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!”

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
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!

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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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

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!!

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.

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

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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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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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!!