A Conversation About Suicide

While in Australia we became aware of the high suicide rate among farmers as well as others in the area in and around Brookton where we hope to be moving in the next couple of years.  While in a public restroom Ryan saw this sign and it broke his heart.

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“Before it all gets too much…Talk to a Mate!”  The sad reality is that suicide is a major problem (not just in Western Australia but all over the world) and often people who are suicidal don’t know who or where to turn.  Unfortunately, friends and family aren’t always equipped to recognize and/or respond when they see the signs of suicide.

Today, the church we attend had a seminar on suicide response, prevention and the gospels place in the conversation.  Ryan and I are thankful that the gospel has a message of hope, even in the most hopeless places, which is often where people find themselves when considering suicide.  We realize there is still a lot for us to learn but we want to be thoughtful in our preparation and capitalize on opportunities, like attending this seminar, in order to help equip us for the realities we will be facing in Australia.

There is a good chance that even if you have never considered suicide, you probably know someone who has tried or know someone who has died by suicide.  If not, statistically speaking most people will be impacted by suicide in their lifetime.  There are many resources available now thanks to technology, Virtual Hope Box and MY3 are two apps that can help.  They both provide information and resources for those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide but they can also be helpful for family and friends who are looking for ways to help and respond.  More information is also available at: suicideispreventable.org and of course there is still a place for an old fashioned phone conversation.  1-800-273-TALK is the US national suicide prevention hotline.

Although we wish a phone number and website could solve this problem, we recognize that it’s not that simple.  It takes courage to ask a friend how they’re truly feeling, to hear the cries (however subtle) for help, not ignore or dismiss them and to respond thoughtfully and to take the necessary measures to get good professional help. Ryan and I are continuing to learn and respond well to the reality of suicide.  For us the conversation isn’t over but just beginning.

The Earthquake in Nepal- How to Pray

Most people have mixed feelings in regards to social media but in an emergency, social media is often a blessing because it can be a quick source of direct information.  I can hear about things happening all over the world from the news but if I know someone on the ground in that area, I would rather hear what’s going on from them.Nepal

For example, the earthquakes that triggered tsunamis and tsunami warnings earlier this year in the Pacific.  And now with this large earthquake in Nepal.  I only know one person in Nepal but Facebook sent me a notification saying that she had checked in and was ok.  This was a surprising Facebook feature that could actually be quite assuring and useful in a disaster of this kind (or it could be unnerving if the person or people you are worried about don’t check in right away).  And Twitter has also proved pretty amazing in this situation because not only is it keeping people updated, but it has even been useful in helping some people get to safety.

I met this friend, who currently lives in Nepal, when we studied together in Ghana.  She has lived and worked in Nepal for many years now and specifically works on water projects (helping people access clean water).  In addition to hearing from her on Facebook, I also received an email update with ways to pray.  I love that these requests are straight from someone who is there on the ground.  Thank you for lifting up this part of the world and the people there.

  • There is still anxiety that this will trigger another quake on one of Nepal’s other 2 fault lines and for more 5+ aftershocks that will further destabilize buildings. Please pray Psalm 46 for the assurance of God’s continued presence and protection.
  • Please pray for those who have lost loved ones and those who have lost their shelter either temporarily or permanently.
  • Please pray for those sleeping outside that the weather will hold stable and it won’t rain.
  • Water shortages are always a problem in Kathmandu, please pray that the water supply will be sufficient and uncontaminated (I’ve heard reports of “rust colored” water). Please pray that the temporary outdoor living will not lead to a cholera outbreak.
  • Please pray for our response team traveling to Kathmandu and for UMN staff as we implement our emergency response plan that we will be able to help.
  • Please pray for the teenage children of several missionary colleagues who are in Kathmandu and separated from the rest of their family here in Pokhara and for other families who are separated from loved ones.
  • Please pray for calm and release from fear as the aftershocks continue.

I will do my best to post another update if I receive more information.  Thank you to everyone is praying.  Also, if you want to know how to give financially to Nepal let me know and I can put you in touch with my friend.

