Tuesday, May 29, 2012

sea otters

My parents are staying in a town near me for a 3 day conference. With my father in meetings, my mom and I spent the day together. The highlight of the day? Sea otters.

There is a special cove about 30 minutes away where a bunch of sea otters chill every afternoon. We went to go say hi. It was fun because after about 10 minutes of just laying on their backs, they all just started swimming to the left. For no reason. Just cause they could.

I caught it on my ghetto camera. (Just a heads up, it was very windy so it's a bit loud.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Season Finale

At the end of every school year, the college group has our "Season Finale". We pile everyone into cars and drive to a Christmas tree farm in the mountains. I used to work at the farm for a couple years when I first moved to the area and have stayed in touch with the owners. For the past 3 years, they have invited us to come out and spend the evening at their place.

We always have such a good time. This year we did a potluck so everyone brought yummy dishes of food. Then we piled into Farmer Rob's hay wagon and he drove us up to the top of a hill. And THEN we spent a glorious hour sliding down the hill on cardboard. Here are some pictures and video from the fun night.

We called this box "the coffin". You could fit two people in there, but barely.

I love this next video because of the horse at the end. Farmer Rob has two horses and one of them had his eyes covered. Basically to keep the flies away. But we joked the whole night that he was blind. So these students slide down the hill screaming and the poor blind horse has his head up, but can't see them. He's just like, "WHAT is going on?"

This final video is thanks to Intern Scott. He had the idea to put one student in the coffin sideways and then have people (on cardboard) on either side hold it as they all slid down together. Let's see if this worked:

Anyway, the semester is OVER. I am officially on vacation and do not have to work for a whole week. Thank the Lord.

Monday, May 21, 2012

my unwanted acquaintance, final chapter

I have been running the college group at my church for the past seven years. It's not a job I ever saw myself doing. And yet, I cannot think of another job that I would love as much as I do this one.

In closing this chapter of my blog, I would like to share some things I learned from this experience.

* When it comes to anxiety, I have to look at him as an unwanted acquaintance. Mr. Anxiety still visits me from time to time. When he knocks on my door, I can't be scared of him. That gives him the power. Instead I have to bravely open the door and actually invite him in. "Oh, you again? Well, you're going to come in anyway so I might as well invite you in. Pull up a chair, Mr. A. I just made some cookies. Have one, if you want. Don't plan on staying too long." He's an acquaintance. Not a friend, not an enemy. Just someone I have to deal with. But I cannot allow him to have control over me.

* Breathe. Just breathe. Every time you breathe out, imagine yourself releasing some of the anxiety and worry.

* When things are hard, keep telling yourself, "This too shall pass. This will not kill me. It makes me feel horrible right now, but this too shall pass."

* When I freak out, all I am focused on is how I FEEL. It is during those times that I must remember what I know to be TRUE. Feelings vs. the TRUTH. Who ultimately wins? Truth. Always.

* We were made to live in community. Jesus had his 12. And within those 12, he had his close 3: Peter, James, and John.

I never wanted to be alone when I was depressed or anxious. If I was left alone, my mind would race and it would make things worse. I reached out to others and others reached out to me and helped me during my dark times. When Jesus went to the Garden the night before he died, he brought his closest 3 for comfort. That's how it should be.

* GOD WILL USE IT. I never wanted to hear that when I was in the middle of it. But looking back, I see how God has used it (and continues to use it). I have found Jesus to be my strength when I am weak. I am closer to God than ever before. God has used me the past 7 years to be there for my college students, friends, and family who struggle and hurt and feel like they'll never get through their darkness. God has given me a deeper compassion for those who suffer.

* My faith is unwavering. If Satan wanted to use this as a way to make me doubt God or turn away and curse God...HE FAILED. He will always fail. My faith is going nowhere. My life belongs to Jesus and always will.

And thus finishes this chapter of my blog. Thank you for going on this reading journey with me, friends.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

my unwanted acquaintance, part 8

There are many things that helped me finally come out of my depression.

