Hurting hearts and painful paths come with the tremendous challenges surrounding depression and suicide. Mental illness is a palpable concern in our lives these days, and we must increase the dialogue. Complicated? Yes. Grueling and toilsome? Yes. Still we must start talking more openly about this suffering that so many souls deal with much too often.
Our family has an especially heavy heart today. We have recently learned of a much-loved young man, age 25, ending his life this past weekend. A sufferer of depression, our friend was treated with meds, placed in residential settings, loved by many, and monitored carefully by his devoted parents and sibs.
However, while our hearts ache, this post is not about our dear friends’ tragic circumstances, it is far too raw and personal. They will rely on God, family and friends to walk down this horrific and painful path.
“We learned how to look after ourselves and we had to do this otherwise we couldn't cope.”
Lisa, mother of Jason who ended his life
Instead, I will share, with permission, another story that has been made public.
My hope is to shed some light on this extremely difficult subject.
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Risk factors include mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and substance abuse, including alcoholism and use of benzodiazepines. Other suicides are impulsive acts due to stress such as from financial difficulties, troubles with relationships, or from bullying. Those who have previously attempted suicide are at higher risk for future attempts. Suicide prevention efforts include limiting access to methods of suicide, such as firearms, drugs, and poisons, treating mental disorders and substance misuse, proper media reporting of suicide, and improving economic conditions. (Wikipedia)
This mission allows children to see what it feels like to be a giver, to make an impact in areas they are interested in helping in. If you still have children under your roof, I hope you will check out Kristen’s work and join in.
Here is how it works!
Donate: Generous donor makes donation to Kids Boost. Example: Donor John Smith contributes $100 to the Kids Boost General Fund to jumpstart a new Kids Boost project.2. Connect To Cause: Child chooses a cause important to him or her. Example: Weston, 12 years old, signs up for Kids Boost and declares he would like to fundraise for the Special Olympics in honor of his brother who has special needs.
3. Innovate: Child receives startup money and coaching support from Kids Boost. Example: Kids Boost provides Weston with $100 in startup funding and a coach to help him implement his project “Run the Bases Marathon.” Weston uses the $100 to create flyers for the event and provide drinks and pizza for all the participants. A local ballpark donates field time and Weston’s dad volunteers to be the PA announcer and “scorekeeper” at the event. A family friend donates time and a few huge speakers to add fun music at the event. The local dollar store donates balloons.
4. Multiply: Child Boosts multiplies funds and awareness for chosen charity. Example: All the teams in Weston’s baseball league volunteer to participate by running as many bases as they can in an allotted time frame. Each base runner volunteer collects pledges for the number of bases he runs. Weston’s “Run the Bases Marathon” raises $500 for Special Olympics.
5. Pay It Forward: 80% of the total raised goes to the charity of the child’s choice. 20% goes back to Kids Boost to help another child participate. Example: Weston presents a check for $400 (80% of the total raised) to Special Olympics. $100(20% of the total raised) goes back to Kids Boost to help another kid get started on another project. Donor John Smith sees a huge return on his investment plus the intangible benefits to Weston and his base running friends.
My friend, Nancy R. Chalmers has recently published her book entitled, “No One Visits the Mother of a Drug Addict.” This autobiographical story recounts the author’s experiences as she endured her son’s addiction, the physical, emotional and spiritual turmoil the addiction was on her and the entire family. The center is filled with family pictures illustrating their journey. Readers are given a firsthand look at how drug addiction took over her son, Andrew’s life, straight from her heart. This personal story took a ton of courage, bravery, as well as a hefty dose of vulnerability. This story is not just for parents of addicts, but for families who find themselves in a hard season that seems impossible to change.
It is Nancy’s sincere hope and prayer that many families will begin to heal, not only from the tragedy of substance abuse, but from any number of difficult circumstances that happen around our globe on a regular basis. It is this author’s belief that the path to wholeness starts with brokenness, and that “healing” is our God’s specialty since we are His creation. I agree with her.
In this personal account, Nancy also reminds us how telling our story…to a trustworthy soul…can offer healing beyond measure. She is very thankful for the one friend who reached out on a regular basis to be “Jesus with skin on” for this hurting Mom.
It's amazing seeing the ripple effects of how when the hope of Jesus Christ invades the life of a person how that creates a domino effect to impact the rest of their family, their workplace, and their neighborhood.
