Spiritual

People are “Problematic” (love them anyway)

Photo by THIS IS ZUN on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

I realize that times like these are where the rubber hits the road, faith-wise. I just wish I wasn’t working with bald tires and jacked up pattern of traffic cones to navigate life.

Metaphorically, of course.
We all are burning rubber, and not getting very far. We are all weary and wrung-out, exhausted, divided, and furious.

Think of all the ways we have been divided over the past few years coinciding with Covid.

Think of your friends individually, and all the ways you differ in opinion to the detriment of your relationship… ways you had no idea were so different to yours. Maybe on things that are so close to your heart, you cannot BELIEVE a friend you formerly thought you had a lot in common with feels one way or another. How COULD they?? Ya think you know a person, right?

My daughter and I were having a conversation not long after the Super Bowl half-time show last winter. She was saying that she respected Eminem taking a knee at the performance. “But,” she said. “I have mixed feelings about Eminem. He’s problematic.”

“Everyone is problematic,” I said, because it’s true.

Now, my daughter and I do not agree on many, many issues. BIG ones. But we try to respect the other’s feelings, which is the most any of us can do, I think.

She was referring to the rapper’s controversial lyrics. But it occurred to me –

We really are ALL problematic.

Like… I KNOW I’m problematic. There is probably that one time I said something I didn’t think through before saying it; actually, probably hundreds of times. Or the view I held ten years ago that today makes me cringe. Or the way I handled those situations in the past that are not me, anymore.

What too often happens is that we throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. We end up discounting the whole person for their flaws or differences, but only the ones we ourselves have never struggled with. Because our own problematic ways may not be problematic to US, and therefore, we consider them unproblematic in sum.

The human brain just loves to categorize and label, and the human ego loves to judge others. It just jacks up our righteous-o-meters. It’s how we make sense of the world. It’s how we make sense of each other.

It tells us not to appreciate one aspect of a person, because they are “problematic.”

Nobody is asking “What would Jesus do?” anymore because we know good and damn well what he would do. We just don’t want to do it.

People over policy.

Relationship vs. religion.
Friends over ideology.
Love one another, for that is the greatest commandment.

Not one of us was designed to live in this environment – 24-hour news cycles, being bombarded with hostility, being micro-managed by the government. Not one of us was born to intake what we intake all day every day. Fodder for turning us against each other. It didn’t start at the beginning of Covid. It’s been brewing for years. Dualism has been around since the dawn of time.

My old beliefs aren’t ME, anymore. I’m a different person than I was three years ago. Or yesterday, for that matter.

Every day I’m learning, and I think that’s all we can expect from mere mortals – that we keep growing. Even when it contradicts what you’ve said and done most of your life. Growth is not linear. Keep reaching and forgive your mistakes, but also forgive the mistakes others have made _or are CURRENTLY making – on this road. We are all on the same route.

Differences we may have that divide us:

Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life.

Supporting the LGBTQ+ community vs. Discriminating against them.

Vaxxed vs. Un-vaxxed.

Dems vs. Pubs.

Blue States vs. Red States.

Depp vs. Heard (just making sure your’e paying attention, haha.)

Things we have in common:

We have an unbelievable capacity to love.

We are all experiencing the human condition in many ways that truly sucks.

We are all human.

I won’t finish this off with platitudes and a rousing round of kumbaya, but I will say we can do better. We MUST do better. We must share the road.

We must not pass the stranded in our race to be #1. This is a call for kindness, which I will try to heed myself, even in the midst of Problemville.

Growing is loving beyond differences, I guess.

Love to each of you today, and God bless.

Spiritual

Sorrow and Other Heavy Things

By: JANA GREENE

Hello. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted, but I’m emotionally exhausted.
Between late March and mid-May, we have been through the wringer.
My beloved boy Catsby passed away unexpectedly on April 16th. My daughter Lexi Wehunt came by to do cat care and found his little body. He was just as special to her as to me, and it was totally unexpected for both of us. Bob and I were in Virginia for several days to help care for his mama, who was on hospice. I was shell shocked by losing Catsby.
The following DAY – Easter – my wonderful Mother-in-law passed into glory. We knew it was coming, but you’re never “ready.” I came across this picture in my FB memories today. I miss her something terrible. Although we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, we had THE best talks about deep subject matter. Nobody loves Jesus like Janet Greene. When she’s stay with us, I‘d join her for morning coffee and we’d sit at the breakfast table until our legs went numb. We talked about EVERYTHING, and nothing was cuter than her giggle. I like to think we taught each-other a lot. Lessons neither of us knew we needed. I feel her spirit sometimes. I know in my heart of hearts that Catsby went a day ahead to be there for Nana and greet her.
A mere two days later, I got word that my father had been bitten by a copperhead while walking his dog, Billy. We were literally on the drive back from VA when I found out. I told Bob “oh no,” and “this can’t be happening,” but those are things you say when loss threatens to swallow you up. I was a ball of dried tears and snot and exhaustion. My dad and I have not always had a relationship, and I treasure him in my life so much now. Please God let him be okay.
And he WAS okay, eventually.
But on the scale of Life Okay-ness, I’m struggling.
Add in some chronic migraine action, struggles with renal failure, and unrelenting physical pain, stick a fork in me, I’m DONE. The past week I’ve been unable to eat well – My health is so shitty and it frustrates me to NO end.
Except that I cannot be “done,” because it keeps going – everything keeps going, despite the fact that the whole damn world is on fire. I will snarkily tell God, “stop the world, I want to get off…” but it just keeps spinning anyhow (the NERVE of God!)
Being human is HARD.
But there are beautiful things happening too.
I have to focus on my awareness of them consciously – otherwise I’ll go under.
Things like kittens and good friends and laughter and soft blankets and inside jokes and nature – ALL of nature.
I’m especially grateful for our Texas trip, which was amazing. It’s like life knew the bottom was fixing to drop out for us and granted us a beautiful experience.
So I’m just sharing this in case you are doggy-paddling in life right now too. It behooves none of us to hide our struggles and I’m having a time of it. If you are too?
I see you.
I get you.
I feel it too.
God is saying, “Keep going, Kiddo!” But there’s a long trail behind me of my dragging ankles and exasperation. You know how a toddler throwing a tantrum will make himself “dead weight?” That’s me right now, heavy and heavy hearted.
But I’m encouraging you from one of the worst months of my life. I’m not looking pretty while doing it either – random crying jags and depression naps have been the order of the day.
Keep going, Kiddo.
Go ahead and feel all the feelings without stuffing them, and I will too – probably in a most oversharing way. Sorry about that. But if ever there was a time to lean into one another, it’s now.
Thanks for listening, and God bless you if you read this whole dang thing.

Poetry · Spiritual

You’re Already Whole

BY: Jana Greene

I used to tell people,
“God can fix you.”
But now I say,
You’re not broken.
You are not bad.
You don’t need fixing.
You need loving.
Love put you back together,

On the day You breathed your first.
You already have it on-board.
God already inhabits you.
In every loving gesture you express
To humankind (or animal-kind.)
In every breath, holiness.
In every feeling of fresh hope,
In every laugh, sacred joy.
You are whole.
You are not broken,
No matter the evidence
Stacked against you. Keep your head up!
God is FOR you.
You are loved.

Blessed be.

Spiritual

Beyond Hallmark Cards and Flowers (or, the very loaded occasion that is Mother’s Day)

By: JANA GREENE

This one’s for all the women who are orphans, grieving the loss of a mother – by death or estrangement.

This is for those for whom Mother’s Day is a real mixed-bag – a loaded occasion.

Hons, I get it.

It’s the weirdest of occasions for me.

I have no relationship with my own mother. It’s better that way for both of us, but I’ve yet to have a Mother’s Day that doesn’t feel like a scab is being pulled off – slowly. I will always love her. Always.

On Easter – just a few weeks ago – I lost the woman who has mothered me for the last 15 years. And there is a hole in my heart for her, still fresh. On Sunday morning, Bob and I will probably offhandedly say “we should call Mom,” because we have as long as I’ve known my husband, and then we will remember. She is never more that two thoughts away from us at all times anyway. We will just wish her Happy Mother’s Day, trans-dimensionally.

My own daughters of course celebrate with me in their ways – we go to lunch and I get a card, or the like. It’s all very traditional and, truth be told, routine. I am very close to my daughters, so marking an occasion with obligatory time spent on a certain day seems trite. I like to spend time with them any chance I get, not because Hallmark says there’s a special day they have to do it. It’s Mother’s Day, you know? They hired me for the most important job I’ll ever have – Mama – and I love them so hard it hurts. They are loving, beautiful beings, but they had the audacity to grow up, as it should be.

So maybe you aren’t a mom, and not by choice. Maybe you’ve lost them in utero, and you wonder how life could have been different. If that is the case, I can only imagine your heartache. I am hugging you with my soul.

Or perhaps your womb has ached for them to no avail. Life really likes to present us with alternate plans, without asking for our consent. And on the most important issues to our spirits. It indeed is unfair.

Perhaps you have mothered someone without reciprocated love in kind. And it hurts. We don’t always get the same type of love we invest in others returned. We must accept our roles and love just as hard anyway.

Maybe you dedicated your whole life to the tiny humans you created, and now can’t even figure out who you really are, because you were too busy meeting the needs of others to consider what you want. *Raises hand.*

Maybe there is a separation between you and your mother for boundary reasons, or mental health reasons, or recovery reasons; and people judge you for it. Nothing like a little salt in the wound.

