Unmasked Series

Unmasked: The Journey from Surviving to Thriving is a book that was recently released by my blog friend Bethany Boring. Bethany and I initially met on each other’s blogs and then we began catching each other’s Periscopes. Today I am sharing one of my Unmasked stories over at Bethany’s place.

“Those words open many fairy tales, but our lives are not all fairy tales, are they? They don’t all end with “happily ever after.” Read the rest of the story Here!

Breaking the Silence (A Five Minute Friday Post)

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Break.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

My Lighthouse by Rend Collective Experiment has become one of my all-time favorite songs. I love the image of the lighthouse in the distance breaking through and providing that light that we need. Or, I think, of a candle which in a blackout provides just enough light; just enough light breaks through and shows us what we need to see.

Sometimes what we need to see is right in front of us. This week I have been finishing (I only have a chapter left) of Annie Downs’ book “Let’s All Be Brave.” That book has opened me up in ways I never thought possible. It has help me break through and be more brave than I ever thought possible. My friend Colleen at Blessed are the Feet reminded me of that today in this post she wrote Go Ahead and Tell Your Story.

God wants us to tell our WHOLE stories; even the bloody messy pieces of our stories. My story is filled with much joy but it also is filled with much pain and sorrow too. My Mom had a nervous breakdown right after my sister was born. (She is three years younger than me) She has lived with a mental illness pretty much my whole life. And I have learned the power of sharing my story; our story. There are so many in this world whose hearts are breaking because they haven’t been able to share their whole stories.

I also believe that when we share our stories, God finds a way for the light to break through in the midst of the deep darkness. In sharing our stories, we break the silence about the so many things that I believe God weeps along with us with in this world. And by sharing my story and the story of all those who daily struggle with a mental illness, I am able to hopefully break the silence.

**Since I referenced this video, I decided to add this video for your enjoyment, friends. Maybe you could break dance to this? (Just Kidding!)

Lessons Learned

One of my new #write31 days friends asked this question on Facebook this morning, “Almost a week out from finishing the challenge. How did you see God grow you in the 31 days and do you find yourself with a new calling/purpose for your writing?”

(1) I have seen God use me for a greater purpose. As I have shared my story, I have seen how God has used me and my families story to bless others, to inspire others and to let others know that they are not alone.

(2) I was reminded how much I am truly a writer. My mom said I was a strange kid. Often times when I was little, I didn’t want a toy. She could give me a piece of paper and a pen and I was a happy camper. Throughout this challenge, I have realized how good it is for my soul to put pen to paper; much like a musician writing a song and putting notes to words. I get to write sermons once a month for my job and write newsletter articles etc. But I haven’t really taken the time to write for me! I have realized how much I missed writing!

(3) My hope is that I will continue to “find my tribe” and that others will find their tribe as well. It is so cool to find others who simply get me and understand who I am. Pure gift in knowing who and whose  I am. I hope that I can use this blog to help others see that as well and to know that gosh darnit, they are good enough; more than good enough!

(4) That being vulnerable can be a scary place to be. But by showing my own vulnerability, people see me for all of my experiences; for all of my hopes and dreams; for all of my griefs and losses. And by leading by example, others realize and see how being vulnerable and open can bless all of us!

(5) I learned a lot during these 31 days but I think my favorite has to be one a friend pointed out to me. She reminded me that I am truly living out the words to Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” When I flipped my Bible open and read those words, I realized how true that is. It took me a long time to get there but in sharing my story, I have found a way to fully trust in a God who promises to never leave us or forsake us. I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through life and our struggles without my faith. I know that is not true for everyone but for me, there is such comfort in knowing that I am called and claimed as a precious child of God. Thanks be to God for that!

(6) I also think in many ways I have found my voice again. At seminary, I had a negative experience in a class by a classmate. (She later apologized and became one of my dearest friends) However that experience caused me to shut down and not think I had anything valuable to say. Throughout seminary and in my calls after, I was able to find my voice. And I continue to find that voice even more each and every day!

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”–Romans 8:26-28 (The Message Translation)

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!

 
 
 

 

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:

Freedom in Our Stories

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 message that my sister had called. She was calling 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 wth them. I got off the phone and went back to my cabin. Within moments, the camp director came 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.

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.

So my friends, thank you for sharing your stories with me. And thank you for letting me share my story with you. In sharing our stories, I believe we are freed to be who God created us to be; fearfully and wonderfully made.

Show Them Your Heart!

A colleague and friend reminded me of this today. Being in a new place and a new call this is so important! I know there are some who have definitely seen that heart while others I’m not so sure of. I deeply want them to see my heart!

I love children especially babies and toddlers! I would do just about anything to cuddle a baby or play with a toddler. I don’t even mind that I have to get down on the floor to play! I also love spending time at my friends house and love when her three year old practically demands that I sit next to her ! That is so much a part of my heart! Probably because I yearn to be a momma so deeply!

I also have learned the importance of sharing my story with others! How else will others know my heart? I have so much of my mom’s heart and spirit; yet most people don’t know that she daily struggles with a mental illness! As a daughter of someone who lives with a mental illness that is so much a part of my heart too!

There are many other things that make up my heart too! I hope that in this new place people begin to see my heart! In my last call, I believe that they did see my heart and loved me for it! They saw the peace and holiness I felt when I got to snuggle a baby! They saw the joy I had when I got to laugh with kiddos!

Some days I see glimpses of people seeing that part of my heart here! And yet there are some times I wonder about what they see! I second guess myself and my actions a lot but then I am reminded to be myself! Easily these words whisper into my ear, “Show them your heart and let them get to know you!” Yes, that I need to remember!!

Have you seen me show you my heart? And if so, what has my heart shown you about who God created me to be; “fearfully and wonderfully made!”

May we all show our hearts; broken, battered, bruised, and pieced together for all to see!