Spiritual · chronic illness

EDS – When Pain is the Order of the Day

By: JANA GREENE

Hello, dear readers.

The past week has been a pain-fest. There have been times I’ve just laughed hysterically at the notion that I’m supposed to live day in and day out in this level of pain. Ha!! I mean REALLY??
So I write about it, because it’s the ONLY way I can deal with any of it. Thank God journaling is an outlet.
The truth is that I am slowly losing my mobility, and in awful pain while doing it.
This is life with Ehlers Danlos.
This morning, I subluxed my thumb out of joint, picking up a stack of papers. I bent down to clean litter boxes and the pain in my “good” knee brought me to tears. I waved at someone the other day and had to ice my freaking shoulder that night. It’s not just big movements that cause injury anymore. I can dislocate fingers opening a jar. I can’t hang laundry in the closet anymore because I have to reach too high to hang Bob’s shirts. Stairs are murder on my hips and knees. I AM ONLY 53 YEARS OLD.
I am really starting to feel by body slipping. I no longer have “a good knee” or “a good shoulder.” The mutated collagen holds my joints together is getting more lax. My skin is getting stretchier by the day because it doesn’t have proper collagen to hold it together. Falling asleep is excruciating because no matter how I lay, there’s pressure. Pain wakes me up from my sleep.
When my husband hugs me, I frequently ask him to hold me tighter so that it feels like my shoulders aren’t coming out of the sockets. I wake up and decide what I need to brace for the day – I have a “wall of braces” in my closet. I hadn’t had to use my cane since I lost the 40 lbs, but I’m having to use it again. One day I’ll need a wheelchair. Normally, I bitch about these things and move on, but it hasn’t subsided long enough for me to take a breather between flares lately. This of course this takes a toll on the whole family. Then guilt kicks in. Lather, rinse, repeat.
My Instagram and TikTok handles are “unbreakableJBG,” because I may be fragile, but this won’t break me. Oh hell no. I’m too damn stubborn. (But please pray for me, if you think of it.) ❤️

Spiritual

That “Chris Robinson” Spiritual Freedom

By: JANA GREENE

God, I love music.

And not just “love” it like I love chocolate, or cats, or 70-degree days.

No. I mean it “ministers” to my soul, man. And not in the holy-roller way; but in a way that satisfies me to the core. Maybe you feel the same?

A few months ago, my husband took me to see a concert by the Black Crowes. Watching the lead singer, Chris Robinson, create and enjoy his music on stage was mesmerizing. He didn’t exactly dance like no one was watching; his dance was more like an inviation to join him.

He flailed his arms; he stomped his feet. Shades of Woodstock, I tell you. He danced about because his body had to follow the direction of his heart. Can you imagine the Black Crowes performing while sitting in stillness? Of course not.

His fancy footwork was unchoreographed, but in the freest, most uninhibited way. That man couldn’t care less if thousands of people were watching, he just let go and let the music take over 100%. And you cannot convince me that God himself was present, chillin’, and appreciating the fine artform his kid Chris was sharing. (We are all his kids, you know.)

“I want to get to that level of unbotherdness,” I told my husband. “That’s true spirituality right there.”

And it was.

What seems like both yesterday and an eternity ago, I read Eric Clapton’s autobiography (aptly named “Clapton”) on a sunny beach in Aruba. I was on my honeymoon. It was 2007.

“I have always been resistant to doctrine, and any spirituality I had experienced thus far in my life had been much more abstract and not aligned with any recognized religion. For me, the most trustworthy vehicle for spirituality had always proven to be music.” Eric Clapton said.

Ah yes….MUSIC.

I’ve always felt this way about music, but it scared me. Getting heavy into a vibe felt like giving in to secularism, unless the song was churchy. “Churchy” music was fine to dance too. Heck, you could sprawl yourself out on the floor whilst fellow congregants got their groove on. Because it was FOR GOD. “The bigger the spectacle, the closer to God” was kind of the thinking.

I’ve fought it my whole life, good music trying to settle into the marrow of my bones. In my teen years, our youth pastor hosted a “Devil’s Music” night, and I wish I were kidding. We listened to Led Zepplin – whose music I was already having a torrid affair with – and then we listened to it BACKWARDS.

OH MY GOD HAVE I BEEN WORSHIPPING DARK FORCES, just by listening? This scared me into an exclusively Amy Grant and Petra phase, which I really tried to adhere to, but have you HEARD Al Green? Have you felt the pulse and lull of David Bowie’s voice?

