Wednesday, November 26, 2014

That Thing in the Room

They are very timid animals you know.

They are quiet, lumbering and often awkward. Out in the wide open world, they are easy to manage. Fresh air, weather or even a simple distraction make them seem manageable.


But in a room of people.

With a mountain of food.

And a holiday.

This beautiful, great big creature cannot function well. THEN we who bring the lumbering beastie with us, make it sit in a corner and be quiet.

The poor elephant.

Photo by David Blackwell.

Not able to talk to anyone, the pachyderm is in a precarious position. It must pretend to not exist. With a trunk, four legs the size of tables and a broom tail. The unfortunate thing is thinks itself invisible.

However, toes are stepped on.
Words are misunderstood.
Feelings well up into knots of yuck.

The pitiable delicate beasty can do nothing right.

Truth is, as we gather together for holidays, these gentle creatures join us. We need to be gentle. If it isn’t possible to talk to the elephant, just a nod will do. A small recognition of grace is what they deserve.


If we are gentle with them, possibly a few toes will be saved.
Words might be heard clearly if spoken with a sprinkle of love.
Feelings could unravel and begin to heal.

I say we should dress that elephant in a pink tutu. Adorn it’s head with a crown. Pull out a chair and offer it a seat.

Pretending like they are not there is not working. So,  remember this holiday season:

Please be kind to elephants.

Thank you Non-Sequitur  for saying it so well.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Little Orphan Annie

From the time I was little, flawless perfection was the focus. Shame overwhelmed me each time a mistake was made. The God of my childhood loved me in spite of them. My logic was IF a mistake was never committed then God’s ability to love me was a little easier. My emotions, opinions and even my body were not always under my control. No matter how hard I tried to be good, obedient and flawless it would end up the same: failure.

I would pray until I fell asleep begging God to fix it. I cried out to him:
To be my refuge.
To make me feel safe.
To save me.

Fear and chaos ruled my mind.

I was 14 when I stepped on the scale. It said 100 POUNDS.

100 marbles rolling across the floor.
100 people in a room.
100 pounds was heavy to pick up.
100 things was a lot of things

I looked in the mirror and words from boys in the past echoed: You’re fat.

I pinched an inch and in the mirror I saw Lulu from HeeHaw. The way I felt about myself and life up to that point became concrete: fat was out of control. Gluttony was a sin. I couldn’t admit the chaos within. To be anxious was worry. Worry was a sin. Therefore how I felt was a lack of faith.  If I could control fat, then I could control everything. I wouldn't have to be afraid anymore. I could be safe.

Since prayer hadn't fixed it, then fasting would. Jesus said so. If I could control what I put into my mouth, then Jesus could deliver me. Jesus would heal me. My sin wouldn't keep him away anymore. I spent the next 7 years controlling every thing I put in my mouth to keep my safe number of 98 lbs. When life became too chaotic, a blissful peace of a fast would bring me peaceful sanity. I lived a lie of control and contrition: a false submission to God.

The truth of this dis-ease is fear.

Fear of losing control
Fear of mistakes.
Fear of all the things that could go wrong.
Fear of not being perfect.
Fear of….

Almost 23 years ago I found abstinence. In recovery I put away the god of my childhood and met a God who unconditionally loves me. He equips me with what I need to get through the day. I recognized what was within my control and what wasn’t. God gave me the wisdom to know the difference. I was led to people who counsel me in true grace. Mistakes and shortcomings are ways of redemption, not prisons.

The little voice’s name is Little Orphan Annie. When life gets stressful, Annie tempts me with control. Divine love answers with: Taste and see that The Lord is good. I go to yoga and practice being still and knowing He is God.

When my clothes don’t fit right and Annie suggests how out of control fat is, Divine Love reminds me how perfectly I am loved. The choice to believe that love quiets my fear. Divine love leads me.

Thinking I was fat was only a symptom. It never was about being fat. It was always about fear. Anorexia was my medication for anxiety.  Only growing in Divine Love brought me to sanity and true peace.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Nest With A Revolving Door


I was not prepared for this.

I did what they told me to. Those older wise women in ministry as they reflected reverent behavior. They told us not to slander. Not to drink-if you do, not too much. We were admonished to love our husbands and children. To be discreet in our actions, make sure all of our flirtations and obedience was towards our husbands and NOT make friends with other men. Don’t act like Jezebel. Defer all final decisions to the husband. It’s ok to make suggestions, but in the end his word is law.

It was our job, to make sure God wasn’t blasphemed.

Over the last 20ish years of marriage and kids, I’ve watched my friends feel shame when the economy soured and they went back to work. Those who chose to send their kids to school defending it with, “My husband…” Those who did homeschool explain why their kids needed to go to school. I had friends who wouldn’t invite people over because she wasn’t a good housekeeper.

The cycle continues with the younger moms today. They carry a heavy millstone of obligation to everyone else.

And here I sit.

Two kids in college and yesterday I dropped Girly off for classes that we’ve added to the homeschool schedule. This season is coming to a close.

The season of children.
The season of being that hot wife.
The season of running the home.
The season of everyone else’s agenda.

I’ve spent the last year looking forward to this and also dreading it because it exposes a nasty, uncomfortable question:

What about me?

Friendships were directly tied to who the kids were friends with. Now that most of the boys’ friends are off to college, those moms are off on adventure of discovery. Their nest is completely empty while mine still has a fledglings and a rotating door.

I feel lost.

What about me?

Somehow I got the idea through the women’s ministry to not ask that question. It’s about Jesus. It’s about being God’s representative. It’s about the husband. It’s about the kids.

I feel confused. I’m not the kind of mom who wishes the kids were small again. I’ve loved every stage. Every moment that we passed through was savored. I like being their friend and mentor now. I like watching them make decisions and mistakes themselves. The question haunts:

What about me?

I become irritated with myself. The question sounds pathetic.

So…

In my struggle to find an answer I reflect on all of the women’s retreats, bible studies, groups, sermons and mentoring for an answer. It eludes me. I’m not an older woman who could mentor. I am not a younger woman eager to learn home management, child rearing and husband happiness techniques.

I am in a middle and feel a bit abandoned. I have no clear answer. My thoughts fall to my youth, when the focus simply was loving God and serving others. I wonder if that should have been the message all along.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

When Voice Matters

Counting Mutant and Girly asked me why I haven’t been writing.

