Fuzzy Brows, Bathing Suits, and the Renewal of the Mind

renew signage
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

And here I thought ordinary life was daunting!

Three weeks ago, I was obsessed with getting my brows and upper lip waxed. It was driving me crazy, all the peach fuzz and renegade brow hairs. I didn’t feel better until I had my hairstylist do it when I got a haircut.

And then another thing seemed paramount: Getting a bathing suit for the summer, since I’ve put on hella pounds since I injured my hip seven months ago. I’d given away most of my “fat clothes,” since I’d lost 25 lbs prior to the injury and was SO SURE I wouldn’t gain any of it back. Gained it all back and then some. Damn it.

Then I fixated on the problems my kids are going through. I really don’t even need my own problems; just give me a few kids who are learning things in life the hard way, and I’ll think of little else than their welfare.

The things these issues have in common are: 1. They either seem laughably insignificant now. Or 2. They are out of my control entirely. All within a short span of time, I found things to worry about that fell under these two headings.

Also, the joke’s on me. All the pools and beaches are closed! Who needs a bathing suit?

What I have right now is fear and anxiety. What I want to have is the renewal of my mind. It’s happening, but it’s happening piece-meal. If you’re one of those people who trust God with nary a care in the world, my hat is off to you! I’m having to turn my will and mind over to his care every day, especially during this time of extreme weirdness.

That being said, I would very much like to avoid catching Covid-19, as my immune function is ridiculously low and I’m afraid that I won’t be able to fight it. I’m also worried that my loved ones won’t be able to fight it.

There ARE things I can do – and so can you – to alter the trajectory of the virus. That’s the thing I find supremely frustrated. There are things we can ALL do to reduce the risk for the people we cherish. Can we all please take this thing seriously enough to protect them?

One of my favorite songs by the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughn, “Things That I Used to Do,” and it’s been in my head for days. Because “things that I used to do, Lord, I won’t do no more,” as the song goes.

But I also will try to remember that some of those things were – in truth – pretty insignificant. And certainly pale in comparison to what we are all going through now. It’s funny how stuff that seemed crucial three weeks ago seem frivolous now. When this shit show wraps up, I’m going to try to make the conscious effort to NOT “sweat the small stuff” as much. But it’s easy to fall back into old ways.

Lord, let this thing make me a better person. Help me to take this day as it is, not as I would have it. Help me rise to the occasion of surrendering my will and worries to you, less inclined to obsess about the things I get worked up over.

Help us all over this bombardment of anxiety we are experiencing, so that we can live life abundantly in you. Hairy brows and lips, and all.

In the meantime, please stay home if you can. I know it’s boring. I know the people you live with are getting on your last nerve. I know that we are all on edge, and experiencing an unprecedented level of NOT knowing what the future holds. Let’s do all we DO have in our power to protect one another.

God bless us, every one.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” – Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

 

 

 

Beatitudes for a Pandemic

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By: Jana Greene

Spent some time with God today, but it was restless, addled time. I can’t seem to still my mind right now, what with the current state of Covid-19 ravaging the planet. I like a certain amount of chaos with my order, but this is ridiculous.

BLESSED is not a word I would use to describe the state of my mind right now. Edgy, tense, scared….these are the adjectives that describe my state more accurately. Still, I started thinking about the Beatitudes, and how the “blessings” Jesus outlined in them run contrary to what many of us would consider positive things, or even bearable things at times.

This is one such occasion – the unprecedented happenstance we find ourselves in, in the midst of a global pandemic. So I thought I’d write a little piece today so that I can have a little peace today. I invite you with much love to join me.

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:”

Blessed are the exasperated, the cooped up, the frustrated, and the lonely. For they shall be reminded that God is not bound by illness or protocol, or the foibles of human nature.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”

Blessed are those grieving the loss of certainty and structure. For their hope lies in bigger things. Hold on tight, you are still in the Father’s embrace, even though the world seems upside-down.

 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

Blessed are the odd ducks and weird people, who are just trying to navigate their way through the “new normal.” We are all free to be who we were created to be, no need for shame. Yours is the Kingdom, weirdo.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

Blessed are the seekers, the doubters, the spiritually starving. Does your soul feel empty? Are you hungry for peace, comfort, and hope? Your system is just making room for the One who gives those things, and in abundance.

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.”

Blessed are the helpers, the lovers, the carers. For they are showing the rest of us how to be the hands and feet of God on Earth, modeled after the Perfect One.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”

Blessed are those who “check themselves before the wreck themselves.” For they are ever striving forward, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”

Blessed are the calmer heads, the team players, and the encouragers. For where would we be without the Light Bearers? They see the Spirit in all, and welcome all to the table with Christ.

