A boring post about life

Alright, people.  It's time to get real.

I have so many thoughts in my head and I want to blog so so badly.  But let me admit why the posts have been SO lacking lately.  It is a dumb reason, but it is because I ALWAYS want my blog photos to be edited well and I don't have time for that lately.  I know.  It would be doing me some good to write my thoughts here and there, and maybe I will encourage others, but I haven't because I keep starting to edit family photos and then getting work that needs to come first.  It is a huge blessing, but also a curse as a photographer.  Once your business is out there, you feel weird when you just throw photos up, at least in my experience.  So this post won't have photos, because time is not my friend.  That is all.  End silly confession.

Anyway, life is good, but so so busy.  And I am so so tired.  I am having a blast this fall.  I love the start of new activities: MOPS, Bible study, little pre-school lessons here and there, Lorelei's ballet class and speech class (oh my word, is she a cute ballerina!)  And then there are tons of meetings and playdates and things that make my laundry pile grow the size of Everest.  It never ends.

And then there is work.  Here, you ready for this awesome God story?  I have SO much more work this year, and it is AWESOME!  I have been working for this lovely online writing class for the past 5+ years now (Wow!  So many years!) and as the years have gone by, I keep taking on fewer and fewer students due to the many outside commitments I have (mainly the ones with two legs and mouths to feed).  But after our sewage backup that we are still having financial struggle from, I decided that maybe I needed to open myself up to more students and see what happened.  And as of August, I had seven.  Seven students.  That is fewer than any other year.  But you know, I was OK with it.  Maybe God had something bigger for me.  Maybe He knew I would not be able to handle a large student load. Maybe my photography business needed my attention.  I focused on those things, and just let that small student load go, giving it to God.  And then, one week before school started, my boss called me saying that one of her teachers had stepped down, and would I like another class.  As in a WHOLE other class.  So now my student load has doubled, and so has my pay, but also so has my workload.  And I am praising God for His provision through it.

I am really enjoying my class this year, and have learned some time management things.  I have a boss who loves the Lord and my students and me, and I feel like I can be myself with her.  And my kind husband let me hire a mother's helper one afternoon a week  which helps immensely with the workload.  Seriously.  I adore her and so do my kids.  But with all of this extra work also comes the responsibility to take care of all my other commitments around the work.  I need to make good choices.  I need to make my home, and my workspace, not a stressful place, which means trying to clean it as best as I can.  I have been trying to make my environment more worshipful, with more playlists of Worship music and more God talks with the kids.  And I have been trying to go to bed earlier, which is a challenge in and of itself, because I have been struggling with extreme fatigue lately.

I guess that is the other big thing lately.  I am so very tired of being tired.  I know I know…young moms are always tired.  But this is different.  I have been feeling nauseously and debilitatingly tired for the past few months now.  Even if I get a good night's sleep.  Even if I don't have as much going on.  I always want to nap or I am dysfunctional.  So while I am trying to examine my heart for laziness and lack of motivation (which is definitely there), I am also trying to pursue some physical solutions.  I tried going gluten free for 2 months, but that gave 0 changes, so I have backed off that until I talk to a doctor some more.  I am going to a doctor tomorrow to get the ball rolling with blood tests and see if I have a thyroid problem or am anemic or have a sleep disorder.  I know some of this battle is spiritual, but I also think it is physical, and I want to take better care of my body.  And I want to be able to enjoy my days with my kids more!

My kids have been awesome.  They are just learning so many things and I love to watch them grow.  Asher is learning all about animals and sounds, and always wants me to go on google images to look them up.  Lorelei is learning a lot of Bible and is great at quoting Bible verses.  Asher is getting into tools and trucks, and Lorelei is loving ballet and art.  And they love playing with each other so very much.  I have a post in progress right now about their special sibling relationship, but I need to finish he photos ;-).

Anyway, all this is to say that I hope to write more, even if I don't have all the illustrations I want.  I am so blessed and grateful, and hopeful that God is teaching me something through this tired season.  If you are still with me, thanks!

oh wait, there's one.  guess I couldn't resist.


On Being Anxious

Today is not a good day.

I don't mean in the "everything is a good and perfect gift," way.  I know every day of life is a good gift from God and today is no exception.  But to me, today is not a good one.  Because I suffer from anxiety and depression.  And today is a bad day for that.

I have been pretty open about my struggle with this for a while, though maybe not writing about it specifically on my blog.  And maybe now, right in the thick of it, is a good time to.  My friend Stephen wrote a great post about mental illness yesterday and maybe I am spurred on by that.  (Yes, I said mental illness.  Despite the ridiculous stigma people STILL bring to that word, I have a mental illness.  It's ok.)  Anyway, after several months of reprieve, I have been having a rough month or so, alternating between some depression and some anxiety symptoms, and today I woke up with it again.  And really? It sucks.

Anxiety is an interesting feeling.  It can be a useful one.  Anxiety can reveal sin in the heart.  It can show me when I am not trusting God.  Sometimes it is just a natural reaction to a stressful situation.  I remember in college being anxious before tests because I wanted to do well.  I was anxious at times during pregnancy because I wanted my babies to be OK and had little control over them.  In those cases, it was good to just acknowledge the anxiety, do the best I could with the situation, and trust God with the rest.  I know that is easier said than done, but it is far less vague and complex with what I am feeling now.

I woke up this morning feeling like I had rested poorly, even though I slept soundly.  I had (and still have) a sick and guilty feeling surrounding my heart, feeling like it is being squeezed ever so slightly but firmly.  My throat feels a little tight, like there is the thinnest veil making it just the tiniest bit harder to breathe (but not enough that I am short of breath or anything), and my neck feels warm like gentle flames are licking at it.  And I am SO.TIRED.  From the moment I woke up this morning, all I wanted to do was go to sleep.  I think in part it is because fatigue is a common symptom of this for me, and also because when I am asleep, I feel less anxious.  The sleep is restless and without peace, but I am not so acutely feeling this unrest in my heart.

When I have days like this, sometimes the feeling just lingers in me all day, but I can still function pretty normally.  I can go about my day like nothing is "wrong" (because really, nothing is wrong), and then I am ready for bed at night.  But days like today, days I have been having more frequently this month, it is physically debilitating.  I feel like I can't function like a normal person.  I can barely keep my eyes open.  The thought of dressing my kids and myself and going to the Y to take a Zumba class feels like it may as well be flying to the moon or climbing Everest.  Heck, going to the kitchen to fix breakfast feels like it should be a 5K.  And there is no.apparent.reason.  I have NO idea where this came from.  I am taking my medicine, I go to therapy, I am relatively stress-free circumstantially, I am happy…and yet this anxiety is like a sickness through my body.  It is like my emotional immune system crashed and I just need to let it do its thing so I can pull it together…but life goes on, and I just have to deal.

On days like today, I have low expectations.  We hang out in our pajamas.  We watch too much t.v.  If someone else is around to play with the kiddos, I welcome it.  If not, we lay low and stay home.  We hang out in the playroom so I can take a rest while they play next to me, and I let my daughter color up and down my legs with washable markers because it lets me lie down.  I count the hours until nap time, and then the hours until daddy comes home.  Yes, I still feed them and bathe them and play with them and discipline them.  There is no neglect.  But it is very much a "going through the motions" day.  And maybe we will have another one soon, but they will be over in a little while.

I have been experiencing days like this for years and years, often more spaced out, but sometimes far FAR worse.  This is a trip to Florida compared to the Post Partum Depression days, which I guess I can write about another time.  I don't understand it.  I don't know why I have them, other than the fact that we live in a sinful world and we are faced with many ailments as a result.   But the thing is, even though I hate depression and anxiety, and would get rid of it if I could, I fully understand that God uses this for His glory.  And if I am going to be afflicted in this way, then I want to be used for God.

I read a quote on my friends' Ian and Larissa's blog that really spoke to me today.
O that we thus walked more in the footsteps of our Lord, cheerfully enduring trial for his sake, promptly and willingly putting away the thought of self and comfort when it would interfere with our finishing the work which he has given us to do. Great grace is needed, but great grace is provided. -Charles Spurgeon, emphasis mine.
Now I definitely don't always (or often) endure this trial "cheerfully," and definitely still can be selfish through it, but I have been able to see it more and more as a work of the Lord in my life.  God has refined me in amazing ways through this struggle.  I have been able to experience the word of God and the prayers or the saints as healing balm in the midst of turmoil.  I have been able to empathize with and encourage others whom I otherwise would not be able to relate to.  I have have been met in a low place, like King David, and felt God speak gently to my anxious heart.  I have seen the joy of getting through  low time.  I will see that again.

Dealing with anxiety and depression requires great grace.  It takes grace to get through the day, to take care of my kids, to not be a selfish wretch as I deal with a very personal struggle.  But we have a great God, and He provides that great grace.

So, I guess the last thing I want to say is don't worry about me.  I am OK.  I have coping mechanisms in place.  I can still take care of my family and go through life.  I have an awesome support system, a husband who understands mental illness for what it is, a church that is not judgmental toward afflictions like this, and friends who have walked this themselves and will continue to walk it with me.  I have beautiful children that give me great joy even in the middle of this.  I have a counselor who loves the Lord and medication that I praise Jesus for.  And I have great grace.  That is enough.

And even as I write this, the anxiety lessons.  Praise the Lord.


Our Family in the Mountains

Well, I am back.

I know, I know.  That was a month long blogging break.  For shame.  But my July was CRAZY and I updated my photography blog quite a bit with the many photoshoots I was blessed with this summer.  And I am so excited that I have many more to come!

July was an awesome month and I have so many posts to blog, but I am also overwhelmed by all of them.  For example, we just got back from a 10 day vacation to the mountains, and I have 500 photos to edit (this is AFTER deleting about 2/3 of the photos), and that will be at least one or two wonderful posts of sharing memories.  We have had so many special summer moments- family in town, birthday parties, catching lightning bugs.  And I also got to take a special trip out to Pittsburgh to take photos with a dear friend/photographer.  So stay tuned for that :-).  But now, as I stare at a Lightroom file that has WAY too many photos for my little Mac, I keep coming back to what stands out the most this summer: our little family, and how God has blessed us.

