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


A Little Tenacity Goes a Long Way

I woke up this morning at 5:15am ready to fight. I knew if I didn't I would only slip further back into the pit I've spent the last 3 months climbing out of. Why the need for such tenacity? Well, the last 4 weeks have been rough physically. Really rough. Probably the worst I've ever felt since I was pregnant with Alex. Long story short, after finding out I have 2 cysts and a fibroid & dealing with whatever crazy, hormonally wacky symptoms came along with them (hellooooooo irregular painful periods! How U doin?), I started feeling like my internal thermostat was turned to HELL. I'm 28 years old-what the french toast am I doing having such intense hot flashes? Maybe I shouldn't say hot flashes...they were & still are more like periods of intense sweating. Just getting ready to go somewhere, doing routine things around my apartment, reading a story to the boys, or brushing my teeth would have me sweating like I had just run the Boston Marathon. Have you ever had rain-drop sized beads of sweat on your face, pouring down your back AFTER you've gotten dressed and put your kids in the car? If you haven't I don't wish it on you, and if you have, I empathize completely.....

Sorry for the sweat tangent, as you can tell, it's traumatized me a little...where was I? Oh yes-feeling like crap. So excessive sweating? Check. Headaches? Check. Overwhelming, narcoleptic type fatigue? Check. Hair falling out? (I comb/wash my hair and when I'm done, it's clogged my shower drain and it looks like I have a rug on my floor.) Check. Mood swings & irritability? Check & check. (I considered changing my middle name to "On Edge") Forgetfulness? I've lost count of how many times in the past month I've forgotten the simplest things, like MY NAME, or how I've wasted large chunks of time wandering around Wal-Mart, Target, and even my apartment because I've forgotten what I went there to get or was looking for. Needless to say, post-its and the notepad on my Crackberry have become my best friends, so CHECK! Nausea? Check.  Aches in my joints? CHECK. Feeling like something is stuck in my throat? CHECK. The right side of my neck bulging out? CHECK.

(sigh) Like I said, it's been rough. So in between trying to take care of myself & the boys with ZERO energy, school 4 days a week, work for my client (who is having one of the busiest months ever), and back to back doctor appointments to try to figure out what's going on, I've....had a relapse of sorts. I fell off the wagon. I stopped working all components of my "get healthy" plan.

Feeling like crap meant no workouts. As a matter of fact, I tried once a couple of weeks ago out of sheer resolve to not be overtaken, only to realize I was kidding myself. I made it through all three levels of Bob's BL Bootcamp, but paid a dear price afterwards. As a result of not working out, I'm back up to 177lbs-thanks also in part to my giving in to cravings and not cooking as much as I should be-yikes! Feeling like I could sleep at any moment if  I dared let my eyes close for more than a 1.5 seconds meant the morning prayer routine I had developed suffered; I was back to hitting the snooze button, talking to God in between snores or while I was in the car on my way to class. It took me fighting sleep/fatigue/laziness for 2 years before I finally saw victory, so to say I'm disappointed with myself over this is putting it mildly. Having moments where I felt l could snap at any sec didn't do me any good at trying to "be present" with my boys, or help me when I wanted to scream at Brennan because he asked me for the 20th time if he could wear his Toy Story 3 underwear....or keep me from wanting to cry when Alex thought his dinner served a better purpose by being on the floor instead of in his stomach digesting like I wanted it to. (sigh) My therapist was sick one week, so we've been playing phone tag, trying to reschedule ever since-between doc appointments & school therapy just got bumped down the priority list, so that's all outta wack....When I finally looked at myself in the mirror last week, I just said, "Girl you're a wreck-get it together before you lose all the ground you've gained sista."

The past 4 weeks hasn't all been bad. There have been bright moments: An A on my Psych test, Brennan getting his first pair of glasses-and ROCKIN them, Alex squealing in delight over his a toy he got for his birthday that he loves playing with, went to the beach on Easter....and a commitment better health has yielded some positive results as well: I'm getting pieces to the "what's wrong with me puzzle". Turns out my thyroid is "enlarged" but apparently functioning normally according to lab results. And that "something is stuck in my throat-OUCH" feeling? The initial feedback is thyroid nodules-completely common and according to my doc, shouldn't be causing me any issues. But she doesn't understand why I'm having the other more blood work, more specialists, more chipping away at the block until we find the answer.....

