Tend-and-befriender

It is odd to tell a story as if it was a thing that happened and it has an end and tra la la. This story is a chapter, it is a leaf only recently flipped over, and I am not sure which parts of its’ green vines to write, and which to leave for later.

Yet today, here, now, all I have is cute little me and my inhospitable life story and path. Here, friends, is a part.

August 2015 I am in a restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama with my best friend Emily. She is chewing red and yellow tortilla chips in the magical way only she can, and I gaze at the shiny bottles of alcohol propped on and around the bar caddy-corner to us.

“I’m just afraid that I will marry him and go to be with him and then hate it and not want to be there,” I say. Emily and I do not talk about everything but we talk about most things and all the deep things, yet somehow there is a unique heaviness to the fear I share in this moment. Emily nods like the sane, level-headed being she is, and validates my concern with restraint.

Sadly, utter heaviness was no stranger to my experience of life then, and still maintains a fairly reliable presence (always forward, always healing, always hopeful). At that point I was back from an emotionally stressful overseas trip, and had returned with a new tend-and-befriender. What is that, you ask? Using language from Teresa B. Pasquale’s book Sacred Wounds, tend-and-befriend is a defense mechanism used by someone in survival mode or trauma response. It is associated with the bonding hormone, oxytocin, that serves humans by helping us feel connected to others. It becomes nefarious, however, when a person is stuck in a trauma response and feels dependent emotionally on (often potentially hurtful) people or communities.

At the age of 21, I had spent the majority of my life (read: every second) moving from a stress response. The emotional and religious trauma of my developmental years left me stuck in frozen distress (things can get reeeeeally hairy there is distress-arctica, let me tell ya), and there I was, about two months after the difficult trip, feeling a deep obligation to return to be with someone in a foreign country who had helped me through a VERY rough 13 days. I felt that I owed him something, and that to return and live the life I assumed he wanted from or with me was the undeniable right thing to do.

I felt it not on a spiritual level, nor on a level of dutifulness, nor on an intellectual level. It was deeper than those parts of me, and now I know that when I feel that deep, guttural obligation it is coming from my very evolution. Those stress responses are a part of me because I am a part of an evolving body of humanity; sounds beautiful, sure, but in that moment, I was very stuck. Living in this kind of stress response is like trying to breath with air that is only 0.09% oxygen. It is having your insides in the fetal position when you need them to open and flourish and say things and be responsive to people. It is a jack-hammer in your mind that leaves you vulnerable to re-experiencing the abuse combined with a sense of badness that stings and prods like horse flies on the beach. It is no sleep and avoidance of every love-light ray that comes near your personal darkness.

The religious trauma compounded with this process has continually led me to my knees, trying to bargain with push-and-pull gods off in the cosmos who made me, so must want me, but also must not want me since here I am in this turmoil again.

Thankfully, the kind man who helped me when I was overseas, lived, yes, overseas. After 5+ months in contact with him, I suddenly cut all conversation–text, calls, video. He offered advice and was kind and looking back I think he must have sensed the turmoil I was in though he did not understand it either, and I said goodbye.

January 2016 I am at my part-time cleaning job the day after cutting off the relationship and the air is back to 20% oxygen. Sweet, sweet clear oxygen filling my shriveled lungs. I lift my Pledge-covered rag over my head and dance; I feel elated, happy, for the first time in months. I am happy because I see that I am mine. As the jack-hammer lifts off my mind, I am thinking over and over: this is my life. I clean this house. This is my heart. I feel these things. The fetus my insides had become is suddenly a seed of new life, rather than a posture of protection. I am mine again, independent, and my muchness is slipping back into the ghost of myself that has been living misguided and drained for the past months.

I still wonder if people without an over-active stress response system feel that elated all the time. I wonder how many times I will have to survive a response like that again until my Holy Trinity (body, mind, soul) can look a stressful situation in the face and know that I am enough, and that it is going to be okay and I am going to make it regardless of what goes down.

