All Saints Day

I'm sitting in a Starbucks drinking a cup of their Thanksgiving blend (because it's November 1st and that's what ones does) observing the world around me. The barista talking with a customer about how he and his grandma got into a fight on Facebook about politics. The lady across from me eating a Pumpkin Reeses while reading something on her phone. The two college-aged girls chatting with smiles stretched across their faces. There are days when I am exceptionally sensitive to those around me. Most of the time I am moving way too fast to be receptive...to experience the present moment, but not today. 

Perhaps it's due to the fact that it's All Saints Day. I am quite aware of the fact that each person I'm interacting with is a gifted, unique individual who likely has saintly qualities. I've been thinking a lot today about the saints I've been grateful to know in my life. Last night when I got home after sundown I decided to light my St. Connie candle.

I cut off the TV and sat by candlelight for a few minutes, glancing at the flickering flame, allowing the fact that my mom is dead to sink in once again. 

I love All Saints Day. It evokes a gratefulness in me. It causes me to be mindful. But it's also a reminder that some of the most influential saints in my life aren't here anymore. I know I'm not the only one with a heavy heart today. There's something about the collect for the day that is really bringing me comfort, so I thought I would share. "Ineffable joys." Joys that are too extreme to be expressed in words. 

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. (BCP)

LGH

Confession: I used to be homophobic

A couple of days ago I sat in the student center counting down the minutes until I could clock in and go to work. After running out of things to occupy myself with on my phone, I looked around at the students eating dinner, finally glancing over at the LGBTQIA resource office.

I love sitting near the office when I’m answering emails or killing time before work. There’s a kind of radical welcome and affirmation that flows out of the office and out into the hallways. The longer I’ve been in school here at UNCW, the more grateful I have become for this place. 

Unfortunately I haven’t always felt this way. I remember feeling uncomfortable walking by the office my freshman year. Even worse…I remember saying to a friend “I don’t want to be seen anywhere near there.” 

I had nearly forgotten those words until this week. They hit me like a ton of bricks. I wouldn’t have called the old me homophobic, but I guess I was. It breaks my heart and makes me wonder what kind of damage I did that I’m not even aware of. 

I’ve written about how I came to be affirming a few times, so I won’t go into it again, but needless to say, it was a journey. I'm just glad I became aware of my sin and repented. 

My goal in this post is not to go in depth, but simply to confess that I am sorry. I'm sorry for who I was. Through my words, actions, and lack thereof, I caused harm to my LGBT brothers and sisters. These days I am doing just about everything I can to be a friend and an ally. Part of the reason I'm not going to write much here is because I'd just assume share the writings of my LGBT friends rather than add to the noise. 

Let my story be a lesson: hearts & minds CAN change. 

LGH

College & mundane days

I stated on a couple of social media sites that I’m probably going to start writing more often…perhaps even every day. I’d be delighted if you followed along, but if you don’t that’s fine too. This is mostly for my mental health. Some posts will be inspiring. Some won’t. So follow along if you’d like, but try not to be too critical.

I’m sitting in one of the coffee shops on campus as I write this and I just spotted one of my professors from freshman year. 5 years have passed and he’s still wearing Crocs. (Do we need to plan an intervention?) He has this signature gait. I could spot him from a mile away. He’s long since forgotten what I look like, so there’s no wave of recognition or small talk. As I look around the room and out the window at the students crowded around tables working on their laptops, I can’t help but notice that there’s a good chance I’m the oldest student in here. I feel very out of place these days. Many of my close friends have graduated and moved on. I feel a lot of camaraderie with my coworkers and professors. We’re all on a first name basis by now.

There are days when I really love being a student and have a gratefulness for this experience, but recently I’ve been in a major funk. I’m either depressed, have a case of senioritis on steroids, or both. I’m not sure what’s up. I care deeply about many things, but school isn’t something at the top of my list right now. It’s out of character for me. It’s troubling. I’m doing what I can to talk to the right people and get all the support available to me, but frankly, this just sucks. I met with my counselor this afternoon and she was nothing but supportive, so hopefully with her help, I’ll be able to climb out of this rut.

Additionally, thirty minutes before leaving for work today, my cat looked at me with those loving eyes before popping a squat and pooping all over my work clothes. Why? I have not been able to discern his reason for doing so, but I feel like it’s a metaphor for something.

Not every day, week, or month is great.

Sometimes you go through the motions. Sometimes existence feels pointless. Sometimes your pet poops on your clothes.

In seasons like these, I’m really just grateful if I wake up on time and do one or two productive things with my day. Tonight after I finish with a few obligations I’m going to escape into “How to Get Away with Murder” and drink tea instead of wine. Annalise is trying to get sober right now and I should hold off on the alcohol until I figure out what’s going on with my motivation and sleep schedule.

Tomorrow I’ll set six alarms, hopefully wake up at a decent hour, and try again.

LGH

Why I'm not moving to Canada in the case of a Trump presidency...

I’ll go ahead and admit it: I’ve browsed Canada’s immigration website this election season. A couple of times I’ve said to friends and aquantances that my leaving the country in the case of a Trump presidency isn’t outside the realm of possibility. I’m young and I’m at a place in my life where if I wanted to move, it would be possible. But the closer we get to November 8th, the more I’ve thought realistically about how I would cope if this guy wins the election. (I don’t think he will at this point, but I’m not capable of resting until I see the results for myself and he concedes.)

