Ridicule of Faith

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No one forced me to be a Christian. No one brainwashed me or shoved me into a confessional. No one took away my ability to think freely. No one forced me to go to church. There were no mandatory Jesus meetings in my home, no memorizing bible verses, and there certainly were no “religious fronts” where I (or my brothers) were expected to behave like perfect God fearing angels.

My home was filled to the brim with a bit of everything. From the alcoholic who had no family at Thanksgiving, to the 6 musicians of a heavy metal band passing through, the Bishop of Bulgaria, foreign exchange students from 4 different countries, individuals of wealth and individuals of poverty, heterosexuals, homosexuals, felons, mentally handicapped, and the homeless. This is not to say, look at what wonderful “christians” you all were. No. This is about humanity. It’s about respect. It’s about the assumptions, the many assumptions, that have been made about me and I’m sure, my family. I will not speak for them because the truth is we all vary to some degree in our beliefs and relationship to God. Nonetheless, our commonality is the diversity that we were purposefully surrounded by.

I would hope that my life reflects my morals, values and faith all of which are interconnected. I would hope that if you have spent any amount of time with me, I impressed upon you a sincerity through my words and actions. I would hope that even if the aforementioned qualities were not translated, that you at least felt respected by me.

Here is where things become a bit blurry to me. I have friends of all walks of life, status, beliefs, and ethnicities. I can confidently say that any one of my friends, and many of my acquaintances would agree that never once did I hit them upside the head with a bible or slander their lives by using scripture as a weapon. I believe they would say I am typically defenseless, a solid listener, and an active advocate for enriching their lives however I can. What I don’t think some of my friends would accept is that the core of who I aspire to be is a direct product of my faith. Not in the form of “because I have to” but “because I get to”. You may think I’m full of it, that’s fine. I’m far from perfect. I’m human, and I’m flawed, and sometimes I’m down right living in ways I’m not proud of. Yet, here I am.

But why is it that the most “tolerant” individuals mock and ridicule my beliefs so harshly?

Why do I as an individual of Faith have to be directly tied to everything you hate about religion?

Why is it that I automatically get bundled into this view of bigotry, judgement, and hatred?

And how many people of faith, any faith, have you had real discussion with?

Opposing beliefs in no way shake me, but I do at times become weary of this very generalized perception of what it means to be a Christian. I know many of you are pissed and you believe that the God I worship is responsible for the suffering in our world. I know you would like to sit down and hack at me all the tough questions, and to be honest, I would love to talk about them as well. But, we will never get there. Because you have already made conclusions about me and about my beliefs. That divide, the divide that breads on assumptions, rests on a lack of respectable conversation, and capitalizes on the seemingly unexplainable heartaches we face perpetuates estranging misconceptions on both sides of the discussion.

I think you would find that I too have had heartache, questioned my faith, lived dishonestly at times, and lacked hope. I think you would find that we are far more alike than we are different, and, I would even venture to say that we could have a respectable conversation about both my story and yours. I don’t want to have these conversations because by God it’s time you get saved, I want to have these conversations because you’re a person and I like people.

Maybe next time you make a slanderous post about my faith, spread messages of hatred by religiousness (man made not God made) you’ll consider the ones who respect your beliefs or lack thereof. Perhaps you’ll think of the ones who don’t demean your beliefs or lack thereof. Even saying that I know I’m gunning for ridicule, because, that is the way the internet works. Nonetheless I think it’s worth mentioning, and I also think it’s worth  remembering we only know as much about each other as we are willing to discuss. Much love and many blessings.

 

 

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Depression: Why We Stay Stuck

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The silence isn’t quiet, nor is it innocent. It’s not the type of silence you relish as in nature. Contrarily the silence carries with it chaos so insistent you cannot begin to organize yourself in such a way as to address it. Depression is not something you are but rather something that is. A spirit so dense it consumes, fogs, and corrupts even the brightest of minds. Depression is not the overgeneralized commercials during primetime television. Depression runs deep, and it’s dark, and it is so lonely. In fact, I think that what penetrates depression above all else is the feeling of loneliness that completely engulfs your state of being. I hear a lot of chatter about “breaking the stigma” of mental illness. Is this necessary and is it true? Absolutely. Is medication appropriate in treating depression? Absolutely. Granted, medication may not be for everyone, and I don’t think it is meant to sustain us, but there is of course irrefutable evidence that depression is impacted to various degrees by serotonin levels in our brain. Here are some aspects of depression I think we sometimes fail to talk about that are (in my mind) relevant. Mental illness is a touchy subject because you don’t want to be “that insensitive jerk” who “just doesn’t get it”. Most likely, we can all say we have experienced depression, but that does not mean we all experience or respond to depression the same way. Therefore, every person to some degree has his or her own definition of depression.

