Guilt and Mental Illness

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I had my second appointment with my new counselor today, and so far, she is probably the best counselor I have had so far.  I’m very thankful that I spoke up about my last one and told the center that she wasn’t a good fit.  They paired me with Marissa, and bam!  Perfect fit.

Today was a very helpful appointment.  First, she gave me a more specific diagnosis based on my symptoms over the past several years.  She says I’m Bipolar II with moderate seasonal patterns.  She’s saying moderate until she gets to know me better.  She told me that she doesn’t want to “over diagnose” me.  The big thing with this is that it means there are times of the year that I’m in “remission” (March through July), and there are times of the year that I struggle more (August through February). It varies to some degree every year, but it’s around the same. I also may have good days with-in that, but overall, I have more struggle during certain times.  I also tend to struggle on rainy and overcast days, which goes along with this.

She has given me a “Beam” mood chart, and she wants to see how I do over the course of two months.  She’s trying to determine if I have rapid cycles.  We both think I do (during my rough months), but we’ll see what the chart shows.

Another thing that was helpful is that we discussed the guilt that I feel because of having this mental illness.  Right now, I’m up and down, but even on my good days right now I have struggled desperately with motivation.  I have forced myself to shower every day, continue taking care of my kids (mostly basic needs), get up in the morning and not go back to sleep (though yesterday I took a very intentional nap… that’s different than sleeping the day away), and yesterday I even baked (with my little helper, Levi).  But this is mostly basic stuff.  Getting laundry done, dishes, cleaning up the house, etc, are all very difficult for me right now.  I also don’t do the things with the kids that I would love to do, such as reading to them lots, doing devotionals, praying with them every day (other than dinner time), doing lots of seasonal activities (I have done some over the past few weeks, but not as much as I’d like), etc.  I just feel as though I’m failing as a wife and mom all around.  I also feel like I’m bothering my friends and family by talking about my illness and feeling as though it seems like I’m just trying to get attention for it (which I’m not, but I assume people think that of me).  I understand that it’s normal to have days in which there is no motivation to do things like laundry and dishes, but I’m home all day every day by myself, and I go weeks and months without doing it without Robert’s help.

She asked me a simple question, and it has completely transformed the way I think about all of this.  She asked me if maybe all of this guilt is a result of me not truly accepting that I have an illness.  I talk about mental illness all the time.  I address it as a true illness when I talk about it.  I understand that other people can’t help how they feel because it’s an illness.  But I am not sure that I have truly accepted it for myself.  I always feel like I should be able to “will myself” to feel better.  That’s just not true most days.

The extreme lack of motivation is part of depression.  I’m doing good right now to get out of bed (and stay out of bed), take a shower every day, and take care of the kids when they get home.  I need to be proud that I’m fighting hard to overcome this, and it may not look like dishes and laundry being done.  For now.  It’ll come.  That’s the beauty of this new diagnosis.  I have March to look forward to :-).

In the meantime, I allow my husband to help me (because he truly understands and wants to be there for me), I am open with my friends who are there to support me, and I fight to do what I can to take care of my kids because they need me.   I will also continue to share here because this is therapeutic for me.

Thanks for reading.

…until next time…

Whole Wheat Banana Pumpkin Muffins

This week has been so good!  I even have my desire to bake back!  It’s been months since I’ve baked.  And I used to bake everything from scratch.  I don’t know if this energy and these good days will last, but I’m taking advantage of them!

Yesterday, I baked my favorite fall muffins!  They were a hit this morning with the kids.  Robert mixed some cream cheese, sugar, with a dash of vanilla to top these yummy muffins.

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This recipe originally came from Passionate Homemaking (Banana Crumb Muffins), but I have changed it so much that it’s pretty much my own now!  Enjoy!

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (I use Prairie Gold White Whole Wheat- I buy it at Walmart)
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 bananas, mashed
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup sucanat (or 3/4 cup brown sugar)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups.
3. In a large bowl, mix together flour, pumpkin spice, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, pumpkin, sugar, egg and melted butter.
4. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling 3/4 full.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 16-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

Good Days

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After a really rough few weeks (months) of being so up and down that I didn’t know how I was going to feel from one minute to the next, I am starting to actually have good days, several in a row.  It has been a long time since I could say that.  Typically, when I have a good day, it’s followed by a rough evening of terrible anxiety, then typically a rough day the next day.  Yesterday was AMAZING (all the way until bed time–no anxiety!), and I woke up this morning feeling great and hopeful!  I even slept from about 9:30 until 6:30!

What is making these good days possible?

I think the number one reason why I’m starting to feel better is the change in my medication.  Since going back to the Latuda (mood stabilizer), and going up on the dosage, it has helped stabilize my moods so I’m not so up and down.  This medication is EXPENSIVE, but I’m finding that it is completely worth the expense.  We will somehow make it work.  I’m also on a new medication for my depression (Lamictal) that is supposed to be sort of a miracle medication for depression.  I’m on a very low dose (working my way up), but I think the combination is working well.  I’m going from four daily meds to only two, so I’m almost wondering if I was over-medicated!  I’m also taking fish oil (4000mg, which is a lot!), B12, and l-methylfolate (suggested by my doctor to take with the Lamictal).  I’m about to start taking my whole foods vitamins again, as well.

Another reason why I’m doing better is that I’m “faking it till I make it.”  There are times when I just can’t, but I try really hard to force myself to get up, shower, get dressed, and do something with my day.  I feel worse when I just allow myself to give in to the depression and lay around all day.  Friday was one of those days, until I finally decided to try really hard to get myself going.  I got off the couch, showered, dried my hair, put on makeup, and all those things helped me feel better.  I still had a rough evening with anxiety, but it was much better than my day was.

One of the big things that my doctor told me was to have a routine each day.  Not a structured schedule, but a routine in which I get up at the same time every day, go to bed around the same time every night, and no naps.  I’m working on this!

Yesterday started out rough, but I got myself up and showered, and went to the Family Camp that was going on here, even though I didn’t want to.  I woke up with terrible anxiety, but I pushed through it and decided to be involved with my family.  I went to the Family Camp session (that Robert and I spoke at), was involved in small groups (that went really well), we made a family “shield,” went on a short hike with some other families, came back and worked on chores as a family, went to lunch as a family (in the dining hall), came back and worked on more chores (I haven’t been doing laundry or anything lately), made cupcakes, and went to a super fun costume party/pumpkin carving time here at camp.  I went to bed feeling super content and just happy for the first time in a long time.

Another thing that is exciting is that I actually feel good enough mentally to start caring a little more how I take care of myself physically.  I’ve been drinking a lot of Coke Zero (and I mean a LOT), drinking tons of coffee with pumpkin spice creamer, and eating a lot of junk food because I felt like it would help me feel better (self soothing).  I think, though, that it honestly has been making me feel worse physically.  I wrote a post about this a few weeks ago called “Health.”  I am looking forward to seeking some balance in this area and I’m hoping that it’ll only help in the area of mental/emotional health as well as physical health.  It helps me to make a plan, but to be balanced in my approach, so I’m starting with sodas and switching from artificial creamers to half and half (looking to eat more whole foods).  I’m also reducing my carb and junk food intake (Chex Mix, chips, Little Debbie snacks, etc), and trying to have more healthy carbs when I do.  This is my starting point!  But these changes will be huge for my health.  This is all part of my self care plan!

I also *think* I’m ready to start hiking again (I hiked with my family yesterday and LOVED it!).  This is an area that has brought me great distress.  I love hiking.  It’s one of the things that I looked forward to every day during the summer.  It felt good physically, but was also really good for me mentally/emotionally/spiritually.  But starting in August, I just had no motivation or desire for it.  I would make a plan only to not follow through.  I would plan to hike with a friend and cancel every time.  I told her last week that we need to make a plan, and she can’t let me cancel!  She agreed and we plan to go this week!  I am looking forward to hiking with her and exploring the back country here at camp!

Some other things that have been bringing joy and happiness are the cooler weather, listening to my Classical Christmas music (I know, it’s early… but this is actually late for me!), lots of seasonal and holiday activities with my family and friends, my fall candles, being a part of this amazing camp community/family, a clean(ish) house, laundry being caught up (thanks to my husband!), my sweet Lily (our basset/beagle mix), sitting on the porch in the cool air, having my back door open for the cool breeze to blow through, reading with/to my kids, and just all of the little things in life that there are to celebrate!

Today, I’m looking forward to a trip into town!  Grocery shopping is on the list of things to do as well as getting cash for our “cash flow budget” envelopes.

Enjoy some pictures of the last few days!

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Transparency

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This is a really hard post to write.  Why?  Because I feel that I will be judged for it.  But it’s real.  Real to me.  And real to many.  So, I feel the need to share.

