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!
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.”
Who else is straight trippin’ over the images from the James Webb telescope released this week? Because I’m in AWE, with a capital “A.” I have to tell you that that my Spirit is even more impressed with them than my brain, which is amazed. And it has renewed by faith on a cosmic scale.
For a couple of decades, I have occasionally had a recurring dream that I am flying through outer space, and as I’m soaring, I am awash in an incredible feeling of warmth and belonging. Floating and gliding at peace in a place of unimaginably bright-colored celestial bodies against a black sky that was somehow NOT dark… endless planetary bodies around me, and they are both a million miles away and a part of my own body, simultaneously. It’s my favorite dream. I wish I had it more often.
Ever have those “this is so realistic; I must be dead and in Heaven” dreams? Even in my dream-state, I’m cognizant of fact that the sheer vastness and twinkling stars and planets should (by measurement of my earthly anxiety) make me afraid. But I’ve left the earthly plane and don’t give two hoots about the utter INFINITENESS. It isn’t scary. I am home.
Can I better describe this dream venue for you? I can. By showing you the pictures of our Universe that were captured by the telescope. As I told my therapist whilst recounting seeing the images for the first time, “I’ve BEEN to there!”
I used to be able to hold my theology in a thimble. It was laid out to me by my ancestors, and their ancestors – a set of beliefs that were true because I was told they were, and I’m a people pleaser above all else. I didn’t know it was in a thimble – I thought it was quite encompassing. There were rules and doctrines and to question them was a sin, so I didn’t question. But the evangelical world and its gospel of exclusion started to gnaw on my soul. It didn’t sit well, but OH WELL. WHAT CAN YOU DO? God was loving but stern, bound by his own doctrine and narrow in his thinking. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t exit the spacecraft.
But love doesn’t operate that way. God doesn’t operate that way.
You cannot define his love within the bounds of a dogma, or a book, or a patriarchal gospel. I know this to be true because when my thimble spilled the contents of its conviction, the enormity of his love pummeled me. I started basking in nature – Creation – and really SEEING it. I’ve even hugged a tree or two. I stopped taking everyone else’s inventory. I stopped inquiring if people who were not like me were “worthy.”
What is the point is a Creator who keeps expanding the Universe, but not our minds and hearts?
So today I soar.
The deconstructing of my birthright faith was brutal, I’m not going to lie. I took apart everything I’d learned piece by piece, in order to learn for myself what was true. I had to get to the root of what MY heart truly believed, which – if I’m honest – was fear-based. Imagine my delight when Jesus met me right where I was, gathered me under his divine wings, and comforted me with truth.
My God isn’t bound by 2,000 years of human dogma. He isn’t bound by cannon and law. His law is the law of the whole Universe – the one I’ve soared through in my dreams. The one who keeps expanding holy territory around us and IN us. There is nothing narrow about his vast love for you. The same hand that keeps spinning the cosmos is living in YOU.
I taught Bible studies, and taught Vacation Bible School. I helped launch a couple of Christian-based recovery groups in the city. I was on the Prayer Team, the Greeting Team, the Hospitality team.
Ten years ago, I started this blog – TheBeggarsBakery.com – with stars in my eyes and a mission on my heart. I was truly so serious about it; so sure that it was my “ministry.” It was BEFORE.
Before pain was the order of the day, every day.
Before the novelty of thinking I was a recovery expert wore off like Novocain after a root canal.
Before I realized I am not in control (at ALL.)
Before I knew there were so many shades of gray.
Before my grown children gave me gray hair.
And before churches tried to cast demons out of me, for being SICK.
I haven’t been comfortable with the blog’s name for a few years now. I don’t want people to think they have to be broken and begging for Divine Love. Although I wanted to tell others that my soul found “bread” in God, it sounded more and more dualistic and exclusive. As I learned I’m not a fundamentally flawed person desperate for approval – divine or otherwise – I didn’t want my writing to impress upon anyone else that THEY must be broken too.
My intentions were altruistic, I promise. There was a fire in my belly. And there is still. It was a controlled burn for many years, now it’s a brushfire – raging with the expectation that new growth, all green and fresh, will come up underneath. I’m counting on living to witness a full forest come up from underneath this burnt ground.
The Beggars Bakery fit me ten years ago. I felt like a beggar, frankly. My life was feeling like I was a mistake that just squeaked by. I was striving, striving, striving for approval – God’s, my husband’s, my family’s, my friends’. If I could JUST be a successful “ministry,” and maybe make a living at writing?
Alas, neither really panned out as I’d hoped. Especially not the “make a living” part. But with renewed strength, I can see my focus was wrong. I zigged when I should have zagged. I proselytized when I should have just loved.
