Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Remembering Scottie

My brother and I sat in the backseat of the car as my family headed to Wisconsin for Scottie's wake.  Mom read a few stories she'd written down to be shared at the funeral the next day.  Her voice wavered as she recounted what Scottie meant to her.  Family and friends were asked to contribute their favorite memories but I was at a loss of what to share.  While I dearly loved Scottie, I didn't think people would want to hear my anecdotes about eating more mashed potatoes than he did the past Thanksgiving. 

We arrived at the funeral home too soon for comfort.  Greeted family there for the private viewing.  Stayed on the other side of the room from the casket.  I could not go over there.  If I saw that Scottie was in the casket, it would be real.  He would be really dead. 

My aunt Linda, Scottie's mom, came over and said she had something for me.  She returned with this picture of me and Scottie.  She'd come across it while gathering pictures for the funeral and wanted me to have it.  I'd never seen it before.  We looked like we were having so much fun!  It became something of a shield for me that day.  I could look at the picture and think of happier times. It was reassurance that at one point in our lives, my cousin and I had really known each other, no matter how our lives had diverged since then.
I mingled with different family members, our conversations centering around our shock and sadness.  My cousin Jon arrived, warily eying the casket.  Another aunt asked us if we'd gone over yet and we admitted we hadn't.  She firmly yet gently led Jon and I over to the casket.  Time to rip the band-aid off.  It was Scottie but it wasn't.  I kept expecting him to sit up and laugh.  He would explain it was a big joke and we'd be mad at him but grateful he was alive.  He never sat up though.  I huddled with Jon and Sue, fat tears dripping on to my dress, the carpet, them.  He was really gone.

Again I was surprised by the intensity of my emotions.  While I loved my cousin in the way that one loves all family, we weren't necessarily friends.  Maybe that was part of the reason for my tears.

When I think about Scottie's wake and funeral, I remember how tons and tons of his friends showed up.  He always tended to be quieter at family gatherings but when he did speak up, it was worth hearing.  These friends had seen a different side of Scottie.  They knew his quick wit, his ability to bring people together, and his willingness to let life's troubles slide off his back.  His favorite music played in the background, especially Bob Marley.  Pictures, drawings, and more were scattered about the funeral home. 

I also remember how God was with us during that time.  I don't know what Scottie believed.  My extended family, with a few notable exceptions such as my grandparents, are nominally Catholic.  Did he ever come to faith in Christ?  It may be false hope but I cling to the idea that we don't know what happens in a person's final moments.  Could someone come to faith when they have one foot on earth and one foot in eternity?  I believe so.

A few weeks before Scottie died, Jon's wife Heather had experienced some losses of her own.  She had asked me if there were any books that might be helpful.  Working at a Christian bookstore had the perk of borrowing books so I had started reading a few books on grief and Max Lucado's Traveling Light, which unpacked the 23rd Psalm.  I was about halfway through and already appreciated his insights.

When I read the funeral bulletin, I saw with shock that my aunt and uncle had chosen Psalm 23 for the service.  The verses had even more special meaning to me because of Lucado's book, one of God's tender mercies.  A deacon presided over the service at the funeral home, instead of a traditional Mass.  Pat and his best friend read the stories submitted by friends and family.  My Grandpa took a turn reading something he wrote about Scott. 

There was no graveside service, as Scott was cremated.  We went to the luncheon and then everyone went their separate ways.  Yet, God was with us.  There's no way to explain how He meets us in our time of need.  I can point to the friends who rallied around me, the bright moments of clarity, the realization that the pain was a little less each day.

Sometimes I wondered why Scottie had died and not me.  We were the same age, after all.  What made me more deserving to live?  This was the dark side of grief.  My idea of bargaining.  If I had died, then my family would still be in pain.  There was no getting around it.  I eventually accepted that there would be no answer.

The first few family gatherings after his funeral were strange.  We all expected he would walk in the door.  He'd always, always arrived last.  I finally composed a letter to Scottie and mailed it to my aunt and uncle.  The things I wished I had said to him while he was alive and the lessons he unknowingly taught me.  Adam, Jon, and I all got different tattoos in tribute to Scottie. 

Eight years later, his presence is still missed.  It was heightened when my grandma died three years ago.  The week she was dying I finally asked Pat what it had been like for him to lose his brother.  Even though Pat and I have always been close and even though I'm a hospice and bereavement expert, it's not a topic to bring up lightly.  My family tends not to mention our lost loved ones at the risk of causing each other pain; this is a tendency I have intentionally fought against the past few years.  We miss them, to be sure, but as the years progress, it becomes more internalized than shared.  Pat shared very openly with me.  It prepared us as best as it could to say goodbye to Grandma a few days later.  Scottie was honored during her services.  The urn holding his ashes was placed in her casket and buried with her, at Grandpa's request.  Our family is incomplete from these losses.

What I take from Scottie's life is this.  His girlfriend Char shared that one time she had been arguing with him about something and he wasn't bothered by it.  She finally asked him why he wasn't upset.  He told her, "Because life's not about that."  Five simple words that have stuck with me ever since.  He didn't sweat the small stuff and he tried to enjoy life to the fullest.  I take that message with me, whether I'm working for hospice, in pediatrics, complaining about the weather, or navigating heartbreak. 

Monday, August 30, 2010


It's been 8 years this month.

It had been an uneventful day at the bookstore.  I finished work and headed home, calculating how much time before I needed to leave to pick up a friend from the airport.  I breezed in through the back door of my house and saw my dad standing in the kitchen, leaning against the counter.  I said hi, probably started to chatter about my day, and noticed I wasn't getting much response.  As I turned quizzically toward him, my world divided into before and after.

"Scottie died today," he said slowly, eyes intent on me.

I scanned through people named Scottie, thinking perhaps this was a neighbor or a friend of my grandparents.  The only Scottie I knew was my cousin.  He was 22, just 3 months older than me. There was no way that he could be dead.

Only, he was.

Life turned upside down in that moment.  It's hard to describe the pain that crashed into my family's life that day.  I can't even think about this moment without tears coming to my eyes.  While I had gone to many funerals before this and lost relatives for whom I cared very much, this loss was more personal and closer to home.  It's quite different to lose a beloved great-uncle, to be able to say "he lived a good long life."  Scottie was so young.  There are no platitudes when a child, teen, or young adult dies.  We instinctively know that this is wrong and in no realm could it ever make sense.

I leaned into my dad for a hug and began to sob.  I was surprised by the intensity of emotion.  Scottie and I were close when we were little but I didn't remember this until later.  There are tons of pictures of me with Scottie and Scottie with me, playing, doing crafts, holding each other.


