Wednesday, November 17, 2021

this is why it hurts

this is why it hurts

 

Did it hurt,

the first time you gave yourself away?

Did it sting,

when the little pieces splintered into fragments

that you wished you could take back,

offered up like candy on the altar of broken relationships?

 

Unaware, perhaps, of the crime you were committing,

you were focused on perfecting that disarming smile.

Their weapons came down

as they smiled and took the piece of you

from your bleeding, outstretched hand

before continuing on their merry way.

(That was before you learned how to bandage the wound.)

 

Did it hurt,

the first time you made yourself so small?

Did it pain you,

maintaining the smile, trying to make it say

all that you thought it needed it to?

Their reactions—so helpful!—told you how it could be tweaked.

Soon it was not just your smile

but your whole entire body

contorting into Acceptable Shapes and Sizes.

 

Did it hurt,

the first time you told yourself the truth?

Did it ache

when you became aware,

watching yourself as though you were observing someone else

commit the crime you had committed countless times before?

 

One day you paused from all your work

and in the silence,

                        stillness,

                                    solitude,

the face of God was like a mirror,

your fragmented reflection gazing back,

wide-eyed, anxious, and bewildered.

 

“This is why it hurts,” the Whisper said

as your eyes took in all the fractures.

You saw how you’d been pulled apart

and now felt yourself held together.

“Let us meet again.”

 

Each meeting brought the mirror.

Studying it was like confession:

 

“O God, please forgive me. I knew not what I was doing.”

 

After a time,

many meetings later,

someone approached you with an outstretched hand,

as you had trained them to do.

But this time, just as you began to reach mechanically

to break off another fragment,

you thought of the bewildered reflection

and the Whisper of a thought stopped you:

 

“Maybe,

            just this time,

you don’t have to give yourself away.

What if,

            just this moment,

you stayed with yourself?”

 

Maybe the sum total of your ‘not enough’ doesn’t preclude you

from being loved as you actually are—

not as you could be or should be 

or will be, 

some day.

 

Did it hurt,

the first time you resisted?

Did it sting

the first time you let your whole fragmented self

be held, loved, and free,

just as she actually is?

 

You are already called “Beloved.”

Let

yourself

be loved.


~Lindsay L. O’Connor

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Welcome to the In-Between


Welcome to the In-Between


Welcome to the in-between.

I’d tell you to pull up a chair, 

but the furniture here never seems to quite fit.

I’d say, “Make yourself comfortable,”

but we’d only laugh—

as though comfort were not the one most pressing desire at the forefront of your mind.


God is here;

this I know.

But you don’t feel it at first.


It begins with discomfort.

Maybe a pebble lodged in your shoe,

or maybe an entire limb 

severed from your body.

Whatever it is cannot be ignored.

People will talk to you

as though nothing has changed,

as though you’re the same person from before,

who had all her limbs and shoes without pebbles.


At first the shame is from the new identity 

that you did not choose.

But then, as time passes,

the shame is about the way you have responded to your wounds.


Welcome to the in-between—

the place for the hard and holy work of healing.

It doesn’t feel like healing at first, 

this painful stripping away.

It feels mostly like surviving.

Sometimes you remember faintly

what it was like to to do something—anything—other than “just” surviving.

Such grief over the memory of it

and the missing limb

and the loss of people who understood

and the pebble in your shoe

and the ill-fitting furniture.

Sometimes you long to just sink

into a comfy chair and rest.


Then


one day


when you are “just” surviving,

exerting the Herculean effort to breath…


you will find that every breath you draw in,

and every exhale that goes out,


is the whisper of the name of the God who seemed so distant.


And all this time,

They were as close to you as your next breath.


The ground around you is littered with all the not-you that has fallen away

and all there is in this moment

is Breath—

the Divine Breath through which God blessed you with life.

Many times, it has felt more like a curse,

but that was Before,

when all the not-you distracted you from the Breath.


Welcome to the in-between.

It won’t feel safe, exactly.

Safety is having your needs met,

and you have felt so needy.

It mostly doesn’t feel brave;

you’ve only done what you felt you had to do.

But it may begin to feel

a little

like

healing.

