love · Spiritual

The Messy, Glorious Business of LOVE

BY: JANA GREENE

Love is the singular thing, and absolutely everything, all at once.
All are in it and of it, imbued with this remedy.
It is the answer to whatever ails your heart.
Love is all that lives on after our Earth Suits fail.
It is fed and starved by a thousand moods, yet always nourishes.
Love lands in its feet.
It’s the only thing we were legit created to experience.
Love is like sacred oil – fragrant and dousing and scandalously generous. It leaves a film on you all of your days, and everyone in your world gets a little “oily” when you touch their lives. (Touch them lots!)
Love pisses people off when it is believed undeserved, when really people are under-served by it.
It breaks the economy of deficit, as its endless.
But even though it’s free, people seem to like hoarding it. Many enjoy rationing it, as if there was a finite supply.
As if it originated for us, by us.
As if we weren’t given it in order to pass it on.
Love is a Being.
And a Doing.
It’s an action and a sacrifice.
The feet of Love can walk through fire to get to another hurting soul, and strike up a dance to celebrate itself.
Love has wings to fly us to a place of acceptance, and roller skates with which to flee from hate in all its forms.
It’s the only thing that will ever make a dent in suffering, and the ultimate remedy for pain.
Love is all we take with us.
Spread that stuff around copiously.
God loves you and so do I. ❤️

Mental Illness · Spiritual

Handing over Anxiety (on Purpose)

Good morning, Dear Reader.

BY: JANA GREENE

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

Anxiety would have me believe that life is just a series of events to kill time while I wait for certain tragedy to strike. As morose as that sounds, if I’m honest, it’s how it FEELS. It robs today of its joy and tomorrow it’s potential.

I would do well to remember that feelings are not facts. Waiting for the “other shoe to drop” is not a strategy for a happy life.

It feels like it will protect your heart to believe the worst, because anything less than horrible will be a nice surprise.

The truth is closer to this: “Life is full of nice surprises, but we will never notice them by expecting the worst.”

Feeding the doom is an old skill I honed in childhood trauma that no longer serves me.
It hasn’t served me in years.

It’s a work in progress. I hand my anxiety off to God every day, and say, “Here, take this please. It’s heavy and awkward to carry and outdated.”

I do not wish to take it to recycling anymore, which is what it’s like to expect anxiety to be repurposed.

No. Every day, I give it up and hope God takes it to the dump. He always does, but I always seem to have a fresh supply the next day.

He is unbothered by it. It’s not heavy for him, awkward in size and shape.

Today, I hand in my anxiety yet again, so that my hands are free for joy and potential. And my heart is free to reject a diagnosis of doom.

God bless us, every one.

Spiritual

The Scandalous, Offensive Love of God

Enjoy this video snippet from our journey back to North Carolina. Oh how he loves us!

By: JANA GREENE

This morning, I woke up early in the great state of Georgia.

Two of my dearest friends in the world accompanied me to a conference that addressed a faith reconstructed. It was incredible. The teachings were what so many evangelicals (and I was one for most of my life,) would consider utterly scandalous.

Y’all, LOVE that rich, pure, and bounteous SHOULD be scandalous. The most passionate love stories always are.

I didn’t move for a while when I woke, because I simply couldn’t. (If you don’t already think I’m nutty, you might now. And I’m okay with that)

I was pinned in place but this momentous, ridiculously extravagant sensation of love.

It was so thick in the air, it felt womb-ish, like a swim in calm ocean, flowing and bobbing. Or being swaddled like a baby, feeling nurtured and safe.

I didn’t fight it, like so tend to do. I didn’t negate it with my usual self-loathing talk. I always feel “powerless” against my own thoughts. My insecurities are members of a terrorist organization of sorts. During my (literal) “come to Jesus,” I discovered that I don’t have to negotiate with terrorists. I get to choose.

No, instead of fighting and fretting against the swell of love, I just rested in it. It was overwhelming, glorious, and unlike any experience I’ve had in a half-century of Christian fundamentalism. There was not even a trace of shame involved. I was fresh out of bothers for a spell.

At some point, I “feel” God say something to the effect of: “Please don’t talk and think mean thoughts about my little girl. I love her so much.” Wait WHAT!?

“You heard,” says gentle but firm Holy Spirit, her voice strong and convincing.

That little girl is me.

This weekend was like a speed-dating session with my true identity. Lots of uncomfortable moments. Lots of connecting. Lots of nerves.
The result is this radical, rich, ridiculous grace for others.

I MUST share what I experienced in the wee hours of the morning with you. I have to. Because it’s LIFE.

Love is life.

Sometimes the supernatural doesn’t come like a lightning strike, dramatic and jarring. It’s not always signs and wonders that the church proper chases for a dopamine hit and considers evidence of a Being of pure Love.

No, sometimes it’s a soul hug first thing in the morning. Supernatural revelation can be realizing you aren’t a cosmic mistake; that you have belonged to Source since before the formation of the Universe. That He belongs to US. I know it sounds strange. But I’m okay with that too.

I welcome the chance to tell you how incredibly loved you are this day.

I don’t want to convert you.

I have no ulterior motives.

I don’t want to change you.

I have no agenda.

I don’t want to push religiousity. Matter of fact, religion is the whole problem. It has almost nothing to do with the actual Trinity, which invites us to a beautiful dance that includes us all.

And as a result of this Great Forgetting , the church can be stingy with the very thing it’s attempting to sell: Love. Purpose. Being.

This weekend, I feel like I had a heart transplant, and I couldn’t be happier.

My prayer today is that you wrap your arms around yourself and hug. Don’t rush it. Really hug yourself tight. Consider it a hug from me.

And so much better – it will be a hug from Papa God. He is wild about you.

May you come to the overwhelming realization of who you really are, and that the opposite of Love is fear. I learned that I don’t have to rent Fear a room in my head. Evict that sucker.

May your awareness of the supernatural be increased so that you can recognize when God “winks” at you.

May you come to know and (this is the hard part) ACCEPT the TRUTH about your inherent value, which is priceless.

I love you, Dear Reader.

Selah.

Spiritual

How to Cook Up a Batch Religious Deconstruction (recipe for re-construction included)

Just like Grandma Used to Make (I’m kidding)

BY: JANA GREENE

Recipe for Spiritual Reconstruction:

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.

And so do I. ❤️

Bon appetit!