* Jesus. My Savior. He saved me when he died on the cross for my sins. But it didn't stop there. He still saves today.

* My family. They were a huge source of support, encouragement, and comfort during my struggle.

* Dr. B, my amazing Christian counselor. Dr. B is an old family friend. He has been in bible study with my parents forever and I grew up with his son. When he found out what I was going through, he began meeting with me weekly. I shared everything with him, no holds barred. More about him in a sec.

* My community of friends. The more I decided to tell people, the more I felt surrounded by love. I had friends always checking in on me, making food for me, taking me out to go on walks or go to the movies, I had tons of friends praying for me. I even had friends who would bring a magazine and hang out in my room until I fell asleep on the hard nights. It blew me away. I am so blessed.

* The medicine my doctor gave me. Was it helping balance all the chemicals in my brain? I would like to think so. It took awhile to kick in, but I felt more stable once it did.

* Time. Hour by hour. Day by day. Week by week. Month by month. Time helps heal.

So once I started feeling myself slowly coming out of my depression, I started working with Dr. B about the future. I truly had no idea what I was going to do with my life. It was scary. But we took our time. He had me talk about all the things I loved. What was I passionate about? He gave me "homework" to work on and then bring back to him.

He also had me take all these tests: personality tests, Myers-Briggs test, job skills, spiritual gifts tests, etc. After weeks of taking tests, he put them all into this computer program. He gave me my results. My top 2 jobs (that would work with my skills, interests, and gifts) were #2 Camp Ministry and #1 Church Ministry.

That was a bit shocking. I mean I love camp and love church. I've gone to both my whole life. But I've NEVER thought of working at a camp or church as a job full-time. But hey, I've got nothing to lose, right? I should check it out.

This is where I see the Lord working things out. As I was telling my friend about looking for a camp or church internship, he said his camp (the one I grew up going to) was looking to hire an intern for a year at their high school camp. At first, I cringed. Eww, high schoolers? They're so old. I was so used to little kids. High schoolers intimidated me. But I figured I should apply and see if I enjoyed working with that age group. Again, what have I got to lose?

I applied for the internship and got it. I had NO idea what I was doing. Luckily, I had two amazing bosses who knew my situation and were very kind and understanding. And guess what? I ended up LOVING high schoolers. Who knew? I spent 8 months going to church youth groups, hanging out with the kids, telling them about our high school summer camps. On the weekends, I would help host the youth groups that camp to our camp.

And then summer came.

Since it was a high school camp, all summer staff was college-aged (19-25 years old). And it was then that I realized...college students were even cooler than high schoolers. (At least for me. I can't speak for everyone.) Being the intern, I got to be a support system for the college-aged staff over the summer. I loved spending time with them, praying for them, and hearing about their lives.

Toward the end of the summer, a guy named Charlie was our speaker for a week. We were in our Sunday afternoon meeting, before the high school campers arrived. Charlie introduced himself and shared how excited he was to be that week's speaker. And then he said the words I will never forget:

"I work at a church about 15 minutes away from here. I oversee the high school and college groups. And we are looking to hire someone to run the college group starting in early September. So...if any of you are looking for a job after the summer ends, come talk to me."


Saturday, May 05, 2012

my unwanted acquaintance, part 7

<< Warning: this post is pretty heavy. Proceed with caution. >>

How can I describe being in the midst of a deep depression?


If I had to summarize it into one word, I would choose the word "hell".

About two weeks after visiting my doctor, the reality of what had happened finally sunk in. The anxiety started disappearing and instead I slowly declined into darkness.

I hate remembering this time of life. I wish I could just forget it. But as I'm sure you can tell, this blogging is more for me than my readers. I'm finding it quite therapeutic to write out everything that happened. So I must type out what my depression was like.

First of all, you are not yourself. I was not Sarah. Sarah loves life and is full of joy. If I was on the outside looking in, I wouldn't even recognize myself.

