Friday, October 31, 2014

Giving Thanks For These 31 Days

"You do not need to know precisely what is happening or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope."--Thomas Merton

"Say yes to the situations that stretch you and scare you and ask you to be a better you than you think you can be."--Annie Downs; Lets All Be Brave, P. 107 (These two quotes capture my feelings of how I have felt during these 31 days. I was definetely extremely afraid to share my story but I felt the need to share our story!)

Well here we are...the 31st day of October...meaning it is also Day 31 of the #write31 days challenge. When I dove in and took this journey, I never imagined the ways it would stretch me, would bless me and would introduce me to so many amazing blogs and writers. (Yes, I indeed did call you each a writer because you are!)

There is so much I want to say to each of you. I never thought that by being vulnerable and sharing my story, I would impact so many people. It is amazing to me how this whole process has introduced me to so many amazing friends. I have always commented how sometimes you meet people and it is like you have been friends FOREVER. I feel that way about so many of you! I hope that someday we get the opportunity to meet InRL.

I am reminded of a word "eucharisto." It is a word that my colleague shared with me a year ago in his sermon on the day I shared with the congregation that I was leaving and had accepted a new call. In that sermon, my colleague talked about listing our blessings and thanking God for all the things God gives us. He later told us that the word in the text for "thanksgiving" is translated "Eucharisto." As I sat there and listened to his sermon, I found myself reflecting on that word. And today I find myself clinging to that word again.

As I sit here this morning and reflect on the last 31 days, I find myself once again clinging to that word "eucharisto." This write31 days community has blessed me in more ways than I can count or even imagine! Today I am so very thankful for each and every one of you; for you who shared your stories with me, for you who told me how my story blessed you, and for each of you who ventured to participate in this challenge. So today I am uttering these words back to you my dear friends, "eucharisto!"

And as I give thanks for each of you, I am also very thankful for my momma. She has been through so much. Yet she is one of the most beautiful faith-filled women that I know. Our story of mental illness will always be a part of who my mom is and who my family is. I hope that through these 31 days, I have been able to let so many know they are not alone. I also hope that I have been able to share our story and shatter, at least, some of the stigma associated with mental illness. Thank you for reading my story and walking with us through these 31 days because I am a daughter; a daughter of someone who daily lives and struggles with a mental illness. And the truth is I will always be that daughter.

I want to close with a Psalm. This Psalm has become one of my favorite Psalms. I think it captures so well how I feel about our journey with mental illness. I think most specifically of this verse in the New Revised Standard Translation, "Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning." Yes, there have been many tears throughout our journey, but there have also been times of great joy as well.

"I give you all the credit, God--you got me out of that mess, you didn't let my foes gloat. God, my God, I yelled for help and you put me together. God, you pulled me out of the grave, gave me another chance at life when I was down and out. All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God! Thank him to his face! He gets angry once in awhile, but across a lifetime there is only love. The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter. When things were going great I crowed, 'I've got it made. I'm God's favorite. He made me king of the mountain.' Then you looked the other way and I fell to pieces. I called out to you, O  God; I laid my care before you: 'Can you sell me for a profit when I'm dead? Auction me off at a cemetary yard sale? When I'm 'dust to dust' my songs and stories of you won't sell. So listen! And be kind! Help me out of this! You did it! You changed wild lament into whirling dance; You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers. I'm about to burst with song; I can't keep quiet about you. God, my God, I can't thank you enough."--Psalm 30 (The Message Translation)


Thursday, October 30, 2014

You Are Powerful

According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary, power is defined as "the ability or right to control people or things; political control of a country or area; or a person or organization that has a lot of control and influence over other people or organizations." For the most part, we see power as a negative characteristic.

Earlier this week I was at a gathering of dear diaconal brothers and sisters where we participated in community organizing activities. Our facilitators taught us that power is also "the ability to act." That definition was confirmed in the Miriam-Webster dictionary when I read this "power is the ability to act or produce an effect." I have come to really appreciate this meaning of the word power. Power truly is about the ability to act.

However it is hard for us to see ourselves as powerful. We see ourselves as weak not powerful.I am reminded of a quote by Margaret Thatcher. "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, then you aren't." (I hope this quote doesn't offend anyone but it made me chuckle when I read it.)

Yet the truth is, my dear readers and friends, each and every one of us is POWERFUL...because we have acted. No matter what your topic has been this month, you took the initiative and acted. You may not have made it the whole 31 days but you still acted. You may have gotten sidetracked by life...but that's ok too...you still acted. You still made a choice to continue on and act. And I hope you realize that by acting, you are indeed powerful. In fact, in my mind, you are all super-heroes!

