Tuesday, July 10, 2018

For you

Last fall I was crazy blessed to get to hear Nadia Bolz-Weber then to have her personally sign one of my books for me.  I patiently waited in the line then like a giddy school girl made my way to one of the reception tables while I came back to earth.  As I sat there, I spied a woman across the room sitting on a couch surrounded by some folks who obviously thought the world of her.  I shamelessly went to get more water just so I could peek at the button she was wearing.  It said boldly, "FREE MOM HUGS!" I went back to my table and worked on my courage to approach her.  I had no idea that she would become a daily influence in my life.

Sara is a driving force behind the FREE MOM HUGS movement for LGBTQ kids who need a hug.  She goes to all kinds of places and actively advocates for these kids!  She lives her passion, daily.  I admire and respect her while I have only met her once.  Today she posted the following with a  picture of beautiful "rainbow" adorned folks:
A word on the importance of a support group. Years ago when I first found a private online FB group for moms with LGBTQ kids a young mother entered the group with "I just found out my child is gay. I don't know how to pray anymore, I don't know how to breathe." 250 moms chime in saying "THEN DON'T. YOU LET US PRAY, YOU LET US BREATHE FOR YOU." Find your tribe. Let them pour into and lift you up until you find your wings.
You let us pray, you let us breathe for you.  

That sums up the life of Christ in a simple and pure way; doing for and serving one another.  I often tell friends and family members that I will pray for them.  It's not cliche or something said lightly, I pray.  Sometimes in my comfy chair or my couch and others in the shower, on my knees or driving down the road.  Most of the time when I'm quiet I'm talking to God or waiting for His word or direction.  When I ask you to pray for me, I expect that you'll find your sacred place and cry out to God on my behalf

There was a popular christian song many years ago, "Love in any Language" and it so applies today.  Love in any language, love in any color, love in any neighborhood, love in any place we inhabit.  It's so important that we mingle in and amongst the masses-the least, the last, the lost, the confused, the drunk, the abusers, the cheaters, the liars whomever they may be and show love and service for when they look at us it's not our faces they'll see but the love that He lived.  Love and service should be the real mark of the followers of Christ, not just a cross remembering where he died.  People flocked to Jesus, not for the cross on his neck or embroidered on his clothing it was for the easy way he spoke in stories and parables of acceptance, love and forgiveness.  Every day of mine ends with the prayer, "Lord help me to do a better job tomorrow being your hands and feet.  AMEN"  Sara C. you're an inspiration.  From now on when someone asks me to pray, exhausted or overwhelmed with more than they can bear alone, I will whole hardheartedly say,  "you heal, you seek your shalom and I will pray for you, I will breathe for you until you find your wings."  Beautiful, my heart feels full.  Shalom



Friday, June 8, 2018

Living

The last week has brought us two celebrity suicides.  The world was shocked that Kate and Anthony both suffered in silence with depression.  I read a blog today that eloquently expressed the words I was searching for in my own heart...this woman knew so many things about Kate Spade yet she didn't know she suffered from depression.  "Why is it any of my business or yours to know?  It doesn't have to be, of course.  But I knew when Patrick Swayze was battling pancreatic cancer.  I know that Cynthia Nixon is a breast cancer survivor.  I know that Selena Gomez has lupus and recently had a kidney donated. I know that Dave Letterman suffers from heart disease.  I know that Lance Armstrong is a testicular cancer survivor....somehow society has made it more acceptable to talk about breasts and testicles than about the mind and the chemicals and hormones it releases and controls and the messages it relays." ~Claudia Herrara

I was horrified when Robin Williams took his own life  died due to complications from his disease, depression.  He died because the medications, the counseling, the therapy, the success as an actor, the house, the wife, none of it spoke louder than that part that said, "you're not good enough," or "you're not funny enough," or perhaps it screamed to him "you're a failure."  The stigma that runs rampant in our society is that only those who are weak suffer from depression and/or if they really tried they could just "snap" themselves out of it.  We run to the doctor with every sniffle, scrape and ache but we want to criticize those who admit or we ourselves deny that we too suffer from depression.

