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The North Georgia Conference
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Each month we will bring you new resources to provide support around your wellbeing now and in the future. Be sure to bookmark www.ngumc.org/wellbeing or print these resources for easy reference.

Contents:
Meaningful Moment  |  The Creative Flame
Just Checking In  | Gratitude vs.Toxic Positivity 
Dear Lindsay  |  Holidays with Family 
What We’re Talking About  |  Trauma Book Discussion
Conference Resources  |  Conversation Starters

Meaningful Moment

Visual and words by @scottthepainter on Instagram

The creative practice, or any practice really (spiritual, physical, mental), is not so much about accomplishing something as much as it is keeping the Fire of Life alive in oneself.

Your fire can go out. The drenching malaise of binge worthy television, destructive news narratives, and body shaming advertising will slowly kill you over time. Wonder, curiosity, imagination, risking, doing, trying, being... these are the warm flames of Life in the coldest of seasons.

I don’t know what your life is like now. But I’m guessing there is some kind of pain that wants to extinguish any kind of spark within you. 

Beloved... all I can do is invite you to take off your shoes and walk in the grass.
Stop and listen to every sound you can hear.
Eat a meal slowly.
Hug someone longer than 20 seconds.
Make a drawing of something that makes you giggle.
Notice the beauty of moss.
Stretch.
Sing (or hum if you can’t remember the lyrics).
Drink a Lacroix and burp as loud as you can.
Pet a dog.
Hold a cat.
Listen to rap.
Get sexy with your lover.
Go to a play.
Master the running man.
Memorize a poem.
Swear in French.
Draw your prayers.
Hold hands.
Write a thank you card to everyone who helped you become the magic that you are...

And if you practice weird and wonderful things like this.... the Flame will never go out... and it will become the very light you offer others who’s flame has gone out.

Just Checking In


November is a month where we preach all sorts of sermons on gratitude for a multi-week Thanksgiving theme. We tend to pull scriptures out of context, like 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, where we tell ourselves to give thanks in all situations. We build extensive gratitude lists (that we sometimes tie into our charge conference reports) that waver between genuine gratitude and a covert way of rattling off accomplishments. 

I feel like in November when someone asks how I’m doing, I’m supposed to respond that I’m grateful and happy. Heck, sometimes we even feel like we should answer, “I’m blessed.” (If I’m being vulnerable with you, October always feels like a straight-up marathon between personal and professional commitments. I really should answer, “I’m simply exhausted,” but often say, “Things are busy but going well!”) And we offer these overly positive responses in all sorts of situations – both when things are going well around us and when things are busy and an absolute train wreck. We lean on excessive thanksgiving and claim it’s biblical. And I can feel ashamed or unappreciative when I’m not overly positive or full of thanksgiving. 

Here’s what I’ve come to realize: sometimes gratitude borders on toxic positivity. 

Now, before you start reminding me that practicing gratitude is important for our mental health, hear me out. 

While trying to cultivate positive thinking can be a valuable tool for positive mental health, when we do so at the expense of validating our feelings, that’s when it becomes concerning. We can only truly experience gratitude after we take in what our feelings are telling us. When life is hard, we experience a wide range of emotions. (Yes, once again I’m referencing my favorite friend: the feelings wheel. If you want to hear me reference it even more, check out the newest season of Not Alone).

Gratitude is intentionally having a deep appreciation for something. However, an overextension of that is when we become obsessed with ONLY identifying positive thinking and negating all other feelings. This is when gratitude turns to toxic positivity. Toxic positivity comes with the mantra “Positive Vibes Only” instead of “All Vibes Welcome Here.” 

Gratitude is saying, “I’m grateful for this calling AND it’s hard.”
Toxic positivity is saying, “I’m too blessed to be stressed.” 

So, as you head into the Thanksgiving holiday next week, cultivate genuine gratitude – which holds the good AND hard in tension – and avoid the draw to toxic positivity. What a gift you can give yourself. 

Grateful for you,
Lindsay

PS. A way to practice gratitude, instead of toxic positivity only, is mindfulness. Check out this previous walking meditation to practice mindfulness. 

Dear Lindsay


Welcome to our version of “Dear Abby.” Here you can submit any questions you might have about wellbeing resources or seek recommendations on how to handle personal or congregational situations. Submit your entry below and we’ll feature one each month! 
Ask Lindsay

Dear Lindsay,
     Every year at Thanksgiving, I get the same questions about my life: when are you having kids? Or how is work? It’s exhausting. And really makes me angry that they keep asking me about this. How do I avoid these frustrating questions from family during the holidays?

     Sincerely,
     Annoyed at the Questions


_____
 

Dear Annoyed at the Questions,

Your question is one that so many people bring up in counseling sessions or over Friendsgiving gatherings – how to manage the peppering of frustrating questions with family during the holidays. First, it’s key to realize that most people aren’t intentionally trying to be hurtful with their questions. People don’t know how to start dialogue with people they don’t see or connect with regularly and resort back to the socially acceptable “go to” questions about family, marriage, kids, and work. When people have never been offered other tools to use, they don’t know where to start. 

Second, the reason these questions come up (besides not having the tools to use) is that as a society we have created a linear story that we expect people to follow: work hard to get into the right college, get good grades to get the right job after school, meet someone and get married, consider getting a pet, have 2.5 kids a few years into marriage, continue to excel in your job and move up the ladder, then retire exactly where you had always dreamed and enjoy time with grandkids. Our brains like to think logically. But that rarely happens in any of our lives. However, we don’t know how to adjust and respond when it doesn’t follow the logical next step. We noticed this happening lots to people in the pandemic when life’s perceived linear pattern got disrupted. 

A few tips to go into family dinners with alternative questions to stir up conversation:

  1. Check out the holiday conversation starters from last year or the new ones for this year!
  2. Listen to episode 44 of Not Alone, to be released on 12/21 with some alternative conversation starters. 
  3. Buy a pack of conversation starters like this or this to put in the middle of your table. (My family STILL laughs about the question “If you could participate in any Olympic sport, what would it be?” and my late grandmother in her upper 80s, without skipping a beat, said “The luge.” I mean, what?!)


A key piece of this is that when we ask only those stereotypical questions, we often hit on pain points of people that may want that next step and haven’t experienced it yet (often introducing shame!). We also can stir up family discomfort when someone doesn’t follow the “traditional” pattern, such as couples not wanting to have kids or someone being content in their current job and not wanting to move up the ladder. I hope that this holiday season you can encourage new conversations that get to know more about someone besides if their life is fitting the perceived linear pattern society tells us to follow. I bet everyone will learn some things – and be challenged (in a healthy way) to think through how our automatic questions can perpetuate pressure or cause hurt. 

Grateful for you,
Lindsay
 

What We're Talking About – Recommendation of the Month!

Each month we will share some of our favorite wellbeing resources.


Upcoming Trauma Conversation – Virtual or In-Person Group Opportunity

Join us on a 5-week journey through the New York Times Bestseller “What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing,” by Bruce Perry, MD, PhD and Oprah Winfrey. Hosted by Powder Springs First United Methodist Church, church members Julie Beem and Stacy Troutt will lead the discussion. Julie is the Executive Director of the Attachment & Trauma Network, a national non-profit supporting children impacted by trauma. And Stacy is a Licensed Professional Counselor working with children, youth, and families.
 
Starting on November 21, 2021, the book group will meet for five consecutive Sundays at 2:00 pm for an hour in a hybrid format (both in-person and virtually). Each session will cover two chapters of the book. The book can be acquired at any major retailer, including Amazon. Those wanting to benefit the Attachment & Trauma Network with your book purchase, can do so through this link at bookshop.org.
 
Tip: If you're an audiobook listener, this is a great one to listen to. It is read by both Dr. Perry and Oprah. Make sure you download and print the handouts if you use the audiobook; they're important to understanding the concepts.
 
Registered participants will receive the zoom link via email the Wednesday before the study begins. This study is open to anyone so feel free to invite a friend to join you. Sign-up right here.
 

New Resources


Alternative Holiday Conversation Starters (Part 2)
If you’re looking for new ways to start conversations instead of the predictable go-to questions to connect with one another. This is a wonderful way to engage creatively instead of the typical questions we rely on that only talk about “next stages” in life instead of present moments. Download now.

Zoom Conversation – “No Cure for Being Human”
Dr. Kate Bowler, professor at Duke Divinity School, released a new book recently, “No Cure for Being Human (And Other Truths I Need to Hear).” The book is about exploring when the life you had hoped for is put on hold indefinitely. It’s challenging when the life you dreamed about feels like it is just out of reach. Join Rev. Lindsay Geist on Thursday 12/9 at noon for conversation around the book and exploring how we navigate our own lives in seasons of uncertainty. Register in advance for this meeting. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.



WE WANT YOU! Do you have a great resource we need to know about? We are compiling resource lists of virtual/in-person grief groups, therapists, spiritual directors, and clergy coaches. Also, we are building lists of recovery resource groups in each district, so if you know of great active AA/NA/CA/Celebrate Recovery groups (or any others) in your area, please share them with us

 

Previously Released Conference Resources

All resources can be found at any time on the NGUMC Wellbeing website.

BIPOC Mental Health Resources
Key Mental Health Websites
Ambiguous Loss Rituals
"A Weary World Rejoices" worship resources to help you take a Sunday off
Holiday Conversation Starters
Stages of Grief resource
Tips to Manage through the Holiday Season
A Walking Meditation guide 
Rest & Renewal Plan
Reflection Guide for Rest and Renewal
100 Self-Care Ideas 
A Moment of Reflection journal template 
Letter to SPRC Chairs (October 2021)
Crisis Hotline Numbers
How to Find a Therapist video
How to Find a Therapist guide
Recommended Podcasts
 

Season 3 of “Not Alone: Faith and Mental Health” Podcast - coming this fall!

 

Season 3 is back! All new episodes releasing between now and the end of the year focusing on decision making, how to have conversations with those different from you, and relationships.  Join Rev. Michael McCord, Director of the Georgia UMCommission, Evan DeYoung, a campus minister, and Rev. Lindsay Geist, a licensed clinical social worker, as they walk together through a life of faith and wellbeing. Find “Not Alone: conversations on Faith and Wellbeing” on your favorite podcast platform.

Apple Podcasts
Spotify

Key Contact Numbers


For a printable list of Mental Health and Substance Use crisis numbers, click here.

Additionally, the Georgia COVID-19 Emotional Support Line (866-399-8938) assists callers needing emotional support or resource information as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Emotional Support Line is staffed by volunteers, including mental health professionals and others who have received training in crisis counseling.
Rev. Lindsay Geist, MDiv, MSW, LCSW
Church Transition & Clinical Resource Specialist
North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church
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