Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cluckings from the Smucker Coop

The pressure is off.

Finals week. Book promotions, sales, and speeches.  Rehearsals and the choir concert.  The Sunday school program.  The Wilton Smucker Family Christmas.  Shopping.  Drivers Ed. {She passed, I'm happy to report.}

All pretty much done.

And Amy is home.

Matt is coming.

So the other [better] kind of crazy begins.

Laughter, clever comebacks, stories, puns, and snark.  And song.

"These are about the best rolls I've ever made, I think," I said as I prepared the Smucker-dinner leftovers for supper this evening.

"Are they worthy to be called up yonder?" said Ben.  "I'll make sure I'm there when it happens."

I smiled.

Emily reminisced about the time she got on the computer and I was still signed in to Facebook, so she sent a message to Steven's friend Trent: "I know all about it and I have to say Paul and I are not impressed."

Dangerous, these people.

Last night I was very tired but every time I was about to drift off to sleep I would hear a "ping!" from a distant computer followed by muffled giggles.  I stumbled out of the bedroom and found Ben in the office choking with silent laughter.

He had been up late writing a real paper-and-ink letter to his girlfriend when he heard the ping of a Facebook message.  He checked the computer.  Once again, I had failed to sign out of Facebook, and Emily from upstairs had sent a message: 

Ben, pretending to be me, wrote back:
"No mucho grande. Is that how the cool peep talk these days?"

The conversation continued, with Emily, who normally is sharper than this, blithely chatting away with her mom-- she thought-- utterly oblivious to how she was being deceived.

How would i know what the cool peep do?
You go to the University of Nike. And Nike makes Jordan Brand sneakers. And Jordan Brand sneakers are the epitome of cool coolness.

How do you know this? You should know how the cool peep talk! Please explain to me! Then I can fit in at the University of Nike!
Maybe I should be asking Ben, since he goes to the University of Smart People Who Can Do Math. Maybe they know how to quantify coolness.

You are funny!
I just wish I could be as witty as my smart children.
You are the one being witty in this convo, not me!
You have taught me well.
Are you actually laughing out loud? I think I could hear you cause you laugh pretty loudly sometimes.
It was a little chuckle. Maybe I should have written col
Coughing out loud? That's what I write when I need my inhaler.
No, I don't cough out loud! How unladylike!
Cackle out loud then. You and I are both experts in that.
I meant chuckle out loud.
I know. I was just finding alternate meanings for col. Like coughing out loud. It means "hold on while I get my puffer. I can't remember which one of 8 purses it's in."
Ok, I need to finish writing a letter to Amanda. And this has been Ben the whole time.
COL! (Cackle out loud this time)
Good thing I didn't tell you any secrets about BOYS
That...wow that just changes the meaning of everything you wrote
"University of Smart People" indeed
Ok this is mom for reals...came out to tell Ben to stop COLing so i could sleep and now we are sitting here just DYING
As in, we need CPR. Badly
or an inhaler
*     *     *
 Meanwhile, Emily said later, she couldn't believe how witty I was being, and was "THIS close to posting two of these for Quote of the Day."

*     *     *
Jenny is trying out her new paint set from Rachel D.
"Ben, tell me something purple."
"A really bad bruise.  A Minnesota Vikings player.  A purple people-eater.  A lupine."
"Oooooo.  Yeah."
"Back in the 70's the Vikings had four defensive linemen who were really good.  They were known as the purple people-eaters.  So there's some method to my madness."

*     *     *
Rosie the musical sister-in-law and choir director talked my three youngest into singing a song together for the prelude at the concert.  I may or may not have sat outside the closed door of the office while they practiced The First Noel inside, around the piano.  They were amazing at the concert, and again at last night's church service, when they sang it again.

I love to hear my children sing.

*     *     *
Two Sundays ago Paul's Aunt Susie called and said she needs help because she fell on the porch and can't get up.  Ben and Steven dashed over to assist.

Uncle Milford beckoned me over in the foyer after church.  He talks like an aging Smucker, slow and loud and unfiltered.  "Your black boy," he said, "He's strong!  M'wife fell, and he come over and he just picked her up!  All by himself!  And he was barefoot!"