So in the midst of all of that, like I said I relapsed. I got consumed by how awful I was feeling  and even though I kept functioning, I went back into "surviving life" mode instead of staying in the "living life" mode I was working my way to being in the past few months.

So today, I woke up ready to fight my way back through the brush back to the path I was on before I took this detour. And fight I did. Prayer. Made breakfast. Got boys fed, dressed, & Brennan to school by 7:45. Morning run with Alex in the stroller done by 9. Client work. Lunch. Read Psalms 1-4 with Alex. Tried to teach him how to say "toes" "foot" "hand" "fingers" before we both fell into blissful sleep. Picked up around the apartment, made dinner. Picked up Brennan & some Rita's Water Ice for dessert. Dinner involved said dessert & some Yo Gabba Gabba. Baths-my client called during bathtime and needed me to handle something-two weeks ago that would've left me a little disoriented, draining my motivation to accomplish anything else I had planned for the evening-but not today. Today I did what I could and kept it moving to the boys room where we wrestled through pajamas, Alex climbed all over me during story time, and the three of us danced to Larry & Bob's Silly Songs from VeggieTales. Lots of hugs kisses, and two bedtime prayers later, they were snug in the bed and I sat down here to type this in an effort to again, attempt to write something every day.

Not everything went as planned-my kitchen is horrendously dirty for instance and I have a load of laundry to fold-but I feel awesome. I won. Yes I relapsed. But over the course of the past week, God has reminded me that it was just that-a relapse. I got overtaken by the wave, but today with some tenacity and God's help I found the strength to start swimming to the surface again.

So at 5:15 instead of hitting the snooze button this morning, my feet hit the floor and here I am at the end of my day, having made it through my day, about to indulge (just a scoop) in my reward to myself: A chocolate Oreo Blendini from Rita's while I listen to "Get Out of that Pit" by Beth Moore on the 'pod.

Aaaaah, yes this is good. I don't think victory has ever tasted sweeter.

*Note: a monumental THANK YOU goes to Bertski for helping me get through the past 4-5 weeks, especially when it comes to helping me take care of the boys. Thank you for being so supportive and for being there no matter what. You are awesome.*

Counting It All Joy

Today was definetely one of those "crazy" mommy days. If you're a mother or are responsible for a life other than your own, you know those days-they are the ones that make you feel like you have as Bill Cosby called it "brain damage". The ones that make you question what on earth possesed you to engage in the activity that brings children to this earth in the first place, the ones that make you just want to ditch adulthood and go make mud pies. Yeah, I had one of THOSE days. Between my fussy 5 week old who doesn't like to ride in the car much less be put down for more than 10 minutes, and my 3 year old home from daycare with Scarlet Fever, (yes, you read correctly, I did say SCARLET FEVER!) who, either from medicine or being couped up in the house for 3 days, acts like he can't hear me (I must be speaking Chinese, why else would he just IGNORE my command to stop throwing his toys?) today was a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong day.(and yes, that many o's were necessary)

The highlight or climax of the day occured earlier this evening. Having just fed the newborn, I was sitting with him in my living room, paitiently waiting for time to pass so I could put him down without worrying about his dinner coming back up (he has reflux and has to sit up after eating) when as I gazed lovingly into his eyes, I heard a massive explosion as the volcano that is his rear end emptied his afternoon snack into his diaper...and my lap. Yep. There it was, oozing out of the side of his diaper like yellow, scrambled egg lava, covering his clothes, and my new pair of jeans I had just washed yesterday. As the 3 year old whizzed past me with his nerf sword, screaming something about Iron Man and death rays, I blabbed something about him sitting down like a decent human being and went upstairs to handle Mount St. Doo Doo.

Upon further inspection of the destruction that resembled a diaper, I decided to  just give him a bath earlier than originally planned and quickly filled the tub while I got him undressed. That's when the 3 year old decided he needed a bath too and started peppering me with "can I take a bath too Mommie?", "Mommie, is it bathtime?", "Mama, whatcha doooiiiin?", "Mommie, Mommie, Mommie, Mommie!" Walking back into the bathroom, I diverted the 3 year old with promises of a future bath and ordering him to go play in his room. Turning my attention back to the baby and the bathtub, I realized that I had failed to put the plug in.....and all the water was easing it's way out the baby's tub and down the drain.