This depressed person cried every single day. For hours and hours. In the fetal position. She sobbed as if her heart would break.

This depressed person could not eat. She had no appetite. She literally had to force herself to eat bites of food to keep going. And as she ate, she cried because it all tasted like nothing. She lost 13 pounds in 10 days.

Because of not eating, this depressed person had no energy. She was lethargic. She couldn't work out to raise endorphins. She could barely go for a walk.

This depressed person could not sleep. She would dread bedtime. Because she knew as soon as the lights went out, her mind would be filled of thoughts of failure and guilt and sadness and loss of identity and fear of the future and the grief of a dream being gone forever. And if she could sleep, her body and mind would wake her up at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. in the morning. The sleep deprivation made every day seem worse.

This depressed person did not want to do anything. She had friends and hobbies. But suddenly, she had no desire to do anything or see anyone. She retreated into her darkness.

It could be the sunniest day of the year, but this depressed person felt blackness. All felt dark and dismal.

This depressed person felt worthless. She had no direction. No idea for the future. No one would want her.

She felt helpless. No one could help her. She was at the bottom of a slimy well and could not climb out.

She felt hopeless. Life was always going to feel like this from now on. It would never get better. No hope.

One night, this depressed person was trying to go to sleep in a bed in her parents' home. After weeks and months of despair, anguish, and grief, a horrible thought went through her mind. What if she died? This was too painful. If this was life, she didn't want to live anymore. The pain was too much. And if she died, she could escape from all the pain and be with her Jesus. In heaven there is no pain, no tears, no depression. She would be with her Savior and be free.

That's why I would describe my depression as hell. I felt separated from my Jesus for eternity. I was in darkness and had no hope.

One day I was reading my bible, desperate to find something to bring me comfort.

(-- before Jesus was crucified --)

Mark 14:32-36 "They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I pray.' He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,' he said to them. 'Stay here and keep watch.' Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'" 

Luke 22:44 "And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."

I know it might sound strange to find comfort in Christ's suffering, but here is what was going through my head:

Wait. Jesus had felt what I was feeling? My God knew what I was going through because he had experienced it as well? 

I wasn't alone?

Thursday, May 03, 2012

my unwanted acquaintance, part 6

The unwanted acquaintance I have dealt with for the past seven and a half years since I quit my job?

Mr. Anxiety.

Mr. Anxiety is a bastard.

He's not a friend. But he's not an enemy. He's just someone I have to deal with, unfortunately. He sometimes shows up unannounced and just lets himself into my house and makes himself at home. Jerk. Other times, I'll get warning that he's on his way and I dread his visit.

I hate Mr. Anxiety.

But that doesn't change the fact that he still shows up.

After I left my teaching job I continued to feel extreme anxiety all the time. It was affecting me so much I couldn't live my life. It was paralyzing. So I went to the doctor to take some tests and get advice. At the end of the visit, my doctor described how traumatic experiences in our lives throw off our brain chemicals. And when I quit my teaching job and my dreams of teaching were gone and I went through my identity crisis, my brain didn't know how to handle it all.

She asked if I knew anyone with diabetes. I said yes, I have a couple friends who have it. She said, "Well I want you to imagine you have diabetes. You would have to take insulin every day to regulate the sugar levels in your blood. What you have is severe anxiety and panic and I think some medicine will help regulate the chemicals in your brain. I would also like for you to meet with a counselor weekly and get to the root of all of this. And also, to learn some coping mechanisms for when you feel anxiety in the future."

Then, as she started to write on her prescription pad, she casually added, "Oh and this medicine also helps with depression." I looked at her like she was crazy. Obviously she didn't know me. I love life. I smile and laugh every day. Sure, I get sad, but I have never been depressed.

"Um, I don't need medicine for depression. Just the anxiety."

She stopped writing and looked kindly at me. "Well, sometimes those two go together."

Whatever. Sure.

She was right...

End of Part 6.