Though I have never seen myself as a powerful woman...and I am sure many of us still don't see ourselves as powerful woman, yet the truth is that God has made us into powerful woman by calling and claiming us each as God's children. I have learned that is ok to be vulnerable and share my story; our story of mental illness. In fact, it is so much a part of who I am as a child of God. It took me a really long time; 18 years to be exact, to be open about our journey of mental illness. Yet for some reason, that hot June day in August at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp, my mouth opened up and the words flowed from them. As I, for the first time, openly shared about our journey with mental illness. It changed me and freed me to truly be who God created me to be. What an unbelievable amazing POWERFUL gift! Yet I still don't always see myself as a powerful woman!

However I think my dad has seen my sister and I in ways that my father in heaven does too. Dad sees my sister and I as strong and powerful. He is a huge wrestling fan and wished he had boys to teach wrestling too. Yet some of my favorite memories of growing up are of  my dad, sister and I wrestling on our living room floor until Mom had to yell at us because "someone is going to get hurt." I think Dad knew he could wrestle with us because we could handle it; because we were stronger than we ever gave ourselves credit for. But Dad saw that beauty; that power, that grace in his girls...and still does!

Power is not about who is the strongest, wisest, or most in control! Power is not about being the best in the class. Power is the ability to act when you know you need to. Without the power I possess, I wouldn't have ever shared our story of mental illness. Without my power, I wouldn't have taken this #write31 day challenges. I wouldn't have met you through your own blogs and commenting. So I want to say to each and every one of you, thank you; thank you for helping me realize my own power. And may you all find your own power as well.

BECAUSE YOU ARE POWERFUL!!

"For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline."--2 Timothy 1:7 (NRSV)



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Value of Tears



This picture was shared on Facebook today and oh how true these words are! I am keeping it simple today since I am traveling home from a gathering with dear Diaconal brothers and sisters.

Tears are so telling of my story! I think they are telling of many of our stories because they say a lot about our identity. They express the grief we experience through our deep dark places.

I've always been a crier. In fact to this day I am still a crier. And many times those tears; that grief--the grief I experience because of our journey of mental illness often surprises me. It comes at unexpected times and in unexpected places. Yet it is at those times I have been most aware of the connection between my story and my tears. There is indeed value in our tears because our tears tell a lot about who we are.



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Identity

"Tara Lee, you are a baptized child of God; whatever else you are, remember that you are that for that is the basis of whatever else you are."

Through the waters of Baptism, I have been called and claimed as a precious child of God. And as a precious child of God, God has given me gifts; given each of us gifts to share with the world.

It is not easy for us to let others affirm us. In fact at times it can be quite uncomfortable. Yet I believe we are still called to share our stories. A friend affirmed gifts in me by sharing that I am the "light in the midst of the darkness." I bring a light into dark places. She can name the people and places that I have marked! Wow....what a powerful statement and affirmation!

Hearing that makes me realize even more how my families story of mental illness is linked together. I am many things but most importantly I am a child of God who is also a daughter of someone who lives and daily struggles with mental illness.

By knowing my identity, I know that God will always accompany me through those dark places and will never leave me in the pit. God is a great God who makes things new.

 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Out of the Pit

"Keep in touch with it because it is at those moments of pain where you are most open to the pain of other people – most open to your own deep places. Keep in touch with those sad times because it is then that you are most aware of your own powerlessness, crushed in a way by what is happening to you, but also most aware of God’s power to pull you through it, to be with you in it.”--Frederick Buechner

This quote was shared on Saturday on the (In)Courage blog by Jennifer Dukes Lee in her post on Friday. Talk about a quote stopping you in your tracks! I think I must have read this quote at least three times. Words often have the power to change us, bless us or even make us mad. For me, these words touched my heart. Because I truly believe that this is what I've been trying to do throughout this #write31 days challenge!

My families story of mental illness has changed each of us. It has made us into the people we are today. It took me a long time to be able to share our story; 18 years to be exact. I know that I am powerless to this illness, and so I need to trust in God and the promise that God will never leave us or forsake us.

I'll be completely honest here. It has been and still is hard to watch my Mom at her highest highs and most especially at her lowest lows. In fact, there have been times that I wished I could take the illness away for Mom and my other family members who daily struggle. Yet I know that is not the reality of our story. But I still need to continue to share our story.

Mental illness is that deep place for me. And without experiencing that deep place, I wouldn't be open to hearing others stories. I wouldn't be able to walk with others in their journeys. I wouldn't be open to sharing in the pain of others. But because I have experienced that deep place, I am able to do all these things. I am able to know that God will pull me; will pull all of us up out of the pit when we need to be lifted out of the pit or out of the ditch as the Message translation states.

"He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn't slip."----Psalm 40:2; The Message Translation

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Simplicity (Sunday Blessings 53 and a Song)

I've decided to keep it pretty simple today. Before I started the #write31 days challenge, I started a series on this blog called "Sunday Blessings." I have kept a list on my phone because I didn't want to double post on any of the days if at all possible. So today's list is my blessings list up until today. Keeping a list has really made me appreciate the blessings in my life. It is something that my Mom has really taught me; to be thankful for the ways that I have been blessed by God. May you all be blessed as well!

