Friday, January 27, 2017

Free Shipping Fridays: Diving into Depression

Dear Readers,

So I finally posted on social media about my struggles with depression. I've been open about it in real life, if not necessarily adamant nor vocal, but I certainly hadn't gone into it on a platform like Twitter or Facebook. I think I reached a point where I thought, "Pretty much all of my 'dirty laundry' has been aired on social media, so why not this?" And then after I posted, I thought, "Oh dear. I remember the answer to 'why not this?' Because people on the internet can be really horrible."

But I was pleasantly surprised. It was amazing that no trolls showed up to do their hateful, trollish things, and more importantly, community showed up. I was honored and humbled by the number of people who sent their love and prayers. And I was blown away by the number of people who said, "Me, too. I'm there with you." It was beautiful solidarity.

And I also realized, this isn't just dirty laundry to be shamefully avoided. No, depression is real, and actually fairly common, and it doesn't care whether we have time or not for it. Sharing about my struggles isn't airing my dirty laundry, and I'm tired of thinking it is.

So today, for your metaphorical consumption, is a box on your doorstep of clean laundry. Shiny new packages of socks, crisply folded shirts. And some of it yes, is "unmentionables," because sharing about mental illness is vulnerable. It's not showing off a new hat or fabulous shoes. It's revealing, and scary, and I know this analogy has taken a slightly creepy turn. Let me get it back (hopefully) by saying, here's a nice box of new, clean clothes. Let's air them out. Dirty laundry doesn't need to be aired out, it needs to be washed. New clothes need to be aired out, to get rid of that factory smell.

Yeah, I tried to reclaim the analogy, but it appears to have taken a life all it's own. Perhaps I should give up the "Free (pretend) Shipping" schtick, but I'm a sucker for word play and analogy. It's like that one time that I

You know, it may be me that's actually the problem, not the analogy. Which reminds me of

THE POINT IS, I refuse to be ashamed because I'm mentioning things which society deems to be "unmentionables." And I hope the links below will help those who struggle and help those who love them.

A witty, ironic tee shirt for you--a comic artist who illustrates her struggles with depression and anxiety and it's painfully hilarious:

Socks. Multicolored, multi-patterned socks. Practical yet ridiculous--an amazing podcast which will make you laugh, cry, and curse, all in the same 40 minutes:

A pair of comfy jeans that don't even need to be broken in--a website/community with great information and encouragement:

And finally, some underthings. What we all need to put on, and not be ashamed of--go to counseling. It is life-changing, and sometimes life-saving. And if you aren't sure where to start with counseling, please ask. Ask me, ask a friend, heck--this WebMD page might be the one time it actually does more  good than harm:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

To a Princely King, a Self-proclaimed King, and the King of All Kings

"Movement to Overcome," Michael Pavlovsky, Memphis Civil Rights Museum

NOTE: This was supposed to be published for MLK Day. Clearly, it wasn't. I hope it's still an encouragement. I believe it's still timely. I believe discussion of Dr. King's legacy will remain timely for many, many years to come.

Dear Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,

I was first asked to write this piece for The Well. I had it all planned out, especially after reading Michael Eric Dyson's beautifully controversial book about you. In some ways, you were the best of brothers. You fought hard for justice. You spoke for those who had been robbed of their God-given voice. You sacrificed much--most notably your life--for the cause of equality among human beings. You fought for all Christians--black and white--to see each other as brothers and sisters. A dear brother, and much missed.

But in some ways, you were not a good brother.

In I May Not Get There With You, Dr. Dyson talks about why it is important to see your entire story and not overlook who you truly were, the good and the bad. As I read it, I thought, "Yes! What a great word. I'll talk about what a good brother MLK was, then about how he wasn't perfect, and how women in the academy and professions can partner with good, but humanly flawed brothers, as we pursue the best of brothers--Jesus!" It was a great concept, and I was excited to write it.

I researched. I outlined. I drafted. I enjoyed the process. And then two things happened.

First, Trump won the election. And as it came to my attention that MLK Day 2017 would fall just four days before the Inauguration, I began to struggle with writing. Suddenly my neat categories were blown apart. As the time went on from November until the present, the lines between yourself and President (then Elect) Trump were in some ways clearer, but in some ways blurrier. And most of those "blurred lines" (yes, I'm quoting from that horrible song, because sadly, it's applicable here) were in the treatment of women. This did not help my writer's block any.

