12 September, 2021

Mental Health, Suicide, and Resurrection Living

Sometimes you meet a person at Strawberry Fields, an apartment in DC, and as bridesmaids in a wedding, but it takes over 25 years, a tragedy, and a morning show interview for you to realize how much that person will change your life....that's how I know Dona.

If I'm remembering correctly, the last time Dona and I saw each other in person, or at least for any length of time, was at my cousins wedding in 1994. The thing about our family, is once you're a part of it, you're a part of it, and you get us all--siblings, cousins, parents, grandparents--the whole kit and kaboodle for better or worse.  I didn't see Dona and her beautiful family over the years, but I kept up with her through my cousin-and of course social media!

Cousins' Weekend 2019 Beth was catching me up on people we both knew and mentioned Morgan had been struggling a little with an injury and asked me to keep her in my prayers. I had no idea in less than a week Beth would call me with the news that Morgan had died by suicide. This was the third young adult in less than 5 weeks that I knew who had died by suicide. I had no idea what to say or do beyond daily prayers. My heart broke for these families.  

A month or so after Morgan died, I sent Dona a book on grief. I prayed daily and followed her on social media. I didn't know what else to do. Dona and her family did.

During the late spring of 2020, Dona began to post "cryptic" (in a fun way) messages about something big that was going to launch. I begged my cousin to find out what it was. I cannot explain why I felt so drawn (obsessed) with this. Morgan's Message launched on the year anniversary of Morgan's death. "Morgan's Message strives to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health within the student-athlete community and equalize the treatment of physical and mental health in athletics. We aim to expand the dialogue on mental health by normalizing conversations, empowering those who suffer in silence, and supporting those who feel alone." Morgan's Message

I could write on and on about the good Morgan's Message has done over the last 15 months. I could wax poetically about the speed with which this organization has taken off across college and high school campuses changing and yes, I believe, saving lives. And I'm happy to, as a bystander and cheerleader, but it's not my story. I do believe, however, it's part of The Story.

Last night I watched an interview Dona gave last week. Dona's Brave Interview I began to shake as it became very clear to me what kept me so drawn to this story (other than my love for the family as people who were living the unimaginable). Dona and Morgan's Message was and is telling the story of the resurrection. They are living out an Easter people faith.  In an instant I understood in a whole new way what it meant to be Easter People, what it meant to live into the resurrection. Morgan's struggles were Good Friday. I don't know how long she lived in her Good Friday or how long her family and friends, even unknowingly did, but they did. When Morgan died, Holy Saturday. stretched out before this beautiful family and all who loved Morgan. But out of Good Friday and the depths of Good Saturday pain, Morgan's Message was born and there was resurrection--the birth of and the healing of many. 

Let me be very clear. I do not believe for one single solitary minute that God wanted Morgan to suffer and die. I do not believe this was God's plan so that Morgan's Message could be born. I also don't believe God wanted Jesus to suffer and die. Jesus died because of the brokenness and pain in the world. And so did Morgan. Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, but that does not erase Good Friday or Holy Saturday or all the days before--the days of laughter and healing and fellowship. Morgan's Message doesn't erase Morgan's life. 

As a mother, I think even knowing Jesus rose again, defeated death, and initiated the Kingdom of God, Mary would still rather he had not been tortured and crucified. I imagine she never got those images out of her mind, and I wonder if she still thought about what she could have done (the answer is nothing) to have changed the way things happened. 

Thanks to Dona and Morgan's Message, I understand what resurrection living looks like. It's not puppies, and unicorns, and rainbows. It's trusting that God truly can and will use all things for good. It's believing that even when the world brings about evil and brokenness, the world NOT GOD, God can bring healing and wholeness.

It's not about forgetting. It's about remembering. Re-membering.


This post was written by me. No one at Morgan's Message asked me to write. They've never asked anything of me, but they are my favorite non-profit. If you feel called, you can Donate here or buy merchandise here. If you are a high school or college student and would like to get involved, find out more here

M. Morgan’s Message strives to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health within the student-athlete community and equalize the treatment of physical and mental health in athletics. We aim to expand the dialogue on mental health by normalizing conversations, empowering those who suffer in silence, and supporting those who feel alone. organ’s Message strives to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health within the student-athlete community and equalize the treatment of physical and mental health in athletics. We aim to expand the dialogue on mental health by normalizing conversations, empowering those who suffer in silence, and supporting those who feel alone.