I never should have accessed this place of stress and trauma. I certainly never should have gotten stuck in it for so long. But this is my life. MY super unique and immense life, people. I am grateful that I get to live it, know it, figure it out. This life is path and path is where my insides and outsides come together and I experience joy and love and laughter. Here, on path, I take the hands of my loved-ones with my own, even when I feel that my hands are not worthy to be inside of someone else’s.

Last week someone I love very much was angry and I could see the anger that she was trying to protect me from as I stroked her black hair.

I could see. I have lived. It has hurt. I can see.

Live free, live inside of the Big Love.

Namaste, nomads.

 

LN

 

 

 

 

Poem Full of Hope

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She carries her cross, terrified and fully aware of surrounding and indwelling dissonance;

she knows she was made for more, a more she knows nothing of, which makes her ache with hope and agony.

 

Terrified, she treads deeper into the forest landscaped with fear and uncertainty.

She carries her cross because she needs more to live for.

 

Children who have yet to see the forest edge, for them she carries her cross.

While they can’t muster hope she, terrified, touches one more toe down.

 

She carries her cross, brown-eyed and unstable.

Terrified, the woman is Jesus, come back to lift the poor from the hopeless heaps we’ve put them in.

 

 

Glory & Guts

I’m singing out: YOUR LOVE LEAD ME!

 

There’s nothing that I have need of

There’s nothing you haven’t done

You make my soul alive

You put your life inside

There’s nothing that I have need of

There’s nothing you haven’t done

 

You make my soul alive

You put your life inside

 

You put your love inside

 

I’m giving you everything

 

~United Pursuit, Simple Gospel album

 

March toward freedom. Run when you’re unable to even stand. Use what could be your last breath (maybe feels like it IS the last breath of your soul) to hurl yourself toward light. Set your heels deeper in the mud and when they sink, keep pushing. You’re slaves but you don’t have to be. Stomp your foot in the face of that slavery. Sing out: there is a BEYOND for me. There is much to move towards. Restoration is a prize worth struggling unto death for. You may not know if anything good is true, but hope is essential. You have to believe it until it is true. You have to grind your teeth together and clench your fists until your fingernails draw blood. You have to wrestle the selfishness & despair within until you stand with your foot on its’ neck. There is more to be, more to believe, more life & abundance for the taking than you could ever imagine. You have access to all the strength that you need. The One who made you wants you back. Do you hear the song of love that the trees and waves and woodpeckers and thunder claps sing for you? The cry of Love’s broken heart: come back. Come back to the One from whom you came. You exist. You are. As surely as you are, you are loved. Newness is around the corner for you, powerful one. Nothing can limit your potential, your love, your light, your purpose. You were made to change & to change this planet. Whatever broken down places there are in you, they are redeemable. Whatever has been done to you can be undone. Whatever has been undone in you can be remade. There is no such thing as irreparable. There is no such thing as hopeless or helpless.

 

There is no such thing as a gift without price. This battle costs everything. It asks surrender of you. It asks devotion of you. But first, all it asks is belief. One movement (and a hundred more every day to follow) in the direction of “yes” to power beyond you will hurtle you into an extraordinary journey. An extraordinarily difficult journey. Every step requires a loss, and the losses will set you free. They’ll feel like betrayal. You will lose the only you you thought there was. You will find innumerable lies lodged in the foundation of your being and you will have to decide to let it crumble. In darkness the Enemy will whisper that you don’t love your family. In darkness the Enemy will accuse you of pride, of indulgence, of selfishness, of irresponsibility. In victorious moments all you will feel is struggle and doubt. Then you will look back & make an idol of the victory instead of the One from whom it came. In the hardest moments you will wonder why and how and your brow will be so tight that you get a headache. You will forget how hellish the slavery is and you will follow your flesh back to rock bottom. You will progress and you will regress. You will doubt and question and experience greater pain than you knew you had the capacity for. People won’t understand. People will throw darts. People will mock and people will wonder. They will worship you and that will hurt worse than anything else.

 

You won’t fit the mold anymore.