Spiritual

Excuse Me, But Your Bloom is Showing

Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

BY: JANA GREENE

Excuse me, Miss.

But your bloom is showing!

Your insecurities

trampled

By a self-acceptant glowing.

They might not understand you,

They might say you are wrong,

But like a seedling breaking through,

It’s obvious you’re strong.

“You’ve CHANGED!” They’ll say,

“You have no right!”

But I say you have had to fight

For every drop of rain and sun,

And honey, you ain’t even DONE!

Those who used to know you

Will want to calculate your stock,

They’ll tell you that you’ll wither

‘Cause you found soil among the rocks.

Blossom, reach up for Creator,

Absorb that light, and then

Other little seedlings

Will find their bloom again.

Recovery · Spiritual

I am 20 Years Alcohol-Free (and it feels damn good!)

By: Jana Greeme

Hello, Dear Reader.

Yesterday, I celebrated my 20th Sober-versary and huns let me tell you … it feels so GOOD. I will write about it soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to share some pictures from the day with my blogosphere buddies.

Thank you for being such an important part of my journey. If God can help me stay alcohol-free, the reality is that he can help YOU atop. There’s a beautiful life waiting for you.

God bless us, everyone. ❤️

Twenty!

Poetry · Spiritual

Why Should the Sky Appear Royal Blue?

This is the sky above our little cabin tonight.

Why should the sky appear royal blue

On this wild and wondrous eve?

The stars,

Diamonds against it,

A smattering of cosmic light

Against the rich, deep backdrop

Of endless, cerulean sky.

They so vividly spackle

The masterpiece

To which no man

Can assign value.

Upward look!

The ring of trees are framing it

In muted, hushed and mellow greens,

As if meticulously painted with soft cotton,

By the hand of a master artisan.

Gazing upon it,

It becomes clear

Why the sky should appear to be

Royal blue.

The sky is royal blue tonight

Because It is the canvas of the King.

– Jana Greene

New Year · Spiritual

A Better New Year in 10 (somewhat manageable) Steps

2019

By: Jana Greene

Well, well, well….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2019…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is simply too short.

3. I will put away the bat in general.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This has got to go.

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

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

I will make time for therapy!

6. I will make time for laughter.

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

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

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

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

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

7. I will make time for music.

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

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

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

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

Krunk that stuff UP.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want to work on that.

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

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

He was right.

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

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

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

10.  I will keep an open(ish) mind.

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

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

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

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

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

Hold on to your joy!  It’s yours!

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

Seasons (that suck) are followed by Seasons (that ROCK!)

fall

By: Jana Greene

This whole post could easily be about hating summer.  Because I really hate summer, and frankly don’t understand why any temperature over 90 degrees exists. That’s what I want to talk about today – hating summer because it’s hot.

In the literal heat of the moment, I can decide the whole damn season just sucks.

Heat is oppressive. My body doesn’t like it. Easily eighty percent of my health woes are directly impacted by temperature, although I hate admitting that because it’s such an old lady complaint. (Spoiler alert: You really CAN feel the storm coming in your bones!)

Something about sweating really brings out my flair for the dramatic. In the foyer of my house – as I am exiting my home – I am woman, hear me RAWR! And I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me! I’m having a great hair day!

Two seconds later, I’m walking to the driveway awash in the oven-like conditions of the great outdoors (yes, the stretch between my front door and driveway IS considered the ‘great outdoors,’ especially in the summer.) Within moments, I have dissolved into a sweaty, ruddy, giant two year old who needs a nap. The air feels too damp to breathe. Ew.

When I get over-heated, all of the sudden, I feel fat and ugly.

All of the sudden, my inflammation levels rise.

All of the sudden, I hate everything about living on planet Earth.

Oh my goodness, what first world problems! But during the experience of segueing between Hearth and Home and Habitat Hell, I become extremely grumpy. What possible purpose could 100 degree weather serve? I mean, sorry about the Ozone, God, but could you hook a sister up with some nice 80 degree days between May and September?

To everything, turn turn turn,

Season, turn turn turn,

And a time for every purpose

Under Heaven.

Purpose. Hmmmm.

The inevitable truth is that summer is only a season – one season – and as such, will turn into Fall. Things turn; it’s the nature of things to turn.

Now, I LOVE everything about Fall, ya’ll. The whole shebang!

Autumn leaves changing colors, and hot apple cider. Snuggly sweaters and crisp, cool air. October is my favorite color, and I can’t wait for it to come around! At the slightest whiff of cool air, my attitude changes. Witnessing the falling of one orange leaf means all of the bounty of my favorite season is in view. It’s coming! It really is!

That seasons change is a fact. Better times are coming. After this season comes another, better one. I will not need gills to breathe outside then. I will be able to exhale, and inhale again, with little to no drama about leaving the house.

So I suppose this whole post is kind of all about hating summer. But even this wretched season has it’s charms – like going to the beach. And….going to the beach. (I got nothin’ else here.)

No matter what we are hating right now – it will change. Seasons always do. Whatever is stifling us and strangling us, making us grumpy.  Knowing that it’s nearly September and October inevitably follows is a great comfort to me right now!

If you are going through some awful season right now, I pray you will just be encouraged. I’m not going to feed you a line about everything happening for a reason; that’s not helpful at all. But I am reminding you that it is temporary.

It helps to remember that in all of the other seasons, too – the ones that make heat strokes look like a walk in the park. Like the Big Three – health, money, and relationships. There’s a season for everything, including huge life changes.

Take heart – your “October” is coming!

Mine is, too.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-9

“There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.”

 

Depression · Spiritual

The Thing about Ruts

By: Jana Greene

Greetings, readers. Tonight I wrote about getting out of the negativity rut. So here is the brain purge of the day (and a heart purge, too.)  God bless us, every one.

We live about a mile from the Atlantic ocean, as the crow flies. Even though it’s super close, to get there, you have to drive around a while. There is a monumental body of water called the Intracoastal Waterway that you must cross via bridge. Our town is one of the few places left on the East coast that you can actually drive your 4-wheel drive vehicles right onto the beach. The stretch of coast is simply called “The North End.”

During the summer, we locals lay low and stay away, because the strip of beach you can drive on is a huge cluster-bleep. Trucks and other utility vehicles crammed into every square foot of beach. Thousands of tourists. No thank you very much.

But in the Fall and Spring – and even in Winter – riding in a jeep on the sand is a blast.

