If we are eternal creatures having a physical experience for an allotment of years on Earth, it begs the question:
Why have a physical experience at all? Especially with all the heartbreak and tragedy raging all around us. What’s the value in being here?
No matter how crazy life gets, I truly believe there is purpose in our being Earth-side. And I recognize that having a human experience enables us to experience things others in the spiritual realm may not.
Take chocolate, for example. Do angels eat chocolate? We do. It’s delicious.
When they hear Led Zeppelin, so they feel the music in their physical bones? We can. (And it’s like climbing a stairway to Heaven!)
We have thunderstorms so rumbly, you feel the thunder in your chest.
Literal water falls from the sky, on the regular. That’s some legit Garden of Eden stuff there.
Water is one of my favorite parts of being human. How would we appreciate the Living Water that is our Creator, had we not known the concepts of thirst and satiation?
We can climb trees that have their own intelligence, and admire flowers that God didn’t need to make so pretty, but did.
We get to host the lives of other sentient beings – little furry forever friends. We get our faces kissed with slobber, and benefit from the vibrations of a purr, and although I know pets go to Heaven, I’m grateful for their pretense in this intense world.
We have telescopes to remind us how small we are, and microscopes to show us how intricately we are put together; for we are made of divine love, and stardust.
We have books – vast volumes of human history and human frivolity, ours for the ingesting.
And we have tacos, y’all. In all the universe, we get to enjoy tacos!
Best of all, we have one another. That’s really something – relationships. Just two Earthlings who took a shine to each other and become friends for life. What? That’s crazy! And I love it.
We have such grace and grief, both; double-edged swords that clear the rubbish of human drudgery to make room for the fruits of the Spirit.
If you are living under skin and over bone, you are on a quest. Get excited.
The world – even with its trials and tragedies – is one God so loves. It’s messy and painful and sometimes I’m not sure why he loves it. but I’m certain it’s loved because look around us.
May we find love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control in our human experience.
Better yet, while we are questing, may we BE love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
And May the angels and eternal beings on the other side cheer us on as we throw down the gauntlet, anxious with anticipation.
When you were a child, you weren’t allowed to exist as that very basic thing – a child. And so you didn’t know how to play without furrowed brows and anxiety for the longest time.
Look at you now, playful and free, laughing at the most juvenile humor imaginable. Look at you doing things just for the sake of FUN!
And sweet friend, I know you have suffered life-altering trauma and faced circumstances so devastating, you would have deemed it unsurvivable, had you known it was coming.
You thought, “well, I’d never be able to survive that – anything but THAT – God forbid it ever happened!”
But God didn’t forbid it.
And you’re still standing.
Remember when you let other people define you? A lifetime of stuffing your own feelings out of reverence for the OTHER person? As if you deserve no reverence for yourself?
Sisters, the Universe reveres you; surely you can do the same. Surely you can find that your worth is equal to the ones you make feel worthy.
Your own definition of you is the only opinion that matters in the least. Isn’t that ironic?
For a while, you were bitter; an undercurrent of constant anger running in the background of your ether, which is MOST “un-ladylike” of you.
Patriarchal pish-posh, I say.
Look at you now, with an open heart so cavernous as to swallow up the whole broken world into a wild love, and spit out the bitterness. You’re slaying it like a freaking LADY, and a badass one at that.
They tried to hijack your newfound happiness because misery loves company and you’ve SO over the weeping and gnashing of teeth bit. That’s hard for miserable people to accept – that you have the audacity to let things go.
Yes, now here you are. Has anyone bothered to read you the scoresheet?
You have made it through 100% of the heartbreaks, rejections, and tragedies you have EVER experienced.” That takes some doin’!
You are part of a mighty Sisterhood! Link arms with me and let’s meander through this crazy world together – a place of radical silliness, a penchant for overcoming, and self-acceptance.
I have always hated speaking in front of people. Since I was a child, it gave me the worst anxiety.
The top photo was taken several years ago at a ladies conference being launched by two of my church friends. I was to give my testimony as a recovering alcoholic and follower of Jesus to nearly 100 women. I was honored, but not at peace about it.
Everybody kept telling me that it was my duty as a Christian to share my story, and I was hearing the same thing from my 12 Step group: God wants you to do this as your “ministry.” If you don’t share, how can you reach people?
But there is NO flow to my speaking. If I am in front of more than five people, I stutter. I stammer. I break out in blotches and feel like I’m having a heart attack.
But God wants it, I’m told. He is trying to “grow” me. So I did, over and over again, but it was excruciating. And I never once had peace about it. The ladies still do the conference every year and it is a very popular event. They are wonderful humans doing stuff for God, so more power to them.