Maybe your child is in active addiction and Mother’s Day is just a reminder that there is a chasm between the two of you, and your only prayer is that your kid survive another day. Flowers and cards be damned.

Maybe your mama has passed over and you miss her so terribly.

Here’s the truth. I wish I could mother the whole damn world….and if you’re motherless, that includes you.

I wish I could take every hurting person under my wings and mom them so hard, they’d never doubt they were wanted or loved.

But I’ve learned who needs that mothering most of all is myself. I’m learning to open those wings wide enough to wrap around myself too.

God bless each of you.

This mama is sending you so much love this sticky-wicket of a weekend.

And when the “official” day has passed and we can all breathe again, this Mama wishes you peace, acceptance, and the empowerment to re-parent yourself.

Namaste.

Spiritual

Easter in the Raw

By: JANA GREENE

Happy Easter. I don’t want to be that person who bums everybody out with their posts of grief, but I have to tell you this Easter feels more like death than resurrection.

It’s raw.

I’m raw.

Death is present and lurking, but the joke’s on Death, because it’s defeated. It is finished. But Death – and about 8 billion other voices, if you give them credence – will tell you otherwise.

It is finished, even if we have to live in a broken world.

It’s is finished, meaning our suffering here is not part and parcel of who we are. We don’t take it with us. Only love travels that well.

It is finished, even when our hearts lurch with missing someone so badly it physically hurts.

It is finished, even though the sticky residue of suffering gums up the works, and the whole damn planet seems to have lost its collective mind.

I won’t ask, “Death, where is your sting?” because I call BS on that. It stings like Hell. It hurts like a mother-*. I’m not going to deny the pain of being human just to sell you on Pollyanna positivity. I’m certainly not going to sell you religion, which professes to have all the answers but I assure you, does not.

But Death, after the sting, is never the victor.
Our spirits outlive Death. Nothing can keep us from the love of God. Not even ourselves.

He is risen, friends.

And I’m telling you that with a puffy frog-face from crying, unbrushed hair, balled fists, a heart full of questioning incredulousness, and deep pain. I’m writing this because maybe you’re hurting too.

Maybe you’re pissed off, and for good reason. Maybe you’re sick and feel hopeless. I just want to remind you that you are also risen.

Risen is by far more your identity than broken, or even dead.

Sometimes resurrection doesn’t look like glorious renderings of an ancient, empty tomb – beams of light streaming from within, all CBN Network-style.

Sometimes it looks just like you- in all your holy, grieving glory. Slogging through the messy inconveniences and crippling agonies of life, interspersed with great bursts of love and laughter. All of us redeemed ragamuffin kids of God, all of us made of stardust, mud, and love.

God bless us, every one.

Cats · Spiritual

Saying Goodbye to The Great Catsby (and nursing a broken heart)

Rest easy, my baby. We love you so much.

By: Jana Greene

Yesterday, I lost my beloved furbaby, Catsby. It was sudden and unexpected, and we are in another state taking care of some emergency family business four hours away. My daughter found him and called us hysterical.

Yesterday was pure processing, or trying to. And last night…

I fell asleep crying.
Woke up today crying.
Feel like I’ll never be done crying.
Feel like my whole heart is going to simply stop for trying to make sense of things.

Last night I had to fight the urge to drive to the vet four hours away that has his perfect little fuzzy body for cremation, all the way back to Wilmington.

I just wanted to hold him one last time and tell him how much I love him. To thank him for spending his life giving so much love and hilarity. I’d like to tell him what he means to me, but I tried to make that clear every day of his life.

I know he knew how loved he was. I know we gave him such a good life. We were nowhere NEAR ready to say goodbye.

So in saying goodbye to him, I wanted to share these things all about Catsby:

We got him because I fostered his litter of five kittens when he was a baby. It was delirious chaos and mayhem, and out of the five there was one shy little guy who I just connected with. I chose him because he chose me.

Catsby wasn’t like other cats. I know all cat people say this about their cats, and I used to roll my eyes whenever someone would insist that about their own, but ask anyone who knew him.

He was the Mac Daddy of pure, unadulterated love, and I never knew I could love a cat like this.

He was carried around, a LOT, his preferred mode of transport.

He was told he was a good boy approximately 150 times a day.

He had to be in somebody’s lap most of the time.

He was held and squeezed and the top of his little noggin was kissed no less than a million times in his lifetime. And he loved it.

He had a middle name – Zazzles – a nod to the cat in Big Bang Theory that Sheldon named “Zazzles” because “he’s SO zazzy.”

Catsby was SO zazzy. Big personality. Big love energy.

He loved to “spoon” – he’d come in every morning in bed and I’d sing him a dumb little song about what a good boy he is while he’d scrootch up next to me – couldn’t get close enough.

He got little bites of turkey and cheese when we made sandwiches, and I saved him the straws from some of my drinks because he LOVED to play “fetch.”

He loved water, so we got him a little kitty fountain. He loved it, as it befitted his taste for the finer things in life.

He loved to lay upside down and sun his fat, pink belly. No shame in his game. LOOK AT IT, he seemed to say. I wish I had that confidence about my own fat, pink belly. He knew he was majestic.

He greeted me at the door almost always – my own itty bitty kitty greeting committee. It’s going to be brutal walking through the door and not having him waiting for me.

He was a great outdoorsman (on the screened-in porch only, which he has no idea wasn’t the whole big, bad world (and nobody told him it wasn’t.)

He liked to sit on the barstool while I cooked and watch me, and sometimes I’d jokingly ask him if he wanted a sarsaparilla, because his little peanut head was all you could see of him over the bar and he looked somehow like an old-timey wild-west patron.

When I was having pain flares, he really pulled out all the stops – sitting with me in the pain all day so consistently and kindly. We watched many a true-crime series together, but I think he preferred watching 90-Day Fiancé episodes.

He could MacGyver his way into cabinets and figure out how to get to noms in the cleverest ways. He also liked to knock every single item off of ever single surface in every single room in the house, all while being told “no” whilst not breaking eye contact. My little fartknocker.

He didn’t mind his feet being touched, which is weird for a cat. I do so love some pink toe beans.

He followed me from room to room all day every day at the house; I didn’t even get to pee alone. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

He was the perfect boy for me….nice and codependent. Very go-with-the-flow, which I need, because I have absolutely no chill.

And I love him. So so much.

It is a sad time in many “life event” ways for us right now. Catsby’s passing is not even the most difficult thing we are going through right now. I cannot share more at this time, but please keep praying for us.

And hey, snuggle those furbabies a little extra today, for me. Time is so precious.

Spiritual

The Language of Heaven is Loudest Through our Humanity

Photo by Darya Sannikova on Pexels.com

By: JANA GREENE

Sometimes, the “language of Hell” isn’t complaining, sometimes it’s denial.

Sometimes humans have issues and worries that overwhelm them, but they are afraid to give those worries voice because your average American Super Christian expects them to hold it together.

This evangelical version of the stuff-upper-lip isn’t helpful.

The relationship model in which you and God play mind games until every vestige if your humanity is stripped bare is a bad relationship model.

Denial isn’t just a river, but it might be an ocean. We are just floating, not willing to admit our feet can’t touch the bottom. All while wondering how long we can hold our breath before we drown.

It isn’t even Biblical (maybe, depending on the millions of ways you could spin it. Like most other things, interpretation is pretty pliable.)

Under our sanctified breath, we say…

All is well!

This doesn’t hurt!

What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger!

No, really! Doesn’t hurt a bit!

Hooboy, I’m getting really strong!

Complaining is the language of Hell, but so is Denial, in which I am fluent because it’s my mother tongue.

Let’s talk about the language of Heaven, which you instinctively already know. You don’t even need a translator.

The Kingdom of God is within you – even with all of the repairs and remodels.

You carry Heaven in your aimless floating.

You carry Heaven in your breath when you encourage others.

You carry Heaven when you love risky people.

No American Super Christian-ese necessary.

Jesus was not afraid to show his humanity. He didn’t deny either his Holiness or his human-ness, so why do we think we can’t let our true selves be known?

Blessed be, friends.

Depression · Spiritual

Taking a mental Health Day (to sleep, to meditate, to wallow in my feelings, and cry until I’m 10% snot and tears)

By: JANA GREENE

Taking a mental health day today.

Slept shitty last night.

The whole world is on fire.

My gastroperesis is flaring so hard I’m barely able to keep any food down. This throws other medical issues into a hellish spiral.

My chronic pain has been ridiculous.

We have very difficult things to deal with in the family right now. Really hard things.

I’ve cried several times today, which is no small feat when you’re on antidepressants. It felt awful to cry, and then really good…cleansing.

And it seems a counter-intuitive measure to wallow around in pain and sadness, but every once in a while, you need a good wallow.

Today I will cry, and rest, and bitch about my woes to my ever-patient husband.

I will likely beat myself up for having to cancel plans with friends, and hate myself for feeling melancholy.

I will feel like I am not handling life well AT ALL. (While reminding myself that despite it all, knowing I’m doing my very best.)

At some point, to be transparent, I will feel guilty for even having this little nervy-B, guilty for unloading on my husband, and guilty for having the audacity to complain about this life, when I am truly blessed in so many ways.

