How to Get Through Hard Times

For the past six months, I had been doing a lot better in terms of depression. In fact, sometime around July I was feeling so good that I thought maybe I was done with depression completely. I was just about ready to proclaim that I was healed. But then, just when I started to feel free, it came back. It crept in slowly at first, until I one day realized I was in deep again.

I always have doubts about sharing these struggles with others, especially through a public forum like this. I worry that people will overreact, or react in ways that could hurt my feelings. But I also believe it’s important to be honest and real, and to share my feelings instead of hiding them. So that’s why I’m writing this today.

My depression is weird, in that it comes and goes on a daily or weekly basis. When I’m feeling bad, it may last for days or weeks, but almost never for a month straight or more than that. I might have a good week, then a bad week, then a good day, then a bad couple of days, and so on. It’s unpredictable. Another unique thing about it is that usually, I am able to function very normally even when I feel deeply depressed. I am good at hiding it, and I am able to keep it inside without letting it effect my behavior very noticeably. I suppose I’m fortunate that it doesn’t debilitate me, and I’m able to continue caring for Cody and our home.

Anyway, the couple of bouts I’ve had since my long stretch of feeling good have been caused by stress and boredom, two of my triggers. The summer where we live is extremely hot, and it keeps us indoors most days. There’s only so much to do indoors with a young toddler, so I have struggled with boredom and monotony. Cody is also going through a difficult developmental stage as he’s nearing age two, and he is likely struggling with boredom during the days as well, which makes him even more difficult. I’ve also been stressed about our new puppy’s behavioral problems, and juggling a lot of financial changes lately and having to rearrange our financial priorities. All of it together has caused me to feel pretty low.

There have been good days and weeks as well, this summer. There are days when I have activities to do, and social events, and quality time with my loved ones, and Cody’s mood is better, and I have more patience and creativity to offer him. Sometimes those days even turn into weeks that are enjoyable. And even when my weeks aren’t enjoyable, there are things that happen within them which I enjoy. My depression is not all-consuming, except perhaps for moments at a time. I still find joy even in the midst of depression.

I’ve written all of this to preface what I really wanted to share, which is my list called “How to Get Through Hard Times.” It’s a small list I made of five things that I find help me when I’m in the midst of a depression cycle. I think that these things could also help with other struggles that people experience.

  1. Notice the perfect moments.
  2. Thank God for the good, even if it’s only in moments at a time.
  3. Ask God for help in the bad moments.
  4. Declare victory over trials in Jesus’ name. Hold on to hope.
  5. Remember that THIS WILL PASS.

Noticing the perfect moments means that even when I’m stressed out and sad, I force myself to stop and see the good, because it’s still there. Even on days when Cody skips his nap, and I’ve looked at the clock a dozen times in the past hour only to find that only a single minute has somehow passed, and I don’t know how I will survive the day. Even on the days when I try to take Cody to the park, but he has a meltdown after five minutes and we have to turn around and go home. Even on the days when my puppy has had an accident, chewed through her collar, and barks every time I let her outside. Even on those days, there are good—even perfect—moments. I just need to remember to notice them. I’m talking about when I find myself enjoying a special moment with Cody, whether it’s laughing at his latest silly antic or getting a sweet snuggle or just being overwhelmed by my love for him as he falls asleep nursing. I’m also talking about the glorious moments of peace and quiet when he’s napping, moments of playing with Cody together with Cory, moments of enjoying the cooler evening weather on our family walks, and even moments of enjoying some delicious food or a special treat. It is so important to notice those good and perfect moments. Sometimes I will even say to myself, “this is a perfect moment,” and then just be in it.

I also need to remember to thank God for those perfect moments, and all of the good things in my life. Taking a moment to do that helps me to focus outside of the depressed feelings and focus more on the positive. No, that positive outlook doesn’t always last past “amen,” but it does do something good in my heart and in my relationship with God, and I have found that it helps me push on.

Asking God for help in the bad moments means that when I feel like I’m about to crack under the pressure, I pray for the Holy Spirit to intervene. It may be as small as saying “Jesus, help.” He knows what I mean, and what I need in that moment. Sometimes, the only way we can keep it together is through the strength of God, who is greater. Our strength isn’t always enough—and we aren’t called to be strong on our own anyway.