Andrew Chalmers, Director and Founder of Take The City, also son of Nancy and Louis Chalmers,
Not everyone is going to exhibit the kind of faith The Chalmers have shown here in this story. But God can work with what faith you have. In fact, Matthew 17:20 tells us “…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Church folks don't like to talk about unacceptable problems. Oh, we can go on and on about cancer, death, (as long as it's not suicide), divorce, loss of job, sudden illness, surgery, birth defects, all our 'small sins' and many more. But alcohol and substance abuse, family abuse, runaways, other addictions, mental illness, satanic activity, pornography and sexual perversions, rape, murder, and nervous breakdowns are taboo.'
Nancy R. Chalmers, author of No One Visits the Mother of a Drug Addict
At the close of her story, Nancy offers a 15 page Reflections Study Guide for hurting families. She begins it by again, reminding us that healing begins when we share our stories in a safe, confidential space.
Nancy begins the Study Guide with some frank questions:
What is going on in your family?
Who are the players in your drama?
How is all this affecting you?
Describe your most recent challenge or storm and how you responded.
To whom do you share this problem, where do you go for good counsel?
How do you find comfort?
Please note below a schedule of Nancy Reardon Chalmers’ upcoming book signings:
As Donny and I recently hiked through Northern Italy above the stunning lakes, Lake Orta, Lake Maggiore, and Lake Como, I found myself thinking about the statement “every beating heart has a story’, as we trudged up steep inclines with our walking sticks. I pondered my own personal story and how I had often felt compelled to share details with one other, or a small group of others who were trustworthy and nonjudgmental. Invariably, those whom I shared with were “beating hearts” I believed God put in my path to potentially be strengthened by my adversity, my weaknesses, and my journey of overcoming struggles. And that is, in part, why I keep returning to The Barbara J. Crafton Extension Center, a residential home for women who are recovering from substance abuse. As we collage together, every other Wednesday morning, we share our stories and we gain courage and strength from each other. We can all leave a legacy of love as we transparently share our struggles, our weakness, our failures, and our victories with others. Now, I am not suggesting you blurt out all of your life issues at every turn, in fact, my long-time friend, Sara, has cautioned me against that! I am saying that we all have an important story, and God can use our story in mighty ways to encourage another human being.
On October 5th, at our usual collage workshop,we were delighted to have a guest, artist, Holly Irwin, join us to share her story. As the girls worked on their collages, Holly talked with them a bit about her goals and dreams and how life does not always turn out the way we hope it will.
Holly encouraged each one of us by sharing her artist’s statement:
Illustration boards flowing with ink washes and curving black lines ………elegant drawings of women in beautiful dresses and yards of fabric everywhere………..art classes every Saturday morning for years………this is my background, this is how I grew up as the daughter of a fashion illustrator, and it has all culminated in a love affair with figure drawing. The figure and the dress have become my creative voice, a way of expressing powerful emotions using the language of color, line and composition. Sketchbooks everywhere………I unwind by loosely sketching and scribbling, usually in the form of a figure or a dress. Some of my finished paintings find their beginnings there; others start with a sketch from a live model session……always intuitive, based more on emotion than reality.
Texture is important in my work because our lives are layered and textured. I paint with modeling paste, gel mediums, acrylics and oil paint using brushes, spatulas and palette knives. My works on paper are evidence of my love of line drawing, pen and ink.
I search for the girl that lives within me, searching for ways to paint her feelings and emotions. I always come back to her. This is why I paint.
Here are some of the collages, using some of Holly’s artwork, that the girls created as. we visited together.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Luke 6:38 New International Version
This past Saturday was a special evening in my life.
The event was called Art With A Heart and there were so many giving hearts that night, including our dear and talented friend, David Brewer who played a keyboard for us, along with artist, Dirk Walker who painted the evening “live” for us, and Donna, gallerist since 2008, who graciously opened her gallery space for us to gather in. There were delectable desserts donated by Gabriel’s Desserts and Miss Mamie’s Cupcakes. In addition, Deb Willyard of Blue Dragonfly Catering prepared many delicious treats. The evening could not have come about without the tireless help from our small committee, Donna, Deb, Tina, and Cher. An alumni from The Extension, Abby, bravely shared her story with our guests. We also had other much loved artists present, Holly Irwin, Susan Easton Burns, and Thomas Arvid, all who offered their amazing work as auction items to benefit the women at The Extension. Thanks to all who attended or made donations to this cause.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
This coming Saturday, September 24, 2016, there will be a Yard Sale to benefit The Barbara J. Crafton’s Women Extension located in Marietta, Georgia. This center is a safe haven, a residential refuge for women who are dealing with the disease of alcoholism and/or drug abuse.
And if you live nearby, YOU can help!
