Living with Seasonal Affective Disorder
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SAD: Why Living in the PNW is Hard.

SAD: Why Living in the PNW is Hard
SAD: Why Living in the PNW is Hard

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Living in the Pacific Northwest is Hard

Almost four years ago my little family and I returned to the Pacific Northwest. This relocation has been a struggle for several reasons, but one of the biggest struggles we’ve had to deal with is my ongoing battle with Seasonal Affective Disorder–SAD. Although the struggle didn’t start out as hard as I expected it to be, it has recently gotten worse.

I spent four years living in the desert, a place where it was sunny almost every day. On those rare occasions when it wasn’t, every part of me knew it. Those days were miserable for me, and made me grateful for each and every sunny day.

I also realized how blessed I was to no longer be living in the PNW.

The LORD had other plans for my little family though, and one day we packed up and headed back to the trees and mountains I’d grown up around. The PNW is beautiful. There is no denying that, but to be beautiful it spends quite a bit of time gray and dreary. For someone who needs the sunshine to be mellow and happy, the trade-off comes at a high price.

Summer Makes Me Come Alive

Today is beautiful. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and there is just the right amount of breeze rustling the trees. Spring is here, and summer is approaching. I’ll be honest and say summer makes me come alive.

The past few months have been hard for me. Our family thrives on schedules and routines because, when it comes to me living in a state that spends close to six months a year with little sunshine, routines help me to not completely become a hermit. It also keeps the SAD from getting so out of control that I end up becoming a shadow of myself.

Sadly, this year those schedules and routines haven’t helped as much as they have in the past.

Making the Connection

I can’t really lock down when this ongoing battle became noticeable;  when the depression started interfering with my life. All I know is one day I realized I’d started putting off going places. I’d started finding reasons to not leave the house–to excuse myself and my family from social events because they felt like obligations–and that feeling stressed me out.

During the winter months I struggled with this a lot. Since the loss of my father and the suffocating feeling I had from the bleakness of the weather, I found myself leaving my home less and less. I’ve stepped away from several things I enjoyed doing, because I couldn’t convince myself the recovery time it would take me afterward was worth it.

The only things I’ve managed to maintain throughout this time are things directly involved with my children. No matter how hard it is for me, I don’t want to let them down. They enjoy their time at AWANA and Classical Conversations community day.  It wasn’t (and isn’t) their fault that I have a hard time functioning without glorious sunshine.

I’m Worried Too

My husband worries about me, and my friends worry about me. They’re afraid I’m not just going to become a hermit, but a full-fledged shut in.

If I’m honest, I’m worried about that as well.

You see, I love my church, but when this suffocating sensation turns to panic at the thought of leaving my home Sunday morning and facing people, I know there is reason to be concerned.

Today, I’m feeling great, and that knowledge can lull me into a false sense of security. It can cause me to forget the way I feel when it isn’t sunny and beautiful.

Sunlight therapy isn’t enough (though, I highly recommend adding it if you suffer from SAD!), and neither is the medication I gave in and started taking four years ago.

I need God to help me through this, the same way I need Him in every aspect of my life.

Blessings, 

Sare Signature

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New Year 2016: 366 Days of Blessings

This is the first time in months I’ve had any desire to write. I fell off the blogging wagon, and when I fall off something I don’t just slip off. Instead I’m as graceful as a ballerina with two left feet and a club leg. I swan dive off that wagon, get my toe caught on the edge and end up belly flopping down a rocky embankment, landing with a gooey splash in the slimy remnants of a paper mill’s runoff.

It takes talent.

The last several months have all kind of run together. There haven’t been individual 24-hour days, but what seemed to be 336-hour days. This made blogging a vague and distant memory for me.

I can’t say the past few months were bad, things just weren’t as bright or obvious to me as they had been. It could have been my SAD acting up, or it could have been the rapidly changing events in my personal and family life.

2015 was definitely a challenge. There were days when I felt tested beyond what I could handle, but during those days I turned to the LORD, and remembered to breathe again.

Rinse and Repeat.

