Being of Service for NAMI? Sharing My Story! (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Friday, September 4, 2015

I am giving my readers a two-for-one deal today. I will put a bit of my post from Wed., Sept. 3 last year in this space. And then, I will repost the post from Thurs., Sept. 4, 2014 in its entirety. I hope this is an encouragement to those of you who know someone who now has or has had mental challenges, or has been diagnosed with mental illness. Maybe even some of us.

(Excerpt from my post “Being Helpful? Re-Tweeting about NAMI!” Originally posted Wednesday, September 3, 2014)

I don’t often willingly think or talk about this, but I had a bout of severe postpartum depression after the birth of my second daughter, 28 years ago. Talk about a Slough of Despond . . .

I can dimly remember feeling barely able to get out of bed. Crawling around the apartment like a snail or slug, barely able to go from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen. It’s a good thing that my daughter was breastfeeding, since I can hardly remember feeding myself and my older daughter, much less her. (My mother-in-law was living in the upstairs apartment at the time. She would often bring her older granddaughter, who was the light of her life, upstairs to visit.)

The depression lasted for about six months. I had absolutely no idea I was in depression until it lifted. I have no idea how or why it ended, either. I just thank God that it did.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, September 4, 2014

heart - heart held in pink gloves

Being of Service for NAMI? Sharing My Story!

Surprised. Humbled. Gratified. And then, I guess, yes. Okay. Wow!

Those were some of the emotions I felt today as I went to my blog statistics, and checked the retweets and shares. The blog post I wrote yesterday apparently touched a chord with many people. At least, it sure looks like it from the response I received on the stats page, Twitter and Facebook.

I wasn’t thinking about that at all when I wrote that post. I was truly moved by another post (Joani Peacock’s recent blog post at Unorthodox & Unhinged, at wordpress dot com), and I sat down and wrote from my heart. I figured I had kept the information about my postpartum depression inside long enough. I feel stable and whole, now. I’ve decided to share more of this intensely personal, private story, now.

There is dysfunction in just about any family: it just depends on how much (too much!), how often (way too often), and what gives? (No answer, usually.) If those responses fit your family of origin and your growing-up experiences, you’ve got a lot of company!

Being the youngest of six by a number of years, my parents were pretty much done with child-raising by the time I hit the middle grades. A lonely, awkward, chubby kid, I turned into a lonely, awkward chunky adolescent. Sure, there was the on-and-off, general depression (more on than off), extreme loneliness, complicated by some other, medical-related difficulties in my high school years. Yeah, it could be written off to teenage angst. Yeah, it was partly that. But it was more. It was complicated.

Somehow, I find I can sometimes relate when I hear about other teens having difficulties right now—in the present. I find I can relate when people talk about depression—chronic, clinical, or whatever other kind they call it.

The awesome people at NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) can help. They really, truly can. Or, they can steer you (or someone you love and are concerned about) to people who can help. There are people at NAMI who understand. I can walk with you a little way. God can help. Having a whole team of people helps so much more! We all can journey together on the road to better mental, emotional, spiritual health. (Often, physical health can be a concern, too. Check on it, please!)

Today is September 4, 2014, the day that NAMI’s annual conference in Washington DC is marching on Capitol Hill and launching an outreach on social media, including Twitter and Facebook. (#Act4MentalHealth) Thus, I am encouraged to open up, writing about my difficulties with depression. I am speaking out with my message of walking through the dark places, and coming out the other side. God willing, many people will speak out. Not be ashamed.

For more information, here’s NAMI’s website: http://www.nami.org/

NAMI’s contact information: NAMI, 3803 N. Fairfax Dr., Suite 100, Arlington, Va 22203

NAMI’s telephone numbers: Main: (703) 524-7600, Fax: (703) 524-9094, Member Services: (888) 999-6264, Helpline: (800) 950-6264

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com  

Being Kind to a Centenarian (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Friday, August 14, 2015

Looking back, a year ago today, I wanted to remember a dear friend. The centenarian I mentioned, in this post. He died last fall, one hundred years young. I know for sure he is very much missed. There is a Jewish traditional service where the worshipers ask Ha Shem (G-d) to remember those for whom we mourn and grant them rest. Many remember their beloved ones who have died. In this way, I remember my dear friend. (Personally, I think he’s helping people, being kind to those in heaven, right now. Just like he did while here on earth.)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, August 14, 2014

only kindness matters

Being Kind to a Centenarian

Imagine being one hundred years old. Wow. That’s almost twice as old as I am, right now.