The bottom line of the theology I lived by for years was: If it’s not worshiping God, it’s worshiping the devil. Which – in my current de/reconstructed faith, sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it’s what millions of people think is true.

Maybe all music is of God, because it was his big idea. Feel that bass in your heart? Chris Robinson does, and he isn’t afraid to BE the music.

But what if the music has a dark message? I promise you it’s not too dark for God to hear. We are ALL in a dark place many times throughout life. We record it and remember it because it too is part of the human experience. I personally have a Spotify list of “Crying Songs,” because sometimes my antidepressants make it difficult to cry and these songs really get me going.

Emotion is not the enemy. Things that evoke emotion are not innately bad.

For the majority of my life, I’ve tried to temper what I assumed was “worldly,” lest I offend God with my listening choices. “You are what you listen to,” I was taught.

And what I’ve been taught has run my whole life up until this point. Obsessed with what the church sanctioned, all while doubting the church’s reasoning but being afraid to give it voice.

But the subjectivity of music is like appreciation for any other art. Only God could take doh, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, doh, and give us the liberty to arrange those simple sounds into millions of possibilities. And I have to believe that’s a holy process. Lots of things are part of a holy process. MOST things, I’d venture.

For God so loved the world, that he gave it music. And to make sure it properly,was executed properly, he gave us Chris Robinson, Van Morrison, Creed, Snoop Dogg, and Al Green.

And I’m grateful. I want to give myself over to music…become a spectacle not to impress others, but because the music is reaching a place in my soul that is so full, I have to get my body involved in what my heart is already enjoying.

God bless us, everyone. Crank up your tunes, and enjoy all the good gifts God has given!

Spiritual

Saying Goodbye to Jerry

By: JANA GREENE

I’m writing this through tears today.

Tomorrow I have to say goodbye to a man I called “Dad” for 20 years. His name was Jerry, and he was one of the best humans I’ve ever known. The world will be darker without him in it. I wasn’t expecting to lose him. I thought I had more time.

We always think we have more time.

We met when I’d first moved to the island in 1999. Everyone knew Jerry and I can’t quite remember exactly how we met. There are a few possibilities, but all I know for sure is that we knew eachother right away. Instant friends.

I cannot imagine never having met him.

Jerry looked like a wizened fisherman, a little rough around the edges but thoroughly handsome. He had piercing blue eyes and a white beard, and often played Santa to the kids on the island. He was a jovial Southern Gentleman, born and bred.

When I became a single mother under sudden and traumatic circumstances, Jerry stepped in.

My daughters were 9 and 12 when I went through my divorce. I wasn’t close to anyone on the island, save for one or two friends. But when I needed help, Jerry (and an incredible woman named Lynne) showed up.

They both taught me that the important thing in life is showing up.

I was so broken at the time. But I got to learn how to receive, and I stepped out in trust.

That’s how it was there, that community. I’d read about such geographical camaraderie but I’d never known it. It’s a real thing, it turns out.

When I had to work four jobs to support my children by myself. Jerry was there to give me an “Atta’ girl!”

When I was depressed, he would break out in a silly song.

Christmas was his favorite time of year. And it has become my favorite, too.

When I had no one to help me move into a tiny house I rented for me and the children, Jerry moved me. He and I moved every single thing ourselves. He stayed to help that day until I felt steady on my feet.

And then he took me to get a Christmas tree and set it up for us in our new place. My girls were so happy.

When I had a broken heart, he fathered me.

And when I met my husband, I couldn’t wait to introduce him to Jerry.

“Hi, Man,” he said to the man I would soon be engaged to. And then with a sly smile, “You know, if you hurt her, I”m gonna kick your ass!”

Oh Jerry.

And the truth is that I had never been parented like that. I’d never had someone have my back, no matter what. I’d never had anyone threaten mock-violence on my behalf. And it tickled me to no end. He and my husband would become fast friends.

“Jerry,” I said one day in the summer of 2007. “Will you give me away to Bob at my wedding?”

With a tear in his eye, he said he’d be honored. And he did.

And I was honored too. I told him after the wedding that he and his “bride” (he forever referred to her as such, even though they’d been together forever) that his marriage was EXACTLY the kind of marriage I wanted. They were best friends. They laughed together. They knew each other so well, they were one. I wanted that.