Friday, September 17, 2021

invitation to the unburdening

 

Bright floral background with image text described below

Image text: Enneagram work reveals how the weight of our armor has become more crushing than the things from which it was protecting us. Increased awareness is the beginning of the unburdening.

Our personality is a gift that has allowed us to protect ourselves, but as we mature, we may begin to see that it is no longer serving us in some areas. Instead of scrambling to change, we can give compassionate attention and curiosity to our patterns behavior.

“Oh, look! Here I am, doing this thing again. I wonder why I felt I needed to protect myself in this situation?”

With time and spiritual practices that open us up and express our consent to God’s work in us, we may be surprised to find ourselves transforming inwardly while  outwardly growing in our compassion for others. As we engage in nonjudgmental self-observation, we experience the beginning of the unburdening.

When do you feel the weight of your armor the most? How do you notice it crushing you? Perhaps we can ask God to give us some respite from our self-protection just for a moment today—long enough to remember and feel that we are loved completely and with no strings or conditions attached.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Holy Drudgery

 


“Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it that way—once you let it bring you to your knees and show you what is real…”

-Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

When I’m anxious, I make my way to the laundry area before I even realize it. I watch myself mechanically open the dryer and reach for warm clothes to fold and sort, restoring a bit of order in this small way. I used to think about the futility of the never ending cycles of daily life: loading and unloading the dishwasher; getting clothes dirty, washing them, and getting them dirty again. Drudgery.

So many things are in upheaval; mundane tasks have become a comfort. Maybe, right now, these are the places where I am most present to the Holy. 

Everything changes, and yet the laundry must still be done. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, but I do know how to plunge my hands into warm soapy water to wash dishes. I can’t sleep, but I can wash my face and brush my teeth, taking care with bedtime rituals that signal to my body that it’s time to wind down. I don’t always know who I am, but I do know that the bodies in this house need to be washed and fed.

Life is hard and hectic and joyful and painful, and so many people we care about are suffering in unimaginable ways. When I get lost trying to make sense of it all, despairing that I can’t do more to help, sometimes the best answer God gives me is a load of clean dishes to put away and a stack of mail to sort. I can give myself fully to the small task before me.

My body does the chores it knows so well and thanks me for giving it something useful and simple to do. My mind can rest a moment or race on if it needs to as I give compassionate attention to my mental state. My heart can let go of the heavy burdens of “out there” for just this moment as it overflows with gratitude for the people whose clothing I’m folding. My soul can remember that deep under the tumultuous surface, an unchanging peace remains.

At any moment, the Holy One may whisper a next step to take, but for now, I am right where I need to be. Today, God meets me here at the kitchen sink. This, too, is holy ground.

Friday, August 6, 2021

breath prayer for anxious souls

 



Breath Prayer for Anxious Souls
Inhale: O Holy One, come swiftly.
Exhale: Return me to myself.

Breath Prayer for Authenticity
Inhale: Emmanuel, God with us,
Exhale: Help me stay with myself. 

God gave each of us the gift of a Self. During panic attacks, high anxiety or high emotion moments, or just regular old stress and people-pleasing, I feel like I am moving away from the Self that God gave me. The intensity ranges from mild discomfort to intolerable panic. 

When the feeling is intense, as in the middle of a panic attack or depression, I used to feel guilty when I couldn’t get to God. I prayed, “I can’t get to You, so I need You to come to me.” I realized that incarnation is exactly what God did/does. 

Then, I ask God to return me to myself. Occasionally, I’ll hear the whisper of a healing thought, like “Move your body.” More often, I ride out the wave, reminding myself that it will pass.

As I’ve done Enneagram work as someone who is in the dependent stance (this includes Enneagram 1s, 2s, and 6s), I’ve become aware that having my reference point outside of myself makes me feel sometimes like I’m leaving myself whenever another person is in front of me. Subconsciously, I’m adjusting myself according to my perception of the other person, which feeds the insecurity of not knowing if I’m really liked or loved for my authentic Self. 

