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.

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.

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.

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. ❤️