Eleven years ago I was in a bad place mentally.  A really bad place that found me in my backyard with a butcher knife pressed against my wrist wishing I had the courage to draw it across and drain the life from my worthless body.  I had made some bad decisions and felt trapped like the only way out was death.  Fortunately, I have an incredible husband who chooses every day to love me, in spite of my many flaws.  Through his anger, he arrived like my knight in shining armor and held me in his arms.  Forgiveness and healing came slowly.  Medications, therapy and lots of work to cancel out the demons that had seeped into my mind.  The brain isn't like the other organs in your body, there is so much the doctors just don't understand.  They can identify the areas of our brain responsible for body functions but the *thing* the *spark* that makes us human is still a mystery that belongs to God.

This morning, a dear friend who has overcome unimaginable things in her life shared this:
my gut reaction was horrible guilt.  Guilt because I am guilty of putting on a face and pretending like everything is just fine when in reality I'm falling apart inside.  Pretending to participate in a conversation when in reality I am so consumed and overwhelmed with my own "stuff" running through my head I can't even think straight let alone follow what the conversation is saying.  I am often embarrassed  and avoid groups because I don't want them to see exactly how stressed I have become.  I pretend to my children, my husband, my parents, my friends....on the outside I have a smile, the cutest Chaco's, an adorable dog and kids who are just about as close to perfect as any kids can come but inside I am a swirling mess of emotions.  I doubt myself as a parent and homeschool teacher, I doubt myself as a wife, I doubt myself as a caregiver and as a friend. 
I.am.depression.
I.AM.depression.
I.AM.DEPRESSION.
There, I've typed it and published it on the internet so it must be true, it IS true.  I don't look for your sympathy, or for you to say, "poor Dana, she's got a mental health problem."  NO!  I want you to say, "look how strong and courageous Dana is, she's got so much shit to deal with in her life and here she is LIVING it!  She has depression and she's facing it head on.  She has sought out help from her doctor (thanks Lauren) and has learned skills and looked for help to cope with the challenges she faces."  Let's start applauding people for LIVING, for opening up about their depression.  Let's celebrate the fact that while LIVING is absolutely the hardest things to do most days people with depression are still doing it.  Let's give them a party for their strength, courage and conviction to fight their demons, the ones no one else can see but are still oh so real!

I"m going to do better about being an actor.  Two things happened in the last two days that almost sent me into a tailspin.  Fist, I blog here at Always Crazy Blessed and another at Damn Dementia.  Someone laughed at me for blogging then really laughed at the title of my other blog.  I very calmly responded with why it's called Damn Dementia while inside the self doubt started...the negative thoughts about what a fool I am to even attempt to share my thoughts and feelings here and really, really foolish on my private blog.  The next morning at breakfast I was met with a "how are your parents?"  Really?  My Dad suffers from vascular dementia & Alzheimer's and my Mom suffers from Alzheimer's...slowly, one memory at a time they are leaving.  With each turn of the calendar pages I see changes and lose pieces of them that I'll never see again.  The puzzle that is their life will never again be complete.  They slip away and we wait...we wait for the inevitable during which we suffer their loss, they become different people and we are strangers to the people who were the heroes of our youth...our teachers, our mentors, our parents who loved us unconditionally and now yell at us, belittle us and treat us like trash.  The people speaking to me couldn't have know because I always am a talented actor, I put on my happy face and pretend that everything is okay.

I went to my 70's style room and slept...around 4 hours yesterday and another 1 1/2 today.  I blogged on my DD site, went into Little Rock and did some walking around stores then came back feeling incredibly refreshed and capable of living and maybe just maybe I might be up to some socializing and conversation tomorrow!

For many reasons, I will not post this blog publicly.  After they are gone, perhaps I will be able to make it public and share...for now, if you've read this message please know YOU are important to me.  I value my relationship with you and I'm honored to count you as a strong member of my tribe family.  Thank you for reading this and thank you for always praying for me and for just being you!!!