Milford has a bit of dementia, but that combination--the black son, his strength, picking up Susie, and the bare feet, made such an impression on him and was so vivid in his mind that he told this story to the nurses at the hospital the following week when he unfortunately was admitted with an infection, and then when I visited him in rehab afterwards, my presence triggered the memory and he told the therapist all about it.

When I have dementia I think I will also remember Steven as strong and barefoot, always rescuing the injured and weak.

*     *     *
Lisa the niece who got married this year and now lives in Michigan sent her relatives a Christmas letter which was discussed by the aunts at the family gathering on Saturday.  "She sounded so newlywed and happy," we said.

"Happy?" said Jessi.  "She was just GLOWING.  You could just about see the letter glowing through the envelope before you ever opened it!"

I have a feeling that as you read this post you can see feathers sprouting at the edge of the computer screen and hear the distant contented clucking of a mother hen with her chicks in the nest.  There's probably even a fresh egg if you reach behind the screen and pat around.

May you all have a warm and delightful Christmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What Works for Me: the SAD Regimen

A number of people have asked me just what my exact regimen is for dealing with SAD.

I am hesitant to share it for fear someone will take it as a prescription for everyone.

So: the disclaimer--







First of all, here are my SAD symptoms:

1. Fatigue.  I am just....so.....draggy.....and......tired.  It's hard to work.  I take naps.  I just want to sleep.
2. Mental fatigue and fuzzy thinking.  What?  I'm supposed to take one car to school and then switch cars and take Jenny to drivers ed?  Huh?  This is just way too complicated.  I find it hard to pray, plan, write, discuss, etc.
3. Obsessing.  This one is embarrassing.  I will just latch onto one nasty person, one regret of the past, one  comment from Paul that seems slightly insensitive and I will just mull that thing to DEATH.  It's like I can't let go until I somehow SOLVE it.  But there's no solving it because it isn't really REAL if that makes sense.
4. I crave sugary things and gain weight.
5. I know I should go on walks but just can't make myself go outside.
6. I know I should interact with people but I don't want to go anywhere and I hate talking on the phone.
7. I spend too much time online, escaping my overwhelming world.
8. Any job bigger than doing dishes is just huge and overwhelming. 

If SAD descends down into the basement and becomes Depression, then I also have these symptoms:
1. Wanting to just hide from the world.
2. Feeling like I'm falling apart.
3. Crying a lot at nothing.
4. Being unable to do the basics like washing dishes.
5. Wanting help but being unable to ask for it.

Believe me, once you've been there and recovered, you don't ever want to go there again.

So, this is my regimen, what I try to do as soon as the black cloud rolls in--

1. 2000 iu of vitamin D a day
2. 375 mg of St. Johns Wort twice a day.
3. Eat lots of protein and just good food.  We all know what's good for us.  Whole grains, fruits, veggies, meat, beans, nuts. Water to drink. And I try to cut out sugar.
4. I take a nutritional product called Reliv.  I take the Classic shake, the SoySentials hormone helpers, and the LunaRich capsules.  You buy it through a dealer.
5. I try to walk outside every day.  If I can't walk outside, I try to work through a Walk Away the Pounds video.
6. I try to connect with people every day, both inside and out of my family.
7. I monitor my symptoms and really kick into gear if I see my symptoms getting worse because it's easy to slack off on the regimen when you start to feel better.
8. I plan ahead of time to ask for help if I ever start to get depressed again.
9. In the past I've taken 5HTP but eventually was ok without it.
10. Keep reading my Bible every day.  It keeps me anchored and helps ward off the guilt and shame. And praying as I'm able.  Thankfully God understands the silent pleas for help when we can't form words.

Here are some things that have worked for others:
1. Using a full-spectrum light.  I'm told there are new ones that you wear like a cap with a visor, and you can do normal stuff and the light in the visor shines sufficiently in your eyes.  Also, you can borrow a light from NAMI.
2. Prescription medicines.  I didn't have much luck with these, but I'm told that what I took is now considered old-school and there are lots of better things available.

What do you do if you know something is deeply wrong but you don't have the strength to ask for help?