I didn't have an answer.

Sure summer’s activities have kept me hopping. When I’m not running around, my body goes into shut-down-recovery mode.

I realized today, underneath it all is this soul sickening truth: voice.

Photo taken by Alvimann
Then I stopped by a dinner with the Parentals. My faux pas was simple enough. As usual it blindsided me. Three days later my ears still sting from the whispered correction.

Parental told about a notorious corner in their neighborhood: a blind intersection that all the residents ignore. As the story wove, it sounded as if Parental thought both the Sister at the table and I were in an accident there at one point in time. I asked Sister if she had.

She said no, but asked me about mine. Answering was my mistake.

Here is what I remember:

I was 15 and my friend freshly 16. A week previous my knee underwent the new endoscopic surgery. I only used crutches for a few days. Without crutches, Friend drove me home after some adventure. We cruised through that infamous blind intersection at about 20mph and met a 70ish Corvette.

Photo taken by photojock
Headlights clapped. My knee met Friend’s truck door. We were both a bit rattled, but nothing more. I hobbled the block to my house for Parentals. On the walk back and the rest of the evening Parentals went on and on about God’s miraculous protection that neither of us had a scratch from the accident.

Weeks later, Friend’s insurance company contacted my parents. After a few refusals, Parentals accepted their offer and praised God for the provision. Now they could get braces for me. The check came; shown to me and deposited; all with fan fair and glory.

After that, I never heard about it again. Years ago I determined the money must have absorbed into bills or something. Times were always tough.

Years later, Parentals found a different revenue stream and the braces plan moved forward. I protested; It was my senior year of high school and my desire for braces was simply cosmetic. My sisters needed them. I was put in my place with a lecture on ingratitude towards God. So, I quietly obeyed. In the middle of my senior year my mouth filled with metal.

Photo taken by imelenchon
Back to the dinner: I began to tell the story and within three sentences, Parental took over and added: “You had a gash on your forehead.”

I blinked. The glorious injury free, God’s protection haze began to dissipate. Foolishly I corrected.

The debate was on.

Not one thought completed before Parental’s correction put me back in place. A feeling of defensiveness began to build as Sister leaned over and whispered,

“It doesn't matter.”

And years worth of frustration flew out in a breathy whisper before the thought even hit my brain: “I don’t matter.”

Sister rolled her eyes and turned back to Parental.

I sat there as thoughts tumbled through:
My voice doesn't matter.
My story doesn't matter.
Don’t make Parentals upset.
Don’t antagonize Parentals.
It doesn't matter what stories they tell. It is their truth. That is what matters.

In Wonderland reality is relative to the one speaking. Truth can be a debated topic. As long as my voice agreed with those around me it was encouraged. If my voice disagreed then I either needed to defend it fiercely or shut my mouth.

And here I am. Filled with stories full of hope and healing still struggling with voice.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A Dance Hope Explosion

I pause today and look back on the week.

My breath catches.

So much unimaginable good.

When Gala was over last year, the seniors took their bows at the final cast call. Ase had a far away look in his eye. Zany stood next to him-a Junior- playing his part honoring the seniors. His face held an empty smile.

It was not nostalgia.
It was not anticipating loss of friendships.
It was emptiness. Their dancing artistic soul was hollow from burn out.

Personality clashes turned nuclear in the spring. It soured the spirit of Ase's senior year accomplishments. Both were reluctant to dance again, nervous about repercussions, but they did. Zany reveled in the roll as Nutcracker’s Mouse King. Ase took classes and focused on a competitive dance team within our studio.

Through the year Ase realized the toll of working and going to school. He couldn't dance at the level he wanted to. Our small town had no other options for him. The potential offer across the country to dance professionally seemed an allusive goal. It seamed to be time to leave dance behind. It was time to focus on school and his future with his second passion, astronomy.

Ase prepared for the West Coast Dance Explosion, the last dance convention for the year. He got off work we piled into the car at 6:30. We knew it was going to be tight-LA Friday evening traffic- and the performances began at 5:00. Ase was slated to dance at 10:00.

Miracles of miracles on a Friday night in the rain, we hit no traffic and arrived with 40 minutes to spare. Plenty of time to calm nerves, warm up, walk it through and go on.

Once settled into our room, Ase opened his heart. Feeling frustrated and discouraged he didn’t want dance to end this way: in frustration. As a family, one of our mottos is:

Finish Well

Saturday started with a ballet class, his favorite. From there the day built to a satisfactory crescendo. The night’s performances were beautiful and there was joy in his eye again.

Sunday held a few classes and a conference audition. In the last class of the day, they are taught choreography then have to audition it. Depending on how well they do as individuals, a prize is awarded.

Ase's number was called and he went; not too surprised, boys are rare in the dance world. After the awards were handed out, I waited for him to find me in all the madness. Just as I was mind numbingly comfortable a friend rushed up to me:

YOU’RE GOING TO VEGAS!

I blinked. “What?”

YOU’RE GOING TO VEGAS!

Double blinked, “What?”

This time she took a breath and with deliberation said, “Ase is going to Vegas. He won the Elite Award.”

My breath caught, “Wait… what does that mean?”

He gets to perform a solo and compete nationally against other dancers. IN VEGAS!”

I directed her to go tell him because I knew he had no clue. The expression from across the room was the “everyone gets a ribbon” face.

I watched as she went through the same thick headed dialog with him. His expression changed to the “deer in the headlights.”

We spent dinner, the drive home and two hours more discussing it. Figuring out fund raising and creative revenue streams were brainstormed. Somehow we will make it work: my sewing, his penny pinching, odd jobs...

Ase will be dancing on a national platform for a week: special performances, classes, auditions and competition against the other Elite winners. It is with this breath of possibility he is revisiting dancing professionally for a year.

Maybe it doesn't need to be over.

Friday, April 25, 2014

What Is In A Name?

My hands dripped with flour paste for the paper mache sculpture as I listened to Jayson Bradley's sermon What Is Your Name And Why Does It Matter. It is odd to think of one’s own name as a nemesis, but that is how I saw mine.