Until it isn’t.

The beach – like the ocean – is never the same place twice. As you drive down to the southern-most tip of the island, the dunes are on your left. Lush with sea oats and grass, they are roped off from traffic. To your right, the majesty of the sea. Sometimes it is blue and foamy, and other times a vast ocean of green. It looks brown, too, when the sediment below gets riled by a hurricane  or tropical storm; choppy and angry and dangerous.

I have ridden on the beach many times in our old jeep. Just 10 years ago, it was great fun. I loved going there with My Beloved and unzipping the clear, plastic windows so that we could smell the sea as we jostled about.

It isn’t as much fun anymore. It makes my hurting body hurt badly.

There are times when the drive-able sand is flat as an asphalt highway, and times the sand is mountainous and soft. A different landscape every visit.

One of the risks you undertake by driving on the North End is getting your vehicle stuck in the deep sand. Nearly every time we are there, someone gets standed.

For reasons that I do not understand, men take getting stuck / unstuck VERY seriously. And they take a hit right in the pride if they are unable to work themselves out of the ruts. It causes extreme embarrassment when they are the stuck-ee.

The opposite of getting stuck is being a hero. This designation occurs when you help another driver out of a rut. So far as I can tell, the Man Rules for this scenario looks like this:

You happen upon some poor sap stuck in the sand. His wheels are spinning and spinning, but cannot get any traction. This is not a deterrent. He keeps spinning.

You watch him for a while, perhaps a little smugly.  Not only did you NOT get stuck in the rut yourself, but you might get the opportunity to pull someone else OUT of one.

Pulling alongside the dude whose tires are knee-deep in tightly packed tread, you offer your standard greeting (‘Sup?’) and ask if you may help him, all whilst assuring him that it’s “no problem,” and that you have been stuck on the North End yourself. Several times.

You drive your jeep just ahead of his truck, pull out some chains from the back of your own car (beach-driving men always have chains in their vehicles, for just such an occasion,) hook his front bumper to your rear trailer hitch, and engage all four wheels  slowly and deliberately. You have to be careful not to slip the clutch. Sand flies up behind your tires like crazy, but within minutes, your new buddy is being towed out of the rut. Once he is free, you get out of your car and ask him if he needs any further assistance, and he says “no,” thanking you repeatedly.  Assure him that you were glad to help

Here comes the inevitable analogy: I’ve been in a rut. Not in sand, but in spirit. My chronic health issues and pain have hijacked my whole life. I am almost never well, and this has been going on for nearly a decade, slowly worsening. Most of the time, I feel like I am either getting a migraine, having a migraine, or getting over a migraine. I have very little collagen and thus many of my joints sound like gravel with every step I take. Many of my issues will not resolve (thanks, genetics….) and that’s just the facts, and I don’t like it. This is the new normal. I’m thankfully married to an amazing man who looks after me and takes good care of me, but I imagine it wears on him as well. This – as they say – is not what he “signed up for.” Except that it IS, because he signed up for me, whatever that looks like.

God bless him.

This situation, combined with other circumstances in the past few years, have made me a little negative. Okay, a lot negative. Dealing with pain, and life drama – one thing after another – it takes a toll.

So excuuuuse me if I’ve allowed my ills to affect my attitude. Unless you’ve walked a mile in my shoes (which I know many of you dear readers have similarly done) you just don’t know how taxing chronic illness is.

Some days I feel like I handle it like a superhero, and other days, I’m quite the whiny little bitch about it. I wake up every day expecting the worst, because otherwise I’m disappointed with the day’s challenges. Expecting the other shoe to drop continually will give you grade-A anxiety of the highest order. It’s a deep rut, and I feel like I’m just spinning tires.

That’s the thing about ruts. The same old, same old.

I genuinely want to be a positive person, and sometimes I am. I love my life, and am blessed beyond my wildest dreams, compliments of 17 years recovery from alcoholism. I have great faith in Father God, and a twisted sense of gallows humor to cope whenever my faith falls short. God is my chain-maker and chain-breaker. It’s pretty amazing to know that the Creator of the universe has got my back, no matter how deep of a rut I’m buried in. He is glad to help.

I think it’s time I pull out the chains and start making a concerted effort to be less negative. And I am reminded again of the Serenity Prayer:

…”God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Hmm. The “wisdom to know the difference” is key here. What amongst the litany of complaints and struggles is under my control?

Genetics I cannot change.

The shitty state of the world, I cannot change.

The co-dependency cycle, in which I agonize over the choices of those I love until I work myself into a frenzy?

I can’t change the actions of others, but I can change my reaction to them.

In the interest of self-care, here are some things I can have the courage to change, God willing:

Engage all four wheels, and pull somebody else out of a rut.

Start physical therapy for my wonky joints, and stay the course rather than give up.

Cut myself a damn break every once in a while and be less self-critical.

Make healthier food and exercise choices, insofar as my joints allow the strain.

And I can wake up in the morning and have the name of Jesus on my lips first thing; instead of expecting the worst.

I may not be able to bounce along in the jeep on the North End anymore, but I sure as heck can pack a beach chair, a picnic, and a book, and park my butt on the beach – one mile away, as the crow flies.

I’m tired of being the “stuck-ee” and ready to pull up my hero pants.

Who’s with me?

Motherhood · Poetry · Spiritual

Don’t Blink, Mama. It Goes too Fast.

don't blink mama

By: Jana Greene

So you’ve joined the club of Motherhood,

You have a sweet baby at last.

Your body still groaning from birthing your child,

Don’t blink mama, it goes too fast.

When you wake for midnight feeds,

Bleary-eyed yourself,

Savor the world where only you two

Are the world, there’s  nobody else.

To every coo and cry and smile

You quickly become attuned.

Memorize those dimpled hands,

They’ll be holding a crayon too soon.

Before you have the time to think

Your baby’s a ‘terrible two.’

Hold tight, Mama, this too shall pass,

The trials always do.

Tantrums in the grocery store,

And before you can blink,

The Tooth Fairy is coming to call

It goes by faster than you think.

Milestones come rapid-fire,

Kindergarten’s here,

Drop her off at school and then

Go home and shed a tear.

The early years go by so fast

You scarcely have time to know

That your baby isn’t a baby now,

Who told you how fast she would grow?

Before you know it, she’s a tween

“Who IS this child?” you’ll say.