But that’s not me.
I didn’t fit in with that group, and was never invited back to speak. In hindsight, I now consider it a merciful act. I admire the women who can get up and speak to a large crowd without wondering what they are supposed to do with their hands (or the expressions on their faces) and deliver a riveting message. I’m just not one of them.
But I am no less than them.
And the question rattled around in my head for years – AM I doing the will of God? Well, that depends on who you ask.
“If you are scared to talk to groups of people and find it soul-crushing, and alarms are going off in your brain, that just means you’re on the RIGHT spiritual track because you’re making the devil mad.”
OR the other point of view,
“If it’s simple and there is a natural “flow” to what you’re doing, it’s because God is setting forth a clear path for you? There is an ease to being in God’s will.”
A jewel I’ve gleaned on this journey is that if someone else is telling someone what God “wants you to know,” take it with a grain of salt.
My advice? Dont use the suggestions of others who purport to speak on God’s behalf in lieu of your gut. The feelings in your gut have ancient knowledge. It is not a hedonistic to trust your instincts. They were placed there for a reason.
I don’t do public speaking anymore. The truth is, God knew it wasn’t my jam, but I had to learn it the hard way. I had to learn that one size does NOT fit all.
The thing is: I DO speak up, in the written word, where I can communicate love as God placed the ability in me.
Why are we doing the things we don’t enjoy for God?
As it turns out, there is a flow to carrying out the will of God; an ease. We don’t need to panic or fret. The his world has enough panic and fretting.
Stop doing the things that make your soul panic. Our faith doesn’t have to be powered by the expectations of others.
It only has to be powered by love. Express yourself as you’ve been created to do, and never-mind the rest.
A friend I admire very much recently posted a prayer request, shortly followed by this sentiment: “Don’t bother to pray for me if you’re sending good vibes, good intentions, positive energy, etc. only God can heal me.”
It made me sad for her.
Although I am actually inclined to agree with her ALL healing comes from Source. Powers of darkness ain’t gonna heal you because you asked “the wrong way,” because darkness doesn’t heal. Ever. It can’t.
You’re either getting your healing from God or not at all, no matter how woo-woo your friends pray for you.
But advising your friends who may believe differently than you who are wanting to transfer light, love, and healing to you to “please don’t, unless you’ll do it the right way,”
It’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Especially when you consider that prayer IS “focused attention” – another human being imploring goodness and healing and mercy over you from the one Power who can handle it.
I’m religious circles, we call that “speaking life” over someone. And it seems a pity to reject how ever one can best send love and light for a letter-of-the-law incantation approved by the church proper.
Eastern religions have a much better grasp on this concept. We, on the other hand, almost take a Christmas Nationalist stand about it. “By GOD there is ONE way to pray for me and the Bible CLEARLY says how to do it, so don’t come in here with your weirdo ideas, which are surely demonic, since I don’t understand it.”
When we eschew good intentions that loving people bestow on us because their way of loving us is considered sub-par to your own religion, it’s a loss.
If “good vibes” won’t heal you according to your theology, where do you assume such vibes originate? Where would good, loving intentions for you come from exactly?
When we throw away their manifestations of love for us because they use the word “energy” rather “than prayer.” … we are losing something very important. The humanity of ourselves, and by proxy, the humanity of Jesus.
You are petitioning the Highest Power that exists in the entire universe for MY healing and wellbeing. And if you do so while on your knees, or with a pretty rocks in hand (even the rocks cry out, remember?) I would be honored.
In conclusion, and with a nod to Dr. Dre (wait, I mean Dr. SEUSS:)
If you are struggling, it’s because you are doing the will of God and the devil is coming after you because you are doing the Lord’s work. If your circumstance is difficult, God ordained it. He is “stretching” and growing you. You are obviously on the right track, carrying out his will.
If you are doing what God wills, things will be easier. There will be a “flow” to it. That’s his way of letting you know you are abiding in his will. You won’t have to fight it. There will be a naturalness and ease, if you are operating in the will of God.
Well, which is it?
And please don’t tell me “the Bible is clear..” because it’s not. It’s actually contradictory on a lot of levels.
It’s a subject I’ve asked pastors about, only to be told to just keep reading the “word,” and God would make it clear. The implication of course being “you’re not spending enough time in the Bible.”
To which I say, how did the early church follow the example of Christ for the first four centuries? They did not have the benefit or encumbrance of a book to tell them how to live. Yet they set the world on fire with radical love. It’s all about the spirit, in my estimation.