After my Dad left the Air Force, our transition into civilian life was challenging. Jobs were scarece and we had to move from Utah to California.  In third grade I went to three schools.  I saw myself as a burden. I knew my birth kept my Mom from attaining her degree. The moving and uncertainty was hardest on my Mom. She was pregnant and struggled to keep up with my three year old sister. I often felt in the way.

Once settled, civilian culture in a small town was very different than military life. Everyone was nice, but many found me odd. The friendships that were formed didn't last very long.

In fifth grade I came to a warped conclusion. The big thing in Sunday School the meaning of your name. The Bible said that what your name meant was who you were. Kids with biblical names were the coolest. It was easy to find an encouraging life verse to tack onto a Biblical hero.

My name fell into a gray area. Rebecca was the English spelling of Rebekah, so the coolness factor was minimal. Imagine my disappointment when I looked it up:

Bound

In my frailty it made sense:

Prisoners are bound.
Captives and kidnapped victims are bound.
An anchor is bound to a ship.
Bound was a prison.

My greatest fear confirmed; I was a burden. I was an entanglement. I was an impediment. Tearful cries began. Begging God to show me my secret name written on that white stone. I didn't want to be a burden. I wanted to be a blessing. As I grew up in Wonderland, that flawed reality only solidified.

Still praying that prayer and waiting patiently for an answer into adulthood. Then one day,  reading  the account of Isaac meeting Rebekah my point of view shifted
Isaac was walking in the field, still mourning the loss of his mother. He saw the camels…

Que sappy romantic music

Rebekah covered her face, dismounted the camel and met him. Isaac then took her into his home and he loved her, she comforted him. His grief and loneliness were bound up. She was not a burden to him. She was a gift. She captivated him.

The shift from a negative:bound to a positive: captivating began.

I am interesting.
People are curious about me.
I can help ease a burden.
I can comfort those in difficulty.
I am good at organizing in a crisis.

In reading Fearless Daughters of the Bible, J. Lee Grady points out when God changed Abram and Sari’s name to Abraham and Sarah, he wove in the Hebrew H “breath” sound: the same sound that is part of his own name.

I felt Holy Spirit’s breath seal my name. Rebekah has that same breath sound. How it is spelled is irrelevant. I am identified with Divine Love. That Holy Breath renews my soul. It frees me to grow. It redeems what I thought about myself and grants me vision of how God sees me.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Escape From Wonderland: Punk Grace

Photo taken by waterdawg


Friend knew a little about my life in Wonderland. Her intent was for me to simply have fun. One February holiday I spent the night at her house then she revealed her plan.

Her boyfriend had a friend who had horses. Friend knew how much I loved horses and arranged for us to go horseback riding. Friend assured me this was NOT a date. I didn’t even know the guy and he defiantly didn’t like me. Anyway; she had a plan to keep me safe from trouble in Wonderland.

So, not wanting to disappoint my friend or having to explain why I was home early to Wonderland; I went along.

Her boyfriend and friend picked us up after breakfast.

We were simply friends.
Riding horses.
Then having lunch.

My heart found bliss with the horses. The morning adventure complete, we stopped for a simple lunch of pizza was seasoned with laughter. All piled into her boyfriend’s car they decided to drive me home.

That is when everything fell apart.

The Parentals were in the front yard. I ran into the house to keep them all safe. Before my mouth even opened, the verdict:

It was a date.
I was in rebellion.
It was as bad to God as the sin of witchcraft.

The yelling and screaming became phone calls to validate their verdict. I was put into the car and driven over to Friend’s house to “confront” her Mom. I felt ashamed. My poor friend who tried to create a safe place for me to have fun watched it blow up in her face. I sat in her living room with a bruised cheek as a Parental’s voice railed on about lies, rebellion and inappropriate behavior.

My eyes barely lifted from the carpet.

Then the real discipline happened. I was grounded until the end of the school year-four months. No phone, friends, television and only church activities they approved of.

Within the church’s youth group-The Garden-were subgroups called Seeds Groups. For two years I participated in West Seeds. The group filled with upper middle class popular kids. Part of my punishment was to be sent to the newly formed South Seeds.

With a broken will, I moved to that group. Richard-the Seeds Pastor-led the small rag tag group on the furthest corner of the church campus, away from the youth building.

Then I saw grace.
Photo taken by marce

Richard welcomed everyone. Most of the people in the group were high school dropouts, or at least in the continuation high school. Those Punks-with army surplus combat boots, mohawks, safety pins pierced through parts of their bodies-talked about the Dead Boys, Sex Pistols, Agent Orange and others. I sat and listened as they explained what the music meant to them. Richard simply loved them. He never asked them to wear something different to church. He laughed with them and through his example I saw Jesus.


We all gathered and sang worship songs. Paul, still to this day my favorite guitar player, led worship. He taught me to sing, listening between the notes to find the harmony. It didn't matter if the not was not perfect; dissonance could always be resolved.

We studied the Word and struggled to figure out how to apply it in our lives. In that Seeds group of Misfits I began to feel normal. I wasn't the only one living in a Wonderland.

There was a way of hope.
A way of peace.
A way of escape.

In our own CBGB we found hope and purpose. Our own Hilly opened a way of purpose and redemption. Those Punks taught me what grace looks like.



Friday, April 18, 2014

Gentle Lent-A Good Friday

This year's great plans for Gentle Lent have fallen short. In my failure to complete them, truth emerges.

Outward Focus: Open to Divine Appointments and Kindness Risks I feel less isolated. Each and every time I pause to talk to a person, I feel a little more open. The whole house is not cleaned and decluttered, but I have a great start for the summer.

Inward Focus: The getting up on time, abstaining from social media right when I wake up did not go so well. That plan was interrupted when Counting Mutant took himself to the ER.  However, I am more mindful of the time I spend, a quick glance then my feet hit the floor.

I’ve done well in the “no cheats.” So well it uncovered a bigger problem, I have to keep it. This last monthly cycle I had no PMDD triggered anxiety. The few days of food cravings were curbed by asking this question:

Will future me appreciate the present me indulging in this?

Photo taken by j4b
However, my first day experience was much less than ideal. My conclusion is: I need to keep clean eating regularly and cheat only once a month and investigate supplements.

Upward Focus: The quiet meditation for five minutes hasn’t worked out. My daily devotionals were hit and miss. I attended Lenten services. I still feel nervous going to the Lutheran church but anxiety is waning. The boundary of liturgy during the service melts away my fear.

The result is, found myself not wanting to rush to Sunday.

I want to savor this Friday. Participating in Maundy Thursday’s communion and watching the altar be cleared by women. The emptiness the building we call church without its focus. My own emptiness.

That cross held a priest I could identify with:

False accusations have been thrown at me. My role in Wonderland was a scapegoat. There is no redemption for a scapegoat. If something went wrong, it was my fault. It was my responsibility to fix it. People believe false testimony about me and chose to cut tie, rejecting a relationship with me.

I have been abused and wounded. Whether by family members who needed to feel in control of their own reality, an icky uncle, a lost boy looking for meaning, each left a deep and lasting wound.

In turn, wrapped in a cloak of my own brokenness I gave root to that seed of wickedness within myself. Unforgiveness and resentments are a deceptive shield. In moments of anger I falsely accused, lied and attempted to control. I repaid evil for evil.

But by His stripes I am healed.

All of these are placed on him. As I kneel near that Cross today my shame melts. I see my wounds on him and weep with Mary, her sister,  Mary of Clopas, Mary Magdalene and I am not alone. My sin did not put him there. It did not kill him. Kneeling at the foot of that Cross my burden of shame is lifted. Love put him there because God desired my freedom. My Creator saw my suffering.

Divine Love made a way: a transfusion of Holy blood to wash away my own tainted nature. Through faith I can cry and grieve the wrong done to me and the wrong I have done. I imagine myself sitting with them as they gathered in that upper room sitting Shiva as they facing life without him.

I feel humble. I feel grateful.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Walk with Dogs: Fear In The Wilderness


I am terrified.

Standing on a precipice, my toes clench its lip. My throat closes. My breath strains. Vision begins to blur as thoughts scream:

What if you fall?
What if people throw rocks and laugh as you descend?
What if flying in grace is a lie?

It is these times I walk away. Close the blank page and check twitter, facebook, pinterest, instagram, and in complete desperation; clean a toilet.

Yet, my feet find themselves again on that edge. If my journey of experience, strength and hope isn’t shared; then there was no purpose to the experience. No seeds of encouragement can scatter into other wounded hearts. Others may never be introduced to the deep and abiding Divine Love. The thought of wounded souls trapped in a Try Hard Faith drops me to my knees.

A Still Small Voice calls.

The terror begins with my Family of Origin. When we were called back to this Central Valley town, I understood the cost. My own Wilderness in a land of Egypt where much of myself could never be free. The Parentals and, for a time, three sisters live here- I am the oldest of four girls.

Parentals are still very active in ministry: Mom is a talented organist and Dad works within their church, with the disabled and veterans.

The relationship with sisters Two and Four is strained. In a town where “family” is the norm, the nature of our relational acquaintance makes people uncomfortable. Often I will meet people who know them. My guard goes up because my first concern is their reputation. Their integrity.

I have a working relationship with sister Three. They often call her the Black Sheep because of her fall from grace. We both wrestle with attending church. Both of us avoid knowing people in our community because of the relational overlap.

So…

In this third tour of deployment in the Wilderness, I’ve warily vetted friendships. Conversations are carefully measured out. Each word is weighed when spoken in public. It is with protective armor on that I run errands, have lunch with a girlfriend or simply walk around the neighborhood.

It is with all this weight that I stand on the precipice of a deep healing. My heart bursts with the hope of Divine Love’s grace. In secret I began a journey of walking away from that Try Hard faith. With dancing Divine Love revealed what Identity in Christ really means. Over tear stained long distance phone calls with a Soul Sister, we worked out how to love,  stay married and mother.

It is these and many more stories I long to tell. Today is the day. Here is the place where I can sow the seeds of Experience, Strength and hope. I lean over the abyss, allowing the wind to sweep my face. My breath catches and I let myself go.

I am still filled with doubts:

Will I fall?
Or
Will I fly?

Here begins a series of my Escape from Wonderland.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

An Ode to Poo

They’re cute, right?

Ase just into a toddler bed and Zany in a crib shared the master bedroom. With space to play and a huge window to watch the traffic drive by, they thought it was perfect.

Ase would wake up early, grab a few toys and give them to Zany in his crib. They would quietly play until I came in to get their day started. Ase would be changed and dressed first. Then Ase continued to play, but with one eye on me while I got Zany ready.

Then… the flu.

Ase got it first, then Zany. Both still in diapers. Carefully holding my breath I would peal back to reveal toxic waste.

After a few days, I went to the doctor. He told me about BRAT foods: Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast. Doctor said it worked the same as Amodium and was better for them.

Ase responded quickly. Within a day he was solid and back on regular foods. Zany was slow to improve, but as they were tucked in that night I expected he would be fine by morning.

Their quiet murmurs greeted me as I walked down the hallway next morning. With a spring in my step and the hope of a poop free day in my heart, I opened their bedroom door.

Zany looked at me with dreamy blue eyes from the floor. Diaper gaping open. Brown goo smeared all over his legs and belly. Ase sat next to him: with a clean diaper and a hand full of wipes, his golden brown eyes met mine with pride:

“Mommy! I help Zany!”

I looked over at the crib. Sheets were spotted with caramel. What could I do? With a heart filled with love for his best friend, Ase gathered all the cleaning supplies, then somehow lifted Zany out of his crib. I couldn’t get mad. This was what we were working toward.

Brothers that worked together.
Brothers who would help each other out, no matter the cost.
Brothers who would work out differences.

So… I got down on my knees and helped him clean his brother. We talked about the mess. I told him how proud I was of him. That poop cleaning really is a Mommy and Daddy job, but I really appreciate him trying. It was a very loving thing to do.

THEN I cleaned every surface of that room. Praying nothing was left behind. What happened next was Legen...dary.

They traded that crap for the next six weeks.

I began to hate BRAT foods. They weren’t a savior, they were bondage. Just when things would get solid and they would try regular food, all went loose. In a fit of desperate crazy after Oprah one day, I made up the preschool germ nuking formula-1 part bleach/10 parts water- and cleaned the shit out of that room.

