Sunday, November 30, 2008

10 Things I'm Thankful for in '08

10. Time at home with my family, both immediate and extended. Who else's family will play "Pit" while shouting "two for two, two for two!!!" for hours of laughter?! And I can't imagine anyone else I'd rather stuff myself to the brim with swedish pancakes than my grandparents and aunt and uncle!
9. Two Thanksgiving meals in one day with the Meyers and the Howard families. Eating until I am uncomfortably full is awesome although I did feel guilty at times since I know somewhere, someone was hungry.
8. A job. Being laid-off in january for four months was tough, but thankfully I am back where I belong at The Citadel. God works in mysterious ways!
7. My own home. I became a new homeowner in January and love having a place of my own.
6. Amazing friends! I'm constantly convinced that I have the most amazing friends that serve as my family in SC.
5. My sweet dog Wrigley aka "Piggy".
4. RHG. What other boyfriend would be willing to forgoe his own Thanksgiving with his family to play cards, go shopping on Black Friday, and gain 10 pounds with mine?
3. My Nicaraguan expierence in '08. I embarked on my first mission trip this year after a few years of waiting and am forever thankful for the trip, people, teammates, and leaders that the Lord placed me with. It is beacuase of this trip that I cannot wait to serve on a lifetime full of mission trips.
2. A home to escape home from. Although Charleston is my home now, I am so thankful for my parent's home in Rockford to escape too when I need rest for my weary spirit. I love my life, don't get me wrong, but I think we all need down time to restore and rejuvinate and my folks have always provided that for me.
1. HOPE and FAITH. 2008 was tough at times with lay-offs and financial trials, but hope has never left my side thanks to faith and my amazing God. I've had some hopeless times in my life, but in 2008 Hope always rose to the top. And for that I am THANKFUL.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A night with TWLOHA

Some of you have probably seen me sport my favorite t-shirts with the wording "To Write Love on Her Arms" and wondered what exactly that meant. Others of you know exactly what that means and how much those 6 words mean to me. Thanks to my wonderfully supportive boyfriend, this Tuesday night I was lucky enough to spend the night captivated by the girl in which To Write Love on Her Arms was created about. Listening to Renee Yohe speak was something that I will never forget and was something that I am so thankful for.

I first stumbled upon TWLOHA a year or two ago thanks to a random MTV series. No one on the series spoke about the organization, no one plugged the cause, just a simple couple wearing cool t-shirts led me to the group who in part led me to the truth which I claim today. TWLOHA is a non-profit, christian organization who's sole purpose is to educate and bring awareness to such topics of depression, anxiety, and suicide. For decades depression has plagued not only the United States, but also people around the world. Check out these statistics:

-121 million people worldwide suffer from depression. (The World Health Organization)

-18 million of these cases are happening in the United States. (The National Institute of Mental Health)

-Between 20% and 50% of children and teens struggling with depression have a family history of this struggle and the offspring of depressed parents are more than three times as likely to suffer from depression. (U.S. Surgeon General's Survey, 1999)

-Depression often co-occurs with anxiety disorders and substance abuse, with 30 percent of teens with depression also developing a substance abuse problem. (NIMH)

-2/3 of those suffering from depression never seek treatment.

Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. (NIMH)

TWLOHA has brought light to what most people push into the dark. They've given victims a voice and they've taught me that although I have struggled with depression, I am not alone and that it's nothing that I need to be ashamed of. Shame keeps depression and anxiety in the dark and we all know that what we keep in the dark and ignore, most often times grows and becomes larger. I, for one, do not want my illness to grow nor did I do anything to bring this about. It's an illness just like cancer, just like migraines, just like anything else that you go to the doctor for and seek treatment.

When I stumbled upon this group I was of the mindset that if I prayed hard enough, I could be healed. I also thought that if God really was who He says He is than He would cure me of this illness. I started praying and relying on prayer alone for my escape. I was struggling and had sought treatment however at I had felt guilty for not trying to heal on my own and relying on doctors for help. Although prayer and the Lord's help are large factors in the treatment of such illnesses, they do not need to be the only solution. God created people. Some people he created to become doctors. Those doctors have gone on to find treatments for such illnesses and TWLOHA has helped me realize that just maybe those treatments they've found in counseling, medications, etc...are God's form of rescue for us. Maybe the people He has placed in my life are also part of His rescue, as they often remind me of hope when my own head cannot seem to remember.

Not only has TWLOHA hes helped me realize that rescue is possible and that treatment exists for my own well being, they've created a community of people who share my feelings and sometimes my pain. They have given us a voice and done it in a way that glorifies God and His triumphs as we start to heal. If I am going to be called to go through the darker times throughout my life, I want to also be a voice to others when needed and hand to hold when they too feel as I have.

Although I could write for days on this topic that is so close to my heart, I will not bore anyone any longer than needed. However I do ask that you read this last piece and if you feel so inclined, please check out to read the full story about Renee, the movement, and how to help those who might need you to "understand" some day. The story is incredibly well written and just like Renee herself, is captivating.

I leave you with this excerpt from their story which beautifully states "We often ask God to show up. We pray prayers of rescue. Perhaps God would ask us to be that rescue, to be His body, to move for things that matter. He is not invisible when we come alive. I might be simple but more and more, I believe God works in love, speaks in love, is revealed in our love. I have seen that this week and honestly, it has been simple: Take a broken girl, treat her like a princess, Tell her something true when all she's known are lies. Tell her God loves her. Tell her about forgiveness, the possibility of freedom, tell her she was made to dance in white dresses. All these things are true.

We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don't get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won't solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we're called home.