I am already enough. So are you.
And I retained a love of Jesus but developed a disdain for the evangelical church. And once you see the Universal Christ, you cannot “unsee” him; it really screwed with my oh-so-sure faith walk but opened up something in me I denied for decades.
Don’t get me wrong: I will not start all over here. Because it’s like a spiritual time capsule, and each stage had merit. I don’t want to forget where I came from – there was much JOY! But I want to get to where I’m going, and that requires a little reinvention.
As a follower of Christ, as an empowered female in a new world, and as a mystic.
My very favorite song is Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.” Every single word and note hits me RIGHT in the feels. The MYSTIC. When did we decide – as followers of Christ – to give our Mysticism away? When I was striving to earn God’s approval, I’d skip the word “mystic” when singing it aloud. WHAT? Was my faith so fragile as to offend God with a lyric? Oh my GOD, the LEGALITY.
It was the mere connotation that something mystical could be afoot in my staid, steady, the-Bible-is-literal manner that made the song scandalous. I sing “Into the Mystic” out loud now, and I know God is okay with it.
Just like yoga,
And some Eastern beliefs I was taught to fear.
Just like accepting other humans – fallible and seeking – for their truest selves.
Just like being okay with people just the way they are,
And giving up my staunch nationalistic views for one that assumes ALL are loved and valued by our Creator…
And being authentic, even when it means making a fool of myself.
It’s okay to do so. It’s imperative to growth, especially when the world is on fire.
I’m not sure what direction this blog will go.
I plan on writing about my faith reconstruction journey – all of it. The Fall. The burn. The sweet, fragrant undergrowth of new life shooting forth.
I will still write about recovery from alcoholism – it’s part and parcel of who I am.
I will probably vent frustrations about my worries and keep a safe place to express my anxiety.
So, if you’ve stuck by me all these years and faithfully read all of my work – I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Please consider staying with me. I’ve come to appreciate each of you so much.
I want to rock your gypsy soul Just like way back in the days of old,
With stars in my eyes and love in my heart,
Without a superhero cape, but with arms wide open,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There has been a little saga going on in which I develop dual raging ear infections as of late. I hadn’t had an ear infection in eons prior to this year, mostly I get sinus infections. But this year – for so MANY, MANY reasons, was different.
By the way – toddlers are universally correct about this one – ear infections SUCK. They hurt like hell and make you dizzy and prone to bad moods. So suffice to say, I went to the doctor, who confirmed the double infections, and was put on strong antibiotics. That was last week.
So THIS week, I go the the ENT to make sure the infections had cleared. I am happy to report, they have. So that could be the end of the story, if the ENT hadn’t decided to do an auditory test, since it had been probably 10 years since I had my hearing tested.
No problem. Cool. Let’s do it.
After the test, the doctor parked me in an examining room and came in to give me the results.
“About your hearing test,” he starts with.
I do an audible guffaw, if guffawing was a noise. “Well, I guess I went to too many hair band concerts in the 80’s hahahaha,” say I.
He does not laugh.
“Mrs. Greene,” he starts. “You have moderate hearing loss.”
“Huh,” I state. “Well at least I don’t need hearing aids yet!” Says my inner internal optimist, who should really just shut the hell up most of the time. She’s usually wrong. This is why I usually just avoid the middle man and assume the worst.
“Well, about that….” says he.
“But I’m 52 years old!” I tell him, which hastens him to flip through my chart.
“WHAT??” I say, prophetically I suppose.
Yall, I cannot tell you how depressing this news is. Aside from a janky faith, quirky family, dearly beloved animals, and sick sense of humor, it’s MUSIC that sees me through. Music gets me physically high. It changes the landscape of my mind, which – if you mapped it out – is naturally full of cragginess, hidden sinkholes, and all manner of detour signs.
“WHAT???” is a frequent sentiment these days.
Remember that stupid, morbid game we all played as kids, ‘Would you rather be deaf or blind’? I always go with blind. Not that I’d like to be blind – I love the ability to see – but I cannot fathom life without music. I was the kid in Kindergarten who had to wear an eye patch for lazy eye. My glasses are thicc, honey child. But even with my eyes closed, I can “see” music.
Music has auras. I can “smell” music, at times. It’s called synesthesia, and its one more thing that makes me a weirdo, but happily so. Most of the other things that make me a weirdo are just plain weird, not at all endearing. So I love my sense of sound.