And after the wedding, life went on. My husband and I blended a family of three tween/ teen girls at the time. To say things got crazy is the biggest understatement. It was a brutally difficult season for us, but Jerry and I would send eachother funny memes, short messages, and always, always, “I love you.”

If Jerry knew you, he loved you.

And if Jerry loved you, you were blessed beyond measure.

Like my beloved friend Lynne, he put feet to his faith. He didn’t knock you over the head with a Bible, but you knew he loved God.

He said naughty words on occasion and told the occasional off-color joke, and we ALL loved him for it.

He himself had been though some stuff. So he understood going through stuff. And when you’re going through stuff, you need a Jerry.

The past few years, he and his bride did some traveling, and my husband and I welcomed a granddaughter. My little girls grew up and moved out (and back in. And back out….) My husband and I celebrated one anniversary after another, and I always got a little teary thinking about Jerry walking me down the aisle, so happy and proud.

Since his unexpected passing, the whole community is grieving.

Losing a Jerry is a tremendously big deal. They don’t make they like him anymore. He called himself an “old fart,” and we all laughed with him.

He gave the BEST hugs. He wasn’t in a hurry to let go, like he knew his hugs were like being plugged into a charger. And they were. I could be in the depths of despair, and he would lift me out somehow.

For many years, when we would see Jerry, he would part ways with a hug and an “I love you,” for me. And a hearty, “LOVE YOU, MAN!” to my husband

So Jerry,

You were a father when I needed one and a cherished friend always.

You didn’t preach what you wouldn’t practice.

You set the bar for loving people.

You set the example of a happy marriage.

You saw things in people they couldn’t see in themselves, and I thank you.

Rest in peace. On second thought, I’ll see you later, Dad.

Make new friends in your Heavenly community. Rejoice with them. Dance in the streets of gold. Crack them jokes to Jesus. Feast with the Father.

And please look after us, your friends and family who love you too the moon and back, and will miss you so much.

Love you, Man.

Love · Spiritual

16 Truths (and one Lie) About Marriage

By: Jana Greene

Now, listen.

I’ve been in a bad marriage, and I’ve been in a great marriage. My husband and I just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.

Here are some little things I’ve found to be true about my happy marriage, and things I have noticed about other happily-married couples:

(And note: It takes two to tango! You can’t float a healthy relationship all on your own.)

Having a kid won’t save a relationship.

Having ANOTHER kid also won’t save a relationship.

Spending a ton of money on a wedding doesn’t guarantee a happy marriage.

It’s oft-said, but don’t go to bed angry, if you can help it.

Just because the internet said it’s healthy, doesn’t mean it’s healthy for YOU two.

The ”silent treatment” makes things worse.

But giving someone asked-for space is respecting their boundaries.

This is important (and mondo challenging…) Sincerely WANT better for your partner than yourself. And vise versa. Consistently.

Hold hands even when you’re angry. Especially when you’re angry.

Conflict is natural and normal. Expect it.

Collect experiences as a couple, not stuff.

Keep NO secrets from each other.

You can’t tell a person “too often” that you love them. Slather that phrase on your partner generously. Go ahead and be sappy if it makes your little betrothed heart happy.

Doing fun stuff for the sake of doing fun stuff together is always a worthy endeavor.

LAUGH. Laugh together at the absolute absurdity of the world we live in. Laugh like your marriage depends on it, because at some points, it might. Humor – even gallows humor – is pretty bonding.

Let a power higher than yourselves guide you both. Listen to your gut and heart, which God uses to communicate with you. And trust it.

Oh, and the picture-perfect couples on social media whose relationships seem flawless? Yeah – that’s a lie. It’s PICTURE-perfect be cause it’s only perfect in the pictures. Lies, I tell you.

Blessed be!

Spiritual

A Disturbance in the Force

By: JANA GREENE

Don’t mind me. I’m just over here catastrophizing at 3 a.m.
What is even going ON?
Y’all feel it?
A major disturbance in the force.
It feels so icky, but I’m framing it this way, with intention. Even in my panic, I’m choosing to redirect my thinking – sometimes 1,000 times a day.
All these “labor pains” – those vestiges of chaos and seeming a doom – are getting stronger and closer together because they are drawing us nearer to the day we share the consciousness of God. One fine day, all that will be left as evidence of life on Earth will be LOVE.
So maybe we aren’t hurtling towards absolute destruction after all, but being led and taught how to love each other in preparation for the day on which love is all that’s left.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Poetry · Spiritual

Ode to Jeggings

By: JANA GREENE

And now to lighten things up a bit, a silly poem to cheer you. Blessed be!

