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

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

By: Jana Greene

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

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

Not that I’d wish it in anyone else.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And maybe God is not deterred by our frustrations?

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

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

Let it be quickly.

Faith Reconstructed (or, I think I’m ready to write again…)

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Hi, my name is Jana and I’m a writer.

Sometimes, I forget that.

I used to write quite prolifically, and about everything.

As a matter of fact, this is the 475th blog post on The Beggar’s Bakery.

Sometime in the past few years, I’ve misplaced my writing mojo, which is to say that I’ve slipped into committing the cardinal sin of true creativity, which is to worry more about what people might think of me than to have confidence in what I have to say.

I think I started writing less when a series of unfortunate events took place, namely the catalyst for me to question, test, and try the faith that I’d inherited from my ancestors and never outwardly doubted.

It started when I got sick, and stayed sick. It started when well-meaning churchy people attempted to cast demons out of me (no, really) that weren’t really demons, but infirmary. The thing about sickness is that it is actually more threatening than demons to religious people, of whom I was chief amongst. After endless rounds of being prayed for, having “deliverance” ministries, and demon casting, well… it turns out that my illness is genetic, and while God CAN and DOES heal instantly, that was not the case for me, which led me to one of two conclusions:

1. I was doing something wrong and was a fundamentally flawed Christian. Or

2. God isn’t real. Healing isn’t real. My life is based on lies.

Now, I’m all about that –  laying on hands and praying in Jesus name. That is GOOD STUFF. We should always aspire to heal one another. We should always ask for our own healing and petition God to heal others. It’s just that when it doesn’t happen the way our religious leaders aspire it to, it leaves us in a spiritual lurch.

A few funny things happened on my way to figuring out that neither of those conclusions are true. It’s kind of a long story, and I’ve taken to the blog to tell it piecemeal, as best I can, whether anyone reads it or not. For a long time, this blog was my sanctuary, where I came to be raw and real. Then I underwent this huge physical and spiritual metamorphosis, and I wasn’t the chipper writer with a fast answer and scripture reference to throw out there anymore.

And I stopped writing here because that little Southern baptist girl inside told me that I had NO right to pen a blog that claims to be “one beggar telling another where she found bread,” because I am not a conventional evangelical anymore. Sickness changed me, yes. But the spiritual angle changed for me in ways I can scarcely count. What if So-and-So thinks I’m a big, fat heathen because I ascribe to this hippy-dippy, love one another craziness that has taken the place of my rigid, religious persona?

I guess that’s what they’ll think, then.

God and I are square, more than ever.

There was a time that I was sure my calling was to be a mom. And then my kids grew up; they still need me, but in a different way. I was sure I was called to be an artist, and poet, and for a season, I was. For many years, I thought my calling was to minister to recovering alcoholics, and that is still true. Those things will always be parts of my mission.

But here’s what nobody warns you about: Our “callings” change. They morph. We are always called to something new because Papa LOVES opening our eyes to the NEW!

So I guess for the foreseeable future, The Beggar’s Bakery will again be sanctuary for my words. Because I badly need to get these feelings out, and why not bring along 1,940 of my closest friends with me?

It isn’t a pretty journey.

It isn’t even a COMPLETE journey.

Just a leg of the trip, replete with all the joy, angst, confusion, acceptance, and hope I can muster and share with my readers.

This revival is for the doubters. It’s for the broken-hearted, and the disenchanted. It’s for those who always feel that they fall short of the glory of God, and the expectations of men. It’s for the marginalized and the giver-upper. It’s for the real people, the ones trying to figure out and complicate what is really, really simple – that God is Love itself and YOU are an expression of that love to the entire universe.

I’m still struggling with a lot, so don’t look to me to feed you in whole – to hand you the Bread of Life – the truths, mysteries, and answers. But I CAN tell you where to find that bread still. The Bakery is open – loaves and fishes for all.

It’s all love.

Til’ tomorrow….

 

The Case for “Kind-ing”

By: Jana Greene

It’s a fine line, if you have anxiety.

You want to keep up in world events and current news, but everything you watch or read pulls you into a spiral of panic. When you’re sensitive, it’s hard to know how much of a boundary needs to go up, because you care deeply about what’s going on and the suffering of others. But you are also learning to monitor your own suffering, and you sometimes have to avoid the subject matter, because it’s plain old self-care not to obsess over what you cannot control.

I don’t know what’s more upsetting – having anxiety over the state of the world, or having anxiety over the nastiness that comes in response to a Facebook thread.

Because people are not very nice sometimes. I mean … they go out of their way to be ugly.

Add to this state our world today, where social media enables every single person in your sphere to be an “expert,” and every other person who doesn’t agree with you wrong, wrong, wrong.

The stakes are high – peace, equality, protecting the innocent, keeping our rights under the Constitution- and because they are so high, passions run high.

We are doing too much fighting.

And not enough KIND-ing.

We ALL think we know what’s best for our nation, our world. Once more than one person reads any geopolitical or controversial post, fingers start flying. We forget that we are first and foremost human beings.

And then R.I.P. civil discourse at that point. If I feel strongly enough that you’re wrong about it, all Whatever “it” is. It reduces us to graceless, angry, self-righteous (dare I say) trolls.

So much contention, and I get sucked into it in the regular. As a person straddling being “woke” enough to know what’s happening and prone to panic attacks and generalized anxiety, it’s a slippery slope.

So much division. It is getting us NOWHERE, and we are hurting each other. That’s a problem because we NEED each other, ya’ll.

A compassionate governance would be such a blessing about now. And honestly, it’s not gonna happen. It will never be compassionate. That’s why WE have to so the kind-ing.

I’m talking to myself here, too.

You guys, when I am tangry (“typing while angry,”) I become a maven of the poison pen. I don’t like myself when my anger seeps up from God-knows-where, and I don’t like the “courage” that being online affords me to say whatever the hell I want to that little person in a round icon on a computer screen.

The world is on fire – literally. It’s a mess. But can we please try to be gentler in our online communities? I’m really going to try.

The world has never needed it more.

Dreams for Hope – considering the bigger picture

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Photo by Miriam Espacio on Pexels.com

Hello, Dear Readers. It’s been a minute. And just after I promised to provide more content. Isn’t that just the way? I’ve been ill to a ridiculous degree as of late. Yesterday, I hopped on my social media and once again asked for prayer. Because doggone it – even though I might not see complete healing on this side of the Kingdom, prayer still works. At 2 a.m. this morning, I woke from a dream that I hope I never forget. And to ensure it sticks in me – and maybe even helps one of you out there going through some stuff – I sat up and dictated all of it into my “notes” on my iPhone right away. I’m sharing it here on The Beggar’s Bakery.

By: Jana Greene

Have you ever had a dream that engaged all of your senses to the point that you knew and understood in your spirit it was true, and when you woke, you were disappointed by all the clunky, awkward, itchy reality that is our physical embodiment?  And when you woke, your eyes were blurry, but not just from sleep or astigmatism, but because it’s a part of your physical being and that’s the best it was designed to do here, really. The sudden realization that you are still in your flesh can be jarring.

Physical beings are far inferior to whole souls. Nothing like chronic illness to drive that point home. But in this dream, I feel like I received confirmation that what we are dealing with here on earth is but a vapor. All that seems hopeless and heartless is actually quick, like a measles shot. And when you’re a kid and you get the measles shot, they tell you it will only hurt for a second – and they are right. But even after the sting, you cry loud and long anyway, because you don’t FEEL it anymore, but you feel the indignity of it. Yeah, sometimes I keep squalling even though God is well underway protecting me from harm….just to make sure he knows I was inconvenienced.

That being said, platitude and analogies help NOT ONE BIT when you’re going through really hard shit. You don’t want someone to tell you that it’s temporary, because when you are in searing pain, you’ve already had enough. You had enough yesterday. You had enough four years ago!

In those times, I see with my eyes one who is aging, sick, and cannot see a better way coming. That’s the shadow me. That’s the bone and blood me – the one who eats an entire tube of cookie dough to self-soothe, even though she’s diabetic. The “me” who can be frustrated, petty, and throw emotional tantrums. That’s the me who forgets to look further than what she can physically see.

We are not just our bodies, which get sick and old, janky and irritable. It bitches when the weather turns cold. It runs out of breath going up stairs. It has only so many resources with which to aide in life.

These bodies that so often dictate to our soft, wonderful vulnerable and gooey centers – our true selves –  that we are doomed. That was my mindset last night when I fitfully fell asleep after carefully rearranging my body parts a hundred times so that no one part was screaming over all the others.

