Monday, May 8, 2017

Do You Have the Courage?

May is an all-together unique month.

Growing up it was the exciting month of my birthday.

It was also the time of 'May flowers'. Of lacrosse championships, and yes, disappointing losses. It was the month of awards banquets and another school year ending.

Then it became the month of finals, more lacrosse games, and coming home to celebrate, always, my birthday with my twin...our birthday.

It was all of the things of hope and promise until it wasn't anymore. It was the spring of 2002 when my mom was terminally ill. I was turning 28. It would be three days after my birthday when mom would die.

Then May became something it hadn't been. It was the month of loss. Mother's Day without a mother. A birthday so close to death. The memory of May 24th and mom here one moment then not.

Last year May became the month of my second hospital stay for bipolar disorder. I celebrated Mother's Day and two days later started with delusions. I entered the hospital on May 14th and came out one week later, on my birthday.

I didn't know it then, but I do now. Fittingly, for me, May is also 'Mental Health Awareness Month'.

So, how do I live this month? It's full of promise and pain, of the hallowed and the hellish, of abrupt endings and tentative beginnings, of gladness and grief.

It's the month of one essential thing: courage.

It takes courage to face the pain of your past, the deep wounds of your heart. It takes courage to comb coarse hands through to sift the wheat from the chaff.

When a time, a season, is pregnant with both ravaging beast and promised child, there is no blueprint for how to walk it; how to live it. So, it takes courage.

Courage is a funny thing. It often comes when we least expect it and in the most unique of ways. It finds us in our last drop of strength and at the height of our fears. Courage doesn't ask permission but says with authority 'I must be yours NOW.'

This month, this symbolic May, in the rhythm of my life, teaches me much. I remember who I have been and what I am becoming. I remember the courage it took to care for my mama as her body was wasting away. I remember facing mother's days and becoming a mother without her. I remember what it was to carry the weight of such a celebration.

I remember the nostalgic too. How I lived my high school years with such youth, naivety, and yes, courage of heart. I remember how the sun-laden days and goalie pads were of a different kind of courage. I see my teenage self, focused on that hard rubber ball coming right for me again and again. And yes, there was mama cheering heartily in the stands.

I remember the shared birthday cakes with my twin, Sara. The matching outfits and dual blowing out of candles and sixth grade sleepover and just how nice it all was. Like snapshots they fall through the cracks in my brain meant for the courage to keep facing May birthdays apart from each other.

And I remember with a sheen of tears what it was, last year, to be separated, yet again, from my family. One night, where almost all which I remember, was delusion; I banged my head against a concrete wall and I remember with the heart heaves the horror I 'saw' which brought me to this point.

It takes courage. Because my May is your October or March or every day of  your life.

Yet courage teaches us all something different. It shows us resolutely we are survivors. We are meant to make it and, in Jesus, are given all we need to do so. It's in our spiritual DNA to be people of courage.

For One Day our Mays will become the sweetest of rewards as we stand in the presence of Love and experience the redemption of all things.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Hope Is Born In Darkness

Like a newborn baby, skin so soft, eyes so wide open or in precious slumber, hair silky from a fresh bath, swaddled in cotton–I awoke to life, to a New Day. It was just after three days unable to breathe, unable to do for myself. I was in a cocoon of unknown.
Hope is a waiting, a pressing into the unseen. Hope is gentle, yet fierce. Hope is essential to a life touched by mental illness.
In the most unexplained places, it finds you. I found my first seeds of hope in the throes of full-blown mania, in a hospital with white walls which looked like the days of the oppression of Communism. I found it when the last bit of strength had seeped out of me. I found it on the third day of tubes, sponge baths and diapers.  And yes, I found it even as it found me.
Yet, it was a new kind of hope... 

Also read my other offering, Finding Hope In Bipolar Disorder, for 'Mental Health Awareness Month' at the Redbud Post.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Character of Hope

I lay on my right side. The spinning, buzzing of my hyper-manic mind still wreaks havoc in my waking and especially my sleeping. I am curled like a little child, hands under my cheek, eyes on him.

My beloved speaks slow and strong the words of the psalms. I let my eyes close, the honest cries and unbridled faith in the goodness of God wash over me. Everything stills--my spirit, my mind, my body. Sweet sleep like a golden waterfall pours over me.

This blessed rest only lasts a few minutes. But when I awake, I find I have gained something tangible. It's a living thing, though vulnerable, yet real. Fragile yet mine. Vast yet here. Shockingly mundane yet glorious.

It's hope.

Hope is foundational to our very existence. Without it, our spirits die. We have to believe somehow, some way there is something better, greater coming. We have to believe we are more than our tragedies. We have to believe our story is worth a complete and full ending.

Yet hope comes to us tiny and frail. It's life in us is dependent on our thoughts, our words, our actions, our emotions. Hope is vulnerable to the very heart of us, its bearers.

In the mental ward of Szent Imre Kórház hope surprised me. It came after all I had lost, all I had suffered. It came to me naked and tender and asked my quivering soul to believe it was real. It came to reach into my heart and plant its seed. It came with its own hope waiting to be born.
Since those days, I have been looking for hope to bloom. I have been worried that it won't. It is a tenuous blend of strong and weak. How can the vulnerable really rise triumphantly?

In the moments of rest in the mental ward, in those who-am-I, what-am-I, why-am-I days, it was the words of God making this true:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I Peter 1:3-9 (emphasis mine)

These words were soaking into my bones. They met my vulnerability with their own clear strength. They ignited hope. They caused me to rest in their perfection.

And so is the beautiful character of hope. It finds us in the most unlikely of places and offers itself as the thing we most need. It pulls us into things unseen and says promises are real. Hope does not disappoint, especially when this broken world does. 

And if it doesn't bloom when or where or how we plan, it must not be uprooted. Hope has its perfect plan and will make itself known at just the right time and in just the right way.

I have not seen those seeds of my hospital stay bloom. There have been hints, yet what I most desire still lies ahead. And too, this tender shoot keeps rising up strong, urging me forward. 

It is the formidable, the epitome of resilience, the surety of a strong tower, the very truth of God.


Let's lift it up together and maybe we can all learn to trust again. In God. In Jesus. In the Heaven which wants to come to earth. In the audacity which says all of the goodness forming our truest and wildest dreams is real, because we have found it and will not let it go.


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