Declaring victory over my struggles in Jesus’ name… really for me, this just means that I cling on to the hope that Jesus is fighting for me and that he will win in the end, and that I will eventually overcome the difficulties that I’m facing through his victory. In fewer words, it means holding on to hope.

Lastly, and perhaps one of the most important for me, I need to remember that whatever hard time I’m going through will pass. Suffering is temporary. I will feel better at some point, Cody will become easier, I will find a solution, God will change my circumstance, or I will find that I can be joyful in midst of the challenge. If all else fails, I know that no suffering will exist in Heaven. And that’s eternity, y’all.

So that’s what I’m doing right now, working on doing those five things as much as possible. I know that this depression is not forever. I will get through it.

The Fifth Year

Yesterday, Cory and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. Woo!

It’s strange to think that we’ve been married only five years, yet we’ve had Cody for almost two of those years. It feels like we’ve been married for a really long time but Cody still feels somewhat “new,” if that makes sense. It’s must be true that kids make time go faster!

This year of our marriage started out with celebrating Cory turning 24 in August—which of course, means he’ll be turning 25 this month. But at least for the months of July and August, we get to enjoy being the same age, 24. 🙂

In August of last year, I also started my final college course which I needed to complete my Associate’s degree. (The class ended in December and I passed.)

In September, we went to Knott’s for the first time with Cody to celebrate Cory’s birthday, and it was really fun! He had a great time walking around and exploring the park with his grandparents, while Cory and I were able to enjoy the rides with our friends. That month was also the month I met Noelle, one of my closest mom friends these days, and of course Cody met her son who is a couple of months older and now one of his closest friends (as close as toddlers can really be, anyway). September was also the month I started seeing a therapist to try to address the post-partum/lifelong depression I had been dealing with. For the record, I didn’t find that it helped me, and I stopped after about two months. Also for the record, I have been doing better slowly but surely over the past year!

In October, we celebrated Cody’s first birthday with a small family party, which was really special to me. That month we also enjoyed some fall festivities such as visiting the pumpkin patch and dressing up for Halloween. We dressed up as a food chain! Cory was a coyote, I was a rabbit, and Cody was a carrot. =J Hehehe.

In November and December, we enjoyed celebrating the holidays with our families. This year, Cody was a little more cooperative and interactive than last year, which was nice. He’s never been the easiest traveler or the most outgoing child, but he’s becoming a little bit more pleasant to take places as he gets older. I also started a new job in November working in the childcare for my church’s women’s ministry, once a week, which has been a nice way to make a little bit of extra money and spend my time in a positive way. Plus, Cody comes with me and it’s fun for him to play with the other kids and be socialized. November was also when we went on the annual retreat to Las Vegas with Cory’s company, which was pretty fun even though I’m not the biggest fan of Vegas. We were able to see a Cirque Du Solei show and enjoy an amazing company dinner, which was awesome!

In January, we celebrated the New Year with our one year old by going to bed well before midnight. It’s a wild life for parents with toddlers! 😉 That month we went on a trip to Big Bear with my brother Jeremiah and his girlfriend Haley, which was Cody’s first encounter with snow and was a lot of fun.

In February, Cory and I celebrated our dating anniversary, of eight years as a couple! We didn’t do anything big, just enjoyed a special meal together, which is typically how we celebrate things like that. That month, we also bought our guinea pigs, Penelope and Charlotte, which was followed by several expensive vet bills as a result of the improper care they had been receiving at Petco. For anybody interested in getting a pet, please consider adopting instead of shopping. We learned the hard way that pet stores really don’t treat animals the way they should, and by shopping for pets, we supported that practice. Fortunately, our piggies are doing well now and are happy, healthy, and lots of fun.

In March we celebrated my older brother’s birthday with a family day including a trip to the beach. That was also one of Cody’s first times playing at the beach.

In April we welcomed two foster puppies into our home as volunteers for a local dog rescue. They were both adopted within a month and a half, and we decided to get a puppy of our own. We adopted Lila from the shelter as a tiny 3 pound, 10 week-old puppy. She’s now somewhere around 10 pounds, and almost her adult size at 6 ½ months old. She’s a Jack Russel Terrier and Chihuahua mix, and because she’s a small dog breed she will likely be fully grown by 9 months old. We were looking for a small dog to complete our pack, and Lila does that perfectly with her big personality in a tiny body. =)

In May, we decided to pursue a dream we had of buying a trailer for traveling, and we started by buying a truck with a good towing capacity. We sold our beloved Yaris, and Cory has been enjoying driving his big manly truck ever since—she’s a diesel, and her name is Wanda, by the way.