Before social situations, particularly with people I find intimidating, I’ve started praying for God to help me stay with myself. Miraculously, I have noticed a difference since. I feel more settled and confident, and my whole perception of certain interactions and relationships has shifted. I realized how much I had been projecting my insecurities onto my relationships. After this prayer, people seemed to interact with me differently. I don’t know whether this was because my perception changed or people were responding to a change in me. Either way, it has led to peace and quiet confidence that I hope will continue to grow.

The Self God gave each of us is a gift. I pray that God will bring us home to ourselves so that we can more often experience the joy in being loved just as we are


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

…even then, you were loved.

 


Even then, you were loved.

When you did something great, something terrible, or nothing at all…

When you felt the pressure of praise for performance and when you felt completely and utterly unseen…

When God’s voice was loud and clear, and when God was eerily silent…

When your pain was unbearable, and when your joy was so full, it frightened you…

When you felt numb and apathetic, and when you were consumed with how much it mattered…

When your best wasn’t good enough and when your worst surprised even you…

When you were absolutely sure you were right, and when you realized you were wrong…

When you tried to earn your worthiness, when you realized you couldn’t, and when you discovered you didn’t have to…


…even then, you were loved.
—Lindsay L. O’Connor

Thursday, July 1, 2021

all bodies are good bodies

 

Maybe instead of lamenting weight changes during traumatic seasons, we could practice saying, “This is the body that carried me through such a difficult time. Thank you.”

Self-love and self-compassion can extend to these miraculous bodies we inhabit. Our bodies carry the joys, trauma, and scars of surviving in a beautiful, painful world. 

When we struggle to offer ourselves compassion in this space, let us remember that it can be an uphill battle to fight against systems and cultural messages that abound everywhere we turn, telling us which bodies are beautiful, admirable, and worthy. There’s grace in the acknowledgment of the enormity of the task set before us.

I’m working to hold the tension in remembering that I’m not just my body, but I can marvel at this body I’ve been given. It is the dwelling place of the Holy—a place where the secular and sacred meet. 
Even when I have been unwell and felt that my body was betraying me, it paved the way for an intimacy with and dependence on God that I had never experienced before.

May you find peace with the Holy dwelling place you’ve been given in the body you inhabit.




Monday, June 28, 2021

24 Children's Books for Summer


 


These are some of our favorite picture books for summer time! They are beautifully illustrated and have lovely, engaging stories.


The Little Blue Cottage

By Kelly Jordan

Illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle

Ages 4-8


This gentle, rhythmic story is reminiscent of The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. It has a vintage classic feel to it that I love, and my preschooler requested an immediate reread! The little blue cottage waits all throughout the seasons each year for summer to arrive and with it, the little girl who smells of syrup, sunscreen, and sea. One summer, she never comes, and year after year, the little blue cottage waits until one serendipitous day when the girl—a mother now!—arrives. This beautiful, nostalgic book has just the right tone for an end-of-summer read. It is filled with sensory language that makes it a rich read aloud experience. I love the representation of a multiracial family! 



Julián is a Mermaid

By Jessica Love

Ages 4-8


I have seen this book all over bookstagram since it came out and finally got my hands on it! Julián is captivated by some mermaids he sees on the subway coming home from going swimming with his abuela. While abuela leaves the room to take a bath, he finds the perfect items to transform himself into a mermaid. As I watched him let his imagination take over, I smiled to myself. This is a playful, whimsical book with gorgeous illustrations, to match. This is a perfect summer read!



Pond 

By Jim LaMarche

Ages 4-8


This is a celebration of nature, childhood, outdoor play, and the seasons! The setting is “drawn from the childhood of award-winning illustrator Jim LaMarche, who grew up in Wisconsin along the Milwaukee River.” After studying a dirt pit, Matt realizes a trickle of water has the potential to create a pond. He works with his sister and his friend throughout the seasons to clear out the pit and restore the pond that once was. I love that this showcases children working together with very little adult intervention to create something lovely in response to their own curiosity and observation. In today’s over-scheduled, fast-paced society, children so often lose out on slow, unstructured play days outside that lead to creativity, problem solving, teamwork, and appreciation for nature. These qualities build confidence as children test out and refine their ideas. Wonderful book to inspire and celebrate outdoor play!



