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

 

 

 

 

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10 Lessons of Hope

I have accumulated some great nuggets of knowledge over the past year and I want to share them! Not because I know it all, or even half of it all, but because I know different things than you do, and sharing our lessons is a good way to practice loving each other and living wise.

Here we go…

  • Wherever you are, be there. Community is built by people who invest in the lives of those around them rather than spend time searching for the group to be in. I realized this last summer when I noticed that the “favorites” list on my phone was over a page long, and full of people I did not talk to on a weekly basis. I had accumulated a list of the people I thought I needed to be with, and that had only served to damage the community God had placed me in. I trimmed the list down to seven people: it is far more user-friendly now, and I do not so often feel stretched out and stressed by the demands myriads of friends used to place on me.

“There isn’t anything on earth like relationships to make you holy.” ~Stasi Eldredge, Becoming Myself, 146

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” ~Acts 9:11, ESV

  • Be refreshed by the things you like to do. If you tend to overwork yourself (like me), you may find no space in your life for activities you enjoy. Change that. You need to do frequent, inexpensive things that you find refreshing. God gives us these pleasures as blessings; they help us through the ache of everyday life. For me it is yoga, and writing in my journal. Other people go on walks, cook, or build bonfires outdoors. (**Beware of idolatry: don’t turn these blessings into curses by giving them the heart that only belongs to God.**)

“But a heart alive is a heart that is awake and curious and pressing in to more.” ~ Stasi Eldredge, Becoming Myself, 115

  • Be (extra) kind to minorities. Not because they are any more desperate or less important than the ethnic majority, but because, odds are, things in their family tree haven’t gone so smoothly. Why else would they be far from their biological roots? Just subtly offer to pay for dinner when you’re out with a friend who is a minority member, or get plugged in to a mentoring program for at-risk youth. America has a situation on her hands. What are you gonna do about it?

“We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” ~Matthew 7:12, ESV

  • Own what you’re good at. I’ve wasted too many compliments, shrugging them away, saying, “Oh, it’s nothing, I’m not that good.” Take the compliment! Don’t be puffed up with unrighteous pride, but don’t apologize for being good at something either. I struggle with math and science but I’ve wowed some college instructors with essays and short stories. God has made me this way so I can serve HIS amazing purposes!

“God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are.”  ~Ephesians 2:10, CEV

  • Learn to say “no” to demands people place on you. Practice it if you have to; I did. This is especially difficult and of key importance if you have an enabling personality. Ask God, not men, what he would have you do with your time.

“Made in the image of God, we were created to take responsibility for certain tasks. Part of taking responsibility, or ownership, is knowing what is our job and what isn’t. Workers who continually take on duties that aren’t theirs will eventually burn out.” ~Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend, 27

  • Be OKAY with not knowing. No one knows it all. Don’t drive yourself mad searching for the answer to every question that flies through your head in a day. *You don’t have to win the arguments.* Doing research, learning, and seeking council is good, but no amount of historical data or advice or analysis can set your heart to rest. Only God offers real rest. Trust him as you spend a lifetime learning the truth.

God, show me the truth and show me the lies.

      “We are not uncertain about God, but uncertain of what He will do next. If we are only certain in our beliefs we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.” ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, 120

  • Beware of people who do know. Again, no one knows it all. The president, scientists, your parents, your mentors, your pastor, your therapist, they may have pieces of truth that cultivate discernment within you but they do not know it all. Our not-knowing is what makes us human, and spurs us forward to humble reliance on God. His ways are **not** our ways. Look out for people who have the answers to all your questions. Imagine a librarian who, when asked for books about World War II, starts reciting her personal knowledge of the war. You’d probably walk away slowly and Google it later. Surround yourself with people who don’t have all the answers, but are quick to point you in the right direction.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”~1 John 4:1, ESV

“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” ~Hebrews 5:14, ESV

  • Grieve. It’s OKAY to cry when you leave a job you have only had for two years. It is OKAY to spend an entire afternoon writing down memories of a loved one who passed away. If you need to weep, weep. If you need to take time thinking and wading through your emotions, set aside that time. You can experience the pain now or let it snowball for the rest of your life. God wants to bring healing to the pain in your heart, it’s part of your restoration.

