Tag Archives: depression

Look Up!

Resurrection

The Harvest Moon is almost here! The full moon that rises in the sky each September, known as the Harvest Moon, is my favorite moon of the whole year. There is an astrophysical explanation for why this particular moon shines the brightest and looks the largest of all the calendar moons…but I’m not going to ramble on about that rationale here. The Harvest Moon receives its name from the season that celebrates the significance (the reward) of hoping. Harvest is the joyous reality of receiving what was, in seasons past, imagined.

This process is not without hard work. In agricultural terms, there is first the identification of what matters – what needs to be grown to keep life going. Then, there is the selection and preparation of land, the toil of cultivating soil to then plant seeds to take root. Then, there is waiting. There is humility in surrendering to time and tempests; and there is intentional attention to helping healthy growth take place. There is more waiting…and watching. There is the possibility of despair and even death. But amidst that shadowy insecurity, there still exists the anticipation and purposeful preparation to meet and greet what has matured and is ready for harvest. Harvest, itself, is its own important effort that requires the collective support of persistent muscle. The careful plucking and cutting of crops still involves imagination of the banquet tables to come. There is a symbolic synchronicity to the Harvest Moon’s ambiance that represents, for me, how heart, hand, land and especially ethereal efforts are always at work to offer hope and joy throughout every season of life.

The 2015 Harvest Moon will appear on September 27. Look up! I hope you get to see it and enjoy the present it is.

A Good Gift

You made the moon to rule the night –

That means even in the dark, there is still light.

In the absence of day glow, no less inferior,

You are here – proving Yourself superior.

Rays of hope  as surrounded arms,

Your maternal embrace truly warms.

Amid cold shadowed veil,

You prove Your love can never fail.

A very real reflective radiance

And a divine ordained incandescence

Fills the sky with eternal essence.

I stand in awe of Your glorious presence.

References:

  1. Resurrection; sculpture by Jamie Wasson 2014
  2. Why does the Harvest Moon look so big and orange?
  3. The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry
  4. A Good Gift; poem by Jamie Wasson 2010

Jewelry Box

Jewelry Box

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary.; they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

At times, we falter in seeing ourselves the way God sees us. We deny our identity and capacity by remaining static in a world wherein we were meant to soar…perhaps the following poem sums up how you, as I, can easily shut down. In that stillness, listen closely and hear God speak to you.

I close my body up,

Whenever you’re around.

The way you look at me

Makes my eyes hit the ground.

I will not let myself see any reason why you want me.

I’m a fallen angel.

My brain’s a commuter train.

My heart’s a station stop.

Big ideas roll down town,

And then off they drop.

I know it’s okay to be shy, but I feel like I’ve become a lie –

I’m a fallen angel.

All that I want, all I really want is something

More than a sensual sting…

What I want, what I really really want is a spiritual fling.

But oh well,

I’m a fallen angel.

But you say,

“It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay,

It’s okay.

Turn your eyes towards the sky.”

You again say,

“It’s okay it’s okay, it’s okay,

Open up your wings and fly,

Because you’re an angel, a beautiful angel.”

Reference:s

  1. Self Portrait; painting by Jamie Wasson 1994
  2. Jewelry Box; poem by Jamie Wasson 2008

The Rest of Our Life

Blossom2

“He’s got rest for the weary, peace for the confused, renewal for all the hearts that have been bruised. He’s got directions for the lost, faith for unbelief. He’s got every little thing you need.”  Greg and Rebecca Sparks

I was with a dear friend many moons ago, discussing a very difficult transition period she was going through at the time. She was saying goodbye to a long and challenging season of her life, trying to find hope to pursue something else (something healthier). I empathized with her heartache. She commented to me, “I just wish I knew what the rest of my life looked like.” We sat in silence for a few moments – her words resonated with me in a way that I did not expect. I repeated her hopeful words in my head, as my own hope too, “I wish I knew…the rest”. Then I said aloud to her, “Yes, we need to know what The Rest looks like”. At first, she didn’t understand my juxtaposition of her plea; but as we dialogued, we both soon came to a deeper place of peace in considering what “rest” really means.

