One year out

One year.  This Friday (Seva’s birthday, ironically) marks one year since she and I left Azerbaijan.  Jason and the big kids left one month later.  So much was a mess at that time – her skin (which is still a daily battle), my hormones, and all of our emotions.

I’ve been trying to determine over the last several weeks why I’ve felt so down.  We’re back in the U.S…isn’t that what I wanted?  We got to see the leaves change varying colors after missing it the last two falls…and though beautiful…there was still a deep void.  Should I adjust my Zoloft?  Maybe, but probably not.  Breastfeeding hormones?  Maybe.  PMS?  Always a contributor.  Exhaustion?  Of course – but what parent isn’t exhausted??  Ha.

Then last week while I was driving alone I realized, as I saw the last of the colorful leaves falling, I was still grieving.  November has always been a somewhat difficult month – remembering two miscarriages that happened the week before Thanksgiving several years apart.  But now there is more.  November was the time I failed at overseas living a second time.  Not only failed as a missionary (I had done that long ago), but failed as a Christian.  November marks the time when fear took over and I threw in the towel.  I fully acknowledged that faith had left my soul, and I had no confidence in God being in control, I needed to leave.  I was terrified that if I gave birth there my baby would die.  Because God is not always good.  And I was tired of seeing my three year old itch non-stop and hate being in her own skin.  Skin that I gave her.  Skin that my body and my husband made, or God made, either way the feelings were/are negative.

After my last post, I received a few messages from people inquiring what I meant by spiritual abuse.  Once again, I am horrible at responding (I’m sorry)…mostly because re-surfacing the wounds are too painful, so I shove them down further and further hoping that one day I will forget.  Forget the way my godly leaders made me feel.  The other day I saw the word “crisis” written in a letter to my husband from someone above him in ministry.  I instantly had a knee-jerk reaction, heart racing, hearing the heavy accented voice in my head from years back… “You sure do have a lot of crises out there.”

Yes.  As a twenty-something American mom of a two and three and a half year old living out in the village with no mom friends who spoke English we had some crises.  Every time my kids were sick I was terrified.  Sure, I was being ridiculous.  Any other Christian mom would have handled it just fine.  God brought you there, of course He will keep you safe.  And if your kids get a mysterious village illness and don’t make it – it’s all for the gospel – it’s all worth it.  And by the way, put your kids in child care all day so you can perfect the language and check all the boxes on the “perfect organized missionary” list, ok?  You should know how to make the local dishes by now.  You should know the ins and outs of the bazaar by now.  You should be at this spot on the cultural adaptation curve.  You should be managing your time better.  It’s a shame that your husband has to help with the dishes because you don’t have it all together.

Oh, it was all a damn shame to them.  The godly leaders (that our former church always praised) didn’t approve of me from the start, and I get it.  I don’t have the best filter and I say things that make people uncomfortable.  But if I were to list all the hurtful things they said to me, and about me, this blog would be too long to read.  And as a young woman who looked up to them, I interpreted their words as words from God, because clearly they were really close to Him.  As the wounds got deeper and affected my daily mindset, we still “just didn’t get it” and all problems were clearly with me.  It didn’t matter that I had a heart for women in that country, I didn’t have my $hit together, and that affected the team and ultimately the leader’s success.

One would think that after a three year hiatus, returning again in the absence of those leaders would be no problem.  After all, we won’t live in the village this time.  We will have community with other English speaking families.  We will have access to more “comforts.”  We can do this if we just try again.  Jason will thrive, I will exist day to day.

But it was too late. My faith had dwindled, and the fear became too much.  I believed that if there was a God I was afraid of Him, and He was through with me so He would let anything happen.  The more I read of the Bible the more upset I became, so I had to put it away.  A Christian family living in a Muslim country and the wife has to hide her Bible because the contents are too disturbing, great.  There were so many days I was hanging the laundry out on the balcony and I imagined that if I would just accidentally fall over this could all be over-with…my husband could get one of those amazing faithful Christian wives and everyone would be happy and fulfill their calling.