 

Your love changes everything.~United Pursuit

 

You will slowly lose your linear eyes. You will regain a poetic perspective and you will see beauty where no one else can. You will grow up and you will become a child again. The strong hands of your cravings won’t steer the boat anymore. You won’t be controlled by nerves, fear, or timidity. You won’t be running ragged and unsatisfied. You won’t hate the words coming out of your mouth; raw joy will take their place. You will run with hell at your heels towards one Being only & find that every other relationship can be fueled by the overflow from moment-by-moment encounters with Jesus. You will discover what you were made to do. Your skin will crawl and you won’t be able to live with that being the way it is anymore. You will see miracles & you will pedal and walk and run and jump and limp and crawl until the skin on your hands is calloused, your knees are knotty, and the cavern of your heart swollen. You will learn not to trust in life stages or relationship status but in an unchanging force whose tide is steady. You will eat less and sleep harder and dream bigger.

You will lose the ability to hate and have enemies. You will ache for someone besides yourself and you will offer that ache back to the One. Your soul will swell with joy & your time alone will be precious, full of laughter and dancing. Your fears will fall off your face in silver tears and the moon will replace them with determination and a fierce desire for home. Your need for admiration or adoration from your friends will turn into gratitude for the “amens” they speak over your life. People won’t make your decisions for you. People won’t disappoint and limit you. People won’t have the last word. People will speak curses and blessings over your head and what isn’t true just won’t matter. 

I saw your soul without the skin attached
You’ve got the guts of a coyote pack
We’ve been kissed, we’ve been cut
But we do what needs the doing
We’re just rainbows dreaming we’re human
~Cloud Cult

You will discover true glory. That hidden glory, familiar and sweet, will chase away the memories of every violation you have perpetrated against your soul and the souls of your neighbors. The glory will erase your shame and you will be baptized into forgiveness so often you lose count of the times you’ve come back up.

 

You were born as a spark.

Re-gain the spark that’s been pinched between the index finger and thumb of your life.

Give your spark space to breath.

Show it to no one but the warm wind of spring.

Protect it with your everything and beg the God of hope to let it grow.

Kneel in the wild and trust the small fire you have become to the flame of origin.

Accept no limitations.

Fight harder, win bigger.

Hunger for the Holy One more than for food.

Let Him/Her take you beyond.

The goodness is unending.

Dare to believe it.

Bet your vaporous life on it.

Everything changes.

I Can’t Hate the Church

In her book Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans asks the question what is it the man Jesus’ (diverse) followers all shared? She says,

“It wasn’t shared social status or ethnicity….No, if there is one thing that connected all these dissimilar people together it was a shared sense of need: a hunger, a thirst, a longing. It was the certainty that, when Jesus said he came for the sick, this meant Jesus came for me.” (p. 92)

I am thankful God brought this book into my hands right now. At the end of the hardest year of my life (so far!). After a year of stripping away; of feeling more alive than ever before & yet abandoned & confused deeper than I knew possible. A year of ultimatums & threats & old relationships turned sour & new ones (budding in dusty parts of the soul) riding the mysterious current of the River of Life.

In January I started going to a church–a communion of these Jesus followers–that I could (finally) listen to without being offended. I started hearing the Bible taught in a way that made my heart burn with passion for justice & equality & truth. Truth that linked my heart to God’s more closely. I started leaving church full-ish instead of empty. I’m thankful for the 7 months I had at Mosaic Church, and that though sometimes I felt too preached to, and (more annoyingly) too advertised to, the hugs & prayers & celebration & meals & gifts & sacraments kept me there.

Church of God in Christ. Church of Jesus Christ. Crosslife. Cornerstone. Community. Grace Bible. Why do all those names still make me throw up a little? Jesus Christ is my dearest friend; how can I have such a strong reaction against his name?