The Rest of our life can certainly mean “the remainder or what’s next”. But if you read Psalm 23 from beginning to end, there is an ever present sense of being throughout the poetic text. I’d like to think that Psalm 23 (probably the most quoted psalm during significant and seminal moments) offers us the best summary of what The Rest of our life can look like. The reality of rest can also refer to “being restored, recovering strength, ceasing to work”. How often do we allow ourselves to reference “the rest of our life” in this way? How often do we allow the Lord to lead us – instead of our own attempts to rush ahead or even run back to what was before now. We can, in our own strength and stubbornness, try so hard to make things turn out the way we want them to. The first line of the epic psalm details, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). From the get-go, there is a sense of contentment and peace because of another’s provision. The psalmist, David, defines line after line of how God’s guidance and presence is with him through every season of life. Whatever occurs throughout life, David describes how God provides opportunities to rest, to be refreshed, to be strengthened, encouraged and to stop trying so hard. There is something so liberating in living in such reality – The Rest of my life can be found here and now. During any moment of a hectic or difficult day, I can find rest; I can have peace about where I am, who I am. I can take a deep breath (or two or three) and smile.

David ends his psalm by emphatically declaring “Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…forever” (Psalm 23:6). The essence of rest is meant to be good. Yet, sometimes we find ourselves in a compromised place, as the result of our own mis-steps; we need a time out to regroup. That is when rest mercifully redirects us to find our footing again. As I so often declare, we are alive and loved and not alone…because the Lord is our Shepherd. What more do we want? The rest of life’s journey is best discovered walking along side of Jesus.

References:

  1. Blossom #2; fresco finger painting by Jamie Wasson 2012
  2. Res by Greg and Rebecca Sparks
  3. Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen

Blood, Sweat and Tears (Part 3)

“Planet Earth looks blue and there’s nothing I can do.”  David Bowie’s Major Tom

I listened to a podcast by Paul David Tripp recently. He spoke about our identity. He noted how “tears reveal what our hearts care about most deeply”. I’ve cried countless tears throughout my lifetime – about all sorts of things: boo-boos, broken hearts, defeats, victories, comedic timings and joyous moments, to name a few themes. The synthesis of these themes is that I’m aware (or feel like) something good or bad is happening. Tears are proof that we are cognizant of what is going on around us and inside us. When we feel heightened moments of pain/hurt, fear, sadness, love, joy, relief, grief, anger, exhaustion etc., tears emerge as well. Tears also protect outside harmful materials from invading our eye space – like dust, bugs, allergens and noxious gases. Our eyes must always stay a bit teary to guard against dry eyes, which can be detrimental to our vision. Tears manage worlds inside and out, and specialize in cleansing our bodies and souls. If we don’t cry (or produce tears), we are not healthy human beings.

Our sympathetic nervous systems respond to events, emotions and our mind’s interpretations of it all in a holistic effort to keep us safe, secure and sensible. Our blood, sweat and tears are a team of messengers that communicate with our conscious brains about our present state of being. Who am I? Who are we? Tears continue to baffle even the best experts, because of their mysterious solidarity to show up during both joyful and sorrowful moments. Practically speaking, tears seem to sum up that we are connected to what matters…or we want to be. Our internal capacity to deal with life on our own has its limit, and when too much life wells up inside, our eyes well up and the overflow spills out. Social psychologists have suggested that tears signal to others that we, ourselves, are in need of another’s solidarity – either to celebrate an aspect of life or mourn it. We cry because we care – others cry with us because they care about us. Is it that simple?

