Spiritual

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.

Prayer, Spiritual

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.

 

 

 

Spiritual

Half-time Shows and Other Mixed Messages

By: Jana Greene

Hi, Dear Reader.

I have a four year old granddaughter. A couple of things have given me pause as of lately, and last night’s Super Bowl halftime show featuring Shakira and J Lo made me think about them in earnest.

I’m worried for her and her generation, because we say we are trying to impart the importance of being a strong, smart, self-accepting woman, but our culture sends a very different message.

If it’s confusing to me as a 50+ year old female, I can’t imagine how confusing it will be for young girls.

Example 1 – Here is what we claim we are teaching them (and what we should be, because it’s TRUTH!): Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Natural hair is an asset. What makes you different makes you beautiful. All colors of skin are gorgeous. You are not just a size number. This is the time for women to shine. Be proud of your unconventional features and celebrate the way you – and you alone – are physically formed!

The cultural reality: “Beautiful” is widely represented in the media and via peer pressure as fake tanned, fake hair, fake nails, fake eyelashes, so much makeup coverage that one girl is virtually indistinguishable from another, and being ONE certain size. Like, FAKE is being celebrated. Not beauty.

Example 2: We as a society are all about some shaming people for “objectifying” women, when the female half time show is nothing BUT and it’s called “empowering.”

Look, I am no prude. J Lo and I are the same age and I say YOU GO, GIRL! I can’t get up from sitting cross-legged on the floor by myself. Like…That’s some impressive moves!

But maybe not for a generation of females who claim they are sick of the mass sexualization of women and all that it entails? And maybe not for the biggest televised event of the year, when there are SO many talented female entertainers who carry a less shallow message and are better musicians? THiS is the best we can do to celebrate “girl power”?

We need to stop acting all aghast when women are objectified, if we are going to keep up the crappy status quo.

Let’s raise strong, confident women who are happy in their OWN skin and don’t count objectification as empowerment. Because it’s just not.

Peace out.



Spiritual

When Faith – the Opposite of Certainty – Holds Space for the Light

“I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me–that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.”

By: Jana Greene

So, sometimes I feel like tapping God in the shoulder and politely saying, “excuse me….but I think you have the wrong person. I’m clearly not cut out for the particular set of challenges I’ve been assigned; you might want to re-check your paperwork, or golden scroll, or copy of “Thine Heavenly recruitment Guide.”

Because I fear I’m too wussy to handle this life, especially the pain and sickness that’s a part of it – and I’m sure there are braver and more qualified candidates.

Not that I’d wish it in anyone else.

I call BS on the old adage, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” I’m pretty sure the accurate interpretation is that he will never give us more than HE can handle.

Like, I’m either going to emerge from this (the mess, the emptiness, the discomfort) being humbled, grateful, and accepting; or frustrated, disappointed, and bitter.

I hate to think that the jury’s still out, but that may just be my neurosis talking smack again.

What will probably happen in reality is that I’ll tell you guys I’m upset, register my complaint with God, throw a little emotional tantrum, pout spiritually for a bit, and then ultimately trust God and get over myself. Hopefully, I’ll find the humor in things in the process, too. This seems to be the pattern anyway.

Maybe nobody feels equipped to fulfill what is asked of them, or to haul around leaden worries and bodies they aren’t sure they’re cut out to.

Perhaps “certainty” really is missing the point of faith entirely?

And maybe God is not deterred by our frustrations?

I think Anne Lamont, my favorite author, got it right: Faith DOES include noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.

May God help each of us to get through our callings with acceptance, trust, love, and a generous smattering of humor, until our light returns.

Let it be quickly.