Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A True Story About Answered Prayers

It was about a year ago that my prayers were answered in a most unexpected way.

I was out for a run with a new friend--someone I didn't know very well but whom I hoped to get to know better--when totally out of the blue, she said, "Did I ever tell you that I went to counseling for an eating disorder a few years ago?"

"No!" I said, surprised and concerned. "Are you okay now?"

"Oh yes," she said, "but that was such a difficult time in my life.  When I look back now, it's hard to believe that person was even me."

As we jogged along on the Highline Canal trail, she talked for probably ten minutes about the nightmare of living with binge-eating disorder.  She talked about waking up in the morning or the middle of the night thinking about food, feeling swallowed up by perfectionism and the fear that she would never be enough, grazing on junkfood all day and yet still feeling empty, eating in secret because she was ashamed, knowing she had a problem but not sure how to fix it.

I listened to her, but I didn't say much.  My friend has since told me that she thought I was so silent because I was confused by what she was telling me, because I just didn't get it.  What she didn't know then was that I was quiet because my heart was pounding and a lump had gathered in my throat.

There's no way my friend could've known that she was describing me and my life.  There's no way she could've known that I had been yearning, for several years, to be delivered from a struggle with food and body image that felt all-consuming.

When she was done talking, she said, "I know this sounds crazy.  Most people just don't get it.  But through counseling and prayer and a lot of hard work, my life is so different now.  I don't struggle with food issues at all."

I was silent for a moment, and then I took a deep breath and said, "It doesn't sound crazy.  And I do get it.  In fact, everything that you just's what I am living with right now."

It was one of the first times I allowed myself to talk aloud about my problem.  I had talked to Ryan, my sisters, and a few of my closest friends about my struggles--but I felt so ashamed, and I think I tried to tone down just how truly desperate I felt, even when I was talking to them.  "I should be able to fix this," I always told myself.  "I should have the willpower.  I should have the faith."  But no matter how many resolutions I made and how many lofty goals I set, I didn't change.

I felt trapped.  I felt discouraged.  To be honest, and it hurts to even write this, I felt worthless.  And so so alone.

I finally realized that my own willpower was not going to be enough to deliver me.  And that's when I turned to God in earnest.  Every moment of every day, I asked Him, "What should I do, Father?  What should I do?"  These words were sometimes audible, but most often, they were deep within my heart.

He was always, always listening--but for months, He let me grapple with my question.  I had to come to a place of total humility and reliance on Him.  And then He gave me my answer.  On a run with a friend whom I barely knew.

As we continued jogging along the dirt path, she told me about her experience in counseling.  She told me there was hope.  She told me about a book that she had used in her therapy called Intuitive Eating, and by the time I got home from running errands later that day, she had ordered me a copy from Amazon.

This was just the beginning of my journey.  I read the book, and I loved the principles that it taught, but I wasn't quite sure how to implement them.  I thought about them on and off for months, sharing insights with Ryan as they came to me, occasionally discussing my progress with that same friend who had been an answer to my prayers.  But the change was slow.  A seed had been planted, but I wasn't totally ready to change.

And then in September, with support from my sisters, Ryan, and my dad, I started counseling.  I Googled "intuitive eating counselors, Denver" and found a counseling center that focused on eating disorders.  I spoke on the phone with a therapist who had overcome her own food and body-image battles several decades before, and I felt good about it, so I moved forward.  I did one-on-one counseling with her for six months, first once a week and then twice a month.  I also attended a weekly group lead by another counselor about dealing with stress in healthy ways.  And now, I am doing a four-week "narrative therapy" group with yet another counselor at the office.  She is encouraging me to write my story, and it has been so helpful and eye-opening.

I am amazed by the impact all three of these counselors have had on my life.  They've each contributed in their own way to my journey and my recovery.  I sometimes think about the countless hours that they have sacrificed for their education, and the countless hours they spend listening to other people's problems (sounds so draining to me!), and I feel so grateful to them.  They will never know how they've blessed my life.

As for me...I am so much happier than I was a year ago.  Incomparably happier.  I now relate to what my friend said on the running path--looking back, it's hard to believe that lost, hopeless person was even me.  Though I am not yet totally "free" of my eating disorder (and yes, I've realized over the course of my therapy that this truly was an eating disorder, not just "struggles with food" as I used to describe it), I am well on my way to living a healthy, balanced life.

I feel hope, and I feel happy, and I feel very, very grateful.

I've grown so much and learned so much from this struggle.  More than anything, I've learned that the wise words of Spencer W. Kimball, one of the leaders of my church, are true: "God does nothing by chance, but always by design as a loving father...God does notice us, and He watches over us, but it is usually through another person that He meets our needs."

God worked through my friend when He inspired her to open up to me during our jog just over a year ago.  Looking back, I find it remarkable that she randomly shared something so personal with someone whom she didn't know very well.  She has since become one of my closest friends, and I've asked her if she had any suspicion of what I was going through when she brought up the conversation.  Maybe I had said something in passing that alerted her to my struggle?  But she claims that she had no idea what I was going through when she started talking that day on the running path.  I know God prompted her to share, and I know that He knew I needed her friendship in my life.

God worked through my family as I slowly opened up to them over the course of several years.  He encouraged Ryan, who witnessed more of my eating disorder behaviors than anyone, to just keep loving me, being patient with me, and telling me of my beauty and value.  He inspired my sisters to be a listening ear for me whenever I was actually willing to share.  And He inspired my dad to talk to me about the option of going to counseling when I did not want to talk to anyone about it and constantly pushed him away.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my family, especially because I know that most people in the world do not have so much loving support.  I try not to feel guilty about that and instead commit to loving and supporting anyone who may need it throughout my life.  I want to bless others as I have been blessed.  

God worked through my counselors to guide me and give me tools on my journey to recovery.  I think sometimes there's a belief amongst religious people that if we just have enough faith, we should be able to power through anything difficult in our lives.  If we just read scripture more and pray more, we shouldn't need the help of counselors or other professionals.  But just as God inspires doctors to help heal our physical bodies, I believe He can inspire counselors to help heal our minds and hearts.  I have felt Him in every step of this journey, both as I've knelt in prayer and as I've sat in a session with my counselor.  God's power isn't limited to certain activities or places--I believe He can and does work through every method as He mercifully reaches out to bless His children.

And now, I hope and pray that God can work through me.  He has always loved me, even when I didn't love myself.  To Him, I am precious.  Every one of us is precious.  If sharing my story can help anyone else who has struggled as I have, I will do it.  I want to be a resource to anyone who struggles with any sort of pain in this life.  I want everyone to know just how valuable and loved they are.

I thank God for hearing my prayers.  I thank Him for loving me and being mindful of me.  And, most of all, I thank Him for sending His Son to redeem me and to set me free.  No amount of willpower, no well-planned goals--even spiritual goals such as scripture study and prayer--will be enough to deliver me from my own humanity.  I need Him.  And, miraculously and mercifully, He is always willing to reach out and answer me, through various methods and various people, and often in the most unexpected ways.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Visit from Noah's Birthparents!


Noah's birthparents came to Denver to visit this weekend.  We love them.  I can't tell you how much I enjoyed having them here and seeing them interacting with Noah, showering him with affection and attention.  The whole weekend, I just kept thinking how lucky he is to have them in his life.

We packed a lot of fun into three days: multiple trips to the park, a visit to the Denver Zoo, a morning at The Children's Museum, as well as lots of good times at home, playing, reading books, and cooking together.  I hope they had as much fun as we did!

The park:
We walked to the park, and when Noah spotted the slide and the swings in the distance, he took off running toward them. :)

The Zoo:

My favorite pic from the entire weekend.
They are so cute!

