Tag Archives: peace

rainy day prayer

I write my prayers; I have trouble articulating them otherwise. I don’t share them. This one, though, I wanted to share. It summarizes what I’ve been feeling spiritually for quite a few years now.

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I’m at the point where I don’t know if I would recognize Your voice if I heard it. No, that’s not true. Your voice is this quiet, in this room, as cars go by in the rain like steady white noise, like waves. What does the voice say?

Peace, peace.

I can feel myself become calm. My heartbeat slows.

I guess I’m just not sure if that’s “good enough.” Most of my conversations about You now are like seeping wounds, barely just scabbing over. I feel like all I have to tell people is how the church let me down, how Christians let me down, how the different denominations (Lutheran, Episcopal, Evangelical, charismatic) let me down. I don’t really have a silver lining. Is that because something is wrong with me?

I guess the one good thing from all that I can tell someone everything You are not. You’re not loneliness in a crowd of girls at a Christian retreat, or an angry argument over Facebook, or the agonizing fear of demons in every corner. You’re not silence from friends after a church collapsed. You’re not shame. Rage. Hate.

But…what are You, then? Am I starting from scratch? I feel like my insides are scraped clean, ready to be filled with…what?

Easter season is about rebirth, right? I guess that’s what I ready for.

Songs For Sad People

To me, music is the antidepressant I know best, and one that is devoid of side effects. While necessary for many, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors frighten me because some artists and authors say they stunt their ability to create. As a writer, that’s unsettling, having my voice muffled or extinguished.

I know I may well have to use them at some point. I may need to find some stability from the ups and downs that characterize my depression, instead of white-knuckling as I have. But for now, I find, tiny instances of relief can be found in the furthest reaches of depression, small reminders that life is worth it.

Sometimes you just have to find the strength to push play.

Full article: http://www.laweekly.com/music/the-music-that-has-helped-me-battle-depression-5014322

I love how this writer described her relationship with music. Music has always been a huge part of my life, from when I first began listening to music on my own, late at night, discovering the rock music of the 1980’s on my Walkman to now, when I create playlists based on specific characters I’m writing about. My main playlist is just called “Writing,” even though I don’t listen to music when I’m actually writing. It’s the music that inspires my writing, and it brings me calm. Kristian Libman listed a few of the albums, bands, and songs that have helped her depression, so I will do the same here.

  • Blue October – I’ve written about them before, and their impact is still true. Lead singer Justin has been through hell and back, and listening through the band’s albums is like hearing his life story.
  • Audrey Assad – One of the few Christian artists I consistently listen to. Her songs are like hymns in their lyrical sophistication, but so intimate and personal at the same time. Every song is a prayer.
  • Ingrid Michaelson – there’s something about the simple strength of her voice that calms me.

Additional artists:

  • Joy Williams
  • Jetta
  • Brandi Carlile
  • Jason Isbell
  • Bee Bakare
  • Greg Laswell
  • Matthew Mayfield

Is It Ok For Christians To Get Angry?

When I say angry, I do not mean miffed. Annoyed. Upset. I mean angry. The kind of angry where your face gets hot and steam shoots out of your ears.

I say that it is.

If you have experienced abuse, you can get angry. If you’ve suffered a deep betrayal, you can get angry. You can get angry about anything. To say that you cannot, is to censor your feelings, which are very often justified. Getting angry at Mark Driscoll for leading a church that has been exposed as spiritually abusive towards many people, especially if you are one of many who has been spiritually abused? Justified. Getting angry at all those priests and pastors who have recently been accused of sexual abuse in the state of Minnesota? Justified.

Anger is a lot like grief. In fact, in psychology, it is listed as the second response to grief. People saying all “the right things” does not help. When you experience grief, so many people are there with their two cents: “It’s part of God’s plan. He never gives us more than we handle. I’ll pray for you.” It feels like you are not allowed to rant, you are not allowed to get out that out. If you stay silent, it simmers. It brews. It poisons.

People, Christians included, need to be allowed to get angry, to ask God, “Why?” The entire book of Job is dedicated to one man’s rantings and ravings. His friends try to help, but they just make things worse.

