Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Burnt out.
                         Mentally fatigued.

Sadly, these have been my thoughts as a mom lately.
Though my winter blues are gone, I've still struggled to find my way back to joyful motherhood. I find joy in the lovely parts...the morning snuggles and taking them on little nature walks and all the fun, happy parts that encompass each day. But then there's the spills and the dirty socks on the kitchen table and the broken glass and the tantrums over who got the bigger cookie. The sass and the little one who won't comply and the attitude and my personal least favorite, the sibling fighting. These things have been monopolizing my mind, and instead of focusing on all the gifts, all that's good and beautiful about each day, all I've been able to see are the hard things, the ugly in hearts (mine and theirs), and the way the stress of long days, plus the carrying of a new life is taking a toll on my own physical body, though I don't like admitting that.

Mother's Day was a day of reflection, rest, and refreshment for me, and I'm happy to say my mind is moving in the right direction again. The day itself was hard not to love: the girls made me an amazing breakfast of avocado toast with an over-easy fried egg and bacon slices, and a strawberry smoothie. We went to church and then out for lunch at one of my favorite little cafes. After a lazy afternoon at home--them napping and me reading a new book and just laying in bed pondering motherhood and life as it is in this particular season--we went for a hike and I was surprised and thrilled to find that our little hiking spot had turned green and was at it's peak for wild flowers blooming. We ended the day with homemade shrimp cobb salads eaten on the porch. Not a bad Mother's Day!

I've known my heart towards motherhood was in the wrong place for awhile now. So many things in my screwy brain got shifted around this winter, and it's as if I've had to deal with each one separately in it's own time to get my thoughts right again. (I dread the thought of this happening every of the reasons I'm praying for the Lord to allow us an open door to TX). I've always thought that only the physical body was capable of hard "work". When I'm out of shape, like after a pregnancy, I know that I can push my body to get it strong and lean again, functioning well and feeling it's best. Well, I'm learning that I've go to do hard "work" to get my mind in a healthy state again, and that's just what I've been doing. It takes sitting in silence and thinking right thoughts instead of letting distractions take control. It takes a lot of prayer and a lot of studying/meditation on scriptures, and the discipline of preaching truth to myself the moment my thoughts start going the wrong way. It takes practicing gratitude constantly. Mother's Day afforded me lots of quiet time to really dig deep and acknowledge my sinful and skewed attitudes toward being a stay at home, homeschool mom.

Some things I'd been struggling with the past few months included...
Frustration over sibling arguments
     Annoyance at being interrupted all the time
          Disdain regarding the monotony of my days
               Discontentment as I compared my life to the lives of my working friends
                    Wishing for more purpose in my days; the lost ability to see purpose in the here & now
                         Feeling inadequate and pitying myself over my perceived lack

And then besides the wrong thoughts, were the very real aspects contributing to my unhappiness in motherhood, namely, exhaustion. Pregnancy number four has made me so tired, it seems like accomplishing the basic necessities each day is a constant struggle and my body is flat out done by eight o'clock every night. I find that cheerfulness and patience are the first things to go when I'm exhausted, so it's been a fight to have patience and joy around my girls.

THANKFULLY, I serve a God who hears my desperate pleas for help, who listens to and answers my prayers, though not always on my time table. I went to bed Saturday night pleading with him to fix my broken, pessimistic mom heart. I spent time Sunday doing the same thing, as well as taking intentional time to reflect upon all the amazing gifts I have in my much to be thankful for! I sought out quotes and scripture I remembered reading in the past, whether from books, the Bible, or random Instrgram posts. I went back to a podcast from 2014 on parenting from grace, reminding me that I am, in fact, completely insufficient for the task of raising these girls, but that HE is sufficient. How freeing to remember that where I lack, God is more than enough. I CAN'T parent perfectly. Much of my frustration and irritation is rooted in not being able to control my kids: I can't control their obedience, their attitudes, their messy habits, their lack of getting along some days, or anything else! I can do my best to shape them, but only God can sanctify them and move their hearts towards Him. My frustration leads me towards behavior modification parenting, which does nothing for heart change. My job is to point them to Jesus: first and foremost, his work on the cross; then his characteristics and his commands, namely, loving him and loving others.