Shalom

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Solidarity with Jesus

A few weeks ago I had a normal Saturday in the Hope household.  The four of us headed out in different directions as I ran my Mom in another! Our lives are generally a whirlwind so today was no exception.

As the Mom, my wants and needs are something I generally put squarely underneath the wants, needs and demands of everyone else. Between running for everyone, I had the opportunity to spend a whopping TWO HOURS at a ladies UMW spring retreat. I hadn't read the book, I didn't even know what it was supposed to be about because I knew that I want going to attend.

Living as a covenant community.

What's that even mean?  How about some modern day English?  I know God made covenants with us like the whole rainbow in the clouds thing and not flooding us to oblivion again but what does it mean today?  I'm pretty sure community is all of us. I remember singing a song as a little kid, “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight-Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Then Reverend Pamela began saying some things that I feel really strongly about.  Specifically, “Jesus came in the flesh so we can learn to be fleshy people...fleshy people who love everyone!” I quickly opened a note on my phone so I could remember the things she was saying. (I hope she didn't just think I was texting!)

"Nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus, so nothing should stop us from loving everyone!”  THIS!! This is exactly what we need to be yelling from the rooftops.  Loving everyone should be the easy part because that's really the bottom line of why Jesus came and what he has tried to teach us.

We get so caught up in rules.  You should do this, you shouldn't do this.  As Methodists we have a rule book called the Discipline but you know what?  None of us can "do" all the discipline any more than we can "do" all the bible...but you know what we can all do? We can forgive, we can love. Solidarity with Jesus.

Being together whether as a family, neighborhood, church or community, being “in covenant” means we learn to give a little sometimes. When we just take and expect our way all the time the covenant is broken. Learning to give is just the right thing to do. Give doesn't just mean things to others it also means, as John Wesley said, "we don't have to live alike to love alike..." seeing past our differences to find common ground.


The covenants from Jesus were written in the nail scars through his hands to the community NOT the Christians. Through his parables he was trying to show us how to forgive, how to love how to get along with one another. As a people, our covenant should be with one another and also with the community. Jesus' primary covenant is, “I love you," we should strive to have solidarity with Jesus by saying I love you to the least, the last, the lost, the conservatives, the liberals, the republicans, the democrats, the LBGTQ, the divorced, the Muslim, the Jew, the Christians...everyone.






Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Spite



I wanted to make sure you heard it in your mind now say it out loud. 
SPITE 
It just sounds like a cold and ugly word when it leaves your lips.

Spite when used as a noun means a malicious,
 usually petty, desire to harm, annoy,
 frustrate, or humiliate another person; 
bitter ill will; malice.  

To the best of my knowledge there is never a positive spin to spite.  Spite is the anti- to what my Jesus taught: mercy & compassion, love & forgiveness.  I haven't blogged this upset in a long time but I am striving to control the spite that is swirling inside of me, praying for the strength to keep it a fleeting moment, a noun, a feeling and never let it come to the surface to become a verb-an action, a harm. I thought perhaps if I poured my feelings out here then I could....let the feeling pass. 

Let me clarify.  I am fine, really I am.  I just have to get this out. Spite got the best of someone I love.  Someone who knew and loved me before I was even born. The feelings of spite led her to share a confidence without even realizing that I wasn't the only one that would be hurt.  The one on the listening side now feels betrayed, unwanted, confused and even angry....hurt with knowledge they can't comprehend.   I have to believe in my heart that she never planned her act of spite to do anything more than hurt me. Forgiveness must be my only action. 

When we act out of spite we have no idea who might get hurt in the process. So the damage is done, I am hurt but not so much for me but for the unintended recipient of bitter ill will. The only thing I know to do is forgive-unless I forgive I can't help others heal.  Right now all I want is healing and deep shalom.

