Archive for the ‘God’ Category

The Holidays & Depression

Posted: December 23, 2014 in Christmas, Depression, God
Tags: ,

This has beeDay 12n a tough year. Well, actually a tough couple of years. After pushing through two Christmases, I hit this year and asked my husband if I could cancel Christmas. I think he thought I was joking. He gave me a hug because he knows how depressed I am, and has mostly taken over the Christmas duties. We’ve done very little past our advent calendar with daily Bible devotion and the tree is sparsely decorated. I put on the lights and moved a few ornaments, that’s it.

Last year, I baked. I don’t know how I had the motivation, but I did and so there were Christmas treats sent out.

This year, my parents canceled their visit to us (I’ve cried repeatedly about this). I’ve had terrible side effects as we’ve tried to find proper medication (Paxil made me intensely suicidal, to the point hospitalization was whispered around me, thankfully we figured out it was the medication), and so, I’m worn out.

Dealing with the severe depression I do leaves me with very little emotional energy to begin with. To have it sucked out of me… well all I want to do is crawl into bed and wait until spring when at least I can escape with my iPod and a long walk and get some sunshine.

In all of that though, perhaps the part that leaves me the most discouraged is that I want to celebrate Christ. I’ve had Christmases where I feel a little something inside reading about the host of angels filling the sky, singing. I’ve felt deep sadness at the deaths of those that Herod killed because of his pride and fear. I’ve read the story in wonder and in awe.

This year… I don’t even know what to write.

Not even E’s effusive excitement makes me feel anything at all.

From John Piper’s talk on Charles Spurgeon:

“Causeless depression cannot be reasoned with, nor can David’s harp charm it away by sweet discoursings. As well fight with the mist as with this shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness … The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back.”

And I wonder at times why God does not push it back? I know the intellectual answer and my heart hurts all the same.

“Oh look, she’s writing about vaccines again,” they said.

Recently, the FDA announced that it has approved Gardasil 9, a vaccine that protects against nine strains of HPV (the one currently on the schedule protects against four). HPV, Human Papillomavirus to get technical, causes genital warts and is linked to several types of cancer, the most common being cervical cancer. It is, frankly, a pretty awesome vaccine. In the words of my doctor, “It prevents cancer!”

Lies

via RtAVM

That being said, the HPV vaccine has been a hard sell to parents. There are a number of theories why and most come down to a parental reluctance to deal with their children and sexuality. HPV is sexually transmitted and it’s estimated that most will be exposed at some point in their lives. Because of the nature of the vaccine, it’s a popular one for vaccine deniers to lampoon through false rumors and misinformation. Couple that with parental fears and Facebook, and it starts to look like an uphill battle.

So, for the sake of brevity, let me dispel some of that misinformation – No, Diane Harper was not a lead researcher and no she didn’t say what you think she said. Also, no, the HPV vaccine isn’t killing anyone, it’s actually an incredibly safe vaccine. And finally, no, it’s not making kids more promiscuous.

Putting aside the blatant misinformation passed around, if I can even get someone to admit that it’s misinformation, the most common argument I hear from parents is either, “I’m going to teach them safe sex” (which doesn’t really protect them) or, “We believe that sex is for marriage and so if our kid isn’t having sex until marriage, they don’t need this vaccine.”

I’m theologically conservative, which probably doesn’t mean what most of you think it means, but for this particular post, it does mean that I believe that sex is for marriage. It’s part of a greater system of belief so if you think that’s absurd, that’s fine, move along because I’m not talking to you (or stay and figure out how to talk with your conservative friend(s)). My hope, in writing this post, is to explain why I intend to vaccinate my children per the CDC schedule and why I think it’s important that others who believe like me do so as well.

Here are the reasons I plan on vaccinating my kids (currently I only have boys):

1. Not all sex is consensual.

If I had a single silver bullet to the “no sex before marriage” it’s this one. Man or woman, rape and sexual assault happen. I’ll go ahead and pre-empt this thought that might be half-forming in some people’s minds – would you tell your son or daughter that they were “asking” for it if they got raped, no matter the circumstances? Rape is a horrendous act. One with many lasting consequences, some longer than others. HPV can cause cancer in both men and women and it usually happens years later. If I can protect my child against one more painful experience with a simple, safe series of shots that I don’t even have to pay for, count me in.