 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”

Blessed are the ostracized, yet steadfast. For they keep moving forward, in the face of opposition and a bleak forecast for a broken world.

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”

Blessed are those who get knocked down, but keep getting back up. For they are US! In us lies incomprehensible power, as we are the Kingdom of God on Earth.

So let’s remind one another that LOVE is the strongest force – far more contagious than a virus. Hardier than any microbe, or quantum physics, for that matter. Love swallows up hopelessness and gives us a boost to keep soldiering on. No sickness can touch it, no disease can end it.

In sickness and in health. In warm gatherings and in lonely quarantine. In times of plenty, and times of rationing. Always, there is love.

“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Stay safe, every one. And God bless you.

  • Scripture taken from Matthew 5:1-12, The Message translation.

Things Got Weird: Anxiety in the time of Covid-19

By: Jana Greene

By: Jana Greene

What a strange experience this is for us all.
I don’t know about you, but I vacillate between being okay and not being okay, all day every day.
I will be trucking along in my day, trying to enjoy things that I have taken for granted and now fear I will lose, when my primitive brain is more than happy to remind me that something is wrong. Something is very, very wrong.
A sudden sinking feeling.
Heart palpitations.
Raw, unadulterated panic.
And then, eventually, I pray for peace that passes understanding. And I again laugh at funny memes, indulge myself in painting (or ice cream…) and rather calmly go about my day in this “new normal.”
This pattern cycles throughout the day, maybe a handful of times. Or maybe 100 times. It varies.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
I know I’m a a Christian, and as such, should “fear not.” If I had a dime for every post I’ve seen about FEAR NOT, I’d be a gazzilionaire. But I’d probably still fear, because I have anxiety disorder.
I have anxiety attacks, it isn’t so much my evolved brain that forgot to “fear not,” but the primal brain. Christ-followers have mental illness too. Rather than consider our faith weak, you should know that someone who battles depression and anxiety has HAD to keep the faith in ways you probably cannot imagine. Their faith was hard fought and won, war-torn, and durable. But at the end of the day, we still have to make the best of the genetics and brain chemicals we were dealt. Add life circumstances, and it can be overwhelming.
None of us have ever been through anything like this before. It’s weird, and it’s foreign, and it feels like a zombie movie.
How are your brains processing all this, friends? Do you have moments that the surreal-ness overwhelms you? What are some ways you handle anxiety?
This isn’t going away any time soon, and I love to know what makes people tick. How are you doing with isolation, being confined with family members, and your self care routine? We are all in this together. ❤️

Confessions of a Food Hoarder in Pandemic Pandamonium

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Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Greetings from The House of Greene, where we now eat unsalted peanut butter, because on our last visit to the grocery store, that’s all that was available.

Now that I write that, how FIRST WORLD does THAT problem seem? And it’s because they ARE first world problems. But I have a funny little quirk about food. Well, MANY quirks. But this one is especially relevant.

It started in my single mother days. I’d been a stay-at-home mom for years when my daughters were little. I was room mother in their classes. I made wholesome dinners every night. Even in the hardest times, when I’d have to get food from the church pantry, we were well-fed.

And then my divorce happened. All of the sudden, it was all on ME. Two children, no child support, no help from family, NOTHING. It was all me and I had to work four part-time jobs just to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. The girls that I had ‘helicopter parented’ became ‘latch-key’ kids, which made me feel horribly guilty. We ate a lot of hamburger helper, minus hamburger. Instant mashed potatoes. Boxed mac and cheese shaped like Spongebob characters.

I will never forget the evening I put the girls to bed and took a bleak inventory of our week’s food supply. There was NO WAY we were going to make it. You know that feeling you get when anxiety comes on real sudden-like, and your blood turns to ice water? Your heart starts racing? This was a normal anxiety attack times 100. Something went awry in my brain that day.

Now, we all made it through and somehow, Jesus pulled a ‘loaves and fishes’ on me. He did THAT by some of my wonderful friends, who (much to the dismay of my pride) showed up with a meal or a $20 bill or something. Let the record show that we were NOT fed by the scriptures that other friends threw at me. Nor the lofty platitudes about if I only had more faith, “claimed” a scripture, or “believed” that our needs are already met.

(If you don’t meet a person’s basic fundamental rights, do me a favor, and DON’T preach at them. A Bic Mac and a couple of kids meals were a whole lot more effective than an “I’m praying for you.” But I digress.)