In my dream,  I had woken up early in our favorite cabin in the mountains, and wondered how the hell I got there, since I just fell asleep in my own bed. I actually did a “sensory check” to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. (I don’t even trust myself in my sleep, apparently.) I could smell the pines, and see the dust floating in the air, made visible by the rays of sun shining through the slats of the blinds. I could hear the creek below the cabin. I reached down and felt the soft, cozy quilt. The gas logs in the fireplace were even burning.

I slip out of bed to go out on the back porch, but the landscaping around it was all different. There were fences with razor wire where lob-lolly pines should be. I’m squinting hard to make sure I’m really seeing it. Where is all the nature that we so know and love on the premises? Backhoes and other equipment were splayed about, and trees where being felled everywhere. I ran back in to wake my husband. I shook him until he came to, and made him follow me to the back porch. He sleepily stood there, rubbing his eyes. He saw nothing – not one single thing – out of the ordinary, and as such, returned to bed.

I followed him back on his heels. The more I tried to explain what I was saw, the more frustrated I became. I couldn’t make him understand what was happening.

But then I felt a tug from God. And I knew it was God because it certainly wasn’t ME, who was freaking out at that point. I always expect Jesus to come in like thunder and lightning, but no…it’s more like someone gently taking my hand – if my heart had a hand – and leading me somewhere new.

And I WAS somewhere “new.” Back on the rear porch, I observed a virtual Garden of Eden. Not only were the grounds restored, but they were indescribably stunning. Where the pines I love so much are apt to be, were trees I have never seen before and couldn’t accurately paint for you with a paintbrush. Taller, bushier, trees – bright and soft green at the same time. The creek looked like it was made of diamonds – liquid diamonds. And the sound was more a musical rushing than a tinny tinkling. Giant flowers surrounded the cabin, in all shapes and sizes, and they smelled like the breath of angels and a thousand unicorns or something.

Now I knew I couldn’t be dreaming! It was a feast for the senses a million times over!

So I ran back through the cabin onto the front porch and into the wide space directly in front of it. I didn’t wake my husband this time. That nudging again…it led me there. I didn’t need a cane to get there – I RAN! I knew I wasn’t alone at all – as I have been feeling lately –  and that I couldn’t even be alone if I tried.

Absorbed in the experience, I looked skyward to observe the stars, but as I tried to focus, all I could see were heavy clouds. And the the roar of a jet. So I closed my eyes and specifically asked God to let me see with my other eyes – the ones that don’t only perceive the obvious. And closed my eyes with this prayer.

When I opened my eyes again….Majesty around me. Again, I tested my surroundings, bending down to feel the dirt underneath my feet. I could smell the flowers again, and hear the most amazing cacophony of cricket song all round. Simply put, I just saw with my spirit and everything was beautiful. Each time I blinked, a new layer of majestic-ness displayed itself. I couldn’t blink fast enough – couldn’t wait to close my eyes and re-open them, because it was something new and different and beautiful every time. With acknowledgment that I knew God was right next to me, my spirit understood that he was making it happen

When next I looked down at my feet, I was standing on water! It’s impossible, but TRUE! I was standing on the ocean and it was crystal clear. Now, it would be weird if this extraordinary dream didn’t feature a large body of water – its always in my most God-drenched dreams. I could see beautiful sea creatures swimming around below me. Whales, even! Manta rays, sea turtles, colorful fishes.

So above my head now,  it was night, and the stars were mesmerizing and swirling about. Below me was clear, inviting waters, somehow illuminated from below. I wanted to fly to into the starts and let them absorb me. I wanted to dive into the sea and swim with the creatures.

When I’d tried to show my husband the chaos from the back porch earlier, I became frustrated. If you’re not seeing what I’m seeing, I must be wrong. I must be defective. It’s the only explanation. Maybe I’m seeing what I want to see now?

But no. Now I knew in the deepest recesses of my soul that what had upset me earlier was truly happening at the time, but only I could perceive it. Like chronic pain. Like being sick 80% of the time. It’s my reality. But perhaps the bulldozers and fencing – the symbols of destruction and being caged – were only there in the blink of an eye so that I could see they were only making way for the Garden of Eden itself?

Aha.

Suddenly I understood that we are eternal creatures living in a little, poorly-ventilated and inadequate-feeling terrarium. At the risk of channeling my inner hippie, no..man….it only feels that way. We are stardust. We are all one with all creation and any pain or shitty circumstance is a little snapshot from our terrariums. The TRUE us isn’t limited by our ageing bodies and grumpy minds.

We are not our clunky, awkward, itchy realities. Although it’s hard as Hell to remember that when you’re going through the dozing.

And I love “aha” moments, because they can be powerful enough to be the catalyst for new thought patters. And I’m going to try to think more positively today, even as the dream fades. (Check back with me tonight, when I’m soaking in Epsom salts, ha!)

When God sends me dreams like this – and I wish it happened more often – I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was out of my body for a time – senses intact. I don’t need science to prove a thing, I have a soul knowing. And a delicious feeling of familiarity when God casually hangs out with me like that.

Like an inside joke that’s really the truth.

Like an enlightenment that you stumble across, that doesn’t require further validation.

I’m now – in my sweet dream – both swimming and flying. I have no fear whatsoever. And no pain whatsoever. All I know is joy, and that’s a feeling I haven’t had in a long time.

As I’m soaring through nebulae and galaxies, I can clearly tell that every atom is in perfect alignment and in the Heavens, there is no need of improvement. As I swim the depths – somehow breathing in the water – a whale slows down so that I can wrap my arms around his massive being.

And all this time, I sing a song I’ve never heard before to God, who is with me all along for the ride, delighting in me. I sing to him about how majestic he is, and I felt this overwhelming sense of peace that he had the whole universe swirling in the whole of creation was going to be okay.

And at the pinnacle of song, I have to pee.

Yep. That’s how the dream ended! I woke having to pee – how is THAT for a majestic climax! This old body still going to make demands no matter what.

I hear you, I hear you, I said to my bladder, realizing that I’d been asleep all along. But I wasn’t sad anymore. Or lonely. No matter how alone we feel in any experience, I assure you, we are not.

I know I’ve heard and seen and felt a truth that surpasses every reason for every frustration. Yes, it was a dream, but it was also confirmation that the same Power that swirls the stars and combs the seas hasn’t forgotten about little old me. Or you.

I think when I looked out on the initial destruction behind the cabin, it was all I could see. When I returned from trying to convince my husband of it, I felt God say “Use your other eyes. What do you see with your spirit?”

Eyeballs don’t see it all. That’s my take away. They see what shines on the back of our retina. They see light and color but only as the mechanics that biology makes possible.

Our peepers get eyestrain from computers, and reading, and just existing. They only see in the natural, and that’s the problem with eyeballs. We rely on them, I know I do. I trust them to see the world around me with the problem comes when I expect them to see the world in which we live, which, comparatively,  is nearly nothing. We truly see through a Glass.darkly.

When I feel l pain, all I see is pain. And we trust everything around us to be evidence of our senses, but we are so much more than our senses. There’s so much more. And I badly needed that reminder tonight.

The dream was so realistic that I am going out on a limb and I’m going to say that it was in fact, real. Because who’s to say that revelations like this are less real than the tangible world that disappoints us so?

Certainly not me!

I have little doubt that this dream manifested as a result of the prayers of good and faithful friends, who took the time to say a prayer.

And even when biology points otherwise, my prayers always are answered.

Last night didn’t come in a dramatic throwing down of my cane, or doing a Benny Hinn jig, or even waking up without a headache. But it came with fresh hope, which has a much longer shelf life.

You see, we think we know what we want manifested prayers to look like. We think it is like ordering at McDonald’s. I’d like a cheeseburger with extra pickles, and a Diet Coke. When I drive up to the window, I expect a cheeseburger with extra pickles, and a Diet Coke. The prayers are not made to order.

When we petition have an on behalf of some other person we love, God always gets the order right. It may not look like what we thought, what we “designed,” what we ordered off the menu.

But it’s always what we need. And in the end, that’s so much better.

So much tastier. So much more satisfying.

So thank you, dear ones.

Thank you for praying for me. Because God gave my soul what my physical embodiment could never provide or handle.

God bless us, everyone

Things I want to Say Before Dying (while I’m still very much alive…)

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

If there is one thing chronic pain and illness remind you of, it’s that we are all dying. Or as my former pastor used to chide, “We are all terminal.” (And yes, I’m fine – not going anywhere anytime soon. Just in a very reflective mood.)