Buckle up, Mama, you’ll get through,

Tomorrow’s another day.

The next thing you know, she’s a teenager,

Full of angst and woe,

It will harken the days of the “terrible twos,”

Take heart, she has time to grow.

The early days of dimpled hands

And nursing by moonlight,

Those memories will see you through,

When parenting feels like a fight.

Oh to watch her find herself,

The pride in who she’s become!

Members of the Motherhood Club,

You’ve officially come undone.

The secret that nobody says

But I’ve found is very true,

Is that your baby is her very own person,

And not a extension of you.

You’ve nurtured, taught, and guided,

And now it’s her own turn,

To figure out this thing called life,

On her own (and very different) terms.

Now you’re a veteran parent,

Battle-scarred and rife

With sweet assurance that she still needs you

In her grown-up life.

Dynamics change, my friend, you see,

The stages never last,

But one day you’ll call your child ‘friend,’

Don’t blink, Mama. It goes so fast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual · The Beggar's Bakery

The Beggar’s Bakery is Six Years Old!

six

By: Jana Greene

Holy cow! It just dawned on me that this blog is six years old today. I remember the first week I started writing, 45 people (all friends and family) followed it. I was positively astounded that 45 people would care to read what I had to say. Even though some of them were related to me. 😉

Six years later, I’m astounded that nearly 2,000 people follow this blog. I finally feel like the training wheels are coming off, and it’s a beautiful feeling of gratitude and adventure.

From the (now) cringe-worthy first posts, to the gut-spilling TMI special editions, one thing is responsible for keeping it going:

YOU.

I cannot thank you enough for your readership, your comments, your sweet messages. I’m grateful and humbled by it all.

There are some really, really big changes and news in the coming weeks, and I can’t wait to share it with each of you! I have to keep a lid on it for right now, but stay tuned!

To celebrate the birthday of the blog, I welcome your input going forward.

What content do you most enjoy reading? The main categories are:

Spirituality

Addiction recovery

Marriage / family

Humor

Grace

Feel free to comment and let me know!

And again, thank you for following me.

You guys are the BEST.

Billy Graham · Spiritual

Goodnight, Billy Graham. And Thank You.

  • Billy-Graham-Praying
    By: Jana Greene

     

    It was in the Fall of 1981. Rice Stadium in Houston was packed to the gills. I’d been invited by a dear friend (who is still a good friend) to attend a Billy Graham. crusade. The whole youth group piled onto an activity bus for the shuttle ride.

    The cool kids congregated in the back of the bus. I sat right behind the bus driver.

    Two months shy of my 13th birthday, I was just old enough to join youth group. I remember so many little details about that evening, which is odd because a lot of my childhood I’d just as soon as forget.

    I honestly cannot tell you what I had lunch yesterday, but I can recall every nuance of that evening in 1981. It is as though all of my senses were tingling – there was charge in the air.

    I remember the loud grumble of the bus, and the smell of diesel fuel (mingled with Love’s Baby Soft perfume, which we girls regularly doused ourselves with.)

    The brightness of the stadium lights.

    The cold hardness of the bleachers.

    The scent of buttery popcorn from the concession stand.

    The itchiness of the sweater I’d worn, because it because the weather in Houston was actually cool for a change.

    At the stadium, I remember that there was an electric buzz in the atmosphere  – a kind of spirit-hum that kind of vibrated in all of us. It seemed to resonate in the whole stadium, in every soul. I’d never felt anything like it, and rarely have I ever experienced again. We took our seats and settled in, most of us just as interested in the cutest boys in youth than on Rev. Graham’s message. The stadium lights were nearly blinding,  but as he spoke, I forgot about the cute boy in youth (his name was Rick, and he only listened to the band “Rush,” alas, a story for another time.)

    In his booming yet gentle voice and North Carolina lilting accent that I would so come to love as a North Carolinian myself later in life, Billy Graham distracted us all from or wriggling, twittering, self-absorbed teenage selves by introducing us to this revolutionary concept of absolute GRACE.

    Many of us had never heard about true grace, even in the Southern Baptist churches we’d been reared in. Hellfire and brimstone – that we knew.

    I listened and was overcome with a peace that passed all of my young understanding. I was a broken kid, from a broken home.

    So confident was Rev. Graham in his message, that I became confident in God, too. Not the god I’d prayed to for years, but the real and tangible God.

    The Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end.

    After the service that evening, the Reverend invited all those who wanted partake in the grace of God to come down the bleachers and pray with members of his prayer team. It was like an altar call on steroids – more of the people in attendance made their way down to accept this crazy anointing as did not.

    Grace – ours for the taking, all we had to do was accept it, to take what seemed to me an impossible risk: Believing on the basis of the stirrings of my spirit, and nothing else. Risky. Scandalously risky. But I made my way down in a sort of floating transport. I don’t remember navigating the steep stadium steps; only that I positively knew Jesus Himself was fidgeting with anticipation to love on me through the prayers of strangers.

    There was a song playing in a continuous loop as I approached a prayer volunteer. I didn’t mind hearing the refrain a hundred times. As thousands of voices joined in from all around, I wished it would never end.

    “Just as I am – and waiting not
    To rid my soul of one dark blot,
    To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
    -O Lamb of God, I come!

    Just as I am – though toss’d about
    With many a conflict, many a doubt,
    Fightings and fears within, without,
    -O Lamb of God, I come!”

    I was never the same after that experience. I knew that I knew that I knew it was Truth.

    I was never the same, but unfortunately,  still completely human.

    I still kissed boys on church mission trips.

    I still grew up to be an alcoholic. In my drinking years I did some awful things.

    Life happened, and parenthood happened, and marriage happened. Chronic illness, battles with anxiety and depression. And now I’m nearly 50, and still don’t have my sh*t together.

    But had I not accepted Christ at a Billy Graham crusade in 1981,  I might never know that even for prodigal daughters, the arms of Jesus are always and ever open to embrace this broken girl. I might never have known He would make me whole a million times and with a smile on his radiant face.

    A couple of years ago, I was fortunate to attend a Christian blogger conference in Asheville, North Carolina – not far from Reverend Graham’s birthplace. The facility – run by Billy Graham Ministries – that hosted the event is called “The Cove.” In the multi-building complex, there are mementos of the Reverend where everywhere.

