When You Least Expect It

I stopped writing for a little bit. I have pondered just stopping completely. Just walk away. Reasons? I don’t have anything positive to say. No sense in dragging people down with my negativity. I have a lot of stress in my life that is tied into other people and their stories, and I have no freedom to share their stories and so I can’t talk about and explore all the reasons their stories are stressing me out. And probably the most honest, I feel myself in a deep dark place of depression and why would I want to share that with the world? 

Depression is a weird thing. I can stand back and be analytical. Yeah, the times that I get depressed are when I am emotionally stretched too thin. Too much on my plate. I’m overwhelmed. But then, there have been plenty of times that I have been in that position and not fallen into deep depression. So what’s the difference? How do I stop it from descending on me? I’ve tried hard to practice Self-care. I’ve tried very hard to keep my load at a bearable weight. I’ve tried very hard to be proactive about keeping depression at bay. And then there is a “Last Straw” moment and I feel myself sliding down into a pit. 

Today I sat in my chair in my room, opened the curtains so the sun would shine straight in my face. I sat there with my eyes closed and thought about Hope. 

Hope is such an elusive thing. I don’t know how to summon it up when I am at my lowest. But somehow, it has a way of wafting past my face when I am least expecting it. Today, as my eyes saw bright spots against my eyelids and the light warmed me up, I felt a stirring of hope. I realized that all my thoughts about God and his love for me and my inability to accept that on some fundamental level, all of that angst was not something I had to solve today. Today I could just focus on being thankful and praising God and that was enough for now. 

I decided to cancel my membership with the personal trainer app I’ve been using the past year. Not because they weren’t awesome and super helpful to me, but because I realized I needed to move forward with something different to fit where I am now, a year later. And instead of failure, it felt hopeful to start looking for something new.

Today I have decided that all the other myriad problems that are weighing me down can get fixed another day. Or never at all. Just deal with the problems that are right in front of me at this very moment. Cliche. But still true. Story of my life, trying to remember that and walk in it. 

Hope showed up with some sunshine today. I don’t know why. But I’ll take it. I don’t know how long it will last, but I’ll take what I can get. And on the days when hope doesn’t show up, I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other. Seek out the light. Trust that it will show up when I least expect it.  

Fat Fridays: Mental Health Check In

Happy Friday everyone. 

It’s 8:45am and I’ve already had a busy morning. Made homemade muffins for the kids for breakfast. I’ve got a big batch of yeast bread started, sitting in a bowl on the mantel to rise. Walked around picking up all the winter clothing that was left on the floor yesterday after we had a small batch of snow (only happens a couple times a year for us). Lit all the candles in the house in an attempt to chase off the gloom from this cold gray morning. I’ve cleaned up several messes from my son’s puppy that we are babysitting during the day while he’s at work. And also let my cats in and out the door about 5,000 times. 

And I’ve been trying really hard to not be snappy at my kids. This is their second snow day home and in my current mood, I’ve found it challenging to have to deal with arguments, fussing, and just a bunch of energetic kids bouncing around the house. (Stop throwing playing cards at my candles, No, we are NOT playing basketball in the house, yes, we ARE going to clean your room, No, we are NOT going to do a science experiment that involves setting paper on fire.) 

I am struggling a lot with depression and irritability. I’ve been working on getting back to healthy eating, cutting out sugar and processed foods again, and my body is in shock and not happy as it is deprived of all it’s junk again. I know I’m making progress, I’m starting to crave healthy food again and I haven’t had a hard time staying away from the bad suff, but it always puts me in a bad mood when I come off sugar and junk. I have a feeling a lot of that is just physical things happening in my body. 

I’m coming off the High of the Holidays and feeling a predictable blah-ness from resuming normal life again. 

The last two years have been pretty traumatic and so I find myself facing this new year with a lot of hesitancy. What craziness is going to happen this year? 

We’ve got an upcoming court date for our foster daughter and I’m having to face a lot of inner-demons as I resolve to make my voice heard instead of staying quiet. 

I imagine everyone has a list of reasons for why their mental health is not doing so great right now. 

What am I doing about it? 