Everyone is Living Their Own Story

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I have a friend who lives in Papua New Guinea with her husband and kiddos.  We met while I was living in PNG and we now keep up with each other, as I do with many of my overseas friends, on Facebook.  Facebook can be a great communication tool and because it helps me to keep up with people all over the globe, I’m not giving it up anytime soon.  However, sometimes relationships are hindered in the Facebook world (think comparing ourselves to others, only showing our best selves, using the distance or anonymity to say things we otherwise wouldn’t say in person, etc.)  My friend recently posted these words and I thought they were such great food for thought and not just applicable to the Facebook world.  I’ve included my own response and thoughts after but for now here are her words:

“Something has been kicking around in my brain for a while and while hanging laundry just now the words finally came to me to express what I have been thinking. About six years ago, a wise woman told me “Everyone is entitled to their own story.” At the time she was pregnant with surprise twins that came six years after what she thought was her last child. She was a little overwhelmed at the thought of doing the baby thing all over again and also feeling guilty telling some of her friends who had been struggling with infertility for years that she had accidentally ended up with two more kids! But God gave her this bit of wisdom that she was entitled to her own story and all of the feelings that came along with it. 

I have been feeling lately that in the Facebook world we don’t allow each other to be entitled to our own story. Instead we have a tendency to place our story, our reality, on the shoulders of the one posting and expect them to feel the weight of our situation.

I’ll give you some examples. A friend posted on New Year’s Eve that her newborn was being fussy and jokingly asked if anyone wanted a newborn for New Years. Someone posted and said essentially “Oh, please don’t say that. I would give anything to have a newborn in my arms right now.”

Or this one. A friend who is a mother of three went down to visit another friend who had just given birth to her firstborn. The mother of three posted expressing how simple life is with just one tiny baby. Someone said “Oh, don’t say that! My son is serving in the military and I would give anything to have him with me right now.”

And my “favorite” example. Another friend who is the mother of four gorgeous American/African children was expressing frustration one day about negative things that had been said about her beautiful children just based on the color of their skin. Someone wrote “You think THAT is a bad day?! My mother is dying of cancer!”

While all six of these women are experiencing very real situations, some of them very sad and terribly tragic, I want to call us out and say that it is unfair to put the burden of your reality on someone else’s shoulders. I would say that most of us who are mothering children, whether it be one or many, feel like we are doing our darndest just to keep all of our own balls in the air. When someone shares on Facebook about her reality, she isn’t expecting other people to take on her burden. So, let’s do each other a favor and not throw our own ball into someone else’s circus.

Do you see what I’m saying?”

Reading these words made me think.  We all deal with good, bad and ugly situations in our own lives.  And in our minds it seems simple to place all our own story as well as the stories of others on a continuum of easy to difficult but that’s not realistic or wise.  Sometimes relatively ‘easy’ things in my own life seem overwhelming and insurmountable because it’s my current reality and I am living through it.  And I know from experience that while sometimes hearing someone else’s pain or greater problem can be a good reality check, more often than not it just annoys me that my own feelings are somehow discounted because whatever is happening to me isn’t bad enough to warrant sympathy or empathy.

We are all living our own story.  And I believe that the Facebook world (and the world outside of Facebook too) would be better if we were each allowed to live our own story.  Of course there is a time and a place for speaking into someone’s life but that’s not what we’re talking about here.  We’re talking about general, public comments/Facebook posts that seem to invite comparisons and sometimes criticisms of one persons current reality.

However, we ourselves should also be sensitive to our communities.  On Facebook, posts are general and not for any targeted audience but we could all do with a little sensitivity check once in awhile.  For example, a friend who finds herself pregnant with surprise twins would be wise not to express her frustration or trepidation within earshot of a childless friend longing for their own.  Likewise, married friends should be aware of singles in their midst when voicing longings for the single or childless life.  In addition, complaining about your job to a friend who is currently unemployed is also probably not wise or helpful.  And, of course, this list could continue.  This doesn’t mean that we should never express ourselves, by no means.  Instead just be aware of who is around you and what you are saying.

“Everyone is entitled to their own story.”  I hope this is thought provoking for all of us, whether applied to just Facebook or to the world outside of Facebook as well.  I’m thankful for my friend who put this into words and I’m thankful for the reminder that, we are all entitled to our own story, the story that we are each living one day at a time.

