Friday, August 26, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Medicine

This may be a tough post to write. I'm praying as I begin that it won't be a hard one to read. Stay with me and let me know what you think in the comments. 

I'm going to start a new antidepressant tomorrow morning. The old one worked quite well. It got me to a stable place after I was very sick with clinical depression about two years ago. It had a couple of minor side effects, so I talked with my doctor and decided to try a new medication and see if that works better.

I had to taper off the old medicine. When I went to a half dose, I felt quite good. I continued feeling great for the first few days after I stopped taking it completely. 

As usual, my idealistic tendencies started to kick in. 

Maybe I'll keep feeling great and I can get off medication.
Maybe I'm strong enough to keep depression away for good.
Maybe I'm not depressed anymore.

Then Thursday happened.

I had some frustrations with my laptop and when I tried to talk to Gary about it I dissolved in tears. At lunch time I was on the verge of crying for most of the meal. Little things upset me all day and I felt anger trying to take over. (I didn't let it.) Thank goodness we had Fresh Hope that night. Even though I cried more than usual, it was great to talk to friends who understood those feelings and could urge me to hang in there.

Earlier in the day, Gary came home for lunch and I went to him for a hug as I tearfully admitted "I don't want to need medication."

And that's really the sum of it. I'm proud. I want to be strong enough to do life without help. I don't want to have to take something.

The truth is, depression runs in my family. I've experienced many seasons of depression over the years. I always came out of it eventually, but not without lots of tears, frustration, and angst.

Thursday reminded me of those times. I hadn't had a day where I felt helpless to keep my emotions steady for a long, long time. I think medicine is a tool God has supplied to help keep me emotionally healthy. So, I will start taking the new medicine tomorrow and we'll see how it goes. Hopefully, it helps me feel even better than I did on the old one.

Most importantly, I'll keep working on the way I think and react to problems and stress. I may need medicine because of the way my brain chemistry works, but right thinking is also necessary for living well in all situations. Choosing to focus on what is true, excellent, and good will work with the medicine to keep me in a healthy place. 

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (Proverbs 17:22 NIV)

What do you think about taking medicine for depression or anxiety? How can focusing on God help you to accept the need for medicine, but also work on having a happy, healthy way of looking at life?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Being Alone

I'm at our daughter Erin's house as I write this week. I came down on Wednesday with our other daughter, Allison. On Thursday I drove her to Kansas City so she can spend a few days at WorldCon and enjoy some time with twitter friends, assorted authors, publishers, and many science fiction fans.

I was pretty excited about the chance to get away and have some alone time before I came a couple of days ago. I dragged along multiple projects to work on since I knew Erin would be working at school during the day as she gets ready to teach next week.

I have been working on things, but I was really surprised to find myself lonely on Thursday afternoon. I hadn't even had a full day to myself and I was missing my husband and my kids. Of course, I love them, but I figured I would really revel in the alone time for at least a couple of days before heading back to life as usual.

This couldn't apply to me, could it? :-)

It got me thinking about others who live alone every day. I have friends who are widows and widowers. Blake will live alone in his dorm room this year. Erin lives alone here in Shenandoah. Some of my friends are single adults. I find myself wondering how lonely they are. 

In my situation this week, I at least have the comfort that Erin will come home from working at school and we can spend some time together before the day is over. Other people have no one coming home at night. It must be a hard life.

Moms who live at home with a husband and one or more children can sometimes feel overwhelmed by all of the demands on their time, but this little break is helping me to be thankful for what I have. I love my husband and kids, they are gifts from God that add richness to my life.

For those who live alone, I think it must be very important for them to be deliberate about connecting with others. It would be nice if people reached out to them, but it's probably even more important for them to reach out when they're lonely. They can call other single people, call family members, join clubs, attend a church where they can build good relationships with others.

Most of all, remember this:

Jesus is with us every second of every day. When we start to feel lonely (and I think many people can even feel that way in the middle of a crowd) we need to remember that God loves us and He's with us.

I'm heading back home on Sunday, but I'll cherish the "lonely" times I've had this week as they've taught me to recognize God's presence with me. 

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9 NIV)

Do you ever feel lonely?How can focusing on God help you to feel better and give you ideas for reconnecting with Him and with others?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on the RipCord

Most of our family went to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City a few weeks ago. Blake was working, but the rest of us got to enjoy some time at this great amusement park. We had lots of fun and we took some time to watch people riding the RipCord when we passed that way. It looked so scary, but fun. I had always said I wanted to ride it, but I chickened out when Gary and the girls rode it at Cedar Point a few years ago. "No, it's too guys just go," I urged, ever the martyr. I wouldn't admit it then, but I was just a bit too scared to ride.

This time I felt a little braver and considered doing it. When we figured out that you could ride for half price if you signed up and rode in the morning, I got pretty excited. (Having fun and saving money? Sign me up!) We decided to go back the next day so I could finally ride and stop getting teased for being a chicken.

By the time we got there, the girls decided they wanted to ride again and we convinced Dylan to try it for his first time and ride with them. We were doing this thing! We waited around until our "flight time" and then I got suited up. "Step here, pull these straps up, (lots of tugging and tightening) hold onto this handle and walk over there and wait by the gate." I was shaking by this time, but I smiled as I waited nervously. They got me on the platform and I waited while the group of three that "flew" before me was lowered back to the platform. Then they waited while the workers got me hooked up. "You're going to fall forward, don't try to stop yourself." I barely heard this and then I was falling. Gary said he could hear me scream from where he was waiting to videotape. The people who rode before me said, "That's the worst part."


"No," they laughed, "but it's really not bad. You'll love it!"