His name has been taken in vain so often, even by ones truly trying to honor who he is (myself included!). A cardboard cut out representing someone else’s Jesus has been set up with its shadow cast over the very ones he loves best. The outcasts. The marginalized. The ones who smoke weed. The homeless. The ones whose sexuality isn’t quite what culture says it should be. The murderers. Rapists. Porn addicts. Teen mothers. People with no money. The lie has been sown by the ones who claim Jesus’ name that his burden is heavy. That they have to leave behind their families & cultures & identities in order to come.

Some days I hate the church. Psalm 8:1 says, “O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth.” I really get the feeling on certain days that “church” makes his name un-majestic. That the big screens & the insincere liturgies & the campaigns against abortion remove the mystery & wonder of a God with a humble earthly story, a God who spoke to Moses with a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12). A God who invites us to munch bits of bread together & remember the united existence his death has made possible.

But I can’t hate the church. I can’t because the church is my best friends. The church is my eternal family. The church is the ones around me who know they are sick. The ones who hold my hand during a panic attack. Who go with me to get new tattoos. It is friends who don’t hesitate to affirm me while acknowledging the darkness in all of us. Who put coconut milk shampoo with the golden lid (I never would have considered myself worthy of) in my Christmas stocking. Who put together a picnic for friends of a friend. Who fail & recognize their failure but refuse to believe that anything can jeopardize their place as Children of the King. Who teach me what it is like to receive a gift–no strings attached. God’s people do this. God’s people show up & open up old scars to one another, knowing that encouragement & hope will be ministered freely. God’s people have laughed with me & danced with me through this most harrowing of years (2015).

Even a Christian pastor (the scariest kind of Christian!)  has the joyful confidence to say:

“I have to believe that God can put anything–anyone–back together. I have to believe that the God Jesus invites us to trust is as good as he says he is.

Loving.

Forgiving.

Merciful.

Full of grace.” (Rob Bell in his book Sex God)

Mutual hunger. Shared thirst. Shattered hearts & disappointing relationships. It’s all giving birth to unimaginable wholeness. I’m watching it in my own life & in the lives of those I love. The moments we feel of unity: during communion, at the corner of campus where people share cigarettes, through the bridge of Hillsong’s latest haunting melody, when girls have talent shows without mocking laughter or competition….those are the lasting reality. Those are whispers of a season where isolation will be no more. A season of depth & health & glory. God’s church emerging from all the shadows she has cast. The eunuchs. The women. The martyrs. The children. All who know their need & drop fat tears on the feet of humble Jesus.

She is the Bride Jesus longs to show off in the Heavens, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

And she will answer, “Worthy. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.”

We will answer.

We will answer now–eyes on the Lamb–amidst world war, poverty, mental illness, divorce, and life’s messiest messes:

Worthy. Worthy is the Lamb we love. 12248635_1238736879476513_990288516_n

 

 

All a Miracle

Two size 10 Sketchers pad the concrete as I try and tread away from stingy tears of disappointment & noose-like arms  of depression. Wet leaves coated in moonlight drip tears onto my hair, the tops of my ears, the cool metal of my eyebrow ring.

Pain shoots through my broken heart. Why did I get the damn eyebrow ring? I couldn’t see it then but now I know: self-mutilation stuck through epidermis with a ball on either side. Memories that wouldn’t stay buried, brought to life by words that, sadly, met their intended target (my soul).

I come deep within myself, speaking to the Emmanuel whose breath is pressing against the egg shell that my walls have become;

these deep fortifications that Truth has dug a tunnel under. Now I’m shaken.

Dare I invite a voice so deep that it scare the hell out of me? But this is hell and I’m tired of it. It was Monday and I had a panic attack. I stared at the lights on the Christmas tree until I could breathe again. It became Monday again and I stood with wind whipping my face hung over a bridge wondering if it was high enough to kill me fast. 7 days of desperation in between.

The urge is real, and it surprises me. I might actually climb the rail and jump. Not for an adrenaline rush. For an end. So that I can stop hurting & being hurt. Because surely redemption roots can’t reach this far.