For me, college was a time of what felt like never ending trials. Particularly in my second year of school I had made some poor choices in relationships. School was time consuming but it wasn’t challenging, and I wanted a challenge. Being away from my friends and family who were familiar became a bit of a strain, at this time, mostly because I had not met who would be my true friends yet. Instead I found myself in one of those “it will never happen to me” situations. The details of that situation are not explicitly the point here, but rather, the depression that followed. As I attempted to “manage” my situation, my situation managed me. Everything that I thought I knew about myself shifted, and I entered crisis mode. My spirit was resting on a bed of emotions I had not welcomed willingly. In a sense it is safe to say that this situation was imposed upon me. This is not to say I did everything right, but, I certainly did not consciously invite the pain. Regularly I felt a combination of the following emotions, as I believe most who have suffered depression do.

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Grief
  • Shame
  • Loneliness
  • Self-Pity
  • Sadness

 

Depression: Finding Myself Again

 When I was severely depression I was detached from my family, my friends, and myself. No one could help me, no god could save me, and no amount of coursework could distract me from the darkness I dwelled in. Above all, I was angry. My anger and anxiety raged in a way that made me unrecognizable to myself. I played and endless game of “What if?” and “Why me” with myself. Had it not been for the mentorship of one of my professors I would have made the choice to drop out and head for the hills, leaving behind a full academic scholarship. I had zero appreciation for anything or anyone and all I really wanted was to take sleeping pills earlier in the evening than I should have. I began to resent life itself, I was tired of jumping through emotional hoops everyday, all day, just to get by. Let’s skip ahead about 8 months, because I don’t have time to write about it and you don’t have time to read about it. Down the road I began to resent myself, instead of my situation. Everything I thought I was projecting outward and was the victim to I was actually taking in. The situation I had been dealing with had greatly altered my state of being, yes…but…the truth is I had not done anything to help myself. I suppose you could say I accepted the “victim role.” I had to begin to be honest with myself. After months and months of just surviving I came up for air long enough to look at the situation differently. Instead of being angry, I could use the pain to gain wisdom. Instead of shaming myself for what had happened, I could be gracious toward myself for eventually putting an end to the chaos. Instead of living in a cycle of self-sabotage I could use the trial to propel me in pursuit of academic/professional goals. Instead of being lonely, I could reach out to relationships I trusted. I did have options. Depression was no longer something I could take anymore of. True emotional rock bottom is not depression, it is when depression becomes so paralyzing that you are compelled to get up and move toward healing.

Why We Stay Stuck

The last statement in the above paragraph is the premise of this answer. I believe both from personal experience and from the testimony of others that people who never come out of a depression stay stuck for this reason; they begin to claim themselves as such. Instead of saying “I’m suffering with depression” it becomes a constant state of “I am depressed.” It becomes easier to identify with the emotion(s) or state of depression as opposed to acknowledging the depression without identifying with it. In other words, do not become friends with your depression. I realize to some that may sound asinine, after all, why would you want to befriend depression? Well, you wouldn’t. That much is obvious. What I am implying is that when we stay stuck for so long it becomes easier to stay stuck. Instead of being vulnerable with others and trusting the process of testifying to our emotions we keep them “safe” inside where they are in fact festering, multiplying, and slowly bringing us closer to seeing a “normalcy” to depression. Depression is not normal and is not something we are. It is, however, a very real struggle with very real debilitating symptoms. I am in no way undermining the severity of depression but I am suggesting something that a Doctor would not tell you to be true, has some truth. Keep in mind, I am telling you as much as I am reminding myself. I had in essence become so comfortable with being depressed that I enabled my own fall. Naturally as I began to slowly leave the fog of depression and recognize some of these patters (not alone mind you, I did reach out to an older mentor) I was able to process some of the emotions that were overwhelming me. Nothing happened over night. Truthfully the depression became worse at first, because it was now fighting for a place in my soul. One part of me was trying to rise up, while one part of me wanted to stay down. One part of me knew what the victim looked like, while the other part of me wondered what the more mature version of myself on the other side might look like. Nonetheless I’ll tell you what I did, and how I recovered, again I’ll note…very slowly.