I’m pretty sure I’m not done crying today. God, I hope not. There’s a long line of tears queued up in my spirit that need to be purged.

I hope that tomorrow, by some measured miracle, the world on fire won’t seem quite so much like utter doom.

Today I will wallow. I’ll sleep and watch Schitt’s Creek (it’s a balm to my soul), and talk with God about WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH MY LIFE RIGHT NOW. And I’ll look forward to better days.

Because they are always on the way, you know – better ones.

I’ll keep hanging on if you will, Dear Reader. ❤️

Spiritual

Okay, but Zoom Out

The legendary Hubble Space Telescope, operated by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), captured a dazzling snapshot of a large galaxy (NGC 169) pulling cosmic material away from a smaller galaxy (IC 1559)

!y: JANA GREENE

The legendary Hubble Space Telescope, operated by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) captured a dazzling snapshot of a large galaxy pulling cosmic material away from a smaller galaxy, and my mental health is HERE for it.

It is helping my mental health because I am fascinated with all things galactic, and every time a new image is captured by Hubble, my worries seem to shrink. It’s impossible to be in wonder and see while nursing a grudge or fussing over a human problem.

Not that our problems aren’t real. Or important. They ARE important, even to the Being who came up with the crazy idea of eternity.

Infinite ness is not a concept we default to. We cannot wrap our minds around the concept of endlessness. But in a world where our troubles seem the most infinite thing we know, Hubble reminds me to zoom out.

Yes, I am hurting. My body aches. My heart grieves. The pandemic looms. The world’s a hot mess express.

Would you look at this economy?

This sociological crap-shoot we are calling “life.”

We become Chicken Littles, running in circles exclaiming, “the sky is falling! The sky is falling!” and then we like to proclaim anyone who doesn’t join our panic is Pollyanna about reality.

Okay…but ZOOM OUT. Pan the picture wider, then wider still.

Imagine yourself and all your pain, a tiny speck on a giant blue marble – just one of billions. Imagine this as an image on your iPhone, in hi-def, as most problems seem.

Now imagine that the same Creator who spins planets in orbit cares intimately about what you do. He cares about you not only as a marble-dweller, but a miracle of cells and thoughts and feelings.

Imagine that this Being of Love is intimate with your every heartache and just as concerned about the state of you as He is the state of the Multiverse.

Just zoom out of the picture, wider and wider. See how perfect the orbits are? Check out those stars. Wow! Each and every one a sun. Each and every molecule of the cosmos is worshipping just by existing.

Existence is worship.

We cannot reach the end of it, just like we cannot reach yet end of Love itself.

Just zoom out. It’s going to be okay.

God is zooming in on us. Let your heart marinate in the magnificence of this concept – a Love so endless, Hubble will never reach it.

You’re made of stardust, baby.

Poetry

A Few of My Favorite Things (a little poem about finding joy ANYWAY)

Photo by Bekka Mongeau on Pexels.com

By: JANA GREENE

The scent of a newborn,

The smile on a dog,

A book well written,

The lifting of fog.

The smiles of my daughters,

The warmth of a cat,

A beautiful flower,

A welcome mat.

Being held

In my husband’s arms,

Crisp fall days,

A snoozed alarm.

The taste of chocolate,

A warm, soft bed,

Good, loud music,

A charcuterie spread.

Friends that “get me,”

A starry night,

Making up

After a fight.

Iced tea with lemon,

Having family around,

The laughter and union

Of new friends found.

These are a few

Of my favorite things,

That (even in a pandemic,)

Happiness brings.

We may have to look harder

For joy these days,

But it’s still around

In so many ways.

Spiritual

Reconstruction (Or: “That Soul-Lurching, Discombobulating, Radical Spiritual Overhaul’)

This is one of those pieces that originated as pure pent-up anxiety that would only be assuaged by writing. It’s a little rambly!

By: JANA GREENE

On the way to the dentist, I passed a gentleman whose entire existence was contained in a shopping cart. My heart lurched heavy in my chest. I gave him what cash I had, which wasn’t much. “God bless you,” I said. But it rang hollow in my throat.

The rest of the drive, I thought about how many thousands of times I’ve told people that.

If God could bless him, he wouldn’t be living out of a shopping cart, would seem evidential, so I told God so, as if maybe he forgot this one straggler, and PLEASE COULD YOU GET ON THIS?

Like I can tell God about mercy.

See…this is where the deconstructing of religion has given me a great gift. A really wonky, welcome, serendipitous gift.

If for no other reason than it gave me permission to give voice to the GIANT chasm of inequity, I increasingly became aware of. I cared; I really did. But the sheer inequality didn’t shred my spirit.

My God is only ever Good, I believed on the surface. But I couldn’t reckon that with all the pain – personally and globally.

God will rescue you from suffering, is easy to say. But I kept getting sicker.

God has a PLAN. (Which is totally true, but not always helpful.)

His ways are not our ways. (No SHIT!)

You know those HGTV shows where they find a property and deem it worthy of saving even though it looks like a straight-up dumpster fire? My Spirit was a real fixer-upper. The rebuilding of my faith stripped away the pretty stucco facade of a neat and tidy belief system and turned it into a real shitshow. Wrecking balls. Bulldozers. Hard hats required. Flattened it into the ground. I was sure that was a wrap on my relationship with a Higher Power.

But SPOILER ALERT: I can’t do that. I’ve seen things. I’ve felt things. My heart of hearts knows things. I suspect yours does too.

It’s a gift to be able to question existence without feeling damned to Hell for it (eternal conscious torment is a topic for another day.) It stands to reason that the innate ability to question God is a gift he alone gives. If we don’t feel comfortable enough to approach the throne without fear, where’s the relationship?

Unfortunately, my “healthy fear” of God kept me from God, because deferring to somebody you’re terrified of is not a good model. Fear was the theme of my entire childhood, and a “healthy fear” of God kept me from some degree of meaningful spiritual growth. That’s just me.

So, it’s a work in progress. But as we say in the Program: “Progress, not Perfection.”

My soul is on a state-of-the-art foundation now…though there is still scaffolding all the way around (which I’m hoping is permanent, to hold my structure in ongoing work.) But the house is solid. Good bones, as they say. There’s still a bit of debris, which makes excellent confetti with which to celebrate LIFE and all the chaos that is part and parcel. The interior is shaping up, too; although it feels like it’s taking forever, it’s right on the Designer’s schedule. Open floor concept – very spacious.

I have no answer as to why some of us are born into one station or another. Why some of us are healthy and some will always be sick. Sickness is my sticky wicket. I don’t know why I’m having this whole, soul-lurching, discombobulating, radical spirit reckoning the past few years.

But I know it’s got me thinking things like: That gentleman living out of the shopping cart? He could BE God, for all I know…can you imagine if we ALL treated one another with the reverence we allow only God? What if we really saw God in every person. Oy vey, so much to think about.

I can only explain it as: God is only Love. When our souls’ sense that benevolent drenching in experience nature, that is God.

God + Love…there ya go. That’s my whole entire theology:

Shit happens, but God is Love.

(Now the rest of the blog will be me hashing out what that looks like; pull up a chair.)

When we are bothered for people less fortunate (whether we deem them at “fault” for it or not)…

When we declare grace over people (who we have decided are pushing their luck in the grace department.)

When we are enjoying the purely divine gift of music and the chords hit so hard that you hit repeat for a solid half-hour…

When babies smile at us in the grocery store checkout lines…

When a friend sends a heart emoji for no reason…

When your husband kisses you on the top of your head…

When are we allowed to get angry with God and ask him the hard questions without fear?

WHEN WE ARE HUMAN….

God is there. God is love.

WE ARE the mercy.

You are not a wayward straggler, but a sturdy and essential journeyman, who is going to get through this pandemic – and a million other very hard things – and come out laughing.

We don’t have to hustle for our worthiness. There is genuine GOD in you.

Rest in that, Loves, and I will too.

humor · Spiritual

Daily Doubles, Anxiety Troubles: 2022 (so far)

By: JANA GREENE

How jacked up has your anxiety been lately?

I’m at the point where I literally DREAD any contestant getting the Daily Double on “Jeopardy,” because I can never know from whence it will come dammit and WHY IS IT SO JARRING AND LOUD?

My GOD, sensory overload. From pensive, rhythmic choosing a catagory to PEW PEW PEW PEW LOUD, ALARMING SOUNDS FLASHING LIGHTS*

I don’t DO “sudden.” Knowing it “could” happen at ANY time but usually does NOT (but HAHA you’ll never know!) makes me anxious.

So, yeah. Where is my anxiety level in this – the year of our Lord 2022, well into the trilogy that is .. whatever THIS is? *Gestures wildly*

DOUBLE JEOPARDY GIVES ME A MINI PANIC ATTACK. That’s where.

God bless us, every single one.

Gratitude · Spiritual

For Every Kindness Shown, Show a Kindness

These are my daughters. They turned out phenomenally, in spite of my struggles. ❤️

By: Jana Greene

This time of year makes me reflect on the mind-blowing kindness and generosity that me and my little family were shown back in the day.

You see, this picture brings back SO many memories…some of them heart-wrenching.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but for me, this one is worth a million. I hadn’t seen it in forever, but I remember taking it like it was yesterday!

I had just left the girls’ father and we were legally separated. The girls and I had nowhere to go, so a dear friend gave me a reduced rate to stay temporarily in Atlantic Towers (such a blessing.)