Leggings, I’m so grateful
That someone saw fit to create you –
Love child of jeans and sweatpants
Oh how I appreciate you!
Thanks for your stretchy waistband
So I don’t have to suck It in,
Thank you for the mad skills you have
Of making me look thin.
You’re available at Walmart
For just eleven dollars,
And with you in every color,
I can feel like quite the baller.
I can wear you as pajamas,
I can wear you as yoga pants,
And if I were so inclined,
I could wear you to break dance.
You don’t smush my muffin top
Like jeans are apt to do,
But rather gently hug it,
(so damn merciful of you.)
Thanks for being comfy,
And having pockets in the rear,
And for being so soft and warm,
You’re my favorite pants to wear.

  • Jana Greene
Spiritual

High Anxiety and the Dance of Surrender

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

By: JANA GREENE

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

In the tradition of writing transparently, I have to tell you that I am more anxious than I have been in years. Matter of fact, my heart is racing out of my heart this moment. Enough with the “flight response” already. I’m trying to live here.

The whole world feels like it’s a flaming dumpster fire, and I’ve been sick and in pain recently, which helps NOTHING. And then you’ve got the whole mental illness angle, which is LIT fam! (Gotta make a little joke to deal with life on life’s terms.)

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, it’s how FEEL. It robs today of its joy and tomorrow of 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. But dayum, that other shoe is awfully loose!

Our emotions are a valid barometer to measure the state of your mind and soul. And as extreme feelers, we have to keep them from running the whole-ass show.

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 WAY outdated.” Fear served me as a child; it doesn’t get handed the reins anymore because I choose to rebuke it, a thousand times a day.

But it seems to have visitation rights.

The Universe is unbothered by it. It’s not heavy for him, awkward in size and shape. Handing off the heft of it has to be an INTENTIONAL act on my part. The trash ain’t gonna take itself out.

Anxiety 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.” And expecting the worst is my default already.

Feeding the doom is an old skill I homed in childhood trauma that no longer serves me. It hasn’t served me in years. Yet in my lizard brain (the amygdala) launches a flight-or-fight response to beat all… a profound throat-punch to the Spirit. So then I have anxiety AND a soul bruise to complete the insult. And who needs that?

To be honest, some days Anxiety is the ringmaster of the circus which is my mind, but I’m in therapy and working on it. *Cue the clowns and dancing ponies.* Clowns are terrifying, by the way, just like extreme worry. As it turns out, this IS my circus, and these ARE my monkeys.

So…

Wake, surrender, make coffee, surrender, clean the house, surrender, make dinner, surrender … endless opportunities to surrender. Surrender is not a one-stop-shop. It’s a constant dance, at least for me.

God bless us, every one.

God, you are the Source of all that is good and all that is love. I can’t peek around the corners to see what’s coming next in this crazy world, in this disabled body. I trust that you have a bird’s eye view and my best interest at heart. I have to trust you are LOVE.

Spiritual

I’m not a Proverbs 31 Woman (and I’m okay with that)

By: JANA GREENE

I once had a friend many years ago who embodied what I thought at the time was spiritual perfection.

She was, you see, a “Proverbs 31 woman” to the bone.

In my zeal to be like her (and thus, presumably like Jesus?) I kind of lost myself. Which is what many churchy folk will tell you is the whole point of being one. You’re supposed to lose your identity, or at the very least tweak it.

If you’re not familiar with the reference, it comes from the verse by the same name in the Bible and has become the litmus test of judging a woman’s “true” worth:

“….good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. She is never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long. She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing….”

You get the gist of it.

I tried to emulate my angelic friend, which was problematic because it kept me feeling in a state of less than.

She was soft-spoken, where my nature is boisterous.

She was serene where I am neurotic.

She never cussed and I hold fast to my peppery language.

She was crafty and talented, but super meek and humble about it. She never raised her voice. She always had devotional time with the Lord every morning before all else. It would not surprise me in the least if Jesus sent actual sunbeams to fall in the pages as she read and kept her coffee miraculously piping hot until she is done. (That’s how valuable the studies and prayers are of a Proverbs 31 woman, according to lore.)