So, why then do we put all of those spoken things on the back burner? Not all of us will have the opportunity to take them out of layaway.

Too often, our “famous last words” turn out to be neither famous nor last, and precious things often hang in the air unsaid. And life is too short for that.

Something that my mother used to say has taken on new meaning to me lately: “Flowers are for the living.” Why wait for funerals to give flowers or kind words?

So I’m telling you now – yes, you who are reading this. I don’t talk to you enough. Worse, I don’t listen to you enough. But I want you to know you are always on my heart.  I care about every word you ever said, and its woven its way into the tapestry of our friendship. Because at the risk of sounding hippy-dippy, we are all connected.

When things you told me – profound and trivial – come to my mind like random thoughts are apt to do, my face breaks out in a little state of happy.

When all the struggles you shared met my ears, my heart filed them away and brings a poignant pang to my soul when I remember even still.

Nothing you have ever confided in me ceases to exist. Nothing ever goes to waste.

All of the weaving becomes who we all are: The smiles, the jokes, the lessons we painfully teach each other and ourselves. The music we share, the memes we post.

All of it.

Perhaps if you’ve known me long enough, you remember when we were teenagers, and we would cut pictures out of magazines and make collages of our “futures” – page after page of handsome men we hoped to marry, sporty cars we dreamed to drive, trappings of all the careers we were going to excel at, picture-perfect children we were sure we’d raise. We made vision boards before there were vision boards, and we went through untold numbers of glue sticks in our quests to summon perfect futures.

Thank you for sticking through when nothing turned out as we’d hoped. Thank you for staying by my side when things turned out more difficult than our 13 year old minds could conceive, and more wonderful than any of our dreams we could have imagined.

When we bore our babies and did the “Mom Circuit’ together – lazy days of trips to Gymboree, the park, McDonald’s ball pits, endless breastfeeding sessions and diaper changes, co-rejoicing with one another over each ad every milestones our babies reached?

Remember always feeling like we were missing the mark somehow? But still, we never  did allow each other to entertain the idea that we were less-than stellar mommies. Encouragement was the order of our tired mommy days, every day.

And as the kids grew, we somehow lost ourselves. All didn’t go according to plan after all. But you were there for me, always. I never felt like I was going it alone. Thank you. It’s impossible to put a value on always feeling understood.

Little did we know that those were the easy times. Ah, but they were, by FAR. Because by the time I had a chance to catch my breath, I had to figure out who I was – apart from “MOM” – all over again. So did you.

And as we reached middle age, friendships took on new importance. No longer were they relationships to be sandwiched in between the chaos of parenting and busy marriages, but tantamount to every aspect of our lives, our very selves.

Thank you, life-giving friends.

Thank you for mourning my losses with me. Thank you for understanding when I feel like I don’t measure up, and assuring me I do anyway. Thank you for finding the humor in all the things that could otherwise easily take me down if I didn’t learn remember to laugh about them. Thanks for inside jokes, and finding joy in chocolate, and getting pissed off with me about all the stupid stuff. Thanks for reminding me that faith isn’t a lofty ideal and goal to shoot for, but a resting place and a safety net.

Remember that time I reached out to you in desperation, all full of despair and tears, snot and hopelessness? You swore I’d make it through to the other side, and my darling? You are one of the direct reasons I did.

The times I swore I would pick up a drink, but didn’t…

The times I was so lonely I thought I’d die…

the times I felt life’s greatest losses so keenly I was sure I would not survive another day…

Thanks for believing that I wouldn’t die from the pain.

That I’d survive,

That the gains and blessings in my life would outnumber those losses.

From this day forward, I want to cultivate a lifestyle of giving voice to things big and small. I don’t want opportunities to show gratitude to pass us by. I don’t want to miss a chance to laugh over something ridiculously silly, or a chance to forgive something hurtful.

I want to say I’m sorry when I am (but learn not to apologize for things that aren’t my fault.) I want YOU to know that you mean the world to me. Whether I know you well or just barely, you bring something to my life you cannot imagine bringing – just by being you.

if I never get the formal opportunity to thank you, friends….please know who grateful I am for each and every one of you. There are more reasons to be grateful than I could ever count.

Flowers are for the living, you see.

Here’s one to you from me.

 

Sisterhood of Solidarity – Chronic Illness and that B*tch, Depression

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By: Jana Greene

Greetings to the 1,950 people STILL with me here at the BB, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate and love my dear readers. ❤ I guess I should start this post with a disclaimer:

Warning – this is not a happy, shiny, churchy article.

It does not “glorify the lord,” necessarily. (Although I’m of the mind that God will be glorified in EVERYTHING in it’s time…)

Also – and let’s just get this out of the way – I have salty language. I’d like to say I’m working on it, but I’m trying to be transparent, and it’s actually the least of my damn worries.

Please don’t tell me how I’m already healed by the stripes of Jesus.

Please don’t insist I pull myself up by the bootstraps.

Please don’t tell me I am…

(1) under demonic oppression (been there, got that T-shirt…),

(2) not trusting God (because when someone is hurting, making them question their faith is always helpful,) Or…

(3) need to try an essential oil / nutritional shake (although it tickles me that the same issue can be considered “treated” by demon expulsion OR Plexus! Whichever!)  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I believe the last time I posted, I resolved to write a post every single day for a while, which was vintage me – setting up expectations I will never fulfill. I’m wicked good at writing emotional checks that my mind can’t cash.

Today I decided to write because I find myself in more solidarity with my depression than with my fellow sisters who are also fighting the good fight. I’m not sure what anxiety and depression feel like to you, but here’s my breakdown:

A sense of DOOM. Doom. Doom, dooooooom.

It also feels like:

Nothing is going to work out.

I’ll always be in physical pain.

I’ll probably always struggle.

But sometimes, you just have to get sassy back.

Sometimes, you just need to call a bitch out, and this bitch is DEPRESSION.

It has taken literal YEARS to receive the correct diagnoses-es, fight with God about the ensuing bitterness, and come to an acceptance.

Usually, I am pretty freaking accepting and have figured out a million work-arounds to deal with life.

“Doom mind” isn’t the most most Christian-ese terminology. Even admitting that I still struggle with it still feels janky, because being vulnerable is hard. Aren’t we supposed to play OPTIMISTIC, HEALTHY, and LIGHT-HEARTED?

The thing is, I’m not sure Christians are doing the hurting world any favors by wearing these stupid masks. I don’t think Jesus judges depressed people for being depressed. It doesn’t licit his anger, but his compassion. That much I DO know.

I am a pretty happy person, generally. I LOVE life.

I absolutely LOVE to laugh. I’m creative. I love hard. I don’t want to be sad.

Usually, it’s just easier for everyone for me to fake being okay.

Dry that tear.

Minimize that limp.

Ignore the anxiety attack.

Get out of those pajamas.

Apologize for being depressed – I have so much to be grateful for!

But some days, I can’t muster putting on a happy face.

Life is different now. Not always “bad,” but always “different.”

Mobility aids are not sexy. Prescriptions are not cheap. And you can only watch so many episodes of 90 Day Fiance without losing your ever-loving mind.

I’m hurting too bad to walk, just less climb mountains. My creativity feels shriveled up like it will NEVER return. I watch a thousand funny cat videos, but can’t rally with laughter.

It comes. It goes.

I’m doing my best.

And I’m supposed to do it without picking up a drink!

I don’t know how my friends remain supportive, and I appreciate them so much. But I also lay low sometimes especially with the good friends. Because who the hell wants to be bummed out?

I certainly don’t understand how my husband stays supportive. This is not what he signed up for (although to be fair, this is not what I signed up for either.)

Even for those of us blessed enough to be surrounded by love, it’s lonely. I cannot call my husband at work and worry him when he is already supporting his family by working hard every day. I wouldn’t want to. He has enough on him already!

I cannot call my daughters and whine every time I’m anxious or hurting, even though they are wonderfully supportive grown-ups. They have lives, and I want them to live their BEST possible ones.

So today, I’m writing as a little “reach out” measure in the blogosphere. Where my “spoonie” sisters at?

We just need eachother.

Something not a lot of people know about it a phenomenon that sick people – believers or not – don’t want or intend to check out.

We need to be able to say that we’re not okay without people assuming we are suicidal. I know people would rather be safe than sorry, but despondency comes in many flavors, and not all are true red flags. Some are just white flags of surrender.

I’m ok.

I’m not a danger.

I don’t need triage care.

I just need care.