This photo was taken there. I loved that it had bright pink walls. I told the girls it was because we were so full of GIRL POWER, they painted them pink special for us.

At the time, I had a restraining order out on my ex (so you KNOW that added stress) and no money. I was receiving NO help. And I mean, NO help. Not even from my own family members. That was a brutal learning curve.

I went from one part time job to four jobs to feed my kids. I wrote freelance, worked for a realtor, became the receptionist at another company, and cleaned motel rooms on the weekends. When I was with my babies I worried how I would take care of them myself. When I was at work, I missed them terribly. Mommy guilt was only eclipsed by pure fear.

I had a new sobriety that was only three or four years old, and I was DESPERATELY trying to keep it and not start drinking again. (I did keep my date of sobriety which is Jan. 3, 2001.)

I’d left everything behind but a few sticks of furniture, the clothes on our backs, and the kids’ Barbie toys. Not much else.

I was truly starting over after 14 years in a bad marriage and struggling not to drink, after nearly killing myself with alcohol only a few short years prior.

My girls look happy in this picture, but it was a rough time for them too. My goal was to shield them from my own grown-up problems, and make it an adventure of sorts. They were the lights of my life then. (And they still are.)

At the time, I could not imagine how I would get through that difficult season. I lost 80 pounds from stress. I had been a stay at home mom all my daughters lives, and had ZERO IDEA what would happen to all of us.

But then a miracle happened…and the venue for said miracle was the Carolina and Kure Beach communities, whose members rallied around us that year in the early 2000’s.

And I mean they rallied!

It was Christmas time, which made everything harder, but the local fire station gifted my girls with toys from Santa. A dear friend bought them bicycles!. One friend kept my girls in donated clothes for a year. One amazing friend invited us over for Thanksgiving and Christmas and welcomed us as if we were all true family. Another helped us out with food for a while. One watched my girls for me when I worked. And another helped me keep the heat on one particularly cold month.) One practically adopted me and treated me like a daughter, and does still.

I did nothing to deserve any of that, but the magnitude of blessing still floors me.

I wasn’t FROM there, you see. I wasn’t a “local;” But they MADE me a local through kindness. Dozens of (then) strangers came out of the woodwork. I could do nothing for any of them, nothing. They just poured forth things we needed, acts of friendship, and so much support, and love. I’m happy to report I cherish them still today.

Meanwhile, I learned how to work my ass off and provide for my kids.
I worked on my own issues.
I put up strong, necessary boundaries.
I learned how to forgive myself.
And I managed to stay sober, all glory to God!)

So from one old snapshot for TBT came a tidal wave of gratitude today,, and with that, this very wordy, rambling post.

Now when I look at these 9 and 12 year old faces in the photo, I can rest easy knowing that these two grew up to be beautiful, funny, kind-hearted people. They grew up awesome, and the dark times only grew us closer.

They are 26 and 29 now. My world.

Boy, I wish I had truly trusted God when I was going through it! But my points are twofold:

  1. When at your absolute darkest, keep going kiddo. You CAN do hard things, I promise. You can, and you will. And if you lean into Source, you’ll FLOURISH.
  2. Community is so important. We are all made designed to need each other. Every single member of every community is precious.

And all you single mamas going through the midst of a nightmare like this, I promise it’s true for YOU and your babies, too!

These days I have new struggles, but I try to pay forward any and every kindness shown to me. I try to diversify my kindness portfolio, as it were. Love on everyone, I’m every circumstance. I fall short a LOT, but oh the joy in paying kindness forward!

But it seems important to remind you, if you’re hurting:

The kids really WILL be ok.
You ARE stronger than you think.
It’s OKAY to ask for help.
It’s EVEN OKAY to accept help!
God has not abandoned you
There are wonderful, amazing things awaiting you in the other side of the mess you’re going through.

Blessed be, friends.

covid · Spiritual

Vaxxed or Unvaxxed, Kindness Counts More

By: JANA GREENE

The bottom portion of this post is copied from a friend. The rest is my opining about it…I would love to see it be a conversation starter!

You see, whether you’re vaxxed or not, I don’t think less of you. Matter of fact, I suspect you’re doing the best you can and made decisions that are best for you and your family.

I think we are ALL just trying to make the best decisions about our health in an unprecedented age; NONE of us have ever been through a pandemic before.

So can we please stop calling people “sheep,” it’s condescending and unhelpful. Please stop insinuating that those who won’t get vaxxed don’t care about the rest of humanity. Please stop considering those who get vaxxed “idiots,”and those who refuse to get the jab “idiots.”

My God, the division is worse than anything a vaccination could do.

Sometimes it’s not about the government pulling one over on us (though admittedly, I don’t have the greatest respect for the government.) It’s about doing what we can safely do, with the incomplete and often unsubstantiated information we get from said government.

We have all become like bullies in a school yard purporting “my way or the highway,” haughtily sure than our way is the only “right” way.

I’ve had enough. If you are vaxxed, thank you. And if you are in vaxxed, I’m sure you had GOOD reasons for choosing that path. Yes, we are all responsible for each other in life, but calling one another names and puffing up with righteous indignity (on either side,) is a misuse of that responsibility and a damn, crying shame.

If you got the jab, I love you. We consider our options with seriousness too.

If you felt it wasn’t right for you, hey…I love you.

Can we please try to do better?

I feel like if this thing wipes out part of humanity, who would want to inherit the earth, given the gaslighting, blaming, and disdain we are showing one another?

Keep it a world worth continuing.

Keep it kind. (Or MAKE it kinder!)

Peace out.

“Yes I’m FULLY vaccinated and, no, I don’t know what’s in it – neither this vaccine, the ones I had as a child, nor in the 11 secret herbs and spices at KFC, or hot dogs, or other treatments, whether it’s for cancer, AIDS, pneumonia, or vaccines for infants or children.
I also don’t know what’s in Ibuprofen, Tylenol, or other meds, it just cures my headaches & my pains.
I don’t know what’s in the ink for tattoos, vaping, Botox and fillers, or every ingredient in my soap or shampoo or even deodorants.
I don’t know the long term effect of mobile phone use or whether or not that restaurant I just ate at REALLY used clean foods and washed their hands.
In short …
There are a lot of things I don’t know and never will. I just know one thing: life is short, very short, and I still want to do something other than just staying locked in my home. I still want to travel and hug people without fear and find a little feeling of life “before.”
As a child and as an adult I’ve been vaccinated for mumps, measles, polio, chickenpox, and quite a few others; my parents and I trusted the science and never had to suffer through or transmit any of the said diseases.
I’m vaccinated, not to please the government but:

  • To not die from Covid-19.
  • To not clutter a hospital bed if I get sick.
  • To hug my loved ones
  • To try and spread the virus as little as possible.
  • To live my life.
  • To see and hug my family and friends
  • For Covid-19 to be an old memory.
  • To protect my family and others.
    Text copied, feel free to do the same!
Spiritual · writing

The Beggar’s Bakery is About to turn 10 Years Old (and I’m a Different Writer Now)

BY: JANA GREENE

Hello, friends.

I was noting to my husband last week that my readership has shrunk. It’s not a numbers game, don’t get me wrong. I would much rather have a small readership that is touched, entertained, enjoyed by several people than have a large readership but crank out mediocre content.

Here’s the thing, though. Life is chock full of mediocre content. Life sometimes IS mediocre content.

I was considering this when my husband replied with, “Well you don’t blog very often anymore.” Which is the gospel truth.

The past few years, I don’t post at all unless I’ve had some kind of epiphany to share, or I’m low on hormones and need to vent, or I have something inspiring to say. Why have I gotten into that habit? What about when I’m not feeling encouraging and just want a safe place where I can share my heart, even when my heart is boring and uninspired?

WRITE ANYWAY. That’s when I’m happiest.

I can’t always wait until I in crisis mode to write. It creates a jamb where there should be flow.

This blog is nothing like the one I started in 2012. I was of the “super Christian” persuasion then, full of quoting scripture and doling out pat advice about “trusting the Lord,” If I had a particularly awful day, I would write sweeping tales of how it’s all going to work out because God is in it. What would people THINK of me, if I was 100% authentic and open about doubting faith? It might throw a kink into my Pollyanna-esque style of writing. There’s nothing “super Christian” about that!

It’s true, in that I believe ultimately God IS working in our best interest.

But truth is also looking around you and admitting the world is whack.

I’m a much different writer than I was when I started this crazy thing. I’ll never forget gaining 45 followers the first day and being incredulous that anybody would want to hear what I have to say.

And then there was that one time I went legit viral and got a quarter million hits to ONE blog post. I thought I may actually get to make a living at writing, but the truth is, I make zero money from writing. It is its own reward and I’m okay with that now.

Ten years ago, when I started this blog, I was chronically sick but we couldn’t figure out why. It took many years, many doctors, and many bouts with depression to find out that I have genetic conditions that will affect me the rest of my life. It explained SO MUCH about me since I was born – the injuries, the illnesses. But there’s no cure, and I think it’s about the time I found out my diagnosis that the Pollyanna fell away, little by little.

My faith took a beating too, but came out victorious anyway, if not in an altogether different way.

I told myself in the beginning, I would write honest, or not write at all.

It’s writing honestly about the fact that I’m losing mobility and I’m in horrible health.

It’s being truthful about mental illness struggles, without wondering what everyone “thinks.”

It’s about grieving losses that I told myself I should be “over” by now, and making no apologies for it.

It’s about celebrating little victories and sharing kooky, dopey little stories.

My dream when I write is that somewhere out there, someone I love (or even a perfect stranger) will not feel so damn alone. Because life is HARD, peeps.

If writing is therapy, as I’ve always espoused, then I should probably practice it more often. It’s my way of un-smooshing all my feelings down. So I think I’m going to try to write a little each day. (The “general public” is made up of one sweet, unique soul at a time, anyway.)

I hope you glean a little somethin-somethin’ by reading The Beggar’s Bakery. I am so very glad you’re here, and honored you’d take the time to read my work.

On this – the eve of my blog’s 10th birthday – I am making a resolution to write more. Even if it’s sub-par prose. Even if it’s about vapid, inconsequential things. Especially if I’m struggling and hurting. Especially then.

Thank you SO much for being a part of my journey. God bless us, every one.

Christmas · Depression · Spiritual

A Case of the “Christmas Sads”

By: JANA GREENE

I am an emotional wreck lately.
Just really rather unhinged.
Thinking about the fragmentation of my family of origin, and how necessary estrangements still suck, even if for the sake of boundaries.
On the one hand, it’s Christmas, the Holly-jolliest season of all. I flippin’ love everything about it.
On the other hand, losses that are usually manageable seem like big, emotional gaping canyons.
My mind keeps “going there,” but I’m trying to go ahead and feel my feelings, rather than eating them, spending them, or smooshing them down and down. Smooshed feelings manifest in nasty ways and I’ve been in therapy too damn long to smoosh emotions down.
I have cried more in the past few days than the entire year prior combined. Fat waves of sadness knock me on my keister several times a day.
But I don’t want to be sad at all. I want to bliss out over all the sparkling, warm Christmasness, and enjoy all that I have NOT lost. And there is a whole lot to be grateful for.
It’s just a tough season. Writing about it (and consequently, I guess, “oversharing” it) helps me cope.
With pain, physical and otherwise.
With feeling alone.
With purging it with words.
Whether you’re missing someone, grieving a loss, hurting, or alone … I’m sending you huge hugs.
God bless us all.

Poetry

Come Sit by Me, Anger

Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

BY: JANA GREENE

I made a new friend today,

Well,

I’ve known her a long time.

Her name is Anger and

we’ve been frienemies as far back

as I can remember.

She introduced herself

when I was just a little girl,

but she scared me with her

suffocating presence in my home

and in my heart.

Don’t be angry…it’s unbecoming!

That’s the message driven

into us little girls

like railroad spikes.

And we accept it

because we are told

it’s for a good cause…

our “betterment,”

but mostly for the betterment

Of others,

as it turns out.

So I substituted Anger with Sadness

For most of my life,

hoping no one would notice,

least of all myself.

As it turns out,

anger and Sadness are

thick as thieves.

Two sides of the same coin, really.

Sadness is safer

because it’s familiar.

“Be a good girl,” I said to Me,

my whole life,

especially when I was only little.

“Who are you to be angry?

Anger is reserved for people

Who can afford to

Lose other people.

Angry people are accustomed

To being generally safe.

No one is going to abandon them,

It’s a luxury –

being comfortable with Anger.

And the tax on that luxury

is cold, steel fear.

Because when I’m angry,

I wonder…

what if this person sees

that pissed off side of me,

and leaves…

just closes up shop.

What if I’m too much.

or not enough?

Don’t be angry….You’re too sensitive!…

And the insult of invalidation stings.

I’m old hat

at recognizing a good gaslighting.

I cut my teeth on the manipulation

Of others.

Don’t be angry…it’s not the Christian way…

Aside from one lousy

and very profound table-turning,

Jesus seemed never to act in anger again.

But I believe

Jesus was TICKED on occasion.

Oy vey! How could he NOT be?

Don’t be angry…it’s unfeminine.

Not ladylike at all.

Be meek.

Be mild.

You have a feminine mystique

image to foster.

To which I say…

Welcome, Anger.

I was taught not to associate with

the likes of you.

I was told you would disappoint people

If we hung out.

If I entertained you at all.

Come sit by me, Anger.

It’s okay to use your outdoor voice.

It’s okay to get mad.

This, I tell myself,

as I grab hold of Anger’s hand,

And be okay

With me.

Poetry

Winter Rains (and Spirit Pains)

Photo by Antonio Dillard on Pexels.com

By: JANA GREENE

Hi, Readers. I wrote this poem at 18 years of age, during a really difficult time of upheaval. It rained and rained and rained that winter. I feel like maybe God gave this jumble of words to me at just the right time. So, read gently please. I was just a kid. Blessed be, friends.

The winter rains are cooler now,

The mystic love, it floods my soul,

Gray and blue from above,

And soft brown ground below.

The winter rains seem freer now,

In liberation they have cried,

As water from the sky

Is unrelenting, so I try

To let it flood me,

Embrace the rain,

So I can feel whole again.

I feel no more the dreadful fear,

That made my soul to hate the rain,

The downfalls, they lay bare my soul,

Until I’m drenched again.

The winter rains are plentiful,

But I see them now as water flows,

A season I choose to live quenched,

A season in which I can grow.

Health

“Can You Hear Me Now?” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

By: JANA GREENE

Hi, Readers.

There has been a little saga going on in which I develop dual raging ear infections as of late. I hadn’t had an ear infection in eons prior to this year, mostly I get sinus infections. But this year – for so MANY, MANY reasons, was different.

By the way – toddlers are universally correct about this one – ear infections SUCK. They hurt like hell and make you dizzy and prone to bad moods. So suffice to say, I went to the doctor, who confirmed the double infections, and was put on strong antibiotics. That was last week.

So THIS week, I go the the ENT to make sure the infections had cleared. I am happy to report, they have. So that could be the end of the story, if the ENT hadn’t decided to do an auditory test, since it had been probably 10 years since I had my hearing tested.

No problem. Cool. Let’s do it.

After the test, the doctor parked me in an examining room and came in to give me the results.

“About your hearing test,” he starts with.

I do an audible guffaw, if guffawing was a noise. “Well, I guess I went to too many hair band concerts in the 80’s hahahaha,” say I.

He does not laugh.

“Mrs. Greene,” he starts. “You have moderate hearing loss.”

“Huh,” I state. “Well at least I don’t need hearing aids yet!” Says my inner internal optimist, who should really just shut the hell up most of the time. She’s usually wrong. This is why I usually just avoid the middle man and assume the worst.

“Well, about that….” says he.

“But I’m 52 years old!” I tell him, which hastens him to flip through my chart.

“Almost 53…”

“WHAT??” I say, prophetically I suppose.

Yall, I cannot tell you how depressing this news is. Aside from a janky faith, quirky family, dearly beloved animals, and sick sense of humor, it’s MUSIC that sees me through. Music gets me physically high. It changes the landscape of my mind, which – if you mapped it out – is naturally full of cragginess, hidden sinkholes, and all manner of detour signs.

“WHAT???” is a frequent sentiment these days.

Remember that stupid, morbid game we all played as kids, ‘Would you rather be deaf or blind’? I always go with blind. Not that I’d like to be blind – I love the ability to see – but I cannot fathom life without music. I was the kid in Kindergarten who had to wear an eye patch for lazy eye. My glasses are thicc, honey child. But even with my eyes closed, I can “see” music.

Music has auras. I can “smell” music, at times. It’s called synesthesia, and its one more thing that makes me a weirdo, but happily so. Most of the other things that make me a weirdo are just plain weird, not at all endearing. So I love my sense of sound.

Am I being dramatic? Probably. But this is the year that has aged me 10 years in a multitude of ways. This year alone, I have learned my kidneys are crapping out. I’ve gone from a few gray hairs to becoming pretty white-headed. I’ve lost stamina and muscle tone, and lost an unhealthy amount of weight in a short amount of time from worsening gastroperesis, and had to be hospitalized once because of a gastric bleed.

Yadda yadda blah blah blah, yes it sounds like a pity party, but it also sounds like the woes of a person much (or at least a little) aged than me, chronic illness or not.

The icing on the cake that is 2021 is depression. It’s a depression sadder and more resigned than angry and hostile. It’s a defeatist strain of the thing. On the heels of 2020, which I think we all can agree felt like being punked by the Universe, this year of “But wait….there’s MORE!” has got me really struggling.

I don’t even have the energy to be passionate about this round of depression. Usually, I work my depression out by getting pissed at it, emotionally stomping around a bit, depending on the help of others, getting extra therapy, etc. But I don’t have it in me this time. You know the “shrug” emoji?

LIFE: “There are NEW strains of Covid…”

ME: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

LIFE: “You cannot eat gluten. Or much sugar. Or have caffeine, so say goodbye to your beloved real coffee…”

ME: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

LIFE: “Your kidneys are actively failing.”

ME: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

LIFE: “You will have some level of pain every moment of your existence….”

ME: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

LIFE: “Some is the pain is unbearable.”

ME: \_(ツ)_/¯

LIFE: “You will lose your mobility…”

LIFE: “You’ll stop writing and painting, and not even really care….”

ME: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

LIFE: “ANNNNND, you will need hearing aids in the not-so-distant future…”

ME: Okay, enough. WTF??? I’M 52!”