Recovery

In an effort to make a long story short I can sum it up this way: God orchestrated a relationship that arrived in perfect timing. I am to this day very close to the individual who took me in and helped me recover. She has a family, a very active and busy family at that. Yet, she recognized something in me I could not see at the time. Her and her husband took me in, insisted on it actually. I slept on the couch, or in the guest room. I came and went at my leisure. I did my best to hold it together around her kids, but overall I was a wreck. She showed me a love like Christ just as I was. She did not expect anything from me expect that I work on getting better. To this day, I’m not sure that had I not put a step of faith forward to engage in that opportunity for relationship I wouldn’t still be depressed. Let me be clear: She didn’t “Cure” my depression, but she did facilitate an environment/support system that enabled me to safely address my depression. I realize not everyone, probably not even most people, will be blessed with that. However, at the end of the day I had to stand up for myself. I had to choose where I would lean, and I chose to lean into my faith. Instead of trying to “manage” I began to (slowly) let Christ fight for me. It may sound dumb, but it is so true. If you can’t relate to or take away anything else from this blog for yourself remember this; you will either become comfortable being a victim or you won’t. There is no in between. I’m not suggesting you don’t go through the depression, but I am insisting that you reach out and let someone help you get to the place of not becoming a friend of depression. For me, I believe that the relationship I had was Christ’s way of using my friend as an instrument to do just that; help me say goodbye to the friend depression had become. In my experience it became another example of God’s Grace to me; his never ending pursuit of me, and his willingness to meet me in a way I could receive him at that time. My story is just one of many stories. Whatever your story may be, do not give up hope, and do not befriend the darkness that buries your spirit. Be strong, be present, and expect Grace to guide you to a new season

A Personal Note on Faith: Control, Brokenness, and the Role of Relationships.

faith-header.jpgHypothetically speaking, if someone were to approach you with an outline of your life, how would you respond? IF there ever was a way to know exactly when life would throttle us through peaks, valleys, and wide turns would there be any purpose in faith? If someone had told me 10 years ago that in 2014 I would graduate college and in 2016 I would have a life threatening tumor what would I have likely done? I would have worried for 2 years, perhaps not finished school, and it would all be over something that God already had handled. Our human nature, and the biggest complaint I hear from friends is the lack of control that comes with being a human in this crazy world. Nothing is promised, yet amidst it all I see people fight through hardships. See, we think that what we need is answers, but in my life it has always been true that what I needed more than anything was faith.

On that note I want to clarify a few things both for the readers who do not know my personal background and for those who do not know me well on a personal level: I have not always been a believing, faith filled individual. I have not had unwavering faith, and in fact, I do not encourage it because I do not believe it exists. There is no shame in questioning the existence of Jesus Christ. You should explore faith and your spiritual relationship to the father outside of religion, outside of a building, and outside of “unwavering” Christian friends. You should put it to the test and against trials. Doing so does not weaken your faith, it strengthens it, and that is because Christ is faithful. He will meet you wherever you are, even if it is in the midst of fleeing him.