    In one of the buildings, there was a museum of sorts. Included in the displays were personal artifacts of the Graham family – a family that I (and so many others) felt a part of.  There was an odd but wonderful ambiance of peace. It kind of made me feel like I’d come home.

    Billy Graham passed away today. Alas, he really is home. I’ve no doubt Jesus is hugging him tight, but the rest of us left here have suffered a loss.

    He was one man, on one mission. Humble and empowered by the Holy Spirit. But what a difference he made in this world!

    If I could tell him one thing, it would be this: Thank you.

    Thank you, Reverend Graham… for making it okay for me to come to the throne of God just exactly as I am.

    Even with many a conflict and many a doubt.

    Thanks for being the messenger that delivered the concept of boundless grace to my young heart. Fighting and fears within, without  – because that’s how God rolls, infinite in his mercy.

    And tell Jesus ‘thank you’ as well, for lending you to us.

    Rest in well-deserved peace.

     


Recovery · Spiritual

Happy New Year! And Happy 17 Truly – and I cannot stress this enough – TRULY Miraculous Continuous Sobriety Years to Me!

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By: Jana Greene

Happy New Year, dear Readers! I hope your 2017 was awesome, but for me it was a virtual cascade of sh*t storm after sh*t storm. So SEE YA, 2017. And welcome 2018. Please Lord Jesus, make it better!

Last night, I picked up my 17 year recovery chip. THIS IS A MIRACLE. I’m not sure anyone outside of the program understands the significance and representation of a simple coin with no value outside of recovery circles. Anyway….

At tonight’s 12 Step Meeting,  I got to say a few words to the crowd – what an honor- and I didn’t sugarcoat a thing. It went a little something like this:

How did i do it? Stay over 17 years?

Even a year ago, I would have said it’s only Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

But this year my answer is different.

God’s grace is always, always available to us, but let’s face it. Most of us are here because our natural default is to numb out. Grace or no grace, obliterating can be our inclination. I don’t care how long you’ve been sober, and that’s the truth.

As a matter of fact, this past year year was the hardest to maintain recovery ever. Shit hit the fan repeatedly and with endless supply. Yes, it is Jesus, Jesus,Jesus that’s kept me hanging on by the skin of my teeth, but I play a part in it too.

I learned I have to supply the willingness to surrender DAILY. Because there ain’t no graduation day for this. That’s my responsibility. I have to keep up with self care. I have to surrender my will. I have to remember what a sick drunk I was and how many people I hurt.

The rigorous honesty truth of the matter is that recently, I’ve gotten lazy about working the steps as I should. Last year kicked my ass, y’all. But I never survived any of it alone.

Holy Ghost is a gentleman in that his teaching is gentle. But he has also given us another way to ensure we are never alone. We have each other. I need you; you need me. We need our tribe, because we all GET it. We get how difficult surrender is.

No one ever woke up after a relapse grateful. But I’m grateful to have this place and so glad to be here.

Those things that kick your butt and make you doubt your recovery will always happen.

But they always pass.

Keep your recovery. It’s your choice to make it priority. Minute by minite if necessarily.

Helping each other keeps us well.

Thank you for letting me share

Beatitudes · Social Justice · Spiritual

Blessed are Those who Hunger for Social Justice and Spit out the Subterfuge (Part IIII of The Beatitude Series)

Justice.jpg

By: Jana Greene

I gave birth to liberal children.

There, it’s out now (Haha! Whew! What a relief to just SAY it, and put it out there into the UNIVERSE!)

I’m kidding of course. I am very, VERY proud of the strong, young women grew up to be. Nearly everyone in the world could be labeled ‘liberal,’ some ‘conservative,’ but most fall in the spectrum in between.

Labels. Labels. Labels. Oh how we just LOVE labeling people. And the act of doing so is SO not of God.

For the record (and all labeling purposes) I am a moderate – and a moderate with libertarian leanings at that. I apologize to no one. Let’s just get those nasty ‘ol labels out of the way and God bless America and all that.

It bothers me less and less that my kids’ lean to the left, because the older I get, the more I understand how social justice matters to GOD.

Here are the complicated instructions I gave my kids growing up: “Form your own ideas based on what you know, and grow up to CARE about people are treated.”

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they did.

Here’s my honest account of social justice (and those who supposedly hunger and thirst for righteousness):

To this white, middle-aged woman, I used to think of social justice as a phase of American history in which there were blatant abuses and  involuntary segregation and horrible injustices done to people for no other reason than they had more melanin in their skin tone than others. But thank GOD, a man named Martin Luther King came and was the fairest, true-ist man in all the land, and he and his brave and peaceful soldiers of equality rid the world of social injustice so that we could all live in a world where everyone was equal and valued as such. The end.

(I didn’t say it was accurate, I said it was what we were taught. At my particular high school, the black kids were the popular kids, so I had no other perspective to view it from. It was certainly not applicable to every black child in America.

Here’s the thing: We all believe fundamentally that we are right. But statistically, we cannot POSSIBLY all be right all the time. Where are you wrong? I’m wrong about a lot of things.

And as I said, it was the history through the eyes of a white, middle-aged white woman who was educated in ’80’s era Texas and who then – and now – have multitudes of dear friends of every race, color, and creed.

As evidenced by our current political and socioeconomic climate, it ain’t over, obviously. And there is no way of getting around it – liberally or conservatively – it is an issue important to our fully-just Father.  I cannot fathom a subject more near and dear to his heart than how his children treat eachother.

It’s easy to resort to quoting the Bible verses we’ve all come to know (and be kind of confused by:) “Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness,  because it is they who will be satisfied!” Matthew 5:6 (NIV)

or, as The Message translates the verse: 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.”

Oh, THIS. Yes, the eating and drinking  analogy. Now , THAT’ll preach!

True justice is the best meal you’ll ever eat?  That goes right alongside drinking of the water that will make you never thirst again. That’s satiation. That’s fullness. That’s true and just satisfaction.

So as I’ve been trying to figure out for weeks how to write this piece, God has given me the word “truth’ over and over.

“Yeah, I get it, God. Truth is part and parcel to justice, and there can be no justice without there being absolute truth. But you see, we here are sorely lacking in thine ultimate truth-o-meter, as we have only our senses with which to mitigate it. Think about it. Most of we humans determine justice by perspective.

The hard part here is determining how we understand justice:

Our own sense of right and wrong (which is subjective).

