Tag Archives: support

One Should Never Say Never…..

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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.

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Having a Kiddo in the Hospital Is Harder than Hard!

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So over at Rev Gals here is their Friday Five for this week (and yes I realize it’s Saturday)!   On RevGal’s it reads and asks us to respond to the following post:

Hospitals are very much on my mind, because my husband Chuck is having his second knee replacement on Monday. We will be there very early in the morning because he is the first surgery of the day at 7 am.

So consider your experiences in the hospital in your various capacities: being a patient; parent, child or spouse of a patient; chaplain; minister; or visitor. In what ways have you experienced your times in hospitals? Think of 5 ways and share your blog address in the comments section when you play.

  1. I remember being alone with a toddler and having been to the ER for two nights in a row because as a mom I knew something was wrong.  And more than the heart burn that the dr diagnosed it as the first night.
  2. I had someone with me the first night but my husband was away as dean of Laurel Ridge so it wasn’t easy for him to get home either night or for the week that would come.  But the second night I feel blessed in some ways because the doctor working on him had a aha type moment and tested his pancreatic enzyme levels.   And yup that was the answer to the problem.  My little guy had what we thought at the time Acute Pancreatitis.  I remember that I was devastated when they told me he would be admitted for at least a week.
  3. As a pastor I knew that they don’t admit adults or children without it being a serious issue and I was scared for his life and didn’t know what to do at midnight alone with my very sick child.
  4. Thankfully my mother in law came down from Winston-Salem (a 5 hour drive) the next day to be with me and offer me some support.  The whole thing brings tears to my eyes still.  Because other than her, one friend, and daily or multiple times a day calls from my hubby (as cell service would allow) I had no support.  No church members visited or offered to bring anything.  I felt alone a lot and all I wanted to do was cry but knew that would only get my little man a little more worked up.
  5. I remember the nurse on the day we were leaving telling me that little ones that come in with numbers that high usually don’t leave.  Meaning you guessed it they die.  I’ve never forgot it and remember it every time that the doctors fear his pancreatitis is flaring because it’s not longer acute but chronic.
  6. What parent wouldn’t be freaked out and exhausted from not getting much sleep ( sleeping in bed with their little one for a week) and wondering when he was going to start to feel better and when they would stop giving him morphine and give him real food.   But as you can see from the pictures below he did get well and we did have some play time so to speak.

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A Season of Thanksgiving

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Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada and for several years I’ve practiced what I call a Season of Thanksgiving.  A season that goes from Canadian Thanksgiving through Americian Thanksgiving.  We have much to be thankful for and it seems like thanksgiving just get’s lost between Halloween and Christmas.  Even when we are in the midst of our own dakness or dispair there’s something to be thankful for – for we worship a God who grants us grace and unconditional love every second of every day.  So I challenge you to join me in my thanksgiving journey.

Today I start off with a thanksgiving that just sort of fell into my lap last night because off facebook.  When we served in GA I was a member of a knitting group that meet every Friday evening to knit, crochet, (sometimes spin yarn) but always share together.  Share lifes joys and lifes sorrow.  We were an ecclectic group – I’m still not sure how to describe us other than a group of compassionate fiber loving friends.  I’m thankful for all this group of ladies did for me while I lived in GA but more specfically I’m grateful for the opportunity to reunite with them next weekend.

Every year at the agriculture center outside of Asheville there is a fiber festive that is miainly hand spun and hand dyed yarn.   Booths full of roving for spinning and felting and every tool imaginable to fiber loving people.   I’ve been a couple of times and ran into folks from my GA group but never have I stayed with them but this year that’s changing.  I’m going up Friday evening and coming back Saturday.  Im super excctied after the exhauusting weeks we’ve had arouund here it will be nice to just hang with some good friends and make some new friends.  

So today I’m thankful for fiber loving friends from GA!

#RallyRevGals — The Heathered Edition

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Have a case of the Augusts? Not ready for the program year to start? Thinking about how you can’t save the world, or even your little corner of it? RevGals can’t fix it all either, but we can give you a reason to post to your blog!

The #RallyRevGals Blog Contest will run from Tuesday, August 18, to Sunday, August 31. 

To be eligible:

be a member of our webring,*
1. Write a blog post about a woman who has been a positive influence on your ministry (whether or not she is/was a pastor),
2. Use the tag/hashtag #RallyRevGals in your subject line as well as categories or tags on your blog,
3. Share the link in the comments on this blog post, in the comments on the accompanying Facebook group post, or on Twitter (be sure to use the hashtag so we can find your blog post).
4. Everyone who participates will be entered in a random drawing for three prizes from our Cafe Press store.

