Christmas Plans

The day has been grey, and as I sit here at my laptop I can only be thankful to be indoors. The combination snow and rain is making my bones chill, even though my heat is on full blast and my cats are warmly tucked at my feet and behind my back as I type.┬áIt officially feels like winter now, as I can watch the sun sink a little earlier in the day. It’s only 4pm and nearly dark out, accompanied by clouds looking stern and cold through the water droplets on my window pane.

My husband and I set up our Christmas Trees last weekend. This year we set out only 3 instead of 4. Our little 3 ft white tree in the living room, our 2 ft frocked tree in the bedroom, and a 3 ft metal frame “tree” my husband keeps in the basement with the rest of his nerd ornaments. This year we have no travel plans and no required places to be. We’ve not committed to anything at all.

I’m actually looking forward to Christmas this year.

As I’ve posted in the past, I do not often like Christmas. I dislike the commercialism, even though I do enjoy shopping to a fault. I struggle between wanting things and wishing I didn’t want things, as I think most people my age do. We’re raised by TV and Internet to be consumers and then we we are adults, we realize we cannot afford to consume as much as we want, and more than half the time, we can’t even afford what we need. So while I love shopping, I shouldn’t, and while I would love to give Christmas Gifts to people I love, I usually can’t.

One of the remedies I have discussed in past posts has been to alternate Christmas gift giving between making handmade gifts, and giving gifts that support greater causes like Charities or a small family-owned business. By doing this, I find either I give something a little more thoughtful and custom made, or I’m giving a gift that gives back in some way or another. That way my family gets gifts, and my gift giving feels more meaningful than just buying the lasted gadget at a large corporation that doesn’t do that much for it’s community or the charities it claims to support. Plus, I leave with less buyers remorse than usual.

A few of the Charities I’ve given to and supported this year I posted in a previous blog post and have been supporting for a while either with my money or my time (or both).

Another reason I’ve been enjoying Christmas more this year, is because I’m doing more to celebrate. My husband and I are starting to formulate and investigate Christmas traditions, which we hadn’t done last year because we were only celebrating our first Christmas and didn’t quite know what the other thought about the holiday, much less what we thought about traditions. One of the traditions we decided on, that also works as a personal goal, is that we’ve decided to attend every Advent sermon at church this Advent season to help us reflect on not only the positivity we should feel for the season, but also the greatest Gift of all…The birth of Jesus Christ.

Another tradition my husband and I are starting this year, is we’re throwing a small Krampus celebration, where we have invited friends over on Dec. 5th (Krampusnacht) to watch the Dark Comedy Film based on the old lore of Krampus, the Christmas Demon. Apparently an old European tale of a demon who took care of the naughty children in a way that St. Nick didn’t (usually kidnapping and eating them). A little dark and ridiculous, but all the same a fun little something that we can look forward to every year.

What are your holiday plans? What traditions do you celebrate in the winter months?

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Lost

It was only

When they put you

In the ground

That I realized

My love for you

Could reach

To the sky

My God Kept His Scars

Lately my self image has been really really bad. After certain comments my doctor made to me my last visit I’ve been trying to lose about 10 pounds of weight…and I’ve managed to gain five since then. This has caused a lot of mirror looking. A lot of watching what I eat. And a lot of eating bad things out of rebellion because I have a lot of inner conflict about my image and what self-care really looks like. Because cookies feel like self care even if their 400 calories for two Girl Scout cookies. Pissed.

So I’ve spent a lot of time being self-critical of my physical image. Wondering if this meat bag is really worth taking care of. I noticed my stretch marks and scars from my insertion sites for my insulin pump. I wonder if it’s really worth trying to look and feel better. It’s not like the scars are going away for the stretch marks. it’s not like the weight is shedding like I had hoped it would, and as I’ve spoken of in previous blog post, the more insulin you take the fatter you tend to get. And as an insulin-dependent diabetic I can’t just stop taking insulin (a habit I got into in college when I realized I could just shed weight if I did) and expect to get better too.