Often when I lie awake at night so many thoughts fill my head.  I find that I rely on the serenity prayer to help center my spirit and relieve myself of feeling I am responsible for everything.  Today a dear friend shared a meme and it struck a chord with me. I think when I'm stressed and unable to sleep this will be my new prayer!
...change the one I can
...wisdom to know it's me  

Yes, I need to be the one to change (my mindset) because I cannot change (the behavior of) others. My mom always said that we need to be like ducks.  Have you ever seen a duck in the rain? Its feathers are incredibly made by a God who knew exactly what they'd need, the rain just beads up and rolls right off.  The rain just beads up and rolls right off...I'll let this roll off me for I am insignificant.  I can do nothing to prevent the spite that others feel toward me but I can forgive and I can help heal.  Thanks for listening.  I think I found that shalom.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

From Legion to Beloved

A little after three this morning, I heard a cat.  Not just any old cat but a pissed off cat. (Potty words aren't my favorite but I'm a believer they are just words.  Used here to convey to you what the cat sounded like.)  I laid there and listened for a while trying to convince myself it wasn't Bandit in the house hurt or stressed. I couldn't do it and I stumbled out of bed, causing the dog to give a sleepy "bruhh."  I make it to the living room and realize the rabbit is uncovered, the aquariums need water so even if a cat was crying I'd never hear it.  I squinted my eyes, we all know that helps you see in the dark, and I saw a black blob at the end of the hall.  I was satisfied that Bandit was sleeping in the hall and I must have been dreaming.  I fell back into bed and for the next 30 minutes the dog was whine-purring in her kennel because I disturbed her and surely as the night is long I could hear the faint screeches off and on of a pissed off cat outside!

As I lay there begging for sleep to return I felt the paragraph above began to form.  Now why in the world would I feel led to share with you my middle of the night cat tales??? I laid there whispering to myself and God prayers from my Wednesday night girls, from church on Sunday, from Facebook friends and family.  Eventually I drifted back off somewhere between a prayer and amen.

It seems my last few blogs have had a similar weaving-mercy, compassion, mental health.  Let's face it, mercy and compassion go hand in hand with mental health.  When I woke this morning and opened Facebook I was confronted with a status complete with pictures, when I saw the pictures I smiled because it was a familiar face of a warm, loving individual.  When I read the post, my stomach lurched because it was news that the familiar face is gone.  His life cut short because the dark places took over the joy and light. I share this not for personal sympathy because my sadness is nothing compared to his family, his tribe and those who loved him deeply.  I share today because that damn cat story.  It's not about a cat at all. It's about listening deeply and acting-mercy and compassion.

Last night I had an awesome devotion activity planned, my girls decided we should wait because we were missing three "usuals."  So I quickly shifted gears and we talked about Lent, they all shared things they'd given up-chocolate, candy, etc.  I encouraged them to reflect back to Valentine's Day when I shared my blog I'd written for them and we decided we all needed to "take on" more mercy and compassion for the remainder of Lent.  I learned they all ride the bus.  I'm not a bus driver but I can imagine it's a special calling to be responsible for a bus load of children, transporting them safely at least twice per day.  I encouraged them to at least once a week for the next four weeks to SEE their bus driver and say a thank you for getting me to school/home safely.  It's not just the bus driver it's the kid in the hall who gets picked on or worse yet goes through their days unnoticed and unspoken to by their peers.  It's the person teetering on the edge of dark who needs a ray of light to help them see their worth and keep them from slipping over the edge.

I can't count the times someone comes to my heart and I whisper a prayer.  Sometimes I feel a particular tugging to send them a text, call them or write a quick note to drop in the mail.  Usually I listen, last time I didn't.  Now, it's too late.