I was, as many of you know, raised in a Christian home. Sure, we went to church as a family, and I was introduced to Christ, but those are not the years I remember. I remember the years my parents stopped going to church because it was then that I truly understood that being the church was more important than going to church. It was then that I understood that watching my parents give their time, money, and love to others was church. So, when I say that I have not always been a believer I am simply saying that I have many times stepped away from my faith. I’ve questioned God, I’ve questioned what Church looks like at in its most ideal structure and I’ve questioned what being a “Christian” really means. Here is what I have found out; Christ was clear…we are to love one another. Churches can build the biggest buildings with the most members and the most sheik furniture but unless people are connecting with one another on an authentic level it is all a waste of money. What’s more, and this is a question you can answer for yourself, if Church is a place for community and connection is it set in stone that this requires a building with formal schedules/events? Another line of thought, what does your relationship with Christ look like without the Church as it is currently? In all honesty I think a fair amount of well-intentioned believers would really struggle to answer that question. Anyways, I can go to Church, and I can believe in Christ, but unless I am out in my community (wherever that may be at the time) being Christ- Like to others, my faith begins and ends with me.

Moving along, hopefully with a better understanding of how I view spirituality and relationship I want to return to the original statement about calling into question our quest for control amidst life’s uncertainties. Most of us approach our relationship with Christ one of two ways.

  • We live primarily dependent on our relationships, our accomplishments, and ourselves. We take life on constantly bracing for impact and hoping we can skim by day-to-day doing it “our way” because at least “our way” feels in control. Christ becomes secondary to our need for control and it isn’t until our efforts fail that we reach out to him in desperation.
  • We lead a pretty disciplined spiritual life, but tend to still feel “stuck”. It seems like we do the right things, and we stay present to Christ call on our life, yet…we fall short of feeling like we have done much of anything that matters. We wonder if and when and how God will use us. Sometimes life feels pretty good, but all too often it can seem like a few days of even plain followed by weeks of going uphill.

 Notice there is no option that says, “Everything is perfect, God is good, I am using my gifts. My kids are on point, my spouse loves me wholly, and my Church is flawless. I have friends in every corner of the world, I love my body, my mind is at ease, and work is a breeze.”

Now, I have heard Christians “talk at” me this way. You will typically spot these individuals, because they talk at you not to you. They are trying to meet their needs by impressing upon you their version of what is most likely an extremely chaotic spiritual life. More likely, they live in an illusion where they are Christ to themselves and by God, you will know it by the time they leave.

Instead however let’s say that you’re reading this and you’re thinking…I’m definitely some version of option 1 and 2. Let me tell you something that I have come to learn in the last 3 months specifically. Jesus Christ is the author of my life. My story as already been written. Sure, I have the free will to throw the book down and pout or live outside of my calling, but in the end…the book will still be there where I left it. Christ is not asking us to put our Faith in something that has not already been promised. I almost hate to even say that because it sounds like such a Christian Cliché where you’re like “Umm where the hell are these promises, my life is hard.” Here is the unpopular truth of God’s promises; We live in a world where people use their free will against one another instead of for one another, and as a result we experience pain that truthfully could often be avoided. Life is unfair, and it is painful, but it is important to remember that God did not create or facilitate these problems, but he did promise to give us what we need to subside the noise amidst these problems. So often we are waiting on God. Waiting on his voice in prayer. Waiting on him to make a move in our favor. Waiting for the finances to come in. Waiting for the job to arrive. Waiting for the spouse. Waiting for the kids to grow up make us proud. We are always waiting. We wait so much that we miss it most of the time. See, God is always in pursuit of us. He will fulfill the desires of your heart, he will speak to you, he will bring the money in, and he will give your children the grace they need to grow…but why would he do anything if we are simply waiting on him like a Genie? As if to say; listen I know we don’t know each other real well but here’s what I need. This is where it breakdowns and this is where I think we have failed to be honest with one another. A checklist does not determine your faith, nor does Church attendance, or by what others say about you. Faith is not a set of doctrine, a fancy worship song that just “moves you”. Faith is hard. Faith is uncomfortable. Faith is contrary to human nature. Faith is out of control.

Let me leave you with this; a statement about when I knew my life went from being a Christian to being Christ-Centered, and how I went from being faithless to faithful.

I knew I went from being a Christian to being Christ-Centered when I stopped going to Church. For me it was necessary to evaluate my faith, and my relationship to God outside of a structure I felt was familiar but not satisfying to me at the time. I spent my mornings with God and I found God in places no one had ever told me to look. Then I realized it wasn’t about where I “looked” but by the eagerness in my heart to seek him. If where you are right now doesn’t get you excited about your spiritual life, reroute.