The other day, I wrote a post called “Hope.”  I won’t rewrite it because you can read it if you’re interested.  In it, I explained that I finally have hope because of a new doctor that took an hour and a half to get to know me, and he has a solid plan.

The next day, a friend told me that she really liked the post and was hopeful for me as well.  It was in that moment that I realized something: I didn’t talk about Christ at all in my post about hope.

Well isn’t that anti-Christian of me?  I felt horrible guilt in that moment.  Jesus, who is the author of my life, the creator of this beautiful world, my Savior, didn’t make it into a post about hope.

My friend said that it was kind of implied.  But was it?  I talked all about medicine and counseling and supportive friends and family.  But I didn’t mention Christ.

It was in that moment that I realized something: sometimes I simply forget about Him when it comes to mental illness.

I saw my brother struggle with this life-threatening illness for years and years.  Countless times we prayed, sought God, read His Word, begged, pleaded for Him to take it away or at least give him relief.  And after many years of this, the terrible illness ended up taking his life.

And now it’s a battle that I fight every day.  In the middle of the panic attacks that cause my heart to race, my face to flush, my whole body to be shaky, to feel like I’m going to black out.  In the middle of the depression that makes it difficult to do anything but sleep (yet I’m told I can’t take naps).  The depression that makes me want to do anything to find relief.  The depression that makes it difficult to find motivation to even shower most days, let alone do laundry, dishes, clean the house, do homework with the kids, make dinner, be pleasant around others, bathe the kids, pray with them every night, make sure they brush their teeth and get their meds, and receive lots of love and affection from me.  The depression that helps me understand why my brother couldn’t make it anymore (even though I wouldn’t take my own life, I understand why he did some days).

I simply forget that He is there to help me through this some days.  Most days.

I was chatting with a friend last night that also has a chronic illness and has to take meds.  Despite her medicine, she still has a lot of the symptoms from the illness.  Just like I do.

I was reminded of a few things in that conversation.

First, God can use ALL things for His glory, even if it’s not necessarily something He wants us to have to suffer through.  This world is broken.  Once sin entered into it, so did sickness and death.  It’s inevitable.  Some days we will not understand why.  And that’s okay.  But.  He can still use it for His glory and to help others.  I have come to the conclusion that I suffer with the illness that I do so that I can help others.  Christ has a purpose in the midst of the suffering.  Even if I never heal from it on this earth, He can use it for good.

Second, I’m human, and in the midst of suffering, sometimes it’s hard to see God’s hand in it.  That doesn’t mean He’s not there.  It doesn’t mean He won’t help me get through the day.  It doesn’t mean that He doesn’t love me.  It doesn’t mean that He doesn’t want me to be healed.  It just mean that may not be what happens.  And I may never, ever understand.

If you’re struggling to understand God’s plan in the midst of suffering today, know that you’re not alone.  Know that it’s okay.  And know that despite what our meager brains can comprehend, there’s something greater in store because of it.  We may never see it on this earth, but it will all make more sense one day.

Hope

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This word.  It’s only four letters, but it has so much meaning.  During a time of darkness, I couldn’t mutter this word.  I have been in darkness far too long, and today, this beautiful day, I could finally see the hope that I have been searching for.

This hope comes in the form of a doctor that took time to get to know me, friends that support me, and a family that loves me right where I am.

Today, I arrived at my new doctor’s office about 40 minutes early.  My appointment was at 9:00, and they told me I had to be 30 minutes early, so, just to be sure, Robert and I left at 6:00 this morning.  You see, because of where we live, we have to drive to San Antonio, which is almost 2 1/2 hours away.  There are no psychiatrists in our “town” (granted, it’s an hour and 15 minutes away, but still), which really saddens and angers me.  But that’s for another time.

I figured we would be waiting for the 9:00 appointment time, but I was pleasantly surprised when they called me back at 8:40.  The man (the physician’s assistant that I will be seeing) greeted me in a warm and friendly way, and immediately started with the questions.  He had just read all of my paperwork (28 pages worth!), and already felt that he had a good understanding of me, but he wanted to get to know ME.  Who I am.  What my struggles are.  What my strengths are.  He wanted to know about my history.  From the time I could remember.  How things got worse every time I had a baby.  How my brother died from suicide (because of his battle with bipolar).  How I have coped since then.  The fact that I have had to quit jobs that I loved, numerous times, because of my battle.  He wanted to know me.  All while scribbling countless notes on his yellow legal pad.

After talking with him for about 45 minutes, he went to visit with the doctor (who owns the practice) about me. They were in the other office for 20 minutes, going through my history, talking about my lows and my highs.  Talking about my struggles.