Here's my advice:
1. Make a pot of tea.  Clear a spot on your messy table.  Find a pretty napkin.  Drink your tea.
2. Make your bed every morning.
3. Read your Bible, even if it's just a few verses.  Your soul needs nourishment.
4. Eat an egg and an apple.
5. Take a walk.
6. Call an elderly person whose life is so pitiful compared to yours that you can't help but cheer her up.
7. You know there are things you should do.  Break them down into little steps.  Put on your walking shoes.  Plan to reward yourself with 15 minutes on Pinterest for every 5 minutes you walk--if that's what it takes.  Write down the phone number you should call.  Plan to call at 1:00.  Reward yourself with more tea after you call.
8. Keep a journal.  Write down what you're obsessing about.  Also find 3 things to be thankful for, and write them down.  Write a prayer for the day, even if it's only one sentence.
9.Give yourself credit for surviving.  Surviving is good.
10. Promise me and yourself that if you are ever a danger to yourself or your children, you will call someone right now.  You know the 911 number by heart.  Call it if you need to.  If you don't want to be that drastic, figure out now who you'll call instead.  Write down the number and have it on hand.
11.  Look up NAMI online.  Learn a lot.  Call them if you should.  I promise they will not make you feel stupid, even if you don't even know what questions to ask.
12. Tell your spouse, friend, mom, someone, what a hard time you're having.  Ask them to help you get help.  Plan ahead how you will do this.  When will you bring it up?  What words will you say?  Then open your mouth.  Say the words.  Tell them you need them to give you a hug and pray for you.  If they won't, find someone who will.  And then let them lead you to the help you need.
13. Believe that there is hope and healing for you.

SAD is awful and Depression is worse, but I believe in better things for all of us.

Today's Column--On SAD

Letter from Harrisburg

Winter can take us to dark places

by Dorcas Smucker

“My first winter in Oregon, I was so tired of the cloudy days. I used to drive home from work and try to count how many shades of gray were in the sky,” I told my daughter on the way home from church last Sunday.

“Were there 50 of them?” she joked, referencing the title of the best-selling­ book.

Neither of us has read the book, but we are familiar with winter’s varieties of gray and the creeping heaviness of seasonal affective disorder that comes with this time of year.

This will be my 25th Oregon winter, so I know the pattern. The sunny days of late summer stretch on and on, well into September and sometimes on into October. I pull carrots, go camping, and inspire the family to help me can 50 quarts of applesauce. We try to wash windows but give up when the farmer to the north plows his field and covers the clean windows with dust. I ride my bike in the evening and smile into the glorious setting sun.

But then the clouds move in and so does the dark cloud of depression. The rain falls and so do my spirits.

Suddenly I sleep a lot more, crave cinnamon rolls and stop caring about the last of the squash going to waste in the garden. I find excuses to stay at home again. I can’t decide on a menu for Thanksgiving dinner but obsess for days about the nasty woman who stepped right in front of my car and then yelled at me in the WinCo parking lot as I was slowly driving away. Oh, she was evil, blaming me for her own inattention, and why couldn’t I think of a withering reply? I no longer care much about the dirty windows. Lastly, my energy disappears, and making my bed in the morning and recycling the newspaper are like wading through knee-deep peanut butter.

I am able to laugh at myself now because I immediately recognize the symptoms and I know this malady has a name: seasonal affective disorder. Thankfully, it also has a solution — for me, a careful mixture of vitamin D, nutrition, herbal supplements, taking walks and connecting with people.

Many of us in the Northwest deal with SAD, I’ve learned, our symptoms ranging from mild to debilitating.

At a midwinter writers’ group meeting at my friend Jessica’s years ago, the subject of winter depression came up. We all dealt with it, to some degree.

Jessica said, “When the sun came out accidentally yesterday, I just had this surge of energy.”

We all nodded. It had happened to each of us.

Jessica said, “Wait. Did I just say the sun came out accidentally?”

We laughed. What an apt description of an Oregon winter.

SAD wasn’t funny the first winters that we lived in Oregon, especially when it took over reality to such a degree that I was in full-blown depression. Unfortunately, the deeper one sinks into any mental illness, the harder it is to recognize the problem and ask for help.