I knew I was faithless when I sat at the top of my stairs in college, smoking a cigarette and downing a beer one Sunday morning after being hung-over from the night before. Here there was no one to “show up” for. I could drown myself in self-pity. I was angry because college had presented me with some pretty harsh trials. I felt as though God was not just absent, but intentionally hurting me. Everything in my spirit lay deep with depression. I was disconnected from almost everyone, and I ran as far away from God as I could. One night I had decided to take a drive. It was and always has been one of many ways I like to shake off emotions and zone in on music. On this particular night I drove past a man who appeared to be homeless. It was about 2 in the morning, dead of winter, and I could not help but feel this deep-seated urgency to tend to him. As I drove back around the block, and approached him, I could see that he was crying. I offered him a cigarette and asked him to get in my car to warm up. He gratefully accepted my offer and as I sat there with a homeless man in my car I felt like I was staring down the state of my insides; Cold, alone, in pain, sad, and unworthy of love. After a long silence the man proclaimed, “You know, God is good. After all, here you are.” I nearly cried right in front of him. Christ is in us and we are Christ to one another. Faith is being faithful. Faith is being out of control. Faith is not knowing where you’re going to sleep or when you’re going to eat but knowing that someone will be Christ to you. I’ll say it again; FAITH is being OUT of control.

Much Love and Many Blessings,

Anna Marie

 

 

The courage and compassion found in a complete stranger.

 

imageAmong the many challenges of recovery I am discovering that my mental capacity for addressing adversity is crucial. Cognitively speaking, adhering to an emotional state of mind essentially equates to a diversion of progress. For instance, this morning I woke up feeling restless in mind, body, and spirit. Instead of addressing my emotions, regrouping, and moving forward I convinced myself that in light of vast alternatives these feelings were invalid. In an effort to be “strong” I retreated all shame resilience and completely forwent any opportunity for allowing self compassion. Often times, when we face trials and others tell us we are “strong” or “courageous” what they mean and what we hear are entirely different. To put it simply; we draw strength from one another’s trials by being a witness to the testimony of one another’s embracing of ourselves. When people say, “Anna you are so strong, keep your head up” what they are really saying, cognizant of it or not, is this: I see you owning your story, just as it is, and for that reason you are strong. So why is it that more often than not when we face a trial it takes us longer than everyone else to see the triumph? Why is it that I resonate deep compassion for others but struggle to allow myself compassion? What will it take to own my story, each and every day, even if it means accepting emotions I perceive as “invalid.” Grace. I refer to the word Grace insensately. I am well aware of this…but…the power of Grace is so irrefutable. Nothing and no one can paralyze my spirit when I receive Grace in my most vulnerable moments. To illustrate a picture of Grace as it was demonstrated to me today, I want to share with you what I encountered.

Late this afternoon I decided to leave the house with my parents. Today has been particularly exhausting, which is another blog in itself. The point is that at this point my pain was high, my morale low, and my legs weak. Despite my current state, cabin fever has been fervent lately and I could not pass up an opportunity to venture out. One of the stops on the list was of course, Wal-Mart. Originally I had planned on using one of the mobile karts, but upon entering the store I witnessed a young woman maybe five years older than myself in a wheelchair. She was paralyzed from the waist down. Now normally my compassion would kick into high drive and I would strike up easy conversation with her. I would want to interject the stares encroaching her. I would intend on serving as a reminder of the goodness of human kind. I would want her to know, foremost, that she is not an issue. She is a soul and she is a spirit and she is loved. Unfortunately that is not how the situation played out. Upon seeing her there, unable to move her lower extremities I lost my breath. My heart sank and my eyes filled with tears. Promptly, I asked my mother to bring me back to the car. Understandably, my mother was concerned that I was hurt or in extreme pain. Neither was true. I explained that I needed to get to the car, and once I did, I lost it. Call it PTSD, triggered, or shocked. Call it whatever you want. I was heaving for air for two reasons.

1.) I realized that could have been me. It was a very plausible outcome has I not had surgery in time and it was a risk with surgery. I have seen people in her situation time and time again, but it today it felt like I had seen it for the first time.