By Abdul-Razak Zachariah
Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
Ages 3-7

“This last bit of silence and this last breeze touching your face:

They are yours.

They are your reward for being patient and thoughtful when the game seemed to not go your way.

They bring you peace the same way you bring me peace.”


What a beautiful, lyrical summer bed time book! From the same illustrator of the lovely book, “I Am Enough,” this is a story about Amani, who plays hide and seek with friends from the neighborhood. It is told with wonderful sensory language and celebrates community and self-acceptance subtly but powerfully.



Seashells by the Seashore

By Marianne Berkes

Illustrated by Robert Noreika

Ages 4-10


After two beach trips, I finally found the book I was looking for, hiding on a shelf. #booknerdproblems Anyway, this is a really lovely rhyming/counting book with a different type of seashell on each beautiful, glossy page. This is a great one to take along to the beach or look at afterward to identify shells. 12 shells are featured, but 14 additional ones are pictured and labeled at the back. This pairs beautifully with nature study and water coloring!



Fireflies

By Julie Brinckloe

Ages 5-8


This is such a cozy book to read on a summer night! It’s a simple but lovely story of a little boy rushing outside to catch fireflies with friends. Once he brings them home in a jar, he realizes he can’t bear to keep them from freedom. This made me feel so nostalgic and reminded me of the glorious first half of my childhood out in the country in western Pennsylvania. I have such fond memories of the soft grass beneath my bare feet as I ran about with my brother and sister catching fireflies, our dog running loops around us. The language in the book captures the gentle magic of a perfect summer evening. Such a sweet bed time read!



By Jill Barklem
Ages 5 and up

By Charlotte Zolotow
Illustrated by Wendell Minor
Ages 3-5

By Robert McCloskey
Ages 3-7

Some of our favorite beauty summer reads! Sea Story is one story out of the Brambly Hedge collection of charming animal stories, which we adore! The Seashore Book and Time of Wonder both have gorgeous, rich language. Time of Wonder is from the author of Blueberries for Sal and tells about summer on an island in Maine. See below for the review of The Seashore Book!



Boats on the Bay

By Jeanne Walker Harvey

Illustrated by Grady McFerrin

Ages 4-8


In just one sentence per page, this fun book tells about the many different boats that come and go on the bay throughout the course of the day. The illustrations have a vintage feel to them that grabbed my attention as soon as I saw the cover at the library. This is a great summertime read for preschoolers!


The Honeybee

By Kirsten Hall

Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Ages 4-8


Between the brilliant illustrations, rhyming text, onomatopoeia, and action-oriented words, this book provides such a fun, multi-sensory experience! It tells in lyrical text about a bee’s process of finding and choosing a flower, getting pollen, communicating with the other bees, and making honey. I’m so impressed with how the author gave so much information in an exciting, poetic way. 



Dragonfly Kites

By Thomson Highway

Illustrated by Julie Flett

Ages 4-8


“Joe and Cody live in the far north. Their summer home was a tent near a lake. There are hundreds of lakes in northern Manitoba, so they never stayed on the same one twice. The lakes had beautiful islands and and forests and beaches and clear water. But no people.” 


So begins this serene, playful story of two brothers who explore and connect with nature. They catch dragonflies and tie string around the middle to make dragonfly kites. Each page has the text translated into the Indigenous language of Cree.This is another stunner with the signature style I’m always love from Julie Flett. The illustrations are bold, beautiful, high-contrast pictures that make you want to jump into the story. This would be a wonderful book to read before a nature study lesson or a nature walk. 



Wild Berries

By Julie Flett

Ages 4-8


This is another gem by Julie Flett. It’s a gentle story about a little boy going on a walk with his grandmother to pick blueberries. They come across an ant, a spider, and a fox and feed the birds. Each page has a word in the #firstnations language of Cree. At the end is a recipe for wild blueberry jam. The story is accompanied by beautiful high-contrast illustrations. Reading it feels like taking a leisurely stroll on a pleasant summer day. Just lovely!



