Monday, September 21, 2015

Quite possibly one of THE best movies EVER

Almost every semester, I show the movie Life as a House as a lead-in to one of our essays in my freshman comp class. I use it differently almost every time I use it, but I always find a way to make it work. I LOVE this movie.

Years ago (the movie came out in 1999 or 2000 or sometime thereabouts), I was visiting my sister and we decided to watch a movie on-demand. We settled on this movie, Life as a House. If you've ever seen it, you know that it has a VERY rough beginning. In all honesty, it's the type of beginning that makes you wonder why we continued watching it. As a Christian, I was having a very difficult time with the language as well as the subject matter. My sister and I discussed turning it off, but we decided that it seemed to have a point, so we were going to give it a little longer before we turned it off.

Then, just as the  movie was making a turn for the better, the lights went out. A storm had been raging outside for quite a while, but we didn't feel it necessary to turn off everything. When the lights went out, we both screamed and then asked each other if we thought the movie would go back to where we were. We were quite upset at being interrupted during the movie.

It was then that I realized that this movie might have had a rough beginning, but it was making a powerful impact on me.

By the end of the movie, we were both crying buckets. Ever since then, Life as a House has been one of those movies I tell everyone I can to watch and I make people watch it even if they don't want to!

I bring it up here in this blog about finding Joy Regardless of life's circumstances because in the movie, George, the main character played by Kevin Kline, tells his son Sam, played by Hayden Christenson, "You know the great thing, though, is that change can be so constant you don't even feel the difference until there is one. It can be so slow that you don't even notice that your life is better or worse, until it is. Or it can just blow you away, make you something different in an instant. It happened to me."  

I have experienced such change both ways--change for the worse and change for the better--and both have been "so constant [I didn't] even feel the difference until there [was] one." Prior to my explosion at my husband a few short years ago, I knew something was wrong, but life was going on....I was getting done what needed to be done...I was functioning. I went to school. I went to church. I did my job. I talked to my son. I read. But I wasn't LIVING. I was a body moving around with no real soul. I was angry, depressed, spiritless, lifeless, and worst of all, I hated myself and my life. I didn't even realize just how bad things were until I couldn't control my anger towards my husband. I had found my way into the very back recesses of my cave (see previous posts) and I hadn't even realized I was in such incredible darkness.

I had to go away for a time to collect and pull myself together. (Thank you, Fairhaven Ministries.) 

Since that time, I have been consistently reading my Bible. I've been doing a daily Bible reading plan to read through the Bible each year. I haven't finished it every year since then, but I've continued to read my Bible, regardless. 

I have done any number of Bible studies, most of which have been on Joy: Kay Warren's Choose Joy; Margaret Feinberg's Fight Back with Joy; Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts; Joyce Meyer's Seven Things that Steal Your Joy; as well as anything else I have been able to get my hands on regarding joy.

I began counseling--again--with a trusted counselor. I started going every week at first and then gradually worked down to doing just once a month. 

I got back into church. I had quit going for a while because I was just too overwhelmed with everything. Yes, I husband is a pastor and I QUIT going to church. But I couldn't handle it. I've started teaching Sunday School again! That's a big one!

And, as I mentioned in my previous post, I began exercising/working out recently! I'm MOVING in some way, shape, form, or fashion at minimum 5 out of 7 days during the week! And I'm loving it--well, I'm enjoying it a whole lot more than I ever expected! :)

My point is that just as change was so constant in the direction of "worse" that I wasn't truly aware of what was happening, but it was also so constant in the direction of "better" without my being FULLY aware of what has been happening. I've felt better, but I haven't been fully AWARE of things being better....until recently.

And it's wonderful. Just as George realized that he was no longer going to let the "yucky" stuff in his life keep him from living, he consciously CHOOSES to LIVE. To make a build a life, as George says: "I always thought of myself as a house. I was always what I lived in. It didn't need to be big. It didn't even need to be beautiful. It just needed to be mine. I became what I was meant to be. I built myself a life. I built myself a house."

I don't see myself as a house as he does. My analogy is of being in a dark, scary, horrific cave and rather than building a house to build my life, I came out of the cave, out of the darkness, and into the light! I don't need to be beautiful (to others). I just need to live my life the best I can, being a shining light for my Lord who has led me out of darkness and into the light!

I came out of the darkness and into the light...I have built myself a life of joy through the power of the Holy Spirit. And just as George's house is amazing and shows the positive changes in his life, the fact that God has sealed my cave shut shows the positive, wonderful changes in my own life.

So while my story is different from George's, the essence, the point is the same: we both realized life STUNK and we made conscious choices to change and make life better. George built a house to demonstrate the positive changes in his life. God is anointing me with His oil of JOY more than on anyone else! He is using me as a light to shine for Joy for him. 

I am becoming more and more what God has always meant for me to be, and I can't wait to see what God does in and with me next!!!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Feelin' so wonderful!

First of all, I am so sorry it's been so long since I last posted. I didn't mean to go so long between posts; I've just been really busy--in a good way!