Am I being dramatic? Probably. But this is the year that has aged me 10 years in a multitude of ways. This year alone, I have learned my kidneys are crapping out. I’ve gone from a few gray hairs to becoming pretty white-headed. I’ve lost stamina and muscle tone, and lost an unhealthy amount of weight in a short amount of time from worsening gastroperesis, and had to be hospitalized once because of a gastric bleed.
Yadda yadda blah blah blah, yes it sounds like a pity party, but it also sounds like the woes of a person much (or at least a little) aged than me, chronic illness or not.
The icing on the cake that is 2021 is depression. It’s a depression sadder and more resigned than angry and hostile. It’s a defeatist strain of the thing. On the heels of 2020, which I think we all can agree felt like being punked by the Universe, this year of “But wait….there’s MORE!” has got me really struggling.
I don’t even have the energy to be passionate about this round of depression. Usually, I work my depression out by getting pissed at it, emotionally stomping around a bit, depending on the help of others, getting extra therapy, etc. But I don’t have it in me this time. You know the “shrug” emoji?
LIFE: “There are NEW strains of Covid…”
LIFE: “You cannot eat gluten. Or much sugar. Or have caffeine, so say goodbye to your beloved real coffee…”
LIFE: “Your kidneys are actively failing.”
LIFE: “You will have some level of pain every moment of your existence….”
LIFE: “Some is the pain is unbearable.”
LIFE: “You will lose your mobility…”
LIFE: “You’ll stop writing and painting, and not even really care….”
LIFE: “ANNNNND, you will need hearing aids in the not-so-distant future…”
ME: Okay, enough. WTF??? I’M 52!”
So here I am – finally doing a little writing. Not because it will slow down any of the above or even help any of it. But maybe it will help me deal with this shitty low-grade depression of resignation.
What is the difference between acceptance and resignation? That’s a question for my therapist to help me explore. Because I can’t figure it out myself.
In the meantime….
The nice ENT is ready to help me get into some hearing aids “whenever I feel ready.”
I continue to eat food that is neither tasty, nor satisfying to the soul. Like real bread.
I try very hard to remind myself that so many have it so much worse, but honestly…the more shit that goes wrong with my body, the less prominently into my toolbox of positive thinking. I have to grieve my limitations.
I do All The Things I’m supposed to with dull, necessary regularity.
But deep inside I am neither dull nor resigned. I’m wild and free, listening to the BEST music at the LOUDEST volume. I’m full of off-color humor and love for the divine, and laughter, even when of the ‘gallows’ variety.
So I cry. And complain. And try to accept. And…
And to the Universe, a question: “WHAT???”
Come shrug along with me, and we will figure out acceptance together.
It’s not a great Thanksgiving. It’s not even a good Thanksgiving. About to launch into avent sesh. Sorry in advance.
The whole entire day was a comedy of errors. Oh my God, the anxiety. Plus, I woke up and couldn’t eat food. I’ve had four bites of oatmeal and about a tablespoon of each token TG food all day today. That’s it.
Food is my love language. And Thanksgiving is a Foodie high holy day. And I mean absolutely no sacrilege. Just facts.
I’m having a nasty gastroperesis flare, which is setting off a pain flare, which…you get the picture. My left side of my face had been numb for hours. Auras and face numbness are my harbinger off migraines. It’s what let’s me know it’s coming.
I’m sharing my day, I hope maybe someone else who is inordinately emotional today won’t feel alone. There’s this Norman Rockwell standard, you know? We expect it to be some type of way.
So worsening pain, complex family dynamics, cranberry sauce boiled over in a sticky mess. My knee is going out. I’ve been up since 4 am. I’m tired, weepy, emotional, and could easily slip into sadness.
Thanksgiving is a loaded holiday for me, as there is no contact with my family of origin. Sometimes I get tired of my life behind “pre-“ and “post” sobriety. Before and after. SO much is old me vs. new me. I’ve reinvented myself and I’m kind of proud of that. My new life is my heart’s desire, but sometimes I miss the key players who shaped me. It’s so odd. And painful.
But I can only be but so sad, really. Then I barrel through it.
When things started going sideways today – which was right outta the gate this morning – I said to myself, “Well, I guess I have a spiritual thing to learn today that can only be illuminated by a certain set of circumstances.”
My old spiraling behavior rears up on occasion. It is born of exhaustion, making mistakes, and burning myself out.
I’m taking the “shrug” approach. Whelp. I guess this day wasn’t meant to be easy. Maybe it’s an opportunity to grow.
Who the heck even knows. Certainly not me. This is how I’m trying to learn to cope with what passes for normal life in 2021: Own the mistakes, ask what very difficult things are teaching me, be deliberate about gratitude (and STAY deliberate about it.)
I’ve been doing a lot of work in acceptance. And truly, I admit to being outrageously blessed. Just not blessed with perfection, in ANY area.
