Saturday, September 19, 2020

be gentle with you.

2020 is so tough, but sometimes you can catch glimpses of the sun peeking through. Every which way I turn, I see more suffering... illness, death, racial injustice, devastating loss due to wildfires and natural disasters, poverty, abuse, and regular, everyday losses that seem like luxuries to grieve given everything happening in the world. 

Years ago, when I was seeing a therapist after my miscarriage, she shared the thought that sometimes grief is like a cloud that follows us around as long as we don’t acknowledge it. She suggested that I set aside a specific time each day to grieve, even if only for 10 minutes, in a way that made sense to me (journaling, praying, just sitting quietly, etc.). As we take time to acknowledge it, the cloud can begin to dissipate.

As uncomfortable as it is, I’m practicing allowing myself to grieve small losses when I feel sadness bubble up instead of shaming myself or rationalizing the feelings “away” (they don’t really leave). Carrying around unprocessed feelings, regardless of the trigger, has not helped me or those around me. Moving through them makes me lighter and freer to love well.

Be gentle with yourself and the people around you. Humaning is hard, and 2020 has taken it up a few notches. You are so loved.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

too deep for words


As a person who is wired to take everything in through my head first (hello, #enneagram5 #enneagram6 and #enneagram7 !) , I’m learning about the importance of integrating my body and heart. We live in a culture that conflates truth with facts, but truth is so much greater than logic. Truth is facts, science, experiences, beauty, feelings, intuition, and many perspectives taken together as a whole. 


The existence of a flower communicates a holistic truth that includes the facts and science explaining its parts and their functions, but there is also truth in its beauty, the way it smells and feels to the touch, the way it makes feel, and the memories it triggers when we encounter it. 


My inclination is to figure out the logic behind my illogical reactions. When I got time and space to be alone and sit with God, I saw Romans 8:26: 


“In the same way the Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words.”

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My scattered thoughts had been reaching for order and meaning to no avail, and I knew this was the verse I needed to pray. I knew in my spirit that there were things “too deep for words” that were tender. Once I realized I didn’t need to figure anything out, but instead, just allow, I felt the Spirit asking for my permission to come into the deep place within me that was aching. I agreed, and my emotions subsided. My heart filled with a deep contentment, and my spirit was at peace.


If you, like I, get caught up in the frustration of trying to make sense of your emotions when they are coming from a place that is “too deep for words,” the Spirit may be inviting you to rest and allow Jesus to heal those places that reside far beneath the surface. When the time is right for order and sense-making, I am here for it, but I’m learning to recognize that some moments call for allowing that is bathed in self-compassion. May you find rest and healing in the places that are too deep for words. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

ask for what you need

 

I used to think that I needed to shrink myself smaller and smaller so my needs would disappear. Some years ago, I was talking to my therapist about the intense anxiety I felt as I sat for over an hour in a doctor’s waiting room not long after I had had a miscarriage. The doctor’s office triggered painful memories. 

I wanted her to help me cope with my anxiety, but instead, she said, “Ask for what you need. Go up to the receptionist and tell her you recently had a miscarriage, and waiting for a long time makes you anxious. Tell her that if the doctor can’t see you soon, you will need to reschedule the appointment.”

It was so simple, but I felt so validated and empowered. My anxiety wasn’t actually the problem; I didn’t have to needlessly suffer a panic attack for someone else’s convenience. I just needed to advocate for myself.

This morning I was on a walk, praying and listening, and I felt God whisper, “Ask for what you need.” In the quiet outside, away from other people, I immediately knew what I needed. My instinct was to shrink myself and try to get rid of the need because it felt vulnerable. I started out with a long preamble as I asked for things I thought might be more acceptable and less needy, but I wasn’t fooling God or myself. 

“Ask for what you need,” God repeated gently. So I asked, and God flooded my heart with the answer. I don’t know what you need this day, but whatever it is, you are not too needy for God. Your needs do not repel Jesus. However vulnerable it makes you feel, God wants to know. Really. Ask for what you need.