One year.  One year of grieving the loss of a relationship with my Savior.  Though truthfully it had been longer.  “You just need to come back to Jesus,” those with good intentions say.  Oh, if only.  I have seen the behind-the-scenes strategies of “Don’t follow your heart, follow this model” for winning the lost to Christ, both during college and as a career.  The emptiness and loneliness started so long ago that it has taken over my heart.

I think that when expats return to their home country they have these visions of good times with old friends, re-connecting with old relationships and picking up where you left off.  After our first return this was the case, but after the second return my identity was too changed for old relationships to resume.  Loneliness follows me everywhere, and when you go through a faith shift you lose community.  I have accepted the words that those leaders spoke to me long ago, that I “just don’t understand how I make people feel”, and that explains my lack of relationship.

Never would I have imagined that I’d be at this point.  No one ever hopes that their spiritual life will go from healthy and thriving to “gone.”  I carry the guilt everywhere, and hope that my kids will have a good life in spite of the 10 moves they’ve had.  The baby has no concept of where we lived before he was here, and has been spared from seeing his mom have panic attacks about x,y, and z overseas.  But now he is stuck with a faith-less mom.  He will know that there is more to this world than white picket fences and VBS with treats because the kids will tell him stories of Azerbaijan, for that I am thankful.

One year out.  My schedule is full with work and helping others, because I don’t ever want to be a burden again.  I take each day as it comes and struggle to make concrete plans.  I went to counseling for a time, but life is currently too busy and during this season the wounds are too painful.

Yesterday I went to an Azeri friend’s house to celebrate her birthday.  It was a good time of mom community, and I empathized with the ladies struggling with our language.  I hope that I can love the immigrants (legal or otherwise) that are here, in the same way that local Azerbaijanis and other expats loved and accepted me.  I hope that I can be Christ to them, even though this whole Christianity thing has brought be to the lowest point in my life.  Because Jesus was a pretty great guy, who didn’t exclude people because they didn’t have their $hit together.  In fact, I think it was the perfectly religious people he had issues with.  He came for the sick, not the healthy.  And boy are we all sick.

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Last fall, having “my drink” there.   A gift from another expat friend…good memories of bonding with expats over coffee.

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This fall, having “their drink” here.  New memories of bonding with foreigners here.  Life is a paradox. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Seven months out

It’s been more than half a year since we moved back to the U.S.

A few weeks ago, on the kid’s last day of school, our oldest said: “Mom, it’s the end of the school year – where are we moving to next?” Sigh.

I’ve lost track of how many different homes we’ve had along the way…maybe 10-12?  Somewhere in there.

The girls have adjusted relatively well to being back.  Seva cycles through phobias but her eczema is so much better.  Vera has tics that come and go, and vary in frequency and intensity, but we know these tics are associated with her nerves and stressors and they eventually calm down.  She has improved so much with her reading, and for that we are thankful.

Jonah has had a more difficult time, he misses his friends in Azerbaijan and buries his feelings by getting absorbed in other things.  It makes me sad for his heart.  I feel guilty more days than not, but I am trying to choose to look at our last several months in Azerbaijan as a gift – considering I wasn’t quite mentally/emotionally stable enough to return.  He is making new friends, thankfully.

The kids have picked up all kinds of lovely inappropriate words and ideas from being back in public school again…but it is what it is and we’re all doing our best to adapt and cope. I’m trying to teach them we don’t say things like “scare the hell out of Coen” etc. 😮

Jason and I also have our ups and downs.

It’s a process.

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A few months ago my lovely cousin offered to pay for me to see a counselor.  Oh, I need it?  Haha.

After some procrastination, we finally scheduled the first appointment.  Then, a baby wanted to be born on that day (not mine, a client’s 🙂 ) so my husband went – kids in tow.

He said it went really well, and that I would like her a lot.

The next day, the pastor from that church offered (for the church) to pay for my first 10 sessions.  Guess I really needed it? 😉  It’s ok, I know.