They were escorted off the platform and I was pulled up to about 189 feet in the air. That was always the part that had looked the scariest to me, but I was surprised to find that I didn't mind much at all. It was kind of funny to see people on the ground watching me get hauled up there. Finally I reached the top and stopped for a few seconds. I heard someone over the speaker say, "Rider, 3-2-1, fly!" I pulled the RipCord on my harness, I fell, and then I was flying at about 80 mph. It was so awesome! (You can watch the video at the end of this blog post if you want. It's just a couple of minutes long)

When I got back to the platform, I got to talk with my kids before they rode. From the look on my face, you can see that I loved it. They did, too.

When we were all back on the ground again, I kept thinking about the RipCord as we rode other rides and went to Oceans of Fun. Fear had almost kept me from enjoying a really fun experience. How many other times had I let fear keep me from enjoying something awesome? Too many times to even count, I'm thinking. 

Sometimes it feels easier to just stay where we are at, where we're comfortable. We know what to expect and we prefer to play it safe even as we look longingly at something else that looks exciting.

I had watched many people ride the RipCord at different parks over the years. It had looked terrifying from the ground, but every single person was smiling and putting their arms out like they were flying, no matter how loud they had screamed during that initial drop from up high. That should have reassured me, but I was still shaking when I went to get hooked up to the ride. 

I'm going to keep the RipCord in mind when I come up to exciting, scary challenges and new experiences in life. God has so much in store for you and me, we just need to trust Him and move forward in faith, not fear. We'll miss out on so much if we don't.


"The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10 NIV)

Have you ever let fear keep you from doing something fun? How can focusing on God help you to trust Him and try new things?

Friday, August 5, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on RAGBRAI

On July 24, Gary and I rode on RAGBRAI. I had heard of the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa a long time ago and always thought it would be fun to do, but never took the time to train and attempt it.

This year Gary decided to do it. Well, the first day anyway. Our daughter Erin moved to Shenandoah in June and that's where the first day's ride ended. 

Gary rode to Clarksville almost daily and went to Shell Rock a few times before the ride. I rode to Clarksville a few times, but I didn't train every day. I wasn't sure I wanted to do it. We had seen RAGBRAI riders coming into Clear Lake a few years ago, and it kind of scared me to see such big groups of bikes riding together. I wasn't sure I could handle it. I could just see me getting wobbly and causing a huge crash. 

As the day got closer, I started to think about riding, too. It was "only" going to be 50 miles, I was sure I could make it. So, that morning we drove to Glenwood and Erin dropped us off. We just pulled into the campground, unloaded our bikes, took a quick picture, and got on the road with lots of other riders at about 6 a.m. 

The very first hill was a killer and I had second thoughts as I started to huff and puff up the curvy incline. But then I got to the top and coasted down a nice long hill. I think I was hooked right there.

It was daunting to look ahead and see a hill coming up, but I kept pedaling. Gary and I didn't stay together very long. We figured out that we had different ways of riding. He liked to hit the hills hard and get up them fast. I clicked down through my gears and plugged away slowly and steadily until I got to the top. We texted and talked a few times during the ride, but we went at our own pace. 

During the first half of the ride, I got to a discouraging sign. 

 I like roller coasters, but I didn't think I wanted to pedal through one. The hills were at an 8 to 10% grade and they were tough, but I kept pedaling and made it through.

Here I am halfway through at Tabor. Erin had driven there and waited for us. Gary had passed through quite a while before this, but it was nice to have a little rest with Erin and refill my water bottle. 
All of the cool RAGBRAI riders wear their helmet slightly askew like this. :-)

I also had a photo op in the park where I documented my half-success:

I don't have any pictures of the second half of the ride. Frankly, I was just trying to survive. It got hot and every hill seemed a little bit harder. My goal was to not have to walk up any hills. I did it, but I did stop at the top of several of them and rested a while. The first time I did it in the hot sun. After that I got smart and made sure to find some shade to sit in while I drank a little water and rested. More and more people asked, "Are you okay?" while I was panting next to my bike. I was okay, it was just going to take me a while to finish.

There were some really tough hills near the end, but Gary had also texted that the last few miles were relatively flat and encouraged me that I could make it. I pressed on.

It felt so good to ride into Shenandoah and cross under the banner on Main Street. I had done it! It didn't matter that Gary had finished in four hours and I had taken six hours and fifteen minutes. The most important thing was that I had finished. It felt great!
Holding the seeds they gave us at the end.

I keep thinking about RAGBRAI in the weeks since then. It's such a good comparison to life. The hard work we have to put in to get through difficult times in our life. How important it is to keep going and eventually finish our life's race. How some people stop to help when a fellow rider is having trouble. The importance of taking care of ourselves as we ride (drinking water, resting, knowing our limits). 

One of the greatest things I took away from RAGBRAI was the importance of riding your own ride. I watched people pass me (and lots of people passed me) and they were all so different. Some were in fancy bike gear with team logos on them, some were in shirts and shorts like me, some rode with a friend and chatted as they rode, other rode alone. Some looked like they were in great shape and the ride was easy. Others were huffing and puffing (like me) and had to walk up the worst hills. It was okay. We were all on RAGBRAI. Some were registered for the whole week. Others were "outlaws" and just joined in on the first day to get a taste of what RAGBRAI was like. 

I rode in RAGBRAI, but I didn't really do RAGBRAI. That honor is reserved for those who put in seven days of pedaling their hearts out. I'm glad I rode, even if it was for just one day. It will stay with me as I keep plugging away through this life I live. Some days may be an uphill climb, but I will keep going. Other days may be a joyful coast through beautiful experiences. I will choose to enjoy them fully and rest up for the inevitable hill coming up again. No matter what, I'll rely on God for my strength and courage to keep going and complete life's ride.

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14 NIV)

How is your life's "ride" going? How can focusing on God help you keep going and finish your "ride" well?