Lifeline

Somebody somewhere needs to read this. Because the darkness is slowly suffocating her. Because his hope is bleeding out. Because she can’t find her way back to herself. Because he can only see one way out.

Lethal impulses keep bubbling to the surface. Thoughts turn traitor. Death beckons.

It promises relief… release… rest.

Death is a liar.

There’s no darkness that can’t be extinguished. No demon that cannot be exorcised. No trap inescapable. No sin unforgivable.

That’s the Truth.

Hope is just a breath away.

A call. A text. A prayer. A promise.

Last week, two high-profile Americans succumbed to suicide. And we’re stunned afresh that these brilliant, accomplished, vibrant individuals could have suffered from what turned out to be terminal anguish. As if wild success and debilitating illness (of any type) are mutually exclusive.

The undeniable crux of the matter is this:

We were made for relationship. We are meant to be connected. Yet so often when we need people the most, we retreat. We choose solitary confinement over commiseration. Isolation over consolation. Because we believe our burdens must be borne alone.

In this age of constant connectivity, we are becoming increasingly and excruciatingly lonely. Oh, the irony.

But… and this is where it gets tricky… it’s not the sufferer who ought to be charged with the duty of “reaching out.” We don’t ask people recovering from open heart surgery to jump out of the hospital bed and throw on some street clothes and meet a friend for coffee, conversation, comfort. The friend just shows up. Because friends do that.

They’re there for each other.

On good days and bad days. Cold/cloudy/sunny/snowy days. Winter, spring, summer, fall. Holidays and ordinary ones. Pre-race… and post-op… and after-party cleanup.

Those of us who aren’t fighting for our lives – we’re the ones who need to text/call/email/stop by.  The onus is just that: on us.

Life-and-death battles rage behind soundproof, windowless walls. And somehow, sometimes, our friends’ firestorms go undetected. We can’t see their pain. We don’t hear the sound of relentless/mounting/deadly despair. And even if we could, most of us don’t have the antidote. But here’s what I’m told:

Togetherness can be a lifesaver.

Check in.

Show up.

Be near.

Care.

That’s what love does. It dispels darkness. It points to the Light.

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12, NLT)

Whatever the pressure or pain, trauma or terror, Jesus promises relief… release… rest.

Restoration.

He’s the answer. He’s the antidote. The Way, the Truth, the Life.

And He’s near.

“The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near.” (Acts 17:24-27, The Message)

Even when no one else is… God’s there for you. The Life-Guard is always on duty. He’s just a whisper away.  And oh, how He loves you.

I pray you’ll hold onto hope… and He’ll hold onto you… for safekeeping.

Please, please stay.

Wendy

P.S. There’s a lovely little children’s book by Nancy Tillman titled You’re Here for a Reason. It closes like this: “A piece of the world that is precious and dear would surely be missing if you weren’t here. If not for your smile and your laugh and your heart, this place we call home would be minus a part. Thank goodness you’re here! Thank goodness times two! I just can’t imagine a world without you.”

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

 

 

 

 

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Eclipsed

My dear reader,

Here we are, January twentysomething, and I just want to know one thing…

Can we fast-forward?

Right through this insufferable/interminable/abominable time of year when winter is no longer a wonderland, and the snow has been downgraded from dazzling to dingy. When Merry and Bright have skipped town… and Dreary and Dull have quite presumptuously taken their place. They’ve put down stakes in this frozen tundra, and I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon.

The next few months mark a mostly-miserable season I’ve previously dubbed “the greys and the grind.” And every year, it seems to stick around longer than ever. Rude.

Can we just spring ahead? (Pretty please?)

I’m convinced winter was created simply to remind us how good we have it the rest of the year. It’s a seasonal gut-check, intended to test our mettle, try our resilience and gauge our susceptibility to flu/frostbite/hypothermia/pneumonia.

It’s cold and grey and deathly and dark. Which sounds eerily like hell to me. (Except for the frigid temps. But the Cubs did win the World Series season before last… so perhaps the place froze over after all.)

Baby, it’s c-c-c-cold outside. Biting. Bitter. Brrrrr. The high temperatures have fluctuated between too-damp-cold and nasty-low. And the wind chills are worse. Who needs Botox injections when you can just walk outside and freeze your own face?

Adding insult to injury, winter is also relentlessly grey… like Eeyore. (And equally gloomy and glum.) Pretty tough to be energized and motivated, chipper and cheery, bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, full of fun-fun-fun when the sky itself looks downcast.

That’s the thing about winter. It feels terminal. The leaves are gone. The grass is dead. Every blooming thing has drooped, dropped or dried up. How are we supposed to survive-and-thrive day after day, week after week, when there’s so few signs of life?

Death stares us back in the face nearly everywhere we look.

And winter is just so… dark. The days are dreary and depressing. Nights achingly long and shrouded in thick black. The kind that hangs heavy and low. Slithering in and wrapping itself around us like a boa constrictor. Not long and we find ourselves struggling to move. Or breathe.

We struggle and whimper… and pray the darkness doesn’t swallow us whole.

And (eventually, always) God answers.

