Tuesday, January 1, 2019

One Word for 2018: Restore

I have never been into New Years Resolutions. In lieu of resolutions, a few years ago I jumped on the One Word bandwagon, where you choose one word you want to define the year. Some of my words have worked out great and ended up being a very meaningful theme of the year, like the Year of Grace. Other years did not turn out at all like I hoped.

I had a word in mind at the beginning of the year, but I didn’t ever fully commit. For one thing, we were in the middle of moving and transitioning back to the US for a year, and I had a few other things to think about. I also felt reluctant to commit myself to something that I wasn’t sure would happen. The word I flirted with was “restore,” but it was more of a hope than a resolution.

We spent this year in the US with the specific purpose of seeking healing and restoration, and we were committed to actively work toward this end. We attended a debriefing and renewal retreat that got us started in digging deeper into how we got to this place of depression, sickness, and burnout.

We saw dozens of doctors about various medical complaints, some we had put off for many years. I found a psychiatrist and began regular counseling, both a first in my years of depression and anxiety. Kevin had a break from the stresses of teaching and dealing with challenging school situations. In the fall I had a break from home schooling, and family provided a lot of help with the girls.

We were not passive in our quest for health. But at the beginning of the year, I had trouble believing that any of these things would actually make a difference. In the midst of depression, it is so hard to believe you CAN get better. When something is wrong inside of your mind, what can you do outside that would possibly heal you? We were so worn down after surviving for so long, we couldn’t see what doing well would look like.

It has been a slow process. I came back to the US this year thinking I was over depression, only to discover that wasn’t true at all. I reluctantly began to understand that depression will very likely always be a part of my life - hopefully something I will be able to manage well, but never something I can ignore.

I asked my psychiatrist if I would always need to be on antidepressants and she said, “Well, it depends. Do you want to go back to feeling like you did before?” Hmm. I really wanted to be a person who could stop taking medicine and be all better. It takes a mindset change to accept that for me, this is a chronic illness. But I also feel more hopeful. In understanding my depression I can give myself permission to get the help I need. I can open myself to the possibility – through medication and prioritizing mental health – that I really can do well.

This year we have enjoyed amazing physical health. Well, Kevin had a couple of hospitalizations. That was not amazing. He avoided the majority of the last couple of years of sickness, so this year was probably worse for him health-wise. And we had the usual sicknesses, but compared to the last few years it was pretty amazing. We had long stretches of time when everyone was healthy. Our bodies finally had the chance to recover enough to rebuild our immune systems. And nobody got pneumonia!!

We are not completely healthy and mentally stable and perfect, unfortunately. We have spent the last couple of weeks of the year with sickness and asthma flare-ups. Sickness is always discouraging, but it is part of life, not necessarily the start of another season of continual sickness. We are still striving to function better as a family.

However, looking back to where we were at the beginning of 2018, we have come a long way. Slowly, over time, we have built up the inner resources that were so depleted. We can look on the challenges and stresses that will face us in China and still want to return.

When I look toward 2019, I have no idea what it will be like. I’ve stopped trying to predict the future. We are setting plans in place for how to operate better in China. We are prepared to do what is in our power to stay healthy. We also know how much is outside of our control. It’s hard to live very long in China without adopting a somewhat fatalistic mindset.

I can’t see what the future holds, but I can look back and see where we have come. I picture Samuel, setting up an Ebeneezer stone and declaring, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” We did as much as we could, but in the end the restoration was not in our hands. We can look back and see God was faithful to bring it about. We can walk into the new year with confidence, whatever it holds, knowing the Lord goes ahead of us and will continue his work of restorations.