At some point in my single motherhood, I became a bit of a food hoarder. If I had some around, I felt great. So if I had MORE around, well…you know. I also recalled my old trick of soothing myself with food. I was only a handful of years sober back then, so it was all I could do not to pick up a drink. I picked up ice cream instead. Fast food is hella cheap and filling.

It became a way to reward and punish myself. Then I discovered that I could experience the comfort of stuffing my face, and then throw up to get rid of the calories. This is a HORRIBLE practice and I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT. But I hooked up with bulimia for a bit and thought I’d found the best of both worlds. Eat yummy food. Barf. Repeat. I lost 80 pounds during my divorce. The whole bulimia issue is a blog for another time (and I’ve touched on it before) but I’m telling you the whole story so that you can fully appreciate how f-cked up my relationship with food truly is. It’s WHACK, I tell you.

So fast forward to when I met my now (and forever) husband in 2006. He was so kind and loving. We didn’t have to worry about running out of food after we married, but old habits die hard. For years and years (and up until TODAY, ACTUALLY) it’s kind of a family joke that we always have stuff falling out of the freezer because it’s too full, and we can’t find anything thing in the pantry because I have this sick thing about having it COMPLETELY FULL to feel secure, and in order to fit anything in our fridge, I have to play “fridge Tetris” to make things fit.

It’s super annoying to my family, and honestly – to myself,  but I can’t seem to stop it because WHAT IF we run out. It’s not just about the food. It’s some primal holdover from when I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to feed my kids or something. It’s like a COMPULSION. It IS a compulsion, actually.

But today I opened the fridge and there is an empty shelf. AN. EMPTY. SHELF. I can actually see the back wall of the fridge (hey, it’s WHITE!) which never happens.

Over a week ago, I’d taken a fall due to my POTs and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome symptoms, and it was a bad one. Nearly broke both my arms and was bruised from fingertips to elbows. People thoughtfully brought meals over, since my arms were useless for a while. We had a REALLY full fridge (there are between 3-5 of us living in this house at one time, so it’s not just my belly I’m worried about) and it was glorious.

My first thought was: “I’ll run to the store.” Except I WILL NOT run to the store, because I have virtually no immune function and there is an actual PANDEMIC (another fear formerly referred to as “irrational,” but pretty damn rational now) and I am staying home to avoid germs.

It’s not that we are anywhere NEAR running out of food. It’s that if we were, there is nothing we could do about it. I’m thinking that this whole pandemic is going to be a HUGE re-boot for all of us. I can’t let an empty refrigerator shelf throw me into an emotional tailspin, although that is my habit. Habits are gonna have to be tweaked, as are knee-jerk emotional responses, which are kind of my forte.

I cannot afford to be ruled by my many, many compulsions. But I CAN come here and drone on about how different things are now, and be honest about how I’m freaking out on the regular in spite of my best effort to use my “tools.” Applying my emotional coping tools feels like using a regular screwdriver on a screw that requires a “Phillip’s head” screwdriver (I’m using this analogy because those are the only two tools I can differentiate…) It kind of works, but not really.

It’s like there is a Woody Allen (sans perversion, of course) Me, and a Brene Brown Me. Woody Allen Me’s hair is all askew, he is neurotically pacing, displaying nervous tics, and generally running in circles exclaiming “THE SKY IS FALLING!” while my inner Brene Brown interjects with Ghandi-esque, rational quotes about walking inside your story and owning it, and not standing outside your story and hustling for worthiness, and what not (which, frankly, isn’t even helpful at a time like this.) She is calm. She is at one with the Universe.

Why am I both these people at once. (I’m thinking maybe we are all a little of both right now?)

So for the foreseeable future, I’m planning on coming here to blog about empty refrigerator shelves, and one-ply toilet paper. But also about the very real crossroads of anxiety and faith in an unprecedented time. It’s an opportunity for me to dust off the ol’ 12 steps and revisit “surrender” mode, lest I revisit self-destructive behaviors (which will only make things worse.)

One of the scary things about all of this, if we are honest, is that it’s a leveler. We all feel far less “first world.” But that’s not a bad thing, spiritually. Spiritually, we are all One – all the same. We bear one another’s problems, even when they are more severe than unsalted peanut butter. Seriously, though. Not one of us is less precious than another, and sometimes we get so wrapped up in our privilege, we forget that this is the NORM for so many people across the globe – doing without. I know I forget.

I don’t know what else to do but write about it. Eating my feelings isn’t suitable, since food is more or less rationed, but my feelings are not following suit. All I know for sure is that we will all get through this together. Woody, Brene, me, and you. ❤

I’m Sorry for What I Said When I was Evangelical

By: Jana Greene

I’m sorry I said your salvation depends on you. God has already got you covered.