A friend had the courage to say the words: You are depressed. You need help.

There’s a strange power in that seemingly simple step of verbalizing the truth. Especially for someone with a long family history not only of mental illness, but also of hiding it in silence, our private anguish has to crank up a long and difficult auger before it finally spills out of our mouths as complete words.

“Something is wrong.”

“I have a problem.”

“I need help.”

Having an observant, compassionate friend who articulates it for you can be a godsend, catching you before you fall further or crash completely.

Saying it in words enables you to reach out for skilled help, find out that the darkness has a name, and discover hope.

This isn’t normal. Life can be attractive again.

Recently, in preparation for a speech, I visited the Lane County office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Staffed mostly by volunteers, NAMI offers classes, information, referrals, and — most of all — support.

“I wish I would have known about you years ago,” I said, thinking of all the floundering I could have avoided.

My hostess nodded, affirming that it’s often a long route from recognizing the problem to getting help. The important thing, she emphasized, is knowing that others have survived the same issues, and they will help you overcome as well. Recovery is possible.

My first step in fighting SAD was to buy a big white electrical apparatus with the ambitious label of “Happy-Lite,” which I placed on my desk and tried to stare at every morning.

It worked, to some degree, but I found it terribly hard to consistently sit in one spot for half an hour a day.

Plus, it invited too many adolescent jokes. One irritated word from me about the dog getting hair all over my skirt again, and a child would snicker, “Mom, did you forget to sit in front of your Happy-Lite this morning?”

One winter, I tried prescription antidepressants but hated the side effects, especially the sense of placidity, as though I had no emotions at all.

Eventually, I found the combination that works for me. At last, I have weapons at hand when the autumn cloud moves in. It’s hard to describe my gratitude for this, the relief, the sense of finally being in control.

Thanksgiving dinner is now an enjoyable challenge. Buying Christmas presents is a huge job but not overwhelming. I have the mental clarity to pray for the inattentive woman stepping in front of the car and give thanks that she wasn’t hurt.

“She probably has SAD, poor thing,” I think.

The pain of winters past becomes a gift: I not only recognize signs of depression quickly enough in myself to ward it off, but I also see symptoms in others long before they have the ability to say the words for themselves.

“This is what I see,” I tell them quietly. “I’m worried about you, and this is what I suggest.”

So far, no one has resented my intrusion.

“I hadn’t expected the profound relief of someone noticing,” one of them told me. “It means I’m not invisible … that my pain is not falling on blind eyes all around me.”

Winter will likely always have an edge of subtle dread. But now it also has a beauty of its own — a foggy feather across the Coburg Hills, a sun-edged gap in the southwestern sky, bare oak branches black against four distinct shades of gray; and a darkness finding words, past sadness redeemed in new compassion, a heavy listlessness replaced with gentle strength and light.

Dorcas Smucker is a homemaker and mother of six.   Reach her at dorcassmucker@gmail.com
She blogs at Life in the Shoe-- www.dorcassmucker.blogspot.com
To order Dorcas's new book, Footprints on the Ceiling, mail a check for $15 (postage included) to Dorcas Smucker, 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR  97446

Friday, December 12, 2014

More Thoughts on Mental and Physical Illness

The post the other day on mental illness seemed to strike a nerve.  In addition to the comments on the post, I received quite a bit of feedback via phone, email, and private conversations.

Lots to think about and many directions one could go with this.

This is one thing I've concluded, and I don't think I'm alone in this:  I tend to overspiritualize my mental and emotional illnesses, and underspiritualize my physical disorders.

Here's a bit of reverse role-playing to make my point--

Imagine this conversation:
Me: I finally decided to go to a psychiatrist for my depression.  It's really been getting bad.
Solid faithful good-hearted Mennonite: Yeah, it was probably time.   Did he prescribe anything?
Me: Yes, I'm on Prozac.  I can tell a difference already.
SFG-HM: That's good.