Monday, August 24, 2020

teaching others who the new "you" is trying to be

Whatever your Enneagram number is, people have been trained to expect your habitual patterns of behavior. It can be uncomfortable for ourselves and others when we begin to break those patterns. It might be helpful to communicate to those closest to you that you are working on becoming healthier and appreciate your support as you try out new, healthier patterns of behavior.


As an #enneagram6 , my life’s work will always be learning to trust myself and my own inner knowing. Suzanne Stabile says that people often love us for our personalities, and when we start to do Enneagram work and begin to grow, not everyone in our lives will be happy about it.


I’ve noticed that as I begin to get in touch with and trust my own inner knowing, not everyone is used to it. Because my default pattern is to look to others for guidance, I have spent over 3 decades training people (who are close to me) to do my thinking for me. I’ve noticed that any time I make a big life decision, when I do the work to trust myself, other people aren’t used to my self-assurance. I become the recipient of unsolicited advice. 


When this happens, I need to do even more work not to second guess myself and to assert myself with confidence. This fits in with some of the work I’ve been doing around establishing healthy boundaries. Eventually, I hope to retrain people in my life to trust my ability to get in touch with my inner knowing and make a decision with confidence. Trusting myself will help them learn to trust me too.


What healthy new patterns are you working to establish? What have others done (or could they do) to support you in your growth?


Thursday, August 20, 2020

musically homeless

Today I can't stop listening to and thinking about the song "Playing Hookey" by Andre Henry. Have you heard it? (Take a listen! I'll wait...)



Over the last few years, in the process of deconstruction/reconstruction, the strangest thing has happened. I have trouble listening to and singing a lot of the music I used to and have had difficulty finding much to replace it. I began to associate Christian worship music with lights, fog machines, pleas for the congregation to stand and raise their hands and move their bodies, and lots of performance, even though it has been a powerful way that God has spoken to me in the past. It felt off to sing so many songs about victory for me as a privileged individual when so many siblings in the body of Christ are suffering while the Church has remained disturbingly silent. 

As I've pursued a more contemplative life, I find that I can hear God more in the silence and don't need to work up to connection with God through music; I can connect more easily with God now in everyday moments than I could before. I don't discount the importance of worship music; this is just where I am right now in my spiritual journey. 

But. I really do miss connecting deeply with music. I decided to start a playlist of a few songs that I have been listening to and to actively try to find more to add.
Music and singing have always been an important part of my life, so when I find a song that speaks to me, it's particularly meaningful right now when I'm missing my connection to music so much. Andre Henry's "Playing Hookey" and this version of "Brother" by The Brilliance, featuring Propaganda, have been so powerful to me. I love hearing my 4 year old singing, "Be humble, sit down. When I look into the face of my enemy, I see my brother, I see my brother." This one feels like a prayer every time I sing it:



The third song on my mind is "White Jesus" by Seun "S.O." Otupke. I first heard about this one when he was interviewed on an episode of the Pass the Mic podcast (which I highly recommend!).

I've been working to decolonize my faith, and understanding the impact of "White Jesus" has been an important part of my learning as I try to separate out my culture from my faith.
The deconstruction/decolonization process is tied up with so many emotions for me. Sometimes music helps me identify, express, and work through them, and gives me the words I need to pray about what I'm feeling and learning. What music is speaking to you lately?

Friday, July 31, 2020

Quarantine Queries 6: Why does fruit rot on the tree?



We drove to New Mexico for some fresh air, family time, and a change of quarantine scenery. I wanted to do some writing this week but have been in a bit of a dry spell. 
As I wandered about, observing my new surroundings, I found a peach tree. I noticed some rotting fruit still on the tree. As I stood and contemplated this (as someone who usually only gets to see fruit from a grocery store), I felt God say, “Don’t let your fruit rot on the tree.”



I mulled this over and wondered about the application. After a quick google search about fruit rotting on the tree, the first thing I read popped up from New Zealand Gardener and said, “You can protect stone fruit trees by pruning them in late summer during a dry spell.” Apparently a fungus can rot the fruit on the tree, which can be prevented by pruning appropriately.