(1) Lunch with my dear friend CT
(2) Going to Beer and Hymns with my friend EG
(3) Spending time with awesome peeps at Beer and Hymns.
(4) Running into my friend MR at Beer and Hymns. (JR, missed you and wish I could've given you a hug in person)
(5) An invitation for supper at my friend CTs
(6) Having CT send two containers of taco soup home with me. Ive got the best friends in the world!!!
(7) Being asked by a seminary classmate and friend to come and talk about the different rosters. I couldn't go so I'm making a video for them.
(8) All my new Bloggy friends from the #write31days challenge.
(9) A simple Happy Friday and Enjoy the Sunshine text from my good friend CT.
(10) Reading the latest People magazine. Fun to catch up every once in awhile; a fun guilty pleasure!
(11) Spending time with my friend KG and other colleagues at our conference meeting
(12) My friend EG texting me and asking my thoughts on a theology question. It's so amazing to me. I've come along way since my seminary days!
(13) Rodeo with my friend EG and her mom
(14) Clothes to try on from my friend EG.
(15) Barn Craft Show and a little Berry Acres fun
(16) Being asked by a seminary classmate to come talk to their call committee about the different rosters. I cannot go so I'm making them a video with the help of our media guy. Thanks so much KD!!
(17) A fun family event at church
(18) A day off from work
(19) Registering our youth and adults for the ELCA Youth Gathering
(20) Western ND LYO--getting to hang with some absolutely beautiful amazing people.
(21) Having supper with Agape
(22) Agape's Rise Up Cd which kept me awake on my drive back to Minot
(23) Awesome Practice Discipleship adult action track with JH!
(24) A sweet thank you note left on my desk
(25) Talking to my BFF JT on the phone. It's been way too long!!
(26) Getting a phone call from EG; having her share how my seminary professor NF has such nice things to say about me.
(27) A great YouthWorkers meeting
(28) Getting real mail from MW
(29) A surprise thank you card and gift
(30) A beautiful Bible verse shared with me by a colleague/friend. It was just what I needed to hear.
(31) A little boy randomly giving me a hug when he got to worship this morning. So sweet!!!
(32) Awesome morning of worship with a very talented young group
(33) My momma (As I blog throughout the month, I have realized even more how blessed I am and am so thankful for our journey to be able to share it with others and walk with them.

I found this image today while getting ready to type and I love it so thought I would share. May we continue to stop the stigma associated with mental illness.


And one last thing, today we were blessed to have in worship the band Heart River Child from Mandan ND. They are a talented group of musicians from Mandan ND. They performed one of my all-time faves this morning so thought I would share their rendition of "I'll Fly Away" with you.
I'll Fly Away--Heart River Child

See you tomorrow my dear readers and friends!

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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Saturday, October 18, 2014

It's Not Fair

At my last church, I did a milestone for 2nd graders called "Life's Not Fair" because for 2nd graders, life is not fair. Why did my sibling get to go to that movie and I didn't? Why did you give the girls a lollipop and not us guys? During this milestone class, I talked with these 2nd graders and their parents/homes about why life isn't fair and how God promises us that God is with us even in the unfairness. If life was fair, would Jesus have had to have been crucified? I don't think so.

As I look back over my life, I can think of many times when I uttered the words "That's not fair." And I am pretty sure that you all have had times in your life when you have said those words too. And to this day there are times I still find myself saying but that's not fair.

It's not fair that mental illness is part of our journey! It's not fair that Mom had a nervous breakdown!
It's not fair that I didn't say anything about it until I was 18 years old because of the stigma associated with the illness! It's not fair that our parents divorced! It's not fair that my sister and I had to become legal guardians in our twentys. It's not fair that Mom had to move into a nursing home at a young age! It's simply not fair!

Yes, it may not be fair! But the truth is that God is with me....with all of us in the unfairness of life. God calls us to bring all of our laments to him. When life hands us situations and brokeness, God promises that God will never leave or forsake us. Or in the words I posted in yesterday's post, we are both broken and loved....and that my friends is enough. God loves us despite the unfairness; loves us despite our own brokeness.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'--
2nd Corinthians 12:9

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."--
Psalm 73: 26





Friday, October 17, 2014

Broken and Loved

I am currently attending a youth gathering. It's amazing to see these youth gathered together. I am here because a friend and I are leading an adult breakout group tonight (It's past midnight). Sadly I didn't bring any youth from my church, but it's such a Holy Spirit filled gathering that I'm glad to be here. The theme is "Broken and Loved!

The theme verse is Romans 8:38-39. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, neither anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus."


I think these are words that we all need to hear; not just the youth.