Things changed when he and his family moved to Florida for several years before coming back to the Midwest for most of our teen years.  We had both changed by then.  As the sole girl at most family gatherings (Clara and Emily lived either in Vermont or California for most of my life), I always felt I had to prove myself to my boy cousins.  We're all closer than close now but when I was in high school I always felt one step behind as they would run off to play football or other "boy activities."  I could hold my own playing pool and exercised my razor sharp wit but it wasn't enough to compensate for the fact that I was still a girl and they were still boys.  I had their respect and admiration, if not always their time.

Once I went to college, the dynamic of our relationships changed once again.  I felt as though Scottie and I were starting to get to know each other once again.  I started to feel as if we were peers.  For some reason I always envisioned Scottie and Jon as my "older" cousins, when there was no more than a year and a half between us all.  It must be a reflection of how much I looked up to them.

As the shock of the news wore off, I kept thinking, "it's not fair."  I felt robbed.  We all did.  Scottie and I would never be given the chance to relate to each other as adults.  We would never learn what would come of his immense artistic talent.  Or whether he would have married his girlfriend of a couple years.  So many "what ifs."

The last time most of my family saw Scottie was at our annual family reunion in July.  He (the handsome boy in the blue hat) had brought his girlfriend Char and his brother Pat brought his girlfriend. They stayed long enough to eat and then had to head back home.  My last image of Scottie is him driving past me in his car, waving goodbye.  In some ways, it seems appropriate.

We don't know why Scottie died.  The day before he came home after work and took a nap, as he did every day after work.  Pat tried to wake him when they were supposed to meet up with friends but Scottie was always a sound sleeper and didn't budge.  My uncle found Scottie still sleeping when he got home from work later and found it strange that he would still be asleep.  When he went to wake him, Scottie was unresponsive.  He died in his sleep.  There was no foul play, no substance abuse, no freak illness.  His heart stopped beating.  This from a kid who'd never been sick a day in his life.

There's no convenient time to learn that a loved one has died.  Life continues on around you.  My uncle had called my parents that morning and my mom headed up to be with them.  My parents decided they didn't want to interrupt me at work, hence why my dad was waiting for me in the kitchen.  I cried my heart out.  But my friend was still due to fly in to O'Hare and I was still her designated driver.  I called a friend who agreed to come with me to the airport, as I didn't trust myself to drive.  Being with those friends was a blessed distraction but grief became my constant background.

I went back to work the next day, at my parents' suggestion.  They thought the normal routine would be good for me.  I made it through the day just fine but when out with friends afterward, I became antsy and upset.  There they were complaining about the most inane things when my cousin had died.  I left and went over to Tracy's house where I flopped across her bed and cried.  Best friends always know how to comfort one another.  In hindsight, I should have skipped the post-work outing and just spent time with Tracy.  I had never grieved hard for someone before though so I didn't know what to expect from myself.  The next day, at work again, I almost bit a coworkers' head off.  Truthfully, this coworker always drove me a bit batty but I was not in the mood to be understanding.  I ended up leaving early that day.  It was only going to be a half day anyway since my family would be driving to Wisconsin for Scottie's wake.

I wasn't prepared to say goodbye to Scottie.  I wasn't prepared to examine what his death meant to me.  I wasn't prepared to walk through the valley of the shadow of the death at 22.  But I did.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Where Do You Blog?

Centsational Girl asked the question: Where do you blog?  And then she wanted to know why we blog where we blog and whether we love it or there's room for improvement.  Well, in my case there's tons of room for improvement!

I write in either my living room or my office.  I have this blog, as well as a professional blog and I realize that I unconsciously write them in different places.  This blog is usually written while sitting on my broken-in hand-me-down sectional couch in my living room.  It's a comfy couch but it's an ugly couch.  I prop my legs up on the ottoman or the adjoining couch cushion.  I make sure I have a drink handy, as well as snacks.  (Right now, I'm eating peanut butter filled pretzels.  Delicious!)  Sometimes the TV is on for background noise, otherwise the CD du jour.  I keep a serving tray on the ottoman with the latest magazines and a stack of CDs for whatever my mood.  I try to keep a piece of paper or pictures on one of the couch cushions to remind me what I plan to write about that particular day or week.


My goal is to buy a new couch for the living room at some point.  What I'm envisioning as my perfect blogging station involves a chaise and an end table to hold mugs of tea, a small notepad, a favorite vacation picture or two, and evermore CDs.  For a few years now I've wanted to find the perfect chaise, for blogging or reading.  I love having my legs stretched out while doing either activity.  I want it to be comfy and roomy. 

Here are a couple of chaises I'm admiring:

Since I'll be buying a new car in the next month or so, my living room plans will have to wait.  It doesn't hurt to be on the look out for the perfect furniture in the meantime!

My professional blog is usually written in my office.  The office is still a work in progress since I moved out of state 3 months ago. At least the desk is set up the way I like it with my huge bulletin board hung overhead.  I post different pictures, quotes, whatever is currently inspiring me on the bulletin board.  I keep post-it notes with future topics nearby, as well as folders of newspaper articles and conference handouts that I intend to write about.  Sometimes the professional blog is written in the living room but only if the clutter in the office is getting to me.  I can't wait until I'm finally done unpacking!
Thanks for taking a peek into my blogging world!

Sunday Sentiments: Wedding Cake

Sunday Sentiments is an attempt to record what God has been teaching me and the way in which He does it.

Few things strike more fear into the heart of a single person at church than an announcement that the next sermon series will be on marriage.  This morning I learned that the sight of a wedding cake on the stage will induce similar feelings.  My first impulse: run!  Unfortunately, I'd snagged a ride with Tracy and Joel so I was stuck. 

This turned out to be a good thing.  The wedding cake served a purpose- and that purpose was not to announce a sermon about marriage. 

My church has been going through the first 12 chapters of Genesis for almost a year.  I happened to be visiting last September when they kicked the series off and have been blessed by the teaching from the past 3 months that I've lived here.  The pastors spoke today about how Genesis is the foundation of our faith.  If you take away Genesis or edit it or say that it's allegory, our faith doesn't exist.

Even though I grew up in the church and attended Christian grammar school, I have learned so much through this series.  Noah's ark, for instance.  Simply blown away by the month we spent taking that apart.  The stories I heard in Sunday school were simplified and some of the truths behind the story were lost in translation.  To hear that Noah wasn't picked by God because he was good enough or righteous enough but simply picked by God just because.  Revolutionary.  God loves us because He loves us.  He uses us to accomplish His will because He chooses to use us.  It's never about anything that we do or say.  We are recipients of grace, even in this.

This morning the pastors reflected on what we've been learning this past year: The Creation, The Fall, The Flood, and The Covenant.  Then people in the congregation had a chance to talk about what they have personally learned and how God has met them through this series.  It is always encouraging to hear what God is teaching those around us.