But here’s the thing: She hasn’t had my experiences in life either. To be fair, humans are complicated and wonky (I believe that’s the scientific term.) We are all unique and as such, God doesn’t expect us to be all the same.

My friend had never battled addiction, and was certainly never a slave to the bottle.

Or been rejected by her own family.

She hadn’t experienced abuse as a child.

Her kids never got into any trouble growing up, and are pillars of the community.

She represented everything the church expected of me that I was unable to be, and everything they expected me to give that I couldn’t muster.

I’m more than the sum of what’s happened to me, and so are you. But what’s happened to us inspires our outlook on life – even our outlook on God.

You see, I am not “less than” a Proverbs 31 woman.

I am much more than more than who I used to be. And that’s the only comparing we should be doing as women – contrast ourselves with our past behaviors so that we can better ourselves.

I am simply a person who has collected trauma after trauma and made the conscious effort to overcome on a daily basis. True, I am not my saintly friend, but growth trumps the illusion of perfection any day.

My Creator is not dissatisfied with me for not being her, or the legions of “hers” all through Christendom.

Authenticity over antiquated expectations.

Relationship with God over rules and regulations.

Raw-dogging life with an open mind and heart.

Because I’m not sure a good woman is hard to find, but I am sure she probably has some sass. And I’m sure that setting unrealistic expectations behooves neither male or female; husband or wife.

Spicy girls, don’t despair. God loves you exactly the way he made you – giving you the same leeway to be imperfect that he apparently has afforded men all along.

Have a beautiful day, loves.

Spiritual

Finessing Dreams (and other mid-life things)

Another little poetry jam about finding yoursel again in midlife. ❤️

By: Jana Greene

Did you forget your dreams, dear one
Flummoxed by what you’ve become?
Do all your lifetime goals still fit?
Or have you forgotten
What makes you tick?
The last few years….
Such chaos! Such dread!
It’s enough to make you
Lose your head.
But it’s okay to reframe your dreams,
(In fact, it’s mandatory, it seems!)
To change and grow,
Evolve and flower,
Accept yourself
And own your power.
Midlife dreams
Are never the same
Because they’re effected
By all that you have seen,
By everything you’ve ever learned,
All the advice you’ve ever heard,
So take the time to find new dreams
The chaos isn’t what it seems,
It’s just a catalyst you see
For finessing the woman
You’re meant to be.

Poetry

Wrinkles and Strength – a poem for midlife ladies

Photo by Edu Carvalho on Pexels.com

By: JANA GREENE

Girl, you leave that neck alone,

Did somebody tell you

before you were grown,

That our necks get crepey when we’re older,

That we lose our shine,

That we lose our smolder?

Did they warn you about the cellulite?

Did they tell you it would be a fight

To keep your value as you age?

Psh, girl..

You turn that page.

Girl, you hold your head up high,

You’ve worked a lifetime

Getting by,

“We’re getting old!”

We bitch and moan,

We gotta leave

Those negative words alone.

Be kind to yourself

About the lines on your face.

That body spawned humanity,

Show it of a little grace!

They don’t get to dictate

How our lives are spent,

Asking if the best has passed,

And where our beauty went.

We “get” to grow old

And the deeper we delve,

The more we learn

To love ourselves.

Embrace the white hair

Don’t run from it far,

It crowns you like

The queen you are,

And know your value

Show yourself love.

Your newfound confidence

It fits like a glove!

Wear bright colors,

Grow your hair,

Dance to music,

If you dare,

And rest in knowledge

That all along,

The things that gave you wrinkles

Have also made you strong.

Spiritual

God Favors us ALL (and Kindness is how we Let People Know it)

By: JANA GREENE

My concept of God as love means there’s no need to “smite my enemies.” Because our Source Is not on anyone’s “team;” he’s the owner and manager, working things to your benefit – but to theirs, also.
We think people who have wronged us deserve wrath, and plead God to avenge us, only to demand forgiveness when we have wronged others. And it’s taken me years to accept that “if God is for me, who can be against me?” applies to every human, everywhere, who is lugging a body around on this plane of existence.
More and more, I think this place is a University of sorts. We are here to learn how to love each other and how to love God, because obviously we still haven’t gotten the lesson. That’s okay. Everything in good time. Our Earth Suits (janky as mine may be) are vehicles and vehicles only. I forget that sometimes when they pain gets unbearable.
And our assignment, I think, is to retain our kindness through the shitstorm, er, um…journey. Kindness does beautiful things to otherwise very negative people. If we do this leg of our journey and stay kind, that kindness chemically and spiritually changes a person. And if it doesn’t? You’ve ventured everything for love, and will have many more opportunities. We are all trying to figure out hard stuff here.
That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
Love to all today!

