Where I've Been
So much has changed since my last blog. Not only has it been over two years (what?!), and I’m two years older (30 now…), but there have been so many struggles. Please forgive the interruptions in tone and time, I started writing this post back in March of 2017 and never posted. I’ve since had to make additions.
We’ve experienced so much loss these past years - the loss of my grandmother on my Dad’s side, my grandfather on my Mom’s side, our beloved dog Wally, and my wife and I’s dreams of being able to work at the same church. We had so much financial stress and relational stress from our old housing situation (when we first moved to Birmingham) so we downsized to a 150 square-foot (with a generous estimate) loft above my in-law’s garage. It’s been difficult to build meaningful relationships and I’ve honestly been depressed for almost two years now.
One of the hardest battles with depression (besides the looming cloud of negativity and inability to handle daily life) is that nobody talks about it. When we get depressed we close off from the world, and I’ve been no different. I’ve pulled away from the world, from my wife, friends, and even myself. For a while now I’d not even been able to recognize myself anymore, or I’d just come to accept the “fact” that I’m just too far-gone from who I once was. Luckily, I’ve been seeing some great counselors and have been doing much better with medication. I certainly don’t feel back to “myself” at the moment, but where I am today is worlds better than where I’ve been.
Part of regaining some ground for us was my shifting into a new role at a different church in the Birmingham area. The North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church has a New Church Development department that’s investing in the launch of a new worship gathering, so I was been brought in for the launch in February of 2017.
Now for some of the positivity
In the summer of 2016 we adopted a puppy who was abandoned with her siblings in some woods near a church camp. Our old dog Wally wasn’t a fan of her at the start but they became good companions. Having her around after we had to put Wally down that December has been a huge gift to us. She’s sweet, and it kept us from returning to an empty house after his last vet appointment.
The new worship gathering, Thrive, had its first monthly gathering on May 14th and had some great feedback. There were 61 in attendance and we grew our launch team by 6 people. We now have 28 people who are committed to the vision of the new gathering and community and we will be able to launch weekly gatherings when we reach 65 in our launch team. (I wrote this back in 2017)
We grew through monthly gatherings over the summer of 2017, our highest was 70 adults, and we decided to launch weekly gatherings on October 1st. We averaged about 60 for the first month or so, took a bit of a hit in November, but bounced back around the Holidays. January and February were especially difficult. We had rain for 9 straight Sundays that made most feel pretty dreary, and our attendance averaged in the low 20’s. Easter was a huge win with 88 people but the Summer “drought” has hit and we’re back down. Making matters more difficult is that our pastor is being moved to another church this week.
(In the Methodist system, a Bishop assigns pastors to churches, so they move around every handful of years)
(Back to 2017) Finally, if we hadn’t have moved into our loft “apartment” in December, I have no clue how much more broke we’d be. The folks who rented our house in Kansas City that we still owned backed out of their lease early and we carried the mortgage for 4 months longer than we anticipated. Thankfully we were able to sell with a great realtor friend of mine and are currently in the process of finding a home of our own again in the Birmingham area. We bought that home in August of 2017 and we love it here!
I don’t know how many will ever read this, but this is really another post for me. It’s time for me to celebrate some minor victories as Mia and I seek to build our own light at the end of the tunnel. If you’ve been suffering from depression yourself, please take it from me - find a counselor you can trust and don’t be afraid to be on medication. I can’t imagine what I would’ve done without that, my counselors, and Mia’s support. Let this moment be another marker, an altar, to remember not only the loss of the past but the provision through it so far. Here’s hoping there are many more great days ahead.
Especially now following the death of one of my heroes, Anthony Bourdain, to suicide I’m far more aware of the need for discussion and safe places for discussion and support. If you find yourself in a similar depressed boat, please reach out to me and I’d love to be a part of your community. We don’t need to live, or die, alone.
If you’re the praying type, please pray for us - for our continued healing from the weight of the darkness of depression; for continued provision and financial help (we’re currently attending Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and it’s working!); and for God to continue to speak clearly to us (or rather that we would listen well) and work through us in ministry. Thank you all!
Here are some photos of some "wins"