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.
I was going to title this piece, “When it’s too much,” but then I asked myself to be more specific….WHAT is “too much?” What exactly is it that is TOO MUCH for me to handle right now? The answer is simply YES.
I’m feeling so defeated and sad today. I was doing pretty well with water aerobics, which I’ve been enjoying since February – it’s the only exercise my joints can handle. A week ago in class, I tore a muscle in my right hip doing underwater side kicks.
By the way, not one single 80 + year old woman in the whole class had trouble with that maneuver. Yet such a simple movement took me down. I’m looking at yet MORE physical therapy now and I can’t do the class for the foreseeable future.
This injury is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, er….hip.
I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, along with a half dozen other debilitating, exhausting, painful conditions. And it’s driving my depression into this hurricane-force thing that is spiraling in my spirit. The outer bands are making landfall today, and I can feel the intensity whipping up.
EDS is a progressive thing, meaning all of the cells in my body have mutated collagen, and I’m not going to get better.I do not – can not – take narcotics for my chronic pain because I’m an alcoholic in recovery 18 years and I still don’t trust myself to go that route.
I am literally wearing out. It’s getting to where I can hardly move my body some days, and when I do, each movement sounds like a bone cracking. In addition to being annoying, it’s painful. And embarrasing.
It’s TOO MUCH.
Yes, I know by the Stripes of Jesus, I am healed. I have had every deliverance ministry method prayed over me. People have told me that if I ‘just believe more’, I’d be healed.
To which I say, STOP TELLING SICK PEOPLE THESE THINGS. When they don’t get healed Binny Hinn-style, it adds insult to injury. Not only are you in sick and experiencing chronic pain, but NOW you doubt your faith and feel inferior and less-than a “good Christian.”
My genes are still mutated. God knows about it. He and I are square, after many years of me being bitter and angry. He knew my joints would held together with bubble gum instead of gorilla glue, so to speak. He isn’t angry with me. He isn’t punishing me. It just falls under the header of “shit happens,” and it happens to everyone in one capacity or another.
Better to just encourage and love on the chronically ill. That’s what we need.
Because I have anxiety and depression under normal circumstances, but there have been several times in my life when I couldn’t push through it…when I went from being sad and low-grade anxious, to I CANNOT GET OUT OF BED.
Not “I really FEEL like staying in bed” … no. I literally – as the Millennials say – I CAN NOT EVEN.
Can not even laugh.
Can not even cry.
Can not even do the things I love – like create art, and even just BLOG.
But I know if I don’t get it out in writing and share it with others who might be able to relate, it will only gather strength. So here is a blog post. The one thing I have gotten done today.
I’m tired. I am so tired. There are too many things going on in my home life and (lack of) professional life. Too much change. Too much pain. Just too much.
Most days, I try to be positive, and some days I can even find the humor in things, but when every joint in my body is hurting – and the hip is almost unbearable – it makes it difficult. This is approximately the tenth injury in the last few months. From small rib subluxations to finger dislocations, a sprained wrist, to all the crappy, debilitating POTs symptoms, and constant illness from having a horrible immune system….
I’m TOAST. Ever feel that way?
I know Jesus walks with me. I know he crouches down with me in the dark places. And yes, I know “this too will pass.” But it’s sure as hell not yet in the process of passing right now.
It’s the most frustrating thing in the world to realize all of your blessings, but still not be able to pull yourself up out of the sadness.
Hey, thanks for reading my work, ya’ll. In joviality and in sorrow. In celebration and in grieving. Knowing I have so many precious readers who take the time to read my innermost thoughts is both mind-blowing and comforting. We are never, NEVER alone in what we go through!
I hope when this blows over, I can get back to business being snarky and ultra-spiritual (that’s a joke, ha.) But I’m of the mind that when we are in low places, it doesn’t mean we are less-than spiritual. It just means our spirits need a little more help.
I hesitated to write this blog post; not because I don’t feel passionate about the subject matter, but because I’m allergic to conflict – it makes me break out in insecurity.
The nastiest comment I have received in the six years of writing The Beggar’s Bakery was from a Christian woman (go figure) who reamed me a new one because I didn’t care for Trump. “He is sent by GOD!” She wrote. “As according to PROPHESY!!!!” There were many expletives in the comment as well, basically assuring me of my place in Hell because I didn’t like the president.
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” I responded. But what I wanted to say was, “LADY? YOU JUST PROVED MY ENTIRE POINT.”
That being said, I feel like the time is now to say my piece on this – my little corner of the internet. I’m not posting this as a Republican or a Democrat. I’m posting it as a human, as a mother, as a Christian, because I’m sick and tired of watching what’s going on be defended by people who purport to love Christ. I know this is a wide swath of my friend base, and I love you all. But please hear me out.