Well, I’ve been really focused on keeping my home in a constant state of tidiness and order and coziness. It is calming to me to sit in a clean room with candles lit and some pretty things to look at. I tend to be very comfortable with clutter and chaos, but lately I’ve been going the opposite direction and needing everything orderly and in its place. 

I’ve gotten back into daily Bible reading. I have a 12 month Read the BIble in Year. Each day has a date and a passage from the Old Testament, the New Testament, a Psalm and a Proverb. I have decided to start in the month of December and work my way backwards, cause that just feels more doable for me. I am finding this reading time to be a time of calm and peace. 

I am working hard on getting our whole family eating healthy again, and one of the things I’m focusing on is baking our own whole-grain bread again. I used to do this a lot, years ago, and then stopped. I find that I need to bake about every two days in order to keep up with the kids. There is something very soothing about making bread. It makes me feel grounded and connected to the earth. Weird? I don’t know. I just know that I am enjoying it and find it soothing. 

The last thing is I am trying to keep life as simple as possible. I’ve had to hit pause on keeping up with community events and concerns, what’s happening in our country, and just focus in on my home. 

And even doing all that, it’s still been a struggle. But, I’m hopeful. My body is going to adjust to the healthier diet again, we’ll get past our court date, spring will come again. Life keeps moving. We just have to take it one day at a time. 

Moving Forward

Happy New Year everyone. I hope it’s going well for you so far. 

I have been fighting a lot of stress and some depression as I’ve moved forward into January. Lots of reasons. 

First of all, let’s just acknowledge the parents/caregivers who take the lead in making Christmas and holidays happen. Kids really are oblivious to the amount of behind-the-scenes work it takes to make a holiday feel special. By the time New Years came and went, I was pretty wiped out. It was a great holiday season: cozy, fun, special. But it took a lot of energy. And after every high, there is usually a low. 

Second, we have a court date set for February concerning our foster daughter. Some things have changed and so this upcoming court date is churning up a lot of stress in my life. A lot. 

And lastly, I am finding it hard to get excited about this new year we are in. My goals have diminished down to “Let’s just survive.” Ok, that’s not exactly true. I have set some new exercise and weight loss goals, and they feel achievable. I am really focusing on getting my whole family into a healthier eating lifestyle. But aside from that, I feel like I am playing defense. Let’s just handle each challenge/catastrophe as it comes. 

Recognizing that I’m in a place of stress, I’ve been working a lot on making my home a cozy, relaxing place to be. I bought some more candles, acquired a new plant, made a new centerpiece on my dining room table. Got most of the Christmas stuff put away, but kept a couple things out like some angel figurines on my mantel. I’ve tried to make my world a little smaller. Keep my focus simply on family and housework. Try to get my mind out of the future and just be in today. (I’m not doing real well with that one, so far, but I’m trying.)

Through it all, I have felt God’s presence with me in a new way I’ve never felt before. Where my thoughts used to wander to anything and everything, I find my thoughts moving back to Jesus over and over again. It feels like grace sitting heavily on me. And while my mind has always equated grace with happy peace and rest, lack of troubles; it’s an interesting experience to be in the midst of troubles and stress and still have peace. I wouldn’t call it happy peace though. It’s more solemn. And more solid. And I am clinging hard to it and moving forward into this new year, one day at a time. 

Fat Fridays: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Well, here we are, the last day of the year. The typical time that we reflect on the past and get excited about the future. 

Looking back I feel like I had a lot of good accomplishments. I started off the year a size 22 and now I am a size 16. I started off the year getting out of breath walking up stairs and I ended the year running a 5k. I started off the year with no exercise habits and ended the year with a desire to get myself moving every day. It is now a rare week that I don’t get in six workouts. I have plans to go running tomorrow and that is something I am looking forward to. 

This past year I changed my diet significantly and managed to move my A1C down out of the range where I needed to be on medicine and was able to quit taking metformin. I am not as happy with my diet though. I did not find a diet that was easy to share with my family and that was satisfying enough that I wanted to stick to it. I kind of abandoned my diet over the holidays and now I am needing to start all over again in this area. 

In all, a lot of good things happened this year. 

I am looking forward to next year. I’ve set some new goals. 

For exercise I’ve told my trainer that I want to focus on running and weight training. I plan to sign up for a 5k every two or three months so I have something that I’m working towards. I would like to get a lot faster. My end of the year goal is to run a 5k in 30 minutes. This December I ran one in 37 minutes. I don’t know if I’ll make my goal or not, but we’ll see how close I get. 