Here’s the thing; This is life. Messy, wonderful, excruciating LIFE. Live it.
It is full of natural flow, impossible challenges, unexpected events, bursts of assurance, and waves of doubt. There is no one marker that determines if you are going against the will of the Almighty. In the process of deconstruction, I have learned that sometimes, I will avoid doing the “thing” at all, because all those years I NEEDED constant reassurance from Heaven and Earth alike that I was in his will. The paralysis of analysis, if you will.
If things were going great, the underlying sentiment is that God loves me and is pleased with me. But wait – when traumatic events happen, remember that he “chastens whom he loves,” (or if he just really has a cruel streak.)
And I have decided that my whole theology boils down to this: “Shit happens, but God is Love.”
Perhaps we can stop micromanaging the will of God. Perhaps we can marvel at it, wonder at the mystery of a grace so scandalous, we don’t even need to understand the whole plan to know it’s good. We people-please Abba because that’s how we win the approval of people.
Maybe God’s not testing us.
Maybe he isn’t “allowing” difficult, tragic things to happen in order to build up our strength as Christians.
Maybe the fact that everything is going smoothly just means that everything is just going smoothly.
He walks alongside us on the road to Damascus, and down Main Street at Disney World.
Over the fire and ice, both.
He stays near us when we feel robbed in this life, and when we have been given abundance.
Sometimes we get it wrong. But we will either succeed at what we endeavor, or we will learn from it.
When I first started deconstructing my belief system – that is, dismantling all I’d been taught, and finding out for myself what I believe – I felt orphaned. Frazzled.
But the biggest mistake I made was taking on that process in the same vein I practiced religion: Fear. All my life, I’ve operated from a place of fear, and that’s no way to live out Love.
For many of us Christians, fear has been a motivator for faith since the day we hear the sweet name of Jesus. Because HELL, that’s why.
What if it’s not okay to NOT take the Bible literally? What if it’s NOT okay to feel angry at God sometimes? Maybe it’s NOT okay to doubt? Maybe I’ll burn in Hell for all eternity as punishment for expressing the curious mind God himself gifted me?
I want to know God. But I said goodbye to smiting God. And baby-killing God. And bad-mood God. And even disappointed God.
What if, instead of parroting to the whole world that “God is love,” we declare that LOVE is actually GOD. And Love is only ever good. Love looks like Jesus, who looks like God.
But it was scary at first. Like…
Feeling like God had called me into his office and was just waiting to hit the button for the trap door to open beneath me, like in a dang cartoon.
Feeling like a sink hole was going to swallow me up if I ask the wrong questions.
Feeling like I was having to diffuse a bomb without the schematics.
Feeling like I was walking in the wilderness, in a place I didn’t recognize, possibly on another planet.
Shelving my old fears did not come as an epiphany moment, but more like a gradual peeling away in layers like an onion. And like an onion, there was crying involved.
Better yet, it was like a journey into the center of the earth. I didn’t want to rehash the surface stuff – I want to know what’s at the core. And just as the Earth has layers, I moved into deconstruction under the premise that what’s at the core is what keeps everything else stable.
Science says that the Earth’ core is responsible for thew whole planet’s magnetic field, as well as plate tectonics, and many other functions. In other words, we know it’s there. We THINK we know what it’s made of. We are pretty sure what it does. We base our science on evidence, but nobody has ever traveled there and to think we understand it completely is foolhardy.
Ditto God. His ways are (very obviously) not our ways. But what if we trust they are BETTER than our own?
So, what’s at your core, God?
Are you a god of the Old Testament, angry and vengeful?
Or are you a god of unconditional love and justice, like Jesus?
Because the two look nothing alike, and I got tired of pretending they did.
Like the Emporer’s New Clothes, every other believer seemed to be dressed in their faith to the nines, expecting the King to be robed in glory, but you’re the only one who can see that he’s naked. Figuratively, of course. I ain’t trying to be weird. But at some point, I had to say, “Excuse me, ya’ll. BUT CAN YOU NOT SEE HE ISN’T WEARING CLOTHES?” In my own heart, I had to see the emperor as vulnerable and stop listening to how everyone else perceived he was dressed.
I am happy to say that coming out the other side, I choose to believe the latter. And since I’ve lived in the latter, I have peace. I finally have the spiritual peace that “it is finished” means IT IS FINISHED.
I have the ability to love ALL, without taking their ‘inventory’ and determining their worth.
I no longer just tell folks I’ll pray for them. I just DO it. And I try to be emotionally available to them myself, because how else is God supposed to love on us if not through each other? That’s how he gets shit done.