I don’t care what your political leanings are, it shouldn’t matter which side you lean toward. Children being treated like animals should piss you off. Parents separated from their kids should piss you off. SHOULD. We are all so busy being elephants and donkeys that we forgot how to be human.
If you want to defend the actions of our president, please leave God out of it. I used to be conservative (and still am on some fronts,) but there is no way to justify what he is letting happen. And I’m just gonna spit this out here, because it’s been bugging me and I’m trying to play nice-nice with everyone, but what with children in cages, I think it’s time for a nice-nice reprieve.
How in the name of Davy Jones do you reckon Trump is getting so much of the evangelical support? Because he prays publicly sometimes in office? Because he is pro-life and claims to believe “all life is sacred”? I’m calling bullshit. I’m pro-life, but that means, um…pro-LIFE. That means being just as bothered by human beings being washed up on shores as being ripped from there womb. I’m pretty sure Christ was more concerned with children suffering than national security. Of ALL demographics of people, WHY is Trump getting the “Christian” support? The phenomenon makes no sense.
Jesus is not looking to exclusively bless just the white, middle-class, church-going, law-abiding demographic, which is essentially – if we are honest – what many of us have come to expect. Neither big on law OR homogenized populations, Jesus made it exceedingly clear that he values compassion over all else. He loved the refugee, the orphan, the widow, the marginalized, the disadvantaged just as much. Do you think he is up there cheering when another Mexican drowns in the Rio Grande? Or when those from war-torn countries are turned away from our ridiculously blessed nation? Do you think he thinks it’s okay to rip parents away from little children, and deprive those children of basic necessities?
Jesus was about INCLUSION, not SEPARATION. He was very clear about the “us vs. them” mentality having no place in the Kingdom or God. But boy, we humans LOVE that shit. It allows some of us to feel superior to others and we just eat that right up!
How can you tell one is a Christian? Nope, not by their bumper stickers or angelic demeanor. Not by the KLOVE blasting from their car radios. Not by their instant recall of scripture, or their political stance. By their LOVE, manifested in the fruits of the spirit.
“You will know they are mine by their ‘fruit,” said Jesus. Fruits of the spirit are often recognized as joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, and so on. WTF is up with Trump’s fruit? Is anyone inspecting it? (Ew.) Because upon closer inspection, that low hanging “fruit”appears to be pretty wormy.
Another Jesus-ism? “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” Since when did it become “Christian” to treat other human beings the way he is treating immigrants? Peeps, YOUR ancestors were immigrants. If you need to justify what’s happening as it relates to YOU personally, there’s your fact.
I won’t go as far as to say that trump uses faith-talk to manipulate people…(if the toupee fits…) but his fruit stinks and he treats women and foreigners like crap – basically anyone who isn’t just like him. All for what? A WALL?!
How do you justify the following with being a disciple of Christ and leading in a Christ-like way? Tweeting a thousand immature and inane nasty words to the people on the opposite side of his politics (will someone PLEASE take The Twitter away from The Donald? ) His history of treating women like objects (at best) shouldn’t be brushed under the rug either.
He is un-apologetically polarizing. But children being treated sub-human should NOT be polarizing and frankly, I’m having a hard time understanding WHY it is so for anyone.
Jesus was a unifier.
Jesus was a radical.
Jesus tore down walls.
Jesus loves the underdog.
How a billionaire who spent a lifetime haughtily thinking he is superior to everyone else and talked about women in such nasty ways on the regular (50% of voters are women, roughly; so riddle me that…) came to run the most powerful nation on earth, I will never understand.
If you read this far, thanks. And please continue to pray for our nation. We desperately need divine help. If you still need proof via scripture, please see below. Thanks so much for your readership.
“I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” – Jesus. Matt 25:35
“You shall love the Lord God with all of your heart, and all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
“Contribute to the needs of the saints, extend hospitality to strangers.” Romans 12:13
“In that renewal, there is no longer Greek and Jew…barbarian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” Colossians 3:11
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels unaware. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortutured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” Hebrews 13:1-3
“…therefore we must support such people, so that they may become co-workers with the truth.” 3 John 1:5
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Most everyone knows this beatitude; what with the promise of inheriting the earth and all. I love the way The Message translation breaks it down:
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are — no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” (MSG)
Who else has felt like they are never enough? I don’t mean the self-depreciation that comes with not meeting individual expectations. I mean, who else struggles with core low self-esteem? Just feeling less-than?
At times, I feel I can do no right. I wish I were more organized, more punctual. More reliable. Steadier. It’s easy to get swept up in self loathing as a vehicle for ‘meekness,’ at least for me. Once the spiral gets going, it’s easy to believe all of your own negative press. Our self-esteem can ride on our hormonal fluctuations, our bruised egos, our moods.
Before I got sober, I was a very guarded person. I had few friends and because I was operating out of a place of near-complete fear, I reasoned that I wouldn’t say boo to a goose because I was ‘meek.’