For weight loss I am hoping to get down to a size 14 by the beginning of summer and a size 12 by next Thanksgiving. In high school, at my skinniest and fittest I was a size 10. I don’t anticipate ever getting my high school body back. I’ve given birth 10 times and nursed 10 babies. Some things will never be the same and that’s ok. So, we’ll see how it goes. I’ve decided to not attach my goals to a number on the scale. I don’t really care what number it says as long as I’m fitting into smaller clothing. I’ll probably end up weighing myself just out of curiosity, but I don’t want to be focused on reaching a certain number. 

As far as diet is concerned I’m feeling a lot more motivated to drag my family along on my health journey. Poor family. 🙂  I want to focus on whole grains, lots of fruits and veggies, lean meats, and as little processed food as possible. I think it will be easier for me if we are all eating the same things. We’ll see how that goes. 

I am hopeful about this coming year. Not really hopeful that it’s going to be a peaceful, easy year. But, hopeful that I will be able to cling to a healthy diet and exercise as a much-needed tool in my survival skills toolbelt so I can handle whatever the next year throws at me. 

Happy New Year Everyone!

“Shadows and Substance” a Review

I just finished reading my pastor Neil Silverberg’s new book, “Shadows and Substance: The Truth About Jewish Roots and Christian Believers”. It has been an excellent read, though it has taken me a while to get through it just because the amount of time I have to focus on intelligent reading only comes in short increments. 

I have been thinking a lot about what I want to say about this book. What I really want is for all my friends who are involved in the Hebrew Roots Movement to stop what they are doing, pick up this book, read it, and then have a discussion with me. And maybe I would invite my pastor to come along so that it could be a real meeting of minds and you could talk to someone who is Jewish and hear him explain why he does not folllow the Hebrew Roots Movement.  https://neilsilverberg.com/shadows/

Second best is that you would buy the book and read it and truly allow yourself to be confronted by what it says. https://neilsilverberg.com/shadows/

Third, fourth, and fifth best, go at least read the reviews of the book left by people who are more eloquent than I am. reviews

Maybe sixth best thing is that you read what I have to say about the book. And I think the best I can do is give you some excerpts.

Concerning the Law, here is an excerpt from the book:

“More than any other book in Scripture, Hebrews attempts to make sense out of fifteen hundred years of Old Testament history, promises, covenants, and rituals. And it does so to set forth the powerful truth that what has come in the Messiah is so much better than everything that preceded it! The Messiah has come and introduced a brand new order, superior in every way to what existed under the old order.

One of the ways the writer of Hebrews communicates this is by referring to everything in the Old Covenant as a “shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities” (Hebrews 10:1; italics mine). By referring to them as shadows, the author doesn’t mean they weren’t real; they were, in fact, real personages, real events, and real rituals. But they were not complete in themselves, being mere reflections of reality. The fullness of those things would not be known untl the Messiah came. Then those shadows would give place to the substance which has come in Jesus.” (pg 193-194)

Learning about the Jewish roots of Christianity is fascinating and enriching. It helps us to understand so much better and deeper how Jesus fulfilled the law and the Old Covenant, how the entire Old Testament points towards His Coming. But then Jesus instituted a New Covenant. Another quote from the book:

“Do you see what Paul is saying? The righteous requirement of the Law is now fulfilled in believers who “do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4b). In other words, the righteousness the Law demands is now exhibited by a believer as he or she walks in the Spirit. Paul reminds the believers at Galatia that as they walk by the Spirit, they are no longer under the Law but under the law of Christ (Galatians 5:18).” (pg 67)

In the end, my takeaway is that it is so easy to get entangled in Law. The free forgiveness that Jesus has offered us, the grace he calls us to walk in, the simplicity of walking in the Spirit, it never feels like it’s enough. Because we aren’t doing any of the work. We aren’t earning our salvation in any way. And that doesn’t feel right. We always feel like we have to do some of the work or it doesn’t count. But, we come to Jesus on his terms, not our own. And his terms say that you accept his completed work on the Cross and you come to him through faith, not works. 