And that wedding cake?  One of the pastors showed a video from his wedding.  When he and his wife were cutting into the cake, the whole 9 layers toppled over.  It turned out that the bottom cake plate had cracked in half during transport and wasn't stable enough to handle a small cut into it.  Just as a wedding cake needs a firm foundation, Genesis serves as a firm foundation for us.

There's a lot more I could say but I'm curious about what you've been learning at your church or Bible study or wherever God chooses to meet you.  If you're not comfortable commenting, please email me! 

What has God been teaching you lately?

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I never had a boyfriend in high school.  It's not that I didn't want to date- I wanted a boyfriend more than anything.  For some reason, the stars never seemed to align.  Given my group of friends' penchant for trading off boyfriends and girlfriends, I marvel that a relationship never materialized but I'm ultimately glad.  During that time in my life, my self-esteem was mostly based on others' approval and I'm convinced a boyfriend would not have made for a good combination.

Once I graduated from high school and was well ensconced in college, I found out about a few guys that had had crushes on me but never acted on the interest.  It must have been a matter of timing or I hadn't "sent the right signals."  No matter.  I was flattered when I learned of their past interest but nothing more.

Still, there was one guy that remained an enigma to me.  I'd had such a crush on him our freshman year of high school.  It had been a rough transition from private Christian grammar school to public high school.  Doug  reached out to me, for which I've always been grateful.  He was brilliantly creative.  Picture a 14 year old tortured artist.  We both loved art, writing, reading, and discussing things of a more serious nature.  I wondered if there was more to our friendship and soon found my answer. He asked a friend of mine to freshman homecoming; there planted the seed that he would never be interested in me.  Doug and I remained friends throughout high school but I don't think we were ever as close as we were freshman year.  I always wondered whether I had misread him and whether there had been something more.  I saw him a couple of times early on in college, the last time being after the death of our favorite English teacher and friend in 1999.  There were vague promises to keep in touch but we drifted away.

Several years ago, my best friend and I met up with other friends for drinks after dinner.  Who else would be there but Doug?  I was so happy to see him again.  We'd been out of high school maybe 5 or 6 years at that point.  He was preparing to move to the West Coast and had a long-time girlfriend.  He seemed lighter in spirit.  I look back on that evening and recall much laughter and warmth.  It's always interesting to relate to former classmates as adults.  Do we fall back into our old roles or do our true selves emerge?  What do we make of each other now that we're outside the fishbowl?

In the midst of catching up, two other guys at our table were flirting with me.  Bolstered by their attention and a few glasses of sangria, I decided to confront the enigma.  I was curious what he had made of me more than 10 years before.  After all, I had nothing to lose.  We were talking about our past.  He was moving across the country and in love.  I just needed to put it out there, once and for all.

"Doug, when we were in high school, I had the biggest crush on you."  My face turned red because it's still hard to be vulnerable, even when you have no stake in it.

Doug has a big smile to begin with but his smile got even bigger at my pronouncement.  He was shocked, he said.  Because he'd had a big crush on me too!  Who could have predicted this?  We both laughed and wondered what might have been.

Later in the night, after the two flirtatious boys had procured my phone number, Doug came over to my side and whispered in my ear.  "You are so f-ing beautiful."  He said it with an open heart, confident that I could accept it as the gift he meant it to be.  To this day, it is the most honest, if profanity-laden, compliment I've ever received.  He had nothing to gain by telling me this.  He was simply appreciating the woman I had become, inside and out.  The post-college me was more confident and sure of herself than I'd ever been in high school.  I think he'd grown up in similar ways.  Together we ended a chapter in our friendship, the questions, the uncertainty, the unknown admiration.

Our paths diverged again after that night but I've never forgotten the beauty of his gift to me.

Friday, August 27, 2010

To Whom It May Concern

When I saw The Civil Wars in June, I mentioned there was a certain new song they played that brought tears to my eyes.  Here it is:

Can I tell you how excited I am to see them play next Saturday at 3rd & Lindsley?  My excitement could only be eclipsed by the release of their debut album.  If you haven't listened to this amazing duo yet, you'd better get to it!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


We all know I love a good book.  Two of the best books I've read this year were The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.  When I first heard a description of The Hunger Games, I was sure it wasn't my cup of tea.  Much like I'd initially resisted Harry Potter and Twilight.  Magic?  Vampires?  Where's the fun in reading about that?  Well, I read all 7 Harry Potter books in a few months (luckily I finished book 6 a few days before 7 released.)  And I read all 4 Twilight books in a week and a half.  And in both cases, I realized anew that sometimes my friends do know what they're talking about.

After friends urged me to give Suzanne Collins' work a chance, I brought The Hunger Games to a bereavement conference.  Little did I know that I wouldn't be able to leave it in my hotel room.  I managed not to read it during the training since the conference itself was utterly engaging.  But you can bet your bottom dollar that I snuck outside every break to inhale a few more pages.  Both books perfectly set up the next book so you are literally on pins and needles to start reading again.  I've been waiting ever since I finished Catching Fire in April for book three of the trilogy to come out.  There might be a method to my madness of starting series right before the final book comes out!  Tuesday was Mockingjay's release day.  I had pre-ordered Mockingjay through Amazon back in June, assured that it would be on my doorstep come August 24.  You can guess where I'm heading.  To my chagrin, the book is still in transit and won't be here until Saturday!  Amazon is lucky I had plans last night and tonight.  I just fired off an agitated email.  I know it won't get the book here any faster but I wanted them to know I won't be pre-ordering from them in the future.  Hopefully it'll be here this weekend and I can hole up until I find out whether Katniss chooses Peeta or Gale.

Have you been reading this captivating trilogy?  If not, are you going to start NOW?  Are you rooting for Peeta or Gale?  (Please no spoilers if you've already finished Mockingjay!)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Introducing: My Future Husband

There are many things I could write about today.  Perhaps this Slate article on the proposed Islamic community center in New York.  It's certainly one of the fairest pieces I've read on the issue.  Rachel Held Evans also weighed in, examining Christians' response or, rather, what a Christian response should be to our Muslim neighbors.  I should probably mention that my niece-in-love Anna definitely attempts to say my name, even if it comes out sounding like "Dee."  I'll still take it.  I could also write about the many scandals occurring on my favorite reality tv shows.  Bachelor Pad, Real Housewives of New Jersey, Rachel Zoe Project...how I love thee so.

