Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Broken Heart

"For I am sure that neither death nor life...nor anything else...will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus"

I read these words and I know that they are true. Yet at times like this when we hear of another school shooting, I find myself having a hard time trusting in them. Why do some feel the need to resort to violence and death? During times like this, people often ask where was God? I believe God was in the school with those children. However I know that that is not easy to trust in.

Yesterday as I heard the news of another school shooting, my heart was breaking...and still is breaking. And I am also a little angry. I am angry that our kids cannot go to school and be safe. I am angry that so many are so overcome by darkness that they cannot help but make bad choices. (And yet I am also thankful for those that have gotten and continue to receive the treatment they need!) I am angry that there is such a stigma that so many don't understand the illness. I am angry yet my anger is overcome by the tears streaming down my face; tears for what my mom has taught me about showing love, tears for all the lives lost in school shootings, tears for the conversations that need to take place in a scared scarred world.

I want our world to be a better place. Once I find my Mr. Right and I have a family, I don't want to have to worry about sending my children to school. I want more hope and not fear. I want there to be more love and not so much hate. A friend of mine posted several questions on her FB feed a year again after another school shooting and I cannot shake them. Her questions are in no way rhetorical. They need to be answered. And I find myself clinging to those questions again today. She writes, "We have too many hurting youth, too many kids who don't have hope, too many kids who don't feel loved. What are we going to do about this as the people of God? How are we going to speak light into this darkness and hope into despair? How will we show love to all people today?"

Yes, my dear readers and friends, how are we going to show light in the midst of this darkness and hope in the midst of this despair? How are we going to show love to God's people today? In the midst of the darkness, I cling to this precious one who was born in a manger in Bethlehem; the one who comes as the light in the midst of darkness, the hope in the midst of despair, and so much more. How do we help show that kind of love to those who are hurting, to those who don't know love?

I am reminded of my dear mother who has lived most of my life with a mental illness, yet she is one of the most faith-filled women I know. I swear she would give the shirt off her back. She simply loves unconditionally. She has been an amazing model of God's love for me and I am so grateful and thankful for that. But I find myself wondering where are those examples for those youth who are hurting and don't feel loved? How do we show them that they are loved? How do we show them that there is hope in the world? I don't know the answers, yet I want the answers! And I want those answers sooner rather than later. I want the answer not to be violence. I want the answer to be kindness and love and grace. I want....

Today I am praying for this one in Marysville who thought their only answer was violence. Today I am praying for Eric and Dylan who walked into Columbine. Today I am praying for all those who lost a child almost two years ago at Sandy Hook. Today I am praying for Adam who felt his only answer was to walk into that school two years ago. Today I am praying for all those youth who don't feel loved and who are hurting. Today I am praying that we will be able to answer these questions that my friend posted. Today my prayer is simply...come, Holy Spirit, come...help us to show them light and love and hope!


Disclaimer: All religious views expressed on this blog are my own
views and are not necessarily the views of my church as a whole.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Koinonia

This summer while attending one of my favorite continuing education events in the heart of the Rocky mountains, we had a conversation in one of our classes about administering the sacraments to family members and/or friends who have memory loss and can't always remember who they are. I remember saying that they may not always remember but we need to remember for them. Through the waters of Baptism, God has called and claimed us as God's precious children. In fact, we are all made in the image of God. "Tara Lee (insert your name here), you are baptized child of God; whatever else you are remember that you are that; for that is the basis of whatever else you are."

For Mom, when she was sick and in the hospital, she couldn't always remember...so we had to do the remembering for her. I would sit and hold her hand; knowing that the touch of my hand would remind her that I/we were there. I would talk to her knowing that she hopefully was hearing at least some of what I was saying. Growing up, I would worship and commune with Mom. I also know that she has been asked to commune when she is in the hospital. I hope and pray that she takes it knowing that she may not remember but that we can remember for her. (I am sure not all of us would agree here, but it is how I feel) In sharing at the table together, we are sharing in "koinonia." Koinonia is the Greek word translated to mean "communion."

And when we gather together in "koinonia," we see the person not for the illness but for who they are as beloved children of God. I have volunteered with Special Olympics and they continually educate to get rid of the unpleasant descriptions of these individuals such as the R word. They teach us to say, "T lives with a disability" rather than "T is disabled." In other words, they are not defined by their illness. I think we would do well to use that language when talking about any kind of illness. And when we see the person for who they are which is hard, hard work sometimes, we see their humanity, their vulnerability, their brokenness, their intelligence, their wonder, their awe and their beauty. (Thanks for commenting and leaving this reminder yesterday, C!) I constantly see these things in my Mom and sometimes, if for a brief moment, I forget that she is living with a mental illness.