Many of our friends have been downsizing and moving into smaller homes, so if this describes you, you may have already given most of your unused items away. But if you do have a few things to give, that would be great!
I have decided that keeping a home organized is definitely a life-long project. I wrote about this in an earlier post entitled 10 Things That Organized People Do Every Day. Now, I have to say, I do not do these things daily, but it is a good goal to work towards.
So if at all possible, show up with a few household items that still have some life in them. These will be sold to benefit the brave and warrior women I have had the privilege to work with for the past six years.
I believe it is fair to say we are in the midst of a tumultuous, uncertain season across our globe.
“It can be too sad here. We often lose our way. It is easy to sense and embrace meaning when life is on track. When there is a feeling of fullness—having love, goodness, family, work, maybe God as parts of life—it’s easier to navigate around the sadness that you inevitably stumble across. Life holds beauty, magic and anguish. Sometimes sorrow is unavoidable, even when your kids are little, when the marvels of your children and your parental amazement, are all the meaning you need to sustain you, or when you have landed the job and salary for which you’ve always longed, or the mate. And then the phone rings, the mail comes, or you turn on the TV.” Anne Lamott, from Stitches: A Handbook On Meaning, Hope, and Repair
Political gridlock, evil terrorists, human sex trafficking, and a wide use of illicit drugs are just some of what we are experiencing in this grim avalanche surrounding us today. Easter: The Season of Hope is upon us. Did you know? Easter is celebrated in a variety of ways across the world. Click here to read about some of them. With all of these hopeless things going on, Easter brings Good News for those who believe.
Yesterday was the first day of spring on our calendar. What are some of your favorite things about spring? Springtime is associated with the ideas of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection and regrowth. Though the pollen bothers many, the vivid blooms and flowering trees are truly something to behold!
With many world-wide challenges, some may be asking “Where Is God?” I had something happen in the past week that assured me that his eye is on us.
Did you know? There is a set of verses in the Gospel of Matthew where we are taught what to do with worry. It is human nature to worry some, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a place to go with our worries?
One place to go is found in Matthew 6:25-34. Today, we will look at two of these verses, v. 26-27, and apply them to what happened here in our home.
Have you ever noticed a bird’s nest somewhere on your property? Mama used to say that when a bird builds a nest near your home that this is a sign that you have the gift of hospitality! <smile>
We have a wreath right outside our kitchen entrance that is being used as a nest spot for a bird right now. It is a bit camouflaged …can you see it here below?
So my brief story begins with a homemade wreath that our daughter, Leah made for an upcoming bridal kitchen shower for a dear friend. Leah lovingly used burlap and a big white G for the wreath. Click here to read a previous post that will show you how to make this wreath. In preparation for the Sunday party, my co-host, Cyndi and I began decorating a couple of days ahead. The wreath was hung on our front door on Friday, two days before the festivities would start. On Sunday morning, as I was checking on everything, I noticed that an important project had begun in the burlap wreath: a bird’s nest! In just two days, LOOK at what progress this industrious bird had made!
Some of The Gillam Gang hold beautiful, delicious cookies Baked With Heart by my friend, Louise who has her own business in Virginia. Check out her Facebook Page here. Louise can make the most creative cookies I have ever seen and will carefully pack and ship to your home for a very reasonable price.
Many people across the U.S. today are bracing themselves for a wintry storm. The grocery store parking lots and aisles are packed. The cars are lined up outside the schools for early dismissals. The gloves, earmuffs and heavy coats have been unearthed for this mid-January flurry of activity. But what if you and I were homeless? Don’t you feel helpless waiting at that red-light when a homeless woman or man stands at the corner with a cardboard sign? I do!
Read ahead to learn about an easy way you can help that person the next time this happens.
No one has ever become poor by giving.” Helen Keller
Click here to read the 2015 report on homelessness in Georgia.
The unifying condition for virtually all of Georgia’s homeless population is poverty. Many people who are homeless also experience some type of personal vulnerability that places them at risk, such as:
Physical disability or chronic medical problems
Development disability or brain injury
Leah and I are planning to have a care kit party soon! If you have some unexpected, spare hours that pop up in the weekend ahead with this winter weather, perhaps you’d like to plan one with your kids, grandchildren, or friends, too!
If you cannot feed one hundred people, then just feed one.” Mother Teresa
You can use Evite to invite your friends and delegate out items for each of them to bring. By the end of your party, you will all have a few care kits to keep in your car for the next time you see that homeless person on the corner at a red light. It is a very cool way to impact the homeless in our communities and have fun while doing it!
Care Kits are a simple way to provide practical help to a homeless man or woman. Keep some in your car so you’re prepared to offer to a person in need.