2. Children make poor choices.

Maybe you’re the rare bird that didn’t make a single bad choice, like ever, and certainly didn’t struggle in waiting until marriage for sex. Newsflash, the rest of us were very eager to get married because waiting is hard even if you really, really, really believe it. Some wait and are successful. Others slip up. Are abnormal pap smears, discomfort from genital warts, or death from cancer all something you would wish on a child because of a bad choice? Call me crazy if you will, but I think cancer is a little over the top when it comes to punishment for slipping up.

3. Children don’t always follow their parents.

I hate this one. The idea that my children might reject what I believe is scary. I don’t believe what I do just because I’m trying to be cool (kickin’ it Puritan style). What I believe is vital to who I am and my life. I pray for my children. I love them. I want them to believe.

I also know I can’t make them believe. God regenerates the heart, not me. Homeschooling them, taking them to church, family Bible studies… these don’t change hearts. Certainly I pray that God will honor the work and love I have poured into them and at the same time, I’m not God.

So, if they choose a different path, I want them protected. I want there to be as much time as possible for God to work in them. I don’t want them passing along something to their future spouse. I don’t want them getting sick themselves.

I could never say to my child, “Good riddance, you totally deserve the agony you’re going through right now.” I’m pretty sure most of the people I know would say the same.

4. I know one shot doesn’t undo years of discipleship and training.

Maybe this shot daunts some parents because what do we say? I plan on being honest. I still have a few years to work it out and I also know that I have a thoughtful kid. I’m raising my children in a world that doesn’t believe like we do, that things happen sometimes that we can’t control, that this is one more way for me to protect him.

That being said, sometimes we don’t give ourselves or our kids enough credit. We live with all sorts of experiences and beliefs that on the surface look contradictory, but when we dig down are connected together in a way that is incredibly complex. Part of growing up is realizing that not everything is black and white and learning how to navigate the gray. Our kids are often more intuitive than we realize.

5. You don’t know what their future spouse has gone through.

I don’t know the road my children’s spouses will walk. Maybe they grew up believing the same things I teach my children. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe their parents read one too many Facebook posts and didn’t vaccinate them against HPV. Maybe my child goes wayward and then marries someone who didn’t go wayward. Just like what I wrote above – I don’t want anyone getting sick, my child or his future wife.

6. I’ve seen what cervical cancer can do.

I won’t elaborate on this because it still hurts my heart. There is nothing like watching a friend die. I’ll be honest, if my head wasn’t in this, having seen the agony firsthand, my heart jumped in with both feet. I never want to see this happen to my children or their spouses.

So here I am at the end.

Maybe at this point you think I’m a liberal heathen (even though I said that I thought sex was for marriage and I think the Reformation is awesome and most of my liberal friends try to pretend I don’t believe half of what I do). Or maybe you sat through my post for some reason but still think I’m just a vaccine nut (or a religious one; Calvinists are a little crazy, I won’t lie). Maybe, though, you still have doubts. If it’s the last one on that list, I’m happy to answer questions, soothe fears, assuage doubts. I care about kids. All kids. Including yours :)

 

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of dealing with depression, particularly chronic depression, is seeking treatment.

There’s a stigma with mental illness and that stigma gets multiplied and added to any conventional treatment. Antidepressants are derided, whether it be through hushed whispers about ‘happy pills’ or those who have never faced true darkness simply hand waving the depression away. “If only she would eat a paleo diet and run twenty miles a day…” It’s an exaggeration, and yet with depression, that’s exactly what every dietary/exercise suggestion sounds like.

The implication, whether the person realizes it or not, is that it’s my fault somehow. I’m not strong enough, smart enough, fast enough, positive enough, optimistic enough, committed to my health enough. I’m not enough. I’m a failure. I’m broken because I broke myself somehow. I am unworthy. I am small. I am weak. I need medication. I can’t find medication.

Something about me is broken and it’s my fault.

As with anything there’s a kernel of truth. I live in a fallen world with sin and we’re all broken on some level, just my brokenness shows up in the form of an impossible darkness.