And our physical senses – what we see here with our gelatinous eyeballs and selective hearing. What we touch, which may vary from person to person. What we taste, which is literally a matter of personal taste; and by what we feel – physically or emotionally.

All these weeks that God has been telling me “write about truth in justice and the blessing therein” I couldn’t complete  writing this piece because I felt something was missing.

I’d been missing the second word he’d told me to write about this morning out of a dead sleep  (and at 2 a.m., thanks, God – your ways are not our ways nor is your timing ours!)

SUBTERFUGE. The key to understanding true just ice is cutting through all of the crap that is subterfuge.

sub·ter·fuge
ˈsəbtərˌfyo͞oj/
noun
noun: subterfuge; plural noun: subterfuges
  1. deceit used in order to achieve one’s goal.
    synonyms: trickery, intrigue, deviousness, deceit, deception, dishonesty, cheating, duplicity, guile, cunning, craftiness, chicanery, pretense, fraud, fraudulence

    “the use of subterfuge by journalists”
    trick, hoax, ruse, wile, ploy, stratagem, artifice, dodge, bluff, pretense, deception, fraud, blind, smokescreen;
    informational, scam
    “a disreputable subterfuge”

There is truth and justice. And then there is subterfuge.  Everything else that is not God’s righteousness is subterfuge. 

The problem being that subterfuge is also highly subjective. What may offend you may not offend me.

But what offends God should offend us all. That’s the hard part because we’ve had so many things chiseled into our minds that God HATES. But God, by his very nature, LOVES.

(Hey, I didn’t claim to answer all the world’s problems, I’m just saying God gave me a word at 2 a.m. and told me to share it, so if ONE single reader has an epiphany through this piece, my work here is done!)

Blessed are those who truly hunger for righteousness; whatever that righteousness looks like to Almighty God, fair in all of his dealings and loving in all of his ways. I think Martin Luther King understood that.

Care about how people are treated, and you cannot go wrong.

Blessed – that state of BEING, not state of FEELING – are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are we who grow up to be people who CARE about other people.

Only God knows every truth that constitutes every justice. But BLESSED are we who work up a good appetite for the Giver of those Truths – God. He truly satisfies.

It’s not necessarily the “figuring out” what is just and un-just (although we should certainly strive to) but the thirsting for truth and justice that releases His power like no other sense we can manufacture on our own. Maybe we can all start by admitting  “hey, this was my perception growing up.” Maybe it’s really important to listen to one another.

Subterfuge would love to keep us all silent.

Let us selah on this, God.

For a day, and for a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

Family · Spiritual

Letter to my Sister – I love you forever

sister
KK, you drew this for me when you were four years old, and titled it “Big Sister, Little Sister.” You explained that we were playing ball together. It still hangs in my house to this day. It means the world to me.

By: Jana Greene

Good day, Readers.

I know I am smack-dab in the middle of writing about the Beatitudes, and taking my sweet time about contrary to what I promised because I’ve had a procedure in my head, neck, and shoulders in which 200 ccs (14 very necessary injections) had to be placed in the muscles and over the skull to prevent my migraines, and while seemingly barbaric, it helps my headaches immensely. I’ve been in a lot of pain; pain that is not conducive to creativity. That is why I have not continued the Beatitude Series (I am still working on #4 – the sense of justice – but I had this dream last night and when I woke, I knew I had to write it. So I interrupt this Beatitude Series to write about the dream I just had. It may cause a family shit-storm (if any of my estranged family reads my work), and I sincerely hope not. That is not my intent.

My intent is to tell my sister, who was born when I was 16, that I love her.

KK,

I had a dream about you last night. It isn’t the first that I’ve had about you, but it was by all means the most vivid, I need to share it with you because I felt your actual spirit while in my dream-state.

I’m going to start by telling you the beginning of the dream, because that is the natural set-up to the last scene is the normal way to write it. But we’ve never been normal, and why start now? Besides, the last scene was the one I woke up crying to.

I snuck in the house because my name is officially mud forever and ever amen to that side of the family, for telling the truth.

But you took a risk, although you were angry about it. You’d been crying and I could tell you were equal parts happy to see me and supremely pissed, I could tell because your eyes become particularly green when you are in this state, and the contrast to your gorgeous red hair becomes even more striking.

There was an urgency for me to tell you what I came to say, because other family members were on their way to kick me out, so I took that beautiful face of yours that I’ve been in love with since you were a baby and held it in my hands.

I told you I still love you and think of you every day, even after six or seven years. I told you I was SO proud of the successes you’ve achieved – which are extraordinary by anyone’s estimation. I told you I’m sorry that you don’t like to be hugged anymore and I hope that’s not because of our split – you had graduated from high school, and you loved hugs until then. I explained that I was just trying to stay sober and help other people stay sober by writing honest, not cause a rift. But rifts are sometimes a by-product of honesty.

I told you I’m sorry that my honesty splintered the family, but mostly because the splintering from you and your brother broke my heart anew every day I wake up.

Before that scene, the dream was a mix of Clockwork Orange surrealism and Freudian saturation, as usual.

It ended with our mom saying you got a tattoo, and it was my fault. It was a portrait of someone I didn’t know, and the person in the tattoo had a third eye, the all-seeing eye. She made you have a cover up of that third eye, because it somehow threatened your safety.  She was very upset about it.

And I was very upset by her presence because I know my own mother pretty much deplores me, and I didn’t want to make thing harder on you. I never meant to make things harder on you.

She chased me away and said to never come back. That I was upsetting everyone in the household.

But I got to hold your face in my hand even though you disliked being touch, so it was all worth it.

Earlier in the dream, you avoided me and I followed you room to room. The rooms were all a mess full of naked mannequins and old cell phones (take THAT, Dr. Frued) and I couldn’t find my phone but I kept trying. I needed to tell Bob where I was.

My sister, my first baby,

I know you think that some secrets are better left unsaid. It left you in an unenviable position to choose loyalty between your father and I. After my story came out, I remember you posting that some secrets should remain unsaid. Then you unfriended me, and I couldn’t really blame you. Although in your line of work, I was surprised to hear you give voice to that sentiment, but I understand it was primal.  You don’t get any more primal than that.

And for that, I’m very sorry. But I’m not sorry for writing true (and, truth be told, the extreme sanitized version of events.) I’m only sorry for hurting you and losing you in the process.

