Thursday, September 25, 2014

mindfulness: depression, suicide, and the Christian life.

Something valuable that I have taken away from chapel this week is the *reminder* that being a Christian, believing in Christ as my salvation, means that my weakness is not taken away but is used to bring God glory. Depression is a darkness that plagues everybody. Regardless. For the Christian it is hard to accept and admit that depression is a normality of the human life, and often times attempts to remedy depression come in forms of, "Have you been spending time in the Word? Have you been spending time with God? Have you been praying?" As if these things alone ward off the darkness of depression. The thing to realize is that God's grace is sufficient; His glory is FOUND in our weakness - He does not take it away from us or keep us from ever experiencing it. Recognize the words of Paul when he says, "So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I [cried out intensely] to the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. The advantage, I would say, in being a Christian in this life is that we have a hope that is not easily found elsewhere, and therefore have a way to cope, showing the grace that God has given us, and boasting in the strength God - and God alone - gives us to go on.

One thing to remember from Scripture about depression and suicide is that you are not alone. Authors all throughout Scripture have been present in your feelings.  The Psalmist for example: "All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away." (Psalm 38:9-11); "Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God." (Psalm 69:1-3). Depression and thoughts of suicide are not "un-Christian" - they are anything but. However, allowing those thoughts and feelings to overwhelm until the point of a demise that extends pain to those beyond your own skin is not the path intended (for anyone) but especially not for one who finds their hope in the Lord.  If you know you struggle with thoughts of worthlessness and the idea of your life ending in your own hands; if you find yourself in desperation; if you have overwhelming feelings of helplessness and hopelessness: tell someone you trust.  Let yourself be helped.  Let yourself be encouraged.  For those who have someone to come to them with these painful thoughts: do not ignore! Do not take for granted! Do not ask them about their spiritual life! Be a person to talk to; to listen.  Help them find the help they need.  If you feel like you have no one around you to talk to, or no one you can trust, or need someone to talk to at 2 in the morning, you have a resource available to you: call the suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) where are someone will always be available to talk to who will listen to you and help you in whatever way you need. Depression (especially as a Christian) is a part of being an incomplete human; but find your hope in the Lord, even in your circumstance and be reminded that your pain is not for naught.  It is hard; your pain is valid; but you are not hopeless. God's strength is enough to help you continue; you have worth.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

happy first day of fall!

To celebrate the first day of Fall, and to celebrate the close of a great summer, Frank and I set up a fire in our yard, invited a few of our friends over, and hung out. IT was great, relaxing, and much needed. I also took a surprisingly good picture of fire licking the paint off of the wood we used.
Happy Autumn, everyone!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

mindfulness: maturity.

I was having a conversation with a friend over lunch today about maturity. It was fun trying to reflect back even on just the past few years and how we've grown so much.  One of the comments she made was that she looks back and thinks, "Wow, I so much more mature as a high school senior than I am now! Maybe I actually am more mature now than I was then, but I feel less mature now." The reason for her thought was that it's probably because now she's had a chance to know herself more: her flaws and imperfections; her struggles; everything about her is so much more aware. Compared to her high school senior self who was only aware of all the good things, her current self can see what needs to be improved.  I, on the other hand, went by the concept of, "I feel like as a senior in high school I thought I was so mature; then two years later I looked back and thought, 'I thought I was mature then? I am so much more mature now!' And now look back on both of those times and, "How on earth did I think I was mature then??" understanding that two years from now, I will look back on this time and think the same thing. It was interesting to see the different ways we looked at the maturing process. It made me realize that recently (as in the last year or so) I've been redeveloping the way I look at maturing.  Rather than it being a gradual process of being, it's a constant decision of doing.

When you think of maturity, often you think of the phrase, "With age comes wisdom and maturity." While in many people this is very true, this is not the dead ringer truth across all humankind.  Maturity is not a state of being. You are not simply a mature person because you've been alive longer; there are plenty of 60-year-old's who are much less 'mature' than some 22-year-old's that I know.  Similarly, being mature doesn't apply to a state of being just because you've reached a certain age, like 18 or 21.  These ages are simply to indicate whether or not you are old enough to drink, and how you should be tried in a court of law.  It may imply that you are capable of responsibility, but it does not imply that you are mature.  This misconception leads us to thinking that 'mature' and 'responsible' are the same. Yes, you can be both mature and responsible simultaneously, but they are not synonymous.  Responsibility shows through doing chores on your own; paying bills on your own; working on your own; getting your homework done; practicing for music class or a sport; really, doing what you're supposed to do in order to continue functioning properly in your own life and in society. Maturity is determined not by what's required of you, but by which decisions you make.  Yes you can be responsible by going to your work; do you choose to do your job poorly (i.e. stand around talking; cut corners on responsibility; be dishonest in your clock-in/clock-out time; etc.)?  Sure, you can learn everything there is to know about "the adult world" but are your motives correct? Yes, you can think for yourself, but are you wisely considering advice from those around you?  And how are you acting and reacting in any given situation? Anything you do in life can surely be labeled as responsible, but just because you are responsible for these actions does not mean that you are mature.  Maturity is not a state of being that you have as you get older; it's in your decisions, actions, and reactions, and reactions to reactions.  Responsibility can be handed to you pretty easily; or you can assume responsibility on your own.  But maturity does not come as easily as you think it does, and it's not one decision that makes you 'mature'; it's every decision that makes you mature - even the bad ones that you have to learn from.