09 September, 2021

Soccer Drills and the Kingdom of God

Our family moved to Atlanta in January of 1977. I was in third grade. That spring I started playing soccer. I didn't start playing because I was in love with the game (frankly, I didn't even know what it was), but rather because all my new friends played. Oh, and my parents wouldn't let me play football.                                                                                                                       

I didn't start playing because I was in love with the game, but almost instantly I was, and at the risk of not being humble, I was good. (I mean I did make the boys varsity team in the ninth grade--and I was on the select state championship team in 1981...just sayin'--and now I'm uncomfortable, kind of.) Anyway, I started playing and never stopped until I blew my knee out in the 10th grade.

I flirted with midfield and defense (my midfield story and scoring the winning goal in overtime of the state semi-finals is quite a good one!), but my true love was playing in the goal. From the goal, I could see and direct the field. It was like I was one with the game; it made sense to me, and my body responded seemingly on autopilot. 

I've watched a lot of soccer over the years, but last week....

I was in Virginia and I went to see the Randolph women's soccer game. I was middle school girl giddy. I know and love several of the girls who were playing, and I just couldn't wait to watch them play. I was not prepared for what happened.


I was mesmerized. As I watched the game, all the feelings came back. I looked at #22, #11, and the goalie, and I knew what they were thinking. I could feel their feelings. I could read the ball and the field. It was like I became one with the game, and my body and mind just knew. It was exhilarating, freeing, and indescribable.

Now to return to my not so humble declaration that I was good. I was. I had some natural talent, but I also worked my patootie off. I spent HOURS both with the team and individually practicing. I studied plays. I watched film. I replayed games in my head and talked incessantly about could of's and should of's. I did the same drills over and over and over. It's been years since I've been on a field or practiced any drills, but last Wednesday my body and my mind kicked in, and just knew.

I've been thinking a lot about what happened last week and about spiritual practices and faith. We read the same scriptures over and over. We pray the same prayers. When we go to worship, sometimes it can seem so repetitive, and maybe sometimes we even wonder, "what's the point?" It feels like nonstop drills with no game. 

I've been thinking about all those Sundays my husband and I wrestled (literally) our four children into their "uniforms" and headed out the door to church--many times we needed absolution immediately upon arrival! I've been thinking about the times we were so exhausted at night and just wanted the children to go to bed, but we took the time (most nights) to say prayers. Some of our children attend church now more frequently than others. But here's the thing, Proverbs 22:6 tells us, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." 

Daily life is the game. Some games are easy peasy.  We don't have to think much or even try too hard, but every once in a while, BAM! We have an encounter with someone, a diagnosis comes, a struggle, or any number of things, and we are struggling to just stay in the game. We may even want to give up, but all those "drills" kick in, and we find we have the strength, the skills, the fortitude to keep going. Our minds and bodies just know what to do. The game is life, and we play for the Kingdom...


PS--That winning goal in the semi-finals, total luck! Coach moved me from the goal into the field to keep me from getting hurt in hopes we would make it to the finals. The ball came to me, and I just kicked it. I had no idea what I was doing which may be why the goalie missed it--she probably thought the same thing!

23 August, 2021

It's All About Perspective

I have two planters in the front of our house. They were planted at the same time with the same amount of plants. They were cared for exactly the same way--which is code for not at all... One has flourished, and one well, it has not. I have both been amused and confused by it. 

A couple of days ago I was pulling out of the driveway. I glanced over and laughed out loud (yes I was alone in the car) as this thought went through my head. "The one on the left is thriving. Of course it is." And yes, I was thinking about politics in all its forms with all its assumptions. You know more liberal, more inclusive, more accepting--I told y'all the assumptions. Stick with me.


The next morning I opened the front door to refill the cooler for delivery people and I stopped abruptly. Now the flourishing planter was on the right. "It's all about perspective," I thought.

And I can't stop thinking about it. I'm thinking about all the people I love dearly--people on the "right" and people on the "left." I'm thinking about how they all impact my life and help me to be the person I am. I'm thinking about our differences which challenge me and encourage me to look at life from different perspectives, and yes, even sometimes change my mind.

But mostly I'm thinking about how each and every one of us is a beloved child of God, created in God's image and worthy of dignity and respect. I am reminded that God isn't left or right; God is for everyone. I'm reminded that I am called to look at the world through God's eyes, and that requires many perspectives. I am reminded that I am called to join God to create a world where we all flourish. And all this because one planter flourished and one did not!

(I'm still curious about why...the planters that is!)



14 June, 2021

Adult Parenting and Water Wings

 

I lowered my window as I began the ascent onto the first bridge I was forced to drive leading to my beloved home on Isle of Palms. I moved to the interior lane and far away from the Cooper River that I knew was waiting to gobble up the first car that parachuted off. The wind blew my hair across my face. I reached up to push it back and simultaneously wiped away the tears that had been forming in my eyes.

