What We Sign Up For

black and white clouds dark dark clouds
Photo by Seatizen.co on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

This rainy Tuesday morning, I am sitting on my back porch at the crack of dawn. The sun is coming up behind the clouds, I’m sure, but you’d never know it from this vantage point. All I can see is grayness. Dampness. It began raining around 3 a.m., when my pain woke me up. They call it “painsomnia” – a more fitting term I cannot imagine – when you move in your sleep and the pain wakes you up. And keeps you up. It’s always a rude awakening, literally.

So I did what I normally do when I cannot sleep, which is not to do edifying things like read my Bible or work on getting back into seminary, but to scroll through my phone ad infinitum, which is Latin for “again and again in the same way; forever.” There are a lot of things that seem to be operating “ad infinitum” these days. Including a pandemic with no end in sight. Including chronic illness and pain.

While scrolling, I came across an article on “The Mighty” (a site I highly recommend for those battling invisible illness) titled ” “How My Husband Helps me Fight Chronic Illness.”

As you can imagine, it is a piece written by a chronically ill woman about all the ways her husband holds her up – emotionally, and sometimes physically. It’s a great piece. I wish I’d written it.

Earlier, I was reading the article while still in bed, laying next to my sleeping husband. I’m glad he is sleeping soundly. He has much on his plate these days. Too much. And part of that “too much” is that his wife is having a horrible pain flare, and I can’t fake otherwise, and I know he worries.

In the back of my mind, there is still a little joy-hijacking goblin that insists that THIS – a wife who is bedridden part of the time – is NOT what he “signed up for.” The goblin can be very convincing, what with telling me he deserves better. Because he really does – he deserves a wife who can easily travel and have adventures with. That was the PLAN, you see.

 The goblin carries a knapsack full of guilt, which it does not hesitate to unzip and unfurl the contents thereof when I have my guard down. When I am weak. Like now.

My husband has to do things like bring me water, when I’m too sore to walk to the kitchen and back. And that’s the very least of it. There is no task he shirks at helping me with, and he does it with remarkable patience. He is my best friend, and he knows when I hurt, no matter what I do to try to hide it.

But before he woke today, I got up and fed the cats and made some coffee to take out on the back porch, to watch the storm.

If there’s anything that we are all experiencing, it is the frying-pan-in-the-face that things do not go as planned. As we socially distance, this situation is either bringing out the very best in us, or the very worst. Much like chronic illness. And marriage.

I once remarked to my hubby that he “didn’t sign up for this.” To which he said, “I signed up for whatever being with you looks like.” Such a simple answer to a messy, muddled, mind-goblin riling situation. And I knew I could accept that – which is harder than you’d think – or continue the rest of our marriage mired in guilt because I’m sick. I’m trying hard to work on my insecurities. It’s a process.

But all during the process, God has shown so much grace – including the grace with which my better half has risen to for the crappiest of occasions … a life together that didn’t go as planned.

On bad days, it feels like a storm rolling in. You cannot see the sun for the dark clouds, as cliche as that analogy is. You’d never even know it was there. So the only thing to do is trust what you cannot see. Or change your vantage point, because perspective is everything. And tell the Guilt Goblin to put a sock in it already.

I’m so grateful for a mate who signed up for whatever being with me looks like. I certainly didn’t earn it. But that’s the thing about love … it doesn’t play by selfish rules. It refuses to leave. It digs in and stays in.

Ad infinitum. Again and again; the same way forever.

Where is the Love? The Heartache of Division

hands heart love
Photo by ATC Comm Photo on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Oh, Dear Reader….
I feel like we are all becoming more and more divided every day.
Social distancing adherents vs. “don’t tread on me” Americans.
Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter.
MAGA people vs. Team Impeachment.
Hoarders vs. have-nots.
Where is the love?
The truth is this: The more we divide, the more we implode. The world is one big Hadron Collider. So many particles running into each other. So much volatility. So little tenderness.
I’m as guilty as anyone else. It’s easy to become bitter with people who refuse to see another’s point of view.
We ALL feel strongly right now, ergo, the problem.
Everyone feels strongly. None of us have any experience living through a pandemic and the level of chaos we are having to deal with on the daily. None of us. There are no stronger feelings than conviction, the pursuit of justice, and survival elicit.
All lives DO matter, but some are being assigned less importance by others who have been traditionally privileged.
Nobody wants to be stripped of their rights, but everybody wants to be assured they are safe. One group shouldn’t be more important than another. How do we balance that? Surely we can see the inherent worth of EVERY PERSON.
Side note to my African American friends: I see you. I hear you. I grieve with you.
Our president is the embodiment of Cult of Personality, and we either love him or loathe him, and somehow use that as an excuse to love or loathe one another.
And, of course, we all just want to wipe our butts at the end of the day. (A little comic relief there…) Liberty, justice, and toilet paper for all!
All the division just makes me sad, that’s all.
I don’t have the answers, except to strive to be more like Jesus in all my dealings. I fall short a lot.
But maybe we can all just try to see things from other perspectives.
Just try. I think we forget to even try.
Looking out for #1 isn’t really panning out for us. This is not a sprint, but a marathon. And in every instance in which someone feels strongly, there is a wounded spirit at stake. Egos cannot run the show.
We can’t tire of seeking justice and fighting hate.
We can’t tread on others in our determination not to be tread upon ourselves.
We can’t keep dividing and dividing and dividing.
That much I do know.

“FIERCE Recovery – Living Your Best Sober Life Now” Coming Soon!

By: Jana Greene

 

Hey, guess what, dear readers?

I’m happy to announce that I’m working on a new book, “FIERCE Recovery – Living Your Best Sober Life Now.”

I believe that living a passionate, vibrant recovery life is one of the most badass things a person can choose to do. I’m a society that often misunderstands or underestimated the recovering populace, it’s time to show our stripes.

A FIERCE recovery is:

Faith-filled

Intentional

Engaging

Restorative, and

Empowered.

Watch this space for updates, and as always, thank you so much for your faithful readership!

Fiercely,

Jana

A Little Ditty about Self Acceptance ❤️

By: Jana Greene

Oh if I were just more thin

Perhaps then I’d be happy.

I’d strut my stuff,

Wear stylish clothes

And dress all kinds of snappy.

I’d not so hate my muffin top,

Would know when to eat

And when to stop.

Maybe that’s it,

Perhaps that’s the key,

I’d be happier

As a thinner me.

Or maybe it’s a vacation

That would set my heart anew,

One in a place where

The waves lap the shore

And the water’s a crystalline blue.

Where the sun always shines

And dark clouds stay away,

Yes perhaps I’d have peace then

At least for a day

(Or however long I decided to stay!)

If my venue underwent change.

If I were only healthy, you see,

If the pain would scram and let me be,

I’d run and jump and skip and hop

If my body were only free.

No matter what struggles we all face.

So long as we hold tight to love,

Hope, and grace.

Well make it through

This difficult race

And come out the other side.

Would I really be a better me

If all the things above were true?

Do circumstances dictate

The happiness in me and you?

It’s not ‘bout getting when we’ve wanted,

But wanting what we’ve got,

If we don’t practice self acceptance

All these things would be for naught.

So wrap your arms around yourself

Give yourself a hug (from me to you,)

Know that you are more than enough,

And God will see you through.

A Cold and Broken Hallelujia – When faith falters, but God does not

 

man tattooed praying
Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” used to be just a song to me. Beautiful lyrics, yes. Haunting melody, certainly. But until the past few years, the words were not a sucker punch to the gut, nor a comfort to the soul. Today they are both. (I’ve attached to this article the video by Jeff Buckley of the song, my favorite version.)

Right now, we are all thinking back to a time when things were simpler, even though we all bitched constantly about the way things were, as human nature dictates. It’s what we do.

In the Hebrew Bible hallelujah is actually a two-word phrase, not one word. … However, “hallelujahmeans more than simply “praise Jah” or “praise Yah”, as the word hallel in Hebrew means a joyous praise in song, to boast in God. The second part, Yah, is a shortened form of YHWH, the name for the Creator.