Mumbling something about just wanting to go to sleep under my breath, I put the baby in one hand and used the other to rerun his bathwater. Almost instantaneously I felt something wet covering my lap and looked down to find my adorable son peeing all over my newly-changed-into pajama bottoms and the floor. I was about to growl in frustration and ask why did I decide to put myself through this when four simple words stopped me dead in my (vocal) tracks: "Count it All Joy." Huh? Come again? "Count it All Joy." Count what joy-the fact that I had just been pooped and peed on in less than 15 minutes? Or that today had been motherhood's way of testing me to see what I was made of? "God," I said, "you have got to be kidding me-why would I be joyful about any of this?" "Why not?" was His reply and as I put my son in the bath, I began to ask myself the same question.

Why let the demands on my nerves and patience wear me out? Why let such trivial occurrences weigh me down and frustrate me? Why get upset and worked up, angry with myself? Because I had been having the wrong attitude that's why, I found myself answering. Instead of looking at things from the perspective of a frazzled, frustrated person, why not just take it for what it is? "It's all about your perspective, A'Driane," I heard God saying. "True there are things in life that aren't pleasant, that demand all of what you have and push you to your limit. Yes, you will have days where you feel like you don't know what you're doing or where your going, days you will feel like you can't go another step. Yes, you will go through things that make you question yourself and everything you think you know about life. Yes, you will be faced with trials and tests, some big and some small, but how you handle them, how you think about them, will determine how your character is developed, and how you respond to future situations."

He then brought to my remembrance a scripture I had been meditating on a few weeks ago: James 1:2, which in the Message translation says, "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." In the King James version it says to "...count it all joy" and that's just what God was reminding me to do. Now maybe a trying day with your kids and your son peeing on you is nothing to get worked up over, things such as that don't even make you bat an eye. But for someone like myself who has been battling depression on and off since 7th grade and who is currently taking Zoloft to help ward off postpartum depression, a day like today can have me in my closet with the door closed crying hysterically. I'm serious people, a day filled with open defiance from a sick 3 year old, the always present needs of a newborn, a 35 min car ride filled with screams from BOTH children, a dirty house that was just clean 24 hours ago, and not a free moment to myself all day would be enough to send me down Despondency Lane sometimes.

The demands and pressures of being a mother to two children can be overwhelming, especially in the beginning, and although two weeks ago after reading that scripture I was all pumped up and ready to be joyful, life had handed me a two peice and a biscut in recent days.  As a matter of fact, just on Sunday at the altar, I had told God I wanted off the up and down, merry-go-round rollercoaster of depression I had been on  not just for most of my life, but particuarly this past year. I asked Him to show me ways to battle it,strategies to overcome it, things to think on and practice during moments such as I was currently having while bathing my son. I left the altar feeling changed and for once confident.

And then Sunday night, my son's face was twice it's Tuesday he was diagnosed with Scarlet Fever and declared unfit for daycare for at least 10 days-after he had already been home testing my limits for a full day. And then today happened...but sitting in my bathroom, bathing my son, talking to God and thinking about things, something else happened: I started to laugh. It started as a giggle, then evolved to a chuckle and then burst out into belly hugging, gut busting laughter. It was so loud and unexpected it made the baby jump and brought the 3 year old in from his room, demanding to know what I was laughing at. Splashing water on him, he laughed started acting silly which made me crack up even more and by the time I was rinsing the baby off, I was fully relishing spending this time with my kids, the feelings of stress and being overwhelmed completely gone, a distant and quickly fading memory. "See now was that so hard?" He asked. "How do you feel?" "Much easier than I thought," I replied, "I feel lighter.....well whatya know I feel joyful!" I laughed and took the baby into my room with an extra pep in my step. (may sound corny, but that's how me and God talk, okay?)

Taking that moment to change my perspective and choosing to laugh through my frustration and stress instead of getting weighed down by it and worked up made me realize that I can choose how I look at a situation and how I respond to it. Me taking that moment to laugh allowed me to enjoy putting the baby to sleep, bathing and feeding the older one, putting him to sleep, and even gave me the energy I needed to do a quick "pick-up" of my house, which will definetely make me happy when I wake up to a clean house in the morning.

I didn't realize when I asked God for a strategy to deal with my depression I would find myself with an answer so quickly, but I'm so grateful for it. I'm even more grateful because I understand that I may have alot on my plate now when it comes to motherhood, but if I tackle each challenge with the right mindset, it will equip me to handle stress and other demanding situations in other areas of my life.

Now I understand that days like today aren't about trying to make me lose my mind- they are all about developing my character, and giving me an opportunity to find joy in the most unexpected places.