In conclusion, I’ve never physically been to the earth’s core. Nobody has. It is mysterious and no matter how we define it, we have to have faith that it will keep the Earth spinning. We will too.
But I do think I know God a little better now.
He created us to love us, and to teach us to love one another.
He keeps me close like a magnet and draws you near too.
He guides my steps as the circumstances change and shift like tectonic plates.
Excuse me, but God is wearing nothing but LOVE for you. Even if “everybody else” is “hearing from God,” has “a hotline to God,” has read the whole Bible, is a “Super Christian” in religious circles, or sits on a church committee (or seven.)
Grab my hand and let’s journey to the center of the heart of God.
The core has been cooling down since the creation of time, softening, just as his heart is soft for us; just like Jesus.
I am at the core of that heart, and so are you. He loves you to the center of your being.
I used to pray for good parking spots, and HALLELUJAH in praise, as holy-rolled into my divine space at Target. Obviously, I’m super spiritual.
Why, just last week I won $5 on a scratch-off lotto ticket AND I caught that clearance sale at Kohls and the dress was just my size!
*Shaking my head.*
That was my theology… “I can do ALL things through Christ, who – before the foundation of the universe – willed me to receive shallow, trivial things to prove his majesty to me.
God is eithera benevolent dude who puts his pants on one leg at a time like all the rest of us and is moving heaven and earth to make sure you get that good parking space,
God is a cosmic force who knows all like omnipotent Santa Clause, spinning celestial bodies in perfect orbit, and from his mighty throne, waits to call you out on your peasant misdeeds.
God is like Jesus.
Passing out grace in scandalously copious fashion, all sweet and willy-nilly. Like honey, it sticks to everything and the sweetness cuts the bitterness of everything else in life.
Maybe God isn’t a “sky daddy,” reigning from a throne in there heavens. Perhaps he sits on the actual thrones that we know as our human hearts.
And if that’s true (and I know it is because my soul keeps elbowing me in the ribs to make sure I’m paying attention,) that changes EVERYTHING.
I’m not sure I believe God cares which parking spot I get anymore, and that can seem like a loss of faith when you’ve been begging God for things all your life – from parking spots to healing my illness which has no cure, to fixing my despair.
But it’s not a loss. I’ve learned God is just like Jesus. And Jesus is Love. By association, we are Love too.
And this is how 1 Corinthians 13 has revealed itself to me:
Love never gives up, not even when you can imagine no way out of the pain.
Love cares more for others than for self, and shows it.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. It in itself is plenty.
Love doesn’t have a swelled head, it is a pouring out, not a showing-off.
Love doesn’t strut; it’s prowess doesn’t say “look at me!” but reflects in a humbling contemplation.
Love doesn’t force itself on others, spreading the dry-bone, legalistic “gospel” for the sake of evangelizing.
It is rarely “me first,” but rather “how can I be of service?”
Love doesn’t fly off the handle, but keeps its calm.
Love doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, even when we are really sure someone deserves their comeuppance.
Love doesn’t revel when others grovel, it shall always be preeminent.
Love is pleasure in the flowering of truth.
It puts up with anything,
Love trusts its Source.
Love never looks back, it lives in h the now.
Love looks for the best, especially when nobody else can seem to find it.
Love keeps going to the end;
Way past the parking lot.
Long after our Earth Suits are finally healed.
Continuing until we are one with the celestial bodies in perfect orbit…
I am watching “Intervention,” which is a great series, but very heavy subject matter. I watch a lot of TV when I’m having a high-pain day. I used to feel guilty about watching TV in the middle of the day, because AYYYYYY! If I can feel guilty about something, I’m going to glom on to that shit. It’s familiar to me. But I’m learning to go easier on myself.
I watch Intervention because I admire interventionists, recovery is an incredible journey, and I’m a huge fan of observing “what makes people tick.” Psychology fascinates me. And mostly, I love the show because some folks rise from the ashes like a phoenix, and that stuff is inspiring.
Intervention hits especially hard because I’m an alcoholic. It’s been 22 years since my last drink.
When I got sober, I didn’t think it would “stick” but I just kept NOT having a drink that day. And then the next day, always eternally promising myself I would not drink today.
I now have 8,066 days alcohol-free. That’s a miracle.
I wish everyone got their miracle. I truly believe it’s possible for everyone. Not on the other side of this life, but IN this one. And I don’t know why I made it out of active alcoholism while many do not. It’s easy to feel survivor’s guilt about it. But that’s a blog post for another day.