Monday morning, I woke up early, laced up my shoes, and went for a walk, asking for a fresh start. My favorite prayer when I feel like I need a complete do-over is from Psalm 51:
 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 

I prayed for renewed joy, right thinking, patience, wisdom, endurance, selflessness, and the ability to see every difficulty as an opportunity for heart shaping in these little one's who have been entrusted to my care each day. That I wouldn't see cooking and dishes and cleaning up spills and taking out trash and cleaning toilets and wiping snotty noses as drudgery and meaningless, monotonous work, but as a high calling and an opportunity to serve my family. And guess what? My prayers and pleading were heard! I can honestly say that I feel enormously refreshed and renewed in body, mind and spirit.

This isn't to say everything is rainbows and butterflies (although there are lots of rainbows and butterflies this time of year;)). The girls still fight. The little one is at the age where, although she is an exceptionally happy and silly kid, everything seems to set her off and I never know when a meltdown is going to strike. There are still peed pants and spilled milk and broken dishes and bad attitudes. But the peace I once had in the midst of these daily events has returned. I see the tantrums as a glorious opportunity to get at eye level and speak truth into my little girl's heart. Spills and messes an opportunity to serve and/or teach responsibility. Bad attitudes an opportunity to teach life lessons. And most importantly, I'm letting the truth sink in, that I don't have to be perfect, because HE is. I don't have to get it all right. When I lose my cool, deal unfairly with one of them, or act out of selfishness (all of which I will do...repeatedly), the cross stands in the gap for me. I don't have to wallow in shame or decide I'm the worst mom ever, or stress out that I'm ruining them. I can teach my kids through my mistakes, by admitting my error and asking their forgiveness.

Maybe the point of this long winded post is to encourage you to stop when you feel something is off. Perhaps it's your marriage or some other relationship, or maybe your parenting, or it could be something altogether different. Stop and take time to acknowledge the issue, to pray, to reflect, to do battle with the enemy! Make your mind do hard work just like your body does hard work. Sure, it's easier to jump on social media and scroll your way to false bliss (numbness), but making the decision of getting right with God and asking him to do a massive work in your area of struggle is infinitely worth the work. And ultimately, when we open our hands and hearts and ask, He does the real work!

One of God's Spectacular Gifts

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

I've been married for almost eight years (seems crazy to say that!), eight years full of blessings (like three daughters and a forth on the way, plus one in heaven!), and trials alike. In movies when a character has a near-death experience, we get to see a highlight reel of all the great moments of their life flashing through their mind. I haven't had any near death experiences, but sometimes my life plays a little reel in my own mind when I'm lost in my thoughts, and I've been pondering something kind of amazing that happens in the highlight reel of mine.


I repurposed this blog and gave it a fresh start with a new name, Count it Joy, because over the years I've been learning to count everything as joy, as instructed to do in one of my favorite verses of all time:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds., because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work in you so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James1:2-4
It's a choice we make and it certainly doesn't come naturally! My natural inclination is to groan and grumble and maybe throw a little pity party when life gets hard. Well, we've been through one trial after another since we got married, so learning to count it all joy has been a crucial part of my spiritual journey. It's such an important topic to me--seeing trials as a reason to be joyful--that I dedicated a blog to it!

Ok, back to the highlight reel. My last eight-years of reel goes something like this...

Meet soul mate
Get married seven months later
Have a baby girl
Move to my home state to enjoy being close to family and the mountains
Make tons of friends at an amazing church full of young families and babies galore
Move into sweet little house near trail head with gardens, a porch swing, and a little white fence
Have another baby girl
Walk everywhere with my girls and our bright blue double stroller
Story time at the library
Weekend hikes with the hubby
Grilling in our cute back yard while the girls eat tomatoes and raspberries from the garden
Getting involved in our community
Leading Bible studies
Lots of coffee and lunch dates with friends
Weekend "retreats" with hubby while parents watch our girls
Have another baby girl
Live in a turn-of-the-century farmhouse on seven acres and host tons of people at our huge table
Watch the kids run wild through the fields surrounding said house
Start the homeschool journey
Cross country road trips
Taking the girls to the ocean for the first time

Those are some of my favorite moments, and of course, the detail is so much more vivid in my own head, evoking so much sweet emotion when I think about each moment. That these are the things that naturally play in my mind is an absolute spectacular GIFT from God. All those beautiful memories I just listed are like pebbles that fell around some pretty big stones in our life through those years. Things like...