Drew informed us that if he were a kangaroo, he would be built like this. :)
Our only full group shot from the entire trip, and of course Noah is grumpy! :(
We all showed up wearing our Vans. 

Ride on the little train
The Children's Museum:

Tea party?
Fun at home:

Baking with Katie

Cookie dough stuffed cupcakes--yum!

Callum and Noah had fun wrestling with Katie and Drew in the big open space at my dad's house
(he is getting his main floor redone and has almost no furniture right now)

Reading lots of stories together.
So sweet!
And this is how Noah felt after we dropped them off at the airport to head back to Utah:

Come back soon, Katie and Drew!
We love you!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Easter Photos

We had a lovely Easter this year.  Ryan and I were both asked to teach part of the Sunday School lesson about the Atonement and Resurrection of the Savior, so we spent the week thinking about Him, diving into our scriptures, and discussing His impact on our lives.  It was a great way to really focus in on the meaning of this sacred holiday.

Noah looked so handsome for church--in his dapper Easter coat, tie, and hat.  

He bites his tongue when he is amused--so cute.

After church, the Easter bunny visited while Noah was napping.  He brought Hot Wheels for Noah to hunt instead of eggs (Noah approved!).  Noah also loved his Thomas the Train Easter basket, which was a gift from Grandma Nielson.

Noah is serious about his cars.
Then it was off to Great Granny and Grampy's for the Easter feast.  

Look how fast I can drive my cars, Mom!
Cute boys in gingham, ready for Easter dinner 
Easter boy, bathed in light :)
Noah loves Granny's cement squirrel "Roscoe" (creatively named by Callum)
We wanted a photo of the kids with their great grandparents.
And I'd like to point out my son--this is an example of a Noah meltdown. :)
At least Sarah's kids were being sweet that day! 
It was a great day spent in church and with our wonderful family.  It doesn't get any better than that.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lady Jade Turns One

This sweet little princess turned one yesterday! Isn't she too much? 

When she was just a baby, her dad started calling her "Lady Girl" (which I think is an absolutely precious nickname), and the name really fits.  We now often call her "Lady Jade," which definitely fits, especially when her mom dresses her up in insane clothes like this:

Doesn't she look like a young duchess or heiress on Downton Abbey? Ryan recently said to me out of the blue, "We need to hurry up and have a baby girl."  Confused, I said, "Well, I agree--but why do you say that?"  He said, "Because we need an excuse to borrow all of Jade's clothes!"  So true--the princess really does have some amazing outfits and accessories:

Jade is the sweetest baby girl with a really good-natured temperament.  She is always smiling and babbling.  It has been so fun to see her little personality coming out these past few months, and I can't wait for the coming months when she will start talking and interacting with us.  I hope she's a little spit-fire like her mama. :)

I love being an aunt, and I love my sweet baby Jade!  It's been so fun to live close to her during the first year of her life.

Happy birthday, Lady Girl!

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Latest on the Little Guy

This update on Noah is long overdue. Knowing I would eventually get around to writing it, I've been keeping notes about the new stages he has reached and funny things he's said and done in the past six weeks--and as I look back at my notes, I realize that what was a milestone a month ago is now old news!  It's amazing how much he's grown in such a short time.  He's twenty months old today.  Time flies.

So this is what our little Noah Bug has been up to lately:

Doing chores.  A few weeks ago, I was trying to unload the dishwasher, and Noah kept getting in my way--throwing the silverware on the floor, climbing on the open door, etc.  I thought, This is a job I am just going to have to do when he is napping or strapped into his high chair.  But then it occurred to me: Maybe Noah could help?

And thus began our daily tradition of unloading the dishwasher together.  He hands me each dish or piece of cutlery, and we talk about what it is called and what color it is.  He loves it, and so do I.  Of course it takes longer than if I just did it by myself, but it's a fun way to spend 15 minutes, interacting and working together.  The way he says "splatchla" (spatula) is just about the cutest thing I've ever heard.  (Don't believe me, watch the video below.)