In June, we bought our trailer and we’ve already used it for a few trips to Orange County in the past few months. It’s been awesome! We love being able to have a small home away from home wherever we go. Also that month, I was finally awarded my Associate Degree in Arts for General Studies, focusing in Fine Arts and Humanities. Woot! Now I feel good about shelving my college studies until I’m ready to possibly pursue a teaching career, way down the road after I’m done having babies. 😉

In July, we celebrated my birthday by going to Knott’s once again (we’re big fans of Knott’s Berry Farm). We also sent our puppy Lila to training camp, because she was proving to be difficult to train. Lastly, I applied, interviewed, and was accepted into the Hypnobabies Instructor Training program for the 2017 training! That’s very exciting for me, because it means I will be able to become a certified Hypnobabies instructor. In less than a year I will see my dream of being a birth educator come true! I can’t wait! On top of that, I decided to try to go back to complete my Christian Life Coach training while I’m at it, and I was welcomed back to the program graciously. That class will start in January and run through May, at which point I can graduate and become certified as a life coach.

Which brings us back around to August. Earlier this month we celebrated my dad’s 50th birthday with a big surprise party. That was a lot of fun, and a special time for my family to show my dad how much he means to us. Then last week we were reunited with Lila as she graduated and came home a much better behaved dog. It’s nice to have our pack together again!

It’s been a great year, filled with many small but exciting changes in our lives. I am looking forward to the year ahead for starting my businesses as both a birth educator and a life coach. Cory and I are also planning to add to our family, God-willing, by welcoming our second baby to the world sometime in 2017. Let the baby fever begin!

I love the life that Cory and I have built together. God has done so much for us, and it’s seriously amazing to look around at the blessings he’s poured out on our lives. I’m thrilled about what the future holds for us. God is so good!

To my incredible husband, I love you so much and I am the luckiest woman in the world to have a husband like you. You’re the best partner in life I could have imagined. Happy Anniversary, my love! <3

The Keys to Marriage

This month, Cory and I will celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. In honor of that, I wanted to write about some of what I have learned about marriage over the years.

Today, Cory and I are just as committed to staying married forever as we were when we said our vows. We have had struggles to face as a couple, and we have certainly had our share of fights and disagreements, and times when we haven’t been very connected as a couple. Yet despite these things, we are still in love and determined to keep our marriage strong. Reflecting lately about why that is, I formed a theory about the keys to marriage—four ingredients which are needed for success. Obviously, this is all my opinion and based on my own experience and observations, so you can take it or leave it. But I believe that the four keys to marriage are compatibility, commitment, communication, and Christ.

For many years, I believed that it was mainly about commitment. You just decide to stay married forever, and you do. And I still do believe that is part of it, but I also know that commitment means more than just deciding—it takes a lot of energy to turn that decision into reality. Aside from that, commitment isn’t the only thing that makes marriage work. I realized this through a conversation with my mother-in-law, who shared her thoughts that compatibility may be the most important factor in determining whether or not a marriage lasts. It made me realize how much I took for granted the compatibility that Cory and I share, and the importance of these other factors.

In my theory, these four keys to a successful marriage can work in different ways. All relationships have varying levels of compatibility, commitment, communication, and Christ, whether those aspects are completely absent or fully present. A great marriage can happen even when one of these areas is weak, usually because another area is strong enough to compensate. The best part is that even if all of the other areas are weak, a marriage can still succeed if Christ is strongly present—which happens when he’s invited in and given control.

So what do I mean by each of these words? They’re not just catchy words that start with the letter C. They each have a very important role to play in a marriage.

Compatibility means agreeing on fundamental beliefs, especially faith. It is Biblically supported to say that Christians should marry other Christians, and for good reason. Two people who hold conflicting beliefs about important matters such as God, the purpose of life, and eternity will always have a rift between them that can’t be crossed. It limits not only the level of intimacy that a marriage can achieve, but the strength of the team that the marriage represents. It causes great pressure for either individual to change their beliefs, potentially for the wrong reasons, or to lose one’s faith altogether. Compatibility on a faith level is vital for a strong marriage. While no two people are at the exact same place in their spiritual walks, I feel it’s wise to at least be in the same time zone, spiritually speaking.