Spiritual

The Evolution of a Prayer

By: JANA GREENE

Sometimes when I pray, I’m not even sure what to pray for anymore. But when God brings someone to my mind, that’s the impetus to pray for them.

I don’t mean giving God “instructions” on how to help someone, which I used to call “praying with specificity.” I replaced elaborate prayers with simple trust in God, because the most eloquent prayers are “help help help” and “thank you thank you thank you” (as my favorite author Anne Lamott opines.)

Reconstructing my faith has evolved how I speak with God.

I ask and then I try to listen. Because there is no wrong way to pray, and prayer is designed to be communication from one sentient being to a supreme being, no holds barred.

Once I saw a movie that recommended having a “War Room” – a physical place to go to pray where the reception is clearest to God and where mighty battles are fought in the heavenlies, waiting for our next words to change the outcome in supernatural realms.

So of course I decorated my closet with scripture and crosses aplenty. But all I managed to do was feel guilty that I wasn’t praying more (or right?) every damn time I had to grab a pair of shoes out of the closet.

Was I praying enough? What if I don’t and when I get to Heaven, God informs me that he really wanted to do this magnificent thing, but I was two beggings short of getting the outcome I desired.

See, that puts the onus on me. And the onus is not on me – it is on Love.

I don’t make a big show for myself now, prostrate in my literal prayer “closet,” striving, striving, striving to be the person “God created me to be.” Building a tower of Babylon with my puny, pleading words (which are beautiful to him, by the way, but his love is not dependent upon them.)

No. I mean that if you come to my mind during the course of my day, I am simply asking God to love on you in a way that’s tangible. God loves n us through one another, nature, laughter, and hugs from friends.

If you have a need or a heartbreak, I focus my intention on your hurt as best I can, and believe in advance that he is walking alongside you, no matter what event is anguishing you. Being a very visual person, I picture you in a cloud of love, total acceptance, resolution, and peace. I can’t describe it any better than that, but trust me, it’s better than that.

Just like us, the Holy Spirit craves connection. That’s all prayer really is.

And I ask him to increase your awareness of him in and around us. Because he is always at work in and around us, even when we aren’t begging for his favor. I pray he uses me in any capacity he sees fit to convey his great love.

Even when words fail us.

His love never does.

Spiritual

Everything’s Broken (but hope is not lost)

By: Jana Greene

“Broken lines, broken strings,
Broken threads, broken springs,
Broken idols, broken heads,
People sleeping in broken beds
Ain’t no use jiving
Ain’t no use joking
Everything is broken” –

-The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band

Our microwave finally pooped out. After 18+ years, it’s dead. Our stove isn’t heating up like it should. I have to be SO careful about what I eat and this makes food preparation that much more difficult.

We have had to replace our fridge / washer / dryer in just the past couple of years because they all died at once. We have three cars, only one with working A/C, and she had 200,000+ miles on it. We love that car. She’s a real trooper.

And I get the feeling like that’s ALL of us right now: Look at us all – an army of badasses. Damn if we aren’t all freaking troopers for making it through whatever shitshow the word is currently.

And all of that wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t broken too. Because today I am feeling very, very broken. Like literally all of my joints feel especially loose and painful. If my Earth Suit did it’s JOB to keep things stable and in place, that would be amazing.

I dislocated my thumb again today opening a Topo Chico, for example. What a stupid injury. My injuries are never, “She jumped out of a plane and survived!,” or “she went water skiing and now she is a human pretzel.”
No.
More like… the time I stepped out of the bed to go pee in the middle of the night and just torqued my right ankle, which snapped the bone. Then I walked around on that broken ankle for 11 days, too stubborn to get it checked out. By the time I got an X-ray, it was broken in TWO places, and surgical pins, plates, and rods were out in. But I digress.

The POINT is I can injure myself in the most asinine ways. Most things in life are made up of broken parts, and I’m eternally trying to learn how to process that reality.

We are all just walking eachother home,” is my new favorite observation.

Now whether we get “home” in a rust bucket (aka my actual body), or a well-appointed, nice and reliable sedan – a nice, tidy life that turned out great because you did “all the right things,” well, that’s for serendipity to hash out.