2.) My compassion for her was overwhelming. Perhaps to the point of ignorance I wanted to DO something for her. I wanted to lift her up and carry her out of the store and away from the gaze of strangers. I wanted to stand her up and let her lean into me. I wanted to befriend her if only for a moment.

I was not just crying for myself but also for her…because to even have been given a dose of what is her lifelong condition bereaved me. Some may say that this blog sounds overly sympathetic, maybe even offensive…perhaps she was a confident and strong minded young lady? For the record I am sure she is; I could sense it. I don’t want you to hear that I felt she was inadequate. I want you to hear that for me seeing her reminded me of the immense Grace I’ve been resting in. But Anna you’ve said it yourself, there is fear and shame and frustration. Yes, but with those emotions comes incredibly present weakness. Yet, instead of drowning in my weakness I have a relationship with an ever present father who makes himself so known to me amidst the chaos. His Grace doesn’t just suffice, it generates life. Grace has the power to stare humanity in the face and say…sweetheart I see you. I see that your body failed you but that your spirit is something of a warrior. Grace leaves you in a parking lot crying for a stranger; both because you feel extreme gratefulness that it ended differently for you, and you feel extreme shame that it ended differently for you.

Here’s where maturity matters. I can dwell in this place. I can be shamed and triggered…or I can simply open myself to the wound. In doing so I will make myself available to the next person who needs what I have to offer in reaching out. Not necessarily someone of physical disability, just…anyone. If I curl up in a ball and feel sorry for myself or shame myself for my story I will disservice myself AND those who need the gifts inside me. So, whether the emotions are fleeting or familiar I will face them. Day by day, week by week. Being courageous is owning your story. As I take on new journeys with courage I encourage you to do the same. No matter the trial, do not stand on a foundation of guilt or shame. You will not grow there and your feet will be without direction. Ground yourself in Grace, settle into compassion, and be humble. Grasp onto opportunities to be a light to others. Rid yourself of the rigidness of religion, for therein lies entitlement. Love others without contingency, and take in people of all venues. Our stories are meant to intersect, our compassion toward one another is peace, and courage will always come in moments of owning our stories. Be blessed and be a blessing.

Victims of December

Wishful thinking is  an enticing line of thought. It triggers regrets from our past, diverts us away from the present,and instills a flicker of excitement for the future. This time of year always fascinates me, it’s as if society completely changes for a month. Work eases up, family comes to town, we take time to cook our meals, and most importantly opportunities to give and receive love are plentiful.

Many of you might argue that the holidays are in fact stressful and full of expectation. The house has to be cleaned, your kids are running wild inside on cold days and no school, you practically live at the store and money is tight from all those gifts you just couldn’t say no to buying.Contrarily,I encourage you humor one simple belief I have which is this: The holidays quench your desire for intimate relationship most of us go without all year. Yes, all year.

It is a happiness that you find in seeing coat drives, salvation army buckets, operation christmas child donations, hugs at airports, stories of giving to the needy, veterans who make it home, and the awkward but delightful experience of strangers singing at your doorstep. It isn’t even about the best gifts we receive, but that someone loved us enough to know how much those gifts would mean to us. Of course, we all love getting gifts, but I can tell you, there have been many christmas mornings my parents made me and my brothers (even if they don’t want to admit it) cry. It was never because of what was under the tree, but the overwhelming feeling of love that came with it.

It is true that as we get older we begin to understand love from a different perspective and certainly with greater capacity. We cherish the time with family and friends that is uninterrupted, boundless, and exactly what we wished for.  Yet, by the end of December most of us will have stepped back into “reality”. We will feel like we can’t escape from the monotomy of each day. The bills will still be there, so will fights with our spouse, and weekends that are filled with just as much work as the weekdays. We won’t see salvation army buckets all over town, and if someone comes to our door singing we are more likely to tell them to shut up so we can get some sleep. Just like that, the joy fades.

Not because the trees go down, or work days speed up again, but because our focus on relationship decreases. We think after a frustrating day at work that dinner and netflix in isolation from stupid humans is the answer (and somedays it is) but what if really, we needed to call a friend. We spend our lunch break eating in a car and staring down our Facebook account instead of asking someone to go to lunch. We don’t think to give more of ourself on the weekends because well…didn’t we do that all week? We know we want to call that person back but what if they need me? I’m too exhasted. I’m telling you, regardless of your temperament, humans were instrinsically designed to thrive off community and relationship. When we lock up, lock into our screens, and let enervating days control our joy we become victim to believing we can only experience this level of joy one month out of the year.