And from there I get a lot of “You just need to have faith in Jesus.” I used to wonder what that meant because the truth is, it’s my faith that gets me up in the morning and gets me to take care of my children. So far God has done nothing about this weight on my shoulders and I honestly don’t know if he will. In America we like to think all our problems can be solved because we can get a cheeseburger down the road or drive to Whole Foods and buy organic kale and vaccines work so well we think they must not have worked at all.

11 19 11_1540God doesn’t work like that, I say. No one listens. Because the idea that one might have to live with a wound that hurts for the rest of one’s life is too much to bear.

I know because I bear it and there are many moments I don’t know if I will make it to the next one.

It’s a lonely road to commit oneself to the path I’ve chosen. Naturopaths are swindlers and alternative medicine is a scam 99% of the time. Pharmaceutical companies aren’t altruistic, so I find good doctors, the ones that want to help. That doesn’t stop people from suggesting supplements and acupuncture which I smile graciously and don’t bother with. It’s too easy to get sucked into a world where my idol is health. I’ve made a decision as to what I will try and what I won’t try and it’s based on my faith and what I believe about God and salvation. It’s more complicated than I can explain on a blog post and more personal than I would want to share in public anyway.

I’m very tired these days. Maybe it’s the winter. Maybe it’s one more medication that hasn’t worked but has given me frustrating side effects. Maybe it’s a depression that dogs my every step and has haunted me since I was a child.

Maybe it’s the loneliness of realizing that no matter how much help I ask for, it’ll never be enough because no one else can fight my demons.

Today was the first day of National Novel Writing Month. It’s my third time doing it.

All in all, I’m off to a decent start. My goal for the weekend is 5k and I’m at 2100 words. Not too shabby and yet a long way from 50k. I’ve done it before (twice) and I have no reason to think I can’t get there again barring unforeseen events like maybe aliens (aliens would be a good excuse not to finish right?).

For me, writing 50k in a month is what I imagine it’s like to run a marathon. Sitting down and writing this much requires dedication. I know from experience that other people look at bit askance at me when I talk about writing a novel – either because it seems like I’m insane (possibly) or because they think, “If you’re not published, who cares?”

Or maybe that’s just my own inner critic (she’s loud).

National Novel Writing Month is therapeutic for me. My depression really starts to kick into high gear as the days get shorter and darker and that’s saying something given that if people knew my thoughts I’m pretty sure most would want to hospitalize me or at least remove all the sharp objects from my house (no point in being shy about it – this is just a fact of living with the type of depression I have). I have so many days where I can’t get out of bed. So many days when I feel like I’m a failure at life even if all the facts point to something different.

Writing 50k in a month is my way of looking my depression straight in the eyes and saying, “Not today.” It’s a goal that gets me up and gets me doing something that feels like an accomplishment for me.

I felt that today. When I punched in my first word count update, I felt my depression quiet a little bit. I heard my inner critic snort and start rifling around for the really good insults.

I’m going to get to 50k because I like to win and I like to be right. And writing 50k is me getting sassy. It’s me fighting back.

Maybe I’ll write a third novel that I don’t care to revise and publish. Or maybe I will. I don’t know but that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m not doing this for anyone except me.

But… I’m writing about it because it is a journey. Because just like I can’t fight my depression alone, I can’t reach 50k alone. I want encouragement, I want shouts of support, I want other voices telling me I can do this and to understand why I’m doing it.

God designed me with depression and I don’t know why. At the same time, He also made me incredibly stubborn. It drives everyone crazy but it gets me out of bed. It gets me fighting even after I think I’ve got nothing left to fight with.

And it’ll get me to 50k.

Well. Here’s hoping anyway :)

I’m a vaccine advocate. If you know me on Facebook, you’re aware of my myriad of posts encouraging people to go get their flu shots (seriously, go get it). What most people don’t know is why I’m a vaccine advocate. Why do I take every single opportunity to yammer on about polio and measles and the flu shot?

It started with Brady. I was pregnant with J and I came across this little baby’s story. I broke down and cried; I sobbed. My heart hurt in one of the worst ways, but I know it was nothing compared to how Brady’s mother felt. That pain started me onto this journey from being a parent who vaccinates to a pro-vaccine parent.

I started reading. Then I got angry.

