Lenten Affirmation, day 9

I am tired. That doesn’t seem like much of an affirmation, but I’m tired because I’m working hard. I’m tired because I’m extending myself in new ways, meeting new people, and learning about a new city. I’m tired because I’m doing hard work on myself. I’m tired because the work of rebuilding a life is hard work. I’m tired because repentance is exhausting. So, I affirm the ways that I am using my time and energy these days. I think I’m doing more good than harm and there have definitely been times in recent weeks, months, and years when I haven’t been able to say that.

And I affirm my ability to influence people. That influence can be for good or for ill. I affirm my desire to use that influence for good. And I affirm my willingness to be called out when I might be using my influence to selfish ends.

Today, I am grateful for people who call me out on my bullshit. I am grateful for people who offer me grace. I grateful for all of the many people who love me in a myriad of different ways. I am grateful to once again work for an organization that has a big vision for the city. I am grateful for the folks who laid the foundation at Greater Homewood. As I listened to some of the former executive directors today, I felt grateful to be a small part of their legacy. I am grateful for the fierce women with whom I had breakfast this morning. I am grateful for other fierce women in my life who try to care for and protect me. I am grateful for a weekend. I am grateful for the hilarious woman at the Chinese restaurant and for the little community that formed as we waited for our food.

I’m grateful that finding things for which to be grateful is getting much easier. Something in me is changing…

Lenten affirmation, day 8

One of the things that I am really good at doing is thinking about systems. I do well looking at things from 30,000 feet and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of a community, organization, or network. This is a skill that I think will suit me well as get deeper into my job. This in and of itself would be a fine affirmation, but I think what has made me effective as a preacher and communicator is that I can distill that 30,000 feet view down into something that can be digested and acted upon at the ground level. I think this is a pretty rare skill. It is a skill that many of the people that admire also have and I am pleased when I find it in myself.

Today, I am thankful for my new colleagues in the presbytery of Baltimore. I am thankful for a position that will allow me down the road to be a resource for pastors and churches. I am thankful that the morning snow did not cause more of a hassle than it did. I am thankful for the things I am learning about the history of Baltimore, a history that is shared by many cities in one way or another, and I am thankful for those who have been working to undo some of the harmful effects of that history. I am thankful for people who put bacon on things. I am thankful for good beer.

Lenten affirmation, day 7

One week in to the journey of Lent. Today I affirm that I am a survivor. I have been through a lot in my life. I am not saying that I have been through something worse than what other people have been through, nor that I am unusually strong, only that I have come through a great deal in my 35 years and that continue to persevere. I cannot say that I am unscathed by what life has thrown at me. No one can. Nor can I say that I have not attempted at times to inflict upon others what was inflicted upon me, yet I believe that more often than not, I have attempted to a force for good and not for harm. I affirm my desire to reconcile myself to what has happened in my past as not to continue destructive behaviors. I affirm a desire to overcome my past and to be informed by it in ways that allow me to make responsible choices moving into the future.

Today, I am grateful for my first paycheck at my new job! I am grateful for the work that my sister is doing and I am grateful that she is my sister. I grateful for concerned citizens with whom I will be working, particularly those with strong Irish accents and a love of jazz, beer, and film. I am grateful for my own love of jazz and the way the music both relaxes and excites me. I am grateful for small acts of reconciliation. Despite how it ended, I am grateful that I shared over a decade of my life with the best friend I’ve ever had. I’m grateful for little logistical pieces of my life beginning to fall into place. I am grateful for crepes with bacon and avocado. I am grateful for beauty. I am grateful for a day where I feel particularly grateful.

Alive on Purpose or Being Survivors

A few months back I wrote a blog post about suicide. It was right after the death of Robin Williams which, inexplicably, triggered a lot of feelings, memories, and emotions for me. I’ve since taken it off my blog, but if you’re interested in reading it or reading it again hit me up at derricklweston@gmail.com. A lot of people thanked me for sharing my story, my own wrestling with suicidal thoughts and the accompanying depression and shame that goes along with it. One of the more surprising responses, however, came from my sister. She told that she was not yet ready to share her own story of suicide survival. I was shocked. I shouldn’t have been. Her story is her’s to tell, but knowing the things that were happening in our home, I should have known. I felt another level of connection with that I hadn’t experienced before. She was no longer just my sister (as if that were some small thing!), she was a fellow survivor. We were more alike than I realized. That made me both sad and proud.