For anyone who is aware of  their own tendency to slip into legalism, this is a great book. For anyone who has dabbled in the Hebrew Roots Movement, this is a great book. For anyone who just wants to grow in their knowledge of the Gospel, this is a great book. 

I hope you can read it. 

Grief, Joy, Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve and I find myself wavering back and forth between joy and happiness and guilt and worry. 

In other words, I am fully human. Even though I somehow think I will get superpowers when holidays come around and I will cease to have stress and grief and daily troubles. After all, it’s Christmas! Right? 

This Christmas I have all my children home, the first time in three years. My heart is full. Our house is cheerful, we were able to get presents for everyone, we have everything we need and a little extra. We’ve had a great advent season of daily bible readings with the kids. We’ve had great church services helping us bring our focus on Jesus. It has been a good Christmas season. 

And then, at the same time, a friend of mine unexpectedly died a couple days ago. Another friend of mine is in the process of losing her mom to cancer. Another friend just lost a famly member unexpectedly. So much grief. So much heaviness. 

Kind of like the first Christmas. 

Mary, pregnant and unmarried, having to deal with all the presumptions people are making of her. Joseph with a new wife, but in name only, watching her carry someone else’s child, not the way he was planning on starting his marriage. A trip to Bethlehem because of the whims of a conquering nation. Bad timing, Mary is about to give birth. Then, they get to Bethlehem, the baby is definitely coming, right now. No place to stay. No warm welcome. No comfortable place to settle in. Birth. Mary’s first. First labor, not knowing what to expect. Not knowing if you will survive the process. And then the baby is here. But no proud grandparents to announce the news to friends and family. No friends and family. 

But then a bunch of shepherds come running in. Telling stories about angels and heavenly hosts. And I’m sure Mary and Joseph remembered vividly their own encounters with angels. And there is of course this brand new baby filling their hearts with joy as only a new baby can. 

Grief and Joy. Suffering and Hope. Christmas.

We are in good company. 

This season I pray that we can have peace. That we can accept our grief but give ourselves permission to have joy as well. That we can have happiness and not feel guilty for feeling sad at the same time. 

In the end, we cling to the hope that All is Well. 

“All is well all is well

Lift up your voices and sing

Born is now Emmanuel

Born is our Lord and Savior”

Michael W. Smith

Emmanuel, God is with Us. We go through our trials here on earth, but we are no longer alone. We have hope for a future with Jesus where every tear will be wiped away. No more sorrow. No more grief. 

Until that time comes, we move forward. Tears in our eyes. A smile on our face. Grief, Joy. Christmas. 

May you all have a Merry Christmas filled with joy and may you have peace to feel all the emotions that face you this season.

A Family Christmas Evening

Today is our first day of Christmas break. It started early for me as I had to run my teens on an errand at 8am and then that was followed by grocery shopping with one of my daughters as my helper. Then off to two more stores to finish up my Christmas shopping. 

This afternoon we did “The Great Name Exchange” where all the kids who don’t have their own funds draw one of their siblings names out of hat and I give them $5 to go thrift store shopping and pick a small present. Every year it’s a puzzle to figure out how to get each one into the store and buy a present without the other siblings seeing what they got. But it actually went really smoothly this year. Then home to wrap the presents and make supper. 

After supper we stayed at the table and read our devotions and did our nightly advent reading. The kids wanted to watch a movie, but I vetoed and I suggested that we sing Christmas Carols instead. 

And we had a wonderful Caroling time. 

Now, you are probably imagining all my children lined up neatly around the piano, focused on singing, harmonizing, everything beautiful. 

No. 

I had one daughter who sat on the piano bench with me and sang all the verses of each song with great gusto. My teen boys started a chess game on the chess board which happens to be located on the back of my baby grand piano. They sang along on the chorus most of the time while they played their chess game. The four year old got our glockenspiel out and sat in a corner cheerfully banging away his own accompaniment. The two seven year olds would occasionally join in when they knew the song, but they were also busy throwing a marble back and forth at each other. A couple other people had hot drinks sitting on the couches and I heard their voices occasionally. Then a couple kids pulled out a puzzle on the coffee table and sang along while they pieced together the puzzle. The marble-chasing kids were running around, making noise. My oldest son popped in for a couple minutes. A couple arguments broke out. And then got resolved. My voice finally gave out and we turned on some Christmas music, including Straight No Chaser’s “The 12 Day of Christmas” which is just hilarious. (I just have to add that the fire is going in the fireplace and the tree is sparkling in the corner!)