Desperation, when it is directed towards Jesus, is an expression of faith. ~Jack Moraine

The water churns, like memories of how I have failed, how I have hurt those I love most dearly. The men who have pinned their lust & self-loathing on me. The women who have hardened their hearts against me. These regrets that I will always live with (this eyebrow ring probably the least of them). The tension that arises in relationships when money is mentioned. The foreboding sense that it is always my fault. Broken sexuality that surfaces in inconvenient interactions.

Hey.

Wait. Back up.

I get to live.

The force of my being won’t be spent hurling itself over the rail of this bridge. This is not how I want my story to end. This is not how I want the next chapter to begin. The chemicals in my body scream out against health & sanity. My fingers tense and curl as my soul threatens to cave in on itself. My fingertips brush the rail. I don’t step back because I want to choose. I want to make the choice to live. I won’t live by default another minute. I won’t drag my soul along behind.

I want to live on purpose.

I want to give 110% to my relationships.

I want to forgive & be forgiven.

I want to see reconciliation come after I fail again & again.

I want to believe in the Lord who lived to die to know me.

Reconciliation.

The difference is made there in one word. I am reconciled to God. We are friends again. He isn’t mad at me. He likes me. SO much that I don’t have to cover my head with a blanket or hide behind a plate while he reads my poems. I am the glorious & rich inheritance chosen by my Beloved, this God. His light cracks the egg shell around my soul & the flame has a beautiful whipping sound like a candle within a round glass vase. Fed by the oxygen of grace, lit by two sparks–gifts–of faith & peace.

Grace is God working. Grace is God working. He is (actively!) caring for the ones I care about. My relationships will not be defined by my failures. The work of reconciliation has been done. Jesus did it. Light is chasing me. He will go through every creative avenue to speak with me. My thickest walls can’t keep out the light of his love, the joy of new life.

Through a friend in Colorado leaving me a message with a hum of background noise, telling me that Jesus talked to him about a girl named “Lydia” & how (falsely) eternal the temporary darkness can seem, yet how everlasting his love for her is.

A friend of a friend, thousands of miles away, worships on her bathroom floor. There she asks God how she can learn more about being a light. And he whispers my name to her. My name? It’s on His lips.

He speaks to me–when I can’t hear him for the oppression of my negative thought patterns–through a children’s book written over 60 years ago;

“No,” said Aslan. “I am sad and lonely. Lay your hands on my mane so that I can feel you are there and let us walk like that.” ~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Trust. I can trust him. He isn’t privileged. He isn’t insincere. I can let my guard down in His presence. He sees my humanity and weighs my soul carefully. He’s stood on the edge himself. So I bury my hand in His mane.

“It is he, not you, that will save….” ~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Exhale. Trust them to him.

“There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.”~C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The mane grows again. The mane always grows again.

Trust me to Him? Trust me to him. Remember? Remember his ways of mercy and grace. Remember that the dehumanizing voices aren’t his. Remember that the lies stirring turmoil within me are the opposite of his voice. Remember that he roars. That the Lion of Judah conquers those voices.

“10 Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has happened at last! God’s salvation and the power and the rule, and the authority of his Christ are finally here; for the Accuser of our brothers has been thrown down from heaven onto earth—he accused them day and night before our God. 11 They defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony; for they did not love their lives but laid them down for him.”~Revelation 12:10-11

The accuser–ever-present within me–will be cast down. The Good News is good news. For all. Oppressed & oppressor. Sisters & brothers. And for this confused twenty-two year old, whose whole life will be a healing journey (eye brow piercing and all), there is good news. Because of my friend named Jesus (also called Love) the pain is carving out space for more joy. This I choose to believe.

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.~Isaiah 9:1a

…and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory  of God and from his power…~Revelation 15:8b

Deep inhales of smoke from his glory expand the lungs of my soul. Water pools in upturned leaves like truth fills the cracks of my broken heart. Moonlight baptizes me in frothy whiteness. My Skechers tap out rhythms of endurance all the way back to my car.

Merry Christmas, friends. (the solemn, holy, bright-light-in-darkness kind)

Rebelde

Rebelde

A poem

 

Where is justice?