Secondly, I overcommitted myself to a number of projects, I missed the draft deadline, and I started to not just struggle with what to write, but to actually doubt if I could write it. Procrastination, fear, shame, and exhaustion all combined to make the work of writing about you just too hard. I knew you were flawed, and I could forgive you for those flaws. Until your flaws lined up too eerily with Mr. Trump's flaws, and then I had to re-think everything.

Ironically, it was that wrestling with your flaws that brought me back to writing, and purpose, and ultimately, back to thinking about Jesus--which is where I had wanted this piece to lead all along. Because I realized that you, too, dealt with procrastination, fear, shame, and exhaustion. You, too, made promises you did not keep, and you, too, had to rely on the saving grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ to make sense of things and keep going in faith.

So what do I want to say to you?  It seems a bit grandiose to say "I forgive you" when I never met you, never was affected by your infidelity or your crudeness. And yet, as a woman, aren't I? As a woman living in a culture where women are thought of as lesser, where women are debased, dehumanized, and objectified, don't I bear the burden of every one who has ever (myself included) allowed coarse talk about women? Who has allowed the sanctity of marriage to be cast aside to the idols of convenience and lust? Isn't the point of Dr. Dyson's book that if we are to properly celebrate the legacy of your life, we must do it whole-heartedly, without reserve, and without skimming over the uncomfortable parts?

Many amazing women of the 1960's Civil Rights Era put up with a lot of nonsense from men, including yourself. They persevered. They still do. And God used you to accomplish much for both men and women. God did that, and you and I can (and will, someday!) join our voices in praise of his work.

So I forgive you, Dr. King. I am incredibly grateful to your legacy. Because unlike some other leaders, you did point to Jesus. Unlike some other sinners, you wrestled with your sin, and depended desperately on the forgiveness of God. And that is what it looks like to partner with good brothers, such as yourself, who are also fallen, sinful men. We wrestle with our sin, and we depend desperately on the forgiveness of God.

With incalculable gratitude,
A sister and fellow activist.

Dear President Trump,

I really wrestled with whether to include you in this post or not. When I asked my dear husband, who is one of the most respectful men (of women, and of people in general) I know, he thought I shouldn't even mention you. Shouldn't sully the legacy of Dr. King by in any way putting you alongside him. On the one hand, I agree with this. In the same way that I will not waste my time (or my typing) mentioning the name of the Charleston shooter who took the lives of Rev. Sen. Clementa Pinckney and eight other beautiful souls, I don't want to waste this special time of reflecting on the work of Dr. King by entertaining hateful, non-peaceful, anti-gospel work.

But as I studied the life (and times) of Dr. King, the similarities to how you treat and think of women became too much to ignore.

Many would argue that you are far beyond Dr. King in your empowering of women. In fact, you have women in roles of leadership, where Dr. King honestly didn't. That still does not score you a point, sir. Because despite his infidelity, despite his rough talk, and ignorant attitude toward women leaders, Dr. King still exhibited restraint. Whereas you dismissed your crude comments about women as being mere "locker room talk," and therefore tried to justify your attitude, Dr. King had at least some sense of reason, of shame. Though he was both culpable and a product of his times, he was foremost a professing Christian. He was a man who knew he wasn't perfect and who had much to repent for.

Because in the end, what set Dr. King apart from you was the fact that he knew he was a sinner. He knew he needed Jesus. He knew he wasn't Jesus. Your words--where you say that you've never asked for forgiveness, because you don't need it--show that you are not a believer. Just on the level of basic beliefs, you have disqualified yourself. And that doesn't mean there isn't common grace at work in your life. No, far from it. Because I respect God as the ultimate authority, I will respect you. I will respect you as president, because I respect the office and the system that has produced it. Even if I feel like you yourself are not respecting the office nor our country, I will fight to stay respectful in my disagreements. Even as I point out what I believe are facts about your misogyny, even as I protest what I believe are violent statements against the most vulnerable, even as I disagree vehemently with your hateful speech about immigrants, I will do so properly, with gratitude for the privilege of being in this country. Not because I at all agree with you or your tactics, but because Dr. King showed a better way. Dr. King followed the way of Jesus.

Praying for you,
A (fellow) citizen.