For the past hour I had been thinking about my now adult children and how much I loved them. I loved them; I missed them; I knew this was part of life. Oh and, I really like hanging out with my husband…

But I also was missing something else. Over the past year, the number of phone calls and daily texts has decreased. Sometimes I send a text and don’t get a response. (EGADS! It's not like they don't have school and jobs, and I might be an overly enthusiastic labrador puppy texter.) When they don't respond, I have to utilize all my willpower, deep breathing, therapy practice, and prayer so I don’t text again either a) passive-aggressively, b) attempting guilt, c) groveling, or d) asking if they’re mad and apologizing for some unknown “sin” I have committed. Sometimes it even works….the not giving in part....

As I pushed my hair and tears off my face, I broke into a grin. I remembered an evening in early September 1998 when I came home with a ridiculously over-priced (but dare I say darn tootin cute) diaper bag. Keep in mind, at this point we had one child who was just 3, one who was 13 1/2 months, and one on the way. I put it on the dining room table forgetting to hide the price tag.

From the kitchen I heard my usually very calm and soft-spoken husband yell, “HAVE YOU LOST YOUR EVER LOVING MIND?!?!?!” (He did not say “ever-loving.”) I walked into the dining room, “What?” “Katherine,” he tried to calmly say, “First we do NOT have $145.00 to spend on this, this, this THING! And second, we must have half a dozen diaper bags not to mention all the OTHER BAGS that continue to reproduce in this house.” “But, I needed this one.” I told him, “It’s a matter of life and death.”

I think at this time he might have poured a bourbon, sat down, and waited for what he knew was going to make sense to only one person—-me. 

“See,” I began, “We’re going to the beach next week, and I started thinking. When I am driving without you if the car goes flying off the bridge and into the water, I only have two hands. Right now I can grab both Sarah Katherine and Boss—one under each arm and get us safely to the surface. BUT, when this baby is born, Boss will only be 17 months old, Sarah Katherine will only be 3, and obviously this baby will be a newborn. This diaper bag is big enough that I can shove the baby into it. It’s waterproof and has long handles I can put around my neck. I can grab Boss with one arm, Sarah Katherine with the other telling her to hold on tight. And you know she always does what we tell her, and then I can swim us all to the surface and save our lives. Don't you want us to survive?”

Now I don’t know what Chris said at this point, but I did get to keep the diaper bag….

As luck would have it, 17months after William was born, Caroline came along. Thankfully I still had the diaper bag. For the others, I might have put water wings on them as we were driving over bridges, and I might have insisted windows were always to be rolled down—you know because the power windows won’t work underwater. (I have since moved from that to carrying a hammer, but NOW I have a tool made especially for this purpose which proves I am not crazy.

I kept thinking about all the trips we have taken over these bridges and many other bridges and how they never questioned that windows came down, and if I could convince them it was better to go ahead and have their water wings on so we could run straight to the beach even before Mommy unloaded the car, well, that was a small price to pay to make sure they survived the harrowing trip. (I didn’t tell them that part.) There were times, however, I would casually mention if we were ever in deep water and Mommy was trying to get us out, they should just hold on but not scratch me or push me under. (Obviously, I did not tell them that at the same time we were crossing bridges. For pete’s sake, I didn’t want to scar them!)

As I crossed the IOP connector (and praise God the final bridge), I finally got it. They were living their lives. They were doing well. They stayed connected to me, Chris, and each other. We still are connected, and it is different. We have plunged into a new way of being. Chris and I have crossed a bridge to the other side of being a parent. They may take a few dives off their own bridges. (Caroline has told me the saying, “If everyone jumped off a bridge would you?” Is actually ridiculous because OBVIOUSLY she would wait until everyone else did, and if they survived and had fun, of course she would jump.) Anyway, I have to let them do that in their own way. If I don’t—if I insist on trying to control, to protect, to save—well, then I’m the one scratching, clawing, and pushing them under. 

Swim sweet babies swim. 

26 May, 2021

It's About People

My mother kept an immaculate house. (Our friends lovingly called her Barbisol--not to her face.) Let me elaborate a little bit...the house was immaculate--dinner on the kitchen floor? No problem. She had high expectations, and we for the most part met them. There were very specific "rules" or ways things should be done. Bathroom sink and mirror cleaned every morning. No sitting on. beds after they're made.  Drawers and closet doors shut tightly with nothing hanging out. No posters on the walls. We had assigned chores that rotated every week. Dusting, unloading the dishwasher, setting the table, cleaning the bathroom--I think you can get the picture. 