So focused.
Our success with unloading the dishwasher has prompted me to try giving him other "chores," and he surprises me by what he can accomplish by himself: He can load the dishwasher for me while I do dishes (though the dishes aren't exactly well placed  and I almost always have to redo them later to make everything fit), and he can sort silverware into the drawer with a little guidance by matching forks with forks and knives with knives.  He loves "helping" me cook, bake, and sweep, and I've also been trying to teach him to wash his own bowl after he's done eating.  He is excited to carry it over to the sink and use the sponge and play in the bubbles.

Sorting silverware
He plops down on the ground and waits for me to sweep  up the crumbs
I'm hoping that by teaching him to work with his mom early, he won't resist so much when he's older? Maybe? Maybe? :)

Talking up a storm.  This boy is a talker.  In the past few weeks, he's started putting words and phrases together into meaningful little sentences.  He will tell his dad, "Hit it hard!" when they are playing with his hammer game, or he will tell me "Later, Alligator!" when he is shutting his bedroom door to play by himself.  He knows his colors now and can usually identify them correctly.  He busts out new words every day that I didn't realize he knew and that I don't remember teaching him.  Just today, I was wrestling with him on the floor, and he said, "Steamroller!"  That one definitely came from his dad!

Earlier this week, I parked the car at the grocery store and let out a long, belabored sigh (I hate grocery shopping), and I heard a little voice from the backseat pipe up, "Mommy tired."  I was so shocked that he could read my body language.  Amazing what kids pick up on, whether or not they can verbalize it.

Going commando.  Noah may be a smarty-pants, but his mother sure isn't.  The other day, when we got home from a morning of running errands, his pants and his car seat were all wet.  Confused, I checked to see if his diaper had slid over to the side somehow, and I realized, in horror, that I had never put a diaper on him that morning.  Who puts skinny jeans on their son and doesn't realize that his bum is exposed??  I am such an airhead!  Fortunately this accident wasn't messier--or more public! 

Giving himself permission.  Noah has this cute habit of saying "Okay!" all the time.  Whenever he asks me for something and I repeat what he said, just to make sure I understood him correctly, he responds, "Okay!" as if he is agreeing with an idea that I came up with.  It's really funny.  Sometimes he doesn't even wait for my response--he just tells himself "Okay!" in the same breath that he makes a request.  He'll say, "Play toys? Okay!" or "More ice cream? Okay!"  Sneaky boy--giving himself permission to do what he wants.  His great grandpa gives him real ice cream, but fortunately, his mother can get away with pureeing frozen bananas with milk and spinach.  We do this together so often that he knows the process and asks "Spinach?" when we get to that step, and then gleefully throws several handfuls into the blender.  This is the kind of "ice cream" I will always say "okay" to, and he gobbles it up by the bowlful.

Yes, he eats all of that.

He also gives himself permission not to do things.  One of his favorite phrases is "No want to...okay!"  (Because that is obviously going to change my mind about making him brush his teeth or take his medicine, right?)   He recently started attending the nursery class at our church, and whenever we start walking down the hallway toward the classroom and he realizes we are going to leave him, he starts shaking his head vehemently and saying, "No want to...okay!  No want to...okay!"  It's kind of hilarious.

Clinging to his parents.  Speaking of his aversion to nursery class, Noah has gotten very clingy all of the sudden.  He doesn't like us to leave him, even with his grandparents, and he doesn't want to go to class at church.  His pediatrician says this is developmentally appropriate for his age, and we just need to reassure him that we are coming back, give him a kiss, say goodbye, and leave.

This has been helping.   He still screams hysterically when we first leave him, but, as has been the case with Noah throughout his short life, if we don't give in to him, he gets the picture.  His first few weeks in nursery, he screamed for at least half the time (bless those sweet teachers), but now he usually only screams for thirty seconds or so.

