Sunday, November 8, 2020

communal grief & communal joy

 **Please note: This IS a political post, because politics affect people. This post is for my friends in the margins and the privileged folks who are standing with them. To anyone else, I’m open to civil discussions offline.**

When I began listening to people in the margins, one of the most important refrains I heard and then began to feel deep in my spirit was the call to personal and communal lament. My therapist helped me learn to grieve personally, but my friends in the margins have been teaching me how to grieve corporately. 

As I’ve been learning this spiritual practice, I did not realize that communal lament also allows for a deep communal joy that only comes after lament. 

Yesterday I heard Aaron Edwards talk about his work in the recovery community and say, “We have seen that healing from our wounds is actually more beautiful than never having had wounds, and resurrection is even better than life without death.” 

We must grieve the dying before we can fully celebrate the rising in a deep and meaningful way. Fullness of grief paves the way for fullness of joy, and no joy is fuller and more complete than communal joy that follows communal grief. 

We have much work to do, but for now, I am thinking of so many who are pausing to take a breath after four long years of, “I can’t breathe." I see you, I stand with you, and I remain committed to working alongside you for justice for all.

Friday, October 23, 2020

the body you have

As I approach middle age, I am just as susceptible to insecurity as the next woman, but I have decided that I don’t want to spend my whole life feeling dissatisfied with my body.

When my 9 year old shares her insecurities about her appearance, I only know two things: I know how just how she feels—her vulnerability is such a gift!—and from somewhere deep within me, I know to tell her that her body will always be changing. We aren’t aiming for a static, fixed point of beauty, but instead, we are continually getting to know our bodies as they transform over time. I’ve watched in wonder as my body transformed during and then after adolescence, pregnancy, surgeries, mental health issues, and a pandemic. I watch as my body changes with age, and I’m trying to notice with curiosity and appreciation rather than judging and longing. 

I don’t want my daughters to see me complain about, hide, or disparage my body. I don’t want to normalize obsession and dissatisfaction with my appearance. 

•I want them to learn that their bodies are created by God, just like everyone else’s. 

•I want them to give thanks for the miracle of all the things our bodies do and for the lessons we learn from our limitations. 

•I want them to actively notice and reject the barrage of messages we receive each day that tell us we should look a certain way in order to be liked, accepted, loved, beautiful, worthy, and successful.

•I want them to recognize that we are all harmed by these messages, no matter where we fall on the very limited continuum of the cultural idea of beauty. 

•I want them to learn to care for their bodies in ways that make them feel whole and authentic. 

•I want them to spend a lifetime learning to love the bodies they have instead of wishing to have bodies they could love. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

4 AM panic prayer


I woke up at 3:15 this morning in a panic. A nagging pain in my side, coupled with some other minor health issues over the past couple days, triggered anxiety-inducing memories of some medical emergencies I’ve had over the last few years. I tried my go-to coping strategies but was struggling with an inconvenient middle-of-the-night panic attack. 

I’ve noticed that the one thing that always makes a panic attack worse is the prospect of someone finding out about it in the moment. I can talk about it all day long after the fact, but anxiety produces in me a need to shrink and hide away until it passes. In the moment, I feel mortified at the thought of someone else discovering that I’m having a panic attack. I didn’t want to wake up my husband.

I prayed and prayed those child-like prayers that are familiar to desperate people: “Helphelphelphelp, please help, helphelphelp, where are You?” It’s so hard to find God in the haze of anxiety. 

Finally in frustration and desperation, I prayed, “I can’t get to You, so I need You to come to me.” I thought of God incarnate, descending from heaven to come to us in the form of Jesus, inhabiting a human body, the Creator condescending to become the created. I was comforted when I thought, from a place deep in my spirit, “That is what God does.” 

I felt my spirit settle and was able to sense God speaking to me simply and soothingly, as a mother talks to her distressed child. Then, peace.

Pain, and suffering of all kinds, is so isolating. When we are hurting and alone, dipping down into a place where no one else can go with us, we find Emmanuel. In this place, we begin to understand the miracle and absolute necessity of God with us. When we are spiraling into pain, despair, anxiety, anger, or grief, and we can’t get to God, God comes to us. The few times in the Bible when God is in a hurry are when God is coming quickly to be with God’s beloved. 

If you are hurting and feel like you can’t get to God from the depths of your pain, may God come swiftly and bring you peace. 

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.”


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: