Spiritual

I Don’t Know (and it’s okay)

Photo by Leeloo Thefirst on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

I don’t watch the news. At all.

I used to think that it made me a horribly unpatriotic American if I didn’t know EVERYTHING going on nationally and globally. I now know that it only makes me a person protecting her fragile mental health. PERIOD. If it’s earth-shattering, it will crawl across my Facebook feed, and I will deal with the anxiety as it presents.

“I don’t know” is one of my favorite phrases these days.

As a former fundamentalist, I also used to think I had all the answers…. the important ones anyway. It was my security blanket; all I’ve ever known. But having shed that blanket, I can see how threadbare it was. I took it to bed with me every night because surely to know what’s going on is certainty, right?

“Fundamentalist” means that a belief it rooted in something so obviously true, it’s fundamental.

“I don’t know” was the antithesis of faith and the admission of weakness, back in the day. Thinking you know the purpose of your life and everyone else’s makes you cocky like that – demanding that no questions are asked, and no boat is rocked.

Knowing facts about people, places, things, and the state of the world has nothing to do with our primary purpose…

Which is to love.

Knowing is collecting “facts” with which to make judgments. Making judgements is central to our survival as a species but is useless when determining whether or not to invest in other humans. Above all else, we need connection; to be understood beyond “head knowledge.”

Knowing is not loving, you see.

“But what if they are all so WRONG?” I mean LOOK AT THIS MESS!

Yup. That’s a mess right there. Everywhere. Messy, messy, messy.

These days, I have no earthly idea what the hell is happening. If I peek onto a news site, I regret it almost immediately. I can’t handle what is going on in the Ukraine, although I pray for the people regularly. I can’t handle the imagery, the crushing sadness of it. I can barely handle what’s up in my own body some days.

Here’s the truth: It’s not that I don’t care. Empaths care entirely too much about what’s happening. I’ll say it: My fragile mental health simply cannot hande a constant stream of doom and despair. I absorb like a sponge and it’s really hard to wring myself back out when I “go there.”

“I don’t know” comes in handy in a myriad of ways.

I don’t know anymore where the world is going. I used to believe in prophesies of old, but they are awfully dark, and my mind is already prone to going dark places already. I have a tendency to wallow in my dark places, so I don’t need extra help gathering fuel for the fire. I’d rather be light and salt to this crazy place, and I’ve learned that if I’m a sniveling Chicken Little screaming “the sky is falling!” whilst running in circles, it behooves no one. Sniveling Chicken Little used to be my spirit animal.

I don’t know why I’m chronically sick and in pain all the time. It certainly doesn’t seem fair. I’ve read everything about my conditions. I know ALLTHETHINGS about it. It doesn’t help me put one foot in front of the other on hard days. That’s LOVE, baby. Not knowledge. Not fear.

I’ve shaken my fist at the Almighty. I’ve had cross words with God. All because “I DON’T UNDERSTAND!” But in my unknowing, I don’t blame God, bargain with God, turn my back on God anymore. Because even though I don’t know and understand the why’s of it, I don’t believe it hinders his great love for me at all.

I’ll go so far as to say, I wasn’t ready to surrender to LOVE until I was ready to say, “I don’t know.” And it’s a learning curve every day.

It doesn’t bother me that I don’t know things. But I hope Love never stops revealing itself to me, in its purest, unknowable glory.

You shall know the truth, and it shall set you free. And the truth is Love only. Pure and simple.

And if you are an extreme feeler too, this is your sign to step away from the media madness.

Blessed be friends.

Spiritual

10 Insomnia Thoughts so Deep, You’ll Forget how to Fall Back Asleep

By: JANA GREENE

Good night / day, friends. What do you think about when you can’t sleep?

It is 4:30 in the morning, and I got up to pee about 2 long hours ago.

I am still awake because THOUGHTS. Here is a short list of things my mind decides to entertain in the stone-fold middle of the night:

1. I worry about my kids, especially in the wee hours of the morn. I worry for them individually and as a whole. I worry that I worry too much. I worry that I don’t worry enough.

2. A dear friend just lost another beloved pet yesterday, and my heart breaks for her, my own heart still grieving my special Catsby. Oh the loss, loss, loss of the past three years, across the board. The loss of people, animals, ways of life.

3. Why did I ever think God moved Heaven and Earth for me to get a good parking space, while children in the world are starving. SMH.

4. The intelligence of every living thing. This subject weaves itself in my waking and sleeping life. I dream of vast galaxies and our place in them. I ponder much on the minutiae too. Life-creating mitochondria. Every cell in every tree, leaf, and flower is bursting with evidence of divinity. Every single one of us is life made of a zillion pieces of life, the whole cosmos a part of us too.

5. We have no idea what lives in the ocean, really. And that’s part of the allure. Damn, I miss swimming in the ocean.

6. I miss my mother-in-law. Really miss her. She was really something special. I miss having a “mom.”

7. How much pain will I be able to stand before I can’t stand it any more with this stupid disease? Everyone has a limit; not knowing where mine lies can be scary.