During our first visit, she asked if I “felt the freedom to end up wherever I end up on this spiritual journey.”  I said I did not, but I so long to.

We have met several times, and it has been really good.  She too lived overseas for a time, and has experienced a lot outside of our country.  It has been good to process with someone who understands.  There have been tears, to say the least.

Without sharing too much detail (as I tend to do), perhaps the most meaningful thing so far has been the acknowledgement of events that happened years ago as spiritual abuse.  Unresolved events that caused deep hurt have fed into my {anger} issues with Christianity.  And just as we wouldn’t expect someone who had been physically or sexually abused to return to that same relationship, I can’t just return to the source of my wounds.

And so.  The journey continues, life goes on each day and I am hoping for peace.  Our family takes each day at a time – just like every other family.  Jason takes the kids to church, and I stay home to rest and think.  I try to pray, but since I don’t know if I’m being heard – it’s hard.  And it’s lonely.

Thankfully, we still love people and we miss a lot of you, so if you’re an old friend and want to meet for coffee Jason or I would enjoy that.  We know we’re “different” now and life is hectic for everyone, but life is also short and YOLO. Thanks for reading – ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On Postpartum Depression

Pregnancy is wonderful and difficult.  There is no need to list the reasons why – most women talk about it so openly.  The joy of baby kicks and a growing belly, the pain of aching muscles and lack of comfortable sleep.  The excitement grows each week that passes by – trading nausea for leaky…everything – looking ahead toward the end goal of a dreamy birth and an even dreamier baby.  We tolerate the changes and can easily explain away our tearful emotions – pregnancy hormones!  Soon this will all pass and I’ll be holding my sleeping, smiling baby while wearing my skinny jeans and feeling fabulously in love with my new little family.

Yet what we don’t talk about so often is the reality of missed expectations and the changes that affect every aspect of our health and well being after pregnancy.  We create a birth plan and commit our souls to it – but when does life ever go as planned?  Without flexibility in our birthing hopes we start out our postpartum journey already in a pit of “should haves” and mom-guilt.  Even when birth goes about 50% according to plan, there is often still grieving that must take place – even with a healthy mom and a healthy baby.  We invest so much mental and physical effort (and excitement) in preparation for labor and delivery that we fail to give any thought to the healing process – stitches, bleeding, new pain, a tiredness like none other and oh yeah…a crying baby.

Of great significance are the hormonal changes taking place the moment baby is born.  Our bodies go from growing a human(s) to creating food for the human – and the switch is fast.  From the moment we deliver the placenta our breasts begin to produce food – whether we have the energy to do so or not – our bodies are always putting baby first.  Before we know it we are weepy and feel emotions of thrill, sorrow and joy within the same minute.  We feed our baby(ies) more than we feed ourselves and we ache to hold and protect our baby whenever anyone else holds them – even though sleep is needed now more than ever.  Hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that were increasing during pregnancy now decrease, and we might think and feel things we have never felt before.  Some might equate these feelings to PMS on steroids, or the sort of depression that comes with grieving a loss – even though we have reason for such joy.  For others anxiety kicks in and every decision is plagued with worry and second guessing.

Before baby is born, we think of things like breastfeeding and bonding with such blissful anticipation.  Yet when we find ourselves sitting in bed at 3am in the dark after what feels like only minutes of sleep and now feeding again, sore nipples and spit-up soaked clothes and a baby that cries unless he’s nursing…the reality of selflessness kicks in and there was no “plan” for how to cope with this.  We see our partner sleeping and feel angry, jealous and maybe even bitter – why do we get the pain of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum??  Initial pain with breastfeeding can be just as difficult to get through as labor, and we start to feel like “the whole package” is just unfair.  It might even feel like a cruel joke on women – and we lose sight of the fact that eventually there will be the baby bliss that everyone talks about.  We instead think I must be different and something is wrong.

And then, once the thrill of new baby wears off and no one comes to visit anymore…the loneliness hits.  Oh, the loneliness.