Last night I felt particularly distraught over the state of my physical being. Which of course that’s silly because I’m not really fat whilst I am getting bigger, but my doctor’s very poor phrasing, when talking to me about my weight gain upset me deeply, and because I’m an introvert and I fear shallowness you can imagine I had a great deal of inner conflict while I sat there crying on the couch alone in the dark wondering if I was ever actually going to get healthier and thinner.

It has taken me so long to finally determined I wanted to do it the right way and here I was struggling with all these conflicts within my heart and my mind and asking God why.

While I sat in the dark and my cat curled up on my stomach purring loudly as if she knew that this was a problem I was having and my stomach was the cause, a thought occurred to me that felt very outside of my own actual thoughts. I’ve only ever had this happen to me once in my whole life where I had a thought occur to me that I’m pretty sure I could not have thought of on my own. But this particular thought was a quiet whisper to my heart:

“You have a God who kept his scars.”

For those of you who are not religious this probably doesn’t have a ton of meaning to you, but to me this means everything. I grew up in a Christian worldview, which I still hold to this day and while people call it “religious” I call it faithful. Granted I realize I really do suck at being a Christian. While I am a child of God and I have that assurance, most days I don’t feel like a child of God. And I know it’s not a feeling it’s simply a truth that is not dictated by my emotions, but emotions are so real. So very real. That they feel like the truth.

So on this night, while I laid in the dark and had this sudden thought occur to me, I broke into tears as it really penetrated my soul. My God really kept his scars. Those things I condemn on my own body I had a God who showed up in a room full of hundreds of his believers after he had passed and risen again with his body completely mutilated as a symbol of him truly passing and truly rising again, a task no mere human could ever accomplish and yet is the basis for my faith and my redemption. Did I not find those scars beautiful when I first came to faith, and do I not still find them beautiful now for what they represent? How have I gotten so far from my faith that I became so wrapped up in myself and my own body image that I would condemn the things that prove that I have survived as well? Furthermore, when my soul is what matters, why did I get so caught up in what this meat bag of a body was doing?

This is not to say I shouldn’t keep trying to get healthier. In fact, I still do want to get healthier and lose weight, and I still want to do it the right way despite how discouraged I am. But all the self-conscious feelings I had about my body image had suddenly melted away on this realization that I had a God who kept all those human imperfections even in his divinity.

Christ came back with scars. And he’s coming back again and I don’t know if the scars will be there or not or what that means, but at one point he showed up and kept his scars as proof of his love. Perhaps this means that I need to own my scars and respect them for proof of my self love?

As my husband once lovingly pointed out to me loving your neighbor as yourself does require you to love yourself… despite how selfish we feel like that statement can be. There’s a lot of humility that has to go into loving yourself. There’s a lot of grace you have to give yourself. And half the time we are our own worst critics, so we don’t. We either take responsibility for everything and feel the weight of the world on our shoulders, like everything is our fault, or we want to ignore the things that we’re supposed to take responsibility for. Either way, we become dissatisfied, self-critical, and harmful to ourselves. To the point where we can become so emotionally and spiritually distraught over something that we cannot change or undo. Why? Because were trying to play God when our brains and spirits were not meant to fathom the vastness of our own imperfection. If we were to suddenly become aware of everything we’ve done wrong and everything wrong with us physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually… we would be crushed and suicidal like most of us already are.

That is the whole reason we need God in the first place. For hope. Because to have hope in humanity is to know you will be failed. Even by ourselves.

Not Ready for Monday

A week long struggle with depression and stress at work ended with a coworker being fired Friday mid shift. Stunned by the sudden unexpected event and at least two weeks behind on just about everything, my coworker and I (the only two in for that day after other coworker was fired) ended up having to just call it a day. Both of us had plans afterward and the former coworker was supposed to be the one to stay late. Not that we planned on getting any work done if we stayed because with the shock we just had no idea what to do with ourselves.