4:30 AM

By 4:30am, 3 days a week, I am already starting my online ESL classes with students.  By 4:30, 6 days a week, Ryan is already in his car headed toward the radio station.  I’m thankful that I get to roll over and go back to sleep on some days but the mornings when I wake early are getting a bit easier.  My classes use to begin at 5:15 but with the time change they now begin at 4:30.  No, my math isn’t wrong, I just have students who agreed to start an extra 15 minutes later because 4:30 I can handle but 4:15 is just crazy:-)

My normal tendencies are definitely more on the night owl side of things.  Midnight to 8am has been a pretty typical sleep pattern for me since college.  In PNG I tended to go to bed earlier but life there is more centered around daylight anyway and it’s easy to go to bed with less electronic distractions plus kerosine lamp light makes me sleepy.  But once back in America, I fell into my old patterns of staying up later and sleeping in.  My most productive hours usually happened later in the evening or at night before bed.  But since marrying Ryan, I’ve been doing my best to go to bed earlier with him.  Up until recently, he would leave for work and I would go back to sleep but not anymore.

Now we are a morning household.  Ryan gets up and starts the water for the hot beverage of my choice while I rub the sleep out of my eyes and get myself online presentable.  He gets himself ready and I turn on my computer.  And then he kisses me on his way out the door when i’m setting up my online classroom.  After i’m done teaching, I use the morning to get other things done.  I bake and plan meals, update my blog and check email, prepare for my day and am generally more productive than I have been before.  While there are some days that I want to go back to sleep, I encourage myself to stay up because it makes those nights when we are in bed before 9 oh so sweet.

What are you doing at 4:30 in the morning?

Adventures in Substituting  

I normally substitute for ESL at an adult school.  A classroom full of motivated adults is a far cry from a classroom full of wiggly elementary students or hormonal middle schoolers.  But there is a school just a stones throw from our house so last year I had submitted my paperwork just in case they ever needed a sub.  I was never called and had no intention of subbing there this year so assumed that I was off the list.  But Monday morning I was called because they needed a substitute for PE.  Sweatpants at work?  Yup, I’ll be there.

IMG_0520This is what the school looks like from our front door.

I arrived at campus on Monday and braved three periods of junior highers who were definitely not excited about soccer drills and running laps.  The day got a little longer when I was asked to stay after PE to fill in for a teacher who had chipped a tooth.  So sweaty and still in sweatpants, I found myself in a 4th grade classroom teaching a math lesson.  Means, medians, modes, etc.  Not my strong suite.  And the students also had to teach me how to use the interactive white board.  This is a far cry from the overhead projectors used when I was in elementary school.  After lunch things went pretty smoothly when we switched over to social studies and the kids just needed to be kept occupied until their teacher returned numbed and swollen from the dentist.

I really don’t mind subbing for elementary and middle school and there is a lot for me to learn and engage with.  This is a formative time for kids so it’s special to be a part of that if only for a random day here and there.  But with that said, I definitely prefer the adult ESL classes.  I not only get paid more at the adult school but I actually get to teach subjects I connect with and am passionate about.  And best of all I get to engage with and get to know students who want to be there and want to learn.

But whether at one school or another, substitute teaching is always an adventure.

I Ran.

I ran and no one was chasing me.  No bodily harm was being threatened.  There were no zombies in the vicinity.  No mobs or natural disasters.  Nothing.  I just ran for exercise.  Now I realize some of you are wondering why I am being so dramatic but others are probably stunned and speechless.  And with good reason because I didn’t just run today but I’ve now run 4 times in the past two weeks.  I just stood up and took a bow because i’m sure you’re all applauding my efforts.

IMG_0471Here’s the deal.  I’m a terrible runner.  I did cross country in high school until I discovered the joys of water polo.  There is a reason that I never lettered in a sport out of the water.  And i’ve tried running post high school without much success.  I tried in PNG but the uneven rocky roads and my lack of motivation kept it from really taking root.  I’ve tried running with my dad who does a 4 mile route 6 days a week.  He claims that it’s more of a shuffle than a run but I couldn’t keep up with him and in the end my poor hips hurt for days.  No thank you.

So what changed?  Well, i’ve been working out regularly with the help of Jillian Michaels workout DVDs.  Seriously, you should try these.  It’s great, only 20-30 minutes and she makes it easy to start and builds the intensity as you go.  If you’re a Prime member you can stream some of her longer work outs but I love the shorter ones.  Anyway, this coupled with hiking and swimming laps has been my go-to exercise.  But unfortunately Camarillo doesn’t have a good outdoor public pool and as much as I love the variety of Jillian workouts i’ve been needing something new and different.  It’s also not as easy to just take an hour and go hiking in this area.  So this is where the running comes in.

