life:filtered

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

for Trip July 30, 2013

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 6:21 pm
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My cousin has cancer. We grew up together, went to school together, played wiffle ball in the back yard together. Shot basketball at the city park. Marched drum line together.


And now he has cancer. And it sucks. And I’m sad and I admit I don’t really know what to say to him and I’m sure I’ve said the wrong things, but at least I’ve said something.


See, Trip, he’s a big reason I survived high school. Just being his cousin was enough to boost my cool factor but he went beyond that. I remember standing with my lunch tray in the cafeteria, panic bubbling inside as my eyes searched for a seat in the crowded room. Then I’d hear my name and look around. There’d be Trip, grinning at me and motioning me to his already crowded table. He’d pull a chair up right beside him, defiantly squeezing one more chair at a table that was only supposed to seat six. He liked to see how many people he could get around one table and I’m pretty sure he holds the FCHS record. I wasn’t brave enough to sit by myself yet. Did he know that? And he laughed and included me and scratched his ear with his middle finger in my direction. Yeah, it was high school. And his friends followed his lead and I was allowed to join in for a while. To be a part of a laughing group of teenagers cutting up in the lunchroom.


He had my back. And now it’s time for me to have his back.


But I don’t know how.


All I have to give him from 300 miles away is words. So here are my words to you, Trippy.


Thank you. For sharing your candy cane at Christmas. For childhood memories of cheese dogs and soap operas at Mamaw’s and wiffle ball home runs over the old water plant. For games of horse and bike rides around the city park. For always keeping the “kids’ table” interesting (long live Ozzie and the Oysters!). For letting me wear your small fry football jersey to a high school game. For Ale-8s at drum line practice. For always making room for me at the table. For seeing me when I felt invisible. For always laughing that crazy laugh.


And this afternoon I lit some candles and said a prayer—to the God of hopeless causes, the Father of mercies, the God who sees and the God who heals, the God of brilliant lights and the God of all comfort. The one who is always near and who has our back.


If you get there before I do, save me a seat.


I love you, cuz.
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edited to say: rest easy, Trippy Gooding, rest easy. 1974-2013

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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.

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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.