Living in more houses that we can count (moving over and over and over with small children)
Enduring health issue after health issue
Chronic Pain
Buying a meth house, losing our possessions, thus more moving and financial uncertainty
Moving cross country twice in three months
Kids being sick all winter long, seemingly in a never ending rotation

Sure, not all of these seem like big deals, but in the midst of each of them, there were weeks, sometimes months of intense stress, anxiety, or physical pain. Many times, like during repeated gallbladder attacks (more painful than childbirth, and scarier because we didn't know what was wrong at the time), or during the three months we lived in Nashville trying desperately to find a house and realizing we wouldn't be able to afford to live there (amidst other major stressors), or during the weeks following us finding out we had just sunk our entire savings into a house that was uninhabitable, I remember begging God to ease up on us. Life has felt so heavy through these things.

And yet...when I look back, the hard doesn't pop into my mind. The good does. If a simplified look at life from the outside looking in is a big glass jar, and inside the jar are lots of big rocks with pebbles and sand filling in the space in between, the big rocks being the hurdles and hardships, the pebbles and sand being everything in between (the day to day moments that actually make up the majority of our lives), then my reel naturally plays through the pebbles and sand. It's not like I'm refusing to think about the hard stuff, but rather that my mind remembers SO much good in the midst of the hard. It's this very thing that motivates me to go do fun things, to get out and really live life to the fullest, even in the midst of ongoing physical pain. I just keep on making memories (for my sake and more importantly, my kid's sake), knowing that while sometimes it's hard in the moment, the payoff is infinitely worthwhile. A lifetime of memories made.

I remember my cousin telling me once (after she had had five or six kids...she now has eight!), "If I remembered the pain of labor and childbirth, I would have stopped after one. But God is gracious and let's those memories fade away so that I can be unafraid of having more." Isn't that the truth?! If I dwelled on all the hard things, I'd be paralyzed at the unknowns in our future, afraid of what tomorrow might hold. Instead, the Lord enables me to more readily remember the baby snuggles, the date nights holding hands, the seasons of health where I lead boot camps, the gardens planted and the beauty of the historic homes we've lived in. And all the hard things in between? Well, those have only served to grow me spiritually, to strengthen my relationship with my Father, and so I count it ALL joy, not just the pebbles and the sand, but the heavy stones too.

I'll end with a quote from Ann Voskamp that resonates with me so deeply...
"The trials [are] but stones on the way, and all the stones but steps higher up and deeper into God." (p. 108, The Broken Way)
That is my prayer for me and for you...that we would see the stones not as curses, but as blessings that move us closer to the heart of God. And that as we look back over our lives, no matter what we've been through, that we would see all the beauty that grew out of jagged places.

xoxo, Crystal


Out of the Fog: Coming to Life

Friday, April 27, 2018

Winter 2018: I can recall a few excruciatingly hard times over my 36 years of life, and this winter is near the top of the list. To most people, things probably looked fine from their viewpoint. We had moved back from our three month stint in Nashville, into a beautiful house on a quiet street near downtown. Brad had low paying but steady work, I was homeschooling the girls and in my first trimester of pregnancy with our forth little girl. Brad jumped back into life in Helena full force, getting more involved than ever in church, school and community. Meanwhile, I struggled with severe morning sickness, so no one ever thought twice about my lack of involvement or no-shows to Sunday services all winter. Normal first trimester stuff of course.

The reality was, I felt dead. Like the walking, talking, sometimes forced-smiling dead.

I've already posted about my bout with depression here, so I won't go into detail again, but as Spring slowly reappears and my soul with it, I look back at the past four months and my stomach hardens a bit, tightening at the mere remembrance of the difficulty I faced in trying to raise my three little loves in the midst of such darkness of mind. The memory of it is still fresh, though thankfully fading bit by bit each day that the sun shines warmer and the grass greens and new life appears both outdoors and in my very soul.

