3. Do Back-to-School Shopping for a Child in Need

(This post is part of my year-long series 40 New Things at 40.)

I love shopping for school supplies. As a child, I looked forward to it every year. If I close my eyes, I can still clearly picture my very first school bag, bright red with silver buckles, emblazoned with the logo of the 1981 movie version of the musical Annie. (It looked kind of like this, except I don’t remember the main image being cartoon Annie and Sandy.) It helped me through the difficult first day of kindergarten, when I was homesick and missed my mom and a mean boy told me I had a fat belly. Pretty much every year, I would get a new backpack (except when my grandparents got my brother and me L.L. Bean backpacks, which lasted and lasted) and a colorful assortment of notebooks, folders (I still miss my Trapper Keeper), pencils, erasers, and other supplies. When I grew up, I looked forward to going back-to-school shopping with my own kids. Continue reading “3. Do Back-to-School Shopping for a Child in Need”

Losing the “Single” (part 2)

(If you missed part 1, you can catch up here.)

After being single for the first 21 years of my adult life, will I still be me when I get married?

That’s the question I asked at the end of my previous post, and it’s an important one. I love my fiancé and I’m very, very happy when I think of being his wife. I also know that life will be very, very different for me a few months from now. And that’s a bit frightening, to be honest. I know without a doubt, no matter how happily married I am, that there will be days when I miss my single life. Continue reading “Losing the “Single” (part 2)”

The Beginning of Empathy

It has been a terrible week for all of us in the U.S., to varying degrees. We couldn’t catch our collective breath before we had another public tragedy to grieve, and another, and another. I lamented on Twitter that in addition to sick days, our jobs should give us “crushing sadness for the state of our society” days, because I honestly felt such despair and powerlessness that it was hard to get out of bed. And I realized that I say that as someone speaking from a place of privilege. I wasn’t directly impacted by the murders I saw on the news this week, except that I try to practice empathy. It’s messy and I certainly haven’t mastered it, but I keep trying. What I’ve seen lately is a whole lot of people who seemingly have lost the ability or willingness to imagine the world from someone else’s perspective. Empathy is one of the tools God has given us to help in the hard work of loving our neighbors as ourselves. But it isn’t enough on its own. Imagining what someone else thinks and feels is fine, but God also gave us the gift of story. And if we want anything to change, I think it begins with simply listening.  Continue reading “The Beginning of Empathy”

Looking for the Helpers

loveneverfailsIt’s been a week since Orlando. It’s been a year since Charleston. Anniversaries of tragedies can resurface all the feelings of shock, anger, and grief that we initially felt. The grief of public tragedies lately has been overwhelming for me. Through the combination of clinical depression, a deep sense of empathy, and a vivid imagination, I get stuck imagining myself over and over in the place of the victims when I hear the horror stories in the news. I had to stop listening for a while. But still again and again my mind returns to the Pulse nightclub a week ago, and Mother Emanuel AME church a year ago. The only thing that makes it bearable for me is to do what Fred Rogers said his mother taught him to do when he saw horrible things on the news: “Look for the helpers.”  Continue reading “Looking for the Helpers”

Thoughts from the Via Dolorosa

In 2007, I spent two weeks in Israel and Egypt as part of a group from my divinity school. It was the trip of a lifetime, one of the greatest blessings I’ve ever received. Being there, seeing the places where so many stories I’d read in the Bible actually happened, was overwhelming. Sometimes I go back and read my journal from that trip. I filled almost the entire book in those two weeks. During Holy Week, my mind takes me back to the places Jesus walked, where I got to walk, too. I shared my experience of the Garden of Gethsemane two years ago. On this Good Friday, I’ve been re-reading some of what I wrote after walking the Via Dolorosa:

via dolorosa 1 Continue reading “Thoughts from the Via Dolorosa”

May the Stigma End

There’s not much of May left, so I’m getting this in just under the wire! May is Mental Health Awareness month, signed into recognition by President Obama in 2013. I’ve written quite a bit about my own struggle with mental health here, and in my recently-released book, I touched on how growing up in a family affected by major depression eventually contributed to my calling as a hospital chaplain. Continue reading “May the Stigma End”

#BlessedAreTheCrazy: No Longer Protecting Secrets

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This is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and I’m proud to be participating in this synchroblog to celebrate the launch of Sarah Lund’s new book, Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and ChurchI come from a family in which mental illness — especially depression and anxiety disorders — and addiction have had a huge impact. As a little girl, I remember the great lengths my family went to in order to protect the secret that my mother had been hospitalized for depression. I felt the shame of it, even before I understood what it meant. I was afraid other kids at school would laugh at us if they knew, and any time a group on the playground was whispering, I was sure it was about me and my family.  Continue reading “#BlessedAreTheCrazy: No Longer Protecting Secrets”

Depression Is a Disease, and I Have It

The acting world has lost a legendary performer, a gifted comedian and dramatic actor. And according to early reports, it appears that Robin Williams’ death was the result of suicide. He had been open about his experiences with depression in the past, and that takes courage. Mental illness, and maybe depression in particular, is still stigmatized and misunderstood. (Buzzfeed has this great list of 21 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Depressed that just might help.) I’ve seen it in many of the social media responses to his death. So I feel the need to clear up a few things here, since I have quite a bit of experience from which to draw. I am living with depression myself, and I grew up as a member of a family in which depression and attempts at suicide shadow many of my childhood memories. I know a thing or two about what depression is, and what it isn’t. Continue reading “Depression Is a Disease, and I Have It”

About the title, part 3: Lady

I’ve never been a big fan of the word “Lady.”  In my mind (having been raised in the American south), I picture ladies sipping tea on the front porch, quiet, genteel, not a hair out of place.  When I was growing up, all I heard about ladies was that they didn’t do whatever it was that I was doing.  A lady doesn’t run indoors.  A lady doesn’t slouch.  A lady doesn’t talk with her mouth full.  A lady doesn’t interrupt.  A lady doesn’t jump on the bed.  Being a lady sounded like no fun at all! Continue reading “About the title, part 3: Lady”