On January 2, 2001, I took my last drink. I was turning yellow. My body was demanding alcohol by every day’s end. But when I would drink, my body would also reject the alcohol, in a most unpleasant and projectile manner.
And nobody knew how much I was drinking. I mean, NO one. So the shame factor was tremendous.
I was trying to drown Trauma that knew how to swim like Michael Phelps, without even knowing that’s what I was doing.
When I first got sober, it was on this brand new technology – the INTERNET! The support group was “Alcoholism in Women” AOL. Yep. America Online, people.
I’d like to write about that experience (maybe later this week?) Recovery puts you in a vulnerable place. One of those ladies is still a dear friend to this day. But some of them didn’t make it out.
Some of those precious, strong, beautiful souls lost their lives to alcohol. It’s heartbreaking.
As far as I can tell, the purpose for making it through something hard is to help someone else get through something hard. That’s why I’m open about why I don’t drink.
At the end of each episode of Intervention, there is a segment that shows whether or not the addict chooses to get help, and usually includes a short follow up. Some refuse help outright. Some go but don’t take advantage fully of the help.
But some of them – many – get their new start. They grab onto it with both hands, with the same passion they had for their drug (which is what it takes,) and it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. Makes my heart soar!
That’s what I wish for every addict and alcoholic. It’s possible for all of us, but we have to be willing to do anything to keep healthy.
If you are drinking more than anyone knows, If you feel hopeless and full of shame, If you cannot imagine your life improving vastly, If you think you’ve really blown it this time, If your heart is raw from a lifetime of trauma, If you wonder if you’re worth it…
You’re in the PERFECT place to claim a new life.
If you’re at the end of your rope, grab on to the knot – help and support – and it will become a ladder that leads you into a new life.
Recovery is so flippin’ Beautiful and REAL. And it’s perfect for YOU. It’s not for other people, it’s for you. So that you can have the life you deserve.
I think of my AOL sisters from time to time; the ones who didn’t make it out. I wonder where they would be now, if they just didn’t pick up a drink that day. I suspect at the heart of it, they didn’t believe they were worthy of a better, sober life.
So I’m just writing this today to tell you that you’re worth it.
Please out resources and help. There is no shame in asking for help. And do whatever it takes to live the recovery life. Glom onto it, obsess about recovery just as you have the drink.
We already know how to be obsessed; find out what switching obsessions can do for you (and the people who love you.)
Find out what truly makes YOU tick, because I guarantee you’re fascinating in ways you don’t even know yet. I’ll bet you’ve forgotten who you truly are, while in your addiction. Life is hard, but also so good. I promise. You can do this.
I once had a friend many years ago who embodied what I thought at the time was spiritual perfection.
She was, you see, a “Proverbs 31 woman” to the bone.
In my zeal to be like her (and thus, presumably like Jesus?) I kind of lost myself. Which is what many churchy folk will tell you is the whole point of being one. You’re supposed to lose your identity, or at the very least tweak it.
If you’re not familiar with the reference, it comes from the verse by the same name in the Bible and has become the litmus test of judging a woman’s “true” worth:
“….good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. She is never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long. She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing….”
You get the gist of it.
I tried to emulate my angelic friend, which was problematic because it kept me feeling in a state of less than.
She was soft-spoken, where my nature is boisterous.
She was serene where I am neurotic.
She never cussed and I hold fast to my peppery language.
She was crafty and talented, but super meek and humble about it. She never raised her voice. She always had devotional time with the Lord every morning before all else. It would not surprise me in the least if Jesus sent actual sunbeams to fall in the pages as she read and kept her coffee miraculously piping hot until she is done. (That’s how valuable the studies and prayers are of a Proverbs 31 woman, according to lore.)
But here’s the thing: She hasn’t had my experiences in life either. To be fair, humans are complicated and wonky (I believe that’s the scientific term.) We are all unique and as such, God doesn’t expect us to be all the same.
My friend had never battled addiction, and was certainly never a slave to the bottle.
Or been rejected by her own family.
She hadn’t experienced abuse as a child.
Her kids never got into any trouble growing up, and are pillars of the community.
She represented everything the church expected of me that I was unable to be, and everything they expected me to give that I couldn’t muster.
I’m more than the sum of what’s happened to me, and so are you. But what’s happened to us inspires our outlook on life – even our outlook on God.
You see, I am not “less than” a Proverbs 31 woman.
I am much more than more than who I used to be. And that’s the only comparing we should be doing as women – contrast ourselves with our past behaviors so that we can better ourselves.