It has been a wonderful family evening. 

People always say “Enjoy it now! They’ll grow up fast!” And it’s true. I’ve got a twenty-one year old off living her own life, my twelve and fourteen year old boys are taller than both their parents now. My youngest is about to turn five. And so, I write this down so I can enjoy this evening for years to come. A peaceful Heneise Family Christmas evening. 

I am feeling especially thankful. 

Fat Fridays: One Day Late

I’m a day late, but today was THE DAY and I wanted to wait so I could tell you about it. 

I ran my first 5k today!! 

In the rain. In December. 

The name of the race was the Sunshine Santa 5k hosted by Endurance Sports Management. It was a fundraiser to support the Sunshine Ambassadors Program whose tagline is “Enriching the Lives of Individuals with Disabilities through Dance”. There was also a half marathon being run at the same time. 

Four hundred people signed up for the race though I don’t think that many actually showed up. It was fun to see people of all ages and fitness levels coming together to run, walk, and just be active together on a rainy Saturday morning. 

My husband and one of my daughters came along to cheer me on. I was very thankful for my husband’s tips as I tried to figure out how to dress for a run in cold rain. The life-saving tip was to wear a ball cap so the rain wouldn’t get on my glasses. I never would have thought of that. Thanks sweetie! 

In order to keep myself moving I always have some song running in my head. Today’s music was “Jingle Bells”, a little chant that included the phrase “I can do this, I can do this.” And the final song for the last mile was “The Ants go Marching One by One” which is actually a perfect song for me to get my breathing under control. 🙂 

My trainer told me, ahead of time, that on the second mile I should actively look for people to try and pass in order to keep myself moving. So, there was this lady in an aqua blue jacket and she was doing a combination of running and walking. I would pass her while she was walking and then almost right after I passed her she would start running again and pass me again, get just far enough ahead of me and then start walking again. Then I would pass her again and we would repeat the whole thing. In the final mile I was sure that she would pass me up since her running pace was a lot faster than mine, but almost the whole last mile was uphill and while she started walking, I kept running. And she didn’t pass me again. And that was my major victory for the run. 🙂 

I had fun. It’s a lot easier to run with other people than being solo. I had two goals. To do the whole race without stopping to walk, and to try and do it in 36 minutes. I did it in 37 mins and 19 secs. So, I still haven’t met that goal. But I feel good. My average running time had been 40 minutes for three miles, so I’ve brought it down some. I think I’m going to have to sign up for another run.

Well, I’m super happy. I’ll stop going on about the race and let you all get on with your day. Talk to you next week!

And Peace on Earth

It is early in the morning. I am the only one awake. I’m sitting out in my living room, all the lights off except my Christmas Tree which is glowing softly. I had been lying in bed, wide awake, my mind fretting on a million things, so I finally decided to just get up. 

Right now I have one of the pieces from Handel’s Messiah running through my head. “Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God in the Highest…….And Peace, On earth……Good will toward men, toward men, Good will toward men, toward men…” which of course comes straight from Luke 2:14. 

Thinking back, this year has been insane. We have weathered some really hard things. I think about the violence our neighborhood and schools have seen this year. I think about the crazy ups and downs we’ve had with our foster daughter. I think about the stressful medical situations we’ve gone through with different family members. Loved ones who passed away. A lot of uncertainty in our country and the news always blasting gloom and hopelessness. 

It’s been a hard year. 

1 Thessolonians 4:13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

This verse talks about grieving death. But I think it is appropriate to say that we don’t grieve, in general, without hope. Whether it is over the death of a loved one, over loss, over enduring trauma, or anything else that hits us hard. We don’t grieve without hope. 

The next verses in Thessolonians 4 go on to say that Jesus died on the cross for us and he will return one day and take all of us up to be with him. And so we know that this time on earth is just a chapter. Not the final credits. The story is just beginning. We look forward to eternity with Jesus. And that is our hope. 

And this brings me back to the angels singing Glory to God in the Highest and Peace on Earth, Good will toward men. 