I just need to know somebody else understands this lonely struggle with chronic pain and the havoc it wreaks on us via depression. Unless you are going through it, it’s hard to grasp, I’d imagine. I used to find this kind of thing impossible to understand myself.

A lack of serotonin and constant, unrelenting physical pain is a special kind of hell. I know Jesus walks through it with me; I totally feel his presence. I know I’m not completely alone. But damn if it can’t still feel lonely.

I’m writing today NOT because I have any answers, but because I feel alone and wonder if other chronically ill people feel me.

Do you understand?

If you do, I’m so sorry.

But how do you pull yourself up?

Let’s figure out this thing together and help one another.

When I have a painful day, and I say I’m DONE, the done-ness I’m talking about is hard to explain. It’s like when your toddler is at the grocery store and suddenly, inexplicably dissolves into a screaming, snot-faced, NO monster on Aisle 11, and cannot be reasoned with. He is DONE (temporarily.)

But I will. And I will smile / laugh / create another day.
So will you. ❤

Affirmations for the Chronically Ill (or, self-resentment doesn’t work)

By: Jana Greene

So, here’s the backstory: I have chronic pain and illness on a multitude of health fronts. Ehlers Danlos Syndrome results from a genetic anomaly that affects the collagen my body makes and stores. It’s basically like every cell in my body is held together with bubble gum instead of gorilla glue. I have autoimmune issues, which results in pretty much ALWAYS being sick. I pick up every bug and and – in turn – a secondary infection usually follows. But wait! There’s MORE … which I will spare you in this post, on account of it’s a long ass list and the purpose of me writing this is simply to flip the script on how I typically handle living every day with sickness and pain.

Because you see, I am hard on myself. You are probably harder on yourself than YOU should be, too. Over the past 10 years of never-ending health drama, I have come to hate my own body. 

I blame it for keeping me from doing things. 

I am constantly resentful of it that it HURTS all the time.

I chastise it for holding me back.

This morning, as I write this, I am sick again. I must have picked up some new, exotic virus in Charlotte last week, when we evacuated due to Hurricane Dorian. I envision my crappy immune system seizing upon the opportunity to allow me to catch something exciting and new, instead of just “local crud.” “Hey, look!” It said. “She hasn’t had THIS bug before! Let’s stand down and not do a damn thing while she suffers!”

So, as a result, I have been sick as a dog for five days, and have not left my bed. There were times in my life where the “luxury” of lying in bed and “relaxing” for five days sounded like a DREAM. But I can assure you, it is it’s own special hell. Times like these, I ESPECIALLY hate my own body. 

My constant thoughts can be summed up in this one analogy: “I hate driving this clunker.” My body is like an old car that is falling apart on piece at a time, and all the while, I’m supposed to keep up on the Autobahn with everyone else. When I am trying to do normal things, the brakes fail and I dislocate a joint. When I push through pain to go to the grocery store, OOPS, there goes the bumper! As I maneuver my clunker about on the daily, I wonder if people who can lift heavy grocery bags without subluxation really appreciate what they can do.

Chronic illness is fertile ground for depression to sprout and spread like kudzu. Anxiety is a natural by-product of that depression.

This morning – on day five of this particular virus – I got up to use the bathroom and my hip tried it’s level best to slip out of the socket, which is about as much fun as it sounds. I turned my head this morning to talk to my husband, and because my lymph nodes are like golf balls, it hurt like hell. This kind of stuff WEARS on a person. No wonder I hate my own body!

BUT….

So far, hating my own self has not proven effective in dealing with this life. I know in my innermost being that our bodies are just our “earth suits;” they house our spirits and good or bad, they are not the most important component of who we are. What if instead of spending so much time resenting the body that houses my illnesses, I treated it like I would any other sick or injured person’s body? 

I would NEVER talk down to another human being the way I do to myself. I would never say things like…

You never do anything right.

Why are you so defective?

Why can’t you just be normal like everyone else?

Why can’t you do the simplest things without pain?

You are a piece of crap. A genetic nightmare.

You will never get better, so why do you even try?

So this morning, I had a jolting thoughts, and they were so poignant, I almost cried…. 

My body is hella strong to keep on keepin’ on!

My lymph nodes are so swollen. Oh my God, they must be working SO HARD to get me well!

My joints slipped out of place again. Holy shit! They work so hard with the materials they have been given. Amazing!

I’m so exhausted, because my immune system is trying with all it’s might to FIGHT. How strong it is to keep fighting!

I hurt so much, but it’s because my earth suit refuses to GIVE UP!

We all love the idea of affirmations, but we rarely employ them, I think. We hold Oprah and Brene Brown in high esteem because they are not afraid to pep talk themselves and not dwell in suffering. I’m going to try to work on this, because the status quo is not working for me. Resenting my own body – or illnesses, or pain – is simply stoking the fire of depression and anxiety.

So today, I can tell you that I am wicked STRONG. 

I am sick, but it is not what defines me.

I’m in pain, but I overcome every single day.

When I need rest, it’s to help this “clunker” get back on the road again.

DAMN, girl! You are a survivor!

I’ll be kinder to myself if YOU will. I think we chronic illness sufferers deserve at least as much grace as we give others. 

Let’s make a conscious effort to appreciate how very hard our bodies work to get through what normies do in the course of every day. 

Let’s do that cornball thing where we stand in front of the actual mirror and give our bodies an “atta girl!” and a “thank you!” every day. 

Our souls can only benefit from it!

Because we are FIGHTERS, through and through.

The Grace Gospel Poem

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By: Jana Greene

What if you were already “right with the Lord,”

And didn’t have to live by the sword,

And battle every single day

With what you do or what you say?

What if you embraced your human-ness,

And didn’t have to strive and stress,

And earn your way into His good graces,

Would you then lean into wide open spaces

Of redemption and love, unconditionally given.

Would you then be so afraid of living?

If we believe what we claim to believe

Could our weary hearts gain a reprieve?

What if His love is totally free.

What, then, would would you open up to be?

What if you could truly rest,

Would you be less exhausted and less of a mess?

Does “it is finished” ring true to you,

Or are you still giving the devil his due?

We try so hard to earn His grace

When really if we seek his face,

We are already there

It is finished and done,

We are one with the Father

And one with the Son,

And Holy Spirit will guide us through;

If you trusted completion,

Tell me, what would you do?

 

When Depression Makes Landfall

grayscale photo of woman covering her mouth using her hands
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Hi, Dear Readers.

Can I keep it real today?

I was going to title this piece, “When it’s too much,” but then I asked myself to be more specific….WHAT is “too much?” What exactly is it that is TOO MUCH for me to handle right now? The answer is simply YES.

Everything.

I’m feeling so defeated and sad today. I was doing pretty well with water aerobics, which I’ve been enjoying since February – it’s the only exercise my joints can handle. A week ago in class, I tore a muscle in my right hip doing underwater side kicks.

By the way, not one single 80 + year old woman in the whole class had trouble with that maneuver. Yet such a simple movement took me down. I’m looking at yet MORE physical therapy now and I can’t do the class for the foreseeable future.

This injury is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, er….hip.

I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, along with a half dozen other debilitating, exhausting, painful conditions. And it’s driving my depression into this hurricane-force thing that is spiraling in my spirit. The outer bands are making landfall today, and I can feel the intensity whipping up.

EDS is a progressive thing, meaning all of the cells in my body have mutated collagen, and I’m not going to get better.I do not – can not – take narcotics for my chronic pain because I’m an alcoholic in recovery 18 years and I still don’t trust myself to go that route.

I am literally wearing out. It’s getting to where I can hardly move my body some days, and when I do, each movement sounds like a bone cracking. In addition to being annoying, it’s painful. And embarrasing.

It’s TOO MUCH.

Yes, I know by the Stripes of Jesus, I am healed. I have had every deliverance ministry method prayed over me. People have told me that if I ‘just believe more’, I’d be healed.

To which I say, STOP TELLING SICK PEOPLE THESE THINGS. When they don’t get healed Binny Hinn-style, it adds insult to injury. Not only are you in sick and experiencing chronic pain, but NOW you doubt your faith and feel inferior and less-than a “good Christian.”

My genes are still mutated. God knows about it. He and I are square, after many years of me being bitter and angry. He knew my joints would held together with bubble gum instead of gorilla glue, so to speak. He isn’t angry with me. He isn’t punishing me. It just falls under the header of “shit happens,” and it happens to everyone in one capacity or another.

Better to just encourage and love on the chronically ill. That’s what we need.