But my truth is my truth, and my childhood is part of what made me who I am – anxiety-ridden, feeling responsible for the adults in the house, worrying that my issues were swept under the rug in the name of keeping things nice-nice. I grew up feeling like a mistake that everyone was just trying to make the best of, and I’ve got scars, too. You were a much-wanted baby, I don’t expect you to understand.

Because you were my first baby, my girl, another truth be told.

When you were born, mom went through a hard time, and I hoisted you up on my hip and took you every where I went with my new-found driver’s license. There were rumors that you were mine, and I didn’t discourage them, because to my mind, you were the love of my life and every single thing you did was cause celeb. I simply could not get enough of you, dear one. I’d never known love like that before. So….

I’d love to hold your face in my hands one more time and tell you I’m sorry how all of this has effected you and your brother. I don’t feel that I can safely do that because others would insert themselves in the process and that would be more damaging than healing – on both our parts.

I would tell you I was sorry. I would tell you that I love you, and never stopped, and that I’m so freaking proud of you, but not just for your career accomplishments….for your strength, too.

I love you, always.

Christianity · Spiritual

The Beatitude Series – Blessed vs. Happy, an Introduction

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By: Jana Greene

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.

The Beatitudes:

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)

 

Spirituality

Filling in the Cracks with Trust

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As I wrestle with many changes in this time, I’ve been posting pieces to invite you along the journey. The good, the bad, the ugly. All of it.  I believe the late, great George Carlin refereed to such drivel as ‘brain droppings,’ and as crude as it sounds, that is a pretty accurate assessment of the life and work of a blogger in cyberspace. So follow the trail, and maybe we will learn from each other along the way. I strongly invite you to leave comments and / or share your personal experiences, as you feel comfortable. And as always, thank you for your readership. ❤

By: Jana Greene

“How do you love an invisible God?”

The question hung in the air at the Celebrate Recovery meeting I was leading in 2012. A woman who was struggling to stay clean from the soul-sucking heroin asked me after the meeting (or, as we say in the Rooms, ‘the meeting after the meeting.’)

It was a very good question; and one so primal, it threw me. God was an old friend of mine. I thought I had spiritually evolved past that question. But in times of deep duress, I’ve found it to be a legitimate inquisition.

The answer I’ve found? You love each other. Any place there is love, be it by squeaky-clean Christian or ‘heathen’ who has never uttered the name of the Lord, there is God.

There you go. That’s how you get to know and love the ‘invisible’ God. TA DA!

It’s just that easy! Except for sometimes, it isn’t. Shifting all of our focus onto worry, can make him seem less visible; less tangible.

And like any relationship, the more time you spend seeking the face of God, the more intimate the relationship becomes – and the more full his reality reveals itself.

I used to think that the only love that counted for Team God was that fostered under the umbrella of a corporate, official, Jesus-brand ministry with a Bible to beat people up with (or worse, cause call to shun them) and a Federal tax ID number.

But that simply isn’t so.

It’s hard to dis-believe in someone you know personally, so that is not my struggle so much these days.

But I do have other struggles, and maybe you do too. Maybe you are worried about your future as well. Maybe every decision you make feels like filling out a voting card that is missing several candidate choices.

So today’s post is about TRUST.

Is God in charge of the future, or are we just scraping by like the children in Lord of the Flies, trying to carve out survival while our God watches the wretched, gladiator-style event?

Because I cannot believe he is love, and believe he created us to watch us implode.

It’s easier to love an invisible God, whose love physically manifests in nature and through his people, than it is to make peace with the unknown. And right now – above all else – my struggle is with having no idea what is coming next. Which, of course, is a struggle with TRUSTING God.

So, I’ve been a Christian most of my life, yet still – in times like these – wrangle with trusting him when every shred of physical evidence points to certain doom.

He is not the god of Certain Doom. He is the God of orchestration, working behind the scenes to arrange things for our own good. I’ve seen it play out 1,000 times. Why do I still struggle with trusting completely in uncertain seasons of life?

There is grace for the blessed seasons – written clearly to us and in bold font, and in Sharpie. We see it. It spills off the page and stains our fingers so that we can rub it off on an unbelieving world.

But there is also grace for seasons of struggle – in seemingly invisible ink. Even when we hold it up to the light, we cannot see it written. We cannot decipher it even when we do get a glimpse. It reveals itself in due time, but while we wait, we are flummoxed.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, “I believe. Help me in my unbelief,” I implore: “I trust you, God. Help me in my distrust.

And God bless us, every single one.

God, help me to keep seeking your face. Thank you for your endless mercy, spilled off the page and into my heart. Thank you for making your love so easy to find. Lord, my fears are primal, and I cannot face them without trusting you. Hook a sister up with an extra measure of faith. And God? Thanks in advance.

Spiritual · Spirituality

Cruelty – the Worst Disability of All

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By: Jana Greene

Hi, Readers.

I was all set out to write a pithy little piece in tribute to the Great Shel Silverstein, if for no other reason that he taught me to love words and even sometimes love the WORLD, janky as it may be. It was a little ‘wherever you go, there you are’ piece, except my keyboard jammed, taking me to a magical, mystery land of four-letter words and sucked the whimsicalness right out of me visa my aft end, and then -right that minute – I got a brrrrrring notice from my iPhone alerting me that someone very special to my life was possibly having an existential crisis right that very moment, so heads-up. In her text was a lovely family reunion picture, my friend’s hand rested on her little baby bunp (the child they’d prayed and hoped for and long awaited. My dear friend has survived a LOT of bullshit in her young life and has come out with faith intact (miraculously) and I am so stinking proud of her. She has battled and overcome Anorexia and a host of other chronic, debilitating maladies – things that would make a lesser woman (me) not even want to get out of bed in the morning. AND she takes awesome care of her hubby and service dog, and loves on EVERYONE, working hard for those facing even more difficulties than her own. She is my hero.

So after I enjoyed the lovely picture for a minute or two, I scrolled down to read what someone had posted in response to the picture. Presumably someone else in the picture.

It said, “Well, stop faking your fake disability and keep your fingers out of your throat.”

And then I stopped to read it again because SURELY NOT.

Surely there are not people who are Lex Luthor/ Bob Cratchet/Lucifer/Any and all evil parts in movies played by Jack Nicholson/Wicked Witch of the West/Scarface/Hannibal Lechter  HYBRID of villains.

But there it was, for God and all creation to see.