God often whispers this memory to my heart when I reach out to help someone. Ase was too small, to immature to effectively help Zany. How many times do I walk into someone’s life to help them but, instead make it worse? Many times the answer is simply to love the sinner and let Holy Spirit do his job. God is much better at cleaning up shit and getting the job done.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Gentle Lent: Wrestling in the Mud

Each time the Body of Christ gets into a tussle, I groan. It hurts my heart. I was grateful earlier this week when God lifted the burden of grief. 

Yet, I still wrestled with the scar it left behind. In Lenten service a few weeks ago Jacob wrestling with a Man on the shores of a river was the topic.

Photo taken by almogaver
Jacob chased from what was comfortable and into uncertainty. He had cheated his brother and lied to his father. Alone, in the middle of wilderness, on that desperate night, with a stone for a pillow, God met him in a dream: on a ladder from heaven to earth, angels walked.

God spoke to Jacob the promise of Abraham and Isaac. Then God said something personal, “Look, I am with you. I will guard you wherever you go, and I will bring you back into this land, because I won't leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15

Jacob’s response is this: “Truly, ADONAI is in this place - and I didn't know it!... This place is fearsome! This has to be the house of God! This is the gate of heaven!...”

Jacob saw that small corner of the wilderness as something magical: a physical place where God was: Bethel-House of God.

Years later, Jacob sat on the banks of the lower Jordan. He was again on the run, the “victim” of deceit and cheating from his father in law. Then God showed up and Jacob wrestled with him. Jacob spent the entire night, grappling and struggling with a piece of God.

Then the Man touches Jacob and injures him. Jacob hangs on. The Man tells Jacob to let him go. Jacob says, “I won't let you go unless you bless me.”

As I sat in that Lent Service and Holy Spirit whispered to me: That’s what you do.

Since my 20s, I keep coming to that river-The Body of Christ. I keep showing up in either a church or bible study. As I sit on that bank sometimes my thirst is quenched.

Photo taken by RoganJosh
Other times I dig through the mud for a handful of water for my dehydrated soul.

BUT each and every time it is to meet Jesus. To feel the breath of Holy Spirit. To experience that Perfect Parent, Creator and Divine Love.

I wrestle with Jesus and refuse to let go until I am blessed. It is not a platform for my political views, or to complete some kind of super hero agenda. I simply come to share what I have learned. The more I become acquainted with God’s love , the more I cannot resist giving Love and Grace to others.

As a child I saw the church as God’s place: a specific refuge for my battered and frightened mind, soul and spirit.

Now that I am an adult I see God has never left me. Divine Love has been with me as I wrestle in the mud.

So, I cannot walk away. I cannot abandon Christianity or the Church

No matter how dry the wilderness is
No matter how fierce the enemies
No matter how bitter the words of others might be

because Jesus hasn't.

I want to join Him as a table is set for us in the presence of enemies.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April Truth Set Me Free

It happens every time.

Photo taken by Jusben
In high school, it was rock music. The debate about whether the subliminal messages or the ruckus beat interfered with a Christian’s spiritual growth. In junior high I watched as my mom smashed her Beatles, Monkeys, The Carpenters and a few miscellaneous others all for our spiritual protection.

At church our youth group was filled with musicians. Some even became professional in adulthood. They listened to rock music and played it during jam sessions. When I worshiped alongside them, I felt Holy Spirit’s presence. It was just as strong as when I listened to my Mother play and lead worship in corporate service.

To say I was confused was an understatement.

Then came:

Abortion.
Sex before marriage.
Cohabitation.
Divorce.
Dress codes.
The correct way to pray.
Interpretations of Revelation.

I could go on…

Each and every time a culture war erupted, my heart would grieve. Like a black hole in my chest, I could feel God cry.

Mourning the hate.
Lamentening for those who were the focus of the anger.
Angry about how God was being portrayed.

AND most important, how God’s redemptive story compromised for absolute rules.

Last week was no different. World Vision and the Noah movie left me feeling like I had been kicked in the chest.

Monday I woke up under a cloud of depression. I forced myself to walk the dogs. To eat. To fulfill my chores around the house, then that afternoon, a cry for help.

Molley at A Mother Life began sharing a potential injustice. She, an immigrant, was facing investigation from Homeland Security. It consumed my afternoon. Checking her Facebook and Twitter, my heart found a new focus of lament.

My imaginary interweb friend faced being ripped from her family. I began to pray. With breathless hope I prayed,

For justice.
For mercy.
For our divine Mediator to bring peace.
For confusion to become clear.

Photo taken by kconnors
With these prayers in my heart I fell asleep. My night filled with nightmares of myself being abducted by aliens. The Mutant standing by helplessly as my kids were ripped from my arms. Aliens taking me in their ship to Ayers’ Rock and depositing me in the middle of that wilderness. The rest of the dream was filled with my crawling back to my family and home.

Throughout the whole dream I knew it wasn’t about me, it was about Molley. I continued to pray through the whole night.

Next morning first thing I did was message her to tell her about my prayers for her. Not something I usually do.

She messaged me back right away with a Thanks and a link: The Truth Shall Set Me Free.

It did.

In ways she never intended.
You see, the whole thing was a rouse. An April Fool’s prank.

I sat on my bedroom floor and felt: angry, relief, exhaustion and finally JOY. With tears I laughed. I giggled all day long. The cloud of depression was cleared away by my tears of relief and laughter. I realized it all works for good. God’s Good.

If I focus on my calling-to love my neighbor-God takes care of the rest. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Gentle Lent: When Life Interrupts

It was going so well. With only one more day to complete Week One’s Lenten cleaning when…

WHAM. Tuesday took a hard left.

Not simply a fast left where the tires squeal a little. NOPE, a hard left with my two metaphorical tires spinning in the air, the other two leaving a trail of rubber.


It started with a text from Counting Mutant.

I am at the ER. Just to be safe. Testing me now.

He did mention that the area around his appendix hurt last night. But that was in passing.

Scrolling down, phone had four more texts, which finished with:

They are going to give me some pain med… Won’t be able to drive home. Maybe should come on down.

The fact I checked my phone upon waking up was an broke part of my Lent fast. It is on my no cheats list. I loved curling up under covers for a few more minutes of rest while checking what the world was doing, but the habit began to sabotage my morning's routine.