My real pride comes in what Cybil is doing with her survival story. She turns forty this year. I can’t believe she’s turning forty! I don’t mean this to sound creepy at all, but if you look(ed) half as good as my sister when you turn(ed) forty you should thank Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, and Superman. 1898136_10206146601161213_2570511114224657035_n

See?!

Anyway, Cybil is having a fundraiser for her fortieth birthday. She is raising money for an organization called Alive on Purpose. AOP’s mission is “a non-profit movement that is dedicated to the promotion of life by finding help for people struggling with depression, trauma, and suicide”. They have a particular focus on serving youth from disadvantaged backgrounds where mental health resources are often few and far between. During the build up to her party on March 7th (her birthday is March 4th), Cybil has been promoting the work of AOP and sharing the stories of the young people they have helped in their short existence as an organization. It’s incredibly inspiring!

So, here’s an ask from yours truly: would you be willing to help my sister raise money for this organization? They have, what seems to me, to be a modest goal of raising $5,000. Can we help with that? If you go here and leave my sister’s name “Cybil Taylor” in the message to sender box when you donate, you can contribute to the tally for the fundraiser. Pretty simple right?

I’m pretty proud of my sister, you guys! She’s always been strong, smart, and beautiful! She taught me how to read. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that she helped raise me. She’s been through a lot and she’s come out on the other side stronger. She’s aging like wine, if you ask me. I am inspired by her faith. I am challenged by her adventurous spirit. I am proud to be her brother.

We are survivors! Help us to help others be alive on purpose. Thanks!

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Lenten affirmation, day 6

Today I affirm that there are times when I am absolutely helpless. I affirm that needing help is not a weakness. I and I affirm my need to silence the voice that says otherwise. I affirm the goodness of being physically stranded and lost as a reminder of those times when I am emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually, stranded and lost. And I affirm that I am surrounded with people who are willing to help me if I would only get over my self (i.e. my pride, my fear of rejection or embarrassment, my ego) and allow myself to be served. I need help!

Today I am grateful to Stanley and his partner whose name I didn’t catch for pulling my car out of an icy ditch. I am grateful for the vivid re-enactment of the parable of the Good Samaritan I was given. I am thankful for technology that allows me to call for help. I am thankful for co-workers who are willing to poke a little good-spirited fun at me. I am thankful to those with the tenacity to see a situation through to the end. I am thankful for the reminder that I really need to start asking for help in so many areas of my life and thankful for those that are willing to be of help to me.

Lenten affirmation, day 5

So, for those of you that don’t know, Sundays during Lent are supposed to be little Easters where the you take a break from your sacrifices. So I took a break from affirmation and gratitude yesterday. Who needs that shit?

Anyway…

Today I affirm a strong love for my friends and family. I know that I don’t always show it, but I care deeply for my friends and hurt when they hurt. I love my family. My relationship with it has been complex from the door, but when it is all said and done, I love family because they are the purest link to my source. I affirm my desire to be in relationships, despite my tendencies to hide and/or self sabotage. I affirm that I am person made to give and receive love in community.

Today, I am grateful for the weekend with my kids. I am grateful for the hospitality of my parents. I am grateful for the “welcome home” sign that was waiting for me when I returned to Baltimore. I am thankful for work plan that helps me to map out my next few months of work, and for work that excites me. I am thankful for sun’s persistence against the bitter cold. And though I am not a fan of the Oscars, I am thankful to the gift that art of film has been to my life. I studied film for 5 plus year and I don’t think I would have finished college with a different major. Many of my best memories are attached to film. I am thankful for the medium’s ability to transport, inspire, entertain, teach, and tell stories both big and small.

Lenten Affirmation, day 4

Tonight, I strongly affirm the version of me that emerges when I am around my children. He is my most authentic self. He is void of ego, yet confident. He is silly and stern. He is student and teacher. He gets angry yet forgives quickly. I want to be who I am with my kids all of the time.

Today I am grateful for the gift of being Thomas and Sophia’s daddy. I am grateful for a safe drive through awful weather. I am grateful for friends who love me through antagonism and others who offer me perspective when I would rather have a pity party. I am grateful for cuddles and hugs. I am grateful for an excellent co-parent.