Here I am, in a dry spell in late summer, apparently needing to be pruned. I’m relieved to know that this is really God’s work, not mine; all I have to do is allow God to do it. For me, this meant spending some time in contemplative prayer, opening myself up for God to do whatever needs to be done in me.

Sometimes we are planting seeds or in the early stages of watching and waiting for the growth to spring up from the hidden places. Other times we bear much fruit, and still others, we have fruit that begins to rot on the tree and may need a good pruning. May we be ever watchful and allow God to search us and know us, tending to our hearts however God sees fit. Wherever we are in the process, everything belongs. This is God’s work to do in us if we will just make ourselves available. 

“... every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
John 15:2


Friday, July 10, 2020

Quarantine Queries 5: How can I help little people with big feelings? Quarantine Calm Down bucket for Kids!


Quarantine parenting, like quarantine-everything, is HARD. I wanted to share something simple but helpful that my almost-9-year old and I put together after a difficult day in the world of parenting. First, a confession: These two books have been sitting on my shelf, unread, for several years now.
If I’m honest, even though my degrees are in early childhood education, I used to teach elementary school, and I parent two children, reading parenting books is a self-discipline that I don’t usually enforce. I kind of hate it. BUT every now and then, I get desperate enough that I need a refresher and some encouragement. Yesterday was one of those days! Though I haven’t read the books, I have had the pleasure of attending some professional development with the brilliant Tina Payne Bryson, and it was outstanding. It fits in really well with some of the trauma-informed training I’ve attended that my dad facilitates with foster parents. 
I'll say it again: quarantine parenting, like quarantine-everything, is HARD. Today the emotions were running high. I remembered Dr. Payne Bryson teaching about what she calls the “upstairs brain” and “downstairs brain,” so I started explaining it to my daughter, who immediately knew what I was talking about. She had heard the same concept explained as the “guard dog and wise owl” from an *episode of Cosmic Kids in the Zen Den series. We talked through how our brains are trying to protect us when we have big emotions, and the wise owl flies away as guard dog takes over. I asked her to help me think about how to calm down the guard dog so the wise owl will come back when she’s upset. 
I remembered learning in a teacher training that fine motor activities can help children calm down. My daughter and I brainstormed ideas and made a Quarantine Calm Down bucket with some tools to help her when her emotions take over. We found items we already had around the house, but the possibilities are endless! We included:
-a glitter wand
-play dough to squeeze
-a pen and journal to write or draw or doodle
-a baby doll to dress
-a shaker egg to shake or to take one bean at a time and move to the other half of the egg
-a straw to blow cotton balls across a hard surface
-pompoms with tweezers and a clothespin to pick them up one by one and put in a different container
What would you add? What has worked for your children or students? After we put it together, she already used it twice later in the day. I'm hopeful this will continue to be helpful!
*This episode helps explain the "guard dog/wise owl" concept of the brain to children:

Friday, July 3, 2020

Antiracism Resources



If you are new to the conversation about systemic racism and how to become antiracist, welcome! I'm so glad you're here. When we are new, we may have a tendency to do a lot of talking, but we really need to spend some time un-educating and re-educating ourselves before we (white folks) assert ourselves into a conversation that Black, Indigenous, and other people of color have been having for centuries.

When tragic incidents shine a spotlight on the deadly racism that exists in our country and our world, it may be a wake-up call for those of us who have not previously been impacted (at least in our awareness). We need to resist the temptation to ask Black, Indigenous, and other people of color to educate us on top of the burden they bear from living in a society that oppresses them daily. 

Newly-awakened white people often ask, "But what can I do?" I'm sharing some tips to get you started, followed by a list of resources. 

TIPS TO BEGIN YOUR ANTIRACISM JOURNEY
1. Read books written by Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) and follow them on social media. See list below.

2. Listen to BIPOC through podcasts, social media, documentaries, etc. See list below.

3. Find places to have these discussions with other white folks who are on the journey. Be the Bridge has an incredible curriculum guide for white people to work though. Be the Bridge also has a private Facebook group with tons of great resources for learning. We need to do the internal work of figuring out how we are contributing to the problem.