Items to Include: A typical Care Kit consists of a watertight gallon-size zipper lock plastic bag filled with items like:
Water bottle Socks Tuna and crackers Granola Bar or cereal bar Fruit snack or applesauce cup Crackers with peanut butter or cheese Gift certificate to fast food Hand wipes Pack of Kleenex Maxi pads Toothbrush and toothpaste Nail clippers Band Aids Chapstick Comb or small brush Mints, cough drops or gum Rescue Mission meal voucher Note of encouragement or uplifting Bible verse or young children can color a picture as you teach them about those in need. You may want to also include some information about homeless shelters in your area.
NOTE: Fragranced items such as soap, hand lotion or deodorant can negatively affect the taste of food items if placed in the same bag. Pack these separately if you choose to give them. Avoid items such as mouthwash or hand sanitizer that contain alcohol.
There will always be poor among us.” Matthew 26:11
Have a Care Kit party! Gather family, friends, co-workers or your community group to purchase supplies and assemble Care Kits together. Care Kits are useful both in warm and cold weather. In summer, include sunblock or frozen water bottles. In winter, include gloves, hats or heatpacks.
When you give your Care Kits away…
*Don’t be in a hurry. It’s okay to slip it out your window to someone on a street corner or freeway ramp. But consider taking time to park the car and hand-deliver it. *Smile. This person probably gets ignored by hundreds of people every day. *Make eye contact. It shows that the person matters. *Don’t give money. It’s your decision, of course, but we generally discourage giving cash. Instead, ask what their immediate need is and consider how you can help. Buy them a meal? A bus ticket? *Be available to have a conversation. Some people won’t want to talk, so be sensitive. Others will be delighted to tell you their story. *Pray. Before you go, while you go, for the people you encounter. Ask the person if they would like you to pray for them right there. *Offer resources. Ask if the person knows about local homeless shelters in the area. *Be wise. The majority of homeless men and women are not dangerous — they’re people just like you. But it’s smart to go out as a group when handing out Care Kits. *Inspire others. Tell others about your project and inspire them to do the same.
It was good to see in the past week where two churches in our Cobb county community joined forces to aid the homeless in Atlanta, especially as the weather turned bitter cold. There will always be needs in our world and we may not be able to solve all the world problems, but we can encourage one soul with a care kit! Always make your personal safety a priority when helping those in need. And remember to involve the young people who are in your life. Our actions can speak louder than our words, especially for the youth who are watching us as we live out our days. Oh, and click here for one of my favorite stories from 2015 about my homeless friend, Pamela.
Having volunteered at The Extension, Women’s Campus, in Marietta, Georgia since its 2009 opening, my heart is extremely soft towards those who suffer with alcoholism and other addictions. Every beating heart has a story, and the more I have worked with these women, the more I have realized that they have the same hopes and dreams for their future that you and I have for ourselves and for our families.
If you suspect your teen is drinking or using drugs, click here for a helpful guide.
The Disease Of Addiction Is Real. Hope Is Real, Too!
Andrew Chalmers grew up alongside our two children at Piedmont Church in Marietta, Georgia, U.S.A. Andrew has given me permission to share his very real and painful journey with you as he and his family celebrate his sixth anniversary in complete recovery!
My Story My story is a story of redemption and a story of great hope restored. It’s a story that demonstrates the overwhelming grace and love that God has for each and every person on the face of the earth. I feel like my story is a great demonstration of how God can make all things beautiful, no matter how messy we make them. The only reason I am alive today is because of His grace and His ability to perform miracles greater than we could ever even think to ask for. My story is one that shows it’s only when we die that we truly find life.
Growing up I had an amazing childhood with a great family. I played sports and loved to play out in the woods. I went to church with my family and was involved in all kinds of great positive activities. At 5 I first prayed to Jesus to come and save me and when I was 8, I was baptized. Then the next year something started to change. Because of a series of events, I became aware of a much different reality in this world than I was accustomed to and became really confused and angry.
My teen years I was filled with rage, confusion and depression. I started using alcohol and drugs at 12 and began a lifestyle pursuing the perfect mixture of sex, drugs and rock n roll. My life dramatically changed at 15 when I started using pain killers and taking club drugs. I remember my first time getting high on pills; I thought I had finally found what I had always been missing. I thought I had finally found the peace I had been searching for…
For the next few years I headed down a path of total destruction and eventually started using heroin. When I first tried to stop at age 19 my girlfriend at the time became pregnant with my son, Landon. I tried to get myself together as we prepared to have a baby but I could not seem to get it together.