I ran once just to try and see if I would be incapacitated for a week and no harm came to me.  I ran again to see if the second time would cause me terrible horrible no good very bad pain.  Once again, I was ok.  So I downloaded a recommended running app that tracks my progress, gives me workout suggestions (like run 60 seconds, walk 90 seconds, repeat for 20 minutes) and logs other data like speed, duration, progress, etc.  I’ve now run twice with the little voice tracking my progress along the way.

I’m not sure if this is just a phase or if this will turn into something more.  Check back in a month and see if I’m still hitting the pavement a couple times a week.  This definitely won’t replace Jillian but it’s something new and different for me.  Variety can be good when it comes to a workout routine.  And if and when the Zombie apocalypse happens, maybe i’ll be able to outrun my neighbors.

Thoughts on Turning 30

Birthdays are different in this technology filled world.  I woke up to the ping ping of my cell phone and happy birthday texts.  I eventually opened my computer to the beginning of a barrage of Facebook birthday messages.  But my husband was the first to wish me happy birthday this morning at 4am when he got up to start his day.  I’m a lucky wife too because his first present to me was shaving his face!  I love the feeling of a stubble free cheek next to mine.

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Today is my 30th birthday.  And I woke up next to my husband.  As a little girl there was never any doubt that I would get married and have a family.  It’s what I wanted and growing up in a world filled with married couples and families, it’s just what happened.  Then into my 20s I began to doubt the timing.  I still wished for marriage, I still hoped to have a family but maybe that’s not what God had for me.  Maybe I would be single at 30 (which would not have been the end of the world but in my mind it was scary).  However, last year I celebrated my 29th birthday with friends and a man who had just told me that he loves me.  A lot has happened in a year.

Ryan had told me that he wouldn’t say “I love you” until he was ready to marry me.  So even though he didn’t propose last August those words set the change in motion.  I went from full-time support raising for Australia to figuring out how the transition with the organization and supporters would work.  I went from bouncing back and forth from Sacramento to Santa Barbara to making an effort to stay closer to Ryan.  We started planning the wedding, planning a future together and planning a life that still seems very foreign to me six months (tomorrow) into marriage.

I truly love Ryan.  I love him from deep in my gut and I hope and pray that the love I feel now will continue to grow exponentially.  However, I can honestly say that the transition to life in Camarillo, marriage and everything that comes with it, a new phase in waiting for overseas ministry, inviting someone else into my relationship with God as well as leaving my life as a single has been extraordinarily difficult.  Nothing anyone could have said to me would have prepared me for this.  I knew there were going to be challenges and I knew that everything wouldn’t always be rosy but I had no idea that some days would make me feel like breathing and walking were a chore.  How’s that for a marriage advertisement!?

But despite everything I would choose marriage again, I still choose Ryan every day and I don’t doubt that choice.  I’m learning how to deal with transition in a completely new way.  For the first time since college I am living in the same place for longer than 6 months and there is a strong possibility that we will be here even longer.  I have a new church family that I didn’t choose and a community that has been welcoming but is different than any community I have ever been a part of before.  I’m grieving the loss of my independence, freedom, ministry, singleness and ‘simple’ relationship with God.  And all of this and more is being done while i’m learning to live, love and communicate with another person who has become a part of me.

With each challenge, I am learning things about myself that, for me, would never have been revealed as a single.  A lot of this is ugly but there is also something really beautiful about finally ripping through the old, dead, tangled roots and making room for something new to grow.  The unknown of our current situation is extremely mentally challenging for me.  How long will we be in Camarillo?  No idea.  Are we going to move to Australia?  No idea.  When are we going to start having kids?  No idea.  For the first time in my adult life I am unable to push forward and plan for the distant future.  Instead I am having to learn how to live in the present and focus on making now work.

30 is something to celebrate.  3 decades of life and for me those can be roughly divided into 2 decades with my family, 1 decade on my own and now I am adjusting to as many decades as God would give us with my husband.  30 is a turning point to something new.  The struggles now are stepping stones to whatever comes next.  This is a new decade and a new phase of my life.  I’m excited (in a hesitant but expectant sort of way) to see what adventures this decade has in store and I get to learn about it and live it one day at a time.