Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Holy Distractions - A Guest Post

A guest post on the topic of struggling with thoughts of suicide, and the short film, "The Balcony" , that has a suicide prevention message.

Holy Distractions

~Aubrey Hansen~

As a married twenty-something looking back on my teen years, I will always remember growing up as feeling like the walls were caving in.

As a child, our fragile young minds are protected by walls of innocence.  There are things that we know exist in the world, but they do not affect us.  We may be able to see them through the windows, but they cannot touch us through the walls, and therefore, they are not a part of our world.

But as we grow up, slowly but surely the things on the outside of the walls seep into our lives.  First we hear about them affecting coworkers and friends of friends, and then they start affecting our close friends and family.  And suddenly we find that we cannot keep these things on the other side of the walls anymore; they are entangled in our lives, shaping the way we think.  It feels like the walls are crumbling around us, until one day these things touch us personally.  And then the walls fall down.

What lurks outside the walls varies from person to person.  For me, one of the scariest things outside the walls, and the one that finally ended my childhood, was suicide.

I knew suicide existed.  I knew why it happened, and had heard a few trite explanations of depression, but it wasn’t something I had ever dealt with personally.  I knew it was there, but it was outside the walls.

So when I wrote the first draft of my short film “The Balcony,” I wasn’t thinking about the importance of suicide prevention.  It was a story about a girl who planned to jump off the balcony in a concert hall and was interrupted by a lonely violinist coming in to practice, but the suicide was just an effective storyline for me.  My focus was on the music, as the flutist decides to accompany the violinist’s practice from the shadows, and the two begin to converse through the interplay of their instruments.  I was driven by the artistry of it all, and suicide was simply the most effective character motivation I could use to convey the emotion.  And so I labeled it as a sweet story I could probably one day sell, stashed the draft in the back of my files, and forgot about it.

And then the walls around my childhood started to crumble.

First I learned about a casual acquaintance struggling with depression, before mysteriously vanishing off the internet, leaving behind rumors that she had committed suicide.  Then my closer friends started to come forward and open up about their depression.  I watched as their struggles got deeper, and I felt like my ability to help was slipping out of my fingers.  The foundations of my childhood were shaking, and I grappled to keep my little world from toppling.  But when I turned around to look at my own life, I realized that the thing that had once lurked outside the walls had moved in.  I was depressed, and it was getting worse.

I lived in denial while things got progressively darker through 2013.  In the spring of 2014, the man who would later become my husband found me and encouraged me to come to terms with the things that were taking down my walls.  But as is often the case with depression, when you first try to throw off the chains that bind you, they tighten.  I kept holding on to the few things that made me forget the pain briefly, always believing that if I just fixed enough of my problems I could go back to that simpler time where my innocence gave me peace.

But no amount of dreaming could keep my childhood alive.  In May of 2014, alone on the highway and suffering from my worst depression and the screams of demons, I almost drove my car into a concrete median to end it.

But I didn’t.  Why?  Because a friend texted me.

Even though I don’t text and drive, I had my phone sitting out on the passenger seat where I could see it.  And that simple text notification was a distraction.  It was enough of a distraction for rational thought to break past the noise in my brain, enough distraction to make me realize I should call the friend who texted me and let her talk me through the rest of the drive, enough distraction to give me the opportunity to make the conscious choice that saved my life and started me on the path of healing.

And now, almost a year later, when my producer dragged “The Balcony” out of the archives and put it on my desk again, I can look back and realize there’s a second story to the film that I didn’t even know my heart was trying to write.

In the story, the flutist is distracted when the violinist turns the lights on over the stage and comes out to practice.  This distraction gives her enough pause to notice him and listen to his music instead of the noise in her head.  The distraction allowed the violinist to enter her world, and she made the conscious choice to reach inside of her and respond.  Just one moment of chance timing made for a distraction that opened the gateway to healing and encouragement for both of them.

I am not saying that we should constantly pester our depressed friends and family with text messages to make sure they are all right.  Not all distractions will change a life; many encounters are simply just that, brief distractions that quickly fade and do nothing to help us conquer the battle.  But I am saying that every positive connection we make with people opens up a door for God to work.  Every time we touch another person, we are opening a channel of communication with them.  And if you respond to all the connections you make with honesty and love, you never know when you may have been the open door that let a life-changing thought in.

I want to thank Ophelia for letting me talk on her blog and share about my short film “The Balcony.”  As I mentioned, my old producer Jordan Smith from Phantom Moose Films drug this script out of the closet and decided to produce it this spring.  This is monumental for me, not only to see one of my films make it into production far sooner than I ever could have hoped, but also because I can now use this film as a way to share my experiences with depression and suicide prevention with others.

Of course, producing a film is easier said than done, especially since the intimate nature of the music involves an original violin-flute duet that must be tailored to the movie, as well as two talented musicians to act it out.  For that reason, we’re running a Kickstarter through the end of March to raise the necessary funds for the music and high-quality cameras.  I’d be delighted if y’all could check it out.  Even if you can’t donate, please share the link--you never know when your Facebook post or Tweet might put the film in front of the right person.

After all, even the simplest connections between people can change the world.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dragons, Books, And Giveaways

Well, finally today's the day! A giveaway day!  I have officially published my third poetry book, and have decided to celebrate!  ^_^

Writers' Colors and Dreams is a small collection of abstract and colorful poetry with themes of nature, dreaming, dragons, and writing. 

From today, until the  23rd, the book will be listed at whole-sale price for $2.75 at the CreateSpace E-store.  Afterwards, the book will go up on Amazon, and it will no longer be "on sale".

To celebrate, I am hosting two giveaways with two prizes.

The first prize is this little dragon, and a signed copy of Writers' Colors and Dreams.

The other prize is another dragon and book pair, over at ZA's Clay Critters on Facebook. Go check it out!

Feel free to enter both! The giveaways end March 23 at midnight, EST timezone.

Side note - My second book, Zeal Aspiring, is free on ebook from now until the 20th : Free ebook

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for stopping by!

You can find me on: Pinterest
And Facebook: ZA's Clay Critters

~Ophelia - Marie

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Lust - Times It Hits Us, And Ways To Combat It

       I went to a Retreat at a nearby church this weekend, and during Sunday School, the Pastor talked about lust. This is based off of that talk, using notes I took. 

       When does lust often hit us the hardest? Whether we admit it or not, we all struggle in this area to one degree or another. Some things make it harder...

      Lust often becomes a problem when I am:


Lust often becomes a problem when I am:

            Lonely doesn't necessarily mean "alone", though that can often be a problem for people as well. Lonely comes from feeling disconnected - feeling like you don't belong.
          No one cares. No one will care what I'm feeling, or looking at, or doing - this makes me feel less lonely, to do this. Maybe I can stop feeling alone. 
  Ah, friend. Those are lies from the devil, Satan. He wants you to feel lonely. He wants you to look in, instead of look out. He wants you to sin, and then he'll tell you - "You are right to feel lonely. Look what you did! No one really cares. If you told them, you would feel even more alone. They will judge you, and leave you. You've really messed up now." ..... And then the cycle repeats - you sin when you're in this lonely state, and then you feel more lonely because you're afraid to reach out.

          What can you do when lust hits you because you are lonely?

            1) Talk to God. He is your dearest friend. He loves you, and says, 'Never will I leave you, and never will I forsake you.' He says, 'I will uphold you. I will strengthen you and give you peace.' He says, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love. No one can take you from my Father's hand.' He says, 'As far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed your sins from my sight.' ... So go to Him with your loneliness, and ask Him for His peace.

             2) Find someone to be accountable to. Get connected. We are not meant to walk this road of life alone. We need each other to pray, encourage each other in faith, and find ways to be involved.
               I have found in my own life that it's much harder to want to sin, when I know a friend is going to ask me how I've been doing in this specific area. Don't think you're the only one who struggles. Find someone who cares about how your spiritual walk with God is going, and ask them to keep you accountable. Check up with each other on a regular basis to pray, and see how you can be a blessing to one another.