Seeing my mom and others daily struggle with a mental illness, it is so important for me to see them for who God created them to be rather than define them by their illness. I think when we are able to do that we can find a greater freedom and grace in our relationships.

Nadia Bolz-Weber captured this so well in her sermon this past weekend (Nadia is the Pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver CO) when she wrote, "No matter what, no matter the competing voices or violence or low-self-esteem or anger that comes from a world that simply does not know how to love perfectly. Depression and loss and addiction might create pain and that pain is real. But how good is God that God has protected in you a thing that can never be harmed. And you carry within you the light of God, the Imago Dei – the image of the one who created you and here’s the thing: that and only that is the true source of your value and identity." (You can read the rest of Nadia's sermon here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2014/10/sermon-on-suicide-caesar-and-beautiful-newborns/#ixzz3H4tgjUZA)

I also love what my friend HW said during our class this summer, "When it (HW meant Alzheimer's disease but I think you could replace it with the words mental illness, cancer, etc as well) strikes, may we listen well to the heart of God, listen well to the heart of the other, listen well to the heart of your own, and try to be Christ to them as they are the body of Christ before you." Amen, my friend, Amen! Together it is important for us to reach out and to listen well to each other knowing that together we are the body of Christ. And together we "bear one another's burdens" knowing we are not on this journey alone!

Together God calls us all to join in "koinonia," to gather around the table, break bread together, and share in the cup of blessing that God offers to all God's people who are all made in the "image of God."



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Educating about Mental Illness

As I have blogged during this #write31days, the reality of how many individuals and their family/friends have been affected by mental illness has been confirmed. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2012, an estimated 43.7 million American adults were affected by a mental health illness. And there are more cases reported daily. So again my plea is for us to continue to educate about mental health issues.

I am not a health care professional but I appreciate and am thankful for many organizations and people who are helping to educate about mental illnesses. Today I thought I would share a couple of organizations that are doing just that. Actress Glenn Close and her sister (who lives with a mental illness) started the organization Bring Change 2 Mind. Their mission is "to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness through widely distributed Public Education Materials based on the latest scientific insights and measured for effectiveness. To act as a portal to a broad coalition of organizations that provide service, screening, information, support and treatment of mental illness." You can find more information here BringChange2Mind.

I also appreciate all that the National Alliance on Mental Illness does to educate about mental health issues. NAMI works to offer hope and healing because those living with mental illnesses need a community that supports them, their families and their recovery. NAMI works every day to save every life. You can find more information here National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Earlier I also wrote a post about Media and Mental Illness that talked about the book and movie Silver Linings Playbook. If you haven't already checked out the book or movie, I would definitely recommend that you do. I also came across this book Blessed Are the Crazy by Sara Griffith Lund. I have not read this book myself but I hope to check it out soon. I was incredibly surprised by the number of books dealing with mental illnesses when I typed "mental illness" into the search engine of GoodReads. 

Are there any books, movies, resources that you would recommend for those who daily live with mental illness and their family/friends?







Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Everything I Ever Learned.......

The other day I was brainstorming ideas for my #write31days series and the book "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum popped into my head.


Today my post is about Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned from my Momma." I have learned that when you are kind to others; they will be kind to you. I have learned that when you are willing to give the shirt off your back and help out someone, they will return the favor when you are in need. 

I have learned what it means to share "unspeakable joy" with the world. I have learned that sometimes its ok to indulge in chocolate or soap operas or whatever to take your mind off the troubles of  the day for a moment. I have learned that its ok to take a nap when your body is tired. 

I have learned what it means to believe that you are a beloved child of God; called and claimed by God. I have learned what it means to be nurtured in faith and pass on faith and values. I have learned to say sorry and really mean it. I have learned what it means to have someone proud of me for my accomplishments; graduating high school, attending and graduating from seminary, my first job, etc.

I have learned to work hard. I have learned to remember specials day; Birthdays, Anniversaries, etc. I have learned to pick up basin and towel and wash the feet of all God's people. I have learned to share and educate about our journey with mental illness. I have learned what it means to be loved by God in the midst of our brokenness. 

I have ultimately learned what it means to love and be loved!! 


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Yeah, Me Too!