“There is hope for your future, declares the Lord.” ~Jeremiah 30:17, ESV

“Jesus wept.” ~John 11:35, ESV

“Smooth sailing does not make a good sailor.” ~Louis Zamperini, Devil at My Heels

((for more on grief check out Prayer as a Place, by Charles Bello))

  • Ask God what his special love language is for you. Heather Nelson (http://sunshinedreams2u.blogspot.com/) told me this at a retreat a few weeks ago, and little did I know, God would reveal our special language to me less than an hour later. I stood next to a window and the sun slowly peeked around a thick tree. The white rays pierced glass and kissed my forehead. Sunlight. Sunshine. That is one of the way God speaks to me, letting me know he is near. Today I basked in that same glow, feeling alive and rejuvenated by this tangible taste of everlasting love. Perhaps he speaks to you in dreams, or via shapes or sounds. Just ask!

“And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” ~Ephesians 2:17&18, ESV, emphasis mine

  • If you are not a slave to God, you are a slave to death. In a way, slavery is our only option. But the slavery of God leads to fruit, to life! With God as our master, we find true freedom and the ability to rest in his grace and do good things. The other option is default mode: remaining in bondage to our own fickle, wounded hearts. None of our decisions are for good when we live by the flesh, but though the war rages on when we live by the Spirit, we are able to surrender to God’s excellent plan for the redemption of our souls and this planet.

“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” ~Romans 6:16-18, NIV

“Give your life away in exchange for many lives, give away your blessings to multiply blessings, give away so that many might increase, and do it all for the love of God.” ~AnnVoskamp, One Thousand Gifts, page 197 (http://www.aholyexperience.com/)

Have a new year filled with hope, friends. Happy 2015!

More Than a Brouhaha

All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him.

Ever felt yourself spiraling away? You’re sad and disappointed even over the smallest thing and you start to hear yourself say negative things, and then lash out at your loved ones. Even if you don’t saying anything, know that you are answering the Devils onslaught with your silence. If you don’t speak back he has control. The lashing out is your heart’s plea for help. You have to acknowledge the daily unseen battle before you can don the full armor of God. The wily devil convinces many that there is no battle, and to those that do fight, he whispers: there is no hope for you. But God has told his children how to ask for help in the fight, and though it is often a painful process, his faithfulness abides.

I do not ask that you take them [my people] out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. ~Jesus, John 17 (emphasis mine)

Think of young people who run away from home, knapsack all packed. It’s a cry for someone to come get them. They need to know that they are worth fighting for, worth running after. They aren’t running towards anything, they’re just asking via their steady footsteps away from home: does anyone care?

What if Jesus had been silent before Satan and ignored the battle at hand? Instead of using Scripture, he could have just stood, counting the hours until he could eat again, and pretending that Satan wasn’t there in his presence.

Satan: “To you I will give all this authority and their glory [of the kingdoms of the earth]…If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” (Matt. 4:6-8)

Don’t marinate in your misery. Fight to hear the still, small voice that says: I will lead you back, You are my darling child…my heart yearns for you (Jeremiah 31:9, 20). It requires simply a tuned-in soul and the scriptures, from tip of Genesis to tail of Revelation. Those ancient words are our only weapon. All we can do is knock on the door of Heaven and demand our birthright now, by the blood of Jesus Christ.

He did not die only to be your savior. He died to be your Lord: the Lord of your waking up and lying down, the Lord of your hope and help. He is the Beloved who wants to shepherd you in green pastures and be your anchor in the oceanic conflicts of your soul.

The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.~1 Thess. 5:24

We make him small when we ignore the battle. He fought for us, are we not willing to rouse our spirits for him? Are we unwilling to fight to know the Love that shed himself on the cross many dark nights ago?

He came for us when we wandered away like restless children, begging the starry sky for deliverance.

Do we desire Jesus? Do we know his voice?

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. ~Jesus, John 10:14

Have you agreed with the Devil? Has he whispered that the bed is more comfortable? That you don’t have a problem? That even though you’re not hungry it’s OKAY to return to the pantry over and over? That it is OKAY to relax in front of the TV…hour after hour? That since your future is secure you’re just along for the ride from here until death?

The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.~John 10:10a

We must fight as though our lives depended on, we must endure the upheavals of battle and with blind trust follow the  Officer higher-up. Ignoring the spiritual combat is submitting again to the devil’s rule, which is death. Standing up, fighting to hear the voice of the Lord, waiting on him to deliver, those are all reflections of a heart seeking submission to the Spirit’s rule, which is life.

Like children, accept the hand that reaches out to help you, and believe him when he says…

I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.~John 10:10b (emphasis mine)

Oh the joy that is in store when over the hills of idolatry and petty disbelief his love ushers me!

Voiceover

Thursdays are not typically exciting days in my life. The usual order of events goes like 1) class, 2) study, 3) work. That’s it (what a trip, I know). Today class happened and after beating my head against a Physical Science textbook for a good 30 minutes I scuttled into my creative writing instructor’s office for a visit. Ms. Sandy is a Northerner (from the upper half, give/ take a state or two, of the U.S.A.). I have had mixed experiences with Northerners due to cultural differences but one thing I will say: they call it like it is. Cut and dry. Black and white. “You stink.” “You’re extraordinary.” “What exactly are you referring to?”