The shortest verse in the whole Bible is found in the Gospel of John, and it’s all about Jesus’ tears. John didn’t originally scribe his gospel verse by verse, but as a continuous narrative. Scribes over the centuries sought to make it easier for us to navigate the Scriptures, so they divided thoughts and stories into chapter and verse. Something about John’s observation of Jesus crying caught their attention, too. John documented that Jesus wept, as he stood by his friend Lazarus’ tomb. John 11:35 simply reads “Jesus wept”. Talk about solidarity – Jesus cried, as did others that day over the loss of a dear loved one. Research suggests that women cry five times more than men in an average year. I have to admit that when I see a man cry, it immediately gets my attention in a way that deeply moves me – something must really matter for them to emote in such a way. It obviously impacted the people who stood with Jesus by Laz’s grave. They commented to each other, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36). But was that the only reason why Jesus wept? When Jesus saw Lazarus’ sister, Martha, by his grave, Jesus assured her that her brother would live again. Martha didn’t get his meaning. It seems Jesus wept, not just because Laz died, but because humanity doesn’t get how loved we are by God and how we can love each other (and life itself) the same way God loves. I confess, I cry most about not feeling loved and feeling like life is too hard, and isn’t turning out the way I had hoped.

Ed Underwood, a pastor and cancer survivor, details his understanding of how God loves us in his book, When God Breaks Your Heart. Lying in a hospital bed, Underwood doubted if God was there with him as he anticipated his death. But then he re-read the story of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus with new perspective. In the story, Martha and her sister Mary sent for Jesus to come heal their brother who had become very ill. Jesus received their message and seemed to dismiss their dire call for help. Even his disciples were confused by his seemingly indifference to the crisis. They urged him to act fast or else Lazarus would surely die. Jesus purposefully waited for a few days to pass, ensuring Lazarus’ death, and then responded to the sisters’ request. When Martha heard Jesus was on his way, she rushed to meet him and angrily accused him of not coming soon enough. She emphasized to Jesus that ‘if only’ he had come sooner (John 11:21). Mary didn’t even bother accompanying her sister to confront Jesus. She stayed home (John 11:28); I’m sure clutching a box of ancient Kleenex, overwhelmed by grief. Underwood writes that he deeply struggled with the same emotional and intellectual experience as Martha and Mary did. However, reviewing the Biblical story in full brought Underwood a new and profound comfort. Underwood defines how ‘comfort’ literally breaks down to mean “come forth”.  He underscores that these are the exact words Jesus declared outside of Lazarus’ tomb, after Jesus first ordered the grave seal to be broken (John 11:43 KJV). Martha winced at breaking the tomb’s seal and reminded Jesus that doing so would release a bad stench since Laz had been dead a few days (John11:39). Thanks, Martha, for pointing out the obvious – death stinks. Do we need to be reminded of that?  The answer is yes. Does God? The answer is no. God was already aware of this fact. That was the reason why He came to earth in the first place. When the seal of Jesus’ own tomb was broken, God completely removed the stench of death. His resurrection is the best thing to cry about. Jesus proved Himself Lord over life and death.

In Dan Allender’s book The Cry of the Soul, he strategically provides insight into how our emotions (and tears) don’t just reveal what is going on in our own hearts, but also reveals God’s heart for us. He writes, “God’s passion is to rig the world so that we are compelled to deal with whatever blocks us from being like His glorious Son.” Our tears are like a bridge that allows love to flow in a two way direction – not simply between me and someone else here on earth but between me and the God of the universe. God sees every tear that falls. Whatever the reason, each one matters. The psalmist David wrote “You keep my tears in Your bottle” (Psalm 56:8b). Why would God do that? Because everything about us means something to God. Our lives matter.

References:

  1. Sense and Sensibility, motion picture 1995
  2. Major Tom by David Bowie
  3. Who Is Worthy? Podcast/sermon by Paul David Tripp
  4. Why we cry Blog post by Dr. Nick Knight
  5. When God Breaks Your Heart by Ed Underwood
  6. The Cry of the Soul by Dan Allender

Acorns of Hope

Jesus Meets Zachaeus

“Redwoods reach their incredible height because they grow very close to each other. Redwoods are always surrounded by other redwoods! Because the 100 plus inches of annual rainfall leaves the soil with few nutrients, the trees rely on each other for their vital nutrients. Only redwoods have the strength to support other redwoods. The root systems of redwoods are very shallow. The roots grow no deeper than about ten feet and yet they support a tree that is the height of a football field. It seems impossible but in reality, the roots of the redwood tree graft and interlock with the systems of the trees surrounding it, creating a vast interlocking root platform. This prevents the toppling of even the tallest and most massive trees when soil layers become fully saturated and soggy during prolonged flooding. Baby redwoods actually sprout from the roots of the parent tree. This is a very common sight in a redwood forest. The baby tree gets its nutrients from the parent tree until its root system has spread and intertwined with the root systems of the trees surrounding it.”  Secrets From Redwoods About Creating Powerful Teams

I walked with my client from the waiting room into the therapy room to start our weekly session. He lay down on the sofa and stretched out on his back. He folded his arms behind his head and stared up at the ceiling in quiet reflection. I sat in a chair across from him.