And this…I fear, is where our culture and recent generations have gone wrong.  In talking only about the good things, we negate the hard times (because yes, they will pass) and we allow women to isolate and sink into depression that often goes unnoticed.  While there is nothing wrong with medication* (been there) to help us cope with these changes I think what we’re missing is that the postpartum process is meant to show us we need community.  In our country in particular, we have adapted a mindset of handling everything on our own and just getting through it.  In the past and still today around the world, family and friends come alongside the mother for 40 days so that she can rest and invest all her energy into healing herself and caring for her baby.  Yet must importantly of all – aside from the help with meals and cleaning (which is awesome!) – she isn’t alone.  She has the community of other women.  Women who have been though it, are going through it, and will go through it.  The assurance of “You’re normal and things will get better” is more of a gift than anything else.

What if – instead of pretending everything was great every minute with our new babies, we responded honestly to questions of “How are you doing?” with “Well, I’m in love with my baby…but I feel quite like $hit.  I’m leaking from everywhere and haven’t showered for 3 days.  I’m starving and smelly but I just keep holding the baby because I don’t want him/her to cry.  I feel guilty sleeping because my house is a mess and my other kids need attention.  I think I brushed my teeth today, though, so that’s good.” And then maybe that friend would respond with “Oh, I remember the feeling!!” and we breathe a sigh of relief.  Instead of crying maybe that new (or experienced) mom will smile, or even laugh. Or maybe she’ll cry and her friend will tell her it’s OK.  When we feel understood or known we can more easily cope – whereas loneliness and isolation only feed into depression.

We live in a fast paced world, and unfortunately we don’t always have time to visit with each other or help ease the burdens of our friends.  But if postpartum depression is something that as many as 1 in 5 women deal with – whether they’ve admitted it or not – how much good could we do by simply texting or calling a new mom and asking “How are you doing?” Be prepared for them to say “Like $hit” and offer them the gift of empathy.  We’re in this together ladies – and we get the gift of bonding with these sweet (and not always sweet) kids that make us cry, cuss, and curse our x chromosomes.

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A bad day.

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A good day – the following week.

P.S.  I’m still not in my skinny jeans.  But I love my family.  Chaos and all.

*Anti-depressants are good and often necessary.  Please talk to your doctor if you have signs of postpartum depression.  And don’t be afraid to talk to a friend, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Two months out

It’s been over two months since Seva and I left Baku, and just over one month since Jason and the big kids left.  The range of emotions everyone has experienced have varied from one extreme to another, and while I can handle (for the most part) talking with the kids though their grieving process I have buried processing my own.  When the kid’s pediatrician asked the other day if this last pregnancy was any different than the others (aside from bouts of food poisoning) I said “Well, I was a little more stressed…” and tried not to cry.  He asked how I was doing now (again trying not to cry) and kindly suggested I should consider going on medication again at some point.  I suppose post postpartum hormones plus several major life changes plus guilt might not be a great combo?

Unfortunately our exit from the country wasn’t nearly as graceful as we had hoped or planned.  From difficult conversations with our landlord (who we love) over money and then a horrible experience at the airport – I was ready to get on the plane and never look back.  The drama at the airport went something like this….

The guy at check-in thought I was lying about my gestation, despite the fact that I had a stamped letter from a doctor and the fact that I wasn’t lying.  He didn’t want me to sign the waiver because he was adamant that I shouldn’t fly.  When he saw that my layover in Italy was only 90 minutes, he made a firm decision that I was NOT going to board the plane, because I would most definitely miss my connection and I would blame them.

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Simple enough?  Nope.

 

Cue tired and angry pregnant woman.

I *might* have raised my voice a little… I *might* have used words like “stupid” (and worse)… I *might* have said something along the lines of “I will never come back to this country and I will never tell anyone to ever come here if you do not let me on that plane.”

He begrudgingly let me on the plane.  A woman working beside him looked worried and got me some water.  The kids and I were crying…it wasn’t pretty.

I apologized.  I told him it had been a stressful week (or month, year, whatever).

He said “Well if anything happens it’s not our fault.  You can’t blame us.”