They came back in together with a very strong and united front.

After talking through my highs a little more (is this hypomania, or just “really good days?”), they decided.  They had a strong diagnosis. Together.  They both felt that I do in fact have bipolar II, with mostly low lows.  They called it “soft” bipolar II.  They knew immediately how it needed to be treated, and the first step is weaning off of medications that are doing nothing for me.  The second step is slowly starting a new medication that is often termed “the miracle drug” (and I know first hand because my best friend is on it and she is a new person!).  It has to be started very slowly because there’s a 1/10,000 chance that I could get an all-body rash because of it, but I’m willing to take that chance ;-).  They also decided to go back on a medication that my old doctor recently took me off of because it’s the best mood stabilizer out there, and I have a good history with it.  The biggest monster was to attack the depression, which will be done with the new medication.

Not only did they have all these new ideas for medication changes, they treated me holistically.  They told me to start taking 4,000mg of fish oil.  I need to get regular exercise.  I need to stay out of bed during the day-no more naps.  That will also help me sleep better at night.  I need to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.  And, very importantly, they believe I need to keep seeing a counselor weekly.

All of these things will help stabilize my moods.  It takes more than just medication.  It takes a holistic approach.

I asked about food, and they said that for some people food makes a difference, but the research shows that exercise is mostly important.

They even gave me samples of the mood stabilizer because it’s very expensive.

I left there feeling like I could breathe.  Like I could laugh.  Like I could jump up in the air!

I immediately messaged my best friend.  My mom.  My support group here at camp.  And as usual received so much support and excitement for my hope.

So.  I have goals.  I have a solid plan.

I. Have. Hope.

Overcoming Obstacles

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This weekend at family camp, Robert and I (mostly Robert) will be speaking about overcoming obstacles as a family during a session.  He wrote it out, and I thought I would share it.  I love hearing from him on this topic because he has been an amazing husband throughout our entire marriage.

Overcoming Obstacles as a Family by Robert Crosland

We all face obstacles, bumps in the road, crisis moments, major turning points in our lives. This could range from some form of personal tragedy to a major medical issue to a lurking skeleton in the closet coming to light, or any number of a million possibilities that I could never list. The commonality in all of this is how we can find strength and support to get through them. These things can seem so overwhelming and often we do not understand how we are going to continue, or comprehend what life will look like from now on. We have been facing obstacles as individuals for our entire lives, however once we are married we now have to face them with others. While this ability to face them with others can be an amazing source of strength and support, it can also be overwhelming and feel like a crushing weight. We have not only our own obstacles, but those of the rest of our families as well. Things that on the surface seem to only affect one member of the family, can have dramatic effects on the entire family unit. Funny thing about families: something that affects one, affects the whole. We are suddenly in this together. As parents, when we simply want to put our heads in the sand and hide is when it feels like everyone needs something, there is a major school project to help with, dinner has to be made, parent teacher conferences to go to, major projects are due at work, there are no clean clothes left and the kid’s school says they have to be dressed, and the list could go on and on.

A little bit about our story: Courtney and I met a little over twelve years ago and were married seven months later. She was still attending SWT (now Texas State), and I had been invited by Howard Payne to take a semester off. While we were young and arguably dumb we did not have many major crisis moments of our own, but watched in the periphery as her brother struggled with depression. Our first moment of true shock was driving in Austin buying Christmas presents when Courtney’s mother called in hysterics telling her that Joey had just killed himself. We simply pushed through that situation and then when Courtney gave birth to Levi, our youngest son, a few months later and began suffering with her most severe bout of Post Partum Depression, we just kept pushing through and kept thinking that this was a season and would eventually pass. Then our real moment hit, and we wouldn’t be able to “push through” this one: in January of 2014 I received a phone call from a friend of Courtney’s while I was on my way home from church. She told me that she had been speaking with Courtney over the phone, and I needed to get home and get Courtney to a hospital right away. Her depression had been getting continually worse and warning signs were starting to pop up. We went to an emergency room and spoke with a counselor there, she was referred to an inpatient psychiatric hospital and we checked her in the next day. As I drove home from checking her in is when it really started to sink in that I had just left my wife in a place where they took away her shoe laces, and she didn’t get to choose when she left. Nothing would ever be the same.

So, what are we to do? How are we going to make it? Who is going to pull us through this? When will it ever be back to normal? Why did this happen in the first place?

I can’t even begin to tell you why. All I know is that we have a great, loving and sovereign God, and we live in a dark and broken world.