I asked, “How’s it going?”

“Not good”, he replied.

“What happened?” I inquired.

“My heart hurts”, he answered matter of factly, still staring at the ceiling.

“What do you mean?” I asked, starting to feel like Anna Freud. I should mention that this psycho-analytic moment was occurring with a five year old boy. I had been working with him since he was three. He was referred to me for therapy to help resolve behavioral and emotional difficulties. He was separated, around age three, from his parents due to their difficulties of providing him a safe and supportive home. He had experienced a high level of distress in his few years of life; and though he was in a nurturing foster/adoptive home, he still struggled to make sense of why his birth parents didn’t/couldn’t love him in healthy ways. During my work with him, he had made incredible progress in verbalizing his thoughts and feelings rather than acting them out. This conversation was proof of that progress.

He clarified his statement. “My heart is broke.”

“Broke?” I questioned.

“Yep, broke.” he said.

“Well,” I replied, “You’ve come to the right place because I can help broken hearts feel better.”

“No. You can’t. You can’t fix it. It’s broken forever.” He emphasized.

“Forever? Wow, that’s a long time.” I said. “ Are you sure I can’t help?” I added.

“No one can help. It’s too broken.” he said.

This may all seem a bit melodramatic; but any five year old is a pro at seeing things in all or nothing terms. Especially when the majority of those formative years were fraught with chaos and discord, it can seem impossible to understand what wholeness is.

So being a good art therapist, I asked him to draw a picture of his heart to show me how it was broken. He drew an outline of a heart, one line connected to form the shape. This is information to me that there is a sense of wholeness inside him; we just needed to work together to highlight it more consciously. He scribbled inside the interior of the outline for a while, emoting his energy in a seemingly controlled manner. I was proud of him at how he was expressing himself. Then suddenly he became agitated and started ripping the picture up into small pieces and tossing them hap-hazzardly on the floor.

“Oh my”, I thought.

“See!” he exclaimed, “It’s all broken. It can’t be fixed!”

We both stared at the pieces of paper on the floor. I asked him what he wanted to do with them and he said he didn’t know. He stood in the midst of the torn pieces (the pieces of his broken heart), as they lay on the floor. He started crying and was visibly very upset. I asked him if he wanted his “mom” (foster mom) to join us in the room to help figure things out. He nodded. She joined us and noticed the pieces of paper on the floor. She asked what happened, in a tone that was quite consoling. He explained the situation; then immediately after his report, he scrambled under the desk in the room and hid. He said nothing, but reached his arm out and grabbed a few of the pieces nearby the desk. His foster mom gave me a concerned glance and I responded with a reassuring smile. I gently told my client to come out when he was ready and assured him that his mom and I would wait. He grabbed a few more pieces and pulled them into his hiding place. After a few moments, he poked his head out from underneath the desk and asked for a pen. His mom handed him a marker and he retreated back under the desk. After a few more moments, he emerged and handed his mom one of the pieces and stared at her. She responded to his gesture by looking him in the eyes and saying, “I love you, too”. He had written “I love you” on the piece of paper. She held the little note in her hand and then held him in her lap and he was visibly peaceful and calm.

I looked at the two of them. At first glance, I saw her hold the torn scrap and heard her re-read it aloud a few times. I watched the boy, whose life felt so broken, smile and rest his head against her. I then thought about how the shred of paper was like a seed. Yes, his heart was experiencing fractured reality and he was desperately trying to make sense of his world, his own worth; and yet, in that brokenness, there was wholeness in the most profound way. The words he wrote on that torn piece of paper (his broken piece of heart) define a relationship.