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. (Luke 1:79)

That’s the thing about darkness. It threatens, and it lies.

But it doesn’t last forever.

And much to my surprise, I’ve learned that darkness isn’t devoid of its own dividends. Whispers of comfort from the Father’s heart. Tokens of His affection. Gentle graces just when hope seems to be bleeding out. Heretofore unnoticed beauty (things I can only see when I take my eyes off the shiny things). Simple and sacred gifts I might have missed if the world was all sunshine and daisies and cashmere and truffles every day. It’s in the dark that I notice the real treasures, strewn about like stars in the blackest sky.

And eventually… always… the morning light from heaven breaks through.

So I count winter’s blessings. Especially the ones scattered under the dark cover of night. And I count the days ’til spring. (55 to be exact.)

Thankfully, we’ve got a handful of diversions between now and March 20th. Let’s save the dates… and savor them, shall we? Let’s mine the gems and relish the joys and celebrate the heck out of anything – and everything – silly or sweet, gracious or good.

The Grammys (1.28) and National Blueberry Pancake Day fall on the same day this year. (So Miley, Bruno, Kendrick and Kesha have every excuse to do some serious carbo-loading prior to their performances. We should join them, no?) Since these two spectacular events also coincide with my Dad’s birthday, naturally we sent him some noise-canceling ear plugs and an IHOP gift card to celebrate. (Enjoy the sweet sound of silence and a tall stack of birthday ‘cakes, Daddy-O! Extra syrup!)

Groundhog Day (2.2) Dear God, please don’t part the heavens or shine on that rodent in Punxsutawney. Amen.

Super Bowl Sunday (2.4) Commercial wars and a Justin Timberlake concert. Oh, and a fair chance of football. Or unfair. (Depending on the officiating.)

National Pizza Day (2.9) Chicago-style… of course.

Fat Tuesday (2.13) For those of you gearing up to start Whole 30, this month is probably not ideal. Pancakes, pizza, and Paczkis. #triplethreat

Valentine’s Day (2.14) Which is also Ash Wednesday. (So if you’re planning to give up chocolate, for Lent… Godspeed.)

Dr. Seuss Day (3.2) “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” 

The Oscars (3.4) Tinseltown’s biggest night. Where film, fashion, politics and plastic surgery collide. It’s a hot mess. (And that’s just the red carpet.)

National Day to Unplug (3.9) Just. do. it.

Daylight Savings (Spring Ahead) Day (3.11) Cue the “Hallelujah” chorus.

Pi Day (3.14. Duh.) Mathematicians and pie lovers, rejoice!

St. Patrick’s Day (3.17) Shamrocks and shenanigans ’til the wee hours. Easy does it, lads.

The Vernal Equinox (3.20) (< Sounds like an unpleasant dental procedure, doesn’t it? But thankfully, no Novocaine or dental drill bits required.) At long last… spring!

In addition to all the celebration-worthy events listed above, we’re in for a special treat next week. It’s literally a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence. In fact, it is a blue moon. An especially rare one at that. The heavens are rolling out a lunar trifecta on January 31st: a Super Moon (basically an extra bright, full moon closeup), Blue Moon (the second full moon in a month) and Blood Moon (a total lunar eclipse) all spinning into one celestial extravaganza. Sounds like a heck of a sky show to me. And it’s been a long time coming. Believe it or not, the last Blue Blood Moon occurred in 1866. And since my great-great grandparents didn’t follow NASA on Twitter, I’m guessing they slept right through it.

One week from today, astronomical history is going to be made, people! And possibly gastronomical history too if you’re planning to consume the aforementioned pancakes, pizzas, Paczkis, and pies. (Zantac, anyone?)

The Super Blue Blood Moon will pass through the earth’s shadow (most visible around 5 am PST in North America) and that shadow will effectively extinguish the sun’s reflection on the moon’s surface, creating a lunar blackout. My West Coast friends will get the best view of this star-spangled spectacle, but even those on the East Coast should get a peek (around 6:45 am EST).

I suggest you set your alarm and put together a little lunar eclipse playlist. Mine will include Moondance (Van Morrison), Fly Me to the Moon (Frank Sinatra), Bad Moon Rising (Credence Clearwater Revival), Dancing in the Moonlight (King Harvest), Shame on the Moon (Bob Seger), That’s Amore (Dean Martin), Moon Shadow (Cat Stevens), and Full Moon (Off Broadway). That last one brings back a flood of high school memories for me… bad boys and mean girls and mathletes. Oh my! (And a little whiff of the PE locker room too. Eww.)

Janis Joplin, REM, David Bowie, Chuck Berry, Beethoven, Fleetwood Mac, Jonny Greenwood, Radiohead, The Doors, Neil Young, Duran Duran, Louis Armstrong, Chopin, Echo and the Bunnymen, Ella Fitzgerald, Rachmaninoff, The Rolling Stones, Prince, and Marvin Gaye have all been moonstruck as well, so there’s something for nearly every musical taste. You’ve got seven days to compile your playlist and grab your binoculars.

Eyes to the skies… Enjoy the show!

Wendy

P.S. Winter, spring, summer or fall, I pray your hope is never eclipsed.