Because I have anxiety and depression under normal circumstances, but there have been several times in my life when I couldn’t push through it…when I went from being sad and low-grade anxious, to I CANNOT GET OUT OF BED.

Not “I really FEEL like staying in bed” … no. I literally – as the Millennials say – I CAN NOT EVEN.

Can not even laugh.

Can not even cry.

Can not even do the things I love – like create art, and even just BLOG.

But I know if I don’t get it out in writing and share it with others who might be able to relate, it will only gather strength. So here is a blog post. The one thing I have gotten done today.

I’m tired. I am so tired. There are too many things going on in my home life and (lack of) professional life. Too much change. Too much pain. Just too much.

Most days, I try to be positive, and some days I can even find the humor in things, but when every joint in my body is hurting – and the hip is almost unbearable – it makes it difficult. This is approximately the tenth injury in the last few months. From small rib subluxations to finger dislocations, a sprained wrist, to all the crappy, debilitating POTs symptoms, and constant illness from having a horrible immune system….

I’m TOAST. Ever feel that way?

I know Jesus walks with me. I know he crouches down with me in the dark places. And yes, I know “this too will pass.” But it’s sure as hell not yet in the process of passing right now.

It’s the most frustrating thing in the world to realize all of your blessings, but still not be able to pull yourself up out of the sadness.

Hey, thanks for reading my work, ya’ll. In joviality and in sorrow. In celebration and in grieving. Knowing I have so many precious readers who take the time to read my innermost thoughts is both mind-blowing and comforting. We are never, NEVER alone in what we go through!

I hope when this blows over, I can get back to business being snarky and ultra-spiritual (that’s a joke, ha.) But I’m of the mind that when we are in low places, it doesn’t mean we are less-than spiritual. It just means our spirits need a little more help.

God bless us, every one.

Resurrecting the Bakery – a blog revival

Beggars

By: Jana Greene

Hello, dear readers.

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged; the longest span of time in the six year history of The Beggar’s Bakery.  In the interim, I began another blog, “So She Laughed Anyway,” which takes on issues with a humorous bent. I think I’ve only posted three posts to it. It has been a dry season, writing-wise.

But here in a difficult place, I find myself needing to write again. And I think I need to do so often, as writing things down seems to relocate my thoughts to a better, less scary, neighborhood. The challenge to myself is to write a blog post every day, for 60 days. I am prayerful that God gives me material with which to work, but chances are good some of the posts might be drivel. If I go off the rails, please be patient with me. I will get my mojo back at some point.

What has been happening since last we met? A lot. A whole lot.

Over the past two years especially, my heart has been in religion deconstruction mode. In crisis with my health, I came face to face with the issue of trying to relegate the personal Jesus I know with the dogma of the Church Proper, and Jesus came out on top. I questioned everything I’d ever been taught, took a historical and contextual look at the Bible, and prayed that the very Spirit of God would reveal truth to me. I plan on touching on this process in the days to come. Much like any worthwhile endeavor, the process has not been linear. In reconstructing my entire faith, I feel like I might be able to tell others “where to find bread” again. But it won’t be white-washed and it won’t be fundamentalist Christianity. It will be Truth.

The aforementioned illness is a trifecta of health issues that are slowly causing me to lose mobility, and constantly causing me pain. Every day. Pain, in one form or another. I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, POTs, and Mast Cell Activation Disease, severe and recurrent migraines, along with lots of other disorders and diseases. I just call it “Alphabet Soup Disorder” to save time. Lots of acronyms. Some of my genes are mutated, I am only grateful that neither of my children seems to have inherited these issues.

So, suffice to say, I am home a lot. I am by myself a lot. This necessity has proven to be both a benefit and a curse. It’s a sticky wicket, because the more isolated I become, the more depressed I get, and the more depressed I become, the less I want to physically be with my friends, because sick people can be a real drag.

There are two of me these days.  There is the sick me, who seems to be taking over some days. She is whiny, sad, hopeless, and in horrible pain; and there is the REAL me, who loves to laugh, be silly, encourage people, and travel. The real me is clawing her way back, but it seems that each time I gain a little foothold on the side of the wellness cliff, another boulder comes tumbling down. Sounds dramatic, right? Well, it feels dramatic.

It’s been a dramatic year for my family. A very difficult time. Yet I still haven’t taken a drink, and for that I am proud and very grateful.

I’ve begun a new hobby recently that has been a stepping stone to writing again. I’ve discovered abstract art, and the therapy of painting. A pretty good gauge of my mental health is the amount of paint on my person. The days I am up to my elbows in acrylics are the days that I started off sad and scared, and in some degree of physical and mental pain – and ended up creating something colorful that cheers me.

So, I am setting a goal to blog every day for two months, but I’m not going to set it in stone. I am fantastic at setting unrealistic expectations of myself. I’m going to try to write here or at SoSheLaughedAnyway.com each day, even when nothing I have to say is earth-shattering. I need to get back in the habit, even if not one single person reads my stuff.

There will be “brain droppings” (as the late, great George Carlin called random musings) about recovery, chronic illness, spiritual growth, and the general absurdity of life; and literally God only knows what else.

There will be posts with what some might consider controversial subject matter. There will be potty words. There will be transparency about my relationship with God, which looks almost nothing like it used to, but in a good way. There will be randomness.

Oh, so much randomness.

If you’re one of the 1,950 subscribers to The Beggar’s Bakery, I am so grateful for you. Thanks for sticking around. ❤ Please consider following “So She Laughed Anyway” on WordPress as well.

If you’re new, welcome to the jungle!

My goal is simple: Do life honestly, and share the journey.

God bless us, every one.

 

Immigration Consideration – one Christian’s thoughts on loving strangers

By: Jana Greene

Hello, Dear Reader.

I hesitated to write this blog post; not because I don’t feel passionate about the subject matter, but because I’m allergic to conflict – it makes me break out in insecurity.

The nastiest comment I have received in the six years of writing The Beggar’s Bakery was from a Christian woman (go figure) who reamed me a new one because I didn’t care for Trump. “He is sent by GOD!” She wrote. “As according to PROPHESY!!!!” There were many expletives in the comment as well, basically assuring me of my place in Hell because I didn’t like the president.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” I responded. But what I wanted to say was, “LADY? YOU JUST PROVED MY ENTIRE POINT.”

That being said, I feel like the time is now to say my piece on this – my little corner of the internet. I’m not posting this as a Republican or a Democrat. I’m posting it as a human, as a mother, as a Christian, because I’m sick and tired of watching what’s going on be defended by people who purport to love Christ. I know this is a wide swath of my friend base, and I love you all. But please hear me out.

I don’t care what your political leanings are, it shouldn’t matter which side you lean toward. Children being treated like animals should piss you off. Parents separated from their kids should piss you off. SHOULD. We are all so busy being elephants and donkeys that we forgot how to be human.

If you want to defend the actions of our president, please leave God out of it. I used to be conservative (and still am on some fronts,) but there is no way to justify what he is letting happen. And I’m just gonna spit this out here, because it’s been bugging me and I’m trying to play nice-nice with everyone, but what with children in cages, I think it’s time for a nice-nice reprieve.

How in the name of Davy Jones do you reckon Trump is getting so much of the evangelical support? Because he prays publicly sometimes in office? Because he is pro-life and claims to believe “all life is sacred”? I’m calling bullshit. I’m pro-life, but that means, um…pro-LIFE. That means being just as bothered by human beings being washed up on shores as being ripped from there womb. I’m pretty sure Christ was more concerned with children suffering than national security. Of ALL demographics of people, WHY is Trump getting the “Christian” support? The phenomenon makes no sense.

Jesus is not looking to exclusively bless just the white, middle-class, church-going, law-abiding demographic, which is essentially – if we are honest – what many of us have come to expect. Neither big on law OR homogenized populations, Jesus made it exceedingly clear that he values compassion over all else. He loved the refugee, the orphan, the widow, the marginalized, the disadvantaged just as much. Do you think he is up there cheering when another Mexican drowns in the Rio Grande? Or when those from war-torn countries are turned away from our ridiculously blessed nation? Do you think he thinks it’s okay to rip parents away from little children, and deprive those children of basic necessities?

Jesus was about INCLUSION, not SEPARATION. He was very clear about the “us vs. them” mentality having no place in the Kingdom or God. But boy, we humans LOVE that shit. It allows some of us to feel superior to others and we just eat that right up!

How can you tell one is a Christian? Nope, not by their bumper stickers or angelic demeanor. Not by the KLOVE blasting from their car radios. Not by their instant recall of scripture, or their political stance. By their LOVE, manifested in the fruits of the spirit.