In recent months, I have finally felt well enough--emotionally, physically, AND mentally--to begin focusing on Polly's health. I joined a local gym in January that has a pool because I figured that if I'm going to work out, I'm going to do it in a pool! Besides the fact that my counselor and my team (regular doctor, OB doctor, chiropractor, rheumatologist, and masseuse) all agreed that the pool is the best option for me when it comes to an exercise regimen. Catawba Valley Medical Center Fitness Plus

It has taken me quite a while to build up not only my stamina but also my routine so that I keep going rather than not doing any exercise at all. And let me tell you, I have struggled with going--wanting to go, especially! Quite often, I've made one excuse after another not to go: "I'll workout at home." (But then I don't.) "I've had a rough day; I just need to go home and chill." (As if exercise doesn't help relieve the stress from a rough day, especially moving in the pool!) "I need to get home for my son." (He's all of 14 years old now and can handle being home for an hour--or two--without "Mommy" standing over him every second.) And the excuses went on and on until summer came and I didn't make it to the pool even once.

I could tell that I wasn't exercising. I could tell in my body. I could tell in my emotions!

My emotions?!

Wait just one cotton-pickin' second....what in the world does working out/exercising have to do with my EMOTIONS?!

Honestly, I have NO answer that other than to say that it seems to have an awful lot more to do with my emotional well-being than I believed possible. Those of us who are definitely more sedentary than those exercise-a-holics will attest to the fact that we felt just fine sitting on the couch, binge-watching whatever new show appears on Netflix. And that they can HAVE their exercise. I just can't do it---it hurts my knees; my arm hurts; I don't have time. And so on and on--all valid, right? But the longer we continue to sit on the couch, the worse we feel both physically and emotionally.

But for those of us who are couch-potatoes, we are not aware of how much being active influences, affects, more than just our getting up off the couch.

The benefits have been crazy-awesome!
1. My stamina in working out has improved immensely. When I first started exercising, no matter what I did, I struggled beyond a few minutes. I couldn't breathe while working out and it took me what felt like forever to recover after working out. I couldn't even walk but a few hundred feet--ok, truth be told, a hundred feet--without needed to sit down and rest for 10 minutes. (That's no lie or exaggeration. Walking into school from my car or back out to my car after school was over felt like running a 3k marathon. It may have only been a couple hundred feet of walking, but it was pure torture for me.)

Just this morning, I found myself walking in to school from my car at a brisk pace and not being out of breath or feeling as if I was going to die before I made it to my office! Now don't get me wrong; I still have a long way to go, but at least I'm not longer panting like a dog after just taking a few steps!

I also noticed when we did our monthly major shopping venture a few weeks ago that I survived longer this time than I have in the past! Previously, after just one store, I wanted to call it a day, but I'd suffer through a second only to come home and crash for the rest of the day. This last time, we went to three separate stores and I was ready to go to another! The only reason we went home was because there wasn't any more room in my car!

2. My emotional well-being is through the roof. I can't even begin to tell you how much happier and more joyful I've been feeling in recent weeks--since I started working out consistently. I have spent the last 16 years in an extreme state of depression and have hated my life. Yes, suicide was considered. (I'm sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, but I'm shooting for honesty and vulnerability here to help you understand just how much God is doing in my life--where I was and where He is taking me.) Now, I LOVE life! I can't wait for the next thing! I want to hang out with friends and go to parties!

In recent years, I've opted out of most parties and get-togethers, putting my husband and son in a position to make whatever excuses they wanted. No birthday parties. No Fourth of July celebrations. I even avoided most holiday celebrations except with my immediate family.

I've been going to parties and other social events, mingling, and having the time of my life at each and every one!

I even found myself laughing without effort just last night at a Writer's meeting!!! It felt so great not to be fake--not to pretend that something is funny.

3. I just plain and simply feel "Peachie." Or "Pinkie!" (I really do want to start saying "Pinkie" instead of "Peachie," but I've been saying "Peachie" for a little over a year now; it's going to be a hard habit to break!) Anyway, when I first started answering the question, "How are you?" with "Peachie!"--I didn't mean it. But I determined to "fake it 'til I made it" true, so I kept saying it anyway. In recent weeks (months), I've said "Peachie!" and I've meant it! I have no idea when the transition took place, but I can tell you that it was just over the past week when I realized that I was saying it and meaning it!

4. When I go somewhere or hang out with friends, I am able to function longer. Wow. I used to go to events (when I couldn't get out of not going) and leave at the very first opportunity. The longest I would last would be about an hour. If I hadn't "escaped" by then, I'd just up and leave without saying "Goodbye" or anything to anyone.

Now, I want to stay until the very last person leaves! And I'm sad when the "party" is over!

I just have to tell you that God is soooooo good! My healing journey is NOT over. I still have moments (albeit much briefer than in previous years) when I just want to sit down and weep for no reason beyond the fact that I'm just SAD. I still ache for my babies. I'm pretty sure I always will. But I am now in a place where I am LOVING life and I am so very excited to see what God is going to do in my life and where He is going to take me!!!

JUMOY! (My made-up word for "Jump for Joy.")