Thursday, August 28, 2014

5 Minute Friday: Reach

I'm very excited again this week to join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. This week, the word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at katemotaung.com) is "reach". My timer is set for 5 minutes; ready, set, 

My hands don't reach out as much as they used to. Rarely do they reach out to pluck a new piece of clothing from a department store rack or to select a new pretty thing to take home and set on a shelf.  Yet I still reach.

My arms. They reach out to hug my son and my daughter. To hold each of them tight for a few precious moments. To convey to them without words how much I love them, how dear they are, how much I treasure their presence in my life.

My eyes. They reach out to seek glimpses of beauty in a world that is all-too-often harsh and discordant. To meet the eyes of someone who is hurting and let them know they are not alone.

My heart. It reaches out for friendship and companionship in a sea of people who are busy rushing from one event to another, from one task to another to-do. To connect with someone in a meaningful way.

My soul. It reaches out in its search for a stronger, deeper relationship with my Maker. To connect in a way that goes beyond hurried prayers in the morning and fallen-asleep-in-the-middle-of-prayers at night. To practice His presence in every moment.

My hands . . . they reach for very little now. But reach? Oh, yes, I still reach.

Monday, August 25, 2014

And on the Subject of Change

About 3 weeks ago, I shared that I was going to be attending Declare, a Christian women's blogging conference, in Dallas. I hoped to learn more about social media (I did) and other aspects of the blogging world, but one issue I hoped to explore further while I was there is the direction of this blog. I was so busy attending various sessions, meeting as many of the wonderful attendees as I could, and digesting the information shared that I didn't really have the opportunity to ponder that or discuss it at any length with anyone and get their feedback.

I wish I could say that in the 2 weeks I've been back I've found time to think about blogging, but instead I've been sidetracked by some less-than-wonderful (to put it mildly) events. The community I work in has been rocked by a tragic event, and a week ago today my mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. As a result, most of my attention and energy has been focused on family and work.

Now, though, I'm able to turn my attention to writing and to this blog, and as I consider the direction of my writing, I'd love to hear from you, either through a comment in response to this post or through an email (pattimiinch@gmail.com). I hope you'll share with me what you would like to see me focus on as I move forward. In other words, how can I best serve you through this blog? What would you like to see more of? Less of?

I can't wait to see what you have to say!

Also, if you're on Facebook and haven't already done so, I hope you'll "like" and "follow" my page -- Patti Miinch.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Change

I had hoped to have the chance to write yesterday, but life's circumstances caused a change in plans. So here, a day late, are my unedited thoughts on "change".

I've never been a fan of change. Well, I guess I should say I wasn't a fan of change until shortly after I turned 51.

Growing up, I hated change. My life wasn't perfect and my family wasn't perfect, but it was my life -- and my circumstances -- and I knew it, could navigate through it without much thought, and I wanted things to stay just as they were.

When I grew up  and got married, I definitely didn't want things to change. I loved my life and my family. My husband, being married to him. I loved that. And I loved, loved, loved being a mom and having everyone at home. The four of us under one roof at the end of the day. Dinner together at in the dining room almost every evening, kids in and out of the house, school and sports activities -- I loved all of it.

Then my son graduated from college and left. Then my daughter graduated from college and left. Then my husband passed away. I moved to a new city, started a new job, and began a new life.

Now, I long for change. I would embrace it if it walked in the door. (I love lists, so I'll list the changes I long for)

1.  the frequency and length of my son's visits (currently a couple of times a year for a few days at a time)

2. my place of residence -- I'm "fine" with my apartment for the next 9 months or so, but I'm ready to make a change and live elsewhere

3. some/many(?) of my job circumstances and maybe even my career in general

4. my social life -- a close circle of friends and more social activities would be great

Change. I used to dislike and even fear it. But that has changed.

 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

There But for the Grace of God . . .

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It would be wrong of me not to stress the fact that I am not a psychiatrist, counselor, or medical professional of any kind. My views of  depression have been formed from discussions with licensed medical professionals and from reading texts written by credible and reliable health-care practitioners. Please do not mistake my comments as anything other than the thoughts and opinions of a layperson.

When the word went out that the immensely-talented Robin Williams had passed away, social media was filled with videos of hilarious comedy routines, clips of favorite movies or episodes of "Mork & Mindy", and tributes from the famous and not-so-famous. I laughed as I watched until-then forgotten appearances on "The Tonight Show" and favorite scenes from movies such as Good Morning Vietnam; I cried as I read his daughter's tweet, in which she quoted from The Little Prince.

Then came the news that Mr. Williams had committed suicide. With that announcement, the tenor of some comments changed. Some people took it upon themselves to criticize Mr. Williams, to accuse him of being weak or selfish. I wasn't laughing -- or crying -- anymore. Instead, I felt disgusted and appalled by the callousness of those who took it upon themselves to pass judgment in such a manner.

Fast on the heels of, and primarily in response to, those negative reactions came the posts and tweets in which people shared their views on depression. Some of the information was very informative and, from what I know, accurate. Unfortunately, some of it was not.

One Facebook post encapsulated much of what I consider to be inaccurate information, and I couldn't help but think of times over the years that well-meaning (I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt here) individuals have made similar comments. I'd like to take this opportunity to address a few of the claims made by these individuals.