Compatibility is also about sharing other similar beliefs and interests. It isn’t important to agree on everything or be exactly alike—differences make life interesting and help us grow. I do feel that it’s important to agree on any topics which are extremely important to either person, or at least agree to respect the other person’s views as valid and be willing to moderate your own views, and vice versa. It’s also important to share a handful of meaningful interests, if only because spending time together and doing what you enjoy should be, well, enjoyable! Similar beliefs and interests bond and unite, and that’s important for a strong relationship. Yet another important aspect of compatibility is simply getting along. Every couple fights, and that’s okay—what matters is that fighting isn’t the main activity. Even more important is a couple’s ability to resolve conflicts in a healthy way, which is both an aspect of compatibility and communication. This is a skill that can be learned and developed over time, if it’s not something that comes naturally.

Lastly, a compatible couple is one that can work well together. One of the things that I think makes Cory and I a strong couple is that we are an excellent team. We work well together in life, and because of that we are able to support each other and navigate through difficult seasons without falling apart.

Part of working well together is communication, which is my second key to marriage. Communication means being able to broach difficult topics with your significant other, clearly explain how you feel, listen carefully to what they have to say, and generally be on the same page. It means expressing feelings instead of holding them in. It means sharing the details of your life with your spouse. It means caring about what your spouse has to say and listening attentively. I will freely admit that communication is one of the biggest struggles as a couple for me and Cory, and it’s something that we’re working on very often.

Conflict resolution is a form of communication that is extremely important in a marriage. Conflict is bound to happen, and being able to resolve it in a way that is respectful to both people is invaluable. Sweeping conflicts under the rug, having explosive arguments, or insisting on always being right are all unhealthy for a marriage. Conflict resolution is the antidote. Since conflict resolution skills don’t come naturally for most people, this is something that needs to be intentionally learned and applied. Do Cory and I always resolve our conflicts in a mature and healthy way? No, I can’t say that we do. This is another area in which we are working to improve.

Commitment is my third key to marriage, and it’s the one that I have always felt most strongly about. I think this may be because I have seen many marriages fail because of a lack of commitment, and it frustrates me. Yet commitment is not an easy thing to truly have. It means hard work instead of complacency, choosing to love somebody even when you don’t feel like it, and consciously rejecting thoughts about what shade of green the grass might be on the other side. Commitment in marriage means that you both agree that marriage is permanent, that you accept that it won’t always be easy, and that you are willing to put in effort to make the relationship work. Above all, commitment means that you choose to love your spouse, even when your relationship isn’t as thrilling or new as it once was. A marriage can and should have passion and a deep, growing love—frequently, these are things that must be chosen and pursued as well.

My fourth and most important key to marriage is Christ. I say this because I truly believe that even if you don’t have the best compatibility, or communication skills, or a strong mutual commitment, Jesus can be the ingredient who makes it work anyway. Having Jesus in a marriage means following his example by putting each other first and giving grace to each other and yourself. Selflessness and grace can overcome a lot of problems within a marriage. Having Christ in your marriage also, and most importantly, means that you rely on God’s strength to do what you could not do in your own power. If I relied on my own power and just tried really hard, it still would not be enough because deep down I’m a selfish human. Yet as a new creation in Christ, I know that God sees me as so much more. He sees me as perfect, and he gives me power to pursue holiness in every area of my life, including my marriage. Will I mess up sometimes? Yes. Will my marriage stay strong anyway? Yes. This boat won’t sink because Jesus is in it with us.

Over the years, I haven’t given God as much credit as he deserves—and he deserves all of it—so I’ll just say this now. Jesus is the most important ingredient in our marriage. He is the reason we are together, and the reason that we always will be.

These keys to marriage are areas in which every couple has room to grow. And when Christ is in a marriage, he provides the tools, motivation, and strength to do just that. I started this blog as a place to write about marriage, and I hope that this post helps somebody somewhere to grow stronger in their own marriage. Because marriage matters to me, and more importantly, it matters to God.