That being said, nearly the first thing out of Sandy’s mouth to me was: “You have what it takes to go as far as a writer as you want. If you want to get your master’s [degree], write [professionally], you can do it.” 

Compliments happen. Warm fuzzy feelings, gushed gratitude. Blah blah.

But when Ms. Sandy said those words my heart sang. I laughed until I cried in my truck on the way home because the words Ms. Sandy said are true.

Truth is the driving force behind joy.

At a dear friend’s request I met with 4 other women this afternoon to form a panel that was consulted on issues faced by young people today. We contributed our voices hoping that the curriculum our interviewers create will offer insight and guidance to a generation in tumult. Sitting in the dim light I noticed something about the 4 of us. Two of us, myself and one other, have lived the most utterlysplendidprivilegedlives for which any girl could ask. Have they been hard lives? Yes. But they have been lives filled with love and Truth and opportunity. We are extraordinary blessed. The other two–girls dear to my heart–have not been granted the same gifts. Neither have Godly father figures to turn to for help or support and both carry deep scars not yet fully healed. Of the four of us, myself and the second “privileged one” were the quickest to speak, the most eager to voice our opinions. Though their stories and opinions are arguably more gritty and riveting, the other two had to be coaxed, and still did not speak as much.

When I have something to say a fire burns in my belly until it is said. I know that it is my human right to be heard. I know that my words are important. Knowing this leads me to treat the words of others with equal importance. It’s respect, the right thing to do.

But when you’ve been ignored your whole life? When a man has never asked you what you think about…anything? When no one has taken the time to get to know you? When you’ve been yelled at and treated like an unwanted pest?

Inevitably, you start to doubt the value of your own voice. You begin to question the importance of what you have to say. You decide it is better to keep quiet because no one wants to hear it.

So there they sat, the girls with the most to say keeping quiet. I blame the powers of darkness for the loss of anything on their hearts that went unsaid. I praise the One who gave them the courage to utter the few words they did into floating microphones. And further, I recognize my small role in the puzzle God is masterfully putting together.

He has nurtured and grown me via parents and community, literature, travel, and music, to speak eloquently and boldly on behalf of the Truth. Not just the blessed Truth of the Gospel, but also the Truth of individual experiences all around me. Harsh realities, tragic memoirs, unique celebrations, epics of the downtrodden: the stories of timid ones need to be told. Minorities are cast aside, virginity is cruelly stolen, words are misunderstood, drugs drive knives through families. And those people keep quiet because they have been told that their words carry no weight.

Their words do carry weight, and they are burdens God created me to bear.  He sent a blunt Northern woman to reiterate the truth of my gifts: I am a writer. Not every word I pen is perfect (HA!), but writing creatively is one thing on this earth that will come naturally for me. Oh, the freedom of knowing that is true! By His guidance and mercy I speak, I write, and in so doing I will flesh out a small corner of His plan.

One woman with a host of hushed people trailing a humble King. It’s a weird story, but it’s mine.

When condemnation grips my heart
And Satan tempts me to despair
I hear the voice that scatters fear
The Great I Am the Lord is here
Oh praise the One who fights for me
And shields my soul eternally

Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty.

~Rend Collective Experiment

All the other Thursdays have (and will) serve an equally great purpose, but today was a big mile marker in the journey of arriving for my purpose here on earth.

Your story is valuable, as is your voice.

Speak.

Pop Vulture

3 Quick Responses that I must articulate:

1) Love & Basketball

              SUCH a popular movie. If you have not seen it you are probably not American. That being said, I was not American until about a month ago. I watched it and have been reeling ever since. GASP. Woman desperately pursues man! Woman is a great basketball player with a decent family yet all she wants is Man. Man sleeps around unapologetically and takes no action towards pursuing Woman. In the climactic scene, Woman challenges Man to a game of basketball with his heart as the prize. She plays for HIS heart!? I watched open mouthed. (I’m being serious here: flies probably gathered, I was oblivious.) Man was made to pursue Woman. No woman should have to desperately pursue her man.

I perceive this mentality as result of a break down in society that has removed man’s drive to provide and left women desperately trying to lead families–a position no woman wants to find herself in. In my life and the lives of my friends, it is prevalent. ‘Merica.

Let him come after you, ladies. We were made to be hard to get. We give a man permission to be a man when we wait for HIM to pursue US. If he does not come, then he ain’t the one!