“You will know they are mine by their ‘fruit,” said Jesus. Fruits of the spirit are often recognized as joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, and so on. WTF is up with Trump’s fruit? Is anyone inspecting it? (Ew.) Because upon closer inspection, that low hanging “fruit”appears to be pretty wormy.

Another Jesus-ism? “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” Since when did it become “Christian” to treat other human beings the way he is treating immigrants? Peeps, YOUR ancestors were immigrants. If you need to justify what’s happening as it relates to YOU personally, there’s your fact.

I won’t go as far as to say that trump uses faith-talk to manipulate people…(if the toupee fits…) but his fruit stinks and he treats women and foreigners like crap – basically anyone who isn’t just like him. All for what? A WALL?!

How do you justify the following with being a disciple of Christ and leading in a Christ-like way? Tweeting a thousand immature and inane nasty words to the people on the opposite side of his politics (will someone PLEASE take The Twitter away from The Donald? ) His history of treating women like objects (at best) shouldn’t be brushed under the rug either.

He is un-apologetically polarizing. But children being treated sub-human should NOT be polarizing and frankly, I’m having a hard time understanding WHY it is so for anyone.

Jesus was a unifier.

Jesus was a radical.

Jesus tore down walls.

Jesus loves the underdog.

How a billionaire who spent a lifetime haughtily thinking he is superior to everyone else and talked about women in such nasty ways on the regular (50% of voters are women, roughly; so riddle me that…) came to run the most powerful nation on earth, I will never understand.

If you read this far, thanks. And please continue to pray for our nation. We desperately need divine help. If you still need proof via scripture, please see below. Thanks so much for your readership.

“I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” – Jesus. Matt 25:35

“You shall love the Lord God with all of your heart, and all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

“Contribute to the needs of the saints, extend hospitality to strangers.” Romans 12:13

“In that renewal, there is no longer Greek and Jew…barbarian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” Colossians 3:11

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels unaware. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortutured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” Hebrews 13:1-3

“…therefore we must support such people, so that they may become co-workers with the truth.” 3 John 1:5

 

Christ in the Rubble – Prayers for Notre Dame

 

Notre Dame
Jesus is not offended by our mess. He is present in our ash and rubble.

By: Jana Greene

Yesterday, the Cathedral at Notre Dome burned down for the most part. The building is said to be counted as a near total loss. It is physically painful to look at the images coming from Paris.

You’ve probably seen the picture making the rounds of the golden cross and altar still standing at Notre Dame. Somehow, some way.

I’m not one of those people to ascribe to the following line of dogma: Betty Jo died in a horrific car accident, and only the Bible in her back seat survived completely unharmed! I used to think that was big guns, until I acknowledged the niggling question in my soul, “Yeah, but what about Betty Jo? Surely God cares more for her than a book!”

And he does. I know he does.

As humans, we like to equate beautiful with holy. It seems natural, doesn’t it? We like signs and wonders, and when possible, like to make our own and wait for God to admire our handiwork.

On a trip to New York City many years ago, I visited Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. A more beautiful place I have never seen. As my group toured, there was respectful silence, but for me, there were tears. I couldn’t bear it. Even years later, I skip a breath in considering the majesty.

My prevailing thought is now what it was then, “If puny men can make something so beautiful, Oh my GOD, what can YOU do?”

Notre Dame was stunningly beautiful. I am sorry I’ve never seen it in person, but the pictures alone make me skip a breath just like St. Patrick’s Cathedral. That a place so radiantly stunning could be built by human hands is astonishing. That a place so beautiful could be leveled with flame is heart-breaking.

As Paris mourns, there still is God.

In the muck and mire, soot and ash.

I’m not sure that God saved the Cross at Notre Dame as a sign or a wonder. I see signs and wonders in a lot of innocuous things.  I like to think he did, but I also don’t believe he is a God of destruction, or had anything to do with it burning in the first place….

Still, it’s a stunning visual, isn’t it?  It speaks to my heart today, as dramatically as the walls that cloistered it. I find that rubble is so relatable. No matter how majestic, things crumble. I crumble, too.

Yet, when I crumble, there is Christ.

Wherever ivory towers fall, there is Christ.

Wherever beautiful things lie in rubble, there is Christ.

There is Christ, always, in the midst.

A million stained glass windows cannot outshine him. No stone foundation is more steady.

Be reminded of this as you wade through whatever rubble is breaking your gait and tripping you up. And no power in heaven or earth can keep him from lifting you out.

Praying for you, Paris.

Praying for all of us, world.

 

Making Peace With Un-Togetherness, (and receiving a little happiness in return)

By- Jana Greene

Let’s talk about the illusion of having it all together, because so many of us think so many others of us have accomplished this THING – “having it all together”….

I received this PM on Instagram yesterday and it kind of blew my mind. I thought it was a joke. It made me want to look behind me in cyber-space and see who the hell she is talking about. She doesn’t know me, obviously.

But I cannot tell you how many times I have told Bob, “So-and-So really has her sh*t together,” or “why can’t I just get it together!?” In my mind, so many of you just have your lives on point.

You aren’t 50 freaking years old and have no idea what you are doing with your life. I envy that, because I never really had a career. I very literally have NO idea what I am doing with my life right now. Awaiting orders from God, I guess? Not sure if he is sending me my destiny via Pony Express or what….

So many of you seem to have perfect children, clean houses, self-respect. You read the Bible every day, sometimes even first thing in the morning! Some of you even have daily vlogs to encourage your Christian friends. OMG, there’s a part of me that SO wishes I were more like you!

In this world of “having it together,” I assume nobody else had had a pair of underwear from the laundry fall out of the leg of her jeans while walking in the mall.

People who have it together aren’t obsessed with food. They take walks in their smart, sassy, spandex workout clothes (clothes made just for working out! What a concept!) while I am lucky to schlep to the mailbox with use of my cane, taking care to wear something that looks like clothing but is really just pajamas, because I don’t have the energy to get dressed.

Together people don’t show up for a doctor’s appointment on the wrong day. With the wrong doctor. Their closets have organizers. Their cats never poop outside the box. Their homes smell like lavender. Theirs skin smells like essential oils. I’m doing good to remember deodorant.

When you “have it together,” I don’t think you have blowouts with your adult children on occasion. I’m pretty sure a together person doesn’t wring her hands with anxiety when in the produce section of the grocery store, because STRAWBERRIES or APPLES? I. DON’T. KNOW. A together person would be confident about fruit, for crying out loud. And also about making great – even bigger! – life choices. Like buying chocolate.

They don’t apologize when other people run into them, have to use fingers and toes to count on brain foggy days, or eat their feelings because they are having the third Nervy-b of the week.

Together people can SIP wine, I hear tell! (As a recovering alcoholic, I’ll never understand that one. I thought wine that cane in a box was the best, most enabling invention ever.)

But here’s the thing – as I get to know some of you more, your humanness starts to show, and it’s glorious. I am glad that you don’t have it all together.

Because quirkiness if gift, dammit. Unwrap that thing! You are actually more endearing to me if your life is not in pristine order. So why do I feel like my own life should be quirk-Free?

Happiness escapees me at times, too, But when I accept that having it all together is a myth anyway, it frees me up to receive happiness again.

Maybe NONE of us have it all together. And maybe that’s a really good thing. I don’t know. I just felt like maybe comparison is a thief of joy and needed to be called out.

So,…

Dear Lady who PM’d me on Instagram to admire my ‘together’ life,

Bless your heart. I pray that you and I both let go the concept of having it all together. Because it’s a big, fat lie and illusion. You have it together more than you think!

Signed,

The Hot Mess Express Conductor. All aboard!

The Grace Commodity

 

grace commodity

BY: JANA GREENE

Grace is a funny thing.

It delights us when granted when we screw up.

And it pisses us off when applied to someone we feel is undeserving of it.

It slips out of the cuffs of condemnation,

It rises above the rules we think it should follow.

It holds accountable only itself.

It is pure.

Grace is golden when get extend it,

And humbling when we receive it.

It runs ram-shod over rules, and laws,

It cares not for protecting secrets,

Or making others pay.

It isn’t “fair” to us,

And thank God for that.

Grace is a thousand points of light,

A thousand Tiffany lamps,

Shining, bold, brightly colored.

It is a “do over,” for what is done,

And a fresh start for what is coming.

Grace is the Bail Bondsman who leaves the door open.

It is the Father who forgets that you tripped up at all.

It is free, but not cheap.