That was and is all true. And it was good. I mean who doesn't want to live in a clean house? But there was a part of it...let's just. say I have a good friend who still has PTSD from the time Mother saw her sitting on the bed...

And here's the other truth that I firmly believe Mother would even agree with--well I know she would. I do not have the same "standard." I mean she's told me and others. "Katherine isn't the housekeeper I am." Just like I'm sure there are things I say which grate on my children and make them run for their body armor, Mother makes comments such as "When. was the last time you cleaned these ceiling fans?" In the past, before Mother would come to visit, it was not pleasant for my family. I was A MESS and frantically tried to make everything perfect. (Side note--it never was.) It might also be true this has been a topic talked about during therapy on many occasions.

Ready for a third truth? Chris and I love to have people over, and we really do care about making it nice for people. We also want it to be clean. But I can promise you, it is never immaculate. 

The other night we were talking about the "gathering" (it is a gathering because it's less than 20 people) we are having to celebrate William's graduation this weekend. Two weeks ago the kitchen sink collapsed--no one is available to fix it this week. Three weeks ago the bathroom flooded and we now have multiple water stains on our living room ceiling. (The holes that were there for a year are finally, or at least temporarily, gone.) Two days ago I painted 1/2 a kitchen cabinet trying to choose a color for the new kitchen we are going to get. So basically, yeah, it's not a perfect house. 

Chris asked me whether we should postpone until we had some stuff done. I thought about it. I mean I thought about it A LOT! And then I said, "Nope, let's do it." Part of that is me trying to break out from the feeling of not being enough because I don't measure up to an extremely high standard. (Don't worry I have therapy tomorrow.) And part of it was because I really believe it's not about having a perfect setting, it's about people, who guess what? Also aren't perfect!  

So this is me--slightly rebelling but totally loving people. Because that's what it's all about right? Love and people.

Oh, and you can sit on our beds--I'm the only one that makes mine!



Obviously, I'm still not completely settled or comfortable with this. If I was, I probably wouldn't be writing about it. But I'm trying. 


11 May, 2021

Developmentally Delayed Parenting

I love to write, and sometimes I hate to write. Writing makes me look deeply at myself and the world.  Okay, that's not entirely true, I already think (or as I'm often told overthink) myself and the world, but writing forces me to put it in some sort of order, which sometimes is freaking hard and painful and unsettling and all those things--and sometimes even after writing it still doesn't make sense, and I still don't know what to do, but here goes.....

The BIG question is, "Why doesn't anyone tell you how hard it is to be the parent of adult children?" Seriously y'all. There are oodles and oodles of books about babies, toddlers, preteens, and teens, and then when it comes to young adults and adult children--well google it and you'll see. And keep in mind, I'm not saying parenting adult children, I'm talking about being the parent of adult children. There's a difference. There is this perpetual myth that once they turn 18 or 21 and move out it's like the first verse of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now.

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But instead of looking at clouds that way, it's looking at parent/adult-child relationships that way. It's going to be all magical and everything will be perfect. Well done good and faithful servant, you've launched them into adulthood now sit back and enjoy. And the biggest overused and deceitful line, "The youngest is almost out of the house. We're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel." What no one tells you is there is a very real possibility that light is a train!

Anyway....

I've been thinking about this a lot, and I've been wondering (and praying about) why I'm feeling so sensitive, unsure, and inexperienced. (Spoiler alert, the answer is because I AM all of those things! But let's back up a little.) 

Two days ago I was listening to the podcast "Share the Love Stories" and my good friend The Rev. Amelia Arthur was interviewing Karoline Lewis. Karoline was talking about her college-age sons being home during the pandemic and how she was trying to navigate that if they were still at college she wouldn't talk to them or know what they're doing all the time like she can now. I literally stopped running, stood on the street, and rewound it four times. Then this thought raced through my mind, "I am a developmentally delayed parent." (You really should take the time to listen to the whole podcast here.) 

Stay with me here. When our children were/are away at college or living somewhere else, I heard from them a lot! SK would text or call as she was walking to class. She would tell me about all the great classes she was taking; we would talk about friends; and sometimes, she would ask my advice. Or she would text or call when things weren't going great--the car got towed, the zipper in her formal dress broke 2 hours before formal--she needed me (or at least my debit card---sort of joking with that comment). The same happened with Caroline. And I loved it! 

