Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Study of The Worn Out Woman Part I

The Worn Out Woman: When Your Life Is Full and Your Spirit Is Empty
by Dr. Steve Stephens and Alice Gray

Prologue: Winter Night

These are the pages where they share some personal stories of women who have been worn out and spiritually empty. Here are some quotes from the book on how the various women felt:

Most days I feel overwhelmed.
I want to run away and start over again.
I've wished my life away.
I hardly ever experience intimate or tender moments with the Lord.
My days are filled with things I don't want to do.
When I read the Bible, it's out of habit rather than desire.
The joy and excitement are gone.
I wake up feeling discouraged.
I've taken on responsibilities that I never wanted.
I feel like I'm missing me. But maybe it's God I'm missing.

At the end of each chapter there's a page called "Something To Try." That's where you reflect on your personal situation as you review questions or suggestions they have for you.

Chapter 1: What's Going On?

"Don't ask me to relax; It's my tension that's holding me together." Author unknown.

Chapter one has you take your own personal inventory of what has you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. There's a check list to determine your stress level. My personal level was marked Severe---get help now! Yippy skippy.

Chapter 2: Telling Your Story

What I appreciate about this book is that it hits some valuable points without probing too deep. This is a brief chapter that has you consider your life as well as what and who has shaped you. You're to consider the obvious like family to the more obscure like teachers, coaches, and old boyfriends. You're to consider events--traumatic or positive, decisions you have made--that have made you who you are. It also has you consider your basic personality and temperament and how that makes it possible for some women to respond to stress so much differently than their friend or family member. No particular personality type is labeled as weaker or anything. It reinforces that God made us all different. "Your basic personality or temperament is part of the way God wove you in your mother's womb."

Chapter 3: Shoulds and Oughts

This is the best chapter so far!!!! I could really relate. It's about expectations we place on ourselves by comparing ourselves to others, people pleasing, and perfectionism. I have an appointment I can't miss, so I hope to get back to this later today. I constantly poison my brain with thoughts of how I'm not as good of a housekeeper as so and so, I'm not as fine of a disciplinarian as that mom, I don't have the mild and glowing personality of that friend, or I don't have the attractive physical appearance of just about anyone I admire. This chapter had words that for once could penetrate my brain and make me reconsider how hard I am on myself. I hope they'll work for you, too! More later!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What's Wrong Part II


I tested God, and He failed me. I KNEW He would let me down. I knew we couldn't have a "peaceful" life like other families. The shoe fell, and it fell hard in every way imaginable. When He knew I was already weak, He had the nerve to hit me where He KNEW would hurt me the worst because my biggest fear is losing a child.

I used to be stronger. I used to be one of those Christians who clung to God in prayer and read my Bible professing to all that God would see me through it. And He did. That still didn't stop me from being angry that He didn't/wouldn't spare my child from a heart defect.

And it didn't matter that He had seen me through other trials or that at least my child could potentially be helped by having surgery. On prayer lists I was praying for fatally ill children and parents who had lost a child. You would think that would make me more grateful, but that only added fuel to my fire of raging bitterness and anger with God. I still cannot fathom the suffering of those families, and I will probably always struggle with why so many families have to suffer the loss of a child or parent of young children.

Anyway...for Lindley...I tried to remain faithful. I felt like I was in a war with God over her life--that He would only get her through the surgery if I had the faith that He would. I had already failed at having the faith that she would be cured without surgery, so I felt like I definitely couldn't throw what faith I had left out the window before the surgery. There's no logic to my thinking and no decent excuse for my religious views. I could see it even then, but that's another story.

Lindley made it through the surgery and had successful results. Following my line of thinking from before, one would assume I'd give God the credit for protecting her. I did say I was grateful that God used surgeons and medical science to heal her, and I meant it, but WOAH was I pissed!

I've spent the last year fuming. My internal anger has been through the roof as has my outward anger at times. This past year has been a year of existing, questioning, cursing, venting, blaming, excuse making, and just plain awfulness. For the most part I don't take it out on my kids, but there are times I have. I don't know how I make up for that other than pull them close and reassure them from here on out.

I can't even begin to measure what I've put Ironman through. I could have just come out and said, "If you were a better person, and if I were a better person, OUR BABY WOULDN'T BE ON AN OPERATING TABLE GETTING HER CHEST SPLIT OPEN RIGHT NOW!" I don't think it would have helped to confess that thought to Ironman, but my behavior was just as bad or worse. He probably already knew I felt that way anyway. Here's to hoping he was as oblivious about my thoughts then as he seems to be about house projects now. That was my attempt at humor. (I'm sorry for everything, Pickle.)

Question my sanity if you'd like. I have. Many times. I'm starting to realize that what I say to myself in my head is often irrational. What I say out loud to myself is totally rational. Just kidding. If I've been talking out loud to myself, I haven't noticed.

As I was saying, I've spent the last year angry and generally discontent wondering if I was depressed but convincing myself I wasn't because I'd have days or weeks where I felt fine. And then I'd be fed up again---crying in private a lot more than I felt was normal (at least for me). I'm not entirely sure what that was, but I assume it was a combination of life mixed with unresolved issues mixed with hormones (pregnancy and otherwise). I wasn't necessarily unhappy, just discontent with some things and restless. Very restless. Spiritually empty. I almost never prayed, and that's not like me.

Actually, I've been wondering where I went. The summer I originally decided to hold my breath and wait for the other shoe to fall was the summer I lost myself. I've been struggling to feel comfortable in my skin ever since. Not so much comfortable, I guess, as simply feeling like the Jennifer I had always been. Ever heard of "fake it 'til you make it?" That's me. Faking being Jennifer until I come back into her again.

I don't know what brought it about, or if it's been coming about slowly, but the anniversary of Lindley's surgery brought up a flood of emotions that left me feeling....of all things...content. Once again, I'm holding my breath a little. I'm worried this is a temporary hormonal high that I'll crash from soon. But I don't think so this time. I feel joy again, and I didn't realize that was what I'd been missing until it came back. Maybe joy is the wrong word because I've felt happiness all along...especially when Faith came into the world. I see the irony in that sentence.

I feel so grateful to have hope in faith and my spiritual relationship with God that I'm praying again. My most frequent prayer is that I don't lose ground on the progress I'm making personally. If you've ever really been depressed for a long period of time, you might have experienced the desperation you feel to hang onto "feeling normal" again if you've naturally or medicinally become stabilized. I feel that desperation to hold onto my contentment and inner peace. I never wanted to be separated from God. It just happened through my own fault or whoever else I can blame. ;)

I'm learning some interesting things in the book I mentioned. I hope to find the time to share it with you because I think it speaks to most women in today's world. If any of you pick up a copy, let me know. I'd like to know what you think.

What's Wrong With Me? Where to Begin?

FYI: I posted my two cents about the Jon & Kate Plus 8 blog in the comment section on that particular post. In a nutshell, I had mixed feelings. You could state an opinion and chances are I'd agree with you. There are lots of good points.

About a year ago I bought a book called The Worn Out Woman: When Your Life is Full & Your Spirit is Empty by Dr. Steve Stephens and Alice Gray. I haven't read it yet because I've been too worn out and too spiritually empty to care that I was spiritually empty. I don't know how on earth they manage to get their target audience to read this book. I assume they must rely on less worn out women who are spiritually empty or completely worn out women who are spiritually full to spread the message. I have no idea. Currently I'm semi-worn out and running on spiritual fumes, but that's better than being on empty...more on that later. A point I'll get to later is that I'm now reading the book and finding it valuable enough that I hope to find time to share parts with you.

What I'm about to write is spiritual in nature but not the sappy Christian witness story it may appear to be. At least I hope it doesn't come off that way though I wouldn't be writing it if I felt it was going to have a bad ending. I don't know how it's going to end honestly. All I know is that currently I have hope that it will end well, and I haven't had that in a very long time.