Now imagine this:
Me: I finally went to the doctor about my asthma.  I've been coughing constantly.
SFG-HM: Oh. [long pause] You did? [another pause]  Well.....I hope that was wise.  Who did you go to?  Did someone you trust recommend her?  Is she a Christian?  Where did she go to school?  Is she a naturopath, D.O., or M.D.?  So many doctors nowadays are so schooled in humanistic philosophies that they can hardly tell truth from error even if they're Christians.  I don't know.  Why didn't you ask the ministry to pray for you first?  Did she put you on any medication?
Me: Yes, I'm on Advair.  I can tell a difference already.
SFG-HM: Oh my.  I don't know.  Are you sure you need it?  That stuff can really mess with you.  I think you need to really seek the Lord about unconfessed sin in your life, first of all.  I have a feeling you're jealous of Sadie Gingerich and how well she does with her blog compared to you.  And there might be a root of bitterness because the girl you wanted for Matt went and married someone else. And you haven't been coming to sewing circle.  You really need that fellowship, you know.  And you've been so busy, I have a feeling you haven't spent much time in the Word.  Maybe Emily can make breakfast for the family so you can read your Bible in the morning.  You really have to get to the heart of what this asthma is all about.
Me: Yes, well, I have been busy.  And you're probably right about the Advair.  But it IS nice to be able to sleep at night.
SFG-HM: I know people who have had a lot of success with ginger root and sphagnum moss for asthma.  You make a tea and drink it in the evening.  I'd be much more comfortable with that myself, rather than all these chemical things that you have no idea how they'll affect you in the long run and really, they just mask the real issues.  Asthma affects your breathing, and breathing affects every area of your life, you know.  So please just be really careful.

Ok, so I'm exaggerating for emphasis, although I've heard every one of those phrases in some form and so have you.

As I said, I do this as much as anyone--treating physical ailments like they're in a different plane than mental or emotional issues.  The truth is, you could make a good case for my asthma and Seasonal Affective Disorder being equally spiritual in origin, requiring an equally spiritual solution.  On the other hand, maybe they're both entirely physical in nature.  You could make a pretty good case for that, too.  Either way, I should seek help from the Lord first, lest I be like Asa in 2 Chronicles 20.
12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians. 13 Then in the forty-first year of his reign Asa died and rested with his ancestors.

I don't think it's fair to say that the Lord is more likely to heal through a family doctor than a psychiatrist.

I discussed this inconsistency with Emily today and she said, "Yes, but mental illness opens you up to Satan's lies more than anything else."


Such as: "Things will never get better," "Life is too painful to live," "You are all alone," and "What a complete failure you are."

But who of us hasn't heard those same messages in the depths of a long physical illness?

Surely mental issues have a logical physical component, and physical problems have a spiritual/emotional component as well.  Such as: the Christian worker who fell and broke her tailbone recently right at a time of severe spiritual oppression.  The lady I knew who had so much pain she required a complicated regimen of hot baths and therapy every day, and who was instantly cured when she found the son she had given up at birth.  And, a nurse told me, asthma has a definite emotional connection, especially with anger.

 Let's all be consistent, compassionate, and cautious.

Quote of the Day:
"This picture is me and my daughter.  She has my nose, but actually I don't have my nose any more."
--my SIL Loraine, who then explained that her features were altered by an accident and surgery.  If there was a spiritual component to this change, she didn't mention it.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

My Busy Day: Lutherans, Book Fair, and the Helpful Husband

I always like speaking to Lutherans.

Yesterday I went to the Advent breakfast at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church at the invitation of Nancy Fischer, who used to always invite me to come speak to her third graders at Spring Creek Elementary.

But then Nancy retired, so she asked me to come speak to the church ladies instead.

When I speak to Lutherans, I like to tell them that I feel at home among them, having gone to high school in Minnesota in a class of 1 Mennonite, 2 Baptists, 2 Catholics, and 25 Lutherans.  I think I could even pass the Lutheran test, I say, since I used to help the Lutheran kids with their confirmation-class homework during study hall in the 8th grade.

They are kind enough to laugh at this.

It was a terribly busy day, and Paul saved it by going to the fairgrounds and setting up my table at the annual Authors and Artists' Fair, while I was still at the Lutheran Advent breakfast, and then manning the table for an hour until I arrived.