It’s been a hard year. I’m sitting up early because my mind is worried about a lot of things. But, I don’t worry or grieve or live life as someone without hope. I know that I am at peace with God. Jesus made the way for me to be at peace with God. Before Jesus, all my sins made it impossible for me to come close to God at all. After Jesus, well here I am. I’ve endured a crazy year. I am looking at more craziness right now. But I have peace. I feel God’s good will toward me. I feel surrounded by his blessings and mercy. I am overwhelmed with thankfulness. 

I’m not sure how to spell this out clearly enough. I could make you a giant list of things I’m worried about. Legitimate things. Legal issues we have to look into concerning our foster child. Problems with the inner city schools our children are attending. Financial worries. The normal worries of, “Are my kids going to turn out ok??” The everyday worries, “This family is eating way too much junk over the holidays, how do we get back to eating healthy again??” Nagging worries like, “It’s only ten days to Christmas and I haven’t bought any Christmas gifts yet.” So many things that try to steal our peace. And yet, I am at peace. And Jesus is the one that did that for me. 

And so I sit up early and hum to myself, “Glory to God in the Highest”, and I hand my worries back over to God, get ready for another busy day, and know that I have Peace. 

Fat Fridays: Tis’ the Season

Good morning everyone. Hope you all are well today. 

I am busily cleaning my house, listening to Pentatonix’s Oh Come All Ye Faithful. (Ok, I had to stop writing there for a second so I could sing along. Ok. Focus on writing.) 

I was up all night thinking about all the things I need to do in the next couple days. My son has a Christmas program at school tonight, and we have family coming to watch. We’re having our annual Christmas Open House on Sunday which involves a lot of cleaning, cooking, and planning. And on top of all that, this week I pulled a muscle in my back and spent a whole day just sitting in a chair. Yesterday I was able to move around, but slowly and carefully. Today I am stiff, but able to move.  But, that put me two days behind on all the Christmas preparation I was planning on doing. And then last night the PTO from the elementary school said we are selling popcorn tomorrow, can you come help? And I said yes, while my eye started twitching. 

I am pretty sure that I pulled a muscle this week because I have been walking around in a physical state of stress. I love Christmas time. I love doing things for other people, making things special for my kids, all the extra Christmas activities. But, it can be stressful. I like my life slow paced. And the whole month of December is not slow paced. At all. And there are a lot of social interactions. And I am an introvert who has discovered over time that I thrive on a lot of alone-quiet time. And I haven’t been getting a lot of that. Last night I went to my son’s basketball game with one of my daughters. We watched both the boys and girls games. Another mom from the team was sitting next to me so we engaged in polite social chitchat. It was noisy. I spent a lot of time talking to my daughter. When we got home I gathered the family together so we could do our nightly Advent devotions that we do in the month of December. We finished Advent and then I gave my husband “The Look”. The look that says, I am done. I need to disappear. PLEASE TAKE OVER!! And my husband, who stayed home with all the other kids, fed them supper, helped them with homework, goes, “What??” All you’ve done is go to a basketball game! But, going to a basketball game takes a lot of energy! 

So, we tag teamed and made it through bedtime, crashed into bed, and then I dreamed about cleaning my house, preparing for parties, and kept waking up wondering if it was time to start the next busy day. 

So, for this blog, the question is, how do you maintain diet, exercise, and self-care during the holidays? 

I think the best I can come up with is Be Realistic. 

The next three days I am not going to have much time, but I plan to get up early tomorrow morning so I can squeeze in a workout. I don’t think I will get to one today though, too many things to do. But, I know that next week I will have more time, so I just have to accept that sometimes you can’t do everything. And as far as self-care, I think I just have to keep reminding myself that none of this is life and death. If I don’t get everything done, it’s ok. All of these things I’m doing are because I want everything a certain way. And if it ends up not being the exact way I want, Who cares? No one else does. Just me. So, I have to keep reminding myself that the level of importance I’m putting on all these plans is very flexible. And diet? Well, there is always January. Though I am going to try and come up with some quick, healthy meals we can just heat up for the next couple days without needing a lot of prep. 

So, I’m off to do more cleaning and then go sell popcorn and then cook and clean some more. And maybe try to remember that this is fun and I love the holidays.