Friday, December 4, 2015

The Truth About Our Christmas Card


Tonight I posted some family pictures of us on Instagram and Facebook. We got connected to a photographer couple at our new church and they were doing fall sessions for Christmas cards, so we decided to have some taken of us with our sweet baby boy. I love this season, both life season and season season. This fall and incoming winter have been really sweet for me, as I am coming out of what was a really tough, dark, scary and unhappy summer season.

So, this season was hard. It was really dark, scary and hopeless for what felt like a really long time. I was in a lot of heart pain and physical pain. Now, on what feels like coming up on the other side of it, I can't help but look back with sheer gratitude. I can't even begin to really put into words how much God shaped me through that process. He held me, he carried me, kept me in one piece and somehow shaped a real person out of that mess.

As I've referenced in social media posts and a few entries here, I've been dealing with some pretty severe eczema since delivering my son in December of last year. The emotions and physical pain of dealing with that on top of just general postpartum hormones and feelings associated with new motherhood really sent me to a really, terrible place. I never considered taking my own life, but I knew I needed help when I told Marshall it would probably be okay if I died, because Lincoln deserved a better mom than me and he deserved a better wife than me. And I believed all of those statements with my whole heart.

I felt compelled to share this part of my heart, because this time of year it is so easy to compare what we have to what everybody else has. I love seeing pictures of my friends and their growing families and the joy on their faces, but I know firsthand it is quite hard on the heart sometimes to see those pictures and Christmas cards come in the mail when your life, your current situation, is not Christmas card worthy. It's not even Instagram worthy. It's not even Camera Roll worthy. It feels worthless, pointless and unnecessary and you wish it would pass as quickly as possible.


2015 has been that for me. We welcomed Lincoln on December 28, 2014, just in time to bring in the new year and not long after that my body started attacking itself. I had open sores from head to toe (actually, it never went lower than my knees... so we'll say scalp to knee) and eczema is a total jerk and itches like crazy. I would scratch in my sleep and wake up with blood all over the place, and that was if I could sleep. Most nights I would lie awake in between feedings trying to ignore the itch so I could sleep. When I was in the worst of my flare my face had hardened around my mouth and I couldn't smile. It was around the time that Lincoln had started smiling and so every time he grinned at me, I would open my mouth since smiling would crack the skin around my mouth. This made me cry a lot. Sometimes I wonder now when he does his "surprised" face if it was because for so long that's the face I made at him.

This year, this summer, especially, I just wanted to be done with it. I wanted to fast-forward to when I was healing and feeling better and when my face wasn't ugly, red and weeping and when I wasn't in pain anymore. And then it hit me: Lincoln wouldn't be a baby anymore. If I checked out, mentally, and just waited for this season to pass then I would miss the first year of my first child's life in favor of a pity party for myself... and that didn't seem right, either.

So, thanks to my wonderful husband, my perceptive OBGYN, an amazing general physician who respected my feelings about topical steroids, and an even more amazing dermatologist who allows me  to pay a fraction of the cost for UV light therapy (and loves on my baby three times a week when we come)...we made it out alive. Well, all those people, plus a ton of tears, some Zoloft and many hours spent listening to really encouraging sermons from Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Steven Furtick, Lysa Terkheurst and prayer from my handpicked prayer team (you know who you are).

So what do you do? When a season is the worst and the best and you want it to pass so quickly, but don't want to miss the good stuff? What do you do when you need your sickness to end, and you know healing is coming, but how do you reconcile the two? How do you simultaneously hate and enjoy the same season?

I don't know. All I can tell you is what worked for me. At some point I felt God tell me to let it go, and I did, and then it started to get better. I let go. I let go of breastfeeding (I still to this very day feel the occasional twinge of guilt and regret about this, even though it has proved to be the best choice over and over and over...fickle heart). I let go of pride. I let go of trying so hard to be the woman I thought I should be, and just let myself be the woman I am. I let go of social media and deleted Instagram, Facebook and Twitter from my life for a few weeks and it healed my heart (and my skin, I think). I let go of following people on those platforms that did not build me up. If I looked at their feed and wanted what they had, or was jealous of their business/kids/money/beauty/followers, I stopped following. I let go of staying up late and getting up early. I let go of wearing make-up and washing my hair (this was not really a choice, as more of a by-product of my skin falling off...). I let go of unhealthy foods that did not give me energy, nutrients or good feelings in my belly. I let go of trying to meet expectations for myself that I got from nowhere.  I just, stopped trying and let God do the heavy lifting. I decided to let God use this time to teach, grow and use me. And how he has done all of these things!

So, I'll be sharing more about my experience with eczema, my immune system and diet and nutrition in the coming year, but this post is more of an explanation about those family pictures I posted tonight. These pictures represent so much to me, like how faithful God is. He didn't leave me, and he never will! I am not nor will I ever be a hopeless case to him.

Life isn't always Christmas card worthy. I think it is probably easy for other people to look at my posts on Instagram, Facebook and see those pictures of us smiling and think that this first year of Lincoln's life has been a lot of sunshine and rainbows. There has been a lot of sunshine (have you seen his surprised face?) and there has been a fair amount of rain. Thankfully, sometimes if you're lucky enough to be outside when the rain stops and the sunshine comes out, there's a rainbow. I'm totally in my rainbow right now, and I am savoring every single color.

(The biggest hug and shoutout to our friends at Langhoff Creative for these pictures– we treasure them!)

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