Maturity is not a state of being.  My friend was more right than I was in realizing that the reason she thought she was mature back then was because she couldn't see all of her flaws and struggles; recognizing where your flaws are - and admitting to them - is a good starting point to maturity.  Denying or ignoring your short-comings hinders your very growth towards the maturity you desire.  Be humble; be merciful and graceful - to yourself and to others; own up to your mistakes and work diligently so that you are blameless.  Remember that maturity is not necessarily a state of being, but it's rather that you are mindful of your being entirely and what you choose to do based on that mindfulness.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

mindfulness: advice from a super-senior.

I was among the Senate leaders who were asked to do a panel for the incoming freshmen and transfers.  One of the questions was, "If you had one suggestion for the new students, what would it be?"  Mine was simply this: don't rush it.  There's so much pressure to take x-amount of hours every semester, CLEP classes, and substitute AP classes from high school. There's pressure to finish ideally within four years of school - or less. There's pressure to be the best in the class, or to achieve Latin honors. There's pressure to sustain a healthy social palate while maintaining good grades and participating in something extra-curricular.  And in all of this, I've realized that what I've really needed is rest. My plans fit many of these pressures. But the Lord knew what I needed better than I knew what I needed - no brainer, right? And he turned my four years or less into five years. Because He still had something to teach me. He had many things to work in me, actually.  I still had people to meet. I still had classes that were going to be important for my future beyond May 2015.  He had relationships to mend in my life. He had new direction for me. I needed to rest my body and mind. I needed some healing in every realm, and I still had room left at this place for spiritual growth.

Time and money are the most valuable commodities, they say. Here's the thing: you can always replace money, but you cannot ever get back your time.  If you are rushing through your learning and and making your growth premature just to save money and get out into the world, how valuable is your time, really? Your time is shallow and rushed, and chances are, you are much further behind than you realize.  I've started my fifth year of college this year, and this is my one biggest advice to anyone who is in college, or starting college: take your time. Don't rush. Just relax. Take time to really learn and understand what you are going over in class.  Take time to be mindful of what you are doing, learning, of the people who are in your life with greater reason than you are aware of.  If you need to drop to 12 hours or less for a semester, do it. If you need a semester off, do it.  If you want to stretch your time for another semester or another school year, or even longer, do it. Because it's worth it.  Don't bend to the pressures around you; make your own choice.  Let the Lord mold you; learn all you can and understand it well; give your body the time and healing it needs. You will regret it far more if you don't. Make your time valuable. You won't be getting it back.

Friday, September 5, 2014

heritage tour.

Very recently, Frank and I have talked about going on a tour of the world - specifically to do something we thought was a very neat idea.  We want to travel to the countries, and maybe even the cities, from which our ancestors came.  When we go to these places, we will film us trying a new food, making something that is specific to the culture (i.e. reed basket, etc.) or learning some new phrases. Or all three!  This venture will take quite some time, and definitely a bit more money.  We'll start someday, though and Lord willing, end. Thankfully, we know of at least two countries which we have in common (England; Germany).  Others include: Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, The Netherlands, and Canada (!). Other than the two we have in common, we don't know much about where Frank's ancestors were from. We've heard speculations of Ireland, France, and the Czech Republic (or Czechoslovakia), but we are on a mission to get to the bottom of his blood and find out ;)  And who knows, maybe there are a few more surprises in my own heritage that we haven't uncovered yet? So while this venture will take some time to start and finish, the prospect of walking where our ancestors walked and doing/eating/making/playing with some of the same things our ancestors did are entirely overwhelming and I can't wait for our chance to start!  As of right now (which means, subject to change) our first goal is to knock out four birds with one stone: take an anniversary trip to Ireland and Great Britain. We'll see, folks ;)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

black out days || phantogram

This is the song that started off my school year.
And I can't get it out of my head.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

word of the month: mindfulness.

September's word is mindfulness.
I have chosen to focus on the idea and practice of being mindful: mindful of my surroundings; mindful of what I have been given; mindful of what I eat; mindful of what I say; mindful of my breath and my body; mindful of my actions.  Not that I don't already take these things into account with a mindful taste, but that I want to focus mindfully on being mindful.  I want to be made more aware of my life, what comprises it, and the presence of God. So September, I think I will be learning a lot from you.