A year ago I shared what word I would prayerfully focus my life on during the 365 days of 2015. That word, Fellowship, showed me things about myself I didn’t know, and brought me happiness as well as some discomfort. God used that word to change me from the inside out. Not all of those changes came easily or without frustration, but they came when I needed them and have made me a better(if not slightly more exhausted) person.

2016 is a brand new year. This time with 366 days (Hello, Leap Year!) to look for and experience the blessings the LORD has planned for each one of us.

This year, the LORD has put the word, JOY, on my heart. With the sadness of my father’s passing last year, there were times when looking for the joy in things seemed foreign. 2016 is the year where through prayer, worship, and study I will search out and learn from all the Joy available in my life. I will embrace the feeling, share the light, and remember even during the darkest hours of the longest night, the Joy of our Savior is there for me to grab hold of.

Take a few moments today and prayerfully ask the LORD to guide you to a word that will change your focus this year. May the LORD bless you and yours this year.

 

Sare

“May the God of hope fill you with all Joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13

 

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Sex Trafficking and the Invisible Victim

This isn’t my usual blog post style, but as I walk with the LORD, the harsh realities of this mortal world hit me. Today, and everyday, let’s pray for these women and children.  If you don’t share anything else, share this.

Walking down a dingy city street, people tend to keep their heads down. They try not to make eye contact with the scantily clad women offering ‘a good time’ to passersby. To many these women aren’t even people. They’re not worthy of acknowledgement, let alone concern. The common belief is women who are on that street chose to be there, and they could leave at any time. The truth is, many of these women are still children who are condemned for making a life altering choice when they’re not even old enough to vote. Society has many names for them; “hookers”, “hoes”, and “prostitutes”. Somewhere, someone once called them “sister”, “daughter”, or “mother”. Our communities should call them victims.

Human Trafficking is the illegal movement of people, for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation. This occurs daily, both internationally and within the borders of the United States. Between January 1, and December 31, 2014 the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) received reports of 5,040 cases of human trafficking. 1,581 of those cases involved children, and 974 of those involved sexual exploitation.

In a story covered by the Seattle Times, the FBI rescued 105 victims of sex trafficking and arrested 150 pimps in 76 cities in a three day period during July 2013. Almost all of the girls ranged from 13 to 17 years-old.  Although the majority of the girls were rescued from the larger cities of San Francisco, Detroit, New Orleans, Milwaukee and Denver, the under-age sex trade isn’t exclusive to large metropolitan areas.  Trafficking happens everywhere, but because the public is unaware of the red flags, it goes unnoticed.

Victims don’t always appear to be in need of rescuing, but are in danger just the same. If you or your friends begin dressing less appropriately than before, have unexplained absences from class, show signs of sexualized behavior, display expensive clothing or accessories, has an older boyfriend or new friends with a different lifestyle, or shows signs of gang affiliation those may be warning signs connected to sexual exploitation.

According to recent arrest records in Kitsap County [Washington], 32-year-old  Ricky Lee Grundy Jr. was arrested on charges of Promoting Commercial Sex Abuse of a Minor, Human Trafficking, and Organized Crime. The records indicated that at the time of Grundy’s arrest he was using Backpage.com to prostitute a 14-year-old and 15-year-old out of a hotel in Port Orchard, a city with only one high school and a population of less than 13,000.

When asked how many minors are affected in the Kitsap County community, Sandy Hill of Freedom13.org said, “You know, it’s hard to get accurate numbers, because the law does try to protect them [the minors].”

Traffickers select and groom their victims by finding them at malls, coffee shops, arcades parks, or walking down the street. Any place that young children and teens hangout is prime hunting ground for these men and women. In many cases, traffickers will use young men and women in the same age group as their targets to build trust and create relationships. They’ll approach the children, and strike up a conversation asking pointed questions about their age, family, school, and what their schedules are like.

Children and teens are often easy to manipulate, because they’re young and inexperienced. Their relationships with their parents are either strained or broken; many feel their parents don’t understand them, and their opinions don’t matter. Traffickers know this and use it to their advantage. They offer these girls their youthful dream of family and acceptance, and once the girls have bonded with them, it is a slippery slope into the sex trade.