Obsessing over balloons (as usual).  What is with this boy's balloon fetish?  It is getting borderline out-of-control.  When we are in public places and he spots a balloon, he starts shouting, "Ba-loon!  Ba-loon!  Ba-loon!" so loudly and for so long that people always end up giving him what he wants (which is kind of embarrassing).  The other day we were at the post office, and the guy at the desk had one of those little shiny balloons stuck in a plant by the cash register.  Noah, of course, went berserk with excitement, until the old guy finally handed the balloon to Noah.  I said, "You really don't have to do that."  His response, in a totally monotone voice, was, "This is all the government gave me for 35 years of service. He can keep it." Hahaha.

Noah briefly had all of his wildest dreams come true when our apartment complex tethered a giant balloon to one of the buildings near our apartment (you know, to draw in all of those potential tenants who love balloons as much as my twenty-month-old son).  The first thing Noah wanted to do when he woke up in the morning was look out the window to see his big balloon.  He was in heaven.  Sadly, the balloon must have blown away one windy night a few days ago.  Noah keeps looking out the window this week and pathetically saying, "Ba-loon flew way. Buh-bye, Ba-loon."

I really just have to wonder why they thought this balloon would bring in business...hmmm.

Kissing inanimate objects.  Not only does Noah say goodbye to inanimate objects, he also kisses them goodbye.  I've learned that I can avoid meltdowns with Noah if I let him say goodbye to things--I think it gives him a sense of control.  For example, when I need him to leave the train set at the Children's Museum so we can go home, I will tell him, "Say goodbye to the train."  He looks at the train sadly, and after a moment, he says, "Buh-bye, Train."  He gives it a little kiss, puts it down, and is then ready to go.  So funny how he needs closure on his own terms before he is ready to part with beloved objects.  He doesn't always include a kiss (I think he saves that for the most special toys), but it makes me laugh every time that he does. The other night, when we were helping him clean-up before bedtime, I watched him carry his bulldozer to the toy bin, give it a kiss, and say, "Buh-bye, Bulldozer," and then drop it in with a clunk. Is he cute or what?

Fake crying and driving his mama bonkers.  
Lest you think life with Noah is all bliss with no frustrations, let me tell you that he can really pitch a fit when he wants to.  If he doesn't get his way, he throws his head back and lets out a ridiculous fake cry: "Maaaaahhhhh!"  He seems to be especially whiny in the mornings, and some days he does this fake cry (which usually escalates into a real cry) on and off for hours.  Those are the days that I cannot get us out of the house fast enough because as soon as we go for a walk or an outing, he is usually okay.  Here he is walking his caterpillar on one of those fussy days:

Life's tough when you don't have a dog.
And here he is on an outing to the train museum on another fussy day (thank goodness he cheered up once Callum and Bapa got there!):

Grumpy pants.
Finally happy with his favorite playmate
Fun Grandpa!
And on the fussiest of days, we count down the minutes until Dad gets home, and then all is right in the world.

Riding around on a toy lawn mower, of course.

Other cute photos of Noah from this month:

I love his gut.  He loves his cars.
Sweetly reading a book on our way to the Children's Museum
My sister Sarah gave him this very classy onesie:
"Is it legal to carry guns this big?"  Nice, Sarah.

"Helping" Great Grampy
Cousin bath time!
  Jade looks a little concerned to be in the tub with Batman.
Cousin storytime with Aunt Laura
(she came to visit last week--funnest!)
I love this kid.  I am so grateful to be his mom.

P.S. Now I see why I don't write these updates very often--holy cow, that took me a long time!  I hope someone out there enjoyed reading that (Grandma Nielson?) because I could've been cleaning my house for the past two hours!  I sometimes think about my future children--the ones who are not going to get long blog posts written about them because their mama will be too busy with a bunch of kiddos--and I feel a little bad for them.  Oh well, they'll get over it.