I talked with Chuck, a good friend of mine, on the phone recently. We discussed a great many things. And then, he mentioned a dear senior, an aged man we both know and love. “Can you imagine? He turned one hundred a few days ago. A number of us went to see him and had a birthday party for him.”

I know and am familiar with the care center where the senior is now living. I can just imagine the birthday party. The circle of aged and elderly residents, all around the table. The guests, gathered by the birthday person’s side. There are often some employees attending the party, too. Certain residents inspire a great deal of affection, on the part of residents as well as the workers in the care center. I’m sure this centenarian had a number of employees at his party. (He has lived there for a number of years. He’s been a much beloved person to those all over the center.)

Singing “Happy Birthday to You”—I can just hear it. The cake. The balloons. But our dear, elderly friend is not as aware as he once was. So bittersweet, having a celebration for someone who wasn’t sure exactly who was at the birthday party. My friend Chuck thought this dear man understood that it was his birthday, though.

I’ve known this gentle, humorous senior for twenty years. Faithful, friendly, loving and kind. He was truly an example of being kind. Being of service. So helpful, going out of his way to do things for those who were shy of asking for help. Even crossing the street to say hello and find out how people truly were.

I hope and pray that all of us are aided to remember this wonderful, courageous, helpful man who did so much for so many. Without reward, without fanfare, without the benefit of tweets on Twitter, photos on Instagram, or posts on Facebook.

Dear God, bless my dear, senior friend. The centenarian.

@chaplaineliza

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(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Snow Blowing, Being Kind (Feature Friday!)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, January 2, 2015

This was my first Feature Friday post in January 2014. Even though there’s no snow (yet) in the Chicago area right now, the spirit of this post still is true.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, January 3, 2014

chairs shoveled parking place

Snow Blowing, Being Kind (Feature Friday!)

Another day of snow. Another day of service opportunities!

A friend of mine, David, who lives here in Chicago told me about a wintry situation that sometimes happens to him. I’ll let him explain in his own words.

“Owning a snow-blower opens up a whole new sense of “neighbor,” as in “Who is my neighbor?” As I’m out trolling the snow-blower up and down the sidewalks on my city block, where would I stop removing the snow from the pavement? What is the logical or “natural” boundary or stopping point? At what property line do I draw the line and turn back toward my “own” sidewalk? My next-door neighbors on each side are close and friendly people, friends even, so there’s no question that I’m going to go ahead and clear their sidewalks . . .  and now they pretty much expect that, if I’m out there clearing sidewalks, I’ll also plow out their driveways to the street. OK. We’ve all got our various senses of necessity and contingent emergency.”

Wow. How far down the block does my friend go with his snow blower? Who IS his neighbor? (For that matter, who is ours?) So, there is also a guy with another snow blower across the street. Could this blowing of snow turn into a competition? “Hmm. The guy across the street cleared off three more houses’ walks of snow. He’s winning! He’s more virtuous (loving/giving/helping) than I am!” I can just see how worry, griping, fear, resentment, frustration, anger, and even more negative emotions start roiling around inside, stifling good, loving, nurturing, helpful feelings.

We might know physically handicapped people who either have great difficulty or just can’t possibly clear their walks. Or folks who are in the hospital, or on vacation, or working two jobs and are rarely at home. Is God nudging me—or you—to blow off the snow from their walks? And what about people who do not “deserve” to have the snow cleared from their walks and driveways? (Who gets to decide that, anyway?) People who are snooty, or slobs, or just plain mean. Does that give me the right to ignore them when a service opportunity comes my way? Who IS my neighbor, anyway?

It goes without saying that any of these, ALL of these are my neighbors. If I get a creeping resentment or niggling gripe in my heart, I don’t think that negative emotion comes from God. Instead, it pleases God to see me being kind. (It pleases God to see my friend being kind, too.)