 

Claim 1: Depression is a "focus on ME, ME, ME" and we must remember that it's not all about me. 

The premise here is that those dealing with depression are egotists; they are self-centered individuals who choose to think only of themselves. First of all, I do not believe that depression is something people choose. Period. Secondly, as I understand it, when a person is depressed, it is as if they are standing with their face in the corner of a room with dark gray or black walls. It is not themselves they are focused on; rather, they can see nothing but the darkness, the gloom, the despair that overwhelms them.

 

Claim 2: Some depression may have a physical cause, and consulting a doctor may be warranted. However, most depressed individuals should: a) remember that other people have had and do "have it worse" than they do and rejoice in their suffering, and b) "buck up" and be thankful for what they have.

There is, as I understand it, a vast difference between "having it worse" and suffering from depression. I've experienced difficult situations. Early in our marriage, my husband and I often had less than $20 left over after bills were paid and very basic groceries purchased, with 30 days until the next paycheck. I've lost both of my parents, and I've dealt with other issues that brought me varying degrees of physical suffering. I reminded myself then that others were going through much worse, and I thanked God for His blessings and for using my circumstances for His purposes. I was suffering, yes. I was sad, yes. But I was not depressed.

Depression is not caused by external circumstances and has nothing to do with how bad a person "has it". Most of us have heard that it is caused by a chemical imbalance, but medical experts explain that it is more complex than that but that the roots of depression are biological. To say that a person who is suffering from depression should just buck up and rejoice is like telling a diabetic to throw away their testing strips and insulin and instead just grab a hymnal and sing a worship song or two.

 

Claim #3: Depression is caused by unconfessed sin; as a result, those suffering from depression need to confess their sin, repent, and mend their ways.

I know a minister who for several years struggled with depression. He shared with me that at first, he tried to cure his depression by practicing his faith even more vigorously. More hours spent reading the Bible, more hours on his knees in prayer, heartfelt and rigorous self-examination followed by sincere confession and repentance, and very deliberate efforts to make appropriate changes and, when warranted, restitution for his sin. He continually gave thanks to God for his mercy and grace.

His depression continued to envelop him; gradually, he became so overwhelmed by what he calls a "spirit-crushing unrelenting oppression" that whispery thoughts of suicide began to lurk at the edges of his consciousness. He shared that with his wife, and she insisted he see a Christian physician. He was evaluated at length, medication was prescribed, and within a month the dark cloud was lifted, and he felt (in his words) "like a normal human being again". I've never forgotten what he shared with me.

 

Sadly, I have far too often forgotten something my grandmother told me when I was about 10 or 11 years old. She cautioned me that whenever I feel the urge to judge someone else, to say that their bad circumstances were their own fault, or to congratulate myself on the fact that I was not like them, I should remember one little phrase. "There but for the grace of God go I."

There but for the grace of God go I.

There but for the grace of God goes each one of us.

Yes, God is full of grace.

And who am I -- who are any of us -- to in turn refuse to show grace to those around us who struggle with depression?

 

If you have any reason to believe that you are afflicted with depression, please consult with a licensed professional that you trust and feel comfortable with. Share with them openly and honestly so that they have all the information they need to provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend the most appropriate treatment plan. 

Please share your thoughts via a comment here or, if you would prefer, by emailing me at pattimiinch@gmail.com.  Also, I hope you will "Like" my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pattimiinch58) and join in the discussions there. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Begin

Talk about an appropriate word for today, as I join (for the very first time) a wonderful group of ladies who join every Friday create a "virtual writing flash mob" (I love that phrase, Lisa-Jo). For 5 minutes every Friday, these ladies write about a designated word; no worries about revising or editing -- just write. I'm excited to be joining the group and look forward to many more Five Minute Fridays.  By the way, if you're interested in participating, go to  http://lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday/   and Lisa-Jo will tell you everything you need to know. 

My timer is set . . . 

Begin. Talk about a tough one for my first week in FMF (Five Minute Friday). Beginning is not my strong suit. I'm a dreamer and a planner. But begin? And even when I do, I lose interest about 1/2-way through a project.

This translates to my job very clearly. I love planning a new semester, tweaking a class, updating materials and assignments, etc. I even enjoy the first few weeks of the semester. But then, like always, I hit the point where I'm not as enthusiastic. Then I begin again. I begin jotting down notes for the next semester. Yes, I love to begin.

Oh, and exercise and eating better. Same thing. I love the research -- except for the fact that there's so much contradictory advice. I even love to begin. Cleaning out the fridge and pantry, preparing my "accountability calendar" -- I am in my element. Filled with anticipation and . . . what's the word . . . drat, no time to stop. The first couple of weeks go well, and then . . . I tend to fizzle out. I need an accountability partner.

There are things I need to begin . . .

  • viewing all the family videos to determine what's on each tape so I can get them in order and have them converted to DVD

  • going through the small storage unit I rented when I downsized in June, getting rid of everything I can, selling things on ebay, and


Time's up. I just realized that Five Minute Friday is perfect for me. This is one thing I can leave unfinished without repercussions or guilt. I think Five Minute Friday and I are going to get along just fine!