I’m sorry I said you will go to Hell. The God I have come to know is not an eternal tormentor.


I’m sorry I said too many judgmental things to count. I don’t know your whole story.


I’m sorry I said gay people were in the wrong, we are ALL made in the image of The Great Creator, and I was regurgitating what had been taught to me.


I’m sorry I said other religions were bad. What an un-Christlike thing to have said.


I’m sorry I said the Republican Party is the party of “the Lord.” Make that double sorry since Trump became president.


I’m sorry that I didn’t accept you just as you are, when all the while, Jesus accepted me.


I’m sorry for all the times I used my religion to look down on / reprimand / patronize / make fun of any other person on this earth. That’s the exact opposite of how my Savior commanded me to be.


As for me and my faith, I will serve The Spirit of LOVE itself, Jesus, The Universal Christ.

And in all my dealings with others – especially those not like me – I will try my best to err on the side of love.

Always on the side of love. Lord, help me to do so.

Accepting Good Things Without Guilt – and Defining “Family” Along the Way

By: Jana Greene

Many years ago, there was a fracture in my family of origin. I have forgiven, and am doing a lot of hard work in therapy to heal. The truth is that just because you are related to someone, it doesn’t mean they are not toxic to your recovery and well-being.

Yes, you can forgive and yet still not break bread with someone. It’s called boundaries, and when those are trampled, often there is necessary estrangement. It’s an ugly and tragic little truth.

I am loathe to even share this, because I have heard, “Just build a bridge and get over it,” and “Christians shouldn’t be estranged from one another, period!”

You know what Christians shouldn’t do? Judge another person without having the slightest clue what they’ve been through.

Walk a mile in my shoes before judging, please. My sobriety has to be paramount to anything harmful, or I won’t stay sober long.

Fast forward to an experience a few years ago. I am surrounded by my husband’s loving family. There is no screaming, only laughter. There is no manipulative mind games, just warmth.

I hole myself up in the guest bedroom for a while because happy extended families are still a little strange to me. I sat up there and thought about what I’m learning in therapy…. it’s not betrayal to my own relatives to enjoy the unconditional love of others who include me.

I don’t have to worry that yelling will erupt at any second. It’s probably not coming!

These people – my in-laws – are a pure gift to my life; it would be yet another loss not to enjoy them or claim them as mine.

It’s true that no family is The Waltons. My husband’s family isn’t either. Ain’t no thing as a perfect family, because it’s made up of imperfect people. But it also doesn’t have to be one long Jerry Springer episode either.

Only after cognitively thinking on these things could I join them downstairs, and hear about all the shenanigans my husband pulled as a teenager, how he and his sister picked on each other as kids, my Mother-in-Laws stories of growing up in a huge family, and all of the things that made each of them who they are.
I feel a part of these good things, finally. Bob and I have been together 14 years…maybe it’s about time.

I still feel the loss of a few family members, because a loss is a loss is a loss. I love them still. But I’m learning to focus on what God has given me; what he has positively poured into my life: My Beloved, his family (now also mine,) and so many dear, wonderful, amazing friends. To say I’ve been blessed ten-fold is a gross understatement.

Meanwhile, I pray for those with whom I don’t have contact, always. But it’s okay to appreciate others in my life who have made me family by choice (or at least by Bob’s choice!) and all the incredible people I know who love me back. How I love my friends!

And my daughters – Thank you, Jesus, for choosing me to be their mom! Oh sweet lord, how I love them. Family in the truest sense of the word. For a long time, it was the three of us against the world. But it doesn’t have to be anymore. God had even granted me yet another daughter. He truly is as good as they say.


Who knows, maybe someone reading this can relate. In that case, you are worthy of the love of your family and friends – just exactly as you are. No matter your history, no matter your childhood, no matter your struggles.

If you are accepted into a tribe, don’t feel guilty about it. If others wanted to be in your life, they would be.

Don’t push people who volunteer to love you away because those who traditionally should love you don’t (or can’t.)

Focus on who loves you with no conditions attached, and love them fiercely in return. Cherish those friends who make you family.

There is no love shortage. And you are worthy of happiness.

Why I Sometimes Hesitate to Ask for Prayer

woman looking at sea while sitting on beach
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

The great Anne Lamott likes to say that her two favorite prayers are “help, help, help,” and “thank you, thank you, thank you.” And I agree that those are perfectly adequate, perfectly reasonable prayers. They are also the only ones we can voice at times.

It’s one of those days.