Yes, using a snow blower is a wonderful way of being kind. We are blessed to have such mechanical appliances and tools like snow blowers (and snow plows too, when that’s applicable!). We are so blessed to be a blessing to others. To be kind and tenderhearted. Thank God that I am given opportunities like that. I don’t want to be like the lawyer in Luke 10, who grudgingly acknowledged the Samaritan as being kind and showing mercy. Instead, I want to strive to be like the gracious, giving Samaritan. God willing!

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

@chaplaineliza

In Which I Am Planning to Be of Service—at a Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Blue Christmas tree

In Which I Am Planning to Be of Service—at a Service

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”—or, is it? Christmas can be difficult for many people, for many reasons. I did a good deal of planning today. Preparing the order of service for a very special, alternative Christmas service next Monday night.

I don’t know whether you might have heard of a “Blue Christmas” service. Perhaps by another name? The Longest Night service? A service held either on or close to the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. A service for people for whom Christmas is a difficult time.

The custom of holding Blue Christmas services has been growing over the past ten years. The name refers to the loneliness, sadness and grieving people sometimes experience during the holiday season. Many people consider the holidays to be such a “happy, joyous time.” However, holiday and family gatherings can be negative and difficult. This Blue Christmas service is a time and place where sad, grieving, lonely people can join together to share their emotions with people who feel the same way.

This will be a subdued Blue Christmas service, on Monday, Dec. 22 with quiet music, reflective readings, a brief time for silent contemplation, community candle-lighting, and a reflection from me (as one of the service leaders). My good friend Chaplain Sarah is going to co-lead this service with me. (Thank you so much, Sarah!)

I know very well that there have been years when I have dreaded the holidays. When this whole season of the year was just a time to be endured, a time to grieve, a time to hold on by my fingernails. Yes, I have anxious, fearful, recurring memories of those holiday seasons. (And, yes. There were more than one holiday season when I felt this way.)

So, I want to offer this Blue Christmas service as an opportunity for those among us who are having a difficult time. Or, who have recently been through something negative and traumatic. Or, who are especially feeling the loss of someone dear at this time of the year. This is a time and place—a space where people can gather together in a refuge from the festivities and “jollity” of the season. And, a place where such sad, anxious, negative, grieving feelings can be brought out into the open. God willing, validated, and expressed.

“The most wonderful time of the year?” For some people? No, not really. Sorry. Maybe next year.

(This Blue Christmas service will be held at St. Luke’s Christian Community Church on Monday, Dec. 22 at 7:00 pm. The church is located at 9233 Shermer in Morton Grove, Illinois, and is fully handicapped accessible. Just in case this information is helpful to anyone. God’s gentle blessings at this sometimes-difficult time of the year.)

@chaplaineliza

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Helpful Taxi Service—Helpful Mom

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, December 8, 2014

HELP always help someone

Helpful Taxi Service—Helpful Mom

I wear a number of hats in my life. The Mom hat is one that I don’t wear quite as often any more.

I used to wear the Mom hat almost all the time. That was when my children were young. When I had to do much more in the way of hands-on child care and mothering. I enjoyed it, very much. Don’t get me wrong! But now, with the passage of time, it’s not so much hands-on. Now, with my youngest a senior in high school, much less in the way of mothering.

Except for today. My senior in high school needed a ride. He could have walked, true, but I offered. And, the weather outside today was wet and drizzly and on the borderline of freezing. Not particularly pleasant weather for someone to walk around outside.

My son and I sometimes have fascinating conversations. That is one of the up sides of having growing and grown children. Today was no exception. There wasn’t any particularly memorable topic of conversation that I remember. I just enjoyed talking with him.

As I dropped off my son, he met up with a friend. Both of them waved as I drove off. Bittersweet, knowing that my son is growing up, growing away. Growing out.

Yes, I try to be helpful, as much as my children will allow. And, I try to be of service to them and to their friends. Today was a good example of being of service. Being kind. Helping out. God willing, I’ll be able to help out my son again, soon.

@chaplaineliza

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Be of Service to a Grateful Family

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, December 7, 2014

Zimbabwean nativity set

Zimbabwean nativity set

Be of Service to a Grateful Family

I’ve been talking about being kind this whole year. Yes, talking about it, and writing about other people being of service. And, giving some examples of me being helpful. Kind. Of service.

Yes, I could mention being of service in the morning worship service. Especially since it was a communion service. Pastor Gordon and I served communion to the congregation, and I believe they appreciated the whole service: from the Advent candle-lighting at the beginning of the service to the singing of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” for a closing hymn.