I don’t identify as an “evangelical” Christian anymore. It was easy to be an evangelical when privilege was running the show. Before I got so sick. Before the world was literally shut down. Before I started questioning things.

I don’t for one second accept that the current state of affairs is God’s doing. Love – and only love – is his modus operandi.

You’d be surprised how much ire you draw professing that God is simply Love, Jesus is that manifestation, and practicing radical love can draw, proving that what many of us learned from “love” is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you because. But, love is not warring with a devil who is already defeated. It’s not giving him credit for things ego produces. It isn’t striving. It’s resting.

In a twisted way, my illness and pain brought me closer to Jesus. But not because he sent it to “test” my faith. And not because I accepted it as status quo, or any of the other ways Christendom tried to convince me I was a dirty rotten sinner and somehow brought it upon myself.

Yes, it broke me down. It is still breaking me down. but it isn’t breaking me. And it didn’t break my faith. “Broken” is okay.

I didn’t fall back in love with God until stopped expecting “proof” to come as a flash, a deliverance. Many Christians will elude to the fact that in order to be healed and whole, we must pray harder, fast harder, beg harder.  But when you aren’t “changed in an instant,” it must be something you’re doing wrong, o ye of little faith!

But I think it takes BIG faith to “keep the faith.”

“Proof” of Jesus is sometimes just standing still, and still standing. Still loving. Still having joy underneath. I’m finding that it’s making life a constant prayer, having thousands of little conversations with God in my head and reminding myself that the same God listening intently to my ramblings and problems (first world and otherwise) is the same God who engineered the cosmos and created microcosm and macrocosm that we so marvel at. It’s telling him whats really going on below. Even when I’m struggling, my life is hallelujah.

Cold and broken, but full of hallelujah anyway.

It’s figuring out for yourself that belief in the unbelievable is the only thing that makes sense after all.

It’s walking away from pain with faith intact.

It’s a white flag on a battlefield that God is holding up for you because you’re too weak.

It’s a Creator who hunkers down with you under the crappiest circumstance because he isn’t afraid to get his robe dirty or get a little dirt under his fingernails on your behalf.

I don’t need a God who is waiting at the finish line for me, to take that victory march when everything is peachy keen again. I need him to struggle in the enmeshed, awkward, three-legged race with me. To fall with me, if necessary. Sometimes falls help me right myself again.

It’s a love that’s ever-present even if we’ve suffered loss so severe that our hearts beat against a constant heaviness. It’s there when we can’t compose ourselves; when we are threadbare with frustration. When nothing makes any sense and we are living in the upside-down.

It’s not somebody who’s seen the light.

It’s a cold and broken Hallelujah; a praise for spiritual commoners and baffled kings, received and welcomed by a God, who – in his infinite mercy – really digs it when we are authentic, even if we’re scared.

Hallelujah.

Hallelujah

Hallelujia.

Amen.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE JEFF BUCKLEY PERFORMING “HALLELUJAH”

 

More than Enough (A sonnet for mid-life sisters)

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By: Jana Greene

Dear Mid-Life Sisters,

We live in a world that says,” fix yourselves!

And what you can’t fix, deplore!”

A world that tells us that age is the devil and

We’re not enough anymore.

We “should” be more vibrant,

Wrinkle-less, “hot,”

The world loves to tell us

What we are not.

And we agree with all the hype

When not reaching unrealistic goals,

We talk to ourselves in a way

We wouldn’t speak to another soul.

But here’s the truth, dear sisters,

We can write our narrative.

We can love ourselves much bigger

Than love the world is apt to give.

Girl, 

Heroism is rejecting all the hype that we are done,

And realizing that our imperfections

Are scars from battles WON.

So feel sexy, sisters,

Know your worth,

We’re fierce, able, and strong.

You still have the power, grace, and beauty

That you’ve had all along.

And when that inner voice says

You’re best days are on the wane,

Remember how much ass you’ve kicked,

You still have the whole world to gain!

Remember that no other being on Earth

Is quite as sassy and sage

As a woman empowered by self-acceptance

A woman of middle age. ❤

 

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

renew signage
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

And here I thought ordinary life was daunting!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless us, every one.

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