At some point, being imperfect has to be “perfect” enough.
By the way, having your therapist tel you she’s proud of you? Yeah. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that. ❤️
Love 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. ❤️
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.
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.
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.
If there is one thing chronic pain and illness remind you of, it’s that we are all dying. Or as my former pastor used to chide, “We are all terminal.” (And yes, I’m fine – not going anywhere anytime soon. Just in a very reflective mood.)
So, why then do we put all of those spoken things on the back burner? Not all of us will have the opportunity to take them out of layaway.
Too often, our “famous last words” turn out to be neither famous nor last, and precious things often hang in the air unsaid. And life is too short for that.
Something that my mother used to say has taken on new meaning to me lately: “Flowers are for the living.” Why wait for funerals to give flowers or kind words?
So I’m telling you now – yes, you who are reading this. I don’t talk to you enough. Worse, I don’t listen to you enough. But I want you to know you are always on my heart. I care about every word you ever said, and its woven its way into the tapestry of our friendship. Because at the risk of sounding hippy-dippy, we are all connected.
When things you told me – profound and trivial – come to my mind like random thoughts are apt to do, my face breaks out in a little state of happy.
When all the struggles you shared met my ears, my heart filed them away and brings a poignant pang to my soul when I remember even still.
Nothing you have ever confided in me ceases to exist. Nothing ever goes to waste.
All of the weaving becomes who we all are: The smiles, the jokes, the lessons we painfully teach each other and ourselves. The music we share, the memes we post.
All of it.
Perhaps if you’ve known me long enough, you remember when we were teenagers, and we would cut pictures out of magazines and make collages of our “futures” – page after page of handsome men we hoped to marry, sporty cars we dreamed to drive, trappings of all the careers we were going to excel at, picture-perfect children we were sure we’d raise. We made vision boards before there were vision boards, and we went through untold numbers of glue sticks in our quests to summon perfect futures.
Thank you for sticking through when nothing turned out as we’d hoped. Thank you for staying by my side when things turned out more difficult than our 13 year old minds could conceive, and more wonderful than any of our dreams we could have imagined.
When we bore our babies and did the “Mom Circuit’ together – lazy days of trips to Gymboree, the park, McDonald’s ball pits, endless breastfeeding sessions and diaper changes, co-rejoicing with one another over each ad every milestones our babies reached?
Remember always feeling like we were missing the mark somehow? But still, we never did allow each other to entertain the idea that we were less-than stellar mommies. Encouragement was the order of our tired mommy days, every day.
And as the kids grew, we somehow lost ourselves. All didn’t go according to plan after all. But you were there for me, always. I never felt like I was going it alone. Thank you. It’s impossible to put a value on always feeling understood.
Little did we know that those were the easy times. Ah, but they were, by FAR. Because by the time I had a chance to catch my breath, I had to figure out who I was – apart from “MOM” – all over again. So did you.
And as we reached middle age, friendships took on new importance. No longer were they relationships to be sandwiched in between the chaos of parenting and busy marriages, but tantamount to every aspect of our lives, our very selves.
Thank you, life-giving friends.
Thank you for mourning my losses with me. Thank you for understanding when I feel like I don’t measure up, and assuring me I do anyway. Thank you for finding the humor in all the things that could otherwise easily take me down if I didn’t learn remember to laugh about them. Thanks for inside jokes, and finding joy in chocolate, and getting pissed off with me about all the stupid stuff. Thanks for reminding me that faith isn’t a lofty ideal and goal to shoot for, but a resting place and a safety net.
Remember that time I reached out to you in desperation, all full of despair and tears, snot and hopelessness? You swore I’d make it through to the other side, and my darling? You are one of the direct reasons I did.
The times I swore I would pick up a drink, but didn’t…
The times I was so lonely I thought I’d die…
the times I felt life’s greatest losses so keenly I was sure I would not survive another day…
Thanks for believing that I wouldn’t die from the pain.
That I’d survive,
That the gains and blessings in my life would outnumber those losses.
From this day forward, I want to cultivate a lifestyle of giving voice to things big and small. I don’t want opportunities to show gratitude to pass us by. I don’t want to miss a chance to laugh over something ridiculously silly, or a chance to forgive something hurtful.
I want to say I’m sorry when I am (but learn not to apologize for things that aren’t my fault.) I want YOU to know that you mean the world to me. Whether I know you well or just barely, you bring something to my life you cannot imagine bringing – just by being you.
if I never get the formal opportunity to thank you, friends….please know who grateful I am for each and every one of you. There are more reasons to be grateful than I could ever count.