As for when will things be back to normal, you may never get back to your old normal. In the words of so many people that are much wiser than I: “Sometimes you just have to find a new normal.”

So what is the key? How do we get through this?

Be vulnerable. When we are vulnerable, an amazing thing happens: God’s strength is displayed. (2Cor. 12:9) When we are open and vulnerable all of the power that whatever calamity has struck us has is taken away. You see, no crisis has any power over God, and so sometimes our only rest comes from God. When we open up to each other we invite God to start working in our lives. God moves and works through His people. If you want to see God start doing crazy things in your life, then you need to start being real and honest with those around you, be 100% open and honest with your spouse, find some prayer and accountability with other christians and be open and honest with them. When you own the the thing that haunts you (mind you that I said you own it, not it owns you, or that it defines you) then it is no longer some dark thing hiding in the corner that threatens you.

It’s perfectly ok to cry. It’s perfectly ok not to have all of the answers today. It’s perfectly ok to ask God why. It’s perfectly ok to get it wrong sometimes. It is perfectly ok to be weak sometimes. It’s perfectly ok to not be ok.

So what does this look like?

For us that looked like adjusting what our income expectations were and Courtney staying home instead of working. Learning to ask for help, getting involved in a Celebrate Recovery program, and Courtney seeking regular counseling. Through that experience we learned so much about being defined by our identity in Christ, not our struggles, but at the same time being real with each other and with others about the things that haunt us.

I don’t know what your obstacles are, but I do know that you will only overcome the obstacles of this world by finding your strength in God and your daily support in His people. I would highly recommend you find a faith based group that deals with whatever obstacle your family is facing.

These are a few of my favorite things

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My counselor’s homework for me this week is to come up with a gratitude list.  As I began thinking through the things I’m grateful for, it became very apparent to me that I have so many little and big things that are amazing in my life.  I have decided to share these. These ended up turning into a really long post, with lots of pictures.  I did this mostly for myself, but if you interested, here you go…

These are a few (or a lot) of my favorite things…

Holding and being held by my love. Looking into each others’ eyes and knowing that we were made for each other.

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Knowing how loved and adored I am by my husband because he tells me all day, every day.

Cuddling with my babies in their beds at the end of the day. Talking to them about their happy and sad times.

My parents who have been beside me in the midst of joy and pain, laughter and sorrow. Their unconditional love for their children and grandchildren. Always being there. Allowing me to just talk and be heard. Their grace. The amazing memories I have of my childhood because of them.

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Joey. My brother who is no longer living. We were so close our whole lives, until we lost him to a terrible mental illness. I will always love him and remember our amazing childhood together. We were inseparable. His quirkiness, love of music, technical ability, creativeness, love of people, artistic ability, devotion to those he loved, and humor will never be forgotten.

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My mom and dad in-law who love me as their own and have taken care of our family on more than one occasion. They have always been there for us in our time of need. I love that they love without judgment and trust us to make the decisions that are best for our family.

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My amazing friends. So many that I couldn’t give credit to them all. God has blessed me with friends that I can call family. People who love me the way that I am. In all of my mess. With my weaknesses as well as my strengths.

Mornings cuddled up on the couch with my pup, drinking my pumpkin spice coffee, watching Gilmore Girls or Parenthood.

A clean house (which is rare, but I love when it’s clean!).

A messy house because it means that I allow my children to play and enjoy our home.

Allowing others into a not-so-clean-house and knowing that they don’t care.

Piles of laundry because I have family to wear it.

Farm Apple Pumpkin candle. The smell of fall wafting through the air.

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Carving a pumpkin with my family and roasting the seeds.

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Family style dinners in the dining hall with our amazing community. Dinners with family and friends in our home.

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Laughing until I cry.

Seeing my kids’ report cards and finding that they have met their potential after working so hard.

Evenings spent with my love on the porch, listening to the crickets, looking at the stars, talking about our dreams (and realizing that we’re living our dream).

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Talking with my best friend throughout the day thanks to Facebook Messenger and knowing that I have a best friend that truly knows what I’m going through. Being loved unconditionally by her.

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Coke Zero (aka “poison”) that brings me joy while I drink it out of my birdie cup with just the right amount of ice.

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Coffee. I drink it throughout the day. I don’t think I could live without it! I love it creamy and sweet. I’m finally okay with that.

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Plaid shirts, tunics, leggings, comfortable jeans, t-shirts, scarves, Toms, and boots.

Being comfortable with my body just the way it is, and knowing that my husband finds every curve appealing.

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Knowing that my support system is just a Facebook message/text/phone call away (and right outside my door), and knowing that they will always have the right words to say, at just the right times.

A new journey with our finances and knowing that financial peace is with-in arm’s reach.

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The kids’ amazing school that prays every morning before they start their day, the teachers have high expectations and know that the kids can meet them, and they are truly loved and cared for.

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Pumpkin spice everything (yes, I’m one of those).

Classical Christmas music even though it’s only fall. There’s something about it that brings me peace.

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Hiking in my “back yard” and knowing that my body can handle a lot of miles. I’ve been able to hike 23 miles in one day! When I feel up to it mentally/emotionally, I regularly do 8 or 9. I also love hiking with my family.

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Ethan and Karis’  joy with their new mountain bikes. They spends hours and hours riding.

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My love spending quality time with his kids, reading to them, letting them read to him, helping them with their homework, working together to clean, riding bikes, sitting on the porch, lying in hammocks.

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Our pup Lily. The funny way she drinks water as she puts her whole head in the bowl, her intense need to steal food from the table (or hands, or lap), her way of telling us that she needs to go potty, her love of cuddling, her need to be with her people, her sadness when her people leave, her love of playing.

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Learning to love who I am and how I am made, even though I am truly a mess sometimes. Embracing my mess.

JJ Heller, David Crowder, Caedmon’s Call, Charlie Hall, Needtobreathe, and Shane & Shane… whose lyrics touch deep in my heart and the music allows me to dance and sing, praise and worship.

The courage that I have to share my difficult journey with others.

Hearing from others just how much my sharing has helped them in their own journeys.

My medication because it has saved my life and helps with the ups and downs of my illness.

She Reads Truth, my Bible, and praise music in the mornings so that I can learn from God’s word, praise Him, and talk to Him.

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Making homemade play dough with my kids and knowing that they’re not too old for it. Pumpkin spice, gingerbread, peppermint, koolaid play dough.

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Season changes. Crisp cool air.

Christmas. I could celebrate it all year.

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Traditions with my family. Knowing that most traditions were started by my mom and dad. And the fact that my kids share my love of holidays and seasons.

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Playing games with my husband and kids. Simple entertainment brings joy.

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The tree that was painted on my wall by the people who lived here before us. It’s so *me*.

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The flowers that my husband brings me as often as he can, just because.

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The fact that my husband is willing to clean bathrooms, keep up with dishes, and do laundry even though I am home every day because sometimes it just overwhelms me.

The view from my back porch. I get to look at the rolling hills of the hill country all the time.

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Our camp family. We’ve only been here 5 months and it feels like we’ve been here for years.

The fact that my husband gets to do something that he feels called to do and truly loves. We plan to be here for years to come. This is the first time we have ever felt this way.

The kids are able to do things that most kids don’t get to do.  Zip lines, Nueces mine slide, mountain bike, hike in our “backyard,” play in the river, and will eventually be able to rock climb.

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My online journal (Penzu) and my blog so that I can write out what’s on my heart.

The little house that we call home and have made warm and cozy.

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How much the camp takes care of their employees and families.

Charcoal, sketching pencils, dry media paper, and canvas. Drawing brings me peace.

Coloring books and crayons. My favorite are Christmas!

Books. I don’t read enough, but I am always happy when I do. Jen Hatmaker and Lois Lowry are my faves.

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Hearing my kids say thank you, please, yes ma’am, no ma’am without being told.

The people our kids are, their individual personalities, their weaknesses and strengths.

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Selfies because they remind me that God made me beautiful (this may sound self centered, but it has taken me years to get to this point).

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My iPhone. I am able to stay connected with friends and family and take pictures of my beautiful family (and share those pictures!).

My semicolon tattoo to remind me that my story could have ended, but I have chosen to continue it. God’s not finished with me yet.

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My cross wedding ring tattoo. It reminds me that my marriage is in Christ.

A fire in our fire pit. Sitting in our chairs, staring at the fire, talking with friends. Roasted marshmallows. S’mores.

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Camping. Backpacking. Being outside.

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Fresh air. Mountains. Hills. Trees. Leaves. Flowers. Sunsets. God’s amazing creation.

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Beauty. In all forms. Shapes. Sizes. Colors. Beauty in people. Places. Creation.

Jesus. Life. Breath. Creator. Sacrifice. Salvation. Peace. Joy. Grace. Redeemer. Healer.