Rank and File

There is nothing that will make you feel more humble then going to a busy emergency department and getting a bed in the hall. It's too busy for you to get a room, so you are literally assigned a bed in the hallway. So are a lot of other people, most of whom seem to be dying from the flu. 

There is no privacy (HPPA goes right out the window). Need to put on a gown? The nurse will grab an aide and they will kindly hold up a sheet while you change. Can you run through your med list while everyone and their brother walks by? Thanks. Oh, you're in massive pain? Just cry it out while the world passes by.

You are not special. That's what humility reminds you. That homeless guy in the bed down the hall? He's getting the same care you are. The lady with the flu? She deserves the same gentle nursing skills you receive.

Christian writer Corrie Ten Boom is credited with saying, "Don't bother to give God instructions; just report for duty.” We are not masters of the battlefield. We are not grand leaders, men and women who grasp all the tiny details of our lives and see how it all plays out, even in harmony with the lies of those around us. Oh, we think we are, but we are not. We are in no place to give God instructions; we only can show up and do as we are directed.

We want to be treated as if we are royalty, even if it's just minor royalty. I just want a small suite in the emergency department you see. I'd like a small coterie of staff to fall all over me and my wants. I'd really like it if God followed my  directions for once, instead of failing (once again!) to heed my directions for my life. Oh, I know I'm made for so much more than the rank and file of this life.

Except I'm not. I'm just me. A small me. A sinful. A me built and designed for some purpose. Might seem a big purpose, might seem small. Doesn't matter. Doesn't matter if I get the bed in the hall or the corner suite on the top floor. I am still God's child, created in His Image and likeness, bearing His dignity in all I do. Standing in God's rank and file is still a far, far better place to be than standing atop a mountain without Him.

We want recognition. We want ease. We want glamour. We want everyone to recognize just how special we truly are. But in this life, the question is: Are we willing to do our duty, whatever God tells us that is, from our bed in the hall? 

Off In the Weeds No More

As promised, I said I'd address why I hadn't been posting much. Part of me wants to say I have nothing to write, but that is the writer's cop-out. In order to have something to write, one simply has to write.

No, my lack of writing has to do with what Winston Churchill called the Black Dog: depression. I suppose chronic illness plays into it as well, but it's depression that tells you that you have nothing to say. It's depression that tells you that you can't write anyway, even if you did have something to say. Depression kills that spark you get when you find a topic you want to write about, you start to formulate a sentence or two and then you remember: you can't write. And you're done.

Depression distorts and demeans. It tells you that you can't, you shouldn't. Even worse, if you're a person of faith, it attacks that. God doesn't care about you. Look at what a mess your life is - you think this is the result of a loving God? Over and over, that voice reminds you how worthless your ideas, your thoughts, your gifts are. And so you slowly just stop. Even writing in your journal seems to be pointless. You are no longer on a path that leads somewhere, anywhere. You're just off in the weeds, aimless, no place to go.

And you get pretty darn comfortable there.

Once you're off the path, it is really hard to get back on. It's easy to hide in the weeds. On the path, you're exposed. You have to converse with people. Depression keeps telling you to hide. Off in the weeds, it's a lot easier to nap, to drowse off. On the path, you have to be alert, to know what's going on around you. Nope, it's just easier to stay off in the weeds, hiding, being quiet, lonely, not answering anyone's questions.

Except that after awhile, you're off all by yourself - lonely. No one to talk to. Hidden. Depressed. Nothing to do or share with someone else. You realize this is no way to live.

Trying to claw your way back from the weeds is a lot harder that staying on the path in the first place. It's hard allowing yourself to be exposed again. It's hard putting your depression on display, especially when some people in your life have bailed on you because of it. It's hard speaking your truth when your voice is so soft and quivery, but it's the only way. You can't hide anymore. You have to stand in the truth, even if you're scared. 

That's why I wasn't writing much, and that's why I'm writing more now. It got hard and then it got harder and now here I am. Back on that path, a little shaky, a little scared but here. I'm here.

Healthy Bodies, Messed Up Minds?

A friend posted something from Antrim Counselling regarding the rather harsh mental health issues many of today's children face. For instance:

• 1 in 5 children have mental health problems
• A 43% increase in ADHD has been noted
• A 37% increase in adolescent depression has been noted
• A 200% increase in the suicide rate in children aged 10 to 14

These stats are for the UK, but I imagine they are about as bleak for kids here in the US.