Dear King Jesus,

I'm tired, dear elder brother. Worn out from being mad, sad, and everything in-between. I need your rest, for I am weary. I need your sanctifying work, for I am sinful. I need your affirming presence, for I am shamed and belittled. And I need your guidance, brother. I need your perfect example, your gracious welcome, your comforting and radical proclamation as the first fruit of the redemption that is to come. I need you. We need you--your church the world over. Heal us, Emmanuel. Heal our country in a way in which it has never really been. It's been yours all along--all things are--but we ask for hearts to be changed, Lord. We ask for your kingdom to come, on earth as it is in heaven. We ask for you to be exalted, for governments and institutions to cease, for the blessing to come of basking in your light alone. We don't ask for you to fill the presidency, Lord. We ask for you to fulfill the scriptures and magnify yourself. Come, Lord Jesus. We desperately need you.

Your little sister.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Free Shipping Fridays: Understand Our Lament

Dear Readers,

Well, the day is here. Inauguration Day 2017. The installation of our nation's 45th president. A lot of people are happy. Happy because they hate Obama, and/or because they love Trump. Happy because they're politically more conservative. Happy because they realize that political freedom, the peaceful transfer of power, and a (fairly) stable government are all gifts from God.

But a lot of us are grieving today. And some of us are ambivalent, and some of us are torn. Grieving because we/they love Obama and/or because we/they hate Trump. Grieving because we're/they're politically more conservative. Grieving because political freedom feels like a sham, the peaceful transfer of power feels overshadowed by the violence inherent in the new president, and because this fairly stable government feels shaky, especially for the "least of these."

And many of us/them are ambivalent because we're/they're tired. Many are ambivalent because it all feels like too much. Some are even ambivalent because we/they want to focus on the kingdom. (But if I dismissively hear "God is on the throne" one. more. time...)

A lot of folks are torn. Because we/they don't like Obama OR Trump. Torn because we/they are politically conservative, but still want to value the "stranger and the alien." Torn because we/they are politically liberal, but still want to value the life of the unborn. Torn because political freedom comes at a price, and with a consequence. Torn because it's hard to see where God is right now, in this peaceful transfer of power in a stable, but partisan, government.

If you are not in the middle category--grieving--and you want to understand better those of us who are, maybe these links will help. And if you are, like me, grieving AND torn, know that I lament with you. My family and I sit in solidarity, as best we can, with those that will be most affected by the new administration. With those who will be violently affected by the new administration.

And if you're happy today, well... I dunno. I join you in praying for our 45th president, even if the content of our prayers are very, very different.

To help you understand our lament:

To help you understand our rage and fear:

To help you understand the joy we're tryna cling to, like we're drowning (because we are):
(H/T Michelle Higgins)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Free Shipping Fridays: An Apology

Dear Readers,

I owe you an apology. All of you, whether you are fired up about racial issues (on either side), completely ambivalent, or--most likely--somewhere in-between. Because I saw a racially-charged incident today, and I didn't do anything.

I was at the gas station, spacing out and pumping gas, when a car pulled in. A car running on the fuel of stereotype. A car blaring rap at high volume, full of angry young black men, making sure that everybody knew it. I may be fairly woke, but to my old and weary ears, it was obnoxious. I'll admit it.

Perhaps that's a racial incident in and of itself. Perhaps that's the discussion we really need to be having here, the discussion that I wasn't even tryna be... annoyed out of my complacence by their pain and anger. I just wanted to pump my gas and let some caffeine kick in.

So y'all tell me. But until then, I'll continue with the incident as I saw it. The car drove up, I (at least mentally) rolled my eyes, and then someone spoke. Also loudly.

"An ounce of C-4 would cure that noise!"

Imma let it sink in for you for a moment, dear readers. Some of you may already be pissed. Some of you might be confused. Some of you may not think it's a big deal.

I'm pissed, but also confused, and it is definitely a big deal. A big damn deal.

This was not a random thing. It's actually scarily specific. An ounce? Of C-4? Does this guy have some at home, and next time, he might decide to use it? Does he have experience with explosives? Perhaps in some ways it would have been scarier and more inappropriate if he had said something about using a gun, but in some ways, not so much. Because lots of people have guns. And lots of people threaten to use them. And that in itself is an inappropriate threat of violence. A mass murderer of nine black folks in Charleston, SC was just sentenced to death, and such gun violence must be condemned. But four little black girls also died when white supremacists bombed a church in Birmingham in 1963, and I fear that those days are closer than we think.

In a "Trump America," people feel free to speak these threats out loud. And I've now heard it in person.