No problem.  I just wanted to be on my way home.  Combine all this drama with my flight anxiety…I was a hot.mess.  Calming Seva’s nerves served a dual purpose in calming my own.  And I won’t say that I didn’t give the child some Benadryl and myself a small glass of wine while halfway over the Atlantic.

Needless to say, I did not have a baby on the flights, nor did I miss my connections.

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New York I think?  I was delirious.

I was quite relieved to make it back.

Yet Seva’s skin troubles didn’t disappear the moment we were on American soil.  She was still waking up 4-5 times a night itchy and was having many tantrums – apparently jetlag and eczema aren’t compatible.  It wasn’t until I got some good advice about making changes in her diet and I changed every product that I was using on her skin that the eczema really started to disappear.  Those things combined with a new anti-histamine, less stress, clean air, and clean water – and you would never know to look at her now the condition her skin was in just a few months ago.

I also lived in fear practically every day that the baby would be born early – before Jason and the kids were home.  I had crossed over the first hurdle (not giving birth in Azerbaijan) but now I just needed him to stay put a while longer.  I think almost every pregnant mom worries to some degree about the baby being born too early, or about something happening (even late in pregnancy), and I know I am not alone in counting each day that they stay put a victory!  But fear can be crippling, and eventually I’ll have to address that.  Not now though – #aintnobodygottime!!  He was not born early – and maybe his birth story will be shared in another post – but maybe not?  We’ll see.

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In all honesty, I have tried not to think about Azerbaijan at all in the last two months.  It is too hard and too painful.  Too much failure, too much guilt, and things that remind me of the country make me actually feel sick.  I have found that the only thing I miss deeply are expat friends and some local friends.  I truly love and appreciate those people.  Not just Americans, Koreans and Azeris…but who knew Finns are so wonderfully real?  I was thankful to have someone to cuss with about the woes of life. 🙂  And we all miss our dear “family” over there – you know who you are!

But when I think about the country itself – the corruption, the way people always stared at me like I was crazy, the cold concrete house, the not-so-fresh air, the isolation etc…those things pale in contrast to the fact that this is the place where all of my spiritual questions and loneliness took root and eventually grew out of control.  I feel like I could write a book – ‘The Missionary who Stopped Hearing from God.’  Too depressing, I’m sure.

It’s all still so raw that I have little to no desire to go to church – both for fear that I’d have to talk with people or actually participate in something.  I’d like to sneak into a Catholic mass or something similar and just sit in the back and listen.  I don’t have any energy to be fake and my soul is too empty to tolerate fluff.  I can’t sing and I can’t pray – I just want to listen.  If there were such a thing as an Agnostic church I’d have been there by now – “We think this is true but we don’t know for sure and we won’t judge you if you don’t know for sure either.”  Aren’t there a lot of us just trying to figure life out?

Two months out and a long way to go.  For now, we’re just trying to survive as a family of six…#chaos!!  Thanks for being on the journey with us, I have so enjoyed getting messages from many of you who are struggling too.  You’re not alone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When you need a Hiatus from “The Church.”

It’s been a rough week.  For some reason a season that is usually a little kinder to Seva’s skin has been more harsh.  Those of you on Facebook have likely seen that our battle with her eczema has been worsening, and we seem to have hit a wall in finding relief for her for now.  There’s a little bit (ok a lot) of stress in the house.

Before I say anything else, I need to emphasize that my husband and I are not the same person.  Yes, he is still in ministry and is not having struggles with his faith.  I am no longer in ministry, I just happen to live overseas because this is where my husband works.  There have been comments that I shouldn’t say certain things, and that my words have weight because of what we’re doing – but again – I no longer am in that line of work.  I have admitted defeat years ago, and I’m just along for the ride while he does what he feels called to.  Some have expressed their sympathy to him for having to leave this country just as God has been “opening doors” for His work…but if God letting my kid suffer worse here than in our home country is part of that package, then I’m out.  Sorry for putting this so bluntly – but just because my husband has a certain career (one that I used to be part of, but no longer am) does not mean that I have that same job.  I hope this clears some things up.  I’m just a human trying to figure out life – who would much rather be working in a hospital in patient care than hanging out on this side of the world waiting for time to pass.