And, I was concerned about someone in our congregation. This senior was not in church this morning, so I called and double-checked. I am glad I did, because we were able to lift this senior up in prayer during the church service—a bad cold, which is now getting better. (More good ways of being of help!)

However, the highlight of my day was bringing a number of things to a grateful family. This family was some distance away, and it took a little while to get there. That did not matter to me, though. They were so appreciative! (That is the part I was concerned about!)

Yes, I can be kind. Be of service. Yes, I can buy some food or a few gifts or some items for some grateful individuals—or, for a family. This specific case was a bit different. A few of my friends and I all pooled our resources, and provided some things for this family. And, what was I doing there? I was the bearer of good tidings, and the one designated to bring the things.

I am reminded of my verse for December – Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Just think—God gave me the inclination, the impetus. And, God provided a nice vehicle so I could get there in safety and comfort.

Truly, providing much needed supplies for grateful people is certainly something God-honoring. And, it’s also something that our Lord Jesus commands in Matthew 25:34-40. What a way to be of service, and please God, at the same time.

@chaplaineliza

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Be Kind? Be of Service? Feed Lots of People! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, December 5, 2014

God's masterpiece Eph-2-10

Be Kind? Be of Service? Feed Lots of People! (Feature Friday!)

At this giving time of the year, I am reminded of my recent favorite mission organization, Stop Hunger Now! This is not only a giving time of the year, for some people—lots of people—this is a hungry time of the year, as well.

Yes, I know there are earnest protests going on across the United States today. And, yes. These sit-ins and other forms of protest in the aftermath of the #EricGarner verdict are important. However—I have been focusing my Friday Feature this whole year on being kind. Helpful. Of service. I would like to lift up something hopeful, something praiseworthy. A wonderful way to be of service! Stop Hunger Now! has a tremendous track record for feeding thousands of people at a time with nutritious, filling, inexpensive meals. And, this mission effort reaches all over the world now, too.

Just to recap, this organization has come up with an efficient, tasty way of packaging dry meals, to be shipped where most needed. Where hunger is currently devastating lives. A nutritious mix of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and flavoring mix can be packed by volunteer teams, and sent all over the world. And, for a cost of just $0.29 per meal, too!

First, I would like to lift up the tremendous effort made last week, at this giving time of the year. All across the United States, amidst the busy-ness of Thanksgiving week, Stop Hunger Now volunteers packed 1.7 MILLION meals for distribution. (These statistics can be verified at the Stop Hunger Now Facebook page.) That amount’s in just one week. These meals can go to families in need, to feed hungry people all around the world. Now, that’s something to be truly thankful for.

Right this minute, there are sixteen North Carolina State graduate students (from the School of Social Work) traveling to the Philippines. These students will measure the impact of Stop Hunger Now’s meals on the local communities they reach. And as the Stop Hunger Now! Facebook page says, “This vital information will allow us to refine and improve our ability to serve the impoverished and undernourished across the country.”

I am reminded of my verse for December – Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Truly, providing food for hungry people is certainly something God-honoring. And, it’s also something that our Lord Jesus commands in Matthew 25:34-40. What a way to be of service, and please God, at the same time.

Stop Hunger Now! kindly asks that everyone keep the group traveling in the Philippines in your thoughts and prayers, especially as Super Typhoon #Hagupit prepares for landfall this weekend. Thanks!

@chaplaineliza

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Praying for a Kind Solution in an Unjust World, Part 2

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Micah68seafoamblack

Praying for a Kind Solution in an Unjust World, Part 2

Oh, how I wish I did not have to make a “Part 2” for this post from some days ago. But, I am afraid I do.

Not Ferguson, Missouri, this time. No, this time the grand jury made a pronouncement in New York City. A (white) police officer was found not at fault for choking a (black) man.

And, again, I viewed the reactions both Twitter and online media. This time, I viewed the responses and reactions for several hours. And again, I posted my own response on Twitter: “St Francis’s prayer comes to mind: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” Praying for justice/clarity of mind/open ears. #EricGarner

It breaks my heart. It is heart-wrenching, just reading the transcript of Mr. Garner’s words in that last minute or so.