LIFE: “¯\_(ツ)_/¯”

So here I am – finally doing a little writing. Not because it will slow down any of the above or even help any of it. But maybe it will help me deal with this shitty low-grade depression of resignation.

What is the difference between acceptance and resignation? That’s a question for my therapist to help me explore. Because I can’t figure it out myself.

In the meantime….

The nice ENT is ready to help me get into some hearing aids “whenever I feel ready.”

I continue to eat food that is neither tasty, nor satisfying to the soul. Like real bread.

I try very hard to remind myself that so many have it so much worse, but honestly…the more shit that goes wrong with my body, the less prominently into my toolbox of positive thinking. I have to grieve my limitations.

I do All The Things I’m supposed to with dull, necessary regularity.

But deep inside I am neither dull nor resigned. I’m wild and free, listening to the BEST music at the LOUDEST volume. I’m full of off-color humor and love for the divine, and laughter, even when of the ‘gallows’ variety.

So I cry. And complain. And try to accept. And…

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

And to the Universe, a question: “WHAT???”

Come shrug along with me, and we will figure out acceptance together.

One minor crisis at a time.

Mental Health · Spiritual

When Thanksgiving Means Canceling Perfection

By: Jana Greene

It’s not a great Thanksgiving.
It’s not even a good Thanksgiving. About to launch into avent sesh. Sorry in advance.

The whole entire day was a comedy of errors.
Oh my God, the anxiety. Plus, I woke up and couldn’t eat food. I’ve had four bites of oatmeal and about a tablespoon of each token TG food all day today. That’s it.

Food is my love language. And Thanksgiving is a Foodie high holy day. And I mean absolutely no sacrilege. Just facts.

I’m having a nasty gastroperesis flare, which is setting off a pain flare, which…you get the picture. My left side of my face had been numb for hours. Auras and face numbness are my harbinger off migraines. It’s what let’s me know it’s coming.

I’m sharing my day, I hope maybe someone else who is inordinately emotional today won’t feel alone. There’s this Norman Rockwell standard, you know? We expect it to be some type of way.

So worsening pain, complex family dynamics, cranberry sauce boiled over in a sticky mess. My knee is going out. I’ve been up since 4 am. I’m tired, weepy, emotional, and could easily slip into sadness.

Thanksgiving is a loaded holiday for me, as there is no contact with my family of origin. Sometimes I get tired of my life behind “pre-“ and “post” sobriety. Before and after. SO much is old me vs. new me. I’ve reinvented myself and I’m kind of proud of that. My new life is my heart’s desire, but sometimes I miss the key players who shaped me. It’s so odd. And painful.

But I can only be but so sad, really. Then I barrel through it.

When things started going sideways today – which was right outta the gate this morning – I said to myself, “Well, I guess I have a spiritual thing to learn today that can only be illuminated by a certain set of circumstances.”

My old spiraling behavior rears up on occasion. It is born of exhaustion, making mistakes, and burning myself out.

I’m taking the “shrug” approach. Whelp. I guess this day wasn’t meant to be easy. Maybe it’s an opportunity to grow.

Who the heck even knows. Certainly not me.
This is how I’m trying to learn to cope with what passes for normal life in 2021: Own the mistakes, ask what very difficult things are teaching me, be deliberate about gratitude (and STAY deliberate about it.)

I’ve been doing a lot of work in acceptance. And truly, I admit to being outrageously blessed. Just not blessed with perfection, in ANY area.

At some point, being imperfect has to be “perfect” enough.

By the way, having your therapist tel you she’s proud of you? Yeah. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that. ❤️

love · Spiritual

The Messy, Glorious Business of LOVE

BY: JANA GREENE

Love is the singular thing, and absolutely everything, all at once.
All are in it and of it, imbued with this remedy.
It is the answer to whatever ails your heart.
Love is all that lives on after our Earth Suits fail.
It is fed and starved by a thousand moods, yet always nourishes.
Love lands in its feet.
It’s the only thing we were legit created to experience.
Love is like sacred oil – fragrant and dousing and scandalously generous. It leaves a film on you all of your days, and everyone in your world gets a little “oily” when you touch their lives. (Touch them lots!)
Love pisses people off when it is believed undeserved, when really people are under-served by it.
It breaks the economy of deficit, as its endless.
But even though it’s free, people seem to like hoarding it. Many enjoy rationing it, as if there was a finite supply.
As if it originated for us, by us.
As if we weren’t given it in order to pass it on.
Love is a Being.
And a Doing.
It’s an action and a sacrifice.
The feet of Love can walk through fire to get to another hurting soul, and strike up a dance to celebrate itself.
Love has wings to fly us to a place of acceptance, and roller skates with which to flee from hate in all its forms.
It’s the only thing that will ever make a dent in suffering, and the ultimate remedy for pain.
Love is all we take with us.
Spread that stuff around copiously.
God loves you and so do I. ❤️

migraine · Spiritual

Migraine: The Grand Poobah of Headachery

Somebody make it stop.

BY: JANA GREENE

Thank you for all prayers and well-wishes. I’d love to say the migraine is fine, but it’s not.

Disappointment is waking up with the pain that you hoped to have “slept off.” It is less intense today, so far (and thank God,) but is still present.

It’s been many moons since I’ve had a migraine reaction this bad. The EDS /POTs are contributing factors, but for some reason, it’s amped up beyond what I can stand.

On top of everything else going on with my body, it’s too much. And I told God so last night.

I told him I’m most unhappy with the earth suit he chose for me to haul my spirit around in this earthly domain.

“What’s the big idea,” I may have said. “I don’t need a super healthy bod. I’m not asking to be a@&)/a% Kardashian body, for shit’s sake. I don’t need a body with which run marathons.

Or even one that has a normal degree of health to regularly do normalsauce things like take long walks. Or hell…even have the ability to open a jar without dislocating my wrist or throwing my thumb out of the socket. I’m not demanding , really. Just give me the energy to go to the grocery store without it sapping me for the rest of the day.

Id ust like to be able to EXIST without a constant barrage of miscellaneous disabilities and constant PAIN.”

A migraine is not a headache. It’s a gauntlet.

Here is a synopsis of my migraine thoughts yesterday:

The pain is so bad, I think it will kill me.
Don’t even CARE if it kills me.
PLEASE let it kill me.
The light, it burns.
Even the lamp light.
Even the NIGHT LIGHT light.
Even the lines of light coming under my light-blocking shades.

The nausea. It’s hellish. The thought of barfing with this headache is going to make a migraine I can not possibly getting worse, WORSE.

If my head were a giant grape, I could squish it and the pain would stop.
What can I use to squish my grape-head?
Can I hire someon to squish it, as a mission of mercy?
Everything I see is double.
Everything I see has an aura.
Lay still and maybe the migraine will stop.
Holy shit, I can’t just lay still here without it searing my brain.
Holy shit, I can’t move around without it searing my brain.
Holy shit WHATS A GIRL GOTTA DO HERE TO GET RID OF A MIGRAINE!?

There are no words in the human language to describe severe migraine suffering.

Oy vey, y’all.
I really need this to end.

Mental Illness · Spiritual

Handing over Anxiety (on Purpose)

Good morning, Dear Reader.

BY: JANA GREENE

How do you define “anxiety,” and how does your anxiety define you?

Anxiety would have me believe that life is just a series of events to kill time while I wait for certain tragedy to strike. As morose as that sounds, if I’m honest, it’s how it FEELS. It robs today of its joy and tomorrow it’s potential.

I would do well to remember that feelings are not facts. Waiting for the “other shoe to drop” is not a strategy for a happy life.

It feels like it will protect your heart to believe the worst, because anything less than horrible will be a nice surprise.

The truth is closer to this: “Life is full of nice surprises, but we will never notice them by expecting the worst.”

Feeding the doom is an old skill I honed in childhood trauma that no longer serves me.
It hasn’t served me in years.

It’s a work in progress. I hand my anxiety off to God every day, and say, “Here, take this please. It’s heavy and awkward to carry and outdated.”

I do not wish to take it to recycling anymore, which is what it’s like to expect anxiety to be repurposed.

No. Every day, I give it up and hope God takes it to the dump. He always does, but I always seem to have a fresh supply the next day.

He is unbothered by it. It’s not heavy for him, awkward in size and shape.

Today, I hand in my anxiety yet again, so that my hands are free for joy and potential. And my heart is free to reject a diagnosis of doom.

God bless us, every one.

Spiritual

The Scandalous, Offensive Love of God

Enjoy this video snippet from our journey back to North Carolina. Oh how he loves us!

By: JANA GREENE

This morning, I woke up early in the great state of Georgia.

Two of my dearest friends in the world accompanied me to a conference that addressed a faith reconstructed. It was incredible. The teachings were what so many evangelicals (and I was one for most of my life,) would consider utterly scandalous.

Y’all, LOVE that rich, pure, and bounteous SHOULD be scandalous. The most passionate love stories always are.

I didn’t move for a while when I woke, because I simply couldn’t. (If you don’t already think I’m nutty, you might now. And I’m okay with that)

I was pinned in place but this momentous, ridiculously extravagant sensation of love.

It was so thick in the air, it felt womb-ish, like a swim in calm ocean, flowing and bobbing. Or being swaddled like a baby, feeling nurtured and safe.

I didn’t fight it, like so tend to do. I didn’t negate it with my usual self-loathing talk. I always feel “powerless” against my own thoughts. My insecurities are members of a terrorist organization of sorts. During my (literal) “come to Jesus,” I discovered that I don’t have to negotiate with terrorists. I get to choose.

No, instead of fighting and fretting against the swell of love, I just rested in it. It was overwhelming, glorious, and unlike any experience I’ve had in a half-century of Christian fundamentalism. There was not even a trace of shame involved. I was fresh out of bothers for a spell.

At some point, I “feel” God say something to the effect of: “Please don’t talk and think mean thoughts about my little girl. I love her so much.” Wait WHAT!?

“You heard,” says gentle but firm Holy Spirit, her voice strong and convincing.

That little girl is me.

This weekend was like a speed-dating session with my true identity. Lots of uncomfortable moments. Lots of connecting. Lots of nerves.
The result is this radical, rich, ridiculous grace for others.

I MUST share what I experienced in the wee hours of the morning with you. I have to. Because it’s LIFE.

Love is life.

Sometimes the supernatural doesn’t come like a lightning strike, dramatic and jarring. It’s not always signs and wonders that the church proper chases for a dopamine hit and considers evidence of a Being of pure Love.

No, sometimes it’s a soul hug first thing in the morning. Supernatural revelation can be realizing you aren’t a cosmic mistake; that you have belonged to Source since before the formation of the Universe. That He belongs to US. I know it sounds strange. But I’m okay with that too.

I welcome the chance to tell you how incredibly loved you are this day.

I don’t want to convert you.

I have no ulterior motives.

I don’t want to change you.

I have no agenda.

I don’t want to push religiousity. Matter of fact, religion is the whole problem. It has almost nothing to do with the actual Trinity, which invites us to a beautiful dance that includes us all.

And as a result of this Great Forgetting , the church can be stingy with the very thing it’s attempting to sell: Love. Purpose. Being.

This weekend, I feel like I had a heart transplant, and I couldn’t be happier.

My prayer today is that you wrap your arms around yourself and hug. Don’t rush it. Really hug yourself tight. Consider it a hug from me.

And so much better – it will be a hug from Papa God. He is wild about you.

May you come to the overwhelming realization of who you really are, and that the opposite of Love is fear. I learned that I don’t have to rent Fear a room in my head. Evict that sucker.

May your awareness of the supernatural be increased so that you can recognize when God “winks” at you.

May you come to know and (this is the hard part) ACCEPT the TRUTH about your inherent value, which is priceless.

I love you, Dear Reader.

Selah.

Spiritual

Floating With My Feelings

By: JANA GREENE

It’s technically a float spa, but I call it a “God Pod.” I haven’t been here to float in nearly a year, and my soul needed it today.

I’m naturally very claustrophobic, but I’ve never felt so during a float. Its warm and womb-like in that sucker.

The salt water, the pitch darkness and utter silence. At first my mind was like…

“But what about THIS problem,”
“Or THAT problem?”
“… I need to go home after this and maybe clean the bathrooms.”
I’ve got a medical procedure tomorrow, ANOTHER one…what if the results are bad?”

Then the peace and stillness started to set in, but my brain was not having it.

“I think we are out of half and half….need to pick some up on the way home so My Beloved has some for his coffee tomorrow…”
“Oh, and don’t forget Tide pods…”

On and on it went until I realized that I am having thoughts pummel me – most of the worrisome, or completely mundane, because that’s how I roll. That may always be my default.

So I am allowed to have all the feelings, but I’m also allowed to spike them like a volleyball to send them back over the “net.” I don’t know why I had that vision manifest, but I did.

It’s been a hell of a time the last couple of months. I’ve had plenty of time and reason to get discouraged; even despondent at times. Hope has come to me in fits and starts.

We are allowed to pummel negative thoughts, right back from whence they came. I don’t have to catch them and carry them around. They aren’t trophies…there is no award for whoever has the most “balls.” Pardon the analogy.

Takeaway?

I spiked many volleys (is that the right term? I don’t know sports…) and the more I shifted my focus on the spiritual, the fewer came at me over the net at all.

I need to figure out how to reject negative thoughts when NOT floating like I’m in outer space. That’s the tricky thing.

Just a little epiphany from the God Pod. ❤️

humor · Spiritual

Bless my Gluten-Free Heart (and keepith it away from cookies)

Deadly, y’all. Like, SINFUL.

BY: JANA GREENE

Forgive me, Fathter, I have sinned.
It has been about 23 minutes since my last food confession.

I heard that Oreos make gluten free cookies, and the next thing I know, I’m covered in cookie dust and “double stuff,” wondering where it all went wrong.

As penance, I shall layeth here like a giant slug and zap myself with the diabetes monitor until I pass out in a sugar coma, or reach critical mass of guilt and cry about it, whichever comes first (maybe both. I don’t know….I’m not Catholic.)

Lord, give me this day my daily Metformin, and forgive me my gluttony, as I will forgive Nabisco for making damn gluten free Oreos eventually (but probably not until I polish off the box.)

Jesus take the wheel, as I’m too bloated to fit behind the steering column presently.

In conclusion, I will say six “holy cows,” because DAMN milk would have been SO good with these, but all I have is Oat Milk, because, well you know, I’m a health nut and all…

Amen.

Depression · Poetry · Spiritual

The Other Side of Sad

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

BY: JANA GREENE

I’m sad again, I think to myself,

With very little levity,

But you were sad just last week,

Say I to me, admittedly.

I should ask for help, I say,

But Ego takes a stand….

You’ll be seen in disarray!

Stick your head back in the sand!

Besides, say I, why bother them?

They have their own problems to face.

Don’t look weak at any cost

Just pick up the pace,

Do more.

Be more.

Add more stuff.

Throw on some glitter,

Put on some fluff.

Isolate, it says persuasively,

Cozy up to the sadness,

Commit to the grief.

Make friends with the dread,

It’s easy to do...

Easier than asking for help

Just to make it through.

But we need each other, and

This too shall pass…

(Maybe like a kidney stone,

But it will pass at last!)

I can’t hand the reins to misery,

I must pick up the gait.

I have to be willing to ask for help,

I have to be patient to wait.

Maybe you’re feeling down,

Hopeless, all-around bad,

But just keep going

And I’ll meet you

On the other side of Sad.

Prayers for any and all of my dear readers who struggle with mental health issues. You is kind. You is important. You is LOVED.

Spiritual

The Holiness of Old Dogs

I’m running this piece for dear friends who have recently left their holy furbaby. ❤️

God comfort you until you see him again.

By: Jana Greene

Five years ago, we lost our Golden Retriever mix, Emmie.

I know Emmie was holy, as old dogs tend to be. I see her holiness. I know God sees it in her too, that He placed it there.

I’m finding that God often places the holy and pure things where we least expect them, and that He uses my dog to make me a better person, to teach me things.

Emmie has been a good and faithful friend to me for over thirteen years now.  A Golden Retriever (with a bit of Chow-Chow) she never knew the first thing about retrieving. But being kind and loving, joyful and true?  She knows everything about that.

When I call to her, she comes to me – even though she is old and creaky probably has a million good doggie reasons why she would rather not.  She might be on her soft bed, having the dream in which she is jumping the chain-link fence like she used to get scolded for in her younger years. (I can always tell when she has that dream, because of her front feet jerking, and then her rear ones.   And because she is smiling smugly as if to say, “it was totally worth it!”) She always comes to me when I call, whether she has been naughty or good, counting it all joy.  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” – James 1:2

She enjoys her life, with little concern for the future.   Although it’s not easy for her to get into the back seat these days, she loves car rides.  Groaning a little as I help her hoist her achy haunches up, she seems to say, Mom, roll down the window already!  We might be going to the park, or to the vet’s office; she knows either one is a possibility.  No matter!  On the way, she forgets that she has trouble moving around, that she is elderly.  She is just a smiling doggie in my rearview mirror, her coat an explosion of golden fur in the wind, her slobber forming a snail-like trail down the side of my car, anxious for nothing.   “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” –   Matthew 6:25 -27 (NIV)

Emmie is an expert on affection, both the giving and receiving of.  She hasn’t yet learned that she doesn’t need to sit on top of me to be with me.  She simply cannot get close enough, even when I am trying to get things done.  Her tail wagging furiously, she is conveying that she loves me too much to contain it in a lady-like, reserved manner.  It reminds me of times that I raise my hands at church during worship, unfettered by rules, overcome with gratitude…when I just cannot get close enough, love/grace/gratitude bubbling over.   “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” – 2 Corinthians 9:12 (NIV)

But holiest attribute that Emmie displays may be the most subtle.  It is the way she humbly seeks my face.  When offered a treat, her gaze is on my hand (nor the delicious bone I’m holding).  No, she is starting at the acceptance in my expression, her big, chocolate drop eyes searching to read my face.     Interestingly, the Bible reminds us to seek the face of God, not his hand and what he can offer us in the way of treats. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” – 1 Chron. 16:11

My sweet Emmie may not know about retrieving.  But she knows all about love.

Over the years….

In times of sorrow, I have buried my face in her uber-floofy coat and cried buckets of tears and she didn’t seem to mind.  She lay perfectly still, only moving to lick my face.  Always compassionate.

In times of great joy, she has skipped circles around me, pouncing up and down as if she had a single clue as to what the celebration was all about.  Obliviously joyful.