You might try to tell me that it wasn't racially motivated. We can agree to disagree on that one (even though I think you are completely wrong), because it doesn't matter what this guy's motivations were. The fact remains that a white man vocally relished the idea of ending black lives and thought that was appropriate, even welcomed. He thought the rest of us white folks at the pumps would agree with him. He thought he was in the right, and in the majority, and in charge. That's a dangerous combination.

Please don't try to tell me he was "just joking." I don't care if he was just joking. There was a real threat behind it. Because he had already dismissed those young men as so much "noise." He had already de-humanized them and decided that violence was the solution to ridding this world of that noise. Don't try to tell me that he was picturing taking the people out of the car and then throwing C-4 at just the car. Just don't. Whether or not he would ever go through on it, whether or not he pictured it in detail, is not the point. The point is that he contemplated violence as a way to end an inconvenience to his happiness. The point is that in his mind, black lives don't matter. I guarantee you that he would not have said that if it had been young white men. He probably would have said somebody should have spanked them more when they were little, and I'd have agreed. But he didn't, and I don't.

And did I mention that I'm pissed? Because I am pissed, and more than anything at myself.

Remember when I said I owed all of you an apology? I owe you an apology because I didn't say anything. At first I didn't say anything because my initial response was sarcastic. And that's never helpful in racial matters with strangers. And then I didn't say anything because I was in shock. Who shouts such a thing to the world at large? Did he really just say that? Did I really just hear that?

But then I didn't say anything because I was afraid. And confused. And ashamed.

He drove off, and the "offending" car did, too. And I stood at the pump for I don't know how long, until I realized that my gas pump was done, and it was time for me to get back in my car, and drive away, too. "Wait!" I called weakly. "Sir, come back. I don't agree, and I need to tell you that. Violence is never the right answer to an offense..."

He didn't come back, obviously. And it's probably a good thing. Dude had a hair-trigger temper, probably a shotgun in his truck, and a hair-trigger trigger finger. At best, would he really have been able to hear me? I doubt it.

But maybe it would have mattered that I had said something. Maybe it would have mattered to some of the other folks, who all seemed uncomfortable, as well. And it would have mattered to Jesus for me to stick up for the imago dei in everybody, even that angry man.

So, now for my apology. And "Wait!" you say. "Isn't this a 'Free Shipping Friday' post? Sure has been a lot of YOU talking, Chandra. Where are the recommended links? Where are others' voices, hm?"

Sorry, one more thing to apologize for.

So, I apologize to the sisters in this article:

Charlene, I'm sorry I didn't stand up for the image of God in Black folks.
Nancy, I'm sorry I didn't stand alongside you, as a white woman, advocating for a Black sister.

I apologize to the brother who wrote this post:

Duke, I'm sorry I chickened out. You speak bravely every day, from both a position of minority and privilege, and I had a chance to join you. Pray that I will next time.

I apologize to the sister who wrote this important piece:

Christina, I'm sorry I didn't stand up against further trauma. Further trauma for all of us, further denigration of human beings, further silencing of voices--even my own.

I apologize to the sister who penned this vulnerable, insightful post:

Emily, I'm sorry I didn't stand up for your beautiful brown babies. Your wonderful black husband. Your fabulous so-very-white-lady-but-mama-of-color-and-that-matters self. They matter. You matter. I see you, and I rejoice.

This post isn't meant to be all "Woe is meeeeee... now somebody please tell me I'm good." It really isn't. I'm not beating myself up, I'm picking myself up, and moving forward in repentance. I'm not tryna get your sympathy, or respect, or accolades. Or at least the redeemed part of me isn't. What I know is that confession and redemption are good for the soul--are the very basis of the gospel--so imma apologize first, and ask questions later. I think the more we spend time sincerely apologizing to each other, and the less time we spend questioning (read: interrogating) each other, we'll see more of this kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

I apologize to the hateful, violent guy, for not speaking truth to you. Whether you were in a position to hear it is up to God. But I was in a position to share it, and I didn't. I wish I had, graciously and calmly.

I apologize to you, dear readers. If this post has pissed you off, left you raw, make you feel inadequate, helpless, or just plain antagonized, I'm sorry. I truly am. Can we talk about it? I hope so.

And to our beautiful creator God, I apologize. And I move forward in your truth. Because you are the God of redemption, of healing, of truth, of reconciliation, of bravery, of goodness. My apology is both necessary and also dealt with, because my sin is dealt with. Hallelujah! Hallelujah.