I have known writer-ladies such as Maryana Vollstedt the cookbook author whose husbands, after they retired, came along to book events and helped haul boxes of books and count out change.

I told Paul I would be happy if he did this someday as well.

Last year the event was a flop, landing on the same day as a bunch of snow.  Other years, the economy was awful enough that no one bought books.

But this year--wow.  People wandered through in a steady stream all day, so much so that I got only two short breaks, when I got a volunteer to watch my table and I dashed next door to the Holiday Market for coffee or pizza, and both times I missed customers in my brief absence.

So the book sales were up and a general feeling of relief showed on the faces of the 50 authors present.

As always, meeting readers is interesting and the conversation has a strange way of grouping itself into themes.  And of course, a few conversations are always completely unexpected.

Three people told me I remind them of their Quaker grandmother.  I thought--were they all siblings, or are there that many Quaker grandmothers out there?

I met a lady named Linda Yoder whose grandfather was Shem Yoder who moved from Mississippi to Oklahoma back in the day, for the sake of his wife's health.  I would bet money that Dad knew the family.

My name was a topic of conversation.  These comments always have me scratching my head because when I was young I hated my name.  It would shackle me to failure and dowdiness and obscurity all my life, I was sure of it.

And then I found that in the parallel universe of writing, which is a very different world from junior high and unfortunate nicknames, an unusual name is considered a stroke of good fortune.

One guy came by, stopped short, stared at my name, and exclaimed, "Is that really your name??  That is an awesome name!"

Wow.  All right then, I'll take that.
My friend Deanna Hershiser took this shot.
The author next to me told me of a conversation with her daughter that went like this:
Mom: Dorcas Smucker's going to be at the Authors' Fair too.
Daughter: That's not a real name, you know.
Mom: Yes it is!
Daughter: It's got to be a pen name, Mom.  Don't be so gullible!

And then there was the older man who stopped by and said, "I had a friend long ago named Dorcas.  Actually that was her middle name, but that was what she went by."
I said, "I'm curious, what was her first name?"
He said, "It was Elaine."
I stared at him.  And then I said, "My name is Dorcas Elaine."

 And this was in a category of its own: A 60-ish man came by and said he reads my column and wants to buy a book.  He just retired from a long career in mechanical engineering, he said, and has written a book of poetry and is working on a book of short stories.

I looked at him with--I'm sure--complete disbelief on my face.  "An engineer.  Who writes poetry," I said.

He said yes.

I said, "I have trouble connecting the two.  I have two boys who either are or will be engineers, and I can't imagine them writing poetry."

"Well, I did," he said.  "Shall I quote you a verse?"  I said yes.  And he quoted probably 15 lines of an intense free-verse poem that I don't remember specifics of but I recall a sense of beauty and pressures and the sky.

The downside of the day was that I didn't have time to chat with other authors, beyond quick hugs and how-are-you-doing oh-wait-I-have-a-customer."

Paul showed up at 6 pm and helped me clear off the table and haul the remaining books and load up the car.  Then he took me out for Chinese food.

Every so often I talk with women in Eugene who seem worried that maybe my husband is a controlling Mennonite preacher who reluctantly lets me out of the house to go give a talk but then he insists that I bring him his slippers as soon as I get home and also make him a sandwich and I have to make sure it has just the right amount of mayonnaise or he will pound his fist on the recliner and yell at me.

Certainly my lifestyle of rural, conservative, religious, stay-at-home, and lots-of-children is very different from the often-single, definitely-careers, few-if-any-children women that make up the majority in Eugene.  So I often get the sense that they try not to assume that because my life is so different it means I'm oppressed, but they worry.

So they ask veiled and not-so-veiled questions about how ok Paul is with my coming to do this talk, and with writing for the paper.

Just this week it happened again.  "Make sure you tell him how amazing you are," this woman said after her rather pointed and worried questions.

I had to laugh.  It wasn't the time or place to explain to her, but just the day before, I'd gotten an email exploring the possibility of my teaching writing in a summer program in a Mennonite setting on a college level.  While I was still trying to get my head around the idea, Paul was all over it.  This is how we could make it work, he schemed, all excited.  And this is where I could stay and if it was that time of year he could go with me, and yes of course I have what it takes to do this.  And on and on.