The kind of day where general malaise is completely overwhelming. When I’m trying to mentally work out a few personal situations, and meeting with COMPLETE overwhemled-ness on every front.

I started to post a prayer request this morning on my Facebook page to ask my long-suffering friends to please pray for me, because I’m having a day of consecutive panic attacks and wrenching pain, but stopped myself because HOLY SHIT, I don’t even know where to start.

What am I even asking people to pray FOR? Everything is kind of running together. Where does one issue start and other stop?

I feel like I need a special IRS- type  form letter for listing out all the things that my spirit, mental health, and clunker of a body need attention for. Like, maybe I need to itemize or something. It’s our tendency to like to identify and specifically pray for things as if they were itemize-able, isn’t it?

I don’t want to be that one asshole who is always asking for prayer for the same damn issue over and over, for years and years. That is a MAJOR bummer to everyone involved in trying to “pray me better.”

But sometimes our anxieties and depression and needs and concerns all like of get stuck together like a yucky wad of Life Goo. A big, heavy, sticky, ball of slime that started at the top of the hill as ONE thing, but has slowly rolled downhill and is swallowing every piece of  absolute rubbish, until you can’t tell what it’s made of at all.  It’s just a ball of chaos, worry, crushing depression, hopelessness.

And too heavy to lift at all.

So essentially, I am coming before God this morning with my unwieldy, completely nonsensical ball of Life Goo, and petitioning him to chuck it into a black hole, or at the very least, help me carry it. Or at the very VERY least, TELL ME HOW TO HANDLE IT. Because there is no worse feeling than being so overwhelmed, you cannot function.

My current physical health, which is thus: I have been in pain every day – to some degree – since 2008. Needless to say, Christian hard-liners get sick and tired of praying for me because everyone (including me) loves a good “before and after” story.

And although I get respites, there is no permanent “after.” That’s the “chronic” part of “chronic illness.”

And what else do I need prayer for? Here’s a synopsis, very over-simplified.

I’m not doing so well financially, as I cannot work outside the home right now. I need a job from home, or to get approved for disability, or find out I have a very rich old relative somewhere out there who wants to make me benefactor (c’mom, 23 and Me, step up to the plate already….don’t I have any rich third cousins once removed???) For the record, ALL of these possibilities give me anxiety on top of existing anxiety.

I lose sleep every night worrying about my children. All of them.

I’m afraid I’ll lose the mobility I have and thus lose so many of the things I still can do and enjoy doing.

I worry that I’ll get worse and worse until I can’t handle living like this anymore. I’m just being honest. What if self-care for days like this of eating pizza, listening to music, talking to God, writing, painting, spending time with friends….what is none of these healthy coping strategies (except for pizza…..which isn’t healthy but is good for the SOUL) doesn’t cut it anymore. What if I get to the point where I can’t laugh about things, and find that incorporating humor into my “wellness” (or “just don’t die-ness”) plan isn’t helping anymore.

What if I start to drag my family and friends down with me? I HATE the way my illness effects everyone.  I guess  I’ll be all alone forever. (SEE? That strategy is called “SPIRALING” and I’m quite good at it, if I do say so myself…)

I need to feel like the Living God isn’t “punishing me” with sickness (yes, I’ve come a long way in the Grace Gospel and no longer agree that God is “punishing” me, although that fundamentalist stuff runs DEEP and every one in a while rears it’s ugly evangelical head.)

I’m afraid that all my best work – my writing, my art, my poetry – is over and I’m passt my prime, destined to crank out crappy words, and paintings, and concepts, and all other manifestations of creativity. I fear that I’ve peaked.

I’m afraid My Beloved will tire of my constant illness and chronic pain, and will want to find a more healthy (and less neurotic) specimen with which to share his wonderful life with.

If there are any disastrous outcomes to ANY situation, I will find and assume it is coming to pass when I’m in this mental state. And I don’t WANT to be that way. I want to be a fount of hope that springs eternal. I just don’t have it in me today.

What people may not understand is that even if you pray for me and I don’t “get well,” it is the wellness of my spirit that gets renewed when you pray for me. When we pray for each other. God is not a genie in a bottle. Sometimes the healing we get doesn’t look like what the world thinks it should. It doesn’t mean that your prayers are not the sole and entire reason why I get up another day to fight. Sometimes that’s ALL that gives me that courage.

So, friends? If you’re the praying type, please petition Heaven to send me HELP, HELP, HELP. For what I’ve requested prayer for. And for every other issue that’s part of the ball of Life Goo that keeps rolling downhill.

And you guys? THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

I love and appreciate each one of you, readers. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, as always, and God bless us, every one.