I watched every word I said (sometimes that was good) for fear I might incriminate myself. I watched every thought because I just knew that God was displeased with my carnal nature. It was a stifling existence, fighting my voice in order to please everyone else, especially the Almighty.
It wasn’t a lifetime of meekness. It was a lifetime of being afraid. God isn’t afraid of my thoughts – He know them all already. Oh how I wish I had known that the Almighty was already okay with the real me!
Meekness is defined as (trigger warning) “submissiveness.” Why is being submissive considered such a societal ill? Because we are defining submission in terms of how humans treat each other, not how God treats His creation. If someone always has your best interest at heart and never fails at sweeping you off your feet, being submissive is easy. Most of the time.
It isn’t a watering-down, but a building-up!
Four years into sobriety, I met my husband. In an instant I fell in love and took the great risk of being myself with him. Through step work, I started loving people and letting them in, and in return, received a great deal of love. And I was amazed – I am STILL amazed 12 years later – that he actually encourages my quirkiness.
Had I not met him, I doubt very much that I would be writing this blog – or anything else – because I would be too afraid of what you (the reader) are thinking right now.
Sometimes we just need someone to give us permission to see ourselves in a positive light.
God is giving you permission! Blessedness is not a mood, but a state of being. Praise be for THAT!
It took a little longer for me to trust that God encourages our quirkiness, but I’m here to tell you, He does. He really does get tickled by the things that make us US.
It’s okay to have a voice.
In researching the subject of meekness, I came across a wonderful quote (and one that is, as far as I can tell, anonymous): “Meekness is not weakness, just strength under control.”
Meekness is not low self-esteem. To be meek is to know who you are, and not try to be more than that or less than that. But being who God says we are is so much better than who we could paint ourselves to be.
Human being < human doing.
And it is in the ‘being’ that we become content with who we are and find ourselves the proud owners of everything that can’t be bought…
Love among one another.
Strength under control – God’s control.
Intimacy with the Living God. If we are bestowed that, we have gained the whole world.
Hi, friends. This week and the next, I will be writing with a focus on the biblical Beatitudes. I’ll try to convey my heart on the subject and – as always – welcome YOUR take on each post. Blessed be, dear readers.
Many of you know that I am involved in a Christ centered 12 Step program. At tonight’s meeting, the leader made an amazing point about being blessed, and I can’t sleep until I share it with you. It was an AHA! moment; an epiphany, if you will. So simple, yet so profound.
We were discussing the Beatitudes – those biblical ‘blessed be’s. I’ve read them a thousand times. I’ve delved into studying them. I thought I understood them. But one single sentence he shared struck a chord, and I am thinking of it still.
You see, My Beloved and I recently returned from a trip to the mountains. We stayed in a tiny cabin and read books all day, and listened to the birdsong on the porch swing, and Van Morrison in the evenings, and went fishing in a little stocked pond multiple times. It was super EASY being happy there.
Alas, the realities back home were waiting for us upon our return. It wasn’t that I was unhappy to be back in real life; it’s just that comparatively, I’d rather sit in a cabin in the woods and read all day every day. Evidently that’s a lot to ask for.
But I’m richly blessed to the point of overflow. And not because of things or lack of things.
Happiness and blessedness are not the same thing.
Happiness is circumstantial. I can be full of mirth one moment, and in another moment become sad or angry. Oh how we love to chase the Happy!
Happiness is what we worship, isn’t it? I just want to be happy.
If I had all of my bills paid, I’d be happy. If my children were serving God, I’d be happy. If I lose 30 pounds, I’ll be happy. When I get that dream job / house / recognition / improved health … THEN I’ll be happy. And then eventually I won’t, because LIFE keeps happening.
We catch it sometimes in celebration and laughter (which, according to my favorite author Anne Lamott, is ‘carbonated holiness.’ It’s an awful lot of chasing for something so fickle.
Blessed is a state. It is your natural state of being, because of whose you are. Even if you don’t know or believe, you are bestowed with the blessing of being invited to partake in the divine dance of the Trinity. Blessedness surpasses time or emotion or circumstance.
To live in a state of blessing awareness is to live the transcendent life. It’s a lot harder than it sounds! I’m preaching to myself here, too, because I am emotionally driven and get high on the Happy. There is no reality crash on blessedness.
There is only one qualifier to living the blessed life – if you know who you are and who you were created to be, you reap the benefits from the One who loves you.
So that’s what I’ll be writing about in this series; taking each beatitude one by one and hashing it out a bit. I’ll be referencing The Message translation of scripture.
Tomorrow the subject will be “Blessed are the poor in spirit” Please come along for the ride!
And note that my opinions are just that – my take on this very hard thing called Life. I’d love to hear your perspective as well.
Blessed be, friends.
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. – Matthew 5:1-12 (MSG)