We are designed for relationships because our Designer fashioned us after “their” likeness (Genesis 1:26). Though God also instructed Moses to teach that “The Lord our God is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4). That Oneness is not singular exclusivity. Rather, God is to be understood as a united whole. We possess that same wholeness because of God’s design, God’s identity in us. Our awareness of feeling broken suggests that we are aware that something is, indeed, wrong. Even five year olds can understand that. However, regardless of what feels broken (and is broken), we still possess the imprint of that wholeness on every broken piece. The reality of community lives in a single seed and can be planted to reveal it. Such seedling is dependent, in kind, on other seeds that have been planted to form an intertwined network of community – a crop of interdependent relationships. Those three words my client wrote on that piece of paper embodied a holistic declaration of his attempt to connect with something/someone as much as it symbolized the reflection of what God declares to all of us. We are created for community because we were made by community.

I love holding a newborn. I often refer to them as “acorns of hope”. They possess the reality of what God intended. They represent our humanity so humbly. They need the nurturance of a social system to survive and thrive – and I think we need them to remind us that we all began in such form. Life requires times of reforming and transforming our awareness to reconnect to this original purpose. It’s hard, but we have a lifetime to figure it all out. And we can figure it out together. We have to or we truly fall apart and miss out on experiencing what it is to be truly human.

References:

  1. Zacchaeus Meets Jesus; drawing by Jamie Wasson 1983 (age 6)
  2. Secrets From Redwoods About Creating Powerful Teams: Dr. Karen Wolfe
  3. Art Psycho-therapy by Harriet Wadeson
  1. Life of the Beloved; Henri Nouwen
  1. God For Us: The Trinity and Christian Life by Catherine Lacugna

A Life Worth Living Again

hope

“The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.”  Helen Keller
I recently witnessed a baby emerge from his mother’s womb. I am a birth doula, which is a fancy term for a professional support person who cheers on women and their families through the labor and delivery process and offers informational, emotional and physical support. I have assisted in dozens of births over the past four years and I never cease to be awestruck when a baby is born. As I watch such a momentous event take place, there are always at least a few tears that fill my eyes. I believe every birth is a miracle, no matter what the surrounding circumstances are; and I feel incredibly privileged to have a front row seat to see it occur. In fact, there are a few times when something so obviously synchronistic captivates me during the experience that I could easily start sobbing with overwhelming awe. My pre-emptive emotional gush could certainly be due to my extreme exhaustion, since some labors last a very long time and I get very little sleep…or it could also be the result of the residual hormonal release of o oxytocin that helps cultivate euphoria…but I’d like to believe that it is mostly an acute divine awareness that activates and compels me to acknowledge and celebrate the reality of life in all its beauty and scandal. This is how I have come to define resurrection, which is the best way of living that I can imagine. This most recent birth experience revealed this to me in a new way.

Resurrection is, indeed, a beautiful and scandalous experience. This provocative reality requires death in order for life to be re-born. Considering Jesus’ death and resurrection is certainly controversial; yet, I believe it is essential in making sense of life as well as enduring life with meaningful and triumphant purpose. I’m not going to attempt here to define or resolve the problem of pain (or why we die) in any over-simplified or sophisticated explanation. People have been doing this for millennia. Suffice to say, I am part of a long tradition of people trying to make sense of “why” and “why not”. Why does God allow pain to exist? Why not take it all away if God really is all-powerful? A beneficial book by Phillip Yancey explores the reality of pain and sums up the best question on the topic in its title: Where Is God When It Hurts? Such a desperate intrigue begs an answer, not from an existential perspective persay, but from a relational vantage point.

A similar question was asked and an explanation offered twenty five hundred years ago when Israel’s King David poetically penned Psalm 23. The first line defines God as a personal guide: “The Lord is my Shepherd (Psalm 23:1). From the start, a relationship is established. The identity and function of David’s Shepherd unfolds line by line to describe an ever-present and benevolent support. I am persuaded that any belief or description of God as anything less than good is not worth considering, let alone consulting. I must, from all starting points of understanding any part of life (its highs and lows), begin with the acknowledgment and acceptance that God is eternally good. Otherwise, I’m better off not believing in any such entity because it will only result in the worse kind of disappointment and disconnection. Death is the most disappointing and disconnecting experience. That is why God incarnated through Jesus came to earth. He lived a life not unlike our own – He was born, lived and even died, so that we never need say we are on our own. His resurrection is the everlasting reality that As a Good Shepherd, He walks with us through every aspect of our existence. His resurrection provides us the hope of life on the other side of obstacles as well as life after life – whether figuratively or literally. We can always overcome.

