Monday, May 30, 2011

One False Move

The Valley: Part 3

A typical coastal morning, warm enough, but the fog hung in the air. It was Labor Day, and I had no concrete family plans. I needed to get out... to clear my head and retrain my thoughts.

How about a walk, my girlfriend suggested. Yes, that sounded like a perfect remedy. We would walk the oak laden trail to the seashore, surrounded by God's beautiful creation, and bare our souls. Maybe her kind, godly counsel and knowing laughter would help me to shake "the sisters" once and for all.

Cathartic. A sense of normalcy began to return to my being. I could exhale.

The dark clouds began to lift and their grip began to loosen.

We reached the glorious ocean just as the sun began to peek through the fog and dance upon the aqua waters. The salt scented air was intoxicating. I felt more settled inside... I felt happy.

Another older and wiser, respected friend "happened" to be there at the beach that day as well. I shared a bit of my struggles with her, and we all giggled at the journey known as "womanhood."

Hormones, she said. I bet you have a hormonal imbalance. It's an easy fix... it will all be ok. Don't worry about it, she assured me. You are NOT going crazy, she smiled.

I responded with a hesitant grin and nervous laughter, wanting to believe her sage advice.

This had been suggested to me before, and I deemed it was probably time to give it some serious attention. I felt hopeful and encouraged.  Perhaps this was the answer.

What I didn't know was that I had already made the false move that Anxiety and Depression had been waiting for all along. The chronic mental and physical stress I had been mismanaging for months had built up over the previous couple years.  And although it was just a walk, I finally pushed my body too far that day.  The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.  Something had changed for the worse, and it was only the beginning of the darkest season of suffering I would ever endure.


Friday, May 27, 2011

A Friday Funny

Josh:  Mom, are angels meat or poultry?

I love this kid!!

Have a great weekend! :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Interrupt This Programming

Before I go any further in my "Journey to Charis" series, I just wanted to take a moment to talk about depression and anxiety.  Since I have been sharing about my difficulties in recent months, I have had some friends message me privately about their struggles.  I am so glad to pray for them and learn about their journeys.  And even though our journeys may begin and end in different valleys and mountain tops, I don't feel so alone.

I think depression and anxiety have the same faces, 
but can come from a variety of sources. 

Sometimes they are short lived and stem from the emotions of a certain circumstance.
Sometimes they accompany a difficult season of grief.
Sometimes they follow a burden of chronic stress, be it physical or mental.
Sometimes they are linked to a chemical or neurological imbalance.
Sometimes they are the result of a hormonal imbalance... especially for women postpartum or midlife.
Sometimes they accompany a disease elsewhere in the body.
Sometimes they are the result of a surgery or a traumatic event.
Sometimes they come because our thought life has gotten out of control,
and we are dwelling on darkness and fear.
Sometimes they come when we are trying to be a shoulder when God wants us to be the elbow.
Sometimes they are born out of unrealistic expectations.
Sometimes they are a result of a pattern of sin.

I am certainly not a doctor, but I have learned that no matter what the source of depression and/or anxiety the body and mind are asking for help.  They are demanding it.  I think it is the Lord's way of alerting us that we need to address what is going on in our lives, and we need to make some sort of change.

We must change.

Sometimes we need to change our circumstances.
Sometimes we need to kindly say no to people, even it it hurts their feelings or lets them down.
Sometimes we need to learn how to process our stress better.
Sometimes we need others to come alongside us, to truly hear us...  to share our burdens.
Sometimes we need to take something to balance out the chemicals in our brains or address a neurological aspect.
Sometimes we need to do something as simple as rubbing yam cream on our bodies daily.
Sometimes we need to address our diets and exercise routines,  and how they affect systems and glands within our bodies.
Sometimes we need to seek professional counsel to help us cope and train our thoughts.
Sometimes we need to face our fears head on.
Sometimes we need to embrace the person God created us to be, and stop trying to be otherwise.
Sometimes we need to give ourselves time to heal and stop pushing so hard.
Sometimes we need to confess, repent, and choose to live our lives in a different way. 

All the time, we need to take a step back.

No matter what led us to this valley, I believe we always need to seek God's counsel first.  He loves us and wants to give us the discernment to know what changes to make.  He knit our bodies together in our mothers' wombs and knows each and every detail (Psalm 139) .  He wants to give us direction and healing, restoring us to wholeness (John 15).  And yet He has a reason for allowing us to walk in the valley we are in (Ecclesiastes and Job).

He promises to walk beside us and to never forsake us (Psalm 23).
He promises to work out our situations for good, because we love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).
He promises to draw near to use when we draw near to Him (James 4:8).

So if you are on this journey, don't give up.

Keep asking for answers.

Keep trusting in His promises.

Keep finding your rest in Him.

Keep changing what needs to be altered in your life.

Keep allowing Him to rescue you from the heat of the fire and the rising waters (Isaiah 43:1-2).

Keep surrounding yourself with people who have His compassion and want to love you through it.