Since leaving work Friday afternoon when my shift was over, I’ve had nothing but anxiety about the whole situation. Another coworker of ours has been gone because his father-in-law passed away. His two weeks of absence has probably been stressful enough , and now coming back to work, he’s going to be met with a workload a mile high and a coworker no longer with us that has been there since the beginning with him. None of this is going to go over well with him. He’s moody enough having not had losses in his life. I have a feeling this week is not going to be his week, and I’m afraid of the backlash me and my other coworker will be met with when he finds out.

So this weekend has been tainted with my anxiety in every moment. At the State Fair with friends, I had little to nothing to say, because my heart kept dropping every time I considered how quickly Monday morning was coming. In church this morning I found comfort in the sermon, about how God is with us in everything like he was with Esther, but still my anxiety was so high I couldn’t help but know the impending doom is coming. Yes, God is with us in all things, but that doesn’t mean it’s all easy, it just means God is there to show you what is next if you trust and obey, and for me…what was next is emotionally preparing for things to go badly, because it’s always better to assume that it will go badly, and to hope that there was some kind of pleasant surprise if it doesn’t.

After church I cleaned the whole house, made dinner (even though my husband is not home for dinner because he works the closing shift), and I called my mother to see how she was and try to get outside my own head, but even after all that….I feel so unprepared for Monday morning. I don’t want it to come, and at the same time I want it to have already been so I can say it was gotten over with and I survived it.

An Ideal Accident III

The more I reflect on the accident and the more my husband and I talk about it, the more we find to be thankful for.

This is probably really odd to say, but it’s too true to ignore and we can only attribute it to small miracles and God’s protection.

One of the first miracles was that we were not hurt. Every time I think about the accident I consider all the things that could have gone wrong and didn’t. No gas leaks. No broken glass. No air bags went off to cause us further injury. We made it out alright all things considered. Minor bumps no some whiplash that is being dealt with and healing nicely.

Another miracle was having the accident just over the border from a no-fault state. Had we been a couple miles behind where the accident occurred we probably would have been slammed with a ticket or twelve (especially for being an out-of-state plate). Not to mention we were close enough to family that we could get off the road and moving forward to home right away without either of us having to drive in our shaken state since my aunt drove us to meet my dad half way at a job site he just happened to have near that area.

With how busy that road was….we never hit anyone else. That never ceases to amaze me when I saw how many people were around me as I was losing control trying to hold my lane. Because when we stopped spinning it was like all the traffic was gone suddenly. The road was clear for a while as we got out and assessed the damage. That makes no sense outside of supernatural to me because there were lines and lines of cars around me and behind me and then suddenly none. Even as we assessed the damage of our car in the rain, there were suddenly few to no cars so we could be safe for a little while.

The insurance has been easy. Words I never thought I’d ever say. Mostly because of no other vehicles being involved. In two weeks we have money in our hands to get the vehicle we need with more coming once it has been purchased. We have no expenses being charged to us because the deductible was met. We got no tickets because the accident was an “act of God.”

I’m not sure if the accident was an act of God, but everything else certainly was. Certainly the circumstances surrounding it were. The people who came into our situation to help us out, the “coincidences” and the timing were all too perfect to be accidental. My husband and I have found a great deal of growth in this struggle, and it has been a blessing, even while difficult. I’m learning to be more giving when organizing how each of us will get to and from work. My husband is learning to adapt, communicate, and make hard decisions…all things he has struggled with in the past. I’m learning to set limitations for myself, which have been good, and hard for me because of the pain in my neck and back. I’m usually all go, and this has made me slow down as having only one vehicle has done as well.

Another miracle has been how my husband and I have been able to have consistent work schedules that are so similar and jobs so close to one another, that we have had no issues with having only one vehicle. Yes, there is a bit less freedom in it, but it has been good for us to learn how to plan better and organize our days more to get us to the places we needed or wanted to be. It also makes us spend way more time together and we’ve been growing our communication because of it.

In all, things have been okay, now we face finding a car for my husband before winter, which while a while away, really isn’t as far off as it seems. I hope that goes as smoothly as everything else has.

The Golden Rule

“Do you ever have moments where you feel like your perspective of faith inhibits you from taking care of yourself?”

“I can’t say that I have. Why do you?” He responded groggily and slightly muffled by his pillow as he laid in bed next to me. I had been laying awake for a good long while coming painfully slowly to a personal realization.

“Yes, I do.”

“How so?”

I began explaining it in a jumbled and partially incoherent stream of thought. But the basics of it came down to this: I spent so much of my life focusing on the self sacrifice of my faith, that I had become toxic in it, and often gave up things that were healthy habits for me to continue, because I felt like they were things I could give up in order to practice self sacrifice and take care of other things or because I thought it was selfish of me to take care of myself.

For a real life example, when I got married, my husband and I began contributing to a joint account while also holding on to our own personal bank accounts so that we could build a fund together to pay for joint expenses like insurance and groceries, but still have our own money to make purchases for ourselves without needing to talk it over. Of course, I contribute quite a bit to it so that we can build a better savings, but in doing so I had to give up purchasing vitamins and lotion to take care of common diabetic issues I deal with frequently. I felt like these were things I didn’t need, but rather could do okay without. After having stopped taking my vitamins, I began to see a decline in my health, both emotionally and physically. I stopped taking my St Johns Wort, which I used to help my mood when depression was getting bad. I stopped taking a couple vitamins I used for my blood sugar regulation, and my blood sugars got higher. I stopped taking my vitamin for my kidneys and sure enough….my kidney function went down when I got them checked soon after.

Of course, I spoke to my husband about it when I began to notice the severity of the changes, and I decidedly began taking vitamins again and contributing less to the joint account to do so, but it had been a choice made in my Christian faith to contribute so much to my household financially while also allowing me to practice a form of self sacrifice and self control.

What I hadn’t understood was how backward I had it. Self sacrifice doesn’t mean giving up your health in the name of faith. It was actually the opposite. To “love your neighbor as yourself” there had to be a little love of self in there to fully understand how that works.

The more I think of it, the more I realize I had done this for relationships too. I had practiced giving myself to people by offering them my time, only to have them use me to the point of abuse. I recall a former friend ho was very toxic, controlling, and destructive. Still, I held onto a relationship with this person because I had the perspective that I was to love people no matter what, and that’s what I as asked to do out of love, stick with this person and allow the abuse. Allow the hostilities to constantly come back and hurt my feelings, because that was love and I was being forgiving.

No it isn’t and no I wasn’t.

I understand now that love can be at a distance. I wasn’t being a good loving friend by enabling their toxicity. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that everything they did to me was okay, it just gave me a means of moving on from what they did to harm me and taught me to accept an apology I was never given. I was not obligated to stay friends with them if they were becoming harmful. So I forgave them and never spoke to them again.

The more I think about it the more I’m beginning to realize that much of what I thought was selfish or at some point in my life was told was selfish of me….is actually what my faith asks me to do. It’s to be joyful and have love for myself and to take good care of myself. To invest in the things that help me to be a better person and to keep me healthy so that I can take care of others, is actually just being responsible for what I have been given in life, which is exactly what Christians are called to do.

Where the mistake often gets made is the act of overindulgence. Things that are not absolute necessities to live are what we can self sacrifice and have self control in. We are asked to take care of that which we have chosen to be responsible for or are called to be responsible for. Our responsibilities and priorities to God, ourselves and our family are what ought to be our focus. For me, my health affects a huge part of my life. If I am not doing all I can to remain healthy, I cannot take care of my husband who I promised Before God that I would take care of. If I am not healthy, I cannot take care of my home because I will not have the energy to do so. If I am not healthy, my actions are not going to be in alignment with God’s commands and I will not be in an emotional place to be kind, caring, and loving. My health holds a lot weight in my faith, and by sacrificing my health, I have found that my faith hasn’t been health either.

I can’t believe in all my years of being a follower of Christ that this had never occurred to me, but I realize more and more that so many people of faith have this backwards too. Probably the same people who lead me to this impression of sacrificing health as a means of self sacrifice, were probably told the same thing by another toxic person before them and so on, to the point that it just became a cultural norm.

Well the toxicity of my culture stops here, and it’s time to learn a little more self love.