The year marking Lindley's open heart surgery date was some kind of a turning point for me. I've been angry. That's no secret to me or anyone around me. It's been building for years. If there wasn't one crisis in our lives, there was another. Some were made by us and some were just bad luck. If there wasn't a crisis, there was a constant nagging of underlying unresolved personal issues or annoying people in our lives. There was always something.

Then there wasn't.

Other than some unresolved personal issues that we could probably spend the rest of our lives dealing with, there was really nothing major to speak of. We were in recovery mode financially and emotionally from a lot of stressful years. And I waited, and I waited for the other shoe to drop. But nothing happened. Still, the pressure built because life experience told me something would happen. Or one could argue that my lack of faith caused me to fear that if something major happened again, I couldn't handle it one more time.

That's when we found out Lindley had a heart defect that would one day need surgery. Then we were told I might have leukemia (which can do quite a psychological number on you). Then we were told our insurance wouldn't cover the expensive tests needed for Lindley and definitely wouldn't cover her pending heart surgery estimated to be almost $100,000.00. There were a lot of other "little" things from infertility issues to a serious car wreck...once again...going into overload.

I wanted to be the ever faithful Christian as we went through it all. The more I blogged, the more I realized how weak I felt. I wasn't a shining example of a Christian at all. I didn't keep my bitterness or anger to myself. The more Bible verses I was quoted, the angrier I became, and this is why...

(continued in next post)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Jon & Kate Plus 8

I know a lot of us are watchers of the reality show Jon & Kate Plus 8.

A friend sent me a link yesterday to an interesting blog. When I brought up the show on this blog before, an anonymous person left some information about how Jon and Kate are deceiving the public.

Here's the link I received yesterday.

Aunt Jodi's (the red head who cares for the children) sister writes it. I thought it was a hoax at first, but there's video of Jodi on the blog stating that the blog is legit. There are some interesting stories and links to articles written about the family. A children's advocacy group of former child stars is apparently pleading with Jon and Kate to stop filming their children stating that children need secrets and privacy regarding issues of making friends, etc.

She also gave the low down on how they're making a lot of money yet still qualifying for public assistance...or health care. Now I can't remember what I've read, but it was interesting. Check it out for yourself and share your thoughts with me if you get the chance.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Whole Year

This morning I've been reflecting on where we were exactly a year ago today. It's a surprisingly emotional experience remembering Lindley (3 at the time) going in for her open heart surgery.

I remember the month leading up to it was the most anxious I've ever been. A year of pediatric cardiologist appointments that initially took us totally by surprise (always thinking things would get better somehow) and then they turned into one disappointment after another until it appeared surgery couldn't be postponed any longer.

The memories of the doctors and details of what would be happening to her are a factor in the rush of well as holding her through the surgical prep...watching Ironman be so strong for her every step of the way, barely ever turning loose of her (he was definitely the strong one in that situation)...the uncertainty of how it would all turn out...and finally watching a nurse carry her away from us with a little blinking "magical" wand. All of those things are definitely a huge factor in how emotional I'm feeling right now.

But more than that, I've been thinking of the waiting room and the people in it that were there to support us. I'll never forget that. I felt like I was drawing from their strength. I'm thinking of the emails. The phone calls. The visits to Lindley while she was recovering. I remember the incredibly kind words and offers of financial support from people I've never even met before in cyber world. People are amazing.

Today Lindley is doing great! She recovered quickly. She continues to have follow-up appointments with the cardiologist, and they are happy with her results. Her August appointment didn't sound as optimistic about surgery being a thing of the past, but I believe that was just the difference in doctors. (We saw a new doctor this last time.)

I'm eternally grateful for the friends and family who saw us through that tough time, and ever so grateful that's all we've had to go through. I don't know why we were the lucky ones, but we were, and it's very humbling.

Off to Walmart now. Haha! Thank you again to all of you out there who went through those tough times with us.

Here's a Lindley video. It's the only one I have that I know how to upload. The content won't make much sense because it's in reference to a conversation that was taking place on Facebook, but anyway...she's silly and well! The best thing for a 4 year old to be!