Yesterday, in expressing my frustration after one of our most difficult days with Seva (because I’m an extrovert – and this is what we do) I received some encouraging words to which I am thankful for.  There were also things said that I know were completely meant to encourage and help, but sadly when it comes to quoting Bible passages in relation to these difficult circumstances it just sends me spiraling down in the other direction.

In the midst of my confusion over the last few years I have been feeling as though a break from the church would be healthy – but I just haven’t had the guts to do it because of all the baggage that comes with that choice.  What do I tell my kids?  They are getting old enough to realize that I always leave church on Sundays feeling frustrated – is it best for me to just not be there anyways?  They ask me questions about God…and I have to tell them I don’t know…because I don’t.  Going to Bible studies leaves me frustrated because I always have more questions than answers, and everything I read leaves me with a “But…?” question.  Hearing people say “The Lord told me this or that…the Lord is just so great…he gave me this…” leaves me feeling like I’m going to throw up in my mouth because I think of all the tragedy and suffering in the world and then really – God gave you that new car and took you on a coffee date and blessed you with a free drink and you heard your favorite song on the way there that was just so encouraging??  Wow.

I’m really overdue for a break.

The passage that was sent to me yesterday in regards to Seva’s skin was Deuteronomy 28.  So I read it.  And I got pissed off.  So, my child’s suffering is the result of generational disobedience to God somewhere along the way – nothing she did but someone else in the family line – and we need to repent and obey to rid her of the curse?  And, verses like 63: “Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you.” tend to rub me the wrong way.  There are countless Christians who will say “My God is loving, my God heals, my God would never inflict pain on his children.”  Well, huh. 

So I decided to read all of Deuteronomy last night because I couldn’t fall asleep.  Seva had already awoken before midnight itchy and bleeding and I figured I might as well get the whole context of what Moses was saying.  So I started at the beginning and kept going…

Isn’t it so cute how we all love to triple underline and highlight the feel good verses – print them on memory cards and sell them for $5?  For example, Deut. 4:29 “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and soul.”  Oh how great!  I had underlined and starred this in college.  But right before this, we are told that we will perish and be destroyed if we make any kind of idol and provoke God to anger.  Oops, hadn’t underlined that part.

Deut. 6:5 “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” 6:13 “Fear the LORD your God, serve him only…”  Yes!  Got them all underlined.  Or else… 6:15 “For Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.”  Ouch.  This one isn’t on the bookmarks and memory cards…

I kept reading.  Found this part interesting: Deut. 11:13-17 “So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today – to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul – then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil.  I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.  Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them.  Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you.”

OK, so do you see where I’m going with this?  Here’s where I always end up.  Every time.  God and Jesus don’t match.  My whole life I’ve been taught they are one…God is love…Jesus is the the image of God on earth…Father, Son, Holy Spirit…you know what I’m saying.  But even this simple statement about God sending/not sending rain is contradicted by Jesus himself: Matthew 5:45 “He (God) causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Ok, so wait, does God give you good or bad weather based on your obedience, or not??  Is it all just random??  Did God suddenly change his mind about the rain – or did Moses have that part wrong?  I get so stuck.

So I read through the rest of Deuteronomy, got especially heated up during the bits about women (I won’t even get started) and I find no relief in the common response of we are no longer under the law, Jesus has made all things new, etc. etc…because I can’t get past God’s heart and his constant anger and selfishness to be worshiped and obeyed 24/7…or else.  We all believe that God never changes, right?  That circumstances change but he doesn’t, right?  And so I feel sick – pondering the possibility that Seva’s skin condition is due to my disobedience and that I may have done this to her by disobeying God.  Because The Bible Tells Me So.