Roars the tiger inside

 

Dare they push economic, political refugees

Across the planet, homeless as veterans on American streets?

 

Licking and sticking stamps onto envelopes with empty bellies

Food money suddenly sliced by sixty percent

 

Inability to understand black life matters

White lies passing lips over crystal glass

 

Brown life matters, running from terror

Towards abyss laced with trauma, thin veil of hope

 

Deep discontent with matters of white life

No one is less yet the lies leap logic

 

 

Father God where is justice as I cry in the bathroom,

Scratchy towel strands against my bare skin

 

Physical vulnerability drawing pictures in my head

The wounds young soul received

 

Barbed-wire scratching age-lines in fabric

Old before her time, supple not sour

 

Gasping for air, head just out of water,

Tigress down stream of pain

 

He lay, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe

Choke hold of injustice closing throat forever

 

Never shot, police; never chased, border patrol

The injustice is personal, mi alma, my soul.

 

 

 
….she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy…. ~John 16:21b

 

 

 

Intolerable Injustice

So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.~Hosea 12:6

Thoughts rush as opinions hurtle across oceans, over screens, as we talk about people we don’t know, as we say things no one seems to hear….
It’s the passion in the voice of a friend
…as he sits in an airport, jet-lagged and full of emotion, just back from Southwest Asia, saying:
“…But when you actually look at them…they light up.”

When you actually look at them.

The hair on my arms stands up because of the truth & power in those words.

There is a God who actually looks at us. He treats us with more respect, dignity, and love, than we treat those dearest to us. He declares goodness, complete finality to our inheritance, and I am so ready to believe it, yet,
How do we believe those three words “It is done” when everything around us seems so undone?
I’m banging little white fists on the chest of God. I cannot reconcile the pain, the inequality, the judgment, the profanity, the disrespect for human life, with these promises of God. I cannot make sense of a world that lives & breathes only by the power of love yet contains horror, abuse, cages holding little girls, babies with swollen bellies, men out of work & out of dignity.
It doesn’t work, God. There is no justice. What Kingdom has come? Who is reigning over us?

And God says, love and justice.

Love

…AND justice?

But God how can they accompany one another? This is impossible.

Yes, daughter, this is the impossible life.

This heart stretching confusion. This pain I never knew existed; I see hurt unbearable in the faces and stories of people I love (love more than life). Injustice lives in the lives around me. Yet there is life all around: vivacity giving birth to cycles of sorrow.

Every question mark will not be followed by an answer. Every answer will not be the one I wanted to hear. ~Amena Brown

The ones who don’t care for justice, Lord. Or love? How do I see them? How do I treat them?

The answer is clear. With love and justice, with no judgment but holy judgment.
They make a joke of your name. They parade your words like naked jesters before the eyes of billions. They defame love.
Holy judgment is mercy. Holy judgment is the anointed One hanging by his hands until dead. Love happened while we were yet sinners.

If we can’t love the ones who don’t love the ones closest to God’ s heart (sojourners, outcast, impoverished, downtrodden) then the holy water we soak in may be poisoned [Macklemore, Same Love].

The proud.
The religious.
The angry.
The fearful.
Us.
How is it he loves us so unendingly?

I remember a girl whose anger controlled her life.
Who saw red.
Who could not tolerate the rich & the apathetic.
Who never wanted to have children because life is just suffering.
Who pulled out her hair and sometimes didn’t eat.

I remember a girl, conflicted & insecure,
Crying in her truck, flicking ash & hopelessness out the window.
Who spent hours reading oh-so-misunderstood Gospel Words then screamed for God to show up
Who didn’t have the courage to have friends, to let anyone in.

Sunday, riding my bike past a homeless man trudging through a cool drizzle, it occurred to me.
I’m not angry.
I’m at peace.
I’m not alone.
I’m connected.
I’m not hard.
I’m sad, soft.
I’m alive.
I’m in love with life.
Those hours spent boxing with God [Amena Brown] were not wasted. Heaven is coming in to my heart. Heaven is setting me free. Somehow knowing it is done (for me, for everyone who has wronged me, will wrong me, and does wrong others) empowers me to believe it CAN BE DONE here. Now. Due to divine power, my brokenness gives birth to new life, to more & MORE freedom. In all the wreck of our world, eternity is pushing back the curtain of evil & ignorance.