NOW.. Feet launched out of bed. I raced through the morning chores, set GirlyK up with her school for the day and off to the hospital I went.

33 hours later Mutant came home. The short of it was, his diverticulitis spread to the right side of his colon, next to his appendix. 24 hours of IV antibiotics for him while I shuffled GirlyK between her brothers so she could make her commitments and a night of fitful sleep for me. My Fibro so overtaxed that emotions blocked much of my logical thinking.  A few tearful meltdowns and a broken broom cleared the way for logic to function.

The rest of the week spent tending to Mutant’s need for quiet rest, GirlyK’s school and me staring blankly at a wall. I work hard to avoid unnecessary intensity, so I was ill prepared for it.

Monday-my favorite day of the week-meant a fresh start. But, I looked at the devotions I had missed. The moments of meditation I passed by. The list of Lenten cleaning days left unattended.

Overwhelming failure flooded my soul.
Monday’s devotion was on the Rugged Cross. That it is at the foot of this Cross, I can lay all my shortcomings and failures. As I walked the dogs after and pondered Gentle Lent, Holy Spirit whispered,

“The Cross is not a place of  Do-Overs. It is a place of beginning.”

Burdens are not put down only to be rearranged. Burdens are put there to stay. I can pick up where I left off. No catch-up is necessary. In Divine Love’s redemption, I can let go of last week’s To-Dos and start fresh. There is no hurry in my recovery and rest from last week. In peace I can heal. Achieve balance and renewed energy and on Thursday, move on in my Lenten Cleaning list.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Zany: A Boy Became a Man

A Mother LifeAse was 8 months old when I found out I was pregnant.

Zany blasted into this world with one of "those" birthing stories- cord prolapsed. Dramatic race down the hallway with a male nurse between my legs and plugging my hoo-ha. The only OB left only moments before. There I lay, anesthesiologist sitting poised with general anesthetic. The nurse still sitting between my lets, fighting to hold a crowning head above my cervix. Nurses running in and out:
"We can't find a doctor."
"We found one, He's just scrubbed in for surgery, but he's a neurosurgeon and hasn't done a c-section since residency"
"Never mind, the OB is back."

Anesthesiologist gently looks at me and says, "Start counting backwards."

At 10 months, sitting in a high chair eating breakfast.
Zany leaned to one cheek. Let out a butt cheek flapper. Sat straight up.
AND laughed.

At 11 months I asked him playfully what kind of birthday he wanted.
He hummed the Winnie The Pooh theme song.
"You want a Winnie The Pooh birthday party?"
"Yuss!"

I was in trouble.

I began to pray for inspiration. It came: How did Robin William’s Mom do it? Or Jim Carrey, Andy Kaufman, Tim Conway, Jonathan Winters…Somehow these men were raised without being broken by their Mothers.

After a bad day in first grade, he threw a vacuum across the room. His teacher turned a blind eye while classmates punish each other. She only acknowledged good behavior. In this Lord Of The Files environment, they cornered Zany, under a desk, yelling at him.

When we moved to the Central Valley where we chose to  home school. So much needed to be corrected and we wanted to give them a love of learning. Zany struggled to get his schoolwork done on time. So, I designed a natural consequence:

If you don’t get your school work done within the time allotted, then at the end of the school day, you take it to your room. No playing out side with the neighborhood kids.


He contentedly sat in his room for a week. AND quit doing school work altogether.

It was a hill I died on.

Some people wanted to call him “Strong-Willed.” But I knew he wanted to please. He had a soft and compassionate heart. If I broke that will, he would become a broken man. Not prepared for the life God called him to.

I met a Mom of a similar boy. In his teens now, this boy, years earlier would only wear kakis. It lasted a year. Why? Because it was weird to wear his name- jeans.  She agreed with me. That “Strong-Willed” book was only good for one thing:

Hitting your kid with it.

She introduced me to Raising Your Spirited Child and Making Children Mind Without Loosing Yours. These books saved his life. I stumbled across Nurture By Nature-based on the Meyers-Briggs personality test. This book gave me a game plan that changed as often as he did.

In Zany’s preteens, exasperated, I asked him, “Do I need to explain to you WHY I am an authority in your life?”


His stormy blue eyes widened. He softly and humbly asked, “Yes. Please?”

Because I Said So never worked.

Why? BECAUSE if I wasn't there he had no reason to follow the rule. He needed to have an intrinsic reason to be honest, respectful, honor authority, forgive and serve others.

Early tees found me in tears and on my knees daily. Homeschooling him was what he needed, but it was a refining fire for me. How to raise this gifted, gentle soul and not break him.
Zany wasn't mine.

I was a steward of the child God created. I would be held accountable for every millstone, harsh word or injustice. One morning, looking in the mirror and at a complete end Holy Spirit whispered this verse to my heart:

Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

If God’s mercies are new every morning for me, then from that fountain, I can extend them to him. I decided I was going to like Zany as a teen-EVEN IF IT KILLED ME.

Zany went to public high school. He was ready to be accountable to someone else. He wanted me to be just Mom.

Now he is a senior. Drug free, alcohol free, and a solid faith in a God who loves him. He knows he has shortcomings. Zany knows the only help to navigate them is growing in faith. He has a tireless work ethic. Impervious to bullying and passionate about justice. Still driven by his individualistic ethos.

He turns 18 today.
He’s a man.

AND I LIKE HIM.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Gentle Lent: Singing Redeemer

My mind focused on Gentle Lent and a pounding heart, I made it to Ash Wednesday service last night.  I was five minutes late. All had ashes on their forehead, but I sat bravely. Choosing to be open.

Photo taken by Ladyheart
The service was set in a different part of the church campus. We usually attend the contemporary service on Sunday. This was the traditional service sanctuary. Taking a deep breath, I sat down. A pipe organ began to play. I turned to see a beautiful facade of pipes. As all began to sing an older hymn, I glanced around the room. The ceiling was wrapped in the arms of pipe rooms.

The tightness in my lungs eased. I grew up listening to my Mom practice the organ for Sunday service as a child. There is something about a room made into an instrument that grounds me.

Tears began to fall. I was able to worship.

Corporate readings and the pastor’s message had words in them like:

Sin
Judgment
God’s Wrath

YET, I felt no shame. The word Love was said more. All of us, equally, sat in that room as sinners. We all had offense to confess. But it didn't stop there. The focus was that we all were to receive forgiveness. For where there is forgiveness of sin there is love, life and redemption.