It's late April in western Montana, and I feel normal again, but feeling "normal" is such a stark contrast to what I felt all winter long that normal feels exhilarating. I feel so...alive! You know how we tend to appreciate each new season because we start to tire of the current one just a bit? We anticipate Fall as we grow tired of the relentless Summer heat; a glorious Fall gently ushers us into the slow and peaceful Winter; and Spring's appearance is always sweet as we grow tired of bundling up and shoveling snow. I think most of us wake up and get a little more 'pep' in our step when the snow melts and the birds start singing, when tulips start to emerge from the thawing earth and frost is replaced by dew. Well, magnify that feeling a hundred times; imagine feeling that after having felt nothing for four months, and that's how I'm feeling right now. The contrast is stark. And while I'm basking in it, trying to make up for lost time in so many areas of life, the intensity of my dark winter is still so fresh in my memory, it makes me shudder. The thought of going through it again truly scares me.

When I'm at my best (in a healthy mental state the other eight to nine months of the year), I'm social, I eat well, I feel good, and I'm motivated and energetic. Though I make plenty of parenting mistakes, I've got my A-game on in that realm, I take the girls to parks and hiking and to friend's houses, and I'm involved in serving in my community and church. When SAD hits hard, none of those things exist anymore. It's not a simple "pull myself up and out" or "get it together" or "fake it till I make it". Reading the Bible extra and dwelling on uplifting scripture and listening to praise music doesn't just fix it. It's a chemical shift that I can't control. Call it weakness, judge me, I truly don't mind. Weakness of any sort is looked down upon in our culture, but the apostle Paul says to boast in our weaknesses. I don't love doing that, ok? But I fully admit, I am weak in the winter, and nothing has been able to fix it. Do I lean on Christ? Absolutely! He sustains me; He is my everything and the only reason I make it through the dark months. Yet...

If there's a solution, you better believe I'm chasing after it! And so is my husband. I've dropped the ball big time throughout the course of my life. I've made huge, life altering mistakes. While obviously, I know I'll make mistakes as a mama, motherhood is one area I do NOT want to drop the ball. I don't want to look back after more than two decades of parenting and see that I was an absent parent for months every single year. I don't want my girls to always remember having to fend for themselves every January through March. That thought makes me sick. To the best of my ability, I need to be my best for my kids and for my husband. That is my full time job, my full time ministry, the gift that's been entrusted to me that I desperately want to be diligent with.

Today is supposed to be 70. Bikes have been dusted off, pansies planted, the patio table set up. Though still chilly in the mornings, flip flops are the shoe of choice around here, and the strawberries I bought this week actually tasted like strawberries! The long winter has finally made it's exit, and my own dark night is over. Morning has come. And I don't want to go back. I can't. Feeling so alive makes me know that so far as it depends on me, I can't go back.

Extreme as it might seem, a major move may be on the horizon. I'm not a fan of running from problems, but this is different. This is literally about my family's well being. When I'm well, the family is happy, things function as they should. Even my physical health is impacted greatly by my mental health. My back pain and headaches subside and my stomach seems to work better--not perfect, but noticeably better. The thought of another cross country move at seven months pregnant is nerve-wracking; the thought of winter after winter in MT is more nerve-wracking. As much as I hate the thought of leaving family here behind again, it seems like the best thing for us to do right now. I'm learning to separate emotions and feelings from facts. The reality is, staying in Montana, for now, is probably not the best scenario for our family. Besides the cold long winters, cost of living is crushing us and we haven't met a single one of our financial goals in seven years. I'd love to end up in Boise someday...close to family, neat city and mild weather...but they'll have to work on paying teachers a fair wage before that can happen for us.

Of course, more than anything, we want God's perfect will for us. I'm praying toward the move working out, but I'm also praying for him to give me peace and contentment and joy if we stay here. I know he works all things for good, and I know if he chooses to keep us here, I have to trust that he will get me through and that somehow, it's for my good and even for my family's good.

We find ourselves in limbo once again. Someday we will settle, but in all reality? This world is not our home anyway, which helps calm my heart when I start feeling anxious about not knowing what tomorrow holds (though even the most "stable" people don't actually know what tomorrow holds either). I don't know where my husband will get a job or where we'll be in a few months. But today? Today I'm going to pack picnic lunches and take my girls to the park and walk barefoot through the grass and dig in the dirt a little, planting a few more flowers while the girls play and get dirty and sun kissed. And if it actually reaches 70? We'll drop everything and go to our favorite local ice cream shop, as is tradition in the Knox family. It's going to be a good day. The fog has lifted and being alive never felt so real. Hope you're enjoying Spring wherever you are!