I am simply a person who has collected trauma after trauma and made the conscious effort to overcome on a daily basis. True, I am not my saintly friend, but growth trumps the illusion of perfection any day.
My Creator is not dissatisfied with me for not being her, or the legions of “hers” all through Christendom.
Authenticity over antiquated expectations.
Relationship with God over rules and regulations.
Raw-dogging life with an open mind and heart.
Because I’m not sure a good woman is hard to find, but I am sure she probably has some sass. And I’m sure that setting unrealistic expectations behooves neither male or female; husband or wife.
Spicy girls, don’t despair. God loves you exactly the way he made you – giving you the same leeway to be imperfect that he apparently has afforded men all along.
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.
“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.”
My gastroperesis is flaring so hard I’m barely able to keep any food down. This throws other medical issues into a hellish spiral.
My chronic pain has been ridiculous.
We have very difficult things to deal with in the family right now. Really hard things.
I’ve cried several times today, which is no small feat when you’re on antidepressants. It felt awful to cry, and then really good…cleansing.
And it seems a counter-intuitive measure to wallow around in pain and sadness, but every once in a while, you need a good wallow.
Today I will cry, and rest, and bitch about my woes to my ever-patient husband.
I will likely beat myself up for having to cancel plans with friends, and hate myself for feeling melancholy.
I will feel like I am not handling life well AT ALL. (While reminding myself that despite it all, knowing I’m doing my very best.)
At some point, to be transparent, I will feel guilty for even having this little nervy-B, guilty for unloading on my husband, and guilty for having the audacity to complain about this life, when I am truly blessed in so many ways.
I’m pretty sure I’m not done crying today. God, I hope not. There’s a long line of tears queued up in my spirit that need to be purged.
I hope that tomorrow, by some measured miracle, the world on fire won’t seem quite so much like utter doom.
Today I will wallow. I’ll sleep and watch Schitt’s Creek (it’s a balm to my soul), and talk with God about WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH MY LIFE RIGHT NOW. And I’ll look forward to better days.
Because they are always on the way, you know – better ones.
This is one of those pieces that originated as pure pent-up anxiety that would only be assuaged by writing. It’s a little rambly!
By: JANA GREENE
On the way to the dentist, I passed a gentleman whose entire existence was contained in a shopping cart. My heart lurched heavy in my chest. I gave him what cash I had, which wasn’t much. “God bless you,” I said. But it rang hollow in my throat.
The rest of the drive, I thought about how many thousands of times I’ve told people that.
If God could bless him, he wouldn’t be living out of a shopping cart, would seem evidential, so I told God so, as if maybe he forgot this one straggler, and PLEASE COULD YOU GET ON THIS?
Like I can tell God about mercy.
See…this is where the deconstructing of religion has given me a great gift. A really wonky, welcome, serendipitous gift.
If for no other reason than it gave me permission to give voice to the GIANT chasm of inequity, I increasingly became aware of. I cared; I really did. But the sheer inequality didn’t shred my spirit.
My God is only ever Good, I believed on the surface. But I couldn’t reckon that with all the pain – personally and globally.
God will rescue you from suffering, is easy to say. But I kept getting sicker.
God has a PLAN. (Which is totally true, but not always helpful.)
His ways are not our ways. (No SHIT!)
You know those HGTV shows where they find a property and deem it worthy of saving even though it looks like a straight-up dumpster fire? My Spirit was a real fixer-upper. The rebuilding of my faith stripped away the pretty stucco facade of a neat and tidy belief system and turned it into a real shitshow. Wrecking balls. Bulldozers. Hard hats required. Flattened it into the ground. I was sure that was a wrap on my relationship with a Higher Power.
But SPOILER ALERT: I can’t do that. I’ve seen things. I’ve felt things. My heart of hearts knows things. I suspect yours does too.
It’s a gift to be able to question existence without feeling damned to Hell for it (eternal conscious torment is a topic for another day.) It stands to reason that the innate ability to question God is a gift he alone gives. If we don’t feel comfortable enough to approach the throne without fear, where’s the relationship?
Unfortunately, my “healthy fear” of God kept me from God, because deferring to somebody you’re terrified of is not a good model. Fear was the theme of my entire childhood, and a “healthy fear” of God kept me from some degree of meaningful spiritual growth. That’s just me.
So, it’s a work in progress. But as we say in the Program: “Progress, not Perfection.”