As a young child who was teased, I didn't feel beautiful. My mom and my other family members and friends who are pulled in by the darkness of a mental illness don't
feel particularly beautiful at times. My best friend who died about five years ago and had a kidney transplant when she was in Kindergarten, missed a lot of school and put on lots of weight from the medication didn't feel beautiful all the time. I think we all have had times when we didn't feel particularly beautiful!

The truth is that God loves us despite all of imperfections. Through the waters of Baptism, we are all called and claimed as God's precious children. God says to each of us, "All are welcome here!"
The mentally ill woman, the single mother, the disabled veteran, the man in jail, the special needs child, and YOU--are all welcome here!!!

Like clay jars; broken, shattered and pieced back together, God loves us and in our brokenness, pieces us back together. In all actuality, we are not just broken! We are not just loved. But we are all broken and loved!

Broken and loved, God continually wraps God's arms around us. Hear God's strong firm voice saying to each of you, "You are beautiful. You are loved. You are "fearfully and wonderfully made."

For you are not just broken.....

For you are not just loved......

But you are both broken and loved!

And that my friends is enough!!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Surprising Encounter

I walk through the front doors of the library, down the steps, and into the room where my writing group meets. I sit down at the table and pull out my black poetry binder which I place on the table. My fingers turn each page of my binder as I contemplate which poem I will share tonight. My fingers stop at a poem that I had written recently as a prayer to God about our daily journey with mental illness. I mark the page and wait patiently for the rest of the writing group to arrive.

After a few moments, the rest of the writing group arrives. There is a new face tonight so we quickly introduce ourselves and share a little bit about who we are. Following the brief introductions, one of the members of the group asks if anyone wants to share. I still have my page marked but decide that I will let someone else go first. I listen closely as one of the other members of the group shares a short story. After he finishes, we share some constructive criticism and move on.

I decide that I am now ready to share. I open to the page I have marked, sigh a quick sigh, and begin to read the poem I have recently written. The words flow from my mouth as I read the poem to them. After I am finished, this new participant is quick to begin hurling questions at me: "Does your Mom know you are writing about her? How dare you write about mental illness!" I am so taken aback I don't know quite how to react. I have just shared my heart and soul with this group and now I am being reprimanded for being vulnerable and sharing my story. I sit in my chair; ready to run for the door. But instead I am stuck to my chair; paralyzed by the words being hurled at me.

After a few minutes, I decide that it would be better for me to leave. This new participant has already left, but I feel that I cannot stay any longer. I am hurt! I walk into the hallway and grab my winter jacket. As I am putting on my jacket, one of the participants walks into the hallway, puts her hand on my shoulder and tells me that it is okay for me to share my feelings in this way. She affirms my decision to leave. She hugs me and I feel the warmth of God's love embracing me as she does that.

I walk back up the stairs, out the doors, into the bitter cold ND winter wind. I find my way to my car where I open the door and sit down on the drivers side. Tears have begun to form in my eyes and now are slowly trickling down my face. I pick up my cell phone and decide to call my dear colleague and friend. He answers the phone immediately and asks me what is wrong. I am at the point now where I cannot get the words out because I am crying so heavily; crying so hard that I can barely catch my breathe. "Breathe, catch your breathe, Tara!"I hear him say to me. I finally am able to do that enough. Then He reminds me that this new participant probably is not upset about my piece but about something else happening in her life. I agree. He has somehow found a way to calm me down. I hang up the phone.

I wipe the tears from my eyes, turn the key in my ignition, and drive down the road back to my apartment. Inside my apartment, I find myself still reflecting on what has just happened. I am not sure who this new participant was, but I do know that I will not forget this night.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Media and Mental Illness

I grew up watching the soap opera The Young and the Restless. It was one of Mom's favorites. A couple of years ago, the writers of the show surprised me when they diagnosed one of their main characters Sharon Newman with Bipolar disorder. I was thankful and proud of them for taking on this illness, but I was afraid that the storyline would continue and they would never mention Sharon's illness again. However much to my surprise, that has not been the case. Even today, they bring up her diagnosis. It is a small step, but I think it is a step in the right direction; a step to continue to educate others about mental illnesses.

I also was quite impressed with the movie "Silver Linings Playbook" which stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence released in 2012. I had seen the previews but didn't know a ton about the storyline. That day as my sister and I sat in the movie theatre, we found ourselves fully pulled into the storyline. In fact, the movie was so powerful that I ended up downloading the book onto my Kindle the minute I finished the book I was currently reading. The book, of course, was better than the movie which usually is the case. But the movie didn't stray too far from the manuscript of the book. I even bought a copy of the DVD when the movie was released. So if you haven't seen the movie, I would recommend you see it. Or if you are a reader, definitely read the book too! I think it will help you understand and educate you about mental health issues.