In times of sickness or pain, she is my shadow, following me to the kitchen, the mailbox, even to the bathroom.  Endlessly loyal.

Yesterday, I bent down to kiss the top of her cone-y head like I have hundreds of times before.   I held her face up in my hands and looked into her eyes.  Heart melting, a feeling came over me of sweet reverence.  Where have I felt this feeling before?

And then I remembered:  standing in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, a tourist awed and humbled.  The same sensation of being close to what His hand had fashioned flooded me in this realization: .  Where God’s glory is manifest in the great majesty of  architecture and art, it is also manifest in the eyes of an old dog.

Holy and sacred, where God placed it.

Fathers · Love · Marriage · Parenting

Valor, quietly: What “Father-ness” really looks like

“Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too.”

– John Mayer, “Daughters”

I used to be a big fan of greeting cards – Instagram-esque images on the front, the oh-so-eloquent sappiness that makes up the text inside. But these days, I’m finding that Hallmark doesn’t always capture the essence of occasions. Here in my sepia years (not near ‘golden’, mind you) mass-generated greetings don’t cut it.

Looking for a Father’s Day card to recognize my husband, I hovered over a card on the rack that pictured the quintessential daddy-daughter image: A black-and-white picture of dancing feet – a little girl’s bare feet perched upon her father’s leather Oxfords. I love that image.

Isn’t that what father-ness looks like?

What does it look like, – a reel, instead of a snapshot? It is a no guts, no glory endeavor. Father-ness also looks like a million other little acts of devotion.

It looks like canceling long-awaited plans to attend a chorus concert/band performance/theatrical production that a child forgot to mention until the day of.

It looks like children whom he has advised can “tell him anything” will, in fact, tell him anything.

It looks like forgoing something he wants – or even needs – so that the girls can have what they want and need.

It looks like giving 100% in the little things, like positive reinforcement for clean dishes and put-away laundry.

It looks like giving 100% with little or no notice for big things – like weddings. Moves. Driver’s licenses.

It looks like unselfishness.

It looks like knowing a child’s favorite birthday cake flavor, and going to all the grocery stores in town until you find it.

It looks like making taking the time to hear their points-of-view of his kids  (even when they make no sense, even when they are “wrong”.)

It looks like insisting that they treat their mother/step-mother with respect, even in the sassiest teen years (such a mouthy time!)

It looks like openly loving God, while respecting the truth that each daughter is on her own the journey to discover that God is real.

It looks like praying on behalf of each one of them, every day.

It looks like midnight runs to the skating rink, and dropping four other loud, yapping, excitable teens off at their own houses, so their parents don’t have to make a midnight run. Sometimes, it looks like four or five loud, yapping, excitable teens having a sleepover at his house.

It means rolling with the punches, constantly – without harboring resentment, or bestowing guilt on the children.

It looks like valor, quietly.

It looks like giving away his life’s treasure to her new husband on her wedding day, and making that day as memorable as possible for her.

It looks like buying class rings that he knows will be worn once, and then sit in a drawer. And it means never mention a word of the expense again.

It looks like treading the fine line to deal with a daughter’s choice to date the over-cologned, greasy haired, lip ring-wearing, juvenile delinquent, junior Bad Ass (completely unworthy of her,) without being overbearing (thus increasing the boy’s appeal ten-fold.)

It looks like buying feminine hygiene products when necessary – without embarrassment. Without missing a beat.

It looks like stick-to-it-ness when going through the drudgery of parenting, honestly – the day-in, day-out homework inquiries.

It looks like having stunt-man-like ability to roll off the drama.

It looks like learning – and accepting – that all three daughters respond differently to different situations, that “one size” rules, privileges, and relating does not fit “all.”

It looks like honoring our daughters, even when their behavior is not honor-worthy.

It looks like standing in a darkened window with a notepad in-hand to write down the license plate number of a boy who has picked up a daughter for a date. (Date my daughter? Be ready to be properly vetted. ) Note to daughters: Yes, he did this – and with enough forethought to make sure the dining room lights were off before you left. Better visibility.

It looks like shuttling kids to doctor appointments, play practices, sleep-overs, and SAT tests. And back again.

It looks like listening to Christina Aguilera, when he’s in a Robert Cray kind of mood.

It looks like being the practical parent; not always getting to be the fun parent. It looks like school supplies instead of frivolities, in leaner times.

It looks like treating your wife exactly the way you want your daughters to be treated by their husbands.

My Beloved’s flesh-and-blood daughter was born with the privilege of calling him “Dad.” He has raised her most of her life. She is a married now, still Daddy’s Girl at 22 years old.

“Most people experience just having a mom raise you – or even both parents if you’re lucky – but I always just had my dad,” she recently told me. “He is the one person who told me what he thought and then let me make my own decisions without judgment…always dropping everything to help me, and giving me the biggest hugs, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye. He has given me a life to be proud of, always giving me the best advice and showing me how to better my future. “

For my own two daughters, My Beloved came on the scene when they were 10 and 13; the first and only man I dated as a single mom that my daughters immediately gave the stamp of approval (I only dated a couple, I swear!)

“Mom didn’t really have any boyfriends before my step-father, but she did go on dates occasionally,” my youngest, now 18,  says. “Being the grumpy child that I was, I did not like any of them, but something about him was different. He didn’t just care about mom; he cared about my sister and I – and he went out of his way to show it. A few weeks into his relationship with my mother, he surprised me with a necklace of my favorite animal – a penguin. It had a gold chain and crystal eyes, and came in a penguin-shaped case. It wasn’t my birthday or anything … he just wanted to show me that he cared. I hoped that he would be my stepfather, and I am so grateful that it happened!”

My eldest, also now 22,  came to appreciate that he put in the time with parental grunt work: “A lot of things stick out to me when I think my step-father,” she says. “He took time to come to all my school events and basically ‘owned’ us all from the get-go. One of my favorite memories is recent – just last month – when he came and sat with you during my tonsillectomy even though he didn’t have to….even though I was pretty out-of-it, and wouldn’t have known if he had skipped it. Waking up and seeing that he was there, that meant a lot to me. That’s just who he is. He is really that person.”

What does Father-ness look like, really look like?
So much better than a Hallmark card; so much deeper than Instagram-esque imagry and sappy sentiment. Off the rack; a reel of a million little acts of devotion. And some really big ones.

It looks like love.

Footnote from My Beloved’s daughter, Lynzee, who is leaving to be with her husband stationed in Japan in just a few days:

“Dad…
I’m not a very adventurous person. But you always told me, ‘You’re never going to see what the world has to offer you unless you put yourself out there and try new things.’
So now that I’m an ‘old married lady’; I have a chance to go to Japan for three years. Even though I haven’t left yet, I already miss you.
Thank you for working so hard. You’re always my secure place to call home. You are an awesome dad, and I love you.”

 

Chronic Ilness · Spiritual

Doing Better / Getting Better with Intention

BY: JANA GREENE

Many of you know I struggle with multiple illnesses that can be very debilitating. I know there are some of you going through similar things.

I truly live one day at a time, but for the first time in a minute, I am feeling hopeful about the things I CAN do that are in my power. It’s time to step up my game. Instead of fighting just to survive, I’d like to fight to be as healthy as I can be.

Several really good things are coming up and I want to be at my best. GOOD THINGS. Some travel. Some reconnecting with people I love. It’s very easy to fall into defeatist thinking, but I need to re-center and here’s how I plan to go about it. Sometimes I need a plan!

  1. Today I’m meeting with a nutritionist to find out everything I can do for the gastroperesis. That’s going to mean yet MORE changes. Although I’ve lost a lot of weight, it’s not the healthy way. I must absolutely be better about keeping my diabetes in check as well. I have to eat cleaner, which is hard because dammit, I reward myself with food – the head game relationship I have with it is LOADED, man.
  2. Today, I make time for daily physical therapy (at home) to minimize my dislocations and injuries. There will always be injuries and mobility issues, but I have to do better. The last thing you feel like doing in pain is the exercises, but I have to push through to help keep he musculature strong to support each joint.
  3. Today I will rest when my body says to rest. It’s also difficult with a genetically deficient immune system because I get sick often. My kidneys are not in good shape, although my last labs indicate they haven’t failed further recently. That is what we call a “praise report” right there.
  4. Today I will make time to get quiet and still, because I suck at stillness but my spirit needs it. I will make time to show gratitude deliberately. I will be thankful for all the ways I’m blessed, but I will also be thankful “in advance” of getting healthier, BELIEVING for it. (Y’all remind me I said this later when I get discouraged.)
  5. I will manage my pain as need be, realizing pain management is self care. This is sometimes difficult because I can no longer take Advil or Alieve, or any other anti-inflammatory; which is unfortunate because my conditions are inflammatory. (God, I do miss Advil something awful.

And here’s where I run into trouble: I just have to do all of THIS every single day. That’s overwhelming!

I need to run my health like I run my alcoholism recovery – one single day at a time. Don’t consider “forever,” just do one single good and loving thing towards my body and soul at a time. Just one thing. Then another. I’ll handle tomorrow TOMORROW.

Life is tough but I’m pretty scrappy. I have a lot to learn and a long way to go. But today I start trying to do so with purpose, because I’m not going through all of this just to add more sick years to my life, but to ENJOY this juicy life.

God bless us al.