I've had my shares of ups and downs. Two years ago, when I turned 35, I cried on that day for what my health challenges had taken from me. It was the toughest year of my life, and I wondered when I'd ever feel content and happy again. My body had physically been through so much that even though I'd run a half marathon in the spring, it hurt to even run a few miles. I set out for a lot of runs that month and ended up mostly walking them.
I'd like to say that it's been all uphill since then, but it hasn't been. My health certainly got better and by the spring of 2013, I was functioning pretty well physically. But emotionally, I was spent. It took a long time to build back my confidence, and even though I went through the motions of doing everything right -- taking care of my home and family, training for and running another half marathon, trying to serve and feel joy -- I felt pretty empty for a long time.
Part of that is that living with Hashimoto's Disease isn't easy. I think even getting as balanced as you can on artificial hormones is never the same as when your own body produces the hormones. I tend to fluctuate. I'll have several months where I'm feeling great and thinking I've finally got the dosage right, followed by a month of getting daily headaches and feeling exhausted all day, no matter how much sleep I get. I imagine this will be the case for the rest of my life.
But it is a wonderful life. And I really can't complain. Though I have to pace myself and safeguard my health (exercise, eat right, nap), I am able to do all that is needed for my family, and even more. Emotionally, I'm doing wonderfully. I've felt such joy and happiness this year. Physically, I'm as good as I've ever been (more on that in a bit). Spiritually, I have felt God's love and grace in my life daily, helping me to prioritize and helping me to see the good that has come from my challenges. I went through a really tough challenge this summer that I'll probably write about another day, but I went through it feeling carried by the Lord, given strength, perspective, and even cheerfulness even in the midst of it.
So, today, on my 37th birthday, I thought I'd catalog a few of the things that have brought me joy the last few months:
* I'm physically active and very fit.
* I challenged my husband ten weeks ago today to a 10-week fitness challenge. We both set a "realistic" and a "super hard" goal, with the idea that if we met our realistic goals, we'd plan an anniversary trip to somewhere close by, but if we both met our super hard goals, we'd go to Hawaii again. My realistic goal was 10 pounds, my shoot for the moon one was 15. His goals were 15 and 25. And to my surprise, the challenge motivated him and me a lot more than I expected. As of this morning, I've lost 10.5 lbs during these last ten weeks. My husband? That overachiever has exercised six days a week for about an hour, built up the endurance to run his first race since high school, and lost . . . (drumroll please) . . . 32 lbs! I'm trying to convince him that I can just borrow some of his extra pounds to call our goal met.
In any case, I'm thinner than I've been since before #2 was born. I'm just six pounds away from the right BMI weight for my height, and I'm feeling good. I've done a good mix of cardio and strength training this year and I feel great.
* Speaking of fitness, last Saturday, my husband and I ran the funnest race I've ever participated in. The Moab Adventure 5K, it was a trail run like no other race out there -- we not only ran three miles over beautiful red rock, we also climbed a few ladders, ran through a culvert and a cave, rock-climbed about 50 feet using ropes, rapelled down a short section, and had a blast. I'm totally sold on trails now, even without the rock climbing. I was worried that the race might be too intense, but it wasn't. It certainly wasn't an easy run, with all those obstacles, portions going over thick sand, and plenty of up and down, but it wasn't especially crazy either. I finished #11 out of 28 in my 30-39 age group. And it was fun to run beside my husband.
* My husband and I have a happy marriage. We've bonded even more these last few months as he's gotten into fitness and running. We're planning on doing a four-miler on Thanksgiving together, and trying to decide what races to do next year. I'm pretty sure that he'll very soon leave me in the dust on our races -- he can walk half of a 5K and still beat me because his running speed is so much faster than mine -- but it's fun to think about weekend getaways to races.
* I have wonderful, rich relationships with nine amazing people. I'm so amazed at how my children are turning out despite how imperfect I am. I've got nine good kids who are kind, thoughtful, smart, and most important to me, committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
* I love this stage of my life. My older kids are helpful and independent and not so much of the physical, exhausting burden of taking care of our family falls on my shoulders anymore. I've got five great babysitters, good read-aloud performers, dish-doing, bathroom-scrubbing, and dinner-making children, and the best part is that there are plenty of them to share the load, so no one is doing a ton. Plus, as much as I love my toddlers and babies, it's just SO FUN to have kids ages 8 and up. And our teenagers so far have been pretty awesome.
* Our family certainly isn't perfect, but we've developed good habits that bring us closer. We start the day with family prayer and scripture study. We have weekly Family Home Evenings. This year, we've tried to take time most weeks to learn about our ancestors as part of our family home evening. It's been fascinating to read of lives full of challenge and tragedy -- the ones who didn't lose some of their kids to death are the exception.
* I love our family trips this year. San Diego a few weeks ago was just the right mix of running through the hills near our resort, reading quietly while my husband took the kids swimming (good man), playing at the beach, taking photos, and enjoying life at a slower pace.
* I love that I've developed a fun, satisfying pursuit that bring my life joy. It's a trend for every photographer to say on their website that they are "passionate" about photography. For me, that's just not true. I'm not passionate about photography. I enjoy it and it's fun. What I am passionate about are people and the beauties around me. Photography just gives me the tools to engage in those things in a meaningful way. I love bringing joy to people by capturing their family's personalities. I love serving others with my talents and capturing my own children's exuberance.
|Eliza and her best friend Grace in their baptism dresses|
|I adore these girls!|
* I LOVE landscape photography. I love that it gives me a reason to seek out the prettiest settings, the loveliest sunsets, and to really notice the world around me. I entered two contest this year and won both of them (1st place in one, honorable mention in the other), so I guess I could sort of call myself an "award-winning photographer."
* I've been able to be involved in significant service these past few months. In September, I did the photos for Katie's preschool and ended up able to donate $600 to an orphanage in Kenya where a friend's parents are serving as missionaries.
|The kids saying "thank you" for the new mattresses we were able to pay for|
|And the old mattresses they slept in, often two or three to a bed. Now, each child will have their own.|
Happy Birthday to me! I feel blessed to have done so much with my 37 years of life. I look forward to at least 37 more.
What things have brought you joy lately?