The First Strawberries: a Cherokee Story

Retold by Joseph Bruchac

Illustrated by Anna Vojtech

Ages 3-5


“To this day, when the Cherokee people eat strawberries, they are reminded to always be kind to each other; to remember that friendship and respect are as sweet as the taste of ripe, red berries.”


This is the Cherokee story of how strawberries came into the world. It begins with the creation of the first man and woman who live together happily until one day, when they have a quarrel. The woman leaves in anger, unable to hear her husband’s apology. The remainder of the story is about how the sun helps the husband catch up with his wife to make amends. First, Sun sends raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, to no avail. Finally, the gift of strawberries gives the woman pause and leads to the couple’s reconciliation. This is such a sweet story about repentance and forgiveness and has lovely water color illustrations. 



Enemy Pie

By Derek Munson

Illustrated by Tara Callahan King

Ages preschool - 7


I brought Enemy Pie to read when I was the mystery reader for my daughter's second grade class and it was a crowd pleaser! It’s about a boy who doesn’t get along with another little boy and asks his dad what to do about it. His dad pulls out a recipe for enemy pie and proceeds to make it, but there’s a caveat— for the pie to work, the boy has to spend a whole day with his enemy and be nice to him. The two boys end up having fun together and become friends, so the main character panics when his dad brings out the pie. He can only imagine what it will do to his new friend until the boys notice that the dad has already started eating a piece of pie. I love how this book is told from the child’s point of views. The second graders I read to debated whether the pie was magic and didn’t harm anyone because the boys were no longer enemies or the dad tricked them into spending time together. Such a great book about friendship and getting along with others!



By Paul Fleischman
Ages 4-8

This is one of my favorite picture books ever. It's a magical story about Wesley, a curious, intelligent boy who has unique interests and has trouble fitting in with his peers. He decides to put all of his book knowledge to good use one summer by creating his own civilization in his backyard. He uses a special crop for food, clothing, and entertainment and even creates his own language. His classmates begin to see the value in someone who isn’t afraid to do things differently, and Wesley learns the value of doing things in community instead of only relying on himself. I love how Wesley learns to use his gifts without compromising who he is but still learns to connect with others.



By Sid Fleischman
Illustrated by Quentin Blake
Ages 6-10

"There has been so much tomfool nonsense told about McBroom's wonderful one acre farm that I had better set matters straight. I’m McBroom. Josh McBroom. I’ll explain about the watermelons in a minute." *


Thus begins one of the best read aloud books ever! The McBroom books have hilariously imaginative tall tales that will entertain the whole family. The language is so rich and full of wordplay and imagery, and the storytelling is superb. They are perfect for reading together and then for children to enjoy independently over and over. These stories will make your kiddos laugh aloud. We love these stories, and I think you will, too!



By Marjorie Flack
Illustrated by Jay Hyde Barnum
Ages 6-8

By Ryan Anne Martin
Ages 4-8

Two fun and informative books for summer! The Boats on the River is about different types of boats and has wonderful vintage illustrations. Cross a Bridge describes various types of bridges, how they are constructed, and what they’re used for. It has bright illustrations that are perfect for young children! 



By Susan Middleton Elya
Illustrated by Steven Salerna
Ages 3-5

When I was a brand new mom, our beloved pediatrician said that one of the best things we could do for our daughter would be to give her the gift of a second language. He has since passed away, but we remembered his advice and enrolled our firstborn in a Spanish immersion preschool. That is when we discovered Susan Middleton Elya’s books, which are not exactly bilingual but have mostly English with one or two Spanish words in each sentence. These are perfect for us since my daughter was learning Spanish and I know very little Spanish, myself. They are written such that the meaning of the Spanish word is usually fairly easy to determine from the context clues. They have a pleasant rhythm and rhyme, as well. It’s such a unique concept, at least among books I’ve seen, that we have bought or checked out many of her books multiple times and still enjoy them several years later. This is one we love for summer, but we enjoy her others, as well!



By Charlotte Zolotow
Illustrated by Wendell Minor
Ages 3-5


This lyrical story begins with a little boy asking his mother, “What is the seashore like?” The poetic text and illustrations for the remainder of the book describe the sights, sounds, and textures of an imagined day at the seashore. This would be a wonderful mentor text for teaching about figurative language, descriptive writing, or poetry. It would be a good one to read aloud and have children close their eyes, imagine being at the seashore, and then write or draw about the experience. Beautiful book for summer!