Bless our God, O peoples!Give him a thunderous welcome!Didn’t he set us on the road to life?Didn’t he keep us out of the ditch?He trained us first,passed us like silver through refining fires,Brought us into hardscrabble country,pushed us to our very limit,Road-tested us inside and out,took us to hell and back;Finally he brought us to this well-watered place. ~Psalm 66:8-12

Where is justice when I choose my own way?
Where is justice in my 22 years of privilege?
Where is justice for all the times I hurt others with my words?
Where is justice when the professors round my grade up?
Where is justice when I pay $140 for a cell phone & a factory worker pays with their life?

Just as his wind moves silky strands of hair across my face so he smooths the fly-aways of guilt and anger in my soul. He runs a gracious hand through my fears and reminds me that kindness overcomes hatred, that love is greater than fear (and not just for the privileged, not just for the ones who play by “the rules”). Love. Always.

May the refugees find homes.
May we open fearless arms to brothers & sisters of every religion.
May we, refugees on a rock hurtling through space, have peace & make peace.

Who Runs This Thing?

Seeing another Mount Sinai moment, I seize it hopefully.  My feet walk me through spiky fall grass to a bench perched alongside a lake. The lake is still, not even the sound of water licking the rocks. Just construction noise in the distance. I feel dew soak through my pants and shiver. Close my eyes, push in gently. Remind me who You are, God.

I reflect on my unusual morning. How a text from someone with heart problems had me sending wishes Heavenward before 5:00 a.m. How I usually fall right back to sleep but this morning had been a restless one. How I felt too closely connected to family members (by blood & otherwise) who are walking through darkness, through pain. How I tugged the blanket over my head & read 1 John because I ached to remember the goodness of the God who calls himself “compassion” [Isaiah 54:10]. How memories of my own sin & idolatry danced across my thoughts like autumn leaves on a busy street. How within I felt peace–not tranquility–but a peace that wrestles with pain & impatience & the blood of my soul that spills on everyone I come in contact with. How that peace has not always been there, but is a gift with no price tag, no return receipt. How I finally crawled out of my warm bed & decided to face the morning with a bike ride.

In those thoughts the Divine met me. The vision I had prayed for Sunday came. No trance, no goose bumps, but a simple picture. Images to help set me free again. A little girl; little me. Blonde, in a dress, dirt on her cheeks, standing at the end of a dock. The water was still like the water before me (in reality). I looked up, but as soon as I did I felt the burdens of those that I love & suffer with on both sides. They were there, breathing down my neck, keeping my eyes halfway between heaven & earth. But they don’t want to hold me down. Most of them love me. They want to see me fly.

Father, help me to let them go.

I stand and take one step at a time towards the lake. I want this moment to symbolize, in my heart, the moving away from idolatry. From earthly things. I feel the tension in my soul & step, step, step forward.

I believe that I can still be free, even as I walk with others through their pain. I don’t want to be anyone’s God. I don’t want to be anyone’s healer. I see in myself the desire to rule & submit that misplaced desire to the power greater than myself.

Relief doesn’t come immediately. Yet slowly I feel more grounded. Warmth like a coffee mug in hand starts to spread inside of me. I remember that this is God’s story, not mine.

As I ride my bike away from the lake I feel the freedom of knowing that he is healer. That he is God. The most beautiful news: I don’t have to be.

That’s the Message. I’m free from being God. My mistakes are part of a greater redemption story. Pressure is off. Love will bring me home. Love covers those I move away from sometimes; giving space so that we can all move closer towards heaven on earth. Those I move towards sometimes, because the pain is too deep to be plunged alone.

May your Kingdom come down, Jesus. Not mine.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. ~Galations 1:5, NIV

Grace & Gravity

I believe that I was put on this earth to chase my destiny.

I believe that you were put on this earth for a great purpose.

I believe that there is grace unleashed around us when we let someone change their mind (without missing a beat).

I believe there is power in acceptance & unconditional love.

I believe that from our darkest pain comes our deepest passions.

I accept my favorite parts of my story as well as the parts that wreck me.

I believe in an eternal force of goodness that is changing my stars & will never stop setting me free.

I accept the heavy care in my heart for the dozens of people who I claim as eternal family (love that pierces thread through me & ties my figure-eight soul to this planet).

I believe that I won’t regret giving myself time & space to transcend the daily “grind” & to nurture the soul I’ve been given.

I won’t regret taking the time to hear my heartbeat & to think long & hard about the human experience.

I won’t regret begging the dark & mysterious universe for space within me to adopt the unforced rhythms of grace & to weather waves of light & truth, the ones keeping sun & moon drawing circles around earth.

I won’t wish I had forgiven less, dreamed less, hoped less, smiled less, cried less, laughed less, fought for my neighbors & family less, believed less.

By grace I see, I dare to think: this life is a sacred gift & I want to live each extraordinary moment.

May the child within you be set free.

May you greet every growing experience with grit.

May love be gravity tethering you to the present moment.

May you fight for another.

May you confront the darkness within.

May you fly, my friend.

Light Spring Ahead

Recently I moved from my hometown to a place (2.5 hours away) I had only visited, eh, maybe twice. Uprooted from a FULL life of work, college, friendships, friendships so deep they were more like sister & brotherhood, mentors, connections, a church where I grew by leaps and bounds, streets I could have driven with my eyes closed, neighbors who watched me blossom from awkward junior high-er to bouncy college sophomore. Planted in a different culture. Different streets. People who eye me with suspicion (instead of the acceptance born from familiarity). A different school with instructors who expect different things. The list goes on.

And somewhere among that list of differences I lost my balance. BIG TIME.

I started trying to do things “right”…bad bad BAD. I started measuring my performance, in class, with people, at work. I was striving and striving to meet the standard of what it looks like to be a success here. I listened to culture’s voice & the voice of my own insecurities & started trying to be someone else. I started condemning myself for being the Wild Child I have grown into (and who many have condemned & still do condemn me for being). And what happens when we start judging & condemning ourselves? We start judging & condemning others. In my head I was saying “I am better” because that felt better than knowing I had failed to reach the “standard”. Then the atrocity of that way of thinking started to close in on me. Should I change my major? Should I leave this church? I was so caught up in the negatives I couldn’t breathe anymore. Even talking to the people I loved most, I hated the sound of my measuring, counting, judgmental voice.

In my misery I knocked on Heaven’s door again. I was in darkness. I knew my behavior wasn’t of God, but somehow I couldn’t get my head above the terror of failure to gulp true LIFE ((oxygen)). Knocking, knocking, knocking. Hallelujah, my sweet God of Lights came & shown Truth into the darkness.

“Here.” He reached out his hand & gave me what I needed:

just enough clarity to keep going

acceptance

peace

the soft breath of God-air whispering, “my goodness is unending. rest.”

Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do….It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! Galatians 6:16, MSG

God didn’t allow his Son to be crucified so that we could live a limited life, suffering from neck pain due to fitting within the 4 walls of standardized boxes.

The God of the universe didn’t die to make us all the same. Because of the that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns into they dictate.~Galatians 6:15, MSG

The beauty of life now, in this fresh moment, is that I have a clean slate before God. Learning from these recent mistakes, I can spring forward into this season of life. This space with souls circling up around the brilliant light of Eternity. Suddenly, all the bitter things are honey again, gifts offered from the hand of Heaven.

When I cycle, when I study, when I text, when I eat…instead of failures, there is space, light, zest for life. And I want to share it all with others; with everyone I LOVE (in Christ that’s everyone).

It’s a cruel cruel trick 

How we find ourselves

When we lose everything else.

(Sleeping At Last, Woodwork)