As parents watch the nightmare unfold when their teen becomes self-destructive, they wonder how they will ever reconnect with the son or daughter that they fear they are losing. It is the most helpless, hopeless feeling in the world, and it can overwhelm an entire family with unimaginable pain, chaos, and despair.
from Teen Challenge Website
When my son was born I was in a detox facility having terrible withdrawals from drugs. I was so happy to have my son come into the world but was also still so consumed by my addiction. I made another decision I would get it all together that day in the hospital.
I ended up in a longer-term faith-based program and made a decision to follow Christ. When I finished the program I went home with an honest desire to start new but still was holding on to so much of my life. I had an ambition to get it all together and make everything work between my son’s mother and me. We got married that summer and I idealized pursuing The American Dream with my new wife and our baby. The dream was short-lived when we separated the next year. I was crushed when my dream was crushed. I had invested everything into this relationship and this dream. When it fell apart, so did the rest of my life.
I started using drugs again and spiraled out of control the rest of that year. I remember my first wake up call was going to jail in Atlanta for possession of cocaine and then immediately after I got out I went to get more drugs. After my heart had stopped due to a drug overdose, I remember buying more drugs the day I was released from the hospital. When I had no where else to go and ended up sleeping on the streets of a rough neighborhood in Atlanta, I can remember still only thinking about how I could get high. My life was consumed with this addiction and I was on the verge of suicide.
That’s when everything changed. My dad and I got in touch and he told me he had found out about a program called Teen Challenge and that he would help me got there. At first I was reluctant to go, but the next morning I woke up and felt something inside me say, “If you don’t get out of this place, you are going to die.” With urgency I called my dad and told him where I was. Then after waiting a few minutes, I changed my mind and left to go get high again. When my dad finally found me I was at an abandoned house, cold and shaking because of how many drugs I had been doing. I remember thinking I would kill him if he tried to take my drugs. He just sat there and watched me smoking crack and doing other drugs until they were all finally gone. When I finished I put the needles and pipe down and I remember him saying with a heart full of compassion, “Come with me son.”
16 He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. 17 He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. 18 They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me. 19 He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. (Psalm 18)
I can relate so much to what David wrote in this Psalm when I reflect on how the Lord used my dad to rescue me out of the darkest place I could have ever imagined. When I look back I can imagine God’s hand reaching down from heaven to pull me out of the dark pit and rescuing me from enemies that really were too strong for me to overcome myself. God saved my life that day because he delighted in me even in my mess. When He saw me at my worst He loved me as much as he ever could or ever will. He loved me completely and with all of His heart. He pursued me no matter how far I tried to run away. He had a plan and a purpose even when no one else could see it.
A month or so later I made the most important decision in my life. I made the decision not to just avoid hell or to be a better person for Jesus. I didn’t just pray the sinner’s prayer and feel all tingly. I made a decision to die to self. I decided one day on a loading dock that I would absolutely give everything in my life to Jesus and hold nothing back. That day has forever changed me.
The next year or two I began to grow and deal with the many problems I had struggled with so many years of my life. One by one, the Lord just began to take away things from me. He took away even the desires that I had for these destructive behaviors as I continued to get in His presence and read His word. My life started to radically change and something new started to rise up inside of me. God started placing passions inside of me and began showing me that He had great destiny and purpose for my life. It was when He began to reveal to me my identity and destiny that I really began to strip off anything that hindered me from walking with Him. It wasn’t a set of rules that made me want to change but the overwhelming reality of His great love for me that filled my heart with a passion to pursue Him with everything.
These last four years God has restored my relationship with my son Landon. It has been an amazing miracle to watch him change the impossible to possible. When I first got off drugs I wasn’t even allowed to see Landon in supervised visitation. Today I have joint custody and have an amazing relationship with his mom and their family. God has taken the most broken of situations and has mended it into something better than I ever could have imagined.
God has also given me opportunities to travel and do things I never thought would be possible. I have been able to do mission work in South Africa, Trinidad, Haiti, Canada and Europe. He has also given me a chance to travel all over the U.S. and share about all He has done for me. He has given me so many amazing friends and has restored my relationship with my family. He has healed me of all depression, anxiety and ADD. He has completely taken away my desire to take drugs, drink or even smoke cigarettes. He has replaced my suicidal thoughts with a life full of passion, hope and joy. When I chose to die completely and give Him everything I got so much more in return. He has given me a life of abundance.
My life’s mission is to abide in Christ’s love in such a way that others are inspired to pursue God with reckless abandonment and that my life would burn so passionately for God that it would set countless others on fire for Him.