 

Here are two more women who have rallied around me and supported me in different times and stages of my ministry.  I call it the “Heathered Edition” because both of these women are named Heather.   

Let me begin with my best friend from college and my Maid of Honor.   She came from a much more conservative church tradition than I did but it never stopped the two of us from being great friends.   During our college days we did lots of things together and I can’t even begin to imagine college life without her constant presence.  She encouraged me to be the best that I could be.  If I struggled with something academically she was there to see if she could help.   She was present at my recitals and cheered me on – even when I made plenty of mistakes and was far from perfect.  She hugged me as I cried and began to grieve the painful childhood that had haunted me.  She drove 7 hours to be with me as my church blessed me and sent me off to seminary (my home church was in Western Canada and seminary was in the Eastern USA) so this was a big move for me.  But as we sat alone perhaps in the last moments we had before I moved she handed me a card and what was in that card was her tithe from her summer job.  I was completely blown away because I knew she struggled with me going off to ministry as she herself had never had a female pastor and her tradition wouldn’t have allowed for one.  Yet she believed in my call so much that she would give her tithe to me to help with my ministry costs. This was one of the greatest gifts I ever received and one that I will never forget.  An act of stepping out in faith on her part.  She later flew to North Carolina to be my Maid of Honor and honored I was that she would once again take time and her resources to make this trip. My biggest regret is that we’ve lost contact over the years.   Regardless, she definitely rallied around me and sent me off to begin my pastoral ministry with blessing, love and support.

My encounter with the second Heather came much later in my ministry.  I was already ordained and we crossed paths at a Moravian Women’s Conference held on the campus of Wake Forest.  It started out as me supporting her as she explored her own call to ministry and I was with her that week when she received word that she had been accepted at Duke Divinity School.  The encouragement and support I offered to her soon was being offered back and became a mutual relationship.  We were blessed with the opportunity to travel to Prague and Herrnhut (the motherland of the Moravian Church) together as we were both delegates to a Worldwide Moravian Women’s Consultation — Valiant Women in a Violent World.   It is this trip that brought us closer.  When you travel with someone at that level you either know you are meant to be great friends or mere acquaintances.  Obviously, we discovered and developed a deep friendship.  We’ve never lived in the same city so email, Facebook, text messages and phone calls have been our means of communication but those means have been enough to sustain a friendship that is dear to my heart.  When Heather was ordained a few years ago, I was so excited – I hadn’t experienced that excitement since my own ordination and I was blessed to be a part of her ordination service.  I loved her so dearly that I even read scripture from Ruth (long story behind that one)!   The past few years since her ordination have only deepened our bonds as we share moments of ministry – even though we serve in very different settings.  She is a professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and I serve in pastoral ministry.   We both share a passion for raising awareness of mental illness in the church and teaching the church how to embrace and care for people who suffer with this often lonely disease.  But beyond that she’s been there as I’ve struggled with my depression and just a simple text or Facebook message from her can put a smile on my face and gives me reason to go on.  

Both Heather’s have been major life lines when I’ve needed them most.  I know that their relationships were and are a gift of God and I’m forever grateful for that.  I wouldn’t be half the pastor, mother, wife, or child of God if they hadn’t been there to rally around me and at times giving me the opportunity to rally around them.  For true friendship comes from mutual rallying.  Thank you God for these women who have greatly changed my life, may I be to others as they have been to me.

#RallyRevGals — Peggy Edition

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Have a case of the Augusts? Not ready for the program year to start? Thinking about how you can’t save the world, or even your little corner of it? RevGals can’t fix it all either, but we can give you a reason to post to your blog!

The #RallyRevGals Blog Contest will run from Tuesday, August 18, to Sunday, August 31.

To be eligible:

be a member of our webring,*
1.  Write a blog post about a woman who has been a positive influence on your ministry (whether or not she is/was a pastor),
2.  Use the tag/hashtag #RallyRevGals in your subject line as well as categories or tags on your blog,
3.  Share the link in the comments on this blog post, in the comments on the accompanying Facebook group post, or on Twitter (be sure to use the hashtag so we can find your blog post).
4.  Everyone who participates will be entered in a random drawing for three prizes from our Cafe Press store.