I was reading the other day that it is likely that everyone will face one mental  health challenge in their life - grief, depression, a learning disability, coping with stress and anxiety. We all face physical challenges and when we do, we know exactly what to do, and we do not feel any shame in seeking help. We don't hide the fact that we went to see the doctor or went to the ER with alarming symptoms.

But when we can't sleep for the third night in a row or we cry every night when we get home from work and we aren't really sure why, we don't talk about it. In fact, we hide it. We brush off a spouse's suggestion that we talk to the doctor. We are FINE, just FINE. We soldier on. There is nothing wrong with us. Our body isn't hurting, so we must be FINE, right?

No wonder our kids are hurting. If we can't take good care of ourselves, how can we ever take care of them? And this lack of care is killing them - a 200% increase in youth suicides. 

What to do? I'm no expert, except when it comes to me. I know what has helped me. Talking about my mental health helps me. I see a therapist weekly. That is key. (No, I'm not saying everyone needs weekly therapy. But you might, for awhile.) But I also talk about it with others, just as I might my physical health. "My depression is better, but sleep is still a struggle" or "My anxiety has been getting better but I still have a hard time when...." It's the same as if someone might say, "My knee is still acting up" or "I twisted my ankle last week but the brace the doctor gave me helped." It's just matter-of-fact. 

Your kids are listening. They hear the words you use, the tone of voice. They hear shame if it's there. They hear progress or frustration. They hear priority or dismissal. They know whether or not it is safe to share their own concerns with you. They know that using a professional to talk to is an option in for your family.

That's the place to start. Talk. Watch your words but be honest. And it doesn't need to be your own kids, you know. Any kid you love needs this. Any kid in your life needs the adults in their life to show them that mental health is just as important as physical health. Talk and keep talking. 

Adopted By Grace

I was reminded in prayer this morning that we are all adopted, by grace and baptism, by God into His family. Christ's Sacrifice makes us all brothers and sisters in Christ. St. Paul is very clear: we are not slaves to an angry god; we are God's very children:

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!" The Spirit itself bears witness without spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ... Romans 8:15-17

Now, most people would read that and think: "How wonderful! Adopted by God! Adoption is so  wonderful; now I won't be an orphan, out in the world alone." And that is true. But it's not completely true.

Here's the inside scoop on adoption: it's built on loss. It's built on relationships that crashed and burned. It's built on heartbreak, heartache and heart-wrenching choices. Please let me be clear: God's adoption is perfect, but we are not. When humans get added to the mix, we muck things up.

And that's exactly what we did when we first came into relationship with God. At first, things were perfect. We lived in perfect harmony with God and His creation. It was, as they say, all good.

Until it wasn't. We rebelled. We thought we knew best. We struck out on our own, knowing in our heart of hearts that the rules God had given us were not REALLY meant for us. (If all of this sounds like a parent and teen relationship, you are right on the money!) We broke our trust, our relationship with God. 

(I don't want to stretch the comparison too far, but you can see the similarities between our choices and how they affect our life in God, and how a rebellious teen's choices might wear on a parent, can stand in comparison to our relationship with God our Father.)

But because God is all-loving, all-good, all-perfect, He not only gave us a way to be in relationship with Him again, but a way to salvation. He sent us His Son, who by His Life, Death and Resurrection gave us new life, and also brought us back into the family fold.

In adoption, there is joy. There is also tremendous heartache: a family must "give up" a child. Another couple struggles with the loss of fertility. An adult child searches for his biological family. A mother mourns a child she relinquished decades ago. Adoption isn't "good" or "bad." It is so good, so much of the time and does what it is supposed to do: give a child in need a home. But in order to make it work, we have to be real: adoption isn't without trial and heartache and loss.

In adoption, there is joy. There is also heartache. Family might not understand why we choose to be Catholic. We mourn years spent in sin and waste. There is trial and heartache and loss. We recognize we are helpless to sin and need salvation. We need a Father and a Brother and a Mother. We need God and Christ and the Church. And they are all right there, waiting for us with open arms, in a spirit of grace and adoption.

My baby, he wrote me a letter

One of the casualties of our post-modern age is the handwritten letter. Can you remember the last time you received one? We hardly even s...