I do not have much else to say, other than 1) thank you to Mr. Garner’s stepfather for recommending that there be no violence as a response to this verdict. 2) I would like to go further, and pray people find positive, responsible ways to change society and change the justice system; 3) God be with everyone who is on the streets tonight and in these next days, no matter who or where they may be—protect each one.

This post is so similar to my previous post. Such serious, heart-breaking news.

Even though I wish my cold would go away soon, I am afraid my garden-variety cold doesn’t even begin to compare to this incredible sadness. And danger, for many, many people. Of all sizes, shapes, colors, and walks of life. God, please watch over many, many people. Not only here, in the United States, but around the world, as they protest this new example of inequity and injustice. And, be with those who truly wish to serve and protect the communities where they work.

Dear Lord, help me to continue to be of service to all those who are struggling for justice in an unjust world. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

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Beginnings, and a Time to Be of Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent one picture

Beginnings, and a Time to Be of Service

Yes, here we are at the end of November, the waning of the calendar year. Yet—here we are at the beginning of the liturgical year—the beginning of Advent.

I led the worship service today, highlighting the first Sunday of Advent. A Sunday of waiting. A Sunday when we look forward to Jesus returning for the second time. It is also traditionally a Sunday of hope.

Sure, when some people think of Advent, they want to get through it quickly! Let’s get to Christmas, already! Enough with this waiting, this time of preparation. Race ahead to the baby Jesus, being born in Bethlehem. Yet—our Scripture passages for the first Sunday in Advent do not tell us about that baby Jesus, and a warm, fluffy Christmas card picture. Instead, we are focusing on the hard stuff. On the fact that Jesus is coming again in power. On the sin, and unworthiness, and the fact that God takes us dirty, sinful, unclean people and cleans us up.

At our church today, we had a guest preacher, a student from one of the local bible colleges. Noah preached a sermon on one of the readings for the day, from Isaiah 64:1-9. He did a fine job at explaining the text. I built the whole service around that Scripture passage, lifting up various parts of the passage in the different hymns and prayers, besides the reading of the sermon text.

So, that was how I was of service today. In formatting the worship experience today, I hope I tied it together with a biblical bow—I kept ringing the changes of Isaiah 64, in different ways.

I earnestly tried to make a cohesive structure for our congregation. And, I was glad Noah helped me to lead in worship today. All in all, I did the best I could. Or to paraphrase the words of the prophet, from Isaiah 55:11, I provided a space for the Word of God to go forth. God, bless Your word. I pray that it accomplishes that for which You sent it forth. Amen!

@chaplaineliza

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Thanksgiving Dinner becomes an Opportunity to Help (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, November 28, 2014

THANKS give thanks to the Lord - Psalm 107

Thanksgiving Dinner becomes an Opportunity to Help (Feature Friday!)

For those of you following at home, I did not eat a big turkey dinner on Thursday, the traditional Thanksgiving Day. No, instead, I celebrated on Friday. I joined with my family at my sister’s large house. Lovely table, delicious bird, wonderful side dishes. All in all, a successful meal. Excellent, as always. Just as I told my sister.

What I would like to highlight is my daughters (and their friends, too). All three of my daughters were in attendance. And, all three of them were working hard to get the food and drink ready. Prepare the table. Slice and boil and stir and open, and all the other dozens of small tasks it takes to get a large meal ready.

This reminded me so much of holidays past. Not only here, at my sister’s house. But at my mom’s house, years ago. There were similar scenes that occurred in my mom’s smaller kitchen. The turkey—or ham, or roast beef, depending on what Mom chose to serve—and the group of relatives and a few friends offering their help and assistance in getting the table all set.

And, eating? Too much eating. Years ago, and now, too.

Thank God I come from a family that, even though we usually did have to scrimp and save when I was young, did have a turkey with all the trimmings on Thanksgiving. Yes, I am thankful for enough. Enough when I was small, in my parents’ house. Enough when I was a young mom (although, sometimes scrimping and saving again), and enough right now. Enough, and then some.

Thank God I have three healthy daughters (and their friends) who are able to gather with the family, and help prepare dinner, serve, and clean up, and generally assist my oldest sister. I am so appreciative of family, and of friends. And of people who are more than willing to roll up their sleeves and volunteer. Help out. Be of service, willingly. Lovingly.

@chaplaineliza

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