And that’s the cosmic irony, isn’t it? If our lives were neat and tidy, we’d have no real need for each other. We are only really here to learn how to love and accept love in return.

We need doctors who will help us manage our pain. We need microwave manufacturers. And we need friends, because there are 7 billion people on this planet and not one of us knows what we are doing. Not ONE. But maybe a few can show you the route home, and you can – in kind – do the same.

So, lean on to eachother like your life depends on it, because it does. Let’s spiritually exit the machinery that cranks out unrealistic expectations, and walk arm-in-arm, until we’re “home.”

May THAT that circle be unbroken.

God bless us, every one.

Spirituality

Thimble Theology vs. Cosmic Conviction

Hey ya’ll? I’ve been here in my dreams…

By: JANA GREENE

Hi, my wonderful Reader.

Who else is straight trippin’ over the images from the James Webb telescope released this week? Because I’m in AWE, with a capital “A.” I have to tell you that that my Spirit is even more impressed with them than my brain, which is amazed. And it has renewed by faith on a cosmic scale.

For a couple of decades, I have occasionally had a recurring dream that I am flying through outer space, and as I’m soaring, I am awash in an incredible feeling of warmth and belonging. Floating and gliding at peace in a place of unimaginably bright-colored celestial bodies against a black sky that was somehow NOT dark… endless planetary bodies around me, and they are both a million miles away and a part of my own body, simultaneously. It’s my favorite dream. I wish I had it more often.

Ever have those “this is so realistic; I must be dead and in Heaven” dreams? Even in my dream-state, I’m cognizant of fact that the sheer vastness and twinkling stars and planets should (by measurement of my earthly anxiety) make me afraid. But I’ve left the earthly plane and don’t give two hoots about the utter INFINITENESS. It isn’t scary. I am home.

Can I better describe this dream venue for you? I can. By showing you the pictures of our Universe that were captured by the telescope. As I told my therapist whilst recounting seeing the images for the first time, “I’ve BEEN to there!”

I used to be able to hold my theology in a thimble. It was laid out to me by my ancestors, and their ancestors – a set of beliefs that were true because I was told they were, and I’m a people pleaser above all else. I didn’t know it was in a thimble – I thought it was quite encompassing. There were rules and doctrines and to question them was a sin, so I didn’t question. But the evangelical world and its gospel of exclusion started to gnaw on my soul. It didn’t sit well, but OH WELL. WHAT CAN YOU DO? God was loving but stern, bound by his own doctrine and narrow in his thinking. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t exit the spacecraft.

But love doesn’t operate that way. God doesn’t operate that way.

You cannot define his love within the bounds of a dogma, or a book, or a patriarchal gospel. I know this to be true because when my thimble spilled the contents of its conviction, the enormity of his love pummeled me. I started basking in nature – Creation – and really SEEING it. I’ve even hugged a tree or two. I stopped taking everyone else’s inventory. I stopped inquiring if people who were not like me were “worthy.”

What is the point is a Creator who keeps expanding the Universe, but not our minds and hearts?

So today I soar.

The deconstructing of my birthright faith was brutal, I’m not going to lie. I took apart everything I’d learned piece by piece, in order to learn for myself what was true. I had to get to the root of what MY heart truly believed, which – if I’m honest – was fear-based. Imagine my delight when Jesus met me right where I was, gathered me under his divine wings, and comforted me with truth.

My God isn’t bound by 2,000 years of human dogma. He isn’t bound by cannon and law. His law is the law of the whole Universe – the one I’ve soared through in my dreams. The one who keeps expanding holy territory around us and IN us. There is nothing narrow about his vast love for you. The same hand that keeps spinning the cosmos is living in YOU.

I think that’s pretty far-out.

Acceptance · Addiction · alcoholism · blogging · Brokenness · Serenity · Spiritual · writing

From Beggar to Mystic – a Blog Reimagined

For all who have followed me on this 10-year writing journey, thank you.

By: JANA GREENE

I was supposed to be a Super Christian.

In my mind, I mean. I tried.

I taught Bible studies, and taught Vacation Bible School. I helped launch a couple of Christian-based recovery groups in the city. I was on the Prayer Team, the Greeting Team, the Hospitality team.

Ten years ago, I started this blog – TheBeggarsBakery.com – with stars in my eyes and a mission on my heart. I was truly so serious about it; so sure that it was my “ministry.” It was BEFORE.