Pregnancy and birth are often used as metaphoric models of describing aspects of life’s journey. We wait. We mature. We suffer. We keep going. We think we won’t make it. We can’t take it anymore and then we turn the corner and we greet what we were waiting for. I have yet to birth my own children, but I have birthed a few life-transforming moments that came out of long suffering labors. A pastor told me in my twenties during a difficult phase of my life that “God does not waste pain”. I have come to embrace this promise, believing that God is good and He meant it when He created life and declared it to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31). I have sat on my couch, heart broken and beaten down by life’s disappointments and challenges, and have said aloud that “something good will be birthed out of this pain”. I take deep breaths and focus on that hope. That hope is its own healing – the expectancy of resurrection brings me peace to endure and press on.

During this most recent birth, the mama shared my faith in Jesus as something/someone special – a good Shepherd to help her along her journey. She selected a playlist of her favorite sacred songs to provide a sound track for her labor. Throughout her labor, they set a nice tone to the room and mindset with both peaceful or peppy melodies and lyrics like “You are my strength” and “I’ll never leave you alone” etc. At times, I would point out a line of a song to offer her encouragement. She smiled and sighed; and such sentiment seemed to resonate with her, as she notably had a peaceful resolve in her stature and movements. However, I did not anticipate how these songs would cycle during the delivery process to significantly offer encouragement to keep pushing onward. As each contraction surged and the baby began to emerge, she begged for relief. All she could really utter was “it hurts so much!” The doctor offered a few relief options, though she emphasized the most important option to consider was to just keep pushing because the baby would be born in a matter of minutes. So the mama kept pushing. Her husband placed the music by her head to see if that would offer reprieve. I’m not sure if she heard the song playing as she birthed her baby boy, since her efforts were very much focused on her task at hand. But I heard the song. It was an Easter themed song about resurrection, about Christ overcoming the grave and about how we, too, can live and thrive  because “He is alive”. I watched the mother in her agonizing attempts to birth her baby and heard her repeatedly cry “why does it hurt so much?” She also repeated that she couldn’t push anymore. As the song melody swelled to a climax and the lyrics reiterated the reality “He is alive”, I found myself in tune with both the mother’s longing for her labor to be over and the reality of how God endured pain to empower us to survive the valley and reach the mountain moment. I looked into that mother’s eyes and told her that not only was her husband, the staff, I and even her baby were with her to help her cross the finish line but most significantly that  God was with her. After a pause, I told her God purposefully brought her to this moment and placed the strength inside her to see it through to the other side. She took a deep breath and seemed to reach deep within to access that strength. She lifted her head and tucked her chin to her chest for a few final pushes and then the doctor placed her baby boy on her chest. The resurrection song played a few final measures and I thought I might start crying uncontrollably.

One of my favorite things about being part of this process with moms and families is watching the transformation on the mother’s face from before to after delivery. This birth was no different – I watched the mom’s face shift from intense distress and furrowed brow to a blissful glow of joy with softened lines and gaze. She sweetly greeted her little guy with gentle whispers of giddiness. Not unlike Mary did, as she stood outside Jesus’ grave that first Easter morning. The tomb became a womb and birthed a whole new reality for us to live life with renewed focus.  Resurrection keeps telling a story for me and is truly my inspiration to serve others – I love cheering people on to live like they are loved and are able to love deeply and can bring life into the world with joy that overflows and surpasses any and all grief.

Reference:

  1. Hope; pastel painting by Jamie Wasson 2010
  2. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
  3. About Birth Doulas: DONA International
  4. Where is God when it Hurts? By Phillip Yancey
  5. Song: Forever by Kari Jobe 2014