Sometimes Grace is Pain

These words are eloquently beautiful and remind me of the power of God’s grace in my own life especially as a daughter of someone who has lived daily with a mental illness. Without our journey, I wouldn’t be who God has called me to be. I also wouldn’t have been blessed in telling our story to others. Or in the words of Brene Brown, “Loving ourselves through the process of owning our own story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do!” (Funny thing since “brave” is my One word 365 for 2015. And another blog friend recently commented to me that she feels that my brave is in telling my/our story)

Our story begins shortly after my sister was born. Mom had a nervous breakdown. Both my sister and I spent lots of time with our grandparents as Mom was treated for her illness. Dad was busy working and earning money to pay for the doctor’s bills.

Growing up, it seemed like Mom was in the hospital at least once a year. And so as we grew up, I quickly grew up faster than I should have. When I was almost five and my sister was two, we moved back to North Dakota so my Dad could help his family farm. As I got older, while Dad was farming and when Mom was sick, I had to take care of my sister and I. I grew up really fast! Mom’s illness turned our world upside down. Yet when she was well, Mom was the best mom in the world!!! (If you don’t believe me, read this post I wrote for my friend Erin’s blog)

My sophomore year of high school, my parents divorced. It took a lot of courage for our dad to utter the words “It’s not that I don’t love your mom anymore. It is that I cannot handle this illness.” Looking back now, I see those words as words of grace as they seemed to soften the blow even if just a little. But I will also say that those words of grace tasted awfully bitter rather than sweet that day.

My senior year of college, Mom’s lithium level got to high which caused her kidneys to shut down. It was a very scary time. Mom spent several weeks in the ICU of a local hospital. We weren’t sure if Mom was going to make it, but she recovered. However that incident aged Mom a lot. She moved into a nursing home and has been living in a nursing home ever since. In fact, my sister and I became her legal guardians when I was attending seminary.

It would be so easy for me to be bitter about Mom’s illness. And there was a time I questioned God daily about it. But over the years, I have learned so much from my mom’s illness and our journey with a mental illness. I have learned to live each day to the fullest and not take a single day for granted.  I have learned what it means to love and be loved. I have learned that we have a God that, like Jacob did, we can wrestle with throughout the courses of our lives. (If you want to read more about our journey, check out my 2014 Write 31 Days series: Being a Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness)

But, most of all, I have learned the power and gift of God’s grace in my life and in our life. Mom is one of the most caring, faith-filled women that I know. Her actions continually remind me of the gift of God’s grace in my life. We could have lost Mom my senior year of college, but we didn’t. We could have kept our story of mental illness locked inside our hearts. But instead by unlocking our story from our hearts, we have been blessed by others and been blessed in return. Most of all, what I have learned is that there is power and grace in telling our stories.

Readers, don’t forget to register to win a $500 DaySpring shopping Spree. 
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Being Drug Out of My Writing Chair

Joining in with the online discussion on the book “On Being A Writer” by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig. Today we are working through Chapter 5: Write. 

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper.”–E.B. White.

But what do you do when the writing can be the hardest part. Yes, I realize that if I am going to call myself a writer, I must sit down and actually write….but some days that can be so much easier said than done. As the Director of Home and Family Ministry at a church, the words I write might be a sermon, newsletter article, Confirmation lesson etc, so when it’s time to write on the blog that can be hard to do.

As you already know, I still have a hard time calling myself a writer, but I am getting there. My mom has told me stories about how when I was little, I didn’t ask for a toy, but rather pen and paper. I was content to pour my words out in stories and characters even at a young age. Little did I realize what an impact words would have on my life.

Words, in many ways, became my lifeline. In English class, I loved when we had a writing assignment. When I went off to work at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp and told our story of journeying with mental illness for the first time, words became my prayers lifted up to God like hands raised to receive. At seminary, I struggled some. But it was a seminary professor who realized my love of words and poetry that helped me finally pass his class as an independent study. We would tape our conversations, I would go back and listen to them, and then I would come armed with my questions during the next class time.

Words continued to be my oxygen as I used them to share my family’s journey with a mental illness. But it really wasn’t until I joined the Write 31 Days challenge last October, that I realized how powerful my words were for me and for others. It is the one time that I truly sat down and wrote every single day. It is the one time that I felt like I found my sweet spot. It is the one time that I realized how there is so much power in hearing those words “me, too.” In my own words, I was able to breathe easier, because without being able to share my/our story, it felt like I was alone.

