, people, and even our own tangled up insides chip and eat away at whatever happiness we work tirelessly to build up. Like hamsters we run on the wheel of life never realizing that we aren't really going anywhere...

And why aren't we going anywhere? That brings me to my next problem with this"carving out" happiness crusade-we put parts-if not all-of our lives on hold while we pursue it. I believe we unconsciously tuck away our emotions, and close off our minds to everything in and around us once we decide to chase the shadowy billows of happiness. We tell ourselves everything else can wait til we reach it, unwittingly ignoring the world around us and what's going on within us.

Maybe that's not true for you, and that's ok, but it definitely is for me. During my quest, I've put my life, my emotions, BEING WHO I AM on hold.

When I lose the baby weight, this 40lbs that I can't seem to shake or be comfortable with-then I'll be happy. Until then, I'll spend my days feeling crappy about my appearance, worrying if my boyfriend finds me as attractive as he did when I was a size 6, constantly comparing myself to other women I see who are thinner aka prettier than me. I'll never be ok with anything in my closet, getting dressed with frustrated the hell out of me, and I'll never be satisfied with how I look.

When I get over my depression, when I no longer have my anxiety, THEN I'll be happy. Until then I won't enjoy the days my symptoms aren't kicking my as-k me about it later, I won't relish the moments my mind is clear, my spirit is free enough to smile, laugh, dance & be an active participant in my freaking life. That's when I'll enjoy being a mother, when I'm happy. Until then I'll keep thinking I'm the worst mother on the planet & my children will need therapy from the botched job I'm doing because I'm a depressed, anxiety ridden lunatic.

I'll wait til I'm happy to pray again, to worship God how I really want to in my heart, I'll wait til I've gotten it all together before I allow God to envelop me in his love. I don't deserve His love, not yet-I'm not happy.....

Get the picture? See if I wait til I put everything I think needs to be put in place before I can deem myself HAPPY then I've lost out on enJOYing the road that took me there. The detours, the wrong turns, the right ones, the bridges, the valleys, the deserts, the mountains that needed climbing? What good is it to reach the top of the mountain if you don't appreciate or focus on the effort it took you to get there? And what if it rains once I get to the top? Or a crisis comes? What then? What if I get there and then realize it's not enough? The level I reached doesn't make me happy? How do I maintain?

The key is to forget pursuing happiness. It can create an insaitiable appetite that is impossible to satisfy. It always wants more, creating a space for a gnawing hunger to occupy. It's decieving-it blinds you to the value of what you already have, it creates this delusion that unless everything is in order and in it's proper place, unless you have every I dotted & every t crossed you have no right to lay claim to it. It leads you on, allowing you to think you're close when BAM life happens & it dodges out of your grasp-again. It's attainment is based solely on ideal circumstances & positivity.

SO....with all of that said....am I pursuing happiness? No. I'm taking a cue from my pastor's message and I'm working on having JOY instead. The kind of joy the Bible talks about, you know the fruit of the Spirit? The kind of joy that allows you to be happy when everything's going wrong. The kind of joy that breeds contentment, that focuses on what you DO have instead of what you don't. The kind of joy that carries you & gives you strength to face this thing called Life. ("Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Neh. 8:10) You might not be where you want yet, or things might look pretty bad, but God can give you joy to sustain you til the storm passes. ("Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."Psa 51:11-13) Like my pastor said, joy will give you a song to sing while you're in a crappy situation, waiting for things to change: Cue the music Paul & Silas-"Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them." (Acts 16:24-26) You think they were singing off of pure happiness alone? Get real. You think they said, "we'll wait til we're in a happier situation to praise God." Um, apparently they didn't. They pushed past whatever negative emotions they were experiencing and tapped into joy to get through being in jail.

Ever met someone who had nothing to smile about but they did anyway? They had JOY-that's what I'm going after. Learning how to be present and enjoy what I've been afforded now. Focusing on enjoying the journey, who I am & the changes happening throughout it, and LIVING my life.

I'm finally kissing happiness goodbye-it's overrated & I'm tired of waiting to get there to be it. I'd rather let go & just learn how to enjoy the ride-wherever it takes me.