I said, "Listen, this was my dream for YOU, to teach in that kind of setting! It was never my dream for myself!"

He just looked happy and kept planning, since the only thing he likes better than normal planning is planning for his wife or children's success.

So in case you were worried about it, that is the kind of man I have.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Grrnk Grrnk Grrnk Goes Mrs. Smucker's Can Opener

We Mennonites don’t like pride.

Or we say we don’t.

After all, pride goeth before destruction, God hates a proud look, and so on.

Pride manifests itself in various ways, we say.  Among these ways is being spiritually self-sufficient and arrogant, saying or thinking things like, “I don’t need my brothers and sisters to speak into my life.  I don’t need help with my personal issues.  Hey, just me and the Bible and the Holy Spirit, we can figure it out.  I don’t need anyone else’s input.”

Pride pride pride.  Tsk tsk.

“No no, you need to be humble,” we say.  “You need the brotherhood.  You need people with wisdom and experience to speak into your life.  Yes, you need the Word and the Holy Spirit, but you also need help from others.  Stop being so independent and self-sufficient.  What makes you think you can figure things out all by yourself? You’re not going to make it on your own.”

That's when someone is skipping church and questioning closed communion or the head covering.

But then one of us is struggling with depression or bipolar disorder, and suddenly the wind shifts.

“You don’t need help from all these supposed experts,” we are told.  “God has given you everything you need in the Bible.  Hey, just you and your Bible and the Holy Spirit.  That’s all you need.  Pray about it.  Repent of your sin.  Figure it out.  ‘We are given all things that pertain to life and Godliness.’ ‘Great peace have they which love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.’  Why are you looking to people for help when you have God’s Word?  You don’t need all this other stuff.”


If God hates pride, then surely He hates it in this manifestation as well.

I may soon be trying to solder the lid back on the can of worms I opened here, since this is such a volatile issue among certain churches.

On Tuesday night I spoke at a fundraiser for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  I had never heard of them until they asked me to speak, so I visited their office in Eugene to get more information.

And I wished I had known about them a long time ago.

They are a national organization run mostly by volunteers.  Their primary approach to mental illness is a huge emphasis on information and support.  They offer classes, referrals, support groups, and much more.  Much of it is offered by people who have lived with mental illness or dealt with it in a family member.

I could have used many of their resources in the past, with some of my own issues and also with parenting a young adult with depression.  It would have meant a lot less floundering before we finally found some answers.

I gathered that NAMI’s focus is more on peer support than on professional intervention or throwing medicine at a problem, although they are not averse to either if needed.

I thought: if anyone would be educated about mental illness and the healing power of support, brotherhood and fellowship, it ought to be the church.

And yes, I see you there, waving your hand in the air.  You're going to say that SEE, we have all the resources we need in the church.  We don't need counselors and stuff.

Well.  To that I would say, "We as a denomination are not informed and equipped."

And I would tell you to go read Proverbs and all the admonitions to listen to people wiser than you. It doesn't say listen to Grandma who has life wisdom but not to Aunt Barb who's a psychiatrist.  It says, listen to the wise.

I have been helped by counselors, by doctors, by friends who listened, by a wise husband, by children who cut through the fog and clarified things.  I benefited by listening to wisdom, especially if it was accompanied by care and support.

This is not for a minute to discount the fact that healing comes from God.  Or the power of prayer and reading the Word.  The most healing thing ever was when a counselor showed me how Jesus can heal That wound. And He did.  

I’ve found that so much of people's responses depends on what they've experienced.

My observation has been that the most voluble and thoroughly-convinced mental-illness-is-a-sin-problem, anti-counselling, anti-medication, anti-psychiatry folks have never been hammered with mental illness.

Once people have experienced mental illness in themselves or someone they love, they speak with the gentle, careful words of the humble and wounded.  “I don’t have a lot of answers,” they say, “But I will be here for you while you walk through this.”