Media has a way of using mental health in a negative light. It seems that anytime there is something bad like a school shooting, media jumps to the conclusion that the person has a mental health issue. I am not arguing that that may not be the case, but if that is true, they need to get help. Mental illnesses are treatable. I think of an article I once read about Adam Lanza after the Sandy Hook shooting. The article was titled (if I am remembering correctly) " I am Adam Lanza's Sister." I may not be Adam Lanza's sister but I could be. In fact, many individuals out there are. They are someone's wife, daughter, mother, sister, and the list goes on. In fact, I am a daughter....a daughter of someone who daily lives and struggles with a mental illness. Yet Mom has never let her illness get in the way of who she is.

Earlier this morning, I read a tweet that one of my seminary classmates and friends retweeted from Soren Kierkegaard. The quote is such a beautiful quote and I think it is so true. I think we need to take the time to show love to each other; to show love to those who have been pulled in by the darkness. Love, especially God's love, has the power to overcome even the darkness of a mental illness. In fact, I hope that the media will follow examples like Y and R and Silver Linings Playbook or even Robin William's death to remind us how these individuals are not defined by their illnesses, but rather defined by who God created them to be.
"When you fully enter the realm of love, this broken world becomes rich and beautiful, and consists solely of opportunities for love."--Soren Kierkegaard





Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Special Companion for Mom

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace."--Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Pets hold a special place in our heart, don't they? My sister and I have had many pets throughout our lives. My sister had a cat named Butterfinger and I had a cat named Rocky (named after Rocky Balboa. Our Dad came up with that name!) Butterfinger and Rocky were wonderful pets. My sister currently has two cats: Oreo and Tigger. Also after Mom and Dad got divorced, we decided that it would be a great idea to get Mom a special companion. Her special companion was a beautiful white fluffy cat named Marshmallow.

Marshmallow became such an important pet in our lives. She kept Mom company when Mom was alone. And when my sister and I came to visit Mom, Marshmallow was ready to play. She loved playing with Christmas wrapping paper and ornaments on the Christmas tree. I'm pretty sure she knocked Mom's baby Christmas tree over a few times. Marshmallow also loved running circles in Mom's house too. Marshmallow lived with Mom until Mom moved into the nursing home. Then she moved in with my sister until my sister started college, then Marshmallow moved in with our aunt and uncle.

Me, my sister, and Marshmallow
(I am the one in the orange)
This evening (Monday night) my sister and I got a text from our Aunt letting us know that when Uncle B came home from lunch, he found that Marshmallow had passed away in her sleep. :(    Marshmallow has lived a good life. My sister and I figure she was somewhere from 15-20 years old meaning she lived way beyond what cats are expected to live. I am not looking forward to telling Mom the news about her special companion, so prayers for that conversation would be much appreciated.

Marshmallow posing for the camera
(One of my sister and my fave pics of Marshy)

Rest in peace, dear Marshmallow! We love you!


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Monday, October 13, 2014

Making Decisions

I remember the day as if it were yesterday. Sitting on a blanket, sprawled out on the grass, in the courtyard of Wartburg Seminary, I sat talking with my dear friends about my Mom. My grandpa had just passed away that August and Grandma was beginning to show early signs of Alzheimers disease. Since my parent's divorce, Mom's parents had a pulse on Mom's medical needs, but now we were at a crossroads. My sister and I knew that Grandma and Grandpa wouldn't be around forever and Mom still needed to be cared for. We needed to make a decision.

So sitting on that blanket, my friends shared with me their thoughts on the situation after many of them had just complete Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) during the summer months. After much discussion and tons of prayer, it became pretty apparent to my sister and I that we needed to make the decision to become Mom's legal guardians. It is a decision that my sister and I do not regret. Since making that decision, we are the first contacts they make; even when Mom needs something as simple as a dental check. However it still was not the easiest decision. But a decision I am so glad that we made.

Then last Fall, another decision came about that blessed Mom in many ways. My previous call/job was at a congregation almost five hours away from Mom. If I wanted to attend a Christmas party etc, I would spend most of the day driving only to spend a couple of hours with her. I loved that community of faith that I worked for and it is a place that formed me into the woman leader that I am today. However it was still such a long way from Mom. Yet as a single female, I knew that nothing was tying me down there. I yearn deeply for a husband and a family, so I began to pray, discern and search my heart. I heard God calling me to many new adventures, but God obviously had something else in mind. God brought me to a call that is only 45 minutes from where Mom lives.

I cannot begin to tell you how incredible that it has been to be so close to Mom. For my Birthday, Mom hopped their community bus, I picked her up and we spent the day before my Birthday together, and then the bus picked her up and took her home. So nice that she can come here OR I can drive to her. This past week Mom's tv broke and she called me to see if I could run to the local Walmart to check and see if they had what she was looking for. The nice thing is once I purchase the tv I can run it to her and I won't lose a day of travel. I even got to attend their Christmas party last Christmas. These are only just a few of the ways that moving has blessed our life. I still cannot believe it was exactly a year ago today that I told my last call/job that I had accepted a new call and was moving closer to my Momma. It was so hard to say goodbye to them because they simply loved me for who God created me to be, but they also were so understanding of what a gift it was for me to move closer to my Mom.