All I want to write about is the fantastic Ray LaMontagne/David Gray show I went to last night!  They played at Bridgestone Arena, which is indeed an arena.  I wasn't sure what the dynamic would be like as both artists typically perform in more intimate environments.  However, they curtained off half of the place and it really seemed to work in my mind. Also, they donated 20% of the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity and towards rebuilding Nashville from the effects of the flood. My friend Elizabeth and I had a great view, center stage on the balcony.  Erin McCarley was the opening artist, which I was excited about.  She's an artist I've been meaning to listen to ever since I heard her song "Love, Save the Empty."  I will definitely be buying her CD!  She's working on a new album and I loved the songs that she's been working on.

And then, finally, the moment I'd been waiting for.  The genius known as Ray LaMontagne.  I have to confess that I've been a casual fan until more recently.  He's an artist that I've always appreciated, always planned to buy the CD (off my towering list of Must-Haves), and always planned to go to a show.  I will say this much: he's worth the wait. I bought his new CD this past week to redeem myself and it was fun hearing those songs performed live with his talented band, The Pariah Dogs.  You can listen to the CD here.  I am in love with his voice.  It's hypnotic and mesmerizing, whether he's crooning "You are the Best Thing" or growling "Repo Man."  I told Elizabeth that I would like to marry Ray and bear his children.  Yep, I'm full on drooling over an artist I will likely never meet.  (And is probably already married!)  While I know it'll never happen, it was not enough to simply say that I adore this artist.  Thus, my grand declaration. 

David Gray was a great performer.  I'm not as big of a fan of his but it was fun to listen and see how excited the crowd was. He certainly does inspire some interesting dancing from his fans!  All in all, a fantastic night.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Sentiments: College Backslide

Sunday Sentiments is an attempt to record what God has been teaching me and the way in which He does it.

Yesterday I received a newsletter from my friend Kim, who is on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ.  She was discussing the start of another school year and noted that statistically 70% of students walk away from their faith in college.

I contributed to that percentage 12 years ago.  I didn't start my freshman year planning to drop out of the church but it didn't take long to happen.  I mentioned in my testimony that my faith journey took a few side roads and detours.  College was one of those detours.

While there was a Christian group on campus, I only went once or twice.  I'm not sure why I felt such a disconnect there; it may be I was already listening to the siren songs of what I thought would fulfill me.  I was lucky that not one, but two of my best friends went to college with me.  Erin fully embraced the campus ministry and got involved in a local church, as did Tracy.  You would think that it would be enough to keep me in the fold but it wasn't.  For the first time in my life, I was free of rules and expectations.  Life was a blank slate.  No one else at Augie knew who I was and I felt I could reinvent myself, or at the very least, allow the real me to shine through.  It wasn't that I did a complete 180. I slowly became apathetic towards God one degree at a time. 

During my 4 years at Augie, I gained a better sense of who I was and what I believed.  That was essential for me to figure out, no matter how difficult a process it sometimes was.  It was during college that I finally went to counseling and improved my self-esteem.  It was during college that I stopped hiding behind preconceived notions of who I was.  It was during my sociology classes and the 2000 election that I realized I was, lo and behold, a Democrat.  It was through new friendships that I realized I was a great listener and good at helping solve other people's problems.  I became a stronger, more whole, more authentic person.  It was during college that I formed lifelong bonds, ate fried pickles for the first time, made mistakes, got my first tattoo, and figured out I wanted to be a social worker.  In short, I found my voice.  I falsely believed that my faith had previously prevented me from finding that voice.

At that time, my voice didn't seem to match the voice of the church.  Or at least it didn't match the voice of the church I had been raised in.  This was before I discovered Jim Wallis, who helped me reconcile my political beliefs.  And this was before my friend Andy recommended I read Brian McLaren, who helped me reconcile my faith.  By my senior year of college, I realized that I could not divorce faith from my life but I was at a loss of what faith should look like given the person I had become.  Was it possible to be a Democrat and a Christian?  Was it possible to question certain interpretations of the Bible?  What if my faith never looked like the faith of my parents and those in their church?  Whenever I'm thinking or praying something through, I invariably turn to books.

I was on a road trip to New Orleans with two friends when I first cracked open A New Kind of Christian.  Megan and Liz were fast asleep, tired from our hours on the road.  Thanks to my sleeping difficulties and the fact that it was early in the evening, I decided to read for awhile.  McLarens's words were balm for my soul.  The book is written in a more fictional style: the story of Pastor Dan and his mentor Neo discuss all manners of faith and the key issues that believers face.  McLaren allows for Christians to think outside the box.

I had never considered that faith was not one size fits all. I simply knew that I didn't fit the mold anymore.  And when that happened, along with my apathy, it was easier to walk away than to wrestle through my concerns.  McLaren helped me engage with my faith once again. God was gracious in bringing people like Andy and so many others in to my life that were asking similar questions and good about challenging me to figure out what I believed as well.  About a year after I read A New Kind of Christian, I went back to church and my faith began to thrive.  It was on my terms, based on my relationship with Christ and not what the church had told me faith should look like.  This was the freedom I had sought in college and could not find.

I know some people have issue with the emerging church and don't like what McLaren has to offer.  I have family and friends all over the spectrum of faith, from fundamentalists to those who believe the story of Jonah is simply allegory.  Since I don't fit into cookie-cutter faith, I'm OK with different beliefs, backgrounds, and denominations. I feel it's important to keep asking questions and to keep coming back to God.  He is more than capable of handling whatever we bring to the table.

I don't know what the solution is for today's incoming college freshman.  I know, for me, questioning what I believed was an important step to bring me back to God.  I hope that that campus ministries can provide students a safe place to do this, no matter what they believe.  There is certainly much more conversation now than there was while I was in school.  At some point, every believer has to make their faith their own.  College is a great environment in which to do that.  I'm glad that Kim and my friend Ryan and so many others are there to walk alongside these students.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The September Issue

As I recently mentioned, I adore fall fashion.  The thought of wearing my beloved sweaters again makes me giddy!  You can imagine my excitement then when this arrived in my mailbox a couple of days ago:

Then today, while shopping at Books-a-Million, I indulged and bought Elle and Marie Claire.  If they'd had the latest Vogue, I would have pocketed it too.  I never buy these magazines any other month.  InStyle and Real Simple are enough for me.  But come September, it is hard to resist these glossy pages.  True, I can't afford much of what's featured in these magazines but I can dream.  It helps me reexamine what I already have and come up with new ways to layer and mix.  Plus, I can always look for more affordable versions of the items I'm craving.

I thought about renting The September Edition to make my fall fashion quest complete.  I've been wanting to watch it for awhile.  A glimpse at Anna Wintour behind the scenes is both tantalizing and terrifying.  Still, I didn't want to be distracted.  Instead, I'm cozying up to my magazines, Pride and Prejudice playing in the background.  Let the dreaming begin...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wee Bit Wednesdays

{one} who’s the funniest person you know?
It's a tie between Jillio and the Gat.  I'm glad they let me hang out with them so I can appreciate their wit and insane line memorization skills.  Who else can quote Demetri Martin to me?