And so, the hiatus begins, and I am choosing to give myself freedom to slowly discover truth on my own time without being preached at by people who “know everything about God” (because, none of us do, and that’s OK).  Do I love this reality?  No.  But do I have to live honestly where I’m at?  Yes.  Can I still attempt to love God and love others in the meantime?  Yes.

Seva has had “healing prayer” numerous times over the last few years which has changed nothing and leaves me more discouraged and upset – so I am hopeful to learn her triggers and heal her skin in a more scientific way.

Trusting I will not be struck down dead because of this post – but if I am – then you all have your answers. ❤

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The In-Between

Sometimes it’s difficult to live in the in-between.  When we find ourselves in the middle of a big life change it’s hard to be “where we are” when we so much want to jump to the next step.  Those of us with more controlling tendencies (ahem) might want to secure things for the future – settle a home in a good school district, find furniture, find a vehicle, set things up for the kids – make sure everything is in line to eliminate future stress.

But, life is always full of unknowns, and so often we just have to take things a day at a time – preparing but trusting.  Ahhh.  Not one of my strong points.

This morning when we woke up my husband said: “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.  It’s just – we’re here.”

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Last week I went on a walk to get some air and clear my head.  I went to a gate I’ve been to numerous times, and laughed at the irony of what I read on the lock:

EXTRA TOP SECURITY

EXTRA TOP SECURITY

I gently untwisted the wire and walked right in.

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How easy it is to give off the illusion of one thing, when the reality is so completely different!  Oh life.

I found a rock to sit on (pictured below) and just sat in silence, looking out at the city.  I was reminded of a time 12 years ago when I sat on a rock looking out at the same city, full of love, hopes, passion and dreams – and promised God that I would be back here.  As a young 20-something I took a piece of gum out of my mouth and stuck it on that rock – my vow to God that I would return and do his work.

Thankfully I didn't fall off the cliff.  #aintnobodygottimeforthat

Thankfully I didn’t fall off the cliff. #aintnobodygottimeforthat

“God, I don’t understand” I said.  “I used to love this place, and now I hate it.  I said I would return, and now I can’t wait to leave.  I don’t know what to do.  I’m sorry.”

I didn’t hear anything in return, and my round ligament pain was starting to kick in from sitting in a very awkward position, so I stood up and just walked around in circles.  Looking out at the city, looking up at the sun, wondering when I was going to get in trouble for trespassing.  I decided it was time to leave, so I secured the gate (ha) and continued my walk.

Eventually when I turned around to walk home I heard this in my head: “You did return.  And it’s ok to leave.”  Now, I’m really bad at deciphering voices, so I don’t know if it was God or myself – but either way the words were true.  I thought about all the countless flights over the years.  The visiting, then living, then visiting, then living, etc… all the back and forth.  How there once was love and vision and how now I find it hard to simply get out of bed and interact with people.  The season is over, and it’s more detrimental to stay than to leave.  And that’s ok.

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For a split second this morning I wanted to make a big pot of coffee, then I remembered we don’t have one so I made some in the french press while my husband went to go buy some fresh “jamli bread” and the kids watched some kind of spy movie (lovely way to start a Saturday, we’re great parents).

As I sat there drinking my coffee, eating the fresh bread with apple jam that I will miss, I looked at the irony of the in-between-ness of the things before me.  A maple leaf pot holder that a local friend made last fall, the french press from our expat neighbors who have moved to another country, a candle smelling of things from home, a squash from a vegetable man here, and the bread.  So much from everywhere all in one place.  And yet it looked pretty, and smelled nice.  I thought of how friends at home were likely going to pumpkin patches with their families this weekend, and though I so miss that experience, we have friends here to enjoy coffee or a meal with and I am thankful for that. There is good in both places.

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There will be small graces to get through each day for the remainder of our time – and hopefully we can love our “host family” (landlords) well enough to not burn any bridges.  They don’t know yet that we’re leaving – and it will be painful.  The kids know another transition and adjustment is coming – and even though I can’t wait to get the youngest out of here for health reasons the big kids will be leaving friends and teachers who love them behind.  Nothing is ever easy.  I constantly feel bad for not being the stable wife/mom that everyone needs (and not being able to change that fact), and even though most days things are ugly I’m trying to find faith that it will work out OK in the end.