When all other avenues have been exhausted,

Grace chases shame out of the neighborhood.

The only commodity we are commanded to spend,

Grace builds up,

Shores up,

Holds up.

The byproduct of love,

Grace has unfathomable value,

Just like those for whom it is poured out.

Grace can be scandalous and offensive,

But it always makes it’s mark,

Washing the Spirit clean.

Trade it, give it, spend it,

Let it set you free.

It is for freedom we are set free by it,

Spread that stuff around.

 

The Kindness Quotient

 

By: Jana Greene

Kindness.

It heals generational divides.

It is the remedy for “toxic masculinity” and “strident, militant feminism.”

It takes the wind out of pre-conceived, racist ideals, and makes people reconsider their positions. It makes generational differences a moot point.

it costs nothing, but adds value to everything.

When someone is kind – and another in return – the atmosphere shifts. You can feel it in and around you. It’s The Great Diffuser.

Kindness powers up our ability to see a person past their agendas.

When it is expressed in spite of our moods or convictions, kindness does our souls a great and generous favor.

It’s difficult to harbor hate in the same container which pours forth kindness.

All of the things that seek to divide us, whether by ideologies and orientations, class and politics, are tempered by common, ordinary kindness.

It helps us to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves, if you will.

Or wreck someone else.

The truth is that everyone is going through a really hard thing. And nobody’s mind was ever changed by righteous indignation.

In the same way, nobody’s heart has been touched by angry militantism.

We cannot afford to leave kindness by the wayside. We can’t afford to dismiss the radical ways it changes us and others.

Our hard shells and defensive coping mechanisms belie the truth that we all have soft, gooey centers, created to be molded by love alone.

And made manifest by kindness.

Spread that stuff around like soul balm.

Pass it on. ❤️

A Better New Year in 10 (somewhat manageable) Steps

2019

By: Jana Greene

Well, well, well….

It seems I just got used to writing “2018” on my checks (yes…I still use checks) when BOOM! – it’s a brand new year.

I’ve never been big on New Year’s Eve, even when I was a drinker. It was not my style to do the party circuit; I was more of a “lock myself in the bathroom with a whole bottle of wine” person.

Alas, it has been 18 incredible years since I’ve had a drop of alcohol. And that, my friends, is a miracle of such magnitude that Moses parting the Red Seas pales in comparison. I had all the emotional fixins’ to prime me for alcoholism, and an alcoholic I was.

Am, actually. I won’t graduate from alcoholism.

This year, I will try to intentionally pour emotional resources and time into my recovery. Meetings with my 12 Step tribe and self-care strategies will become more of a priority; one that I have not been as vigilant about in 2018 (and struggled as a result.)

I would very much like to say – or at least pretend – that I am past it now, the drinking – and that I am a wise and sage maven of serenity. That I have my shit together and have written books about ultra spirituality, and meditate regularly. Although I HAVE written books, I assure you that I don’t have all the answers and never will, and have exactly 0% of my shit together.

I CAN however make some realistic resolutions (a.k.a. “goals”) and so can you. These are just a bunch of ideas for actions that are both little and incidental, and huge and profound. They are things that I can control – unlike every other dang thing in the universe, which is chaotic and unresponsive to my control-freakness (damn it.)

In 2019…

1. I will give myself credit for doing things right.

In today’s world, the focus is on what we DON’T accomplish, and that kind of self-flagellation is right up my alley. As a person with chronic and painful health conditions, I never get nearly enough done.

At the end of the day, I may have cleaned two rooms, which means I will obsess about the other six that didn’t get touched and look like three cats have thrown cat parties in them. Because we have three cats, and every day is literally a party for them.

It is not, however, a party for ME most days. Most days, I have a certain amount of physical and mental energy and have to ration it out little by little, prioritizing while knowing full well the things low on the list WILL NOT GET DONE.

Here’s to a kinder, gentler to-do list in 2019. An era in which I ask myself if I completed a task, and focus on THAT.

Did I put on pants today? BRAVO, world-slayer!

2. I will be less harsh on (physical) self.

Hooooboy. This year, I turn 50 years old, and Father time is walking across my face. It would appear that he is wearing soccer cleats whilst doing so! Two-thousand-eighteen has been the Year of the Carb. And the funny thing is that last year, NO CARBS was #1 on my internal resolution list. Do anything, Jana….EXCEPT CONSUME CARBS. As Dr. Phil would say, “How is that working for me?”

I’ll tell you how. I gained 20 pounds in a year. The reasons why are legion – lowered mobility, pain when moving, and FOOD. Because I did the exact thing I promised myself I would not do, and I did it TO THE EXTREME.

I hate mirrors; hate them. And that’s kind of a shame because I am now as young as I will ever be, and my husband is not complaining about the way I look. I don’t want to be that woman that fights ageing with panic, honing in on every new wrinkle or fat cell.

Life is simply too short.

3. I will put away the bat in general.

In recovery circles, there is an expression: “It’s time to put away the bat.” The phrase gives a nice visual representing the way we beat ourselves up. Not just about missing goals or gaining weight, but about how we stack up in comparison to other people. We beat ourselves to a bloody pulp with a virtual baseball bat because others clearly are “getting it,” and we perceive that we are not.

Comparison is a thief of joy! I’m going to work on letting it go, and putting away the weapon of emotional torture.

4. I will try to say “thank you.” Just “thank you.”

If you tell me that you like my blouse, it’s likely that I will vomit forth details about it, such as how I got it at Goodwill and it was only $3.99, and it had a frayed hem but I fixed it, and unfortunately I had to go up two sizes.

If you tell me you enjoy my blog, it is my instinct to convince you why you really shouldn’t. I don’t know why, but this kind of minimizing can be cured with two simple words: THANK YOU.

Just “thank you.” And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.

5. I will catch myself when I’m exhibiting co-dependent behavior and lovingly steer myself from it without chiding.

I have no right to be happy if you’re not happy. Crazy, right? But this principal manifests all the time. Especially with my children and husband. When they are sad / mad, I am sad / mad. Because maybe I can “fix” their problems if I get sad, too. Or something like that.

I think it has something to do with being an empath. We absorb the moods of others, particularly of those we love deeply. It literally feels frivolous to be happy if someone I love is not.

This has got to go.

Hey, I’m really sorry your horribly grouchy – that sucks. But I’m TEFLON, man. You can try to rub your grumpiness on me, but I’m not owning it.

That’s the kind of thought process I aspire to. And speaking of thought processes…

I will make time for therapy!

6. I will make time for laughter.

God, I love the internet, unapologetically and 100%. And do you know why? Partially because if I’m not up to wearing pants, I can still communicate with friends on Facebook. Just kidding (not really!)

But my favorite thing about the interwebs are memes. I’m a grown-ass woman and I love me some cats pictured with snarky comments and eat-shit-and-die expressions. I was embarrassed about this for a long time, until I starting posting these squares of silliness to my social media page, and other people started laughing, too.

OMG, if there is anything better than heart-lightening laughter, it’s making OTHER PEOPLE laugh!

Oh, and videos. Ditto prior embarrassment. But then my kids introduced me to ‘Vines’ and life has never been the same.

There are days – especially when I’m struggling and depressed – YouTube videos of Jon Crist have saved my sanity.  If you’ve never watched “Juggling the Jenkins” by YouTuber Tiffany Jenkins, you are missing out big-time.

7. I will make time for music.

MUSIC. IS. LIFE. And I don’t listen to enough of it.

My musical tastes range from Bach and Beethoven to “please don’t judge me.” I love Al Green. And Eminem. And Don Williams. And The Black Crows. I listened to very little music in 2018, on account of I was so seldom “in the mood,” which is a damn shame, because music is a mood changer.

I’m not sure if this is it’s own distinct mental illness, or just a sub-group of my several, but I can almost SEE music. Playing a song sweeps me up and carries me off. Music is color and light and carbonated joy.

Music is therapy. Need a good cry but can’t get it started? Coldplay’s “Parachutes” album. Just do it, and for extra expedition, lean your head against a window whilst it’s gently raining outside or something. You will cry, and it will be cleansing.  Earth, Wind, and Fire cannot be usurped when it comes to getting jiggy with it. It is literally impossible to wallow in the funk if the funkiest tunes are blasting. Worship music can shift the whole atmosphere, and I’m not exaggerating. It can pour a salve into all the hurting places in my soul.

Krunk that stuff UP.

8.  I will try to do 10 kind things for other people each week without telling a soul.

I used to write gratitude cards every single week. Just little note cards sent to friends to remind them specifically why they are so incredibly fabulous. I don’t do that anymore. At some point, it became more of a chore than a kind endeavor, and I hate that.

May 2019 be a year of less selfishness and more kindness. Ten itty-bitty things can make a huge difference.

Holding a door open. Paying for the coffee of the person behind me in the drive through. Phone calls or texts to say I’m thinking of you and I love you.

It’s something I learned in The Rooms (a recovery term for 12 Step groups): You keep it by giving it away. Your hope, experience, strength.

One of the kindest things we can do for someone is express gratitude. We each have something within us that not a single other person on earth can give. I generally do much better if I express gratitude with kind words to others.

I want to work on that.

9. I will invest in my relationships like there’s no tomorrow. Because there may not be.

We once attended a church where the co-pastor was an elderly gentleman. He was a real salt and light kinda guy….always smiling, quick with a joke, and charmingly honest. For instance, he stood at the pulpit one Sunday morning and opened with this zinger: “We’re all terminal.”

He was right.

Notice how time goes much faster with every passing year? I’m going to try to savor it instead of wishing it away. And to savor it, I need relationships. Not acquaintances; real, rich, messy, intimate bondings.

And no….not that kind of intimate! The kind where you bring your raw, honest self in communion to another human being, (and they bring their real, honest self to you,) and you appreciate them for exactly who they are. God created each of our friends with the intention we invest in that person. He has had each friendship in mind since before we were born!

Enjoy it, he is saying. You aren’t meant to do this hard life alone.

10.  I will keep an open(ish) mind.

At some point, Christians have given all our mysticism over to the pagans and such. Please trust me when I say that there is NOTHING more mystical than the Triune God.

It’s the trippiest, man. That a Cosmic Creator inhabited flesh to draw us near. DUDE.

Considering alternate points-of-view is not turning my back on Jesus. Pretty much everyone has something to say worth hearing. Recently, I’ve been reading “There’s Nothing Wrong With You” by Cheri Huber. It is positively incredible.

It is not a “Christian” book. I’m pretty sure she is not a “Christian” writer. But she has some very Jesusy things to say.

“If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago…”
And…
“All of life’s conflicts are between letting go or holding on, opening into the present or clinging to the past, expansion or contraction.”
Those are Biblical principals.
In 2019, I will work on my spiritual expansion and contractions. I will adsorb light and love, and embrace who Jesus Himself is, and not what 2,000 years of man-made doctrine and musing has made him.
LOVE.
And, HEY…if you read my blog?
THANK YOU.
Dear readers, I wish you the very best in this new year.
May you laugh, and dance, and give yourself credit for the things you do right.
I hope you be happy, even if no one around you is happy.

Hold on to your joy!  It’s yours!

I pray that in 2019, you will put the bat away, and see yourself for
who and Whose you are – perfectly BEAUTIFUL.
May you have a party in your soul the likes of which my three cats enjoy
on the daily. They have not a worry in the world.
And most of all, I pray that God blesses you in overflowing measure
HAPPY NEW YEAR!

A Thanksgiving Treatise (or Turkey Day with the Grown-Up Kids)

The Beggar's Bakery

(*This piece is satire* No offspring were hurt of egos bruised in the making of this post.)
turkey2
By: Jana Greene
Happy Thanksgiving, All!
There are certain things my adult daughters and I have agreed to disagree on, and thus; avoid conversing about altogether on Thanksgiving.
We get along SO MUCH BETTER when certain topics are off the table. It ain’t denial – we all know where the other stands – lets call it relationship maintenance. These things have been hashed out MULTIPLE times, and are only really good for raising blood pressure and driving a wedge between us.
Your typical Thanksgiving table talk is rife with strife, amirite?! So as in years past, I have issued a brief and snarky outline of acceptable Thanksgiving dinner topics for my lovely but liberal daughters and their paramours, because nobody really wants to see Old Mom stroke out at the table during the…

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Election Reflection – thoughts on the day after

By: Jana Greene

I haven’t checked any poll results yet. I’m awake before the birds, having gone into exhausted sleep at 7pm last “night.” This year, I haven’t had the spare energy to get worked up about one candidate or another. Of course, I care deeply – I didn’t vote a straight ticket this year – I probably won’t again. I did take the time to research issues and individuals, with an emphasis on issues, one by one.

But this moment is pretty delicious; I know it’s fleeting. It’s still dark out this morning, and my husband is sleeping next to me, and I’ve no exposure to the militant anger – red and / or blue – that will no doubt flood my social media feed today. Nor do I feel any division at present – the “us vs. them” heavy-hitting that will doubtless follow us around in the coming days (weeks, months…years.) Right now, to my mind, we are a nation that turned out in droves to vote because we all, almost without exception, love our country. Period.

No matter what the results are, most of our motivations are pure. I’ll venture to bed the races were close, which won’t bode well. Because the tighter the race, the angrier the contenders and the more gloating the victors.

I’m urging my dear readers to remember that we are not first hawks or doves, but Americans.

Can we try to remember that opposing candidates – one of which won yesterday – are not saviors or devils? They are people, swayed by money and kudos, just like everyone else.

Let us remember that this election is a blip in history, not an opportunity to amp up national negativity. Yes, it impacts us. But not as much as the contact you have on the person you come across daily – the person who shows you kindness by forgiving your trespass, or even holding a door open for you. Yes, each of us feels passionately. Can we just try not to manifest that passion as hate?

Let us remember that the opposing party is not Enemy Number One, but consists of our daughters and sons, parents and friends – people we love who feel just as strongly as we do.

Let us remember we are first people, not politicos.

Let us remember that absolute pier corrupts absolutely, and that we all need to be represented.

Let us do one small thing today in the name of being the comrades we are – one act of kindness the day after an election is a platform I can really get behind! Heck, let’s do more than one thing, and trigger an explosion of good will, not in spite of our differences, but because of them. Let’s be mindful about it, too. Really stick it to “the man” and get along with each other on purpose. That’ll teach him!

Let’s try to do what Jesus would do today. Because if anyone should have a beef with how they are represented, it’s Christ. Yet He finds a way to keep living. I hope we can too, at least a little.

God bless us, every single one.

The Holiness of Old Dogs

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

God comfort you until you see him again.

By: Jana Greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over the years….

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

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

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

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

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

Holy and sacred, where God placed it.

The Kindness of Strangers – musings of a hurricane evacuee

HurricaneIsabel-660x383

By: Jana Greene

Greetings from the great state of Georgia.

I just finished my breakfast of obligatory grits and cheese, and a cup of excellent coffee in the lobby of our Hampton Inn.

It is home to us right now, this Hampton Inn. Displaced from our home at the coast by Hurricane Florence a week ago, my husband, adult daughter, and three cats are on the lam from the floodwaters and the chaos that is post-hurricane Wilmington. We are lucky our home was spared, but there is no actual way to get into our city right now, much less our house.

We are in limbo, and it’s uncomfortable. So freaking uncomfortable.

So here we stay for now – building-mates with a passel of other evacuees, all of which have been amazing comrades in arms against Florence and her nasty disposition.

But it’s the native Georgians who have blown us out of the water with their southern hospitality, which the employ with such gusto, it makes you entertain the idea of packing up house and becoming a Georgian, too.

From the hotel staff, who has gone out of their way to learn all of our names, the names of our pets, and our general situation, to the check-out lady at the local Walmart who asked me where I was from and came around her register to embrace me in a comforting hug when I answered her. Everyone – and I mean EVERY PERSON – that we have met has been angelic to us. Genuinely compassionate.

On the network news, you will see stories of Charlatans and looters, price gougers and swindlers in our city right now. But I’m telling you, they are the exception.

That that God Particle that manifests in others as mercy, compassion, and love? God has imparted it to all of us. Even to the people we don’t know yet.

Especially to the people we may not know yet….those humans we call “strangers.”

There’s a line in the classic, old movie “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” by Tennessee Williams. The slightly unhinged character of Blanche DuBois”says in her soft, southern drawl: “I have always relied on the kindness of strangers.”

I finally know what she meant now. I don’t think I’ve ever understood it before.

The kindness of strangers is thick here. It’s in the air; you can feel it. One good, bolstering hug from a stranger can hold you up for a full day. A day full of kind words and smiles can bolster you with enough energy to take on another new day full of uncertainties.

I’d much rather be on the side of giving and loving others than be in the position of having to receive it in so copious a manner. But I have to tell you, my worried heart is filled with gratitude for the people God has put directly in our path.

God bless us, EVERY ONE.