In the end, it’s Job and God. That’s where healing really begins. Anger needs to be healed, just as grief does. And it only happens between an individual and God. People, with all their wise words, their scolding, their attempted empathy, all fade into the background. That’s where anger can turn into something else.

Forgiveness.

Have A Nice Day

You know what bugs me? That attitude of, “Hey, you don’t have a good day, you choose a good day. Seize that diem.” In my mind, it’s usually accompanied by a wink and finger pistol.

I get the general concept. People should make the best of things, take positive action, and so forth. It gets annoying because sometimes, you just have a really bad day, and nothing you tell yourself is going to change that, and it certainly doesn’t help when someone else is telling you it’s only a bad day if you decide it is a bad day.

With depression, I have very little choice about what kind of day I’m going to have. Every day is a crap shoot, and for someone like me, who likes to be in control of things and likes stability, it’s exhausting. One day might be really good. I do all the things I’m supposed to be thinging, and then, for some unknown reason, I can’t go to sleep until 6am and then I’m comatose until 2 in the afternoon and the whole day is just trying to eat food that doesn’t make me sick and trying not to fall asleep again. That is a bad day. The kind of people who say things like, “You choose a good day” seem to be the kind of people whose good days outnumber the bad ones. They don’t have to try so hard to make the best of things. Their lives seem…consistent.

I envy consistency. I’ve never felt jealousy so much in my life as I do now, when I’m convinced I’ve paid my dues when it comes to mental health, and the waves just keep rolling. It’s like being in an ocean. There are storms, there are moments of calm, but inevitably, you know the waves are going to keep coming in varying strengths, and a lot of them are going to make you feel like you’re drowning. Am I ever going to find land? Should I expect that? Or should I just keep bracing myself? I don’t know anymore.

I can’t choose what kind of day I’m going to have. But I can choose how I respond to the day. Days make up life, but bad days don’t have to define my whole life, even if seems like good days are scarce. I’m young. Sure, most of my life thus far has seemed just hard, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been good, and it doesn’t mean the rest of life is going to be at this level of storm. Ocean storms are terrifying, but when the ocean is calm…there’s nothing more beautiful.

Nelson Mandela: His Own Words

Nelson Mandela Reflects on Working Toward Peace

I was not born with a hunger to be free. I was born free-free in every way that I could know. Free to run in the fields near my mother’s hut, free to swim in the clear stream that ran through my village, free to roast mealies under the stars and ride the broad backs of slow-moving bulls. As long as I obeyed my father and abided by the customs of my tribe, I was not troubled by the laws of man or God.

It was only when I began to learn that my boyhood freedom was an illusion, when I discovered as a young man that my freedom had already been taken from me, that I began to hunger for it. At first, as a student, I wanted freedom only for myself, the transitory freedoms of being able to stay out at night, read what I pleased, and go where I chose. Later, as a young man in Johannesburg, I yearned for the basic and honorable freedoms of achieving my potential, or earning my keep, of marrying and having a family-the freedom not to be obstructed in a lawful life.

But then I slowly saw that not only was I not free, but my brothers and sisters were not free. I saw that it was not just my freedom that was curtailed, but the freedom of everyone who looked like I did. That is when I joined the African National Congress, and that is when the hunger for my own freedom became the greater hunger for the freedom of my people. It was this desire for the freedom of my people to live their lives with dignity and self-respect that animated my life, that transformed a frightened young man into a bold one, that drove a law-abiding attorney to become a criminal, that turned a family-loving husband into a man without a home, that forced a life-loving man to live like a monk. I am no more virtuous or self-sacrificing than the next man, but I found that I could not even enjoy the poor and limited freedoms I was allowed when I knew my people were not free. Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.

It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.

When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both. Some say that has now been achieved. But I know that that is not the case. The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.

Heaven

After the last few hellish days, I’m slowly coming up for air. I’ve slept a lot, like in the old days, and not eaten very much. Most food tastes like ash and gets stuck in my throat, but I try to eat and bear it. The headaches seem constant. For the past few weeks, I’ve been taking four Motrin pills every day; two in the early afternoon and then two again at night when the pain returns. I don’t know why this is happening; I’m sure to put away my phone and not look at electronic screens, but the pain still comes.