If you care to comment, please be kind.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Authors & Artists Fair

Last year we got snowed out, so we're all hoping the weather is more helpful this year.

Final Blog Tour Stop

Today is the final stop of the blog tour for Footprints on the Ceiling.  Dawn from Little Shack In the Boondocks hosts today's review.  She and I go way back, as you'll see from her post.

Good memories.  She and her sister were such a blessing to my sister and me at a time when we didn't have friends our age at our little church in Minnesota.

Huge thanks to all the bloggers who read the book with an especially careful eye and shared their insights with you.

And thanks to all the readers who came along for the ride.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Mrs. Smucker's 7 Amazing Life Hacks!!

"What are you reading, Mom?" one of the kids asked, walking by as I avidly read something online.

I decided to tell the truth.  "I am reading a list called, 'The 40 Greatest Love Stories Ever.'"

The kid laughed.

I said, "There's Antony and Cleopatra, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, Romeo and Juliet..."

This didn't make it sound any more mature.

This is my great weakness: Lists.  With numbers.  And little testimonials.

If someone on Facebook links to an article called, "How Christian Wives Sometimes Discourage Their Husbands," I might or might not click on it.

But if the link says, "7 Things You Do That Make Your Husband Feel Like Marriage Isn't Worth It--I had no idea I was doing # 5--weeping and repenting right now!"

I cannot resist.  It pulls me in, my finger moves, click and scroll, read read read.

"25 AMAZING Recipes for Using Up Wrinkly Golden Delicious Apples!"

"You Won't BELIEVE These 8 Rules In A Mennonite School In Oregon!"

"5 Beautiful Houses That Used To Be Grass Seed Bins--MIND BLOWN!!"

I got to wondering--what is is about numbers?  Take a look.  BuzzFeed, blogs, articles and feeds of all kinds--it's all about lists and numbers and bullet points.

"17 Dads Who Totally Won 2014"

"35 Photos That Prove Your Entire Life Is A Lie"

Those two are actual links on BuzzFeed.

I also got to wondering: would I boost my numbers if I mixed some of these appealing attributes into one blog post?

"7 Amazing Cures For SAD From Everyday Ingredients In Your Purse--# 4 blew me away!!"

"The 5 Best Phrases To Calm An Upset Teenager--My shrieking daughter was smiling by #2 and hugging me by #4!!"

"12 Simple Ways to Get a Farmer to Share His Emotions!!--I tried #8 on my dad--you won't believe what happened!"

Emily thought I could do a post on Life Hacks, a term I'd never heard until a couple of years ago.  A life hack seems to be a cool new way to use a normal object around the house to solve a problem.

She said I have lots of clever solutions around the house that other people might never have thought of.

The next day, in preparation for Thanksgiving and pie, I cut two pumpkins in half and baked them in the oven.  Then I began the arduous task of scooping the good stuff out of that floppy shell.

Suddenly I had a great idea.

I flipped the pumpkin hemisphere over and peeled off the shell, just like that.


I said, "Hey, I should post this!  On a Life Hacks list!!"

Emily said, "Surely lots of people already know to do that."

Humph.  I'll bet they don't.

So that's #1 on my list, and if you've been doing that for years, I don't need to know.

2. Use clothespins to seal chip bags.  I thought everyone did this, but Emily said they don't.

3. Hang a hanger with clothespins on a hook above the bathtub.  Wash and dry and re-use plastic bags.

 This is the sort of thing that also shows up on lists like, "8 Things Every Minnesota Grandma Does--I'll bet yours does #4."

4. Make your own hanger with clothespins.
Directions here.

5. Cut the cuffs off old (clean) athletic socks to bandage awkward shapes.


6. Cool cookies on layers of old newspaper.  Then use the newspaper between cookie layers in your Tupperware.


7. Use cupboard doors and Scotch tape and Post-Its if you don't have a bulletin board in the kitchen.

If you tape pictures on the inside of glass doors, you can have fun with markers.

Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Quote of the Day:
"Sadly, despite her husband working three jobs, and her own success as an author, Dorcas still couldn't afford to replace the broken laundry baskets."

[Trust me, people who wash and re-use bags also use laundry baskets until they completely fall apart.]