On Chronic Pain, Healing and Hope

Monday, April 2, 2018

We humans, we like to label each other. Maybe it makes us feel safe, slapping a label on others, or maybe, much as I hate to admit it, maybe it makes us feel better about ourselves. At least I'm not _________(fill in the blank with so-called negative label). We label friends and strangers alike, based on both things we know and things we don't. The older I get, the more I consciously try not to label people. At the age of thirty five, I'm still learning the complexities of myself,  aware that I will never fully understand all those complexities, and therefore, I can't slap a label on another fellow human being who is as complex as myself. Many labels come with unfavorable stigmas attached, and so, I hide from most people some of the very most real and raw parts of myself, afraid of being labeled with something as unglamorous as depressed or chronic pain sufferer.

Yes, I deal with bouts of clinical depression and I have suffered from chronic pain and unresolved health issues for the better part of a decade. And I've suffered mostly in silence for all those years. Those closest to me know something of my back and health issues (it's hard to hide from the people you live with and the people you share life with, e.g. my husband and kids, my parents, and my closest friends), but few of them--if any--know, much less understand what a typical day is for me. Just because I'm smiling and laughing doesn't mean I'm okay. Out of those few people I just mentioned, even fewer of them know I struggle with depression. In fact, my own husband has only known in the last month. I have dealt--or not dealt, depending on how you look at it--silently. I'm afraid of being labeled. I am so much more than my depression; than my chronic pain, and I'm afraid that if people know, they'll fail to see the rest of me, the better parts, the "more together" parts.

Fears laid out on the table, knowing full well that posting this may in fact earn me labels in the eyes of some readers, I'm going to move forward and talk about chronic pain, the theology of healing, and of hope, ah, glorious hope, the thing that gets me through the worst days. I'm tired of hiding, and while this doesn't define me, it is part of who I am, at least right now and for the past several years.

First, I want to say that most days, I try to remember to thank the Lord for legs that walk, a back that can hold itself upright (mostly), for eyesight and hearing and other working senses. I thank him for overall health, that I don't have a terminal illness, or a condition that has me bound to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. For these things, I am truly grateful, and I fully acknowledge that there are literally millions out there suffering from pain and handicap more than I've ever known or imagined. Keeping that in mind, I also fully--and without guilt that I'm being weak or whiny--acknowledge that I, though on a lesser level, deal with very real and sometimes debilitating pain every single day of my life. Now listen up, this is huge, and I cannot reiterate this point enough:
Acknowledging our struggles, whether mental, physical, spiritual, relational, or otherwise, is the first step toward managing the struggle and moving toward a place of healing and hope.
The day I first said that dirty word depression out loud, healing began in my mind. In marital conflict, the day I admit that there's a problem, relational healing can begin. And the day I decided to call my back and neck pain and headaches and relentless stomach dysfunction what it is--chronic pain--was the day healing and hope began. Sweeping it under the rug of  "other people have it worse than me" is not helpful. It's denial. And when you're in denial, you're not proactive in taking care of the problem. Even worse, you live in guilt every single day. For me, I spent years feeling guilt over so many things! For example, not getting more housework done, not taking my kids sledding unless my husband could go too, eating out because I physically couldn't make dinner some nights. The list goes on: things other moms could do that I just couldn't. Finally admitting that I am dealing with serious chronic pain and that I am literally doing the very best I can do took a tremendous weight off my shoulders. I have good days and bad days. Sometimes, the pain is low and manageable and I take all three kids hiking while Brad is at work. Other days, I wait till he is off, knowing that if the little one needs carried part way, I won't be able to do it. Some days, I tackle piles of laundry, clean the bathrooms, run errands with kids in tow, and cook three from-scratch meals for my family. The pain is manageable and a back massage before bed helps me sleep. But then, there are days where I homeschool my kids from the couch with a heating pad, take a nap, throw together PBJ for lunch, and resign myself to getting takeout for dinner--without feeling guilty for days afterward. I do what I can when I can, and when I can't, I have learned to have grace with myself and thank God for what I was able to do that day.

As a Christian, theology abounds in regards to physical healing. Some believe in anointing with oil and the laying on of hands. Some believe that physical ailments are a direct result of sin, and conversely, a prosperity type theology implying that if you're really walking with God, he will surely bless you with health and wealth. Others believe that if one has enough faith, they will be healed (and thus, that a lesser faith will leave one suffering). I could go on and on about the things I've read, heard, been told. But at the end of the day, I have my own theology, if you care to read on. Here goes:

The Bible never promises health to the believer: It promises comfort, peace and hope. It never promises that we won't be given more than we can bear: It does tell us to lay our burdens at the feet of Jesus, that his yoke is easy and his burden light, that we can cast our cares on him because he cares for us. It doesn't promise that the Christian will be strong: It promises that His power is made perfect in our weakness; that when I am weak, He is strong. The Bible promises that for the believer, there will be pain and suffering, just as Jesus experienced pain and suffering. "In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world." It also tells us to count it pure joy when we face trials, for this 'testing' makes us mature and complete in the faith. Trials and tribulations give a certain wisdom that, quite honestly, someone who has faced very little hardship will never possess. (I am humbled when I think of those in desperate and agonizing situations of all sorts all around this broken, fragile world, and realize my lack of wisdom compared to theirs...)

I've been prayed for and anointed with oil by an elder of the church. My husband prays fervently for me daily. I've done physical therapy, chiropractic care, therapeutic massage, acupuncture, essential oil therapy, and tried the gamut of supplements. I eat healthy, I take vitamins and geek out over all things health and nutrition. I exercise, do yoga and stretching, foam rolling, deep breathing, and everything in between. I pray, I don't know of any unconfessed deliberate sin in my life. AND I STILL HAVE CHRONIC PAIN. I don't for a minute believe God is punishing me, or that there is some unconfessed sin that I've forgotten about, that God is just waiting for me to remember and then He'll heal me.

So what do I believe? I believe that we live in a fallen world. That until we die and leave these broken imperfect bodies behind in exchange for our new glorified bodies (I cannot wait for my new body!!!!!!), we will experience pain and hardship. I believe that old verse (you know, the one that people always say at completely inappropriate times and beat people over the head with instead of 'mourning with those who mourn'?), that God works everything for good for those who love him. I believe with all my heart that God is working my physical ailments for good. I do hope I get to see the fruit of what he's doing in this lifetime, but even I don't, I have faith that there is good being manifested even now, as I tap out these words with an unrelenting grape sized knot in my neck, it's tentacles of nerve endings wrapping up around the back of my head and around my eyes. I believe he is teaching me to lean in to him every hour of every day. He's teaching me humility. He's teaching me true empathy for others. He's teaching me to rejoice even when I don't feel like it, that feelings often follow actions. Give thanks over, and over, and over even when I'm miserable...the joy will come eventually. He's teaching me the joy in being broken, a subject I can't even begin to tackle. (I highly recommend reading Ann Voskamp's book, The Broken Way. Oh my, such wisdom in that book!)

Here's the ugly truth. Every minute of every day, I don't live the super-spiritual way I want, reciting those truths I just listed above. I forget everything I believe. I grumble sometimes. I feel sorry for myself occasionally. I get focused on what other people are able to do so easily, things that my back/neck simply won't allow me to do. I give up momentarily sometimes. I want life to be easy and question "Why me?" I doubt my faith and wonder about that whole sin thing, if maybe I'm being punished for my past mistakes. I DON'T HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER. But as I've learned from author/blogger Ruth Chow Simmons: Just keep preaching truth to myself! This is the life of the believer: We fall down, we get back up. We fall again, but we keep getting up. We don't stay down. We come back to the Word over and over and over and over. I start every day in the Word and in prayer. It sustains me, even if I don't realize it. Some days are good, other days, I forget God as soon as I close my Bible and try to get through on my own...those days aren't so good. But then at the end of the day, whether it felt like He was with me or not, I try to end every night meditating on a verse as I drift off to sleep. He sustains me, he carries me, he strengthens me, and I just keep running the race as best I can.

Maybe I'll be healed in this life. I hope so...I really, really hope so. But until then, I will let his power rest upon my weakness. I will do my best. I will be gentle with myself and not feel less-than on my bad days. And I will not be labeled, but will allow my trials to be part of who I am and who I'm becoming: just like everyone, His masterpiece.