"Yeah me too" Those three words are powerful words. They bring us together into a community where we know that we will feel accepted and loved. They also show us that we are not on this journey alone. I am always extremely grateful when I find individuals who can utter those three words along with me.

When I started at my previous job/call, I went to a conference with my new colleague. I will never forget a conversation that took place during that event. We were waiting in line at a restaurant talking about my family and our journey with mental illness. I mentioned the name of a drug and an individual at the event turned around and asked if I had just said the name of the drug. I stated that I had and she immediately began to tell me her families journey with mental illness. In just that brief interaction, she was saying, "yeah me too."

I have been saying "yeah me too" as I have read new blogs and met new people as part of the #write31days challenge. I have said "me too" as I pray about and ponder adoption/foster care. I have said "me too" as I have listened to stories of vulnerability and hope. I have said "me too" as I have found other single women who have shared their own stories of waiting for God to bring that special someone into their lives. I have said "me too" as I have read stories of families and friends who daily struggle with mental illness and/or depression. I have simply found myself within a community where I often have found myself over these last 21 days saying clearly and loudly, "me too."

Not only have I said those words myself, but I have had many people say them to me too. I have had others thank me and say "me too" as they understand the struggles that come with depression and mental illness. I even received an email this morning where a reader shared that she had shared my blog with a friend struggling. Wow...power in those words..."me too!" Who would have ever thought that by being brave and sharing my story individuals would find community where they can immediately say, "me too?"

I will admit that I am weary and tired as we continue through these 31 days, but hearing those words "me too" has made me realize what a gift your words and even my words might be to someone as they are able to say them with us...."yeah me too!"



Monday, October 20, 2014

Out of the Darkness

I have been doing a lot of driving this weekend. Most of my driving has been in pure daylight but last night I found myself driving in the dark. I have never been much of a fan of driving in the dark. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I can't completely see everything around me or that I have to constantly keep my eyes peeled for deer who want to jump out onto the road and could cause an accident. However last night I found myself reflecting even more on the darkness.

As I looked up in the midnight black sky, littered with beautiful twinkling stars, I found myself thinking about what it must be like to be pulled in by the darkness of depression or a mental illness. Now I have never experienced it for myself, but I have watched friends and family members who have been pulled in by the darkness. As I drove, I wondered what it was like for them to be pulled in by the darkness. Is it like their lives are constantly lived like they are continually driving in the dark; no light in sight? I think often times that yes, they are pulled in by the darkness and cannot find their way out...and that makes me so very sad. I want to offer them healing and so much that I don't have the power to give them. Yet I know that God loves them in the midst of their brokenness and can offer them those things they need.

God is the one who offers light to them...even if that light is just a little glimmer of hope. In many ways, it reminds me of a lit candle in a darkened room after a power outage. The candle gives just enough light; enough light for us to see what is around us; to find our way around the room. God is that eternal light; that brings hope to the broken hurting people in the world. Yet so often in the midst of mental illnesses and depression, I think that light isn't always enough. Those suffering with those illnesses need more light to overcome the darkness that they are pulled into. Yet God asks them to trust him; to know that God has the power to bring light, hope and healing into their lives.

I was touched by the following words from writer Anne Lamott. Her words remind me; remind all of us that God is with us even in the uncomfortableness and that God promise to never leave us or forsake us. 
"Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness, the discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns." 

So let us hold onto hope for and with each other until some of the light returns!
 
 


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Who I Am

Today is a busy Sunday so I thought I'd keep it simple today.  I am a huge fan of Christian music. Jason Gray and Francesca Batestilli are two of my all time faves along with Jars of Clay. The first time I heard Jason Gray's song "Remind Me Who I am", I felt so many emotions. This song is about remembering who we are and who God has called us to be.  The video is such a beautiful reminder of this promise.

For me, I am called to be a Diaconal Minister, a granddaughter, a niece, a friend, a sister, and a daughter; a daughter of someone who daily lives and struggles with a mental illness. This song is a song I crank up the radio and belt out to because it is such a beautiful gift. In fact, in the midst of our brokenness, God says, "You are broken and loved....remember that I; that I will never leave you or forsake you.


And in the midst of this #write31 days challenge, I have found so many great blogs and posts. Today I would like to share just a few. My new friend TM is sharing about her own journey of depression. Her posts are so honest and vulnerable. I think many people will be blessed by her sharing. Check out her blog at Tales from a Southern Catholic Momma! And if you haven't read this post (Hey Beautiful!) yet, YOU MUST!
 
Have a blessed Sunday my friends!
 
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