By Yukihisa Tokuda
Illustrated by Kiyoshi Takahashi
Ages 6-8

A perfect book for a beautiful sunny spring day! If your children are as obsessed with pillbugs as mine are, they will love this one. Great nonfiction for K-3rd grade. This book has a lot of information presented in a casual, engaging tone. 



By Sally Llloyd-Jones
Illustrated by Leo Espinosa
Ages 4-8

“Sometimes it’s hard being a goldfish. You dream of growing fat and exploring coral reefs. But instead here you are in a bowl. Going round and round in circles...”


We had the pleasure of hearing Sally Lloyd Jones read the introduction to this when it first came out. What a treat! It's one of our new favorites. The illustrations are beautiful and the masterful storytelling draws you right in to the story, as Sally Lloyd Jones always does. It’s a fun, sweet story based on true events in NYC, where a man decided to clean and fix up an old fountain that had fallen into disrepair. The children in the neighborhood are invited to put their goldfish in the fountain for the summer, and they make friends with one another in the process. This is a wonderful book for kids of all ages! Tinies will enjoy the pictures and the story about the fish, and older children can see a real life example of community building.



By Alice McLerran
Illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Roxaboxen is one of our very favorite books, and I can’t believe we read it for the first time just a few years ago. It’s an enchanting celebration of imagination and free play in the outdoors and chronicles the adventures of a group of children who create their own world. This is a wonderful book to inspire children to play, imagine, and create. 



By Joanne Schwartz
Illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
Ages 4-7

"Pinny stepped outside. Summer was almost over. Days and weeks of sunshine had passed slowly by. This morning the sun was shining again, making everything as warm as toast. Pinny was happy."

I love the Pinny books! The writing is beautiful and rich, and I believe Charlotte Mason aficionados would call this a living book. It has short chapters with different parts of Pinny's summer day watching clouds, interacting with a seagull, and having a blueberry cake party with friends. Though the ages listed are 4-7, the sentences are a bit complex for preschoolers, so this might work better for early elementary kiddos, depending on attention spans. It could also be read a chapter at a time with younger readers. The events are so simple but are explored in an almost meditative, ambling way that has the feel of a lazy summer day. 



Saturday, June 26, 2021

transformation

 

Image text: It can be hard to empathize with someone else’s story when you’re drowning in your own.

If you’re in survival mode, don’t let shame be piled on top of it all.

Let go of the need to perform and instead, try to allow. The lessons of transformation will present themselves.

Sometimes the best gift you can give the world is to take care of yourself first. Transformed people transform the world.

I’m praying for people in this place to have moments to rest in their belovedness.

I struggled with 2 rounds of postpartum depression. The second time, I was frustrated with myself. I thought that if I had “learned the lessons” the first time, I wouldn’t be back in the same place again. On top of the energy it took to take care of my basic needs and my children’s while battling sleep deprivation, anxiety, & depression, I was scrambling frantically to try to hurry up and learn whatever lesson God was trying to teach me so that I could move on.

One of the best encouragements I received was when my dad said to me with deep compassion, “It’s not a performance. Sometimes God wants to walk through this with you.”

Great suffering presents us with lessons, to be sure, but they occur as we give ourselves over to transformation by allowing and resting in God’s love and getting the help that we need. We get out of bed, feed ourselves, drink some water, make the doctor appointment, take the medicine, breathe in and out, ask for help, and stop trying to perform. We count on others to pray for us and stand in the gap when we just can’t. We wait for God to bring us back to ourselves.

Then, one day, I looked back and could see that while I thought I was just surviving, I was experiencing some of the most painful parts of transformation. I didn’t like it and wouldn’t ask for it, but I also know that I’ll never be the same.


If you are in survival mode, may God help you to let go of the need to perform and achieve and instead, to rest in your unshakable, unconditional belovedness. Then, one day, when you look back, may you see how you were held as you were being beautifully, painfully transformed. Transformed people transform the world.