I couldn’t narrow it down to just one woman who has helped me along in my 16 years of ministry, so over the next few days I will be blogging about a few more.  But here’s today’s special woman who deserves to be upheld as someone who cared and countinues to care for me as a pastor and a person.

In every church we’ve served I’ve found that there are a couple of lay people with whom I develop a special bond with.  Usually that bond is strenghtened by their witness to me and their unconditional love and support of me as their pastor.  It’s not that they wouldn’t be honest with me but perhaps it’s because they are honest – honest with constructive criticism and honest with compliments and words of encouragement.  There was always a feeling I had that this person had my back and was praying for me. 

 As I mentioned thankfully I’ve had this at every church that my husband and I have served but a few stand out.   One of those is a lady named Peggy.  Every Sunday Peggy and her children and grandchildren where in church I knew that I would be given a hug that would fill me with the energy and the joy that I would need to face whatever may come my way till we meet again.  Along with that hug were words such as “I love you so much”, ” Your prayers are so special and sincere”, ” You have gifts for ministry and I’m glad your my pastor” etc.   We all long to hear those words but we also recgonize that being ordained and thus behind the pulpit often set us apart from hearing those words that help sustain our beings.

My bond with Peggy I believe is unbreakable.  I haven’t been her pastor in close to 10 years but her family and my family still maintain contact (her daughter and son in law are our littleman’s Godparents) and in many ways I see her as an unofficial grandma to my littleman.  I’ve sat with her through declining health of herself and her husband.  After moving away I returned (within the boundaries set and with permission) to help officiate at her Granddaughters wedding, her husbands funeral and sadly her son’s funeral.  It’s just not every day that you can do those things but when some people ask you know in your heart your meant to be there and woulnd’t be anywhere else.

Peggy is a special lady and although she is now limited in the ways that she can serve I know that she serves a risen God with a servants heart.  Every pastor should be blessed to have a Peggy in their life.  Peggy has ralleyed around me and help me to remember at times why I do what I do and who it is that I serve.  I’m so blessed to have her in my life!

 

 

Movies

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Over at Revgals this week the Friday Five is about Movies.  The author writes:

Recovering from a wee surgical procedure this week, and in the wake of the Oscars last weekend, I’ve been mindful of movies in all their assorted incarnations. For today’s ff, I hope you’ll share with us some of the movies that tickle your fancy!

1) Is there a film that so captured your imagination that you couldn’t stop thinking about it? In what way(s) did it affect you?

2) What religious/spiritual film has touched you? This could be something overtly thematic, like The Last Temptation of Christ, or something more subtle, like Enchanted April.

3) When the going gets tough, is there a film you turn to for distraction and/or to help shift your mood?

4) What is your all-time favorite movie?

5) If you were to choose a film for viewing and discussion with your congregation, what would you choose?

Bonus: If your life were to be made into a feature film, who would you want to play you?

Don’t forget to share the link to your blog in the comments if you play, and remember to visit other blogs to share in the fun.

 This is a little tougher for me as I haven’t traditionally been a movie person.  I often find it hard to sit still for a movie and would rather engage somewhere else.  But that being said I have watch some movies and will give this a Friday Five a go:

 

1.  Ladder 49, I have a passion for how firefighters work together and so often put their lives at risk to save another.  I first saw this movie not long after leaving a call where I was also volunteer fire chaplain.  It made me remember with fondness the times I had with each of them and their families.  Yet at the same time gave me renewed awe for the job they do so selflessly.

2.  CAMP :  Inspired by true stories

3.  Disney Movies and My Best Friends Wedding (Saw it the week I was to marry my best friend as an escape from the growing tensions that surrounded family dynamics.

4.  Antowne Fisher

Jerome Davenport:
“Who will cry for the little boy, lost and all alone / Who will cry for the little boy, abandoned without his own”

Antwone Fisher:
“Who will cry for the little boy, he cried himself to sleep / Who will cry for the little boy, who never had it for keeps / Who will cry for the little boy, who walked on burning sands / Who will cry for the little boy, the boy inside a man / Who will cry for the little boy, who knew well hurt and pain / Who will cry for the little boy, who died and died again / Who will cry for the little boy, a good boy he tried to be / Who will cry for the little boy, who cries inside of me”

Jerome Davenport:
Who will cry for the little boy Antwoine?

Antwone Fisher:
I will, I always do.

5.  Toss up between two:  Camp (as in the one listed in #2) it just goes to show that a little bit of love can go a long way.  the second movie would be CyberBully which could serve as a great way for young people to share with adults how tough life can be and hopefully have the church surround them and promise their support.

Real Relationships

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For a number of years now, I’ve used the worldwide web as a way to maintain old or create new relationships.  I suppose it began back in the mid 90’s as I moved thousands of miles away from my home and all that was known to me – I moved from Western Canada to the Eastern United States to begin my journey into Seminary and eventually into ordained ministry.

At first I simply used the internet to send email messages with those who I loved and who I wanted to continue to be in relationship with.  Calling Internationally during that time was expensive and it seemed to take forever to send a card or letter that distance.  So almost on a weekly basis, I would send emails to my family and friends. Updating them on my new found life, the ups and downs of seminary education and soon I used emails to inform my girl friends of my friendship with a special man that quickly stole my heart.

Communication by this medium was simply by text as digital camera’s didn’t exist and certainly there was no such thing as social networks.  The greatest words to hear upon booting my computer where “You’ve got Mail!” and soon AOL was transforming communication again as instant messages became an everyday means of communication.  I remember sitting in my office at the first church I served and becoming involved in multiple conversations at once – some with friends from high school (all the way back in Canada), some with Seminary friends (now scattered across the United States and Canada), and some with church members.  At the time it totally blew my mind that such conversations were taking place.

Little did I know that it wouldn’t be long till Facebook and other social networking sites would emerge.  It soon was common for folks to say “I’ll Facebook you, with that information”.  I never dreamed that the day would come that friends from all aspects of my life, who had never met each other, would be entering into conversations because of a picture I posted, a place I had “checked into”, a status update I had posted, or a prayer request I had made.

Email, instant messages, and even Facebook up to this point in my life had been all about maintaining relationships with people that I knew: people whom I had face to face interactions with at some point and folks whom I had been blessed with giving or receiving a hug.  Then entered the world of Ravelry, Ning, and Facebook groups formed around common professions or interests.  One didn’t have to have meet someone in the flesh to form a relationship anymore.

I didn’t ever think that I would form relationships with people that would become so a part of my everyday life.  I began to look forward to conversations with some groups in Ravelry and on Facebook and it wasn’t long until I talked about some of these people in conversations with my husband at the dinner table.  I cared about them, I prayed for them, and we even on several occasions exchanged gifts as we reached certain milestones in our lives or because we saw something (often Yarn) that made us think of each other.  When my littleman graduated preschool he got Legos in the mail from someone he had never met.  Very real relationships were formed and my life was blessed in indescribable ways.

In the fall of 2012 I sat with some of my brothers and sisters in ministry in a retreat on Sabbath keeping where these relationships were called into question.  Computers, internet, and social networking sites were blamed on part for the demise of our culture.  Some vocal folks stated that relationships on Facebook or other sites were not “real” and there wasn’t any authenticity to them.  I know that there are folks on the internet who claim to be someone they aren’t but aren’t there people who you work with or live next to that do the same thing?  Yes there is a risk you take when you “put yourself out there” and yes one can be hurt if they are not careful.  No relationship comes without risks!

The emergence of social networks has allowed me the joy of relationships with people who understand the extremes of ordained ministry and with folks who have helped me feel connected when otherwise I felt isolated.  My littleman has encountered some rare health issues for children and without Ravelry, I might never have met a friend who has twins who as children and young adults also suffer from pancreatitis. I myself suffer from a chronic condition that leaves me with widespread pain most days and I’ve been blessed with friends who listen to my rants and offer encouragement, encouragement that I need as I seek to be an encourager in my vocation.  I have friends because of Ravelry and even Facebook that have insights on how to raise a little boy and teachers who offer words of advice as I’ve encountered issues (good and bad) as he’s entered the world of public schools.  Need I say, my knitting skills have been greatly aided by the numerous knitters who I interact with pretty much every day.  And of course, I can’t begin to tell you the vast amounts of times when I have laughed so hard I’ve cried at folks status updates, blog posts, emails, or message board comments.  Virtual relationships have indeed been “real” to me and have allowed me to be “real”.

About a week ago, a group I belong to (yes on Ravelry) lost a member after her courageous battle with cancer. She left behind young children, a husband, and other family members but she also left behind a virtual group who was profoundly touched by her whit and her strength.  As I read post after post and message after message I couldn’t help but recall that conversation  I was a part of back in the fall and I couldn’t help but want to stand up and say it is indeed possible to have REAL relationships with people that you meet online!