Tears leaked as I felt a burden ease. I didn't need to wade through Spiritual Abuse in some form of a list to check off. Healing wasn't going to come with me digging holes into my psyche.

It was Freedom. Healing would come as I walked in the freedom I received. Freedom celebrated last year with a tattoo of a bird sitting on a branch. This Lent is not a start something new, but a continuation. Divine Love will correct the Bad Theology my flesh holds so dear. New Life will be the fount from where my Kindness Risks flow.

I met with Him today through an emailed devotional from that church titled: I Sing of My Redeemer. The author used a few verses, but this one struck me:

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Photo taken by jschumacher
I grabbed my Praying In Color sheet and wrote:

Singing Redeemer

For three minutes, I doodled within the boundaries of that small square. It flavored my though as I attended today’s Lenten Cleaning chore.

I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I’m free
For his eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Gentle Lent: Ash Wednesday

Photo taken by xandert
Like a storm looming in the distance was this year’s Lent.I fervently prayed for direction in what to fast. Each time I felt a wall of anxiety brush against my heart. Then whispered words: easy, gentle, simple…

I come from a “try hard” kind of faith. Lent was not something taught in the Charismatic Baptist Church I grew up in. InterVarsity in college introduced me to the practice. I dabbled with the practice from year to year, aimless and self-absorbed.

Until last year.

I knew it was coming and decided to prepare. Gathered pins on Pinterest, I organized. The Lenten season was God focused. It was a season of putting old battles to rest. Acknowledging wounds that were now scars and walking in freedom from an eating disorder. In celebration I got this:



But this year’s lent was different. I will do the Lenten Clean inspired by Charming The Birds From Trees like last year, but other than that, my focus was not clear, until Elizabeth Esther’s Gentle Lent.

It fit the words breathed over my soul as I prayed. The last few days spent on doing what makes me happy: lists, charts and words now cover my refrigerator with inspiration.

Inward focus is a Fast:
I am fasting cheats. Clean Eating is my style, but too many cheats and life falls into disorder. Cheats for me can be a protein bar instead of a proper meal, soda, glass of wine, extra time online or even “just one more episode” on Netflix. So that means Veg/Fruit at each meal. Getting up on time. Using a timer when I’m sitting on social media.

Photo taken by bosela
Upward focus is Church and quiet:
I struggle with unhealed Spiritual Abuse, mainly because I am not sure where to start. I wasn’t raised in a cult church. My high school church group was a little odd and there are scars from that. Some of the wounds are from my Parentals’ theology and their life of ministry. This past spring our family walked away from a church we’d attended for six years because of some things-but more on that later.

I want to crawl in a hole and never go back.

Yet the idea of community pulls at me. I am going to participate in a local Lutheran Church. From the Ash Wednesday service to using their daily devotionals, I’m opening myself up to learning something new: this whole liturgy thing.

Photo taken by taliesin
I am going to be still for five minutes every day in meditation. Sitting still and quiet is an anxiety trigger and prayer is another “hot spot” for me. I struggle with using the P word. One method I’ll try is the Praying in Color. I’m also going to learn about meditation and continue with yoga.

Outward Focus is kindness and caring:
It’s been a rough few years and I am in the middle of a long transition with boys emerging into adulthood. I find myself feeling suffocated. I don’t take Kindness Risks as much as I used to, although Divine Appointments are my favorite. So, I will open myself up to take one Kindness Risk every day

I am excited to share this journey on Elizabeth Esther's blog hop. My ideal is to write a little everyday about the journey: where I've come from, where I am, where I want to go and how God fits into all of it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Words and Rhinoceros Skin

A Mother Life
Originally published on February 21, 2014

It’s all in fun.

They don’t really mean it.

It’s only sarcasm.

That is what they always say. The people who say words that tear down instead of build up. And that is what I hear when others ask me about what is bothering my kids. When I tell them the truth of what is going on I hear things like,

Well, my kid doesn't really know what _____ means

OR my personal favorite

Awww, _____ just needs to grow a thick skin.


Ase a deeply caring person, now 19 and in college. Zany, 18 and a senior in high school, doesn’t simply march to the tune of his own drummer; he has a full marching band. Both are straight dancers. Sometimes the joking was about their sport. Other times it was about their personality. Both bravely faced teasing, joking, ribbing, kidding and unabashed bullying from their pre-teens all the way through their teens.

I've watched both boys filter those ignorant words through their hearts. Because of dance, they have gay friends. They went to an “inner city” school and have friends of all the colors.  The jesting words are not simply letters put together. Those words spoken in ignorance have real meaning to them.

AND it is starting now with her.

GirlyK is logical. Doesn't understand drama or why girls put themselves in that position. Gossip is not interesting. She does not see the rational in comparing herself to another person- you are you and I am me, let’s just get along. Her love of dissecting things and collecting bones creeps people out. She conquered her fear of spiders, and wears them regularly.

I am watching her make the similar choices her brothers made. Watching her skin toughen and not taking a risk in friendships. The reason: whether in jest or seriousness, words have meaning.

Age or success cannot protect us from that word erosion. This week I read an article about Jonathan Martin, a Miami football player. He knew the words were in jest. He understood those who spoke them did not intend harm, but they did.

Why does it matter? Why do words stick to our soul?

Because words created the world. With words God identified Jesus at the baptism. Jesus said …out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Paul challenges us to not let harmful words come out of our mouths, but only words that will benefit the listener.

We need to stop and taste words before they come out of our mouths:

Photo taken by xandert
Do they have an aftertaste of envy?
Am I angry?
Am I trying to impress?
Sarcasm has a flavor of truth.

Are those words that breathe life, or spread disease? The listener is just as important as the speaker. If our words offend we need to apologize and adapt instead of offering excuse or pandering. Life is hard enough; do we really need to make it harder?

I try to remember these words of wisdom from A Circle of Friends, “You mustn't mess me about. I know I may look like a rhinoceros, but I've got quite a thin skin really. So be careful with me. Or I'll flatten ya."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Shh, They're Listening

Photo taken by hotblack 
Originally posted on November 13, 2013
I must admit, I was out of line.

I didn't ask. I didn't know even though everyone in town seemed to. I purposed to not know. My business was to be her friend, not what events brought her to this place. This sweet friend couldn't believe that I didn't already know. She sat and told me the whole story including her own part.

Then, I opened my mouth. What came out was not the flowers and sunshine usually spoken to this poster child of redemption. I loved her deeply. Her shame needed to drop from her shoulders. Forgiveness needed to be extended to the one who betrayed her. I restated her part. The guilt was equal; it need not define them both for the rest of their lives.

She did not take it well.

Months later the words came back to me twisted and judgmental. My heart ached. Our friendship was mangled. I attempted to reconcile and it seemed we had, but…

Years later, in one of the darkest seasons of my life and newly back in town, I reached out. While I was living away, she developed a friendship with a person very close to me. I was informed that her loyalty was with her.

Last night BoyZ was telling me about a conversation with this woman’s daughter. BoyZ and the daughter cross paths their freshman year in high school. Now seniors, they are best friends. The daughter was telling BoyZ how she hasn’t dated yet because of her Mother’s requirements: christian, etc.

Of course BoyZ is my son…
Photo taken by taliesin

“Why don’t you just date me? That would really piss of your Mom.”

“Why would that piss of my Mom?” She asked in shock.

“Because-for some reason that I don’t understand-your Mom hates my Mom.”  BoyZ is never one to mince words. 

Don’t know where he gets that.

“OH!” A light bulb of understanding lit over her head. “I know what happened. Your Mom was probably just being herself and did something and my Mom is really judgmental. SO she just judged your Mom. And that’s it.”

Damn IT!  When we think we are doing the “right” things, those little buggars are watching


AND listening.


A Mother Life

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Marriage On Ice

After a long day I curled up next to Counting Mutant in bed. We began our wind down process; he on his ipad and me on my android. Just as I began to feel drowsy, a blog title caught my eye on Twitter: An Olympic Lesson for Husbands and Wives.

Within two paragraphs I laughed. Mutant turned, I read it aloud. He scoffed, “Well, that’s obviously someone who has never partnered.”

I've mentioned a few times that we are a family of dancers. Ase and Zany started dance when they were nine and ten. They practiced, ballet, jazz, modern, tap and hip-hop. They did other sports as well, but in Jr. High they focused on dance. Counting Mutant decided to figure out a way to join them. His thinking was: if they were in football, soccer, baseball, etc. he would help with the team and support them. It so happened that the role of the Nutcracker needed to be filled and Mutant became the wooden hero.

Over the years, the three of them performed together in Nutcrackers, Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, Coppelia, and Les Miserables. In order to perform these ballet pieces, our studio formed a partnering class. Partnering at this level-either dance or ice skating- is not as simple as a man leading a woman.

I read it to the boys.

Ase said: That does not sound like ANY partnering class we've been in.

Zany said, “The beauty and perfection cannot happen if one person believes they are better than the other.”

Counting Mutant explains it like this, “There has to be trust and equal effort if not more by the woman. He throws her yes, but she is jumping just as much if not more. There is no leading they equally know the steps. They are coordinating their actions. They have to be equally strong to compete at that level. To learn it and perfect it, there was action, feedback, back and forth, action again, mistakes, coordinated improvement, until the both trust in their coordinated actions. If one is dominating or leading too much, it doesn't work.”

Under the beautiful costumes and graceful movements is a well guarded secret. Women dancers have to be physically strong, capable and know their own center of gravity. Along with their strength, men have be in tune with their partner. In order for him to lift her with a look of ease, she must bend her knees and jump: plie. Her core muscles engage and hold her center of balance. Her arms and shoulders control her direction.


In twirling and catching, her whole body engages as she plies. He lifts. They read each other’s center of gravity and shift to match-equally. The illusion of unity. She jumps into his arms and he adds his strength to her motion. He directs that motion to a mutually agreed spot for her to land. The combination creates incredible lift that defies gravity. The partners work in tandem for a common goal.

The illusion of dance and ice skating is to suspend reality. We think of them as super human, possessing qualities we don’t have. What we miss seeing are the hours of rehearsal. The mistakes both make. The falls. The injuries. The blood and bruises. By the time the pair enters the ice we see the fruit of their hard work. The art. The perfection.

Marriage, like dance and pairs ice skating, is work. Sometimes the man takes the lead, other times the woman. They are partners equally engaged and responsible to create something beautiful.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Day Meant for Love

Originally posted Februrary 14, 2011


Photo taken by Seemann
Discontent was growing. It is Valentine’s Day and all I can think about are my single friends.  As usual I began to read blogs and posts about how others felt about this day. St. Valentine was a martyr.  He died for what he loved most, his faith. Cupid and Psyche survived the greatest test of love, temptation then sacrifice of self. Because of this, they were given permission by Zeus to spend eternity together. Matthew Biberman said it best in his Red Room blog, Valentine’s Day in a Time of War, “Valentine’s Day, understood correctly, is the most radical holiday of all.  It is a day to celebrate love between humans.”
         
As I walked dogs this morning, birds twittered  love songs to each other accompanied my pondering. Single or paired today, all should celebrate. Love is the very act of putting someone above yourself. Jesus quotes the Old Testament when he tells us "Love your neighbor as yourself," in Matthew 22:39.
         
Usually we apply the first part of that question with nary a thought of the second. It occur to me that I first needed to ask: am I loving myself? Keep in mind, self absorbed and nurturing self are two different things. So the query began:

Am I treating myself with kindness, allowing for realistic expectations?
Am I eating in a healthy way?
Am I taking time to treat myself to things that recharge me?
Photo taken by Ladyheart
Am I forgiving myself?
If I am not treating myself to this kind of love, how can I -love someone else?
         
Then the question becomes about my neighbor:
Am I demanding my own way?
Have I extended grace to those who have inadvertently wronged me?
Whoever comes across my path am I reaching toward them in kindness?
How am I adding to their life in a way to inspire them to extend love to someone else?
         
 At some point in time we have experienced love. Today is a day to recognize and honor it.  It could be a spouse or a significant other.  It could a friend, teacher or parent.  Take the time and extend appreciation to that person.  Let them know what their love meant.  We all have a Love to celebrate today.

A Mother Life