Give yourself a real gift this year, and make the relationships you cherish the priority. Look for ways to budget giving to a local charity, spend money on plane tickets instead of more “stuff”. Invite friends over for dinner on a Tuesday. Send flowers to someone, just kidding send chocolate. Put a card in the mail when it would be easier to send a facebook message. Make others know the sincerity of your gratitude in being able to call them mother, friend, or lover. Doing this is imperative to your joy, because on the days where life is changing with the wind and the earth shakes beneath your feet, you will always have someone to be your December.

 

Greatest Generation: Grandma

Grandma’s: We all have them, some of us really get to know them, and others lose them far too soon. I have had the priviledge of learning from two amazing grandmothers.

Wilma Belle Earp – Great Niece of Wyatt Earp the infamous sheriff of Arizona, Mother to 5, Grandmother to 8, Survivor of WWII, and The Great Depression. A Kansas raised farm girl who knew the value of every dollar, never hesitated to wring a chickens neck out back, and woke at the crack of dawn to finish farm chores; then went to school, because learning was important, but learning how to work hard was more important.

Donna Luise Monson – Mother to 9, Grandmother to 23, Great Grandmother to 3 and a devout Catholic. She served her community as a Nurse for 30 years, demonstrated resilient faith amidst lifes greatest challenges and inspired others with her kind disposition. She always spoke her mind, and never hesitated to remind me that following Christ ensured peace, purpose, and prosperity. Our family lost my Grandma Donna a year ago around this time. My deepest sadness is that I couldn’t know more of her in the time I was given.

My Grandma Wilma moved from Colorado a few years ago in lieu of my Grandpa’s Alzheimers. Here, in the small community of Keokuk she’s found a place to live affordibly in her own home with the security of her son five minutes away. She has gained another place to find life as an elder. I am grateful to have been raised in a family where those who built the foundation of our richest blessings are now being blessed with time to share the joy of their children and grandchildren instead of being in a room to be taken care of by someone else. I understand that “someone else” is usually a very caring and hardworking person, and that there comes a time our elders require the support of those outside the family, but for now Gram is in control of her days.

Many in my area know that I don’t hesitate to “share” the countless shenanigans “Gram” and I experience together. Originally I began sharing more than some would, for the mere purpose of having a record of our times together. As the sharing evolved it became apparent I wasn’t the only one who took delight in the hoot that is my Grandma. I questioned what it was about “Gram” that has prompted such a positive response, and I think I know the answer. Simply put: it is nice to see a life that is still being lived at age 86. If you ask Wilma to join in on the fun she will. Not because she feels pressured, but because she thought you would never ask. 

Whether it’s a piggy back ride, jamming in the car, pulling pranks, dancing in the living room, attempting to play guitar, wearing baseball caps backwards, or making ridiculously funny comments just because she’s trying to figure something out there is a constant stream of life happening. Rarely does Gram experience a day without visitors, phone calls, cooking, a little organizing (or as she would say “piddling”), help when needed, and a good laugh.

I’ll tell you, there is nothing like the love and life of a Grandma. The years they’ve lived are irreplaceable, the love they give feels like home, and confidence they have in you makes everything feel a little bit better. If you put your phone down they will tell you anything you want to know. When you’re short a few bucks, or a few hundred, it is yours if they have it, and if they don’t you still get a bag of cookies and a good luck hug. Grandma’s look at your life and can’t wait for you to live it. They know what is coming. The days you’ll see heartache, loss, and the cruelty of the others. The days when you’ll find the one who loves you wholly, or when your heart will burst with the pride of beginning your own family, and even the times you’ll blossom gracefully through the many unknowns you face right now.

My relationship with my Grandmother, specifically these past few years has taught me that whether you are 24 or 86 there is no better time to live.   We cannot possibly counter all the unknowns of this world, but we can let love bind us to the joy we find in one another amidst the wandering.