Lust often becomes a problem when I am:

                Being satisfied can be hard. In a world that says, 'You can have it all!' it can often be difficult to respond with, 'No. This will bring me harm.'
               Unsatisfaction that leads to lust can come in many different forms... Maybe you're unsatisfied with your physical appearance. Maybe you're unsatisfied with your relationship status right now. Maybe you're unsatisfied with a partner you do have. Maybe you're unsatisfied with your accomplishments. Maybe... well, maybe you're unsatisfied with life in general.

            What is one way you can battle being unsatisfied? 
              "Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4 - Great, great Psalm.)

          Delight yourself in God. Find your joy, your life, your strength, in His goodness. When we truly find delight in God, our own desires grow more and more to look like His. He wants us to be satisfied in Him. He wants us to open up our clenched hands that cling to the scraps of this broken world, so that He can fill them with blessings. He wants us to look to Him and say, "In You, I have found my satisfaction."

        *Thinks of this song* 

        Don't keep chasing satisfaction in anything else. It's not too late to turn back and run to God. He can fulfill your heart's desires, and give you satisfaction in Him.

Lust often becomes a problem when I am:

             Lust doesn't care about the other person. Lust asks the question, 'What can I get out of this?' It never worries about the other person, or thinks about their well being. We aren't looking for the best of others when we lust - and I'm talking about people on the computer screen as well as people you interact with. Lust sees only itself.

             How can we combat the feelings of selfishness? One way we can do that is to serve. Stop whatever it is you are doing - thoughts and actions - and search for someone to serve. "But what if it's late at night, or no one is around?" Then maybe go sit down and write someone a letter. Go whip out your calendar and look at dates you could go help out at a church function. Go sit down and pray for those in your life... It's hard to keep focusing on your emotions and desires when you are looking for ways to be a blessing.

             Whatever it is you're in the midst of struggling with - Go. Don't stay in the moment where you are - move. Go to another room. Go to another location. Flee the temptation, and run to God. He will stand beside you. That doesn't mean you won't be tempted, or that you'll never fail again, but it is harder to wrap yourself in selfishness when you're looking to give to others, and looking up to God.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
              It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

Lust often becomes a problem when I am: 

           Tired can be because we are not getting enough sleep, or it can be Tired in the sense of being emotionally weary - either way, Satan can use our being tired against us. 

          I don't know about you, but I have trouble thinking straight at times, when I am tired. My thoughts wander all over the map in a span of mere seconds. Things that I'd normally be able to combat with Truth, seem to run circles in my head. I don't always process my emotions rationally.

       We can tell ourselves, "I'm too tired to keep trying. I'm too weary. It'll make me feel better." Or even on a subconscious level - "I want this."... It's sin, and as much as we wrestle with it, and against it, there is a broken part of our will that finds it attractive... And yet, the more and more we find our comfort, our delight, our blessing, and our rest in God, the more sin will look as it truly is - destructive

       An obvious way to combat sleepy-tired is to get sleep... For some of us, that's easier said than done though. Still, I would encourage you to take care of your physical body. Take a nap if you have to. Aim to go to bed half an hour or so early. Go to bed on time when you can. Sleep is important.

       It's harder to deal with weary-emotionally-tired... Besides prayer, some things that help me are reading through the Psalms, listening to encouraging music, praying/talking with a close friend, or writing about whatever is causing me to feel weary.

       Jesus says in Matthew 11:28  & 29, 28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

        Go to God. Go to Him with your feelings of loneliness. Go to Him with your feelings of unsatisfaction. Go to Him with your selfishness. Go to Him with your tired body and heart. 
        God is our comfort. He is our delight. He is our encouragement to serve. He is our true rest. He can help us battle lust, and He has given us victory over sin, death, and the devil, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Take my faults and my flaws, make me better

~Draw The Line, by Disciple

        This has by no-means been a comprehensive post, but I hope it has helped you think and been an encouragement to you.

        God bless,

~Ophelia - Marie 

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Dragon Giveaway

              I am co-hosting a giveaway with Donita K. Paul, Author of The Dragon Keeper Chronicles.

             It is the tenth anniversary of Dragon Quest, and we are giving away Dibl and Ardeo! ^_^

             To enter, just follow this link: GIVEAWAY

              I also have some other characters available over on my FB page: ZA's Clay Critters

~Ophelia - Marie 

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