4. White people have a history of profiting off of the labor of BIPOC. Don't do that. Financially support them and cite them when you use their work. Pay BIPOC for their labor in educating us. Don't make demands; find BIPOC who are already offering services and resources for compensation.

6. Support organizations, books, media, etc. led/created by BIPOC.

7. Call out racist behavior when you see it and point other white people to resources created by BIPOC. Racism is our (white people's) problem. White supremacy is our problem. We need to be working to dismantle it.

RESOURCES


Books I've read and highly recommend:

Be the Bridge: Pursuing God's Heart for Racial Reconciliation 
by Latasha Morrison, founder of Be the Bridge

White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White by Pastor Daniel Hill


Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God by Kaitlin Curtice

The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church's Complicity in Racism 
by Jemar Tisby of The Witness: A Black Christian Collective & host of the Pass the Mic podcast

Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God by Kaitlyn Curtice

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption 
by attorney Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and professor of law at NYU

Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision by Randy S. Woodley

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum


Books on my TBR list, highly recommended by others:

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
by Dr. Ibram Kendi 
or a shorter adapted version Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You 
by Jason Reynolds and Dr. Ibram Kendi

How to Be an Anti Racist by Dr. Ibram Kendi

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubling Times by Soong-Chan Rah

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Dr. Carol Anderson

Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice That Restores by Dominique DuBois Gilliard

Unsettling Truths: The On-Going, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery by Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah

Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up by Kathy Khang

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times by Soong-Chan Rah

Podcasts:






Film/Television
When They See Us (Netflix)
True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality (HBO online)
Just Mercy (film 2019)
13th documentary (Netflix)
The Hate U Give
If Beale Street Could Talk
"The Racial Wealth Gap" episode of the "Explained" series on Netflix
Selma

People to follow on social media:

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Experiencing God’s Grace at AUMC

The following is a transcript from a brief sharing I was invited to give at our church, Arapaho United Methodist Church, and can be found on the church’s live stream from 6/29/20. I was answering the question, “How have you experienced God’s grace at Arapaho?” The transcript may have slight differences from the talk but I mostly followed my script:


In the beginning of 2017, I was slowly emerging from a second season of postpartum depression with my second daughter. I had been in survival mode and everything had felt hazy and blurry, with days and nights rolling into each other in a way that almost seemed indistinguishable at times. My daughter had recently turned 1, and at the very beginning of the year, on my birthday, January 2, I felt like I suddenly woke up. As God so often does, God got my attention through suffering and the sense I was trying to make of it. 

I started to practice trusting my own experience of God, which as a 6 on the Enneagram, will be my life’s work. As I began to experience God for myself instead of just what I was taught or what I read about God, I was surprised to find how good and compassionate and expansive and gracious God was. God was so much better than I had realized. 

Experiencing God in this transformative way gave me a desire and a passion to put my faith into action, with a specific calling to the work of racial justice. In Austin Channing Brown’s book I’m Still Here, she talks about a white friend who is newly awakening to the problem of racism. She quotes her friend, who says, “Doing nothing is no longer an option for me.” That’s the place that I was in but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it or who to do it with. 

I experienced the grace of God in finding a community of people to come alongside me and help me put my faith into action. Sanctifying grace is the ongoing work to conform us to God’s  image in a way that leads to restoration within us and through us.

In her book Native, Kaitlin Curtice says, “If we cannot go into our faith spaces proclaiming a narrative that is inclusive for everyone, how are we supposed to, throughout the week, proclaim a narrative of love that is for the poor, women, immigrant, tired, queer, or abused? If we stand on Sunday and sing songs about personal sins, how are we to go out and challenge institutional systems of hate? The answer is that our communion table, a gathering place of community, must really be a table of communing.”

My experience of God’s grace at Arapaho is in being a part of a community that is doing the work to allow God to transform our table into a real table of communing. The grace is sanctifying because we remember that we haven’t arrived and this is an ongoing, imperfect work but we are doing it together. 