{two} were you a michael jackson fan?
Not really.  I wasn't allowed to listen to him while I was growing up.  In later years, I could sing along to Billie Jean and Man in the Mirror with the best of them but by that time, he was getting weirder so I never felt compelled to buy an album.  I think he was a very talented but flawed individual.

{three} what was your favorite book as a child?
I have so many favorites!  The Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, A Wrinkle in Time, Charlotte's Web, Winnie the Pooh, Secret Garden, shall I go on?

{four} what’s the most delicious meal you’ve ever eaten?
It's hard to narrow down but I've never forgotten the silky spice of the green curry chicken I had in Thailand.  I also had an amazing filet mignon with bearnaise a few years back that I could have eaten forever.

{five} if you could eliminate on thing you do each day in the bathroom so you never had to do it again, what would it be?
I hate shaving!!!  I have sensitive skin, plus eczema, so I can't shave every day.  Pretty much I have to decide a day or two in advance if I'm going to wear a dress, skirt, or capris and plan my shaving around that.

{six} if you could ask barak obama one question, what would it be?
I would ask him about his self-care routine.  It's important that we figure out the best way to take care of ourselves, especially if we have stressful jobs or we're in stressful situations.

{seven} what’s the best place near you to get a drink?
I haven't found a good bar in Nashville but there are plenty of good restaurants to get drinks!  I'm still getting used to buying alcohol at an alcohol store.  It was so convenient to pick up a bottle of wine when grocery shopping, especially at Trader Joe's and World Market.  Those days are gone, thanks to Tennessee law.

{eight} what kind of music can you just not stand to listen to?
Country.  Many, many people have tried to convert me but it's never worked.  I do like Dixie Chicks and have one Little Big Town album but that's it.  I love bluegrass but country music just irritates me.

{nine} who and when was your first kiss?
I was 18 and it was with Jeff.  It was a Saturday night and when I went to church the next morning, all of our friends knew.  Apparently, Jeff was pretty happy about it and couldn't keep it to himself:)

{ten} what 3 things do you think will become obsolete in the next ten years?
I have no idea!  I know that I don't want CDs to become obsolete.  I love holding the CD and reading the liner notes.  Mp3s may be convenient but they just don't provide the same experience.

New Dress a Day

Yahoo profiled this incredible blog yesterday.  I haven't had time to go through the archives but I am so inspired by what I've seen thus far!

Marisa Lynch challenged herself to create a new dress from an ugly one every day of the year, for only a dollar a day.  Hence, New Dress a Day was born.  She is a seriously talented seamstress!  While I'm pretty handy on a sewing machine and have repurposed some clothes here and there, Marisa takes sewing to a whole new level.  By paying attention to fabric and pattern, she is able to fashion a dress, shirt, jacket, and so on that people would pay for. Check out these before and afters.

I know the next time I go thrifting, I'll be keeping an eye out for clothes worthy of their own transformation.  Keep up the good work, Marisa!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Sentiments: Christian Music

Sunday Sentiments is an attempt to record what God has been teaching me and the way in which He does it.

I've been reading Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell and thought he summed up my feelings pretty well:
"It is possible for music to be labeled Christian and be terrible music. It could lack creativity and inspiration. The lyrics could be recycled cliches. That "Christian" band  could actually be giving Jesus a bad name because they aren't a great band. It is possible for a movie to be a "Christian" movie and be a terrible movie. It may actually desecrate the art form in its quality and storytelling and craft. Just because it is a Christian book by a Christian author and it was purchased in a Christian bookstore doesn't mean it is all true or good or beautiful...Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective."  -p. 84
I mentioned last week that I'm pretty picky about the Christian music I listen to. This is partially because 7 years working at The Christian Bookstore made me a more cynical consumer.  Oh, the stories I could tell you.  (I probably will at some point.)  However, I've also learned to be critical of the lyrics- are they theologically sound or trying to manipulate me into having an emotional reaction? 

I'll never forget an on-line writing group I was in several years ago.  The word prompt that day was Bamboo.  I don't remember all that my dear friend Andy wrote but I'll never forget the ending.  Everyone (rather, all the bamboos) was singing to their Bamboo leader: "It's rising up, all around, It's the anthem of Bamboo's renown."  Substitute Bamboo for "the Lord" and you have the bridge to a popular worship song.  It was in that moment that I examined the lyrics and questioned what they really meant.  Take away the music and the song didn't seem to make as much sense. 

Talk to anyone who has led worship before and they'll tell you that certain songs are chosen because of their ability to evoke certain responses.  This is not to say that they're bad songs or that you can't have a valid response.  I just take everything with a grain of salt now.  You can bet your bottom dollar that, even now, I can't listen to the aforementioned worship song and not think about Bamboo.

To be clear, I'm not anti-Christian music. My first concert I was front row at Twyla Paris.  And I was excited!  "The Warrior is a Child" would probably choke me up if I heard it now.  I still have my Jesus Freak album by DC Talk, for old times sake.  I would listen to Amy Grant whenever I was home sick from school.  I'm proud to say I saw Jars of Clay before their first album released (they opened for PFR) and everyone went nuts over them.  I went to Life '95 and DC/LA '97.  The first thing I ever won was an autographed CD from Michael W. Smith.  This is my musical heritage and I'm nostalgic about it, even if I no longer listen to those artists.  I also recognize that people are still ministered to by these artists and so many more.  To each their own.

Just as there came a day that I no longer cared for NKOTB and Debbie Gibson, I'm not the blind Christian consumer that I used to be.  My time at The Christian Bookstore exposed me to worthy artists and helped me develop a sense of what I look for in my music, books, and more.  I compare what I'm reading and hearing to see if the Bible backs it up.  Like Bell says, I examine whether this improves the craft, whether the storytelling is there, or whether it just has a "Christian" label. 

I appreciate quality more when I find it.  I adore Shane & Shane, Bebo Norman, Telecast, and Audrey Assad, and a few more.  Their music brings me closer to God.  I've found that my time of worship with God is richer for it.  My response to music is more authentic, revealing my place before God and my reaction to His grace.

Have you ever thought of Christian music as art?  Which Christian artists are you drawn to?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

#22: Eat at 5 new restaurants

While I will certainly continue exploring new restaurants in Nashville, I am happy to check another item off my 31 Things list.  The beauty of moving to a new city is a never ending supply of restaurants to explore.  I'm thinking I might need to conquer the Nashville Originals if I decide to make a 32 Things List.