Even though I have found that my words do make a difference, there are still so many times when I get distracted; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. (Can anyone else relate?) I scroll through FB looking for that quote that I saw earlier and want to write about. Before I know it 30 minutes have gone by, I still haven’t found that quote and I still haven’t written ANYTHING. It is so easy to let the world around us distract us too.

Sometimes I think it is so easy to get distracted because I am striving for perfection (Anyone else shake their head at Charity’s words: “The second reason we resist sitting down to work is we want our writing to be perfect!”) I will find anything in my line of sight to help me procrastinate because so often I get caught up in the comparison game. That blog is prettier than mine; she writes so much more eloquently than I do etc. But then I read these words from Charity and I am convicted: “We have something to say that can come only from us.” Only I can tell my story of being a daughter of someone who daily struggles with a mental illness. Only I can tell my story of being a single 36 (SOON to be 37) year old who yearns so very deeply to be a wife and momma. Only I can tell the story of who God has called ME to be.

Trusting in that promise and knowing that my words are valid, perhaps someone just needs to drag me out of my writing chair to show me the surprising places where my words have and will show up!

Dear Grief….

I will be linking up with Kate Motaung on her blog this coming Monday. In conjunction with the release of her E-book Letters to Grief, Kate is asking us to blog on, “If you were to write a letter to grief, what would you say?” So here is my letter….

Dear grief,

You find a way into my head and my heart especially during this holiday season. I am reminded of all the wonderful Christmases we had at Grandma and Grandpas, but now they are both gone. My heart aches as I want to talk to my Grandpa and bend his ear as he was such a wise man. I want to hug them both so tightly again. It has been 8-10 years since they have passed but I miss them each and every day!

But the reality, grief, is that I don’t just experience you through the death of a loved one. I experience you through the loss and grief of a parent who lives each day with a mental illness. I love spending time with Momma, but there are so many things that you try to take away from me. You make me angry when I wonder who will hold my hand and go with me wedding dress shopping when I find that Mr. Right. You make me angry as I yearn for the days that I can carry on a longer conversation with her. You try to take away my hope; my hope of sharing grandchildren with her. You also have a way of taking away all of the sparkle I feel when I am with her. I cannot even begin to tell you how many tears you have made me cry; tears that are so heavy; so heavy that you take my breath away.

And as I think about these things, grief, I realize that you are the one who is in control most of the time. And I don’t want you to be in control. No, I need you not to be in control! I want to treasure all the time I have with my Mom. I want to talk to her about boys even if she maybe won’t be able to go wedding dress shop with me. And I realize that one way or another, I will have someone special with me to share in those precious moments with me. I want her to become a Grandma because I know that is something she dreams of and yearns for so deeply.

Grief, yes, most of the time, you are the one who is control because you fill me with such anger. But today I am choosing not to let you diminish my hope. Because grief; my old friend, I am not going to let you have the final word. But rather am going to let God have the final word.

“Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning!”–Psalm 30:5

The Light in the Midst of the Darkness

First off, I want to begin by saying “Thank you”; Thank You to everyone who read my last blog post. I have been humbled by the amount of people who have read it (89 at last count and the blog post hasn’t even been up a week yet). I am glad that my words could touch and bless you. You sure know how to make a girl feel loved!!

I am a daughter of a woman who has lived most of my life with a mental illness! I will ALWAYS be her daughter; a daughter of a mental health patient.

And this woman; my mom has taught me more about life than I can even begin to count! She would totally give the shirt off her back for someone else! I honestly can’t remember her ever saying anything badly about a neighbor either! As a child, I remember her doing simple kind things for others! She is seriously a beautiful kind grace-filled woman of God!

And as this grace-filled woman of God, she has taught me to look for the good in people! That is not at all easy because we live in a sinful world but that’s the beauty we need to look for the light and distinguish the darkness in our midsts! God comes in Jesus as the light in the midst of the darkness!