See, pertussis has a vaccine. It’s not a perfect vaccine. It’s not the best vaccine, but it’s what we have and people are refusing to vaccinate their kids or themselves. Vaccines have done such a fantastic job that first world mothers are going “Well, really, was measles so bad?” and “What about all the toxins?” without understanding half of what they’re saying because they’re educated and know more than their doctor with a medical degree and their “thousands of hours of research” on Google is somehow equivalent to the research done in labs by scientists (who, again, have actual degrees).

If you didn’t pick up on my tone, I’m still angry two years later.

My anger, my frustration, has taken a new form, however. I’m a pastor’s wife. I have held the hand of the broken, the sick, and the dying. I have prayed with them. I have wept with them.

So imagine my frustration – my fury – when I found out people who call themselves Christians weren’t vaccinating. I couldn’t understand it, as many of them said they were pro-life. Pro-life. Pro-life and yet they didn’t see the point in a vaccine that would have most likely saved little Brady’s life. Pro-life and they refuse to vaccinate against a disease that can kill a child in its mother’s womb. Pro-life and they refused to get shots that would protect the weakest among us.

Why, I wondered, why would they refuse?

That’s when I put the pieces together. The anti-vaccine movement is relatively evenly split between liberals and conservatives and spans all faiths and even attracts those who are non-religious.

The people who are anti-vaccine are generally in love with all things “natural” and organic. They worship nature. I’ve listened as Christians make the argument that God made our bodies a certain way, totally skipping over the parts of the Bible where we’re cursed. In fact, the Bible does not speak highly of “natural” anything. At best, it’s neutral and at worst, it’s damned to hell.

Here are the facts – as Christians we have a moral duty to vaccinate. The Bible tells us to care for our neighbors, for widows, for orphans, for the lowly and the broken. If you call yourself a Christian, you have an obligation to get immunized if you are medically able.

If you are pro-life, secular or religious, if you want to be consistent, then you need to vaccinate.

If you care about anyone other than yourself – regardless of beliefs – then you need to vaccinate.

I happen to be a pro-life Christian and I can’t reconcile worship at the altar of “all natural”* with my faith. So if you can and you claim to be like me, then you need to take another look at that Bible. And if you do vaccinate, please, please don’t be silent. For the sake of the babies, the immuno-compromised, for the sake of your neighbors – love them in this way. Love them with life.

Voices for Vaccines

*I’m not saying we avoid things that say natural or that we shouldn’t be “crunchy” at all, there are benefits to certain things that are considered “hippy” or “crunchy”, but when one chooses “all natural” at the expense of truth, that’s when it’s become “worship” in my book.

God’s Echoes in Parenting

Posted: October 11, 2013 in God, Parenting

I love to spoil my kids. Well, okay, I love to spoil E. JJ is only three months so really the only thing I can give him is as much boob-time as he wants (we joke that I’m Big Milk Thing a la Doctor Who). I’m constantly trying to find inexpensive ways to shower E with good things, but I also try to find ways to expand his experiences. For example, November is National Novel Writing Month and my kid adores stories. He puts together his own Star Wars-Angry Birds-Lego LotR-Hero Factory-Avengers fanfiction and acts it out with his figurines and some old tissue boxes. So for the month of November, I’m going to help him write a story instead of working on regular, boring, handwriting exercises. It’ll be fun!

Except, somehow, I suspect he’s not going to see it as fun. Y’know, because, it takes workKiddos

I’ve been writing stories since I was his age and so I know the thrill of having my words on paper, having planned them, having crafted them, and then getting to share them. He doesn’t though and so to some extent, I’m having to teach him to have faith that I see a world of joy and excitement for him, but the journey is going to be tougher than he wants it to be.

It makes me think of Christ who promises a world of eternal joy and excitement everlasting, but the journey is tougher and it requires a lot of faith. There are days, oh so many of them, where I lament that it’s too hard, and sometimes it really is too hard and all I can do is cry, but I have to trust that has difficult as the journey is, and despite the many times I want to quit, there is something worthwhile on the other side. It’s hard to catch a vision of Heaven on this side with sin clouding every step. Sort of like it’s hard for E to catch a vision of a lifetime of stories when his little hand gets tired.

Seeing God as Father has become easier since becoming a parent. Just has He reverberates His promises through marriage, I hear His echoes as I try, often weakly and with many faults, to train my little ones in the way they should go.