Sexual exploitation comes in many forms. The women on the street corners selling sex are most often the victims of trafficking. The looks-too-young-to-be-eighteen woman dancing in that club is also likely to be a victim of trafficking, and is too young. Massage parlors and topless barista shops have also been found to be one-stop shops for underage, trafficked girls. The “barely legal” actresses on pornography videos are also potentially the victims of trafficking.

While the girls and women appear to be doing this work by choice, the reality is much different. They’re dancing on that stage, standing on that street corner, or waiting in that hotel room, because they have been emotionally and physically convinced that is what they are for. In their minds they are only worth the money they make for their pimp. In other cases, these girls belong to a gang, and consider their traffickers as family, while they’re sold and traded like property. These girls and women have twisted understandings of what love is. Others are just afraid, because they have been controlled by blackmail and threats involving either bodily harm to themselves or to younger siblings.

We as a society are guilty of perpetrating the victimization of these women and children. Sharedhope.org states that “online pornography is driving the explosive growth of child sex trafficking.” Child pornography has become more than a $3 billion annual industry, and statistics from Demandingjustice.org show 1 out of every 5 pornographic images is of a child; and 55% come from the U.S.

In Washington State the sentences handed down for offenders who are caught purchasing sex with a minor are a minimum of two years, but a recent Seattle area study showed the average offender spent 0.6 years behind bars, and 30% of the offenders received suspended sentences.  However, Washington State is improving. In 2010 the state legislature passed the bill SB6476, revising provisions related to sex crimes involving minors. Since then the penalties for trafficking and purchasing minors has increased. SB6476 imposes the impounding of vehicles used to commit commercial sex abuse of a minor; defendants can no longer claim they did not know the victim’s age; minors are consistently defined as anyone under 18-years-old, and the victims have access to special services and shelters they otherwise did not have.

Human trafficking happens anywhere there are people, and the victims are often far from home unaware of where to go for help. There are victim services located all across the nation, specializing in victims of sexual assault and human trafficking. Several in Western Washington include: Scarlet Road in Bremerton (scarletroad.org), a non-profit organization helping victims in Kitsap and Mason Counties; Rebuilding Hope Sexual Assault Center in Tacoma (sexualassaultcenter.com) works with victims in Pierce County; and the Organization for Prostitution Survivors (seattleops.org), a non-profit organization working with victims in King County.

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking in Washington State, there is help. Contact Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network (WARN) at 206-245-0782.

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Father’s Day and Healing

Three days ago we scattered my father’s ashes in the Puget Sound. A place he’d always loved. The week leading up to the memorial was rough and emotions ran high with everyone. I wanted nothing more than to forget about the whole thing and keep my father’s ashes on my shelf, because as soon as they were removed from their place of honor, lonliness enveloped me. He’d been there since February, a constant companion in my home. It was time to let him go, but I wasn’t sure I was ready.

At the approximate time the sun would have been setting, had the rain not decided to join our tears, we said a final goodbye to the man who had taught us so many things. There was laughter amidst the inappropriate humor my father was so used to from my sister Rae, and me. As she shared her memories, it occured to me that my father was a wonderfully flawed person. He swore, he drank, he was selfish, and was always impatient. I realized much of my personality came from him. Many of my strengths and many of my weaknesses were nurtured and ingrained at his knee. My father made many mistakes in his life, but one thing he did that wasn’t a mistake, was loving his children inspite of our differences, and sometimes because of them.

With that knowledge, it was important to remind myself that we all grieve differently, and that emotions are strong factors in the way we react to situations. That night wasn’t about who we were, it was about who he was. There was no right or wrong way to memorialize him. Whether it was drinking a bottle of wine in his memory as the rain poured down, or closing off from others and holding inside whatever emotion was burning the heart. We needed to set aside our various differences, ignore the typical family dynamic and just be there for one last moment with the man who had raised us in the only way he knew how.

After the others left, I sat on the bench beside the water with my dear friend. We watched otters play in the current, and I cried. Big, ugly, body wracking tears. For months there had been a pain inside my heart that couldn’t seem to heal. It was like a splinter left just beneath the surface, and it was festering as the days went on. I didn’t realize it, even as I sat there, that the healing had finally began. For the months since my father passed, I was in a holding pattern, not really grieving, but not really healing either.

Three days before Father’s Day, the proverbial splinter was finally removed, the wound cleaned, and my body and soul could really begin to heal.

When Sunday arrived I was leary of attending church. It was my first Father’s Day without my Dad. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was concerned I’d break down and not be able to stop. In fact, I almost decided not to go, to stay home and be safe from the emotions, smiles, and warm wishes of others.

Instead, I prayed.

Then I put on my big girl pants and joined my family in church.

It was a wonderful day. The words were exactly what I needed to hear, and my heart didn’t ache. For the first time in months I didn’t feel like I would get blown away in a stiff breeze, or shatter like glass. I felt free. With the scattering of my Father’s ashes, a weight was lifted from my shoulders. My Father is truly at peace now, and even though I might not be completely there yet, I am on my way. My heart is light and I am filled with the Joy of the Holy Spirit.

Life moves on and changes, much like the tides of the sea.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy and may you forever be at rest in the place you loved best.

Sare

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God’s Work in My Family

Since the day I got down on my knees and asked Jesus to guide me through this life, to save me from the person I’d become, and to fill me with his Holy and loving Spirit, I’ve seen my life change before my eyes. Some days are easier than others, but each day brings me closer to His presence.

It doesn’t end there, though. I’ve seen His work in others in my family as well. I’ve seen it in the way my daughter is growing; always thinking of others who might not have the things she does. She always searches for ways to be of help, either to me, her brother, or a little kid at the park who seems lonely.

God isn’t just working in her life. He’s working in the heart of my husband as well. In the beginning he went to church, because it was what I wanted to do, and he wanted to be there for me. He didn’t care which church we went to, and would have preferred if I’d chosen a Catholic church. I didn’t, and I don’t ever regret that decision.

He has become a different person. He no longer attends church just because I want to. In fact on those days when I’ve become too overwhelmed by people and desperately want to stay home and spend solitary time with the LORD, he’ll motivate me to get dressed and go (sometimes even he can’t get me to go for fellowship, because sometimes I just need the silence and the personal time with my Bible and the LORD).

Recently, I feel God placed in his heart something I never could have on my own. My husband felt called to volunteer, and he looked into opportunities and found the one that he felt in his heart the LORD was leading him to. On Monday night he spent time at a men’s home helping with dinner, and spending time getting to know the men living there. He came home tired but filled with a new light. I look forward to the changes the LORD brings to my family and myself.

Praise the LORD!

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God’s Garden

I view my relationship with God much the way I imagine the relationship between a gardener and their beautiful garden. I say imagine, because honestly most of my life I’ve had a black thumb and couldn’t keep a cactus alive. Recently though, I’ve managed to care for a bamboo plant and an aloe plant. Much to my joy and amazement they’re both thriving. I see these plants as a direct representation of my growth with the LORD. The more I grow and thrive, the more my plants seem to as well.

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Now, I’m assuming any good gardener would know something about pruning their flowers (I haven’t gotten to this stage with my own plants, and I probably should since the Aloe has multiplied and outgrown its home). As a glorious and blooming flower in God’s garden, I’ve been pruned on several occasions. Many of those times I didn’t even realize happened until much later. A few of them, however, were painful.

When I was in high school, I had my whole life planned out to the very last detail. There was no question in my mind about who I was, where I was going, and who I would be in the future.

Do I even need to say that God was in no way involved with these plans? No, I didn’t think so.

I joined the National Guard at seventeen with the intention of the U.S. government paying my way to a degree in Criminal Justice. I was going to be the youngest homicide detective in the Los Angeles Police Department, and I was going to make a difference in the world.

Fast forward a dozen or so years to this moment, and laugh with me.

Between the year 2000 and 2015 the LORD did some serious pruning to this little flower. Not only did the National Guard and I part ways early on, but so did my plans of being a homicide detective (let alone the youngest one). Not only did God cut away those plans, but he made a few more snips to dreams and experiences that at seventeen I hadn’t even thought of.