Are you in-between right now?  What is your encouragement?

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The Lowest of Lows

You know when you’ve cried so much that your eyes burn and your head hurts and you think you can’t possibly cry anymore because you’re surely out of tears…and then an hour later the tears start again?

It’s been two of those days.

I know I can be high maintenance, and it’s no secret that I’ve been struggling with depression for a while…but birthdays are allowed to be special, right? I mean it’s ok to want one day to be different than all the others – to feel a little special, right? I used to think so, but the last few years have proved me wrong.

Yesterday I made myself some coffee and spent the day alone with our itchy youngest child, like every day. I love her unconditionally, but eczema is one of the few disturbing things ruling our house right now. It is an all day, all night chore to keep her moisturized and keep the itchiness at bay – and we fail all the time. And she feels miserable. And I feel miserable that we can’t help her.

But hope got me through the day – I had asked for three things for my birthday:
1) For the kids to not fight for one day.
2) For a butterfly journal that I saw at a bookstore that reminded me of my grandma.
3) To go to an Asian restaurant for dinner.

Not only did none of these things happen, but to add insult to injury customs has decided to hold my birthday package from home all week. Why? Because birthday cards, treats from America, contact lenses and Seva’s skin care creams are SO dangerous. Actually, it’s because there are stupid and lazy people in charge of customs here. Sorry I’m not sorry. It’s true.

Then, not only did my kids fight 10x more than normal yesterday (despite the fact that they knew I had wanted them not to – for one day) but they all decided that they did not want to make me birthday cards this year. Great.

Last week Jason took them to buy the journal I had asked for. I haven’t journaled in years and I was excited to have something sentimental. He let them pick any journal – and it wasn’t that one. The one they picked looked Azeri. I felt so unheard.

Then Jason got me a maternity top. Not only was it an XL (thanks) but I have about 60 maternity tops. So frustrated. At this point I’m crying and losing it like a child.

It was time for dinner – and everything had been going downhill quickly. It started to sprinkle outside – so Jason was concerned about parking and walking to the Asian restaurant. The kids wanted McDonald’s or KFC. Their fighting ramped up, as it always does in the van.

“Fine – you all go to McDonald’s – I’ll go return the gifts.”

They went to eat. I skipped dinner. I went to exchange the journal – the bookstore wouldn’t let me. “It’s been more than three days since the purchase and you don’t have the receipt.” They said. Nevermind the fact that a pregnant, tired, and emotional lady just wanted to make an exchange for something that cost the exact same price. I left the store furious and trying not to cry.

Went to exchange the shirt. Found something that cost the exact same price. After standing in line for 10 minutes, I put both items on the counter with the receipt. “You need both receipts” the girl said. “What?? This is the receipt.” “Yes, but you need both.” Apparently there had been two. “But these items cost the same amount, can’t I just switch them?” “No.” I grabbed the top and stormed out of the store. I. Hate. This. Country.

We went home. The whole day sucked (aside from the time when the landlady and her son gave me some perfume and told me Happy Birthday and wished me every happiness – that was sweet). I was crying. Vera was ticking. Jonah was angry. Seva was itching.

I woke up this morning wanting to leave. I had the worst panic attack that I’ve ever had. I fear for the health of this baby because I’m such a mess. But, the embassy has our passports until November. So here we’ll stay. My extrovert self wants nothing more than to isolate until it’s all over.

Currently Jason and the kids are out exchanging the gifts – which – I’m sure they won’t give him any trouble because he’s a guy. And he found the other receipts.

A couple years ago we had a “birthday do over” because the day sucked so bad – but now I’ve come to the conclusion that I just want to skip it all together. It’s too much of a let down. I know “nothing is ever about you” once you become a parent – but is one day too much to ask for? Maybe I just need to adjust my expectations, again.

For now I’m thankful that we’re all alive, another day is almost over and hopefully my kids won’t remember me like this forever.

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