In case you missed the others:
1. Nosh (IL)
2. Marche (TN)
3. Cafe Nonna (TN)
4. ChaChah (TN)- featuring an appearance by the Top Chef owner!
5. La Paz (TN)

La Paz review

Everyone needs a slate of good Mexican restaurants on stand-by.  Sometimes you need the comforting combination of black beans, avocado, and sour cream.  At least, that's the combo that always grabs my attention!  This week I headed to La Paz with some co-workers.  I had heard from several people that I was going to love this place.  And they were right! 

It was a cold beer kind of day so I ordered a Yazoo Summer Wheat, which was quite delicious.  Most people ordered the signature margarita, which I'll save for my next trip.  Let me first say that I could swim in a vat of their Chili con Queso and be eternally happy.  This is similar to how I felt about Rick Bayless's guacamole.  You can't really compare the two but they both produce similar feelings of bliss.

The portions here are huge.  A few people ordered the quesadillas, which could have easily fed 2 or 3 people.  I'm pretty sure I'll split the California quesadilla next time- goat cheese, black beans, spinach, and pico de gallo.  It's right up my alley.  For my first visit, I chose the Veggie Burro, a burrito stuffed with corn, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, Monterey Jack and Goat Cheese, and then smothered in a lovely green chili sauce.  It was love at first sight.  I ate about half and had the rest for lunch today.  It had a nice amount of spice to it and the cheese and chili sauce added a wonderful creaminess to the whole thing. 

The best part of the night was getting to know my co-workers better.  Hearing about their trials and tribulations.  Seeing pictures of their dogs.  (I think everyone at work owns a dog except for me.)  Learning more about their families and their interests.  Finding some new music buddies!

If you're drooling as you read this and you don't live in or near Nashville, don't despair.  The nice thing about La Paz is that there are locations in other states.  If you live in Atlanta, Charlotte, Birmingham, or Destin, you're in luck!  The rest of you will have to campaign for a restaurant to open near you or wait until your next visit to any one of these fine cities.  Happy eating!

Age is just a number

I am 30.  I've been 30 for 7 months now.  For some reason, I don't feel like I'm 30.  I'm not sure why that is.  Even though I wasn't thrilled to turn 30, in spite of coaching myself the year prior that it would be my best birthday yet, I made it through just fine and really haven't thought much about it since. The other day someone asked me how old I was and I had to stop and think about it.  It's not that I think I'm 29 (and holding) or perpetually stuck in my 20s.   I just don't feel 30. 

When I was in high school and college, I assumed I'd be married by now and have my 4 kids (a boy, a girl, and twins, naturally.)  Clearly this hasn't happened.  While I'd like to meet Mr. Right sooner rather than later, I've realized I'm more content in this area.  Maybe it's the effect of uprooting my entire life.  I don't think past dreams are at the root of this.

I certainly don't look 30.  Given my youthful looks, I might never look 30!  I kid, I kid.  I'll probably look 30 when I'm twice my age.  People have been telling me for eons that I'll appreciate this when I'm older.  So far, the jury is out.

I have friends that cover a wide spectrum of ages but the majority are around my age.  I think we're all realizing that you're never going to feel as mature, "put together," and in control as you envisioned you would be by a certain age.  It has nothing to do with life stage or goals and everything to do with reality.

Maybe we're eternally kids at heart.   Maybe it's because we'll never get it quite right this side of heaven.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.

The truth is we are constantly changing, evolving, and wrestling with all that life throws at us.  No one, not even a perfectionist, has control of what their life will hold.  And life is a both beautiful and messy endeavor.  The older we get, the more we appreciate that fact.

And that's why I think I'll never feel my age.

Do you feel your age?  Or am I age-challenged?

(After I posted this, I read Dirty Martini Diaries hilarious account of her (second) 28th birthday.  I guess I'm not alone!)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wee Bit Wednesdays v. 9

It's time to learn a wee bit more about everyone at Leigh Ashley's blog...

{one} how would you describe your style?
My mom used to say my style was "retro eclectic" and that I would have been a flower child in another era.  I will always be drawn to maxi dresses and flowy tops.  But there's another side of me that is drawn to sophisticated elegance.  Think Chanel (I dream of owning something, anything from Chanel someday), Dior, Marc Jacobs, and so many more.  I inhale my monthly InStyle magazine.  And I adore fall fashion the most!  I love tweeds, sweaters, boots.  I especially love sweaters.  They are my fashion kryptonite. 

{two} what would your perfect day look like?
Well, it would be nice if it involved meeting Mr. Right!  A perfect day would involve a good book, Irish Breakfast Tea, time spent with friends, and an awesome indie show.

{three} what would be the best workplace perk?
We have a great perk- free gym membership!  I haven't taken advantage of it yet but I plan to soon.  A perk the social workers are hoping to get back again is money towards outside conferences.  My last job sent me to an amazing conference in CO and paid for everything.  Wouldn't it be great if I could do that again?

{four} if you could have the starring role in one movie, which would it be?
Nora in Step Up because I would be an amazing dancer and I'd be married to Channing Tatum in real life.  Jenna Dewan is so lucky!

{five} what tv show do you wish would go off the air for good?
I can't think of any one show in particular.  Probably crappy reality tv shows.  Not to be confused with the reality shows that I love.

{six} chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate all the way.

{seven} if you could date any celebrity, who would it be?
Um, Channing Tatum?  God did well when He created him.

{eight} if you could have been the author of any book, which would it have been?
So hard to choose!  A Prayer for Owen Meany, A Wrinkle in Time, or The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  Love them all. 

{nine} what's your favorite type of flower?
This is so not girly of me but I don't really have a favorite flower.  Roses are great, love tulips and daisies.  But really, if a boy wants to give me flowers, I will take what I can get!

{ten} what do you think is your most attractive feature?
My beautiful blue eyes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Welcome to Jillandopalooza

I can't take credit for the term Jillandopalooza.  That's all Jill.  Jill and Landon's wedding festivities have come and gone.  It was a whirlwind 4-day weekend and I'm impressed by all that I was able to fit in.
My flight to Chicago was delayed by 2 hours so I was very happy when I finally arrived at my parents' house.  My dad just built this Murphy bed in my old room so I would have a place to sleep when I visit.  (My brother's old room is the guest room while my old room is my Mom's office.)  My dad is so talented!  I am happy to report that the bed is super comfortable.  While it was strange to sleep at my parent's house for the first time in years, it felt good to be home.  I also had fun getting my pet fix.  Tucker is still the greatest dog ever and even Buzz was a more affectionate kitty.