These are only a few of the decisions that we have had to make regarding Mom and her illness. I am sure there will be more to come as she ages. But as I look back over these decisions, I know that God has been in the midst of them and will always guide us in the decisions we have to make.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

God Is Holding You!

First off, I want to begin by saying "Thank You" to all of you who prayed for my friend Karen and her family who I wrote about in my Day Six post. Karen died peacefully yesterday. Please continue to pray for Karen's family and friends as they grieve her loss. "Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lords"

Secondly, I opened up my Timehop this morning and came across a video my dear friend Sarah shared with me when I was going through a difficult time in my life with my mom and the illness. I decided to click on the video link again this morning. These words are so powerful and I hear them speaking to so many of you who are struggling. The video is called "Arms that Hold the Universe/Promise of A Lifetime."  This verse from the song really caught me this morning: "I know it seems that this could be the darkest day you've known, but believe you me the God of strength will never let you go" as well as this verse: "The Arms that hold the Universe are holding you tonight."

Yep, my dear friends and readers, God is holding you today...holding you in the midst of your joy, but especially in the midst of your sorrow. God is holding you in the midst of the light, but most especially in the midst of the darkness. And when it seems your world is falling apart, God is holding you most especially there too!!! "I know it seems that this could be the darkest day you've known, but believe you me, the God of strength will never let you go!"

I think I will leave it at that for today. Have a blessed Sunday friends!!

 
 
 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Bravest Thing You'll Ever Do!

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do”---Brene Brown

It was a beautiful summer day and I was working as a camp counselor at one of my favorite places in the whole wide world. I was taking in every ounce of is the experience when I received a phone message that my sister had called. She was calling to let me know that Mom was sick and in the hospital again. Little did I know that in a matter of moments this would be such a freeing experience for me.

As I sat on the payphone, tears streaming down my face, several of my co-counselors walked by and wanted to know what was wrong. I couldn't muster up the words to share my story with them. I got off the phone and went back to my cabin. Within moments, the camp director came in and asked me what was wrong? In a moment, I finally opened up and shared my; our story with him. It was the first time I openly shared about my family's struggle with a mental illness. And since that moment, sharing my story has been very important to me and totally core to who I am!

It is so hard to share our stories, but there is something incredibly holy about sharing our stories with each other. In sharing our stories, we are connected with others who have had similar experiences. I am reminded of when I began my previous call. I was at dinner with my colleague sharing my story when another individual heard me share one word; a name of a pill that only those that have experienced mental illness would understand. In just moments, my story was connected with her story because we had similar experiences in the midst of our own stories. And here in the midst of the #write31days challenge, again I have been connected with others whose stories intersect with my story because we have had similar experiences too. (Here's looking at you my new friend. You know who you are!)

Story is incredibly important to who we are as people of God. God created us to share our stories. Yes, I realize that isn't always easy to do. In fact, most of the time it is darn right impossible, yet when we share our story, not only, are we blessed but I also think those that we share our stories with are blessed as well. Story opens our hearts and minds to know that we aren't on this journey alone and that there are others who hold us despite our own muddiness and brokenness in the midst of our stories. God has this incredible way of using our stories to bring healing, wholeness, and restoration to others in the world. Actress Iyanla Vanzant captures this so well when she said, “When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else”

So let’s be brave and share our stories!



 
 

 
 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hey, You, Child of God!

This post took a little bit of a different turn then the rest of my posts. I hope you enjoy it!

"Sticks and Stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Oh how untrue these words are...because words absolutely do hurt! In fact, words have the power to build us up, but they also have the same power to tear us down.

"Cry baby, cry baby, cry baby" As these words were verbally hurled at my little girl self on the school playground, the tears that were already upon my face began trickling down my face as fast as the words were thrown at me. As a little girl, I was not the prettiest or the most popular but rather was the one being picked on or even bullied in some definitions of the word. It hurt every fiber of my being, yet I somehow seemed to have found a way to forgive those individuals.

Even though I forgave those individuals, body image has never been easy for me. I've always seen myself as the heavier one; as the average one. It has taken me a long time to accept my body. Today I finally am at a place where I am *mostly* happy with how I look.

Perhaps because of my own experiences; each of our experiences of being hurt, it is so easy for us to get caught up in the numbers game. I too find myself looking more at my statistics; wondering why my post didn't get as many views as someone elses. My rational self realizes that there over a thousand of us participating in this #write31days challenge and it will take time for us to look at new posts etc. But my irrational self wants that immediate gratification! And then....I realize how this shouldn't be and isn't a numbers game, but rather is about being a beloved child of God; "fearfully and wonderfully made." Something that my Momma has taught me and continues to teach me. She always tells my sister and I how proud she is of us, how beautiful we are. She is the ultimate example for me of what it means to live and believe that God has called you as one of God's own beloved children.