We are doing this work when we take a stand against systems of oppression while reflecting on the ways that we have been complicit in those same systems. 

We are doing this work when we affirm the imago dei, the image of God, in ourselves and in every other person. 

We are doing this work when we attempt to disentangle the true meaning of the Gospel from the harmful ways our cultural lens has caused us to interpret scripture. 

I have experienced God‘s grace in countless ways great and small at Arapaho. I have experienced it in the smiles at the door when we come in and in passing slippery pumpkins down a human assembly line. We talk and laugh and swap stories and sell pumpkins in support of Navajo farms in New Mexico. 

I saw it when we voted as a church to be fully inclusive of the LGBTQ community because we agree that all means all. 

I’ve seen it in our Sunday school class where difficult questions are allowed and invited.  The wrestling leads to a more refined, robust faith, and questions are not a threat but an invitation to engage with God. I experience God’s grace when others say, "I used to think this and now I think that;" "I’m not sure;" "I don’t know. What do you think?" "I’m really struggling with this idea;" "What do you think this means?"

I’ve seen it extended to and then pouring out of my children. I saw it when my four-year-old daughter used Chapstick to make a cross on the back of my hand and said, “You are blessed to be a blessing.”

I’ve experienced it through hearing my husband’s report about the training for LGBTQ allies. 

I’ve experienced it through a group of people working together to understand the concept of whiteness and how it has contributed to the oppression of people of color. 

I experience God’s grace in ongoing conversations with the pastors at the church about how we can better promote racial justice. 

I have experienced the grace of God through Arapaho in finding a community that is committed to continually working to become a place of belonging. When everyone belongs, we get a fuller, richer picture of who God is. We are awe-struck and inspired to worship this Mysterious Divine who is so much greater than we knew. As we worship, we are transformed to go back out and do the work of restoration, which again enriches our understanding of God, and the cycle continues.

I will close with a quote by someone who can say it better than I can. In Tattoos on the Heart, Father Gregory Boyle writes, “Mother Teresa diagnosed the world's ills in this way: 'We've just forgotten that we belong to each other.' Kinship is what happens to us when we refuse to let that happen.” 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

parenting yourself: Mental Health Awareness Month


Pre-quarantine, back in the days of yore, my husband and I went to a dinner party. I had been battling on-going physical and mental health issues and learning how to deal with panic attacks. We had jumped through some hoops to find childcare so that we could spend an evening with adults, but Anxiety didn’t care. I had been up most of the night with one of my kids, and my anxiety was through the roof. We were sharing a babysitter with several other families, and all the kids were at our house, so I didn’t want to cancel even though I knew I wasn’t in a good place to socialize.

I spent the whole evening battling panic attacks while  trying to appear to be fine. I knew what tools to use and how to talk myself through my anxiety, but it was completely exhausting. Instead of a refreshing time with adults, it was a terribly difficult evening. I spent most of it fighting the urge to run away, to get some space, and to breathe through it all in a private place.

As someone who has struggled with depression and continues to live with anxiety disorder, I am passionate about sharing openly in order to help #breakthestigma around mental health issues. This is Mental Health Awareness Month. I wanted to say something beautiful and inspiring, but all of the beautiful things feel a little disingenuous right now. Instead, I’ll say what’s true for me about my mental health right now: it is exhausting. I have learned so much and have a lot more tools at my disposal now than I did a few years ago, and for that I am grateful. However, I’ve been thinking about how much energy I expend in trying to re-parent myself when I am anxious. Perhaps because of the quarantine, I am more acutely aware of how difficult it is to parent my children when I am also trying to parent myself. 

When I became a mom, I had no idea how hard it would be. As hard as motherhood is, I have discovered community with so many other moms who have the same struggles. However, I find it more difficult to find the same solidarity and validation in the journey of mothering myself. I just wanted to say that if you are doing the good, hard work of parenting yourself in the midst of the craziness that is 2020, I see you. You are not alone.