Thursday was a busy, busy day.  I hung out with Jill for a bit in the morning and then had lunch with a couple of my old co-workers.  It was good to catch up with them and hear how things are going with everyone.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I got out at the right time.  I found out that I inspired one of my co-workers to move to California for missionary school!  Apparently she had been wrestling with this decision and when she heard about why I was moving, she decided to go for it.  How cool is that?
After lunch I headed to my best friend Erin's house for some bonding time with my niece-in-love Katelyn.  It's clear she was excited to see her auntie!  I seriously love her and wish that Mark and Erin would move to NashVegas too.  I know Joel, Tracy, and Anna would approve of that plan!
After baby bonding time, I headed to the rehearsal.  All went well aside from a wedding coordinator who was overly serious about her position and a no-show priest.  The rehearsal dinner was quite delicious and a nice chance to catch up with friends.  Through the years, I've become friends with Jill's friends and so I knew a good number of people in the wedding party.  It's always nice having wedding buddies.
All this purple fabric?  It's my $30 convertible bridesmaid dress!  It took me about 45 minutes to come up with a way to wear it that was cute and hid my bra.  Thanks to my mom and some safety pins, this was the finished product:
Even though we didn't compare notes, all 7 bridesmaids ended up wearing the dress differently.  We all used copious amounts of fashion tape as well.  But enough about the bridesmaids.  You say you'd like to know what the bride wore?
For starters, how cute is she?  And here she is in her dress:

I don't have any shots from the wedding because I was a little, well, busy.  The priest did show up and he did give a nice homily.  However, he must not do weddings all that often because he said, "this is the end of the Mass," and then walked off stage. Without saying, "you may now kiss the bride."  Or "I now pronounce you husband and wife."  It was the strangest non-ending ever!  Once it was established that he was not coming back up, Landon shrugged, kissed Jill, and everyone applauded.
A nice shot of our flowers and Jill's.  This wedding was a celebration of color!  And love.
I can't even express how happy I am for Jill.  She and Landon are going to have a great life together!  I am glad she gave me a chance to be by her side and an excuse to come back home.

It was great seeing more friends and dancing the night away.  I tear it up on the dance floor!  I won't be competing on SYTYCD any time soon but I can hold my own.  In any case, I could care less how I look.  If the music is playing, my body must move to the beat.  Friends, food, dancing.  Life is complete.
Saturday morning I got together with my old roomies and their babies.  I love those little girls!  It was great seeing Jen and Donna as moms.  While I hope to eventually be a part of the Mommy Club, I was honestly happy to be with them and able to relish my role as auntie.  Maybe I'm becoming more content after all!

Afterward, I headed to Honey with another friend Jill.  While I've been loving the Nashville restaurant scene, I do miss Honey!  Then I went home to help my mom with my aunt's bridal shower.  She gets married at the end of the month and I won't be able to go so I was glad to be there for the shower.  I finally ended the night by going out for coffee with my friend/twin Laura.  We like to solve the problems of the world.  

Sunday morning I went to church with my parents and then brunch before they took me to the airport.  I didn't get to spend that much time with them so I was glad we could have some family time before I left.

All in all, a fabulous weekend!  It'll probably take me all week to catch up on sleep but it was worth it.  
Congrats, Jill and Landon!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Sentiments: Song

Sunday Sentiments is an attempt to record what God has been teaching me and the way in which He does it.

I recently stumbled on to Audrey Assad's music and haven't been able to stop listening. The whole CD brings me closer to God.  I'm pretty picky about Christian music but I am happy to recommend this artist! You might have heard "For Love of You" on the radio- word is starting to get out.  My other personal favorite is "Restless."

For Love of You:
You live in a million places
Your fingerprints can be seen on a million faces
There is a trace of You in every hallelujah
Every song that I sing

For love of You
I'm a sky on fire
Because of You
I come alive
And it's Your sacred heart within me beating
Your voice within me singing out
For love of You

You are the highway I travel
Cause I watched You carve streets of gold from the sand and gravel
I gave you brokenness
You gave me innocence
And now, this road leads to glory

You are my deepest longing and so I see You everywhere
It's You I'm chasing after
Cause I am captivated by who You are and how You move
I'll follow You forever
And everything I do
It's all for love of You

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jill and Landon

Jill and I had been playing phone tag for a week or so.  I was on my way home after work and as her place was on the way, I decided to stop by.  As I was walking up to the screen door, I could hear laughter.  And a male voice.  I hesitated but then shrugged.  Jill and I would pop over to each others' homes unannounced and I didn't think this would be an exception.  Plus, I was totally curious!

The male voice belonged to Landon, her coworker.  The coworker she'd been hanging out with a little bit more as of late.  I knew she thought he was cute.  I also knew there were issues.  He was much younger.  He was Catholic and she was not.  Landon had converted to Catholicism a year or so prior after studying early church history and knew he wanted to marry someone who was also Catholic.  These issues were not insurmountable but they were worth considering.

Landon and I chatted a bit.  I never would have guessed he was younger if I hadn't already known.  He was smart, funny, and seemed like a good guy.  I remember thinking that there might be something there and couldn't wait to break it down with Jill later.  A 10 minute impromptu visit turned into an hour when Jill invited me to stay and watch "Arrested Development."  Jill was working her way through the seasons and I had been recently turned on to the hilarious show.  I watched a couple of episodes, silently noting the flirtation between my friend and her gentleman caller.  And then I continued on my way home. 

I found out later that Landon had been planning to ask Jill out that night and was dying while I was there!  He did ask her out a few episodes after I left and she, of course, said yes.  I felt bad that I'd caused him anxiety until I found out he'd been planning to ask her out for a month before he actually did.  This, my friends, is why guys should just do it!  If he'd asked her out when he first decided to do it, then my visit would have been one month into their relationship and he would have been nervous about gaining my approval.

Jill reconciled the fact that he was younger than her.  I heartily approved of Landon and continue to think they are a great match.  He proposed in December and I was thrilled when she called with the good news.  After much prayer and discussion, she decided to convert to Catholicism.  I was there for her baptism and confirmation this past Easter vigil.

Tomorrow night I head to my hometown for the first time since I moved.  This Friday they'll be married.  I'll be one of the hot bridesmaids standing by her side.  Jill and I have been in the trenches together.  It has been a treat to watch her fall in love and realize she is someone's beloved.  I'm so honored to be a part of my friends' special day.  Congratulations, Jill and Landon!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday Sentiments: Testimony

I was reflecting on my testimony the other day and thought at some point I should take the time to post the whole tale. Then I saw the topic on Friday's Show Us Your Life at Kelly's Korner was focused on testimonies. I figured the time is now.

At one point in my life I wanted to kill myself.  I mention this first because if you met me now, or even in the last decade, you would probably never guess it. 