So, to the homeless person on the street...I shout....Hey, You, Child of God;
God loves you and so do I!

And to the momma struggling today....I say....Hey, You, Child of God;
God loves you and so do I!

For all those who are in the depths of the darkness....I remind you who you are by saying....
Hey, You, Child of God; God loves you and so do I!

To all of you being pulled in by the numbers game...I say to you...Hey, You, Child of God;
God loves you and so do I!

To my Mom and all those who daily struggle with a mental illness, I also say to you......
Hey, You, child of God; God loves you and so do I!

The truth is that it is so easy to get caught up in what others think of us; to get caught up in how every one else views us. But the beauty is that we are beloved children of God; called and claimed by God. God wants you to know you are loved. You are beautiful. You are cared for. You are valued! And you belong here amongst God's children.

So for all of us; for all of YOU....God's beloved children...I shout from the mountaintops,
Hey, You, Children of God; God loves each of you and so do I!


Thursday, October 09, 2014

A Poem for My Momma


My friend Amy posted this on her Facebook page last night and when I read it, it made me sigh. Oh how true are these words! God has picked me up and taken what I need God to take...even when that is easier said than done. I am so very thankful for the ways that God has walked with me and my family and continues to walk with us. I am also so very thankful for my faith in God.

If you've been reading my 31 day challenge, you heard me talk about writing poetry as a form of prayer to God and for my Mom. I thought I would share with you some of the poems I have written for her and about our journey. The poem I am choosing to share with you today fits really well with my Day 2 post! Thanks for reading!


My Momma
By Tara L. Ulrich
Talking about boys and life,
Picking out my wedding dress, 
Sharing about my life and loves;
These are all things that I wish
I could do with my momma
Like my friends have with their mommas.
Yet she is still my momma.

My momma has always been my shining star.
She has always been one of
the most kindest caring people in my life.
Yet she cannot do the things that I wish for
To the degree that I hope and pray for.
Yet she is still my momma.

I want to talk to her about boys and love.
I wish that she could come with me
To pick out my wedding dress someday.
I yearn for the day when our conversations
Will be more than a few minutes.Yet she is still my momma.

Momma has taught me so much about life.
Momma loves my sister and I UNCONDITONALLY!
Momma continually shows me that normal is relative.
Momma is and will always be my momma;
A momma who reminds me daily
Of what it means to be who God created me to be!

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Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Washing Each Other's Feet

"After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, 'Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them (John 13: 12-17).' " 

Every time I hear this text, I am reminded of my call to ministry. I was consecrated as a Diaconal Minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) on April 23, 2006. Diaconal Ministry did not become a roster in the ELCA until after the study of ministry occurred in 1994. Diaconal Ministers are called to bridge the gap between the church and the world; to pick up basin and towel and wash the feet of all God's people. The Diaconal symbol is basin and towel. Diaconal Ministry comes from the word "diakonia" which means "to serve." It grew out of the Catholic understanding of deacons and deaconesses. (For more information you can go here: http://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Leadership/Vocation-Become-a-Leader/Lay-Rosters)

My Basin 
Growing up, church was very important to my Mom. She made sure that my sister and I made it to Sunday School, Confirmation, etc. We went through the routine of attending Sunday School, youth group, etc. However I was still very hush-hush about Mom's illness. Despite that though, some people knew that Mom was sick. And I saw how people treated Mom because of the stigma associated with the illness. Honestly my heart was sad that church was a place where people could be outcast. Shouldn't church be the one place where people felt welcomed and accepted; no matter who they are and where they come from?

Two days after graduating high school, I went to work at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp. It was the first place that I openly shared about Mom's illness. Sitting outside on a step of a cabin, talking on the payphone, tears began to stream down my face as I was informed that Mom was in the hospital again. Several of my co-counselors walked by, saw the tears streaming down my face, and began to ask, "Why I was crying?" I don't remember much after that...except that I went to my cabin and moments later, our camp director came in and asked me the same question. All of a sudden the flood gates opened and I was sharing my family's story of mental illness with them. I still don't know what exactly possessed me to share about Mom but somehow the Holy Spirit knew that it was the right time and place for me to do that.

During my camp days, I suddenly heard the call to go to seminary. I knew going in that I did not want to be ordained but I definitely knew that this was the place God was calling me to. I toured Wartburg Seminary with my friend Pauline. From the moment, I stepped onto Wartburg's campus, I knew that God was calling me there. So after graduating college and spending a year at home saving up money, I enrolled in seminary that next fall.

