…learning to live a life filtered by the truth of the gospel.

something important June 29, 2013

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 6:39 pm
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“Be comforted, dear soul! There is always light behind the clouds.” –Louisa May Alcott

Statistically speaking, for a personal blog with a small reach, my post on depression generated a good deal of response. Some public, some private but all expressing gratitude and solidarity.

And so I feel compelled to say this: if you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of depression, please get help.

Like, yesterday.

There’s no shame in this illness because that’s what it is—an illness. Not a character flaw. We have to shatter the stigma of mental illness our society still clings to. And we can do that when regular people find a little bit of ordinary brave, refuse to hide and step out of the shadows.

Because a thing loses its power in the light.

Find the right meds.

And a good counselor.

And for heaven’s sake, let’s quit adding our own shame and guilt to the misery.

For resources and information regarding depression and other mental illness, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness here.


turning sad June 21, 2013

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 10:44 pm
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“Some people turn sad awfully young,” he said. “No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I’m one of them.” –Mr. Jonas to Douglas in Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

I’m struck with a deep, profound sadness sometimes. There’s no discernible trigger, no circumstance. Nothing “happens.” It just is. A dark emptiness falls and casts its heavy shadow over every part my living. This sadness, it happens a lot to people like me. People existing with this insidious illness called depression. It saps the life and energy clean out of us, as sure as any other “real” disease. Simple things like getting out of bed or eating become overwhelming, monumental tasks. And a hazy fog settles over life, distorting the days or weeks or months with a thick veil.

And the light of a thousand candle-prayers can’t chase it away.


For nearly twenty years I’ve fought this darkness. See, people who’ve had one major depressive episode are increasingly more likely to relapse, making my odds of relapse about…100%. The funny thing is most people have no idea. I’ve gotten really good at pretending. At dutifully wearing a mask of happiness, because “nobody wants to see a sad face.”

And I’ve heard nearly every reason this illness is my fault. And usually those reasons come down to I’m not doing enough to be a good Christian. I’m not praying enough, I’m not reading the Bible enough, I have some sin I haven’t confessed—and if I just had more faith, I’d be healed. Because good Christians—real Christians—don’t get depressed.

I have high blood pressure too. Is that a result of lack of faith? If I prayed more or studied the Bible more, would my blood pressure return to normal? Do real Christians not have high blood pressure? 

See how silly that all sounds? I can’t pray away depression any more than I can pray away high blood pressure. So why do I keep secret the pills that regulate the chemicals in my brain but not the ones that lower my blood pressure?

Because I still think it’s my fault. That there’s something in me that’s lacking and surely, someday, I’ll find that last piece of the puzzle and be well.

I think I found it.

See, Jesus, he never promised life wouldn’t hurt. He promised the opposite—“in this world you will have trouble.” And that means that disease and illness and sorrow and pain are a part of life. Bad things happen, sometimes for no apparent reason. People get sick. Worlds go dark. Life is messy and hard and ugly and nobody ever talks about that because it doesn’t fit with our idea of abundant life. But the upside of that promise of trouble is the guarantee that he has overcome the world, and that my strength and joy is found in him and his power. Ultimately, he wins. And Jesus is what makes life beautiful. He takes hold of the ugly and shakes it right out until his beauty shines in and through life.

It takes whole lifetimes.

So those days I wake up feeling fragile, and that homesick, heartsick longing for home creeps in, that yearning for a place I’ve never seen but know because he set it in my heart from the beginning; I can grab hold of the promise that this is not the end.
And when I struggle to believe what I know is true, when I’m wrecked and bruised and all I’ve got is a strangled, broken “Jesus…” I have to trust that it’s enough. And it is, even though it doesn’t always appear to be. Because I’m never anywhere the Lord doesn’t know about and isn’t right in the middle of with me.

And just maybe it’s him pressing in, drawing me closer.

© stephanie g pepper, 2013
for a thorough, serious yet amusing, spot-on blog post about depression, visit Allie at Hyperbole and a Half.


on being wrong June 14, 2013

Filed under: musings — Stephanie @ 9:48 pm
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It’s not the first time I’ve been wrong about high school. I carried a lot of baggage around those days. But one thing I’ve carried around for all these years became a fragment of my identity. A partial definition of me. It lay in my soul like a stone at the bottom of a quiet stream; always there though the disturbance from its entrance had long since ceased. I was so sure that my perception of events was the right one that I banished all thoughts of any other possibility. (Though I had no confidence in myself, I had every confidence that the rest of the world only wanted to hurt me.) And so I nursed that grievance; held it close and sheltered it from the light until it became not a small stone but a boulder that disrupted the flow of my heart.

But I was wrong.

So here I am as the paradigm of my universe shifts around me like so much sand. What I thought of as true isn’t true at all and history has somehow altered its reality. And this grudge I’ve held these 20 years dissolved into dust in a conversation. A friendship reinstated and at least a slice of high school redeemed. And how many other things have I been wrong about?

I was wrong. And I’m glad I was wrong.

And I’m glad that, for once, I found this little bit of hidden brave and raised that stone up into the light. An Ebenezer.

There’s grace in this, people.

© stephanie g pepper, 2013


those days June 3, 2013

Filed under: musings — Stephanie @ 2:41 pm
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It’s one of those days. You know those days. We all know those days because we all have them whether we admit it on Facebook or not. When the sandwich you made for lunch was cut diagonal instead of vertical or had cheese on it when it shouldn’t have; the milk wasn’t cold and why did you make broccoli anyway? When the biggest boy and the middle boy won’t leave the littlest boy alone to sleep. And all you really want to do is space out in front of the computer or play candy crush saga and eat that hidden bag of m&m’s, but that only makes the brain fog worse. And I know, because I’m doing it (minus the m&m’s unfortunately). I have to keep reminding myself that bad days don’t make bad people. But most of the time it doesn’t make any difference because that just doesn’t feel true. What feels true is that I’m lousy. And nothing will change that, not even if I pull off the treasure chest birthday cake, the skull cookies and a map for a pirate treasure hunt. It won’t matter because it’s not enough. Nothing I can do is enough. My best intentions fall to the ground and scatter like legos. And then I step on them at unexpected times and curse that I haven’t picked them up yet. Maybe it’s time I ditch my good intentions and lofty expectations and face the facts:  not everyday can be a pinterest day. And the good thing is, Jesus didn’t say every day had to be picture perfect. And most days aren’t. He did say that every day I can choose to lean on his all-sufficient grace, that his power is made perfect in weakness and that he is always with me. And that’s true whether I feel it or not. Whether I made sandwiches cut like Mater or haphazardly slapped peanut butter and jelly on bread. Whether we read books all day, made baking soda and vinegar volcanoes or the trio of boys watched SpongeBob for two hours. And that’s a darn good thing. Because it means that I’m ok. And so are you.
© stephanie pepper, 2013