Let us spend time not letting the darkness overcome us but letting us trust in God and God’s promise to us all! May we continually look for those moments of light and hope especially when we feel like the darkness is overtaking us! I’ve seen lots of moments of light this week: a woman in TX buying all the caskets for the families of the children at Sandy Hook who lost their lives, dogs comforting those grieving in CT, a child sharing their toys with another child who doesn’t have any! And these are only a few moments of light I’ve seen! What is a moment of light you’ve seen today, this week, this month, this year?

“The light comes in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it!”

(Another blogger captures this so well! Read her awesome grace-filled blog post about looking for and bringing the light! You can check out her blog at Looking for the Light)

Treasuring Time

Sometimes it seems like we all are so busy with the busyness of our lives, that we forget how important it is to spend time with our loved ones; to just be still and know that God is there. Yesterday after a morning meeting, I left Fargo around noon and headed for my mom’s place. Since I left the meeting early, I was put on speaker and put my cell on speaker and was able to be a part of the conversation. I arrived at my mom’s place around 4:30 pm. I picked her up but not before I opened my Christmas gift. That was the first thing she handed me! It wasnt anything fancy; a wicker basket with shampoo, body wash, conditioner, etc. I know its the thought that counts because she cant afford much but I love the basket. I think its going to become my fruit basket! We went and had supper at a local restaurant. Mom had a shrimp basket and I had their special; shrimp stir-fry with two egg rolls (pork or veggie). I chose veggie and they were the two largest egg rolls ever! Then Mom and I went back to her nursing home, we just hung out in their den and watched tv after she opened her Christmas gifts. (We were supposed to go over Christmas break to see her but the weather got yucky; really really yucky!) We also even went on the computer and because I had taken video of my apartment, I was able to show that to mom and she was able to see my apartment! (Thanks for the request S!) Mom went to bed around nine pm so I read on my Kindle and then went to bed around 10:30 pm or so. I slept in an extra room at the nursing home. Around 7:30 am, my mom came into the room to see if I was up but I was still laying there and not really awake. I still heard her come in. After her breakfast, she came in and checked again. I was awake so I got up and got dressed. Then about 9am, mom wanted to go downtown so we went to the grocery store and the drug store. Mom had to buy her ever favorite Spice Drops! We got back around 10 am and Mom told me that she would let me go. I think she was worried about the weather coming in later today. You know we didnt do anything fancy but it was good to spend time with her. I treasure that time and I know that she treasures that time as well!

Direct Line to God, Please!

Why is it that certain things make your mind go immediately to one place? Tonight I got a phone call from a nurse at the place my mom lives at saying they had taken her to the clinic today. Apparently there was a lump in her left breast and it was imflamed. They gave her a medication and said it was celulitis in the breast which is basically an infection. However they did do a mammogram and depending on how the mammogram comes back, they might do an ultrasound. I am not too worried but I must admit my mind immediately went to that ugly “c” word! So I would appreciate a prayer or two! It’s when I hear “possible” bad news like this that makes me want an immediate direct line to God!

Camp Celebration

Wow….boy am I tired but an absolute good tired. I really want to take a nap but wanted to post to my blog first. The past four days have been absolutely amazing. I’ve been spending them at Super Awesome Bible Camp (Camp of the Cross) with my mom. My mom was attending a camp called “Camp Celebration.” Camp Celebration is a new camp the camp is doing for mentally, physically, and developmentally handicapped individuals. They only had two people registered so the invitation was extended to residents of the nursing home my mom lives at. The camp called me to see if I wanted to spend it with them. The amazing thing was it was an awesome opportunity and I was able to get away and spend it with my mom. My mom has lived a hard life. She has faced many obstacles and difficulties yet she still walks through life as this amazing woman of God! She and the other ladies who were at camp taught me so much about what it means to live completely and wholly as who God created us to be! Mom has difficulty walking which luckily the camp let her ride around in a golf cart but she was such a trooper. She walked when she could. I never heard her or any of the other campers complain once! I went to camp expecting to spend time with my mom but instead I was surprised by how much the other campers taught me as well. They all have such a joy for life and never complained. They even tried new things when they werent sure about it. Being at camp I feel so loved and honored to be a part of this place that has touched my life in so many ways. Thank you CCM for blessing my mom’s life too. My mom often says she is proud of me and my sister Andrea. But I have to be honest, Mom, I am so glad that some of my camp friends and even some new camp staff got to see who you truly are. Today more than ever I am honored to be your daughter!