I don’t like to open the shades. I feel exposed, like people can look in. Besides, I like the sound that the shades make with the air conditioning unit blowing on them. It sounds like rain, or like Chris is here, typing on his computer.

Life is exhausting. I sometimes try to think about what heaven will be like, when this life is over, and all I really want from heaven is a place to rest. I would be fine and happy if heaven was just a warm room with a fireplace and hot chocolate that never went empty and Baxter sleeping in his sweatshirt and Yoshi on the couch next to me. I hope Chris would like this heaven, but if he got bored, he could leave and I would be happy to wait for him to come back. I wouldn’t mind being alone; I could just read a book from an endless library.

Just a place to rest. To be still.

Storms Prove Anchors

ImageThere are two types of anchors that water vessels use – temporary and permanent. Temporary anchors are the type we usually see in movies, where the sailors are frequently moving the anchor up and down, usually dripping with seaweed and decorated in clam shells. Permanent anchors are rarely moved and are used because they have stronger hold and don’t hurt the ocean environment as much as temporary anchors do. They hold the ship through all kinds of weather, including terrible storms.

Permanent anchors come in various styles, some are shaped like mushrooms and others are just heavy blocks with chains. The type of seabed (soft sand, coarse rock, etc) determines which type of anchor is best.

I went to see my psychiatrist yesterday and she put me back on on the anxiety medication I used about a year ago. Instead of taking as needed, which I was doing before, she told me to take one half twice a day before moving up to two tablets a day. A temporary anchor just isn’t enough to keep this ship from drifting.

When it came time to go to bed, I took my first half dose. The effect was oddly instant. I felt safe in the bed; the covers didn’t feel clingy and strangling like they usually do. I felt a comfortable weight in my chest where usually there’s a manic butterfly that keeps banging up against my ribcage. It was like there was a tiny anchor rooting me down into my body, keeping me present, calming my thoughts.

I’ve been fascinated by anchors for a while now; they make frequent appearances in my art. I’ve been searching for a way to ground myself, to become stable. Anxiety and depression is like being on an out-of-control Ferris wheel because there are so many highs and lows. Right now, getting back on anxiety meds is a permanent anchor. There will be other anchors as the seabed of my life shifts so it’s best for me to keep an eye on the ocean horizon.

Opening My Space Helmet: Social Anxiety

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“How dare you open a spaceman’s helmet on an uncharted planet! My eyes could have been sucked from their sockets!” – Toy Story (1995)

Crowds make me nervous. New places terrify me. Even being in an elevator for longer than a few minutes makes me twitchy. I have social anxiety and encountering new people in new places is my uncharted planet.

I’m not sure when it started. It always has been. I go into a social situation with people I don’t know and even if there are people I do know there, I physically feel strange, like everything I touch will suddenly smash into a million pieces. I have to focus on balancing on my own two feet. My face gets really hot and I have to keep blinking to make sure my eyes don’t dry up and fall out. If it’s really bad, the room will start spinning. I just want to lie down and curl into a ball. It’s gotten worse as I get older, to the point where even if I know most of the people, or it’s a place I’ve been before, I’ll still feel like I’m a stranger in my own body.

There are very few places I feel safe. Before I met Chris, it was at my parents’ house, but once I moved into the dorms, I couldn’t just run home. No matter what I did with my room, decorating it with paintings, photos, or how much I loved my roommates, something always felt off. I would go to class a bundle of nerves and then hurry back to the room, where a little of the day’s anxiety would lift, but there was always a tension in the air. When I met Chris, his apartment became my only safe place, and I would spend as much time there as was possible, to the concern of many. I didn’t know how to explain that being anywhere else made me feel like I was picking my way across hot coals.

I’m a space traveler on an uncharted planet. I examine the inhabitants here, people who are at ease, who don’t worry about tripping over everything, who talk easily with strangers. I’ll even communicate briefly with these aliens, longing to learn about them, to be accepted, but then I am pushed too far, my helmet has come loose, and I need to retreat to the mother ship. Only there can I remove the layers of protection and be at peace.