My soul is on a state-of-the-art foundation now…though there is still scaffolding all the way around (which I’m hoping is permanent, to hold my structure in ongoing work.) But the house is solid. Good bones, as they say. There’s still a bit of debris, which makes excellent confetti with which to celebrate LIFE and all the chaos that is part and parcel. The interior is shaping up, too; although it feels like it’s taking forever, it’s right on the Designer’s schedule. Open floor concept – very spacious.
I have no answer as to why some of us are born into one station or another. Why some of us are healthy and some will always be sick. Sickness is my sticky wicket. I don’t know why I’m having this whole, soul-lurching, discombobulating, radical spirit reckoning the past few years.
But I know it’s got me thinking things like: That gentleman living out of the shopping cart? He could BE God, for all I know…can you imagine if we ALL treated one another with the reverence we allow only God? What if we really saw God in every person. Oy vey, so much to think about.
I can only explain it as: God is only Love. When our souls’ sense that benevolent drenching in experience nature, that is God.
God + Love…there ya go. That’s my whole entire theology:
Shit happens, but God is Love.
(Now the rest of the blog will be me hashing out what that looks like; pull up a chair.)
When we are bothered for people less fortunate (whether we deem them at “fault” for it or not)…
When we declare grace over people (who we have decided are pushing their luck in the grace department.)
When we are enjoying the purely divine gift of music and the chords hit so hard that you hit repeat for a solid half-hour…
When babies smile at us in the grocery store checkout lines…
When a friend sends a heart emoji for no reason…
When your husband kisses you on the top of your head…
When are we allowed to get angry with God and ask him the hard questions without fear?
WHEN WE ARE HUMAN….
God is there. God is love.
WE ARE the mercy.
You are not a wayward straggler, but a sturdy and essential journeyman, who is going to get through this pandemic – and a million other very hard things – and come out laughing.
We don’t have to hustle for our worthiness. There is genuine GOD in you.
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:
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.
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.
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. ❤️
I bought three little flowering plants for the steps of our front porch several months ago. I cannot tell you the name of the flowers – I’m just winging it with the plant thing. I love that plants are a big deal again, harkening back to the ’70s, when having flora and fauna (and keeping it alive,) was popular.
“You may want to throw those out,” suggested my husband one day, who – upon seeing the three little withering plants – suggested logic. And it was logical. All three looked brown and barren. He is excellent at logic, whereas I consider it largely a nuisance.
“I don’t know,” said I. “I feel like maybe they have some life left in them.”
So I moved the little plants up onto the front porch, where they sat disintegrating for weeks before my eyes. Every day, when I walk out to the mailbox, there they are – sad little things trying to beat the odds. I typically say hello to them, and I always feel silly when I do.
“Wassup?” I ask them.
“Well, we are dying here, soooo…..” I imagine they’d say. Or, “Oy vey! This heat!”
So I got them out of the direct sun, because it’s too intense. Life itself has been ridiculously intense over the past couple of years. The summer heat makes life unfit for man, beast, and – apparently – plants. There they sit on the porch, looking like a lost cause. (Even when I water them, which happens when I remember they exist.)
Bless their hearts.
Today I went out to the mailbox and saw this poignant little sign not to give up. One lone, pink flower found its way to life again somehow. Just the one little plant, scrappy and determined.
I know it’s crazy to have your day made by a flower, but it made me a little giddy to see new life. I could use some new life. One little bud gave me hope today. It spurred what – in my evangelical days – I would call a “God wink.” God LOVES winking at us, sending little reminders that he is willing and able to make life bearable – wonderful, even.
I forget that a lot. Things seem to be getting worse by the day in this crazy world. Everything seems browner, lifeless, and bleak. It’s enough to make you believe that we are goners.
But the truth is:
We get buried, and we rise.
Our spirits get scorched, but not incinerated.
We feel dead, but God…
THIS (*gestures wildly*) is quite the season we are having, ya’ll. We all feel brown and crispy. Dry and done-for.
We feel like sad little things trying to beat the odds, because we are.
But we are also magnificently resilient beings, fully capable of blooming again.
Here’s to blossoming against the odds, friends.
Here’s to blooming where we’re planted, scrappy and determined.
Take one lifetime of Old Time Religion. Stir in two cups of Fear-Based Theology. Sprinkle in 2 tbsp of unintentional judginess, three tbsp of Obviously I’m Right, work through dough. Add additional The Bible CLEARLY Says! to taste.
While religious “dough” is trying to rise, but just kind of petering out, prepare in a shofar – I mean BOWL:
Two cups each of Chronic Pain and Debilitating Illness powder that has been sifted through a “name it and claim it” sieve for 40 years, but it’s still lumpy.
