Happy New

It’s been exactly 16 months since I published anything on this blog.

What have I been doing all this time? Remodeling. Mostly figuratively, but also literally:

Over the past year and a half, we’ve tackled a number of moderately challenging homeowner issues that have sprung up in our new house: many aggravating plumbing problems, a situation with the AC unit, and a full reclamation/restoration of our basement floor space thanks to water damage. It ended up being quite a blessing in the long run: now our kids have a fresh, clean, bright, huge rec room to play in, and it only cost us the deductible for our homeowner’s insurance… which was still $1000. Due right before Christmas. Yeep!! But without that insurance, it would have been SO much more expensive.

And we refinanced our house right before, which supplied a bit more wiggle room in the budget right around this time of year.

How’s that for Providentially generous? 🙂

However, these endeavors pale in comparison to the number one priority that has taken up most of my extra attention over the past 10 months: our thirdborn child, born this past February.

Baby Percy
Thirdborn–a little girl.

A perfect little GIRL to follow up my two darling boys. I have been absolutely enthralled ever since (daddy, too). Her brothers are generally pleased with her existence as well, so bonus!

Of course, enthrallment does not obviate the required toll of sleeplessness (and the constant adjustments to home life) that accompanies the parent of just about any child under 18 months. That, paired with ((mostly)) finishing up the marathon of potty training with my firstborn, starting the whole process again with my secondborn, beginning our first “official” year of homeschooling in the fall of 2019, and taking on more part-time online teaching work, accounts well for my absence ever since February.

But what about before then? After all, the whole preceding fall and winter are blank on this blog, too.

That brings me to the more figurative remodeling process I’ve invested in since you last heard from me. Do you remember my account of the severe psychological breakdown I experienced last summer?

It was bad. Very. Very. Bad. In that post, I bluntly confessed my profound need for serious help and announcing the beginning of my quest to get it.

16 months into that quest, I can now tell you: I have achieved some great triumphs.

So much darkness lingers in my heart and mind, still, it must be prefaced. However–my ability to perceive that darkness without succumbing to it was non-existent before.

And now–now, I can.

There is a book I’ve been reading–that is, trying to read, fraught will immense delays thanks to the demands of parenting–since just right about before little Percy was born on the fringes of spring. I haven’t finished it yet, but thanks to my husband buying me my own copy for Christmas (I borrowed it from the library nearly half a dozen times, returned it late nearly every time, and still barely made it a few more pages forward each time before now), I’m about halfway through. It’s called All the Crooked Saints, and it’s by Maggie Stiefvater.

(Whom I already adore for her work in The Scorpio Races, btw, which I would recommend to absolutely anyone.)

All the Crooked Saints is about nothing more or less than dealing–or not dealing–with one’s mental health. Being a narrative fiction, of course, it doesn’t call it that: it has a more appropriate, helpful designation for the battles we all face–or don’t face–inside our own heads.

Darkness.

Understanding what darkness is–or not understanding it at all–is what makes the story a whole lot more compelling than the pitch I gave you two paragraphs up.

I bring this to your attention because, if you really want to know what the last 16 months have been like for me, I will point you to this book. What it describes will give you a far more accurate and truthful and full perspective of my passage during this time of silence than I think I can create for you here in my own words.

As a brief glimpse, though, allow me to quote a few excerpts:

 

“The miracles at Bicho Raro always came in twos.

The first miracle was this: making the darkness visible.

Sadness is a little like darkness. They both begin the same way. A tiny, thin pool of uneasiness settles in the bottom of the gut. Sadness simmers fast and boils hard and then billows up and out, filling first the stomach, then heart, then lungs, then legs, then arms, then up into the throat, then pressing against eardrums, then swelling against skull and eventually spilling out of eyes in a hissing release. Darkness, though, grows like a cave formation. Slow drips from the uneasiness harden over the surface of a slick knob of pain. Over time, the darkness crusts in unpredictable layers, growing at such a pace that one doesn’t notice it has filled every cavern under the skin until movement becomes difficult or even impossible.

Darkness never boils over. Darkness remains inside.

But a Soria could draw it out and give it form.”

“…The second miracle was this: getting rid of the darkness for good.

No one wanted to see their darkness made manifest, but the reality was that it could not be fought until you saw its shape.”

 

Could

not

be fought.

 

Until you saw its shape.

 

I have seen the shape of so much of my darkness, finally, through the work I have done–through the work God has accomplished in me–over the past 16 months.

I used a great deal of therapy from a licensed trauma counselor to begin. So much was exposed and untangled and sat with and understood, peacefully, for the first time.

I gathered a number of vital tools from those sessions, tools that I have needed for decades. And I used those tools to go to work.

I began to remodel my faith. I began to remodel my relationships–first with each one of my children. Then with my husband. Then with my extended family members. I began to remodel my sense of self, my sense of worth, my sense of joy, my sense of belonging. My sense of goodness and peace and righteousness–what those things really look like.

I finally, just barely, began to taste and see that the Lord is good.

And it has changed so much.

I can’t tell you where this journey or process will end, because I am squarely still in the middle of it. I have a LONG road, or roads, to go. But I am so happy, and so very content, to finally be ON this road.

I have wanted to be on this road for a long, long time. I feel like I have finally, finally launched.

And the blessings of just that have stacked up and overflowed in my heart and my life abundantly more this year than I ever could have hoped.

I am abundantly grateful.

 

Thank you, Lord.

 

Happy New Everything.

–GM

 

It isn’t just Catholics

I cling to Christ.

It really isn’t.

I was moved and grateful for the words of a staunch and devout Catholic friend that I’ve made here, BeautyBeyondBones, in reference to the avalanche of horrifying news that has overtaken the Catholic church in the past few weeks. But I feel very strongly that she, and the rest of us who profess any form of the Christian faith, ought to know by now (or be emphatically reassured if we don’t) that this isn’t, in ANY degree, a problem primarily constrained to the Catholic form of worship.

To that degree, I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity WORLD magazine took this week to prioritize a report on the rampancy of sexual abuse within Protestant circles. WORLD’s reporting on this and related topics have grown increasingly more thorough, and I hope they continue the trend, as there is room for more growth; but this is a solid installment. I am especially appreciative of how Olasky (editor in chief) and his team have called on the expertise of Rachel Denhollander (Christian, lawyer, and first to bring charges against Larry Nassar) and the profoundly RIGHT example of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in handling the discovery of a predator in their midst.

Here is the link to the full WORLD article: Crouching at every door

And here are a few choice quotes:

 

“Although the decentralized nature of Protestantism makes statistics very hard to find, we’ve particularly found opportunities for abuse and cover-ups in three kinds of situations.

“(1) Some congregations have dominating pastors with unchecked authority.

“(2) Evangelical culture has a conference and lecture circuit with celebrities and quasi-celebrities who come to cities for weekend workshops and one-night lectures that provide opportunities to sin and go, leaving behind casualties.

“(3) Megachurch leaders face the ordinary temptations but also extraordinary pressure to cover up problems, knowing that a sniff of scandal will summon packs of critical reporters.”

 

“Mary Lou Davidson Redding, a retired editor of The Upper Room magazine, says she warned conference directors about Hensley for many years. Here’s her account: In the early 1990s at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference at Eastern Carolina State University, Hensley had tried to slip his hands onto her breasts while she was in a dormitory hall, stopping only when someone walked in on them. When Redding later told a friend what happened, that friend rolled her eyes and replied, ‘Oh, is he still doing that? He was supposed to stop.’

“More from Redding: ‘People knew his behavior, and he was still being invited to conferences.’ She decided to warn people about him. When she saw his name on a conference brochure, she called the directors to tell them about her experience with him. No director she warned ever disinvited him: ‘They overwhelmingly said to me they want their conference to be a success, that people are coming because he’s going to be there.'”

 

“The few cases mentioned in this story should highlight the fact that sexual abuse is not just a Catholic problem. It’s also a Protestant problem, and a deeply human one.

“Our investigations show that many churches and ministries have not always done a good job protecting and empowering the victims. As cries of #MeToo reverberate across the nation, so too have stories of #ChurchToo, in which men and women within evangelical churches voice their own tales of long-suppressed guilt, shame, and anguish. They say their trauma isn’t just from the violating act itself: Trauma festered when trusted church authorities failed to believe or protect them, failed to report the crime to legal authorities, failed to change the institutional culture that enables and minimizes the severity of sexual abuse.

“Yet because this issue has become so public, more and more churches are acknowledging the existence and severity of sexual abuse within their communities, as shown in many cases mentioned above. More churches are asking for help to help the vulnerable, so this could be a wake-up call for the Protestant world.”

 

Let it be so.

–GM

 

Achievement Unlocked: First Trimester

It's not always good weather when the stork comes.

Hello, all!

So, there’s a reason I’ve not been around for months. A Very Good Reason. Which is actually a number of very good reasons piled together into one general Good Reason, which can be summed up thusly: I’m pregnant with our third child.

Having just bumped over the end of the first trimester milestone, I now feel this is reasonable to share with the Internet At Large, though most people in our circle of family and friends know by now.

Aside from that announcement, I’ve had no time, energy, motivation, or interest in or for blogging since late June, perhaps (in case you haven’t noticed, ha). I was physically miserable for months: quite literally lying in bed or flopped in a puddle on the couch for the vast majority of hours in a day, barely able to open my eyes at times for the nausea, sickened by just about every smell in the world, and utterly overwhelmed by the task list involved with moving into a much bigger house. Not to mention pretty much incapable of dealing with my two preschoolers for a number of weeks. Friends and family volunteered to come watch them for several hours out of each weekday for a number of weeks; were it not for this, we would not have survived, at least not without toxic dosage levels of TV (I jest, but truly, it would have been horrific).

On top of this I discovered that we had a stomach virus running through the house, which hit me VERY hard and explained a ton of horrible digestive issues… mostly after the fact… and then we got Hand Foot and Mouth Disease for the third time in two years.

We have had, as you might say, a Rough Time.

Starting in about week 12 or so, though, I finally, SUDDENLY began to drastically improve on the physical health front. The nausea wore off quite a bit and my energy levels started to rise again. I was able to take care of the boys myself and handle a few simple house chores on most weekdays. Now that I’m through week 14, I *almost* feel like myself again.

Aside from the drastic mood swings, unpredictable and horrific bouts of depression and severe irritability, perpetual gut-killing anxiety upon waking every morning, constant sentiments of misanthropy directed at myself and my immediate family members, and a soul-crushing reticence to being touched. This following about six weeks of serious depression straight, thanks to the severe health issues and accompanying beliefs of personal utter worthlessness and invalidity.

Aside from that, you know, I’m almost normal.

So, all that to say, this has been (is being) the worst pregnancy I’ve experienced, by far, and yesterday I hit my wit’s end.

I’ve been doing Christian counseling off and on (though it HAS been quite awhile since my last session) for the past several months, and that has been helpful, but it doesn’t really get to the underlying problems I have with trauma and depression and a number of other things and address them. Especially since I know, from the past two pregnancies, that I have at least a tendency to prenatal depression (I tend to get much better after birth but struggle a lot emotionally during pregnancy), I know that given the severity of what I’m encountering this time around, I need some serious, specialized professional help.

So I requested an appointment with a local practice yesterday and hope to hear back from them on Monday. I’m also hoping to connect with some sort of perinatal mental health support group in the area, based on the advice of a friend. And, yes, I’m going to talk to my doctor about medication, which I don’t fundamentally like the idea off, but I have a higher value for doing due diligence and addressing a problem holistically, and I acknowledge that there are many qualified experts out there that know a whole lot more about how to handle this problem than I do, both medically and therapeutically.

So, there you have it: my Life Update of the past few months.

I want to say, too, that I’ve been rather hesitant to say anything on here about the pregnancy because I know several lovely folk here who have struggled with infertility and infant mortality, etc. And I know every birth announcement must, on some level, sting for you; and I don’t want to compound anyone’s pain. I see you and love you, people, and I am sorry for the ache this necessarily causes in your hearts. But I knew it wasn’t something I could fail to bring up for forever… and, if I mentioned anything, I wanted to be frank about how this pregnancy has not been a walk in the park. This just can’t be a “rub my happiness in your face” post because that wouldn’t be at all honest. Yes, I am VERY grateful for this baby; we wanted at least three children and I feel like, Lord willing, we’ll be blessed with a warm bundle soon enough. But this pregnancy has all but totally convinced me that I NEVER want to carry a child again. Ever. So I don’t want anyone to look at me and think, “Oh, lucky her, there’s yet another perfectly blissful expectant mother… it makes me sick!” Because I am so far from anything blissful, content, or happy, it’s wretched. And I know many of you might resent that, too, because dang it, I get to HAVE a BABY–why aren’t I just jumping up and down for joy?!??! Well, I feel sick over that fact every day, too. I hate that I hate pregnancy. I feel like a total traitor of what it means to be a mother on this point. It seems pretty dang ungrateful to me, too, and I feel ashamed.

I’m sorry.

So I wanted you to see me struggle authentically, and not pretend to be anything else. I’m a pretty poor excuse for a mom, and a pregnant mom, at that. But I also hope you’ll see that I’m not content to stay there. It’s not worth it to wallow in physical or mental dysfunction when there’s help available. When there’s a better status quo that can be achieved.

So I will keep you posted on how my pursuit of that goes… and in the meantime, please pray for me. I need it, too.

–GM