We spent the past ten days surrounded by God's beauty.  Mountains, wildlife, gorgeous sunsets, clouds that looked unreal.  We had to only pull up our window blinds to see a picture as beautiful as anything I have seen in a book.  And even more beautiful against this backdrop were the smiles of my husband and children as we tried to illustrate our love during this blessed pause in our life.

We are basically a bunch of goofballs who love to laugh and have fun with each other.  Our hair is normally a mess, our clothes are wrinkled, and our faces have chocolate on them, but we love our life together!

It was so wonderful seeing my children's personalities in a new light this week.  They are both so different and lovely, and they love each other so much.  And since I am normally the one behind the camera, I made a point to get photos with each of them.

This girl is fire and sweetness all rolled into one package.  She challenges me almost every moment of every day, and then turns around and blesses my socks off a moment later.  One minute, she is questioning everything I say, and often doing the opposite of what I want, and the next she is throwing her arms around me and telling me she loves me for no apparent reason, and is showing deep concern for the wellbeing of others.  She is becoming smarter every day and is more and more fun (or difficult) to talk to.  She is my buddy and my sweet sweet girl.

And this dear boy.  What a sweet blessing he is.  I still chuckle at myself when I think of how nervous I was to have a son; I am so glad God knew better than I.  I adore this little man so very much.  He is pure simple joy and sereneness.  I kiss his rosy cheeks about a thousand and one times a day and I love how his little body fits on my lap.  His sweet voice is precious music and his blonde hair melts me.  I love that sometimes, he could be having the time of his life but his face is as serious as can be, and then other times, he is running around like a crazy kid laughing and screaming.  He is content to simply throw rocks in the stream or sit by the pool one minute, and then the next he is throwing balls and driving trucks all over.  He is so so special.  Though he was quite the cranky pants for this shoot.

And this man.  My love.  My partner in this crazy life of ours.  My husband is such a gift from God and our marriage is a blessing.  But you know, marriage is hard work, because it involves two sinners learning to love each other as Christ would.  We don't come by that skill too naturally, and it is often hard to see what that looks like.  Lifeworkkidshobbiesfriendsfamilymarriage can make the blessing part hard to pay attention to.  And I think a lot of people just accept the fact that marriage is hard and just try to get by and make it through.  But I am blessed to have a husband how knows how to work hard at marriage and Christlikeness.  He is humble and always learning.  And so am I.  He makes me want to be a better person.  And sometimes, in the midst of the hard work of being young married people in their twenties with two young kiddos, we get a break in some beautiful mountains to stop and say "Oh hey!  I love you a lot."  And I do.

So, as we dive into another month of a busy summer, and before I inundate this blog with posts filled with activities, I am grateful to pause and think of a beautiful, sun-covered mountain where I ran in the grass with an amazing girl who is my joy, and a sweet boy who I adore, and a man who I gave my heart to, years ago and every day.  And I thank that great God who made those mountains for giving them to me.


A Family Celebration

June 20, 2013.  The night was perfect.  The air was just warm enough to enjoy the outdoor setup, but cool enough to be comfortable.  The sky was clear.  We drove down a long driveway through woods and farm to a 200 year old stone house.  Lights were hung above a beautifully set rustic table out on a quaint patio.  Inside the house, a small team of talented people stirred sauces, plated appetizers, and pulled bread out of the oven.  Eleven people got out of three cars to enjoy the evening before us, bonded as family to the woman who was the center of the equation.  My Grandmother Ethel Mitchell, turning 90 next month.  

These photos could not easily capture the love that filled that night, as it was as big as the sky.  We could not bottle each laugh or joyful tear, but here is a look at a night that will be forever impressed in our hearts.  
(the amazing master chef.)

The food and the ambiance were both incredible.  Seriously, this is some of the best food I have ever tasted, lovingly and skillfully prepared by a master chef who is a rare talent and a wonderful friend.  But even if the meal and venue had been less than amazing, the night was still made by the people there.  Besides my own parents, siblings, and husband, my aunt, uncle, and two cousins traveled from Florida to celebrate my grandmother.  It was so wonderful to have them there!

I even passed around the camera so I could be in some photos too :-)
(These four crazy heads will be on my photo blog soon!)

My grandmother has four children (the younger two were present with their spouses), eight grandchildren (three of whom have spouses), and six great grand children.  What a blessed and loved woman she is!  We missed having all of our family with us, but were so grateful for the ones that were there.

We loved sitting around the table together, eating, drinking, talking, and taking in the beauty of the farm around us.
(our amazing hostess with the guest of honor)

As night fell, there was more music, a little dancing, a little exploring, and a lot more laughing…

And we ended with some beautiful (and incredibly delicious) cake, and singing our well wishes to the woman who made this family possible.

Happy birthday, Grandma!  We love you!