Before pain was the order of the day, every day.

Before the novelty of thinking I was a recovery expert wore off like Novocain after a root canal.

Before I realized I am not in control (at ALL.)

Before I knew there were so many shades of gray.

Before my grown children gave me gray hair.

And before churches tried to cast demons out of me, for being SICK.

I haven’t been comfortable with the blog’s name for a few years now. I don’t want people to think they have to be broken and begging for Divine Love. Although I wanted to tell others that my soul found “bread” in God, it sounded more and more dualistic and exclusive. As I learned I’m not a fundamentally flawed person desperate for approval – divine or otherwise – I didn’t want my writing to impress upon anyone else that THEY must be broken too.

My intentions were altruistic, I promise. There was a fire in my belly. And there is still. It was a controlled burn for many years, now it’s a brushfire – raging with the expectation that new growth, all green and fresh, will come up underneath. I’m counting on living to witness a full forest come up from underneath this burnt ground.

The Beggars Bakery fit me ten years ago. I felt like a beggar, frankly. My life was feeling like I was a mistake that just squeaked by. I was striving, striving, striving for approval – God’s, my husband’s, my family’s, my friends’. If I could JUST be a successful “ministry,” and maybe make a living at writing?

Alas, neither really panned out as I’d hoped. Especially not the “make a living” part. But with renewed strength, I can see my focus was wrong. I zigged when I should have zagged. I proselytized when I should have just loved.

I am already enough. So are you.

And I retained a love of Jesus but developed a disdain for the evangelical church. And once you see the Universal Christ, you cannot “unsee” him; it really screwed with my oh-so-sure faith walk but opened up something in me I denied for decades.

Don’t get me wrong: I will not start all over here. Because it’s like a spiritual time capsule, and each stage had merit. I don’t want to forget where I came from – there was much JOY! But I want to get to where I’m going, and that requires a little reinvention.

As a follower of Christ, as an empowered female in a new world, and as a mystic.

My very favorite song is Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.” Every single word and note hits me RIGHT in the feels. The MYSTIC. When did we decide – as followers of Christ – to give our Mysticism away? When I was striving to earn God’s approval, I’d skip the word “mystic” when singing it aloud. WHAT? Was my faith so fragile as to offend God with a lyric? Oh my GOD, the LEGALITY.

It was the mere connotation that something mystical could be afoot in my staid, steady, the-Bible-is-literal manner that made the song scandalous. I sing “Into the Mystic” out loud now, and I know God is okay with it.

Just like yoga,

And some Eastern beliefs I was taught to fear.

Just like accepting other humans – fallible and seeking – for their truest selves.

Just like being okay with people just the way they are,

And giving up my staunch nationalistic views for one that assumes ALL are loved and valued by our Creator…

And being authentic, even when it means making a fool of myself.

It’s okay to do so. It’s imperative to growth, especially when the world is on fire.

I’m not sure what direction this blog will go.

I plan on writing about my faith reconstruction journey – all of it. The Fall. The burn. The sweet, fragrant undergrowth of new life shooting forth.

I will still write about recovery from alcoholism – it’s part and parcel of who I am.

I will probably vent frustrations about my worries and keep a safe place to express my anxiety.

So, if you’ve stuck by me all these years and faithfully read all of my work – I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Please consider staying with me. I’ve come to appreciate each of you so much.

I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old,

With stars in my eyes and love in my heart,

Without a superhero cape, but with arms wide open,

And together we will fold
Into the mystic.

MusingsOfaGypsySoul

Poetry · Spiritual

Ballad of a Mid-Life Mama

By: JANA GREENE

What does the REAL me want in life?

I’d never thought to ask.

I forgot all about myself

While busy with the tasks

Of raising daughters

And leading daughters

As they were growing strong.

Did I stop to ask myself

For what my own heart longed?

No, I did the right thing

At the time…

I fixated on their wellness.

I hovered and fussed,

I tried to hand them over

To God in trust,

And somewhere in those precious years

I had a little inner-strife,

Because I couldn’t tell you

What I want for my own life.

But ladies?

Ah, now is the time,

To meet this a super Amazing Queen.

The one who looks you in the mirror,

The holder of your dreams,

And take the time to

Ask her plenty

What makes HER heart soar?

Hover and fuss over her some,

Then fuss over her some more.

My mid-life mamas everywhere,

Step into your new dreams,

And be who you were born to be –

A super, amazing Queen.

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.