To be totally transparent and honest, the boys didn't call and text as much, but it was still multiple times a week, and they always responded to me. They shared their lives with me, talked about relationships, asked advice (yes often laundry advice), and told me about their fears, frustrations, and successes. I had this, I'll admit it, smug satisfaction whenever I'd hear mama's saying, "Once boys leave home, you never hear from them." Not my boys, not my girls. And then things started to change.

Now here's the thing I do truly believe 100% in my head and 75-80% in my heart. THIS IS NORMAL AND GOOD!. But it's also HARD!! It's like this landmine of navigation, at least for people like me who overthink. How much calling is too much? If they don't answer my text should I assume they're mad at me, dead in a ditch, or maybe just busy? Do they roll their eyes when they see my number pop up? Do they have a funny ringtone for me? Would they tell me if I was annoying them? Or are they glad to hear from me and they'll stay in touch as their lives allow and it has nothing to do with me?

And then there's the whole thing about their relationships with each other....y'all this isn't just a landmine, it's a whole dang country of mines. I love they have always been close, but life. and choices have created some stresses between them and it's not mine to fix. Damn, I hate that! Then there's the 53-year-old woman I am who is overjoyed they talk to each other so much--truly it was always our dream/goal that they would stay close, but that mature woman is taunted by the 5 or 3-year-old who is jealous and misses them and wants to (or at least thinks she wants to) know everything about them. And don't get me started on the times they are together and I'm not with them. Should I text or call? Is that interrupting them and being too overbearing? If I don't engage do they think I don't care?

I am loving watching them grow and become the people God created them to be. My heart burst with pride watching where life and their hard work take them. I am excited for the plans they have already made and are executing and for the dreams they are dreaming. I'm just trying to figure out where I fit or maybe just how we navigate our relationship now. And let's be honest, just like with so much of being a parent, I come to it with my own "stuff."

So here's the thing. I can write all about this, think all about this, pray all about this, but I'm just at the beginning of this. Years ago when she was 13 Sarah Katherine said to me, "Mama I think you should just try to be the mother we need and not the one you wanted." She's pretty smart...

Here we go--no one tells you how hard it is, will someone please tell me if it gets easier?

Also maybe we should all just
listen to Joni Mitchell's complete song and not just the first verse. Both Sides Now


08 April, 2021

Love Wins--Love Always Wins

I think love is the most overused and the most underused word in the world. Now that's quite the paradox. But isn't life one big paradox? Anyway...

“Love” is in the top 20 powerful advertising words. (I googled it.) Imagine how many times we hear it or see it each week if not each day. We throw the word around talking about butterflies, cars, clothes, food, drinks, and the list goes on. It reminds me of when Sarah Katherine was little and everyone she met became her “best friend” within minutes. “Mommy I can’t leave the playground. That girl is my best friend.” Me, “What’s her name?” Sarah Katherine, “I don’t know.” (Calling people your best friend is a whole other rant I may get on one day.) I wonder what the numbers would be if we all counted how many times we said or wrote “love” in any context every day?

Trust me. I’m not innocent. And I do try to tell people I love them. Except that’s not entirely true. I tell people I love them when talking to them or being with them gives me that warm fuzzy feeling. I tell people I love them when I’m deeply grateful for our relationship. I tell people I love them when I want to build them up, encourage them, support them, and yes, love them. But I don’t always say it. In fact, sometimes I deliberately don’t. I'm not proud of that, but it's the truth.

A couple of weeks ago I overheard a phone conversation one of my children was having with someone she didn’t want to be talking to. Their relationship is currently very strained. Well let me be completely honest, I thought, their relationship was butting up against the path of no return—completely broken. There is a great deal of hurt and anger. As she was hanging up the phone, I heard her say, “I love you.” (And then because I have really good hearing—Mama sonic ears--) I heard, “I love you, too.” Tears sprang to my eyes, and I was in awe. I had just witnessed the power of unconditional, holy love. Love that exists despite pain and brokenness, anger and hurt. Love is stronger than hate. Love that holds us gently and fiercely no matter how close to the brink we get. Love holds one another accountable but also says you are beloved because you are you. At that moment, I witnessed the love that embodies, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” (Romans 8:35 NLT) At that moment, she truly was the body of Christ. She could be angry, hurt, and not want to engage, but none of that could separate her from what it means to love unconditionally--not loving because of warm fuzzies, unicorns, and rainbows. Loving because it's what we're called to do. 

The story isn’t over, and one day I hope I get to write about eavesdropping on the relationship's total reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing. I hope it’s soon, but it may not be. But I do know this: we don't always know what it will look like, but love wins. Love always wins.