8. Estrangement is the weirdest thing ever, but boundaries are the best thing ever. And that makes for industrial-grade emotional f*ckery.

9. Religion is the opiate of the masses, they say, and I’ve officially OD’d. Just LOVE for me going forward, thanks. I’m over labels. Check please!

10. Feeling long-expired pangs of social angst anew about that one time I was unintentionally rude to someone (but I was just socially overwhelmed.) Oh, and the approximately 7 million additional times I was socially awkward. OOF.

That’s just a sampling. I wonder what it’s like to have insomnia thoughts like: “I need to get the oil changed,” or “I think we are out of detergent.” What’s that even LIKE?

And so I’m finally tired now again, feeling the heavy cream of sleepiness pour over me. My mind eases, I feel God’s comfort. I open my palms in a physical relinquishing of worries before closing my eyes…

Great. I have to pee again. 😂

Poetry · Spiritual

Reverence Remix (a poetry jam)

Photo by Luis del Ru00edo on Pexels.com

By: JANA GREENE

Whisper in church, they say.

Be REVERENT in this place,

Shake the hands,

Bow your head,

Pull the mask over your face.

But to revere

Is not to fear,

And no walls contain it’s form.

We are never called to a stillness

To which we can’t conform.

I find that nature

Brings out the reverence in me.

The ocean a temple,

Living water in the seas.

Ebbing and flowing,

Aching with glory,

Nature is where

I write my life’s story.

Give me the forest,

Life pulsing with force,

Growth and blossoming

Running a perfect course.

Reverence is a deer

Pausing by a creek.

Reverence is found in every tear

Falling down a mourner’s cheek.

It’s a whole-body hug,

Hearts so close together,

Synching up a holy,

Hallowed and sacred tether.

Reverence is presence

Living in the now,

With no particular regard

For life’s when’s, why’s, and hows.

The Earth is sacrosanct,

Every inch sacred ground,

And there in that sweet majesty,

I find God all around.

Spiritual

When you feel like a “Lovey,” Remember you are Loved

By: JANA GREENE

When my second daughter was born, I wore a very lightweight sea foam green bathrobe at the hospital. I think I had bought it from Walmart. It had a soft lace around the edges, which were soothing for her to feel when she was nervous. It was inherently nothing special, but she glommed onto it, and it quickly became her security blanket. We called it “Lovey.”

She still has Lovey. She is 30 years old now, and throughout the years, Lovey is about the only thing that conveyed in all of her moves. I believe she still might sleep with it.

Much like the Velveteen Rabbit, Lovey became a shred of a thing. It had been snuggled, cried on, donned as a costume, barfed on, and worn as a turban, her whole life. It has shrunk from tumbles in the dryer. Like the Velveteen Rabbit of lore, Lovey became puny with wear, shredded by love.

As a chronic illness and pain patient, I feel a little like Lovey these days. I don’t feel identifiable as who I issued to be.

When I leave this world, I will leave it with my body in shreds. My hope is to be softer than when I came, ego shrunk from tumbles. My purpose only to love and be loved.

I feel shredded lately. My pain levels have been monumental. It’s almost more than I can bear, to be honest.

The trick is, I think, to realize that sickness is not the only thing shredding me. My joints – all 360 of them in the human body – are essentially being held together with silly putty instead of Gorilla Glue. My Earth Suit makes faulty collagen. Everything hurts, almost all the time.

When I feel leveled by the pain, I need to be mindful that illness isn’t my only leveler. I’m also being loved, and I know that. I’m very grateful.

All of us Loveys – tattered, worn, and threadbare – have to remember that we don’t lose our value as we experience the transition from being something the world recognizes and can easily determine the function of, to something whose purpose might not look as obvious.

See, my daughter’s lovey had only become more valuable to her. The fact that an old robe can find new life as something completely different is oddly comforting. It meant the difference between being an article of mom’s clothing, and becoming a beloved “friend.” It meant the difference between the Goodwill basket, and an honored place on her pillow.

So maybe I’m not breaking. Maybe I’m becoming. And in this season of great difficulty, I choose to believe the latter. I have to hold on to hope.

Puny from wear, shredded with love.

God bless us, every one.

Spiritual

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

By: JANA GREENE

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

Spiritual

The Evolution of a Prayer

By: JANA GREENE

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

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

Reconstructing my faith has evolved how I speak with God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even when words fail us.

His love never does.

Spiritual

Everything’s Broken (but hope is not lost)

By: Jana Greene

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

-The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May THAT that circle be unbroken.

God bless us, every one.

Spiritual

People are “Problematic” (love them anyway)

Photo by THIS IS ZUN on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

I realize that times like these are where the rubber hits the road, faith-wise. I just wish I wasn’t working with bald tires and jacked up pattern of traffic cones to navigate life.