It seems the world is having far too many "too late" moments.  I've seen over and over some variation of this saying:
I know I've shared this saying before but it is so worth repeating.  Yesterday evening, I had planned to attend a class on prayer at FUMC.  I had talked to the leader and he said it was fine for me to join late.  I walked to the room ready to go in and I couldn't.  I was paralyzed with fear, I could see him through the windows of the Gathering Room, talking with the participants who were eagerly listening and learning.  I couldn't bring myself to interrupt and walk in.  I quickly turned and went to my car where I began reading his book.  I have to admit, I skipped to the 2.28 devotion and devoured it.  I then continued on to read the introduction for week 3.  I've heard the story of Legion many, many times...below is the text conversation with my Anna because I had to share the perspective I'd read.
From "An Audience of One" by Rev. Eric Meyer "When Jesus met Legion, Legion had allowed his demons to become his identity." Today I encourage you, send that text, make that call, write that letter when your heart is tugged.  Let the love of Jesus shine through your actions, perhaps your light can help turn a Legion back into a Beloved.  ~shalom Beloved!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Let Your Light Shine

Today I experienced a broken heart.
It wasn't anything from a loved one.  It wasn't anything personal.
I feel strangely moved in a way I never thought possible.

 Mercy & Compassion
Those are my words for Lent 2018.  It's kind of funny because when I shared my excitement over looking at Lent through the lens of mercy & compassion that Jesus showed to us with my oldest daughter she had an interesting reply.  "So momma are you adding your name to the list you plan to show more mercy & compassion to?" I'm not necessarily strong in the area of self compassion, I tend to carry an unnecessary amount of feeling responsible for things not my fault and feeling like I don't do enough for those I love. My compassion for others generally flows freely from my heart and I thought I did pretty good until I went to the Bentonville Homeless gathering and then heard the Ash Wednesday service offered by Rev. Eric Meyer at FUMC.  Both had a similar tone about seeing others from the panhandler at your exit, the lady who is your waitress at your favorite spot, or other regular service provider. Seeing them, acknowledging their existence, a warm smile, a kind word...no one expects you to solve their problems, simply show them the same mercy and compassion that Jesus through his actions and stories strived to teach us!

Today I had a rare opportunity. I accompanied someone on a visit to the OU Medical Center Campus in Oklahoma City.  Specifically the third floor of the G. Rainey Williams Pavillion-this is the area dedicated to psychiatry and behavioral sciences for children and adults. We walked through the heavy door and I immediately felt very uneasy, I felt like I had stepped into a movie setting the walls, floors and ceilings were all white. The check-in ladies were behind glass window across from an expansive desk.  We were directed to a waiting room that was smaller than my living room with a dozen chairs, a table, a water dispenser and a coffee pot. The only decoration was a wooden hutch with glass that had some various old psychiatric medical tools and books. There were none of the comforts of the waiting rooms I have become accustomed to such as essential oils being diffused, comforting music, soothing paintings on the wall or windows with a glimpse of the outdoors. I live a very sheltered life. It was very clinical, I couldn't even find a picture online of a waiting room to compare it with. Just off the waiting room was a room where every patient had their vitals checked so the chairs were a merry go round. 

I quickly realized that I couldn't hold my head up and look at the people coming in, I was afraid I was going to burst into tears.   I kept myself involved with my coloring book and reading my book of the week.  The clients who made up at least 80% of the steady stream revolving through were kids, young kids. Kids accompanied by their parents, kids who looked like they had experienced more difficulties in their short years than I've known in 48 years! The parents were tired, frustrated, and several were short with their kids. These parents were doing their best, getting their children mental health help.  I have no idea what any of their stories were but it was a chilling and humbling experience. I didn't feel worthy to meet their eyes because I can't even comprehend the struggles in their lives. We need to quit stigmatizing those who are seeking mental health as less than or broken.  These parents are struggling, trying to help their children. We need to make mental health readily available and as socially acceptable as the "gentleman's clubs" that seem to be okay with the masses. The help must be accessible, affordable and accepted socially.