Add 4 tbsp frustration, and a dash of Must Not Be Worthy of Healing. Stir in a packet of What Will My Fundamentalist Friends Think. Cry about this step for approximately three more years.
Check ingredients in first bowl to make sure dough is indeed rising. But nope. It’s just sitting there in a big glop.
In yet another bowl, add one adult child who has come out as bisexual, which was NOT in the original recipe, so sayeth the Expectations Set Forth by the Church. Add a smidge of What Will My Fundamentalist Friends Think (if you have any left, which is doubtful. We go through it like gangbusters around here!)
Decide to add many dollups of Mother Love anyway (heck, dump in however much you have,) and set the kitchen timer to two more years on the “acceptance” setting. This is a wet ingredient, so thinning it out will just make it easier to spread. Use liberally.
Open up the pantry and see what else you have that might somehow make it more palatable.
Aww, shucks. All you have is a Costco-sized box a bag of Everything Else Life Can Throw At You. That stuff is SPICY. Always check the label…let’s see…it contains Mental Health Challenges, Losing Mobility, Family Estrangements, Crippling Anxiety, Bouts of Financial Struggle, Alcoholism, Codependency, Childhood Trauma, and 1000 grams of pure Shame Concentrate.
Going back to the bowl, taste the batter. See that it is bad. Mix all ingredients. See that it is WORSE.
While waiting for the timer, it’s important to assume that the Master Chef is angry and frustrated with you. Kind of like an astral Gordon Ramsey or something.
Assure yourself the whole Universe is against you, as is everyone you know and love who is following directions from a 2,000 year old book of recipes that several hundred fallible human people contributed to. Kind of like Gramma’s recipe box that had a hundred food-stained index recipe cards from her friends shoved into between the pages. Make sure to take everything out of context for best results.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and when timer sounds, decide on how much savory Self-Doubt to use. Seasonings come in “I’m a Worthless Sinner,” and “Searing Disappointment” flavors.
Ask yourself WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Am I just a shitty cook, or so I just have so few ingredients to work with, I’m having a hard time accepting the result?
And what if I’ve been forgetting the Main Ingredient all along?
Next (scary) step:
Decide you’re tired of fear-based faith, dust off your hands, open your heart, ask the Universe to help you see what is Truth, battle-weary, heavy-hearted, and feeling raw inside like dough that won’t rise.
Decide to put all judgement and Christian-ese down the garbage disposal. The Expectations of Other People went bad a long time ago and is really stinking up the place.
Decide to fold Unconditional Love into every single recipe. Never run out! Keep it on the top of every list so you always have enough.
Follow the example set by Jesus always…He is always cooking up something GOOD.
Next, march all three containers used previously out your back door. Gently set down all three, and leave them outside to think about what they’ve done.
Now – this is important – turn off the oven. Nobody is burning on my new watch!
You are not alone, Chef Self.
So join a “cooking” club – one that is comprised of other Seekers with open hearts who want to get at the meat of the Truth, and offer you endless sugar.
Flip the script. Read the instructions anew.
Take one bowl – the most chipped and beat up one you got, and butter it with kindness.
Then invite all your friends over to help you create a masterpiece.
All you will need is:
8 cups HOPE – brimming. Five tbsp of self-forgiveness. A heaping scoop of Studying what the Cookbook Really Calls For – reading between the lines. A tbsp of of Learning to Love Yourself Too will hold it all together when you want to throw in the towel.
And last, but MOST importantly, add All the Jesus You Have, all day every day. All of it. Tip it over and smack the bottom of the box for every molecule of Jesus it’s got. Really pile it in on. Study his ways in the context given, and leave room for Holy Spirit in every dish.
Oh, and tell your friends that All the Jesus is just another measurement of LOVE. Get to know HIS way around the kitchen together.
These few ingredients are all you need, Junior Chef, to mix up a reconstruction of faith for the ages. And keep in mind:
If you feel like you have to keep Fear on hand “just in case,” know that God is not the store where you purchased Fear. That stuff is very in-organic.
If you’re grieving the losses of this hard life, pull up a chair and come sit by me. There is always plenty of room at Christ’s table. And mine. *Pulls out chair and pats the seat in a welcoming invitation.*
If you’re ambling around aimlesssly, your chef hat askew, join me. I’ll be celebrating that I finally understand, “It is for freedom you were set free.”
And if you’re deconstructing your faith, and If you’re being called “deceived,” “fallen” – or (and I’m okay with this one) – “ex-evangelical,” remind yourself that the Word of God is an actual person. As Master Chef, he wants to see you succeed.