At seminary, I was enrolled in a master of arts class...that talked about the different rosters of the ELCA. I didn't know a lot about any of the rosters, but it was during this time, that I finally began to hear God's voice calling me to this new ministry; Diaconal Ministry. We were reading former president of Wartburg Seminary Duane Larson's book "From Word to Sacrament: The History of the Diaconate" when words began jumping off the page at me "bridging church and world", "picking up basin and towel" and I knew that was exactly where God was calling me!

A few days later I walked into my spiritual director's office and proclaimed "I think God is calling me to Diaconal Ministry." With a glimmer in her eye, she looked at me and said, "What makes you say that? I responded by stating, "Mom has lived with this illness most of my life. I have seen how she has been treated because of the stigma associated with the illness. I believe God is calling me to pick up my basin and towel and wash the feet of all God's people especially my mom no matter who that person is." My spiritual director looked at me and said rather profoundly, "That is exactly what Diaconal Ministry is all about."

It has been six years since I have been consecrated as a Diaconal Minister, yet every day I am reminded that God has called me to wash the feet of all God's people. "Diakonia" and Diaconal Ministry embody who I am as a called child of God. It embodies my love to serve all God's people. I realize that not every one likes having their feet touched or even washed which is why this is such a powerful gift for me. God calls me to wash the feet of those who are least likely to have their feet washed because they are grimy and dirty.

God calls me to wash the feet of the downtrodden. God calls me to wash the feet of the mentally ill. God calls me to wash the feet of saints....and sinners. God calls me to wash the feet of the rich...and the poor. God simply calls me to wash the feet of all God's people no matter who that person is. What an incredible and profound gift that is! God says to each and every one of us "...If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet" So my friends, let's grab some water, some towels, and do exactly that!









Monday, October 06, 2014

Breaking the Silence

Mental Illness Awareness week is being observed during this week. My friend LS told me about a synchroblog (a blog where numerous bloggers blog on the same topic) which can be found at http://synchroblog.wordpress.com. This month's synchroblog topic is Mental Illness Awareness so they are asking bloggers to share how they and their families have been affected by mental illness. So for my Day 7 of the #write31days challenge, I have decided to do just that.

"I think I am going to have a nervous breakdown" I cannot begin to tell you how these ten words grate on my nerves. For me it is like fingernails on a chalkboard. I want to turn to the person who ignorantly has said them and reply with "No, you don't want to. I can tell you all about what it is like." You see, my mom had a nervous breakdown right after my younger sister was born. (She is three years younger than me) So I haven't known anything different.  I would say that at least once a year, Mom ended up in the hospital. I remember spending a lot of time with other family members.

Growing up, my sister and I were pretty hush-hush about Mom's illness. We saw and knew the stigma that came with it. Our parents divorced my sophomore year of high school. It was the first time we really saw our Dad cry. I will never forget the words he spoke to us that day, "It isn't that I don't love your Mom anymore. It's that I cannot handle this illness." Even after hearing those words and in the midst of the divorce, we kept pretty quiet about Mom's illness. In fact, it wasn't until after I graduated high school and went to work at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp that I finally opened up about Mom's illness. What a freeing moment that was! And now I find it is so very important for me to share our story...to help break the stigma and educate about mental illness.

A few years ago, I had found a writing group at the local library and was so very excited to find an outlet for writing outside my job. (I work at a church and preach about once a month or so!) I write everything from poetry to short stories. Often times those poems and stories are my prayers to God so Mom often is featured or a topic of my poems. I will never forget one night when I went to the writing group and was sharing a poem I had written to Mom and to God about the illness. An individual at the group verbally jumped at me and began asking why I was writing about Mom, if she knew etc. I left that group that night in tears. Looking back now, I understand that this dear soul probably had had her own journey with mental illness and my words reopened a wound that this individual didn't want to open up. I never saw that individual again, but my prayer is that maybe my words at least brought some healing or wholeness to her life.

I share this story knowing that we need to be more open about sharing our stories of mental illness. Mental illness and depression affect more people than we care to admit. The truth is we don't do a very good job of sharing our stories, yet that is why I have become more open and vocal about our story. Yes, there have been times when Mom couldn't be the Mom we wanted or needed her to be because of the illness. But she has always been there for us. She is one of the most faith-filled women I have ever known. She has taught me more about life and living than anyone else that I can think of. And I say that having seen her at her lowest lows and her highest highs.

I will admit that there have been times when I wished that this illness wasn't a part of my story or my family's story. However it is because of our story that I have been able to bless others with our story. The Holy Spirit has this incredible way of appearing at the right times and places! And it is also because of our story, that I now know that it is an important part of who I am, who my family is and especially who my Mom is! To be honest, Mom has NEVER let her illness get in the way of who God has created her to be.

And so as I close, I am pausing to say a prayer for all those who daily struggle with mental illness and their families especially for my mom. Will you join me in praying for them as well?



This post is also part of an October synchoblog. Below is a list of other Synchroblog participants: