Global Suicide Prevention Day

In 2014, 42,773 Americans died by suicide. One of those was my friend Robert. He is not just a statistic, nor are the other 42,772 represented by that number.

The suicide rate in the U.S. has recently hit a 30-year high according to an article in the New York Times. The overall suicide rate in America rose by 24% between 1999 and 2014. And more than 800,000 people die by suicide around the world every single year.

Is that not shocking to you? It’s shocking to me, and yet, I can understand the desperation of each of those numbers.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Let’s be a part of the conversation.

semi-colon

Last Fall I got a semi-colon tattooed on my wrist. To many, it’s an odd little thing (especially my parents). But for me, it’s a victory sign. It’s a reminder that as dark as depression can feel at times, it is only a pause. Not a period. It is not the end of the story.

My story is not over.

I am huge supporter of an organization called To Write Love on Her Arms. To Write Love on Her Arms is “a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery.”

The TWLOHA community was an incredible speaker of hope during days I felt were hopeless. I now join with them in speaking against the stigma of depression and other mental health issues. I want to normalize the conversation.

Each year TWLOHA picks a phrase to champion during Suicide Prevention Week. This year the phrase is “so I kept living.”

It is from a gem of a book called Reasons to Stay Alive, in which the author writes about his own journey through depression and anxiety. It is a must read for everyone who knows someone battling depression (which, statistically, is all of us).

In the book, author Matt Haig writes of standing on a cliff in Ibiza contemplating taking the last step to end his life. “I think life always provides reasons to not die, if we listen hard enough. . . And so I kept living.”

What a great exercise for me to share that I kept living because there are three amazing kids who need their mom.

Because my husband told me, “we’ll get through this together.”

Because I told people when I wasn’t OK, and they listened to me. 

Because a tenacious counselor told me week after week not to underestimate my resilience. He spoke hope over me again and again.

Because I remembered what it was like to love what I do.

Because I had words to share.

I kept living because I knew my life was precious to the God of the universe.

I kept living.

And here I am. I am alive, and I am speaking hope.

If you are struggling today, will you please tell someone? Depression lies. It tells you you are alone, but you are not. You are not alone.

If you want to help someone struggling, would you consider giving to the efforts of To Write Love on Her Arms? This week they have been working to raise $85,000 toward the cost of treatment and recovery for those who need it. One of the counselors investing in that effort is mine. The work is real, and it saves lives.

Join the conversation. Tell someone your story. Keep living.

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Scary Close

Have you read this book? You have to read it. It is life-changing good.

Scary Close

Several years ago Donald Miller was all the rage. I refused to jump on the bandwagon and didn’t read a word. Not fair, I know. I’m working on it.

Anyway, I read a lot during my sabbatical. This was hands down the best book I picked up. It’s one of the best books I’ve picked up all year. After I read it (in two days), Cody started in. He’s recommended it to everyone he knows too. We’re starting a fan club.

Why did I love it so much? It is gut-level honest. Miller puts into words the fears, the hang-ups, the longings we all know in our deepest places and yet so often choose to hide. Freedom resides in his honesty. I want it.

He speaks of intimacy. Soul-bearing, this-is-who-I-am intimacy. He speaks of health and its satisfaction. It made me want to work hard for the healing of my own wounds.

“Control is about fear. Intimacy is about risk.” pg. 106.

I love control. I hate risk. Ouch.

“Deception in any form kills intimacy.” pg. 103

Even the deception of editing who I really am.

“If our identity gets broken, it affects our ability to connect. And I wonder if we’re not all a lot better for each other than we previously thought. I know we’re not perfect, but I wonder how many people are withholding the love they could provide because they secretly believe they have fatal flaws.” pg. 129

Oh friends, I need you. I need you with all your flaws, just as I need to be needed with mine.

“It’s a hard thing to be human. It’s a very hard thing.” pg. 113.

Amen. And Amen.

“It costs personal fear to be authentic but the reward is integrity, and by that I mean a soul fully integrated, no difference between his act and his actual person.” pg. 65

I need some Scary Close friends. I need people who see me exactly as I am and love me. I need the space to practice being human.

Buy this book. Buy two copies, so you can give one away. I believe God dwells in intimacy. I believe that is where our hearts learn to long for the glory for which we were created. I also believe that is how God chooses to breathe healing. My heart grew a little braver as I read Miller’s journey. I hope the same for you.

My Brilliant Friend

I was looking for a book to take on a trip, when I stumbled on this carefully crafted novel at our local warehouse store. It caught my attention because it is about two girls growing up in post-war Naples. It is written by one of the hottest Italian novelists and translated into English.

Click on the photo to head over to Amazon and get your own copy!

Click on the photo to head over to Amazon and get your own copy!

The most significant accomplishment of this novel is it’s ability to portray the weight of life in Italy. Sixty years after the setting of the story, the weight still exists. It’s something we found really hard to put into words for our American friends when we lived there. . . the lack of hope most Italians feel in ever expecting life circumstances to be different. Our country was built on the “American Dream”–put your mind to it, and you can do anything. It’s hard for us to fathom anyone not having the same mentality.

Italians don’t. For the most part, they are resigned to their lot in life, without regard for whether it is what they want or don’t want. Change, though technically possible, is not probable.

My Brilliant Friend begins current day, to paint a picture of the result of the story to be told. It’s a short introduction before spending the rest of the novel following two friends as they navigate growing up in a neighborhood of Naples, just after World War II. It does a phenomenal job portraying the sense of family that exists in neighborhoods in Italy. Life does not exist beyond the boundaries of one’s neighborhood.

These two girls wrestle with what friendship looks like. Can friendship exist when it’s always unbalanced? How much can a girl determine her future in a society driven entirely by the men?

The novel ends with no grand closure, and yet I found myself missing Elena and Lila. I wanted to know if they ever experienced happiness. The cover of the book indicates there will be more to this story, but the author is so elusive, who knows.

This was a great book. Not action driven, but the depth of portrayal of the characters was that of an incredibly gifted writer. If you want to feel the weight of what life is really like in Italy, this book is a must read.

C.S. Lewis–A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet

I have always been a C.S. Lewis fan. I love his fiction. I love his apologetics. And I am amazed both accounts of genius came from the same mind. So, as a fan, I was really looking forward to reading a biography by such a heavy-weight academic as Alister McGrath.C.S. Lewis--A Life

It did not disappoint.

First, it’s a very academic accounting. It’s exhaustive in detail and explanation. McGrath not only tells you Lewis was born in Ireland, he tells you the implication of being a Protestant in Ireland just before the split of the country. And he explains the implications of being an Irishman not required to fight in the Great War but feeling compelled. This is a biography not only of facts but of academic implications based on extensive research.

There were many aspects of Lewis’ life I had been familiar with before. But I was also introduced to new ideas and conclusions. For instance, for all his great apologetics, it was actually experience that converted Lewis to Christianity. As a young child, he had the sense to recognize the feeling of joy and wonder from where it come. That desire to understand joy ultimately led him through atheism to a belief in biblical Christianity.

As well, it appears his writing of apologetics waned after World War II, in large part to his reasoning being challenged in the setting of an academic social club at Oxford. After that night, it is inferred, he lost his confidence in being an apologetics leader of the era. It was never his goal to write apologetics. He had just kind of gotten sucked into it. So it was also easy for him to leave.

Lewis read veraciously as a child. The affects of which are numerous, but one of which was the creation of Narnia. McGrath goes into great detail regarding Lewis’ relationship with Tolkien and their distancing in later years. One of the most fascinating aspects of the book to me was the comparison and differentiation between the development and writing of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings.

Know this is an academic book, but if you are a Lewis fan, it is a must-read. McGrath does a really great job. Click on the photo of the book above to be taken to Amazon for your own copy. Buy it. Read it. Share it with someone else.

Dearie

I love words. And thus, I love reading. Always have. My one educational goal for my kiddos is that they develop a love for reading. I’m not sure you can truly “develop” a love for reading in a kiddo, but I’m trying my best. I made it my goal to never say no when my kids ask me to buy a book. As our oldest beauty has begun to devour books, I’ve had to temper my resolve in this, lest we go broke, but it’s a value all our kids know we hold.

I have discovered so much beauty through the power of words. All of us have. So, I wanted to dedicate part of this little blog to the books hitting my nightstand. Or my hubby’s. We share this love for books.

I just finished a hefty biography on Julia Child that I was so sad to finally turn the last page on.

Dearie by Bob Spitz

In addition to words, I also have a thing for cooking. Our years overseas introduced me to the beauty of simplicity on a plate and the sheer pleasure that can be discovered by sharing the experience of an exquisite meal. As my interest in cooking grew, so did my interest in Julia Child’s story. She discovered the joys of food while overseas, as well. I have read several biographical books on Julia before, but all were snapshots of different times in her life. This is an extensive history of her entire life.

Academic at times, my interest in the subject kept me engaged through every one of the 576 pages. I was most fascinated to see how long Julia wandered before she found her passion. She held countless, unfulfilling jobs before having the meal that changed her life in her forties. I was also deeply inspired by the commitment she had and the joy she found in her marriage. Paul Child was a difficult man (quirky?) by all accounts. Yet, she fell in love and nurtured all the quirkiness. When others were completely put out with her husband, she lavished acceptance on him. They went everywhere together. Even into Paul’s 80’s, after a personality-changing stroke, she refused to travel without him.

Julia lived to the ripe old age of 93, and saw the food culture revolutionized in America. I had never thought of food trends in culture before this book, and it was fascinating to see the development.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone. But if you’re a foodie at all, you will love the history. The insights into public television, on-air personality, cooking education and American food culture are fascinating.