2) Stay With Me

           I recently acquired a Spotify account (https://www.spotify.com/us/) and the very first song I downloaded was, yes, Stay With Me by Sam Smith. Why? Because I adore this song. It has been upwards of a month since I downloaded it and I have listened to it nearly every day since. Yesterday it occurred to me (as I sang at the top of my lungs…) how deplorable the lyrics are.

Guess it’s true, I’m not good at a one-night stand But I still need love ’cause I’m just a man These nights never seem to go to plan I don’t want you to leave, will you hold my hand?

[Chorus:] Oh, won’t you stay with me? ‘Cause you’re all I need This ain’t love, it’s clear to see But darling, stay with me

[Verse 2:] Why am I so emotional? No, it’s not a good look, gain some self-control And deep down I know this never works But you can lay with me so it doesn’t hurt

(http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/samsmith/staywithme.html)

Tragic. These words break my heart. According to a potentially reliable source (The Daily Beast, you be the judge) the songwriter/performer, Sam Smith, wrote these from personal experience. We are seeing into this precious man’s soul. And do you feel his sorrow? I can close my eyes and taste his desperation, his longing for something to fill the void. (I can taste it because I too have been desperate, broken, and full of longing for love.) He stays with someone he knows does not love him. What else can he do?

When I thought, “my foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.~Psalm 94:18&19

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will DELIVER him; I will PROTECT him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be WITH him in trouble; I will RESCUE him and honor him. With long life I will SATISFY him and show him my salvation.~Psalm 91:14-16

3) Divergent

         In contrast to #1, Divergent offers the kind of love story that reflects the ideals behind a Biblical relationship (the kind that makes me sniffle.) Girl kicks butt (girl power, love it.) Guy notices Girl. Guy starts protecting Girl. Girl notices but is cautious. Guy kisses Girl. Girl acts like a lady and bids him slow down. This makes Guy want Girl more. This causes Guy to respect Girl. Girl and Guy protect and sacrifice for each other.

Enough. I might throw up. I am a fan of it because I am tired of seeing girls play ball for their man’s heart and get left in the ruins of abuse and neglect.

SHE: Draw me after you; let us run. (1:4aa)

HE: As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women. (2:2)

SHE: My beloved is mine, and I am his. (2:16) Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. (8: 7a) ~Song of Solomon

Wildsmolder

There is a taste of what is coming in the diet of my week.

A foreshadowing lurks between
the moments when I am admiring how high the women hold their heads and eyebrows
and the moments spent wondering why hot funjuns for breakfast?

The small sacrifice of spare moments and 10% has turned into a portion of my earnings and the precious commodity of the American Sunday Afternoon. I wish I could be with my family. I wish on a grey day that I could be in PJs watching Drake & Josh with my sister. Where is the pleasure in exiting my parent’s warm house to traverse a dreary, thirsty city?
Could he ask of me any smaller task? Is there anything so precious that requires less effort?
That which I lay on the altar now is like a goat compared to Isaac under his father Abraham’s blade. (Genesis 22)
I give up hours;
He has called me to give up a lifetime.

My thoughts are cast forward to when my call will be demonstrated:
I’ll move overseas,
I’ll follow God farther than I’ve followed before.
Farther than Yakama, Washington
Much farther than Jamaica
Or Mexico.

I’ll say goodbye to home and heartland until my visa is due to expire.
I will doubt and question my decision and He will remain faithful
Amidst a myriad of scenarios beyond my most wild imaginings.

I can no more imagine the barrier of a sea between my family and I
Than I can fathom the barrier of a language between my heart and my neighbor’s.

My faith is small.
It’s a rock balancing on the tip of a formation lost in the desert. In the sun and wind it is strong and balanced. But the slightest rain, a little drizzle, and the rock falls down down, breaking into pieces of red slate.
That’s me.

Perched happily (precariously) atop my savings, my network, my job, my school,
Until the rain comes. The slightest trickle:
A hydroplaning incident (including my reaction to said incident) that may cost me my dream vehicle, a portion of my college savings, and a precious relationship.
How many of those things matter?
I would venture to say only the third.
Which of those things do I have control over?
In this scenario, only the third.
Sin is the destroyer. Not rain on the road or a swerving semi-truck, or insurance fraud or an unjust system. Sin makes the things that matter topple. My sin causes real issues. Yelling because my trust is gone. Crying because I am tired of trying (we call that a pity party). These are the problems.

Money is secondary.
Higher education is tertiary at best.
The Father’s love is primary. The Father’s glory is on level with his love.

My faith is smaller than a mustard seed, and not nearly as powerful.

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the hearts of the contrite.”~Isaiah 57:15-16