And now back to regularly scheduled programming...
the "Journey to Charis" story will continue soon...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bold Beauty

Patrick brought these flowers home last week.

I still can't get over how gorgeous they are... isn't the color combination stunning?

Which flowers would make up your favorite bouquet?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

She Has a Sister

The Valley: Part 2

Winter's chill and gloom gave way to spring's brighter days. 
My mood seemed to be taking cues from the weather
My body had recovered from the onslaught of cold and flu season and healed from a hernia surgery.

The future seemed brighter. 
Brighter... until her sister came in on the evening train.

She wasn't too much of a bother... at first.
At least she was more upbeat and full of energy. 
I could use her brand of caffeine just about then.
Yes, she would be a far better companion than her forlorn sibling.

But her energy and enthusiasm needed wheels.
She had an edginess about her that couldn't be contained.
She needed to get away, and she wanted to take me with her.
Like Thelma and Louise, I asked? 
But I knew that didn't end well. 
No that wasn't the answer.

But she persisted.
What are you doing here, she asked?
You'll crawl the walls if you stay here.
Aren't you just itching to get out of your skin... to go somewhere, anywhere?

I love and adore my husband and my boys, I insisted.  
My life is entirely committed to them.
How could I even entertain ideas of leaving with this wayward woman.
But I was agitated.
I didn't want to be contained, and I had to keep reeling in my "bad" thoughts.

No, the answer was not running. 
I would need to figure this out.
A lot of people have midlife issues, I reasoned.
I would just need to find a way, in God's strength, to navigate through them.
I was honest with my husband and he wanted to see me through.
It was reassuring to know he was on my side... we would work it out together.
I promise it's not you at all,  I told him.  I don't know what's wrong with me.
It's ok, we'll get through this, he comforted me.

But sister was jealous of our relationship and resolve.
And angry that I wouldn't run away with her.
She began closing in on me. 
I'll make you wish you'd gone, she threatened.

She became nails on a chalkboard.
Her presence was constant and unsettling. 
My body and mind became a breeding ground for hypersensitivity.

To sounds.
To people.
To ideas.

To myself
... especially myself.

Everyone and everything was out to get me
I wanted to crawl out of my skin and leave the heavy beats of my heart and the disturbing twitches of my muscles behind.

I wanted to hide in someone else's frame.

Somewhere she couldn't find me... and I didn't have to inhabit my own physique any longer.

But she persisted, as a snake coiled around my neck... whispering intimidation in my ear.
Waiting for me to make a false move.

Waiting for me to see it her way...

Anxiety's way

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Undeserved Gifts

It has been a huge step of faith and obedience to begin to share my "Journey to Charis" with you.  Friends, thank you to everyone who has written to me here and elsewhere to encourage me and to empathize with me.  I feel your compassion and tenderheartedness so strongly.  I can hardly begin to express what it means to me.  As I reread your comments, I find no hint of judgment, but only friendship and understanding... and prayers.  Thank you so much for these gifts.  I feel as though God is giving me back a part of myself and beginning to restore and redeem some of what has been lost over the past year and a half... and even beyond.  I have struggled, doubting that this valley can ever be used for good,

...but God is proving me wrong. 

I'm almost ready to share the next leg of the journey...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What I Didn't Wear

I don't know if I will ever be brave enough to link up with Lindsey at The Pleated Poppy.  

I love seeing how people do such creative things with the clothes in their closets, but I do not have any good posing skills, you see.  Really, they are like a -1.  I realized in a very embarrassing 5th grade Girl Scout experience that modeling would not be the wisest career path for me, and that has really worked for me so far.   Why would I want to mess with that kind of success?

I do have a question though about What I Should or Should Not Wear!   

I went to Marshall's the other day because it was really hot out and I was feeling pretty decent.  More importantly, I realized I haven't bought any shorts or T's for about 5 years now.  Where did that time go??  I didn't think the Central Coast could handle me in those threads yet another year. (Because I'm sure they are keeping track.)  I know I couldn't.

Most of the stuff I got is pretty neutral and classic.  But one shirt stood out and I really loved the colors.  It had a nice artsy feel.

But then as I got it home and took a closer look, I realized it has a horsie on it.  I have nothing against horsies and unicorns and those flying mythical creatures at all, but what I wonder is if a 39 your old woman should be wearing a shirt with a horsie on it or not.

So what are your thoughts on this?  Is it doable or is it 6th grade?  This fashion decision is all in your hands now!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Plastic Smiles

The Valley: Part 1
Many, many months ago, an unwelcome visitor came to reside with me.
She became my constant companion.

She told me I was incapable.
She told me I had nothing of value to offer.
She called me names.
She wrote obscenities on the back of my car.
She taunted me.
She laughed at my ideas.

Her very presence made my body feel weak.

She pulled a dark cloud up over my head and saw to it that it followed me around.

It blocked the sunlight.
It overshadowed my joy.
It surrounded me with a mantle of despair.
It became easier to curl up in the warmth and safety of my bedcovers
than to try and outrun its presence.

Still I ventured out.
With a smile and a prayer.
And I played a part.

Many parts... all with different masks.

A wife
A mother
A sister
A friend
A helpmate in ministry
A teacher
A volunteer
A fieldtrip planner
A Bible study leader
A mentor
A counselor
A singer

The masks began to suffocate me. 
There were tears welled up behind the eyeholes and a frown behind the plastic smiles.

And she was there laughing most of the time.

You have no power over me, I would insist.
Flee from me, in Jesus' name, I would demand.

And she would.

For a while.

She is my enemy.

I have come to know her well.

Her name is


And she has a sister.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Friday Favorite

Audrey Assad

Audrey is fast becoming one of my favorite singers. I love the tone of her voice and her thoughtful, heartfelt lyrics.
Her album has become the soundtrack for this season in my life.

Carry Me

Pain is a forest we all get lost in
Between the branches hope can be so hard to see
And in the darkness we've all got questions
We're all just trying to make sense out of suffering but

You say I am blessed because of this
So, I choose to believe
As I carry this cross, You'll carry me
Help me believe it

Fear is a current we all get caught in
And in its motion faith can be so hard to find
And we all falter 'cause we're all broken
We're all just trying to turn the shadows into light but

You get glory in the midst of this
And You're walking with me
And you say I am blessed because of this
So, I choose to believe
As I carry this cross, You'll carry me

And I know Your promises are faithful
And God, I've seen Your goodness in my life
And oh, I've found Your mercy is a river
Your love is an ocean wide

You say I am blessed because of this
You get glory in the midst of this
And You're walking with me

And You say I am blessed because of this
So, I choose to believe
As I carry this cross, as I carry this cross
'Cause as I carry this cross, You'll carry me

You'll carry me, God
You'll carry me
And Your love is an ocean wide

What's the soundtrack of your life these days?
You know the one album that is on continuous repeat.
Have you found any new (or vintage even!) artists
that speak straight to your heart?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Love

A lady's imagination is very rapid:
it jumps from admiration to love,
from love to matrimony in a moment."
~Jane Austen~

And then I suppose it jumps from matrimony to motherhood only moments beyond that!

My sweet hubby arranged a special Mother's Day outing yesterday, and sent my mom and I to see Pride and Prejudice at the PCPA Theaterfest. Are you a Jane Austen fan? I am. It was so delightful (I am still affected by the language) to see such a classic come to life before my very eyes. Mr. Darcy was ever suave and prideful and Elizabeth, coy and contemptuous. Mrs. Bennett was perfectly exaggerated and Mr. Wickham, deplorable. And my mother and I were altogether affable and pleased.

I'm so glad my mom and I were able to have a special time together. She is not only my doting and caring mother, but my dear friend and confidante. I am so blessed to share life with her. She is such a sweet beauty, too... inside and out. Happy Mother's Day, Mamma San!

This morning, my boys were waiting outside my door with a balloon and little pile of homemade and bought treasures. I felt so spoiled and loved! One of my favorite traditions that has evolved in our family is customizing envelopes.

The boys always do special drawings on their envelopes. Josh usually makes a little cartooned scene.
Jason did a little picture of me watering a flower this year.

(sorry it's so blurry!)

Patrick and I always make up a new middle name for each other in quotes. This has been going on for 15 plus years now, and I can't throw envelopes away because of it!

This one says, "Linda 'My Ambuh Forever' Zalamea. We will survive (and thrive) yeah yeah!!" This week, I started watching Survivor again, because I heard Boston Rob was back. The guy is a mafia-like, psychological genius... he just fascinates me, and I like watching him play the game. But a more "Mother's Day" thing to say about him, is that I love that he met Amber on the show, that they went to the top together, got married, and had 2 little girls to boot. So the fact Patrick is calling me his "Ambuh" (in proper Boston Rob accent) means a lot to me! And we are definitely survivors after the year that we just had and continue to struggle through!

Happy Mother's Day...
To moms and their daughters everywhere!

Celebrate life & beauty!

May your father and mother rejoice; may she who gave you birth be joyful!
Proverbs 23:25
For those who have lost their moms, I pray for comfort and sweet memories.

For those who would love to become mothers,
I pray for God to bless your wombs through birth or adoption.

A Journey to Charis

A year ago today, I wrote my "last" blog post. I wasn't sure if I would be returning. I had embarked upon an unexpected journey that I didn't know how to share.

Sometimes you need to be further along in order to know where you have been and where you are going.

“Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you….Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and you eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all because once you are Real, you can be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” -Skin Horse to the Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams

I've definitely become more "real" along the way... hair loss and all.

Truth be told, I am still in the midst of this journey, and at this point I am still deep in the valley portion. I know that it is not easy to read about dark places, but they are very much a part of life whether we avoid them or not.

I hope that you will follow along in my journey as I try to find glimpses of light. I could use help in retraining my thoughts on things that are noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

My greatest hope is that it will be a journey back to charis. Charis is a Greek word that means not only grace, but to be well or to thrive with the joy and strength of the Lord.

That is where I want to be.

Won't you join me, friends? Can you help me get there?
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