“Well, stop faking your fake disability and keep your fingers out of your throat.”

More hurtful words I cannot imagine coming out of the mouth of a demon. I know God loves this nasty person and loves her dearly. I, on the other hand, think she’s a real asshole. Hey, I’m working on it, but I ain’t yet arrived, as we say in the South.

And to my sweet, brave, amazing, mama-to-be friend? You have always always brought to mind the song by “Nice & Wild” – Diamond Girl. It was written long (long, long) before you were born, but you’ve always made me think of it.  Youtube it, or download it, or do whatever you young people do these days to listen to music, but just take a listen.

Shine on, Diamond girl. You sure do shine. Kick off them haters – don’t pay them no mind.

(That last line is compliments of yours truly, but I think Shel Silverstein would approve.)

I love you.

 

 

 

Spiritual · trust

Playing the Fool (or When Trust Goes Terribly Wrong)

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By: Jana Greene

Well hello, dear Readers.

Today I’d like to talk about something that happened to me several months ago. I’m hoping writing about it will help clear my head, because its been a good while now and it still smarts. Sometimes, putting an issue out into the universe by means of keystrokes helps me process and deal with things.

File this blog post under “no good deed goes unpunished.”

The gist of it is that I had a friend who was also in recovery. After a stay in rehab, she was released back into her natural habitat with all intentions of staying sober. Or so I believed.

We had mutual friends at the time, and someone suggested she reach out to me because maybe I can hook her up with some meeting resources, and just generally be her friend. As a result of her past choices, she relied on others to get her around town, and I was all too happy to be her recovery buddy and take her to meetings with me.

And become her friend, I did.

Not only did she confide in me, but I in her; and regularly. Looking back now, I cringe at the uber-vulnerability I felt comfortable engaging in with her. I wasn’t her sponsor, but I was her friend, and I have a propensity for letting it all hang out anyway.

She had close ties with people who used to be an intimate part of my life – family even – but I trusted her (mostly.) She seemed to trust me, too.

What I should have caught on to, but missed by a mile was that her wildly elaborate and passionate stories about recovery. How could I not have seen them as overkill? I have had teenage daughters before – I should KNOW that when someone clearly sells past the close with oversharing.

Sample conversation with (insert name of teen daughter…)

Me: “Where do go last night?”

Teenager: “Emily needed help with her homework, so I went over because we are learning the square root of infinity and she doesn’t really get it, but I’m good at math and….”

Me: “And you did this by sneaking out at 2 a.m.?”

Teenager: “Well, her dog had passed out, so I went over to show Emily how to give it CPR, and then a group of bandits broke in to her house and held us hostage, so I couldn’t come home, and when I finally did, a clown driving an ice cream truck followed me and I freaked out, and then Britney called and…..”

Ok, I exaggerate. But not terribly.

On our rides together,  she was super animated and would often even quote from my own blog to me. I would sometimes think, ‘okay…THAT was weird,’ but most of my friends – and certainly me – are weird. Some of the personal stories she told suspended belief!

Eventually, this friend needed witnesses who ‘knew’  her pretty well, and as her meeting buddy, I felt confident about testifying for her.  “You’ve worked so hard on your recovery,” I said. “I would be honored to help.”

The funny thing is that while all of this meeting hopping was going on, I mentioned to My Beloved, “Hey, wouldn’t it suck if  ****  was just a mole placed strategically to report back to my estranged family about how I feel about them?” We had a good laugh. That was  PREPOSTEROUS.

What wasn’t so preposterous was that I came to later find out that the whole shebang – including the two years of her sobriety – was an elaborate ruse designed to soften my heart toward this person. It worked.

I don’t know if she was ever a mole and I really don’t care – but she was definitely a user. A user who is still drinking and – as all evidence now proves – likely may have been all along, and I’m a SUCKER. I staked my name and reputation in the recovery community on my belief that she had been truthful.

The Oscar for Best Actress goes to ….

This gal.

After I was a character witness for her, I never saw or heard from her again. She fell off the face of the Earth. It’s hard for me to imagine that degree of deception, and over the course of a YEAR, no less.

I kind of pride myself on this mission statement: I don’t have relationships with people I don’t trust. That assumes I know untrustworthy people and can tell when they are lying. I thought I had decent discernment. Maybe that pride needs to go the way of ALL pridefulness. In the sh*tter, where it belongs.

The question I keep posing to myself is thus – HOW could I be so stupid and gullible? I honest to God just didn’t see it.

Deception. So much deception. Looking back, I’m not sure ANY of what she had tearfully told me was true. Like I said, I am a SUCKER. I lost a friend who I prayed  and hugged and laughed with.

There’s no way to wrap up this post all clean and tidy, because life is just so messy. I don’t think I’ll hear from her again; she got what she had befriended me for. I’m angry and hurt and feel like a complete idiot.

What I experienced ain’t terribly original. Active addicts lie. It’s kind of what they do. They deceive, minimize, maximize, lie, cheat, steal, and all to protect their best friend – the drug of choice. I myself used to strategically hide BOXES of wine all over the house (although I’m not sure why, as those in my life at the time didn’t seem to mind if I drank myself to death.) But once I got into a program, I learned to call myself out on these behaviors and stop lying to myself.  Because calling yourself out keeps you sober, frankly. “Rigorous honesty.”

Yeah, that old chestnut.

As with most things about recovery, I’ve learned tons about myself during this time. Had I to do it again, what would I change? Even if I knew she was using me and lying about her addiction?

I would still offer to take her to meetings with me. I would still give her a safe place to vent. I probably wouldn’t have shared as much of my personal life with her, and I surely wouldn’t have vouched for her. Like I said, it sometimes seems that no good deed goes unpunished.

Although the deception happened TO me, it is not ABOUT me. It’s not about me in the least. But it stings all the same –  I’m just being honest about how this whole debacle made me feel.

Still, God calls me to be grace-full, and I’m trying. He never called me to be a sucker.  I have forgiven this lady (although she never asked for it) after wasting precious hours and hours on trying to figure out what clues I missed.

But forgiving someone doesn’t mean you want to break bread with them. You can forgive, walk away, and be wiser for the trouble.

I still pray for my friend.  I hope she gets honest with herself and gets well. I hope she is safe and that others are safe around her. I ask God to give me discernment, but at the end of the day, I’m going to try to love people anyway. That’s the messy part.

The rest is on her.