I grew up in a Christian home.  My parents were both raised in the Catholic church.  My mom was "born again" when she was 16.  When she met my dad and realized his faith was in words only, she broke up with him.  This led to inevitable soul searching and he accepted Christ as his savior.  They got back together and were married shortly thereafter. They stayed in the Catholic church until I was a few years old, not too long after my brother was born.  At this point, they realized they couldn't reconcile some of the church's theology and started attending a charismatic church.  This is the church that I remember from my childhood.

It was such a far leap from the Catholic church.  Here there was speaking in tongues, anointing with oil, and so on.  I was anointed with oil for my eczema.  I must have not have believed hard enough because I still have eczema!  All that aside, it was a good church to grow up in, despite its very conservative nature.

When I was about 4 or 5, I can remember our family returning home from a night with church friends.  My mom took me aside and told me she had learned that Care Bears were magic.  And my church did not associate with magic.  My parents in no way forced me to get rid of my pink Care Bear, they presented the facts as they knew them.  Care Bears were magic.  Magic was bad.  Therefore, I decided to throw my Care Bear away.  And in the same moment, I decided to accept Jesus into my heart.  I had no concept of what I was doing, other than it made my parents happy and it seemed to be the thing to do at my church.

Unfortunately, not all was right with this church and we left after a scandal occurred.  We went elsewhere for a year, where I learned what hypocrisy meant.  I became cynical towards the church and was not in the best of places by the time we arrived at the church I attended through part of high school.  (I should note that my parents continued to worship at this church for many years; I left after my sophomore year because I had become involved with an amazing youth group and wanted to be more involved in that church.)

I also went to a Christian grammar school from kindergarten to 8th grade.  Between church and school, I was getting a lot of head knowledge but very little made its way to my heart.  I enjoyed learning about God and memorizing the books of the Bible.  (Bible drill, anyone?)  While I had incredible godly examples all around me, I never noticed that my version of faith was weak and watered down.  Church attendance, memory verses, saying the right thing?  I had that down pat.

By the time I got to 6th grade, it was more difficult to be at my school.  My parents weren't rich and it was a sacrifice to send me and my brother there. They felt that a Christian education was very important so it was a sacrifice they felt was worth making.  I don't begrudge them this.  In some ways, I'm sure that the grammar school saved my life.  But it was not an easy place to be, when most of my classmates had wealthy parents and were given the latest gadgets and coolest clothes.  I was not as aware of this until junior high and I shudder to think what it must be like for kids today!

While I had some good friends, I was not part of the "cool group."  I wanted desperately to be popular, to be invited to all the parties.  This is when my depression began.  To the outside world, I was a nice, quiet girl who did her homework, followed the rules, and participated in a few activities. On the inside, I was a wreck.  My self-esteem was in tatters.  I cried myself to sleep every night.  I was convinced that I was ugly, worthless, and that no one would miss me.  I was certain God hated me and that all these junior high travesties were a punishment or curse.

My thoughts began to go to darker places.  Envisioning my funeral.  Envisioning my funeral with no one there, as I rationalized no one would care whether I was around or not.  And then thinking about how I could actually kill myself.  It was not a matter of if, but when.

I was not a happy person during that time but no one had suspected I was depressed and suicidal.  Teenage depression was not really on anyone's radar at that time.  I couldn't have even identified myself as depressed.  I just knew that this life was not what I wanted.

One summer night before 8th grade started, I decided I'd had enough.  Everyone was asleep.  I planned to go to the medicine cabinet and take whatever was in there, likely nothing more than aspirin and vitamins.  I got out of bed but couldn't make it past the doorway.  I literally couldn't step out of the door, which I now feel was God's protection.  I turned around and threw myself in to bed, sobbing that I had failed even in this.  I never moved forward with my plans to kill myself after that point.  However, my depression only grew worse.  Without an end in sight, I'm not sure how much more miserable one person could become.

There were glimmers of hope, though.  God used family, friends, and Sunday sermons to speak to me. My beloved great-uncle was diagnosed with brain cancer in the fall of 8th grade.  His courage and faith in God were inspirational to everyone around him.  He lived just long enough to see 3 more grandchildren be born before he died.  I could not escape the fact that his faith meant everything to him and how comforted my family was in knowing we would see him one day in heaven.  It all got me thinking but I still didn't see how God could be the answer to my problems.

My parents were forcing me to go to youth group at this point.  I hated going, not only because I didn't believe in God anymore but because of the cliques.  I would go to Sunday School and Wednesday night but that was it.  A friend finally convinced me I should go to the Second Saturday event, held in Chicago.  If you're unfamiliar with Second Saturday, there was usually a band and then a speaker.  All the area youth groups would go. Deb thought we could at least check out the cute boys. 

Geoff Moore and the Distance played that night and Geoff Moore was incidentally the speaker.  My friends and I were unfamiliar with their music so we walked around the venue trying to find guys we knew and meet new ones for most of the performance.  We sat down when Geoff began to speak.  I zoned out for much of his talk but I still remember the moment that grabbed my attention.  He was talking about the letters he received every week, from girls who were pregnant and didn't know what to do, guys who feared they were gay, and people who were so depressed they wanted to kill themselves.  People who were so depressed they wanted to kill themselves.  I felt like he was speaking directly to me.  Geoff went on to talk about the hope that we have in Christ, that it's the only thing that matters and the only thing that helps.  Even though I had heard this to some degree my whole life, it finally clicked in to place. I didn't know if it would make a difference but I felt I had nothing else to lose. 

At the end of the night, Geoff invited everyone who wanted to, to pray the prayer of salvation.  I silently invited Christ in to my heart and asked him to forgive me of my sins. After the prayer, Geoff invited everyone who had just prayed the prayer to stand up.  I stood up, my friends looking at me like, "I thought you already were a Christian!"  A relationship with God is more than saying and doing the right things.  I knew that I would never be "good enough" for God but I was ready to embrace His hope and grace.  As new believers stood up, the crowd went wild, with Geoff exhorting there was an even bigger party going on in heaven.

I can't say that my issues just magically went away after that.  I can say that my friends and family noticed a difference.  I was lighter in spirit.  I was happier.  I no longer wanted to kill myself.  I gave my testimony at 8th grade graduation.  A part of me hoped that everything would be peachy keen after this.  However, depression is deeply rooted and I continued to struggle with my self-esteem throughout high school.  After my freshman year of college, I saw a counselor because I knew that I needed to deal with my messed-up view of myself once and for all.  It made a huge difference and I am happy to say that I don't have the same struggles anymore.  I still have down days but I am aware of my triggers and know how to take good care of myself.  In this, God has healed me.  I am not the person I was 16 years ago who wanted to end it all.  I am someone who is grateful to be alive and humbled that God wants to use my life to bring him glory.  While my faith journey took a few detours and side roads after that, God has patiently seen me through it all.  I have actively pursued a relationship with Him for the past 6 years and my faith has grown leaps and bounds because of this.