It wasn’t long ago that I was on a boat with 48 other Revgals and during an ice breaker sort of activity, these three questions were asked: Do you have a tattoo? Would you consider getting one someday? You will never ever get a tattoo? If you know you me you know where I fell into that group back in February — I would never ever get a tattoo.
Tattoo’s were not overly attractive to me (for the most part) and I was deathly afraid of the pain they would cause. I respected and loved others who had them but I was certain that they were just not for me. In addition to these reasons, I had nothing I thought that I wanted imprinted on me forever for everyone to see.
Then a couple of weeks ago both my husband and I stumbled along the semicolon project. A project that seemed to fit my life in more ways that I can count or describe. I suffer from clinical depression, extreme anxiety, and Fibromyalgia. All of which can often just build upon each other and cause my depression to take me to deep dark places and often lend me to think about putting a period in my life.
Yet I also worship and serve a loving God that is with me always and has saved me from putting a period and placed a semicolon on more than one account. I know in my head I have much to live for and be thankful for – a beautiful little boy (ok not so little at 9 but still my baby), a loving husband, wonderful friends, a calling to live my life as a servant to a God who sent his only son so that I might have life and life abundantly.
I have taken my experiences in childhood and my depression and tried to allow them to help me be a better pastor. All of which help me empathize and at times truly understand on a deep level what the people God has allowed to cross my path are going through. I can at times share my experience and it helps them know that they are not alone. I’m also an advocate for better mental health care and have preached sermons where I point out the church’s difficulties caring for and understanding mental health issues and the way it affects the whole family not just the person suffering. I in no way believe that God caused me to suffer as a child, to have depression, anxiety or the chronic pain of fibromyalgia. I do, however, believe that God can and does use these experiences to enhance my call as pastor and as a person who lives in a world inflicted with the darkness and pain of childhood mistreatment, depression, anger, violence, pain and the list could go on and on. I can often sense one’s pain and am for the most part able to sit with them as they share or struggle to find God in the midst of their own experiences.
My husband has been extremely supportive of me for almost 20 years of knowing each other (it will be 20 years that we meet and started dating in about a month). When he read about the Project Semicolon, he knew exactly that we would be doing this for my birthday. His passion and support were what made me consider getting a tattoo. If he was willing to have a semicolon permanently placed on his wrist in support of my daily struggle then why shouldn’t I be willing. Not only will it serve as a moment by moment reminder to me to take a deep breath and even pause and remember that God is God and with me always; that it’s not time for my story to end but continue, it will also serve as another way to be an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention as I share the story of why a semicolon.
Here’s pictures of my forty-second birthday — a day I will never forget.