Metaphorically, of course.
We all are burning rubber, and not getting very far. We are all weary and wrung-out, exhausted, divided, and furious.

Think of all the ways we have been divided over the past few years coinciding with Covid.

Think of your friends individually, and all the ways you differ in opinion to the detriment of your relationship… ways you had no idea were so different to yours. Maybe on things that are so close to your heart, you cannot BELIEVE a friend you formerly thought you had a lot in common with feels one way or another. How COULD they?? Ya think you know a person, right?

My daughter and I were having a conversation not long after the Super Bowl half-time show last winter. She was saying that she respected Eminem taking a knee at the performance. “But,” she said. “I have mixed feelings about Eminem. He’s problematic.”

“Everyone is problematic,” I said, because it’s true.

Now, my daughter and I do not agree on many, many issues. BIG ones. But we try to respect the other’s feelings, which is the most any of us can do, I think.

She was referring to the rapper’s controversial lyrics. But it occurred to me –

We really are ALL problematic.

Like… I KNOW I’m problematic. There is probably that one time I said something I didn’t think through before saying it; actually, probably hundreds of times. Or the view I held ten years ago that today makes me cringe. Or the way I handled those situations in the past that are not me, anymore.

What too often happens is that we throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. We end up discounting the whole person for their flaws or differences, but only the ones we ourselves have never struggled with. Because our own problematic ways may not be problematic to US, and therefore, we consider them unproblematic in sum.

The human brain just loves to categorize and label, and the human ego loves to judge others. It just jacks up our righteous-o-meters. It’s how we make sense of the world. It’s how we make sense of each other.

It tells us not to appreciate one aspect of a person, because they are “problematic.”

Nobody is asking “What would Jesus do?” anymore because we know good and damn well what he would do. We just don’t want to do it.

People over policy.

Relationship vs. religion.
Friends over ideology.
Love one another, for that is the greatest commandment.

Not one of us was designed to live in this environment – 24-hour news cycles, being bombarded with hostility, being micro-managed by the government. Not one of us was born to intake what we intake all day every day. Fodder for turning us against each other. It didn’t start at the beginning of Covid. It’s been brewing for years. Dualism has been around since the dawn of time.

My old beliefs aren’t ME, anymore. I’m a different person than I was three years ago. Or yesterday, for that matter.

Every day I’m learning, and I think that’s all we can expect from mere mortals – that we keep growing. Even when it contradicts what you’ve said and done most of your life. Growth is not linear. Keep reaching and forgive your mistakes, but also forgive the mistakes others have made _or are CURRENTLY making – on this road. We are all on the same route.

Differences we may have that divide us:

Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life.

Supporting the LGBTQ+ community vs. Discriminating against them.

Vaxxed vs. Un-vaxxed.

Dems vs. Pubs.

Blue States vs. Red States.

Depp vs. Heard (just making sure your’e paying attention, haha.)

Things we have in common:

We have an unbelievable capacity to love.

We are all experiencing the human condition in many ways that truly sucks.

We are all human.

I won’t finish this off with platitudes and a rousing round of kumbaya, but I will say we can do better. We MUST do better. We must share the road.

We must not pass the stranded in our race to be #1. This is a call for kindness, which I will try to heed myself, even in the midst of Problemville.

Growing is loving beyond differences, I guess.

Love to each of you today, and God bless.

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

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.

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.

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.

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. ❤️

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.

Anxiety · Spiritual

Handing off Anxiety to Surrender (a thousand times a day)

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

By: JANA GREENE

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

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

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

Anxiety would have me believe that life is just a series of events to kill time while I wait for certain tragedy to strike. As morose as that sounds, it’s how FEEL. It robs today of its joy and tomorrow of it’s potential. I would do well to remember that feelings are not facts. Waiting for the “other shoe to drop” is not a strategy for a happy life. But dayum, that other shoe is awfully loose!

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

It’s a work in progress. I hand my anxiety off to God every day, and say, “Here, take this please. It’s heavy and awkward to carry and WAY outdated. Fear served me as a child; it doesn’t get handed the reins anymore because I choose to rebuke it, a thousand times a day. Plus, it seems to have visitation rights.

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

Anxiety feels like it will protect your heart to believe the worst, because anything less than horrible will be a nice surprise. The truth is closer to this: “Life is full of nice surprises, but we will never notice them by expecting the worst.” And expecting the worst is my default already.

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

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

So…

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

God bless us, every one.

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

Spiritual

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.

Faith · Spiritual

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

 

man tattooed praying
Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cold and broken, but full of hallelujah anyway.

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

It’s walking away from pain with faith intact.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hallelujah.

Hallelujah

Hallelujia.

Amen.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE JEFF BUCKLEY PERFORMING “HALLELUJAH”

 

Acceptance · blogging · Brokenness · Christian writers · Christianity · chronic illness · Depression · Enough · God · God · Healing · Hope · Inspirational · Spiritual

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

black and red typewriter
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….

 

Hurricanes · Spiritual

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.