So here are a few thoughts:

  1. Is it not a little bit ethnocentric to talk about Canada as if it’s a dumping ground for pissed off Americans? Maybe we should lay off on the “I’m moving to Canada” jokes.
  2. Even though I’m not the most patriotic person you’ll ever meet, I realize that the people of this country (especially those in the south) are a part of my tribe. While, at times, I do feel like somewhat of a misfit in southeastern North Carolina, being from this area is a part of my identity. As infuriating as it has been watching people I think highly of jump on the bandwagon and support a man I find incredibly harmful and unfit for the presidency, there’s still a special place in my heart for these folks.
  3. I know far too many people who have spent their lives fighting for justice and equality in the U.S. to just pack up and move away. I feel like their stories are my inheritance, gifts to be recieved, and ones that should inspire action. I don’t feel like I can abandon the work they’ve begun.
  4. These days I find myself being inspired not only by people much older than me, but also by those 6, 10, and 16 year old voices. There’s something about the brightness and optimism that I see in them that keeps me going when I get cynical. I feel somewhat of an obligation to the younger generation, even though I’m in my early twenties myself. I suppose that’s the teacher in me, who feels protective over her students from the first moment she walks into the classroom.

I remember when I decided I wanted to become a Christian one of my worst fears was that God was going to send me to Africa to be a missionary. (Because that’s what Christians do, right?) These days I’m much more convinced God’s called me to minister and work for justice right here in the states, specifically in the south. I get angry, cuss, and fight with God about this every now and then, but I’m beginning to embrace the idea.

All this to say, regardless of what happens two weeks from now, I’ll be sticking around.

LGH

National Suicide Prevention Week

I had begun to think that the stigma around mental illness was slowly disappearing, that is, until this year. Over the course of my time in college I've become more vocal about the issue of mental health and my own battle with anxiety and depression. The more I've discussed the topic, the more I've had acquaintances and friends reach out and say to me "thank God I'm not the only one dealing with this." I kept talking about it, exposing myself to others in hopes that it would bring healing, and then, eventually was met with opposition and fear. So as much as I feel like it is and will continue to be a part of my call to discuss mental health, especially in the context of the Church, I have been a little bit quiet on this front as of late. For that, I apologize. I'm realizing that the only thing we can do to combat this stigma is to continue to share our stories, become educated, and educate one another. 

It took being in a psychology class and learning about my brain for me to realize I needed to seek the help of a counselor. I don't remember a specific defining moment, but I know that week after week, I began to realize that what I was dealing with was something outside of my control. I prayed and asked God to take away my mental illness. Nothing changed. I confessed my struggles to close friends and family, which was incredibly freeing for me. They were kind and understanding, but still nothing changed. So I finally made appointments with a counselor and a psychiatrist. 

Here I am five years into counseling and treatment. Things have definitely changed and improved at times. But if I'm being entirely honest, it's not like my mental illness has gone away. It's still here, just as present as ever, but I've learned how to cope with it better. I've learned that it will probably always be a part of my life, but the real task is to not let it be a driving force. That's much easier said than done and I'm not sure that it's even possible in some cases. Needless to say, I'm not entirely in the clear, but life has gotten MUCH, much better since those days I spent sitting in psychology class pondering the matters of my own brain.

Being that it's National Suicide Prevention Week, I've been thinking a lot about those have dealt with and continue to deal with suicidal thoughts. I've been there, I've known folks who have been there, and folks who are there now. Because I'm not a mental health professional, I'm not going to spend much time writing about what to do if you find yourself having these thoughts, but I will recommend a really great resource, because it has been helpful for me and for many. 

Do me a favor. Stop right now and put this number into your phone. Share it on social media. Write it on a sticky note. (It doesn't matter if you've never been depressed in your life. Go ahead, put it in your phone. Share it. Write it down.) 

If you or someone you know is dealing with a mental health related crisis, you can call this lifeline anytime day or night and you'll be connected with a counselor in your area. I've called for myself a couple of times and they simply listened and made sure I was safe. It was comforting and what I needed at the moment. (In other words: Unless you're in imminent danger, they're not going to pull up to your house and take you away to the hospital. So no need to worry.) Every time I've had a friend confide in me that they were depressed or had considered harming themselves, I called the lifeline after the fact (even when I was 90% sure I did all that needed to be done) just to get the perspective of a mental health professional. I highly recommend calling, even if you think you don't need to. When it comes to things like mental illness it's ALWAYS better to err on the side of caution. 

I write all of this hoping that for someone, my speaking up about all of this will make a difference. So if you were waiting for a little push before you reach out for help, consider this that push. If you have folks in your life who you know are dealing with mental illness of any sort, make an effort to reach out to them and check in every now and then. Whenever they cross your mind, send a text, write an email, or send them a card. Drop a line. Let them know that you love them and are thinking of them. If you have to, schedule a reminder in your phone to reach out to whoever that person may be. 

Lastly-- consider this a friendly reminder that mental illness is not a result of a lack of faith, nor is it an excuse to discriminate against someone. Be kind to one another and if all of this outside your realm of understanding, ask someone who is knowledgable to teach you, check out a book from the library, and listen to those in your life who deal with mental illness on a day-to-day basis.

Grace and peace, friends. 

LGH