When I was in my early twenties my high school sweetheart and I divorced in a less than amicable fashion. Snip. Before I had time to truly come to grips with the knowledge that I had become a statistic, I was devastated by the loss of my son. Snip. This was a turning point in my life. A turning point that at the time looked like it was leading me down a dark and dangerous path. Snip. Snip.

People grieve in different ways. Some turn to God, some turn to counseling, and some turn to other more destructive means.

I was the latter.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift! A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill. Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!” Isaiah 30:15-18

Looking back at my choices brings me powerful guilt and shame. It makes me wonder how God could ever have forgiven me, or for that matter how those choices shaped me into the person I am today.

The answer is easy to know, but not always easy to accept.

God loves me (and each and every one of you). All those painful moments, those late nights, those heartaches, and bad choices; the destructive actions, the selfishness and bitterness, the hate and anger, and the reveling in sin and discord those were little bits of me that needed to be snipped away so I could grow into a healthy, happy, and God-honoring woman.

“How gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you. Although the LORD gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, ‘Away with you!'” Isaiah 30:19-22

I’m not a homicide detective, the U.S. government didn’t pay for my degree (in fact I’m not quite finished with my Journalism degree yet, and it’s likely I’ll be paying it off until my children graduate college), I don’t live in Los Angeles, nor do I have any desire to EVER live there, unless that is where the LORD sends me; and if I’m making a difference in the world it is through the raising of my children to be good people who love the LORD and help those who need help.

Every day God continues to prune me. Each day I grow a little brighter, a little healthier, and a little stronger, because the LORD is snipping away the old parts to make room for new growth. I am a beautiful flower in the LORD’s garden, and I wouldn’t wish it any other way.

In what ways has God shaped you?

May the LORD bless you,

Sare

Faith, God's Beauty, My One Word, My Walk

A Year of Walking in Faith

For those of us who don’t plan on being awake at midnight tonight, tomorrow begins the first day of a brand new year. I’ll have to remember to write 2015 at the tops of my school papers and just when I get used to that it’ll be 2016. Such is the ongoing cycle of life.

This past year has been filled with experiences, both good and bad. I began the year, not with a list of resolutions, but with a single word to focus myself throughout the twelve months of 2014. As many of you who have followed my admittedly sporadic posts know my word for 2014 was FAITH.

When I chose FAITH, I didn’t know how it would affect my life. I just knew that after prayerful consideration I felt led to choose it. Through those five little letters I grew and changed just as the seasons around me did. I learned more about myself, about God, and about the wonderful strength having a little bit of FAITH can bring.

Things happened during the year I’m not yet free to speak about, and truthfully might never be. However, I know, without a doubt, that without the LORD and FAITH I wouldn’t have made it through without a lot worse scars. I wouldn’t have had the strength to face the pain, the horror, and the heartbreak that hit my family. I wouldn’t have had the strength to stand strong for my family.

What started out as a word, became a living experience each day. FAITH was no longer just a word, but a natural part of who I now am. Each day my FAITH grows stronger and deeper. As I watch people I know change and become more bogged down in the world, my FAITH in God and His plans grows. As our society tears itself apart at the seams with racial tensions and anti-law enforcement protests, I have a strong FAITH in the plans the LORD has. I can’t explain the reasons, or why FAITH is so important, I just know it is.

I started out the year with no answers to the problems facing the world today, and I still don’t have them. What I do have though, is a FAITH in a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He carries the burdens of the world, so that we don’t have to. Is every day sunshine and lollipops? No, but they are made brighter by the unconditional love and forgiveness the LORD has given me.

So as 2014 fades away into the darkness and 2015 rises into the light, I have prayerfully considered what word will guide me through the coming year.

I am not a particularly social person, and I prefer my own company or the company of my husband and children to that of others. I prefer the solace of my home to the bustling energy of public gatherings, but regardless of these facts, I feel God has led me to focus on FELLOWSHIP in whatever ways He decides throughout the year.

I have no doubt that the next twelve months will be just as educational and enlightening for me as the last twelve were. I look forward to each lesson God will teach me and pray that I never turn my back on His teachings.

With Prayer and Love for you in the New Year,

Sare

“For to us a child was born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6