Last week I shared with you about kids needing compassion and how much my Wednesday night girls are on my heart for the burdens they carry and the struggles they face. My heart wept today with seeing so many children with struggles as part of their lives.  I beg of you-our children need mercy, they need compassion-desperately! Where you have children in your life smile at them, be patient with them and see them.  If you can volunteer with kids in your community, please do. There are so many opportunities: 4-H, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Boys & Girls Club, little league, schools, churches, the list goes on and on.  Reach out and strive to be the spark that ignites a flame. You might just make a difference in a life and prevent....darkness. God has a plan for every life, he desires nothing more than each and every life to be filled with joy and happiness-light.
As a community, let's work together for mental health changes so people whose worlds fall apart can have better things fall together!

“Sometimes things fall apart so that better things can fall together.” ~Marilyn Monroe 


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Mercy



Today is my favorite day of the year...Ash Wednesday!  That may seem a bit odd when most would answer with Christmas, birthday, anniversary or other equally momentous day.  I look forward to Ash Wednesday with the anticipation young children have for Christmas. When I was young, this day didn't even register as a blip on my radar so why is it so significant to me? It's not just today, it's what today represents--the beginning of Lent, 40 days which might not seem like much but those 40 days can be transformational.
Last night moments before 11, I drifted off to sleep flat on my back; when I woke at 4:57 a.m. I was in the same position as was the blanket and pillows.  I hadn't moved.  By some miracle, I was wide awake and felt extremely refreshed. I woke with a clarity that surprised me as I was "zapped" with visions (for lack of a better word) of a family who needs a prayer today and a friend who is having surgery today.  I spent some time praying and listening.  Words began to flood through my mind for this blog entry and I felt compelled to begin writing and reading about Ash Wednesday and Lent trying to come up with the perfect words to relay to you why today is so important to me. I came across this word describing the season of Lent: MERCY! I've always felt that Lent was a time of preparation, self denial, self sacrifice, and reflection for Jesus' ultimate death and resurrection-an almost somber time with great celebration at the end!  But mercy...mercy is what it is really about.  God through his Son showing the most incredible act of compassion and forgiveness~mercy~when it was within His almighty power to punish instead.

For a few months now I've been meeting at FUMC Bentonville on Wednesday evenings with a group of dynamic young ladies.  I've always said I "don't like kids" but these ladies are different.  They talk, share, eagerly listen and seem to absorb information (and text their grandma's) every week!!  While I may be their adult leader it is really they who have taught me.  As they allow me glimpses into their daily lives, friendships and families I have the opportunity to realize just how different life really is for teenagers today. As adults we tend to minimize the struggles teens face and suggest our own teenage years were far more trying.  Until you sit in a room with kids every week and listen to their stories you have no idea!  These kids need Ash Wednesday and Lent!!!!  They need mercy!!! The weight that rests upon these sweet shoulders is more than many adults could carry.  As parents, teachers, leaders and mentors we need to strive to show compassion to the teens in our lives.  When the teens are short with us, tired, frustrated, withdrawn, acting out, etc. maybe instead of punishing them we need to look deeper and look for the real answer.  Grades, bullying, peer pressure, drugs, alcohol, making the team-choir-orchestra, being the best and even living up to OUR expectations are all creating a huge amount of stress on our kids. I know I am guilty.  If God/Jesus/Holy Spirit could show compassion to all of humanity then surely we can show mercy to those we love.
This isn't the first year I've been compelled to blog on Ash Wednesday or about Lent. (You can read them here or here.) My young ladies have no idea how much they are on my heart every day.  We have been learning each week about influential woman from the bible-Deborah and her STRENGTH, Puah & Shiphrah with their BRAVERY, Martha & Mary reminding us while WORK is important it is also vital that we LISTEN & LEARN, Esther who was very QUICK WITTED to save her people, Priscilla who shows us that TACT is an important means of communication, and RUTH-oh sweet Ruth with her LOVE and DEVOTION.  This week we are going to do something just a little bit different, I am writing letters to my young ladies because I am honored each week to be influenced by a modern day Deborah, Puah/Shiphrah, Mary, Martha, Esther, Ruth and Priscilla!  In their honor my Lenten goal for transformation is to be more merciful-to my Handsome husband, my beautiful Angel girls, my parents, my siblings, my extended family, friends and even strangers.