Quite Surprised

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it was when I stopped searching for home within others and lifted the foundations of home within myself I found there were no roots more intimate than those between a mind and body that have decided to be whole.
― Rupi Kaur

I am not quite sure how I got so fortunate.

Why are we surprised by joy?

Do we believe we are undeserving?

Or maybe we have been in the weeds for so long joy is unrecognizable.

I suppose it’s all true.

I remember all the Christian-ese books about joy lining the bookshelves. They were so common it seemed to my young self that joy was a given.

While I am a joyful person by nature I am surprised by the kind of joy that shakes me to the core, that surprises me in a brief moment of recognition, of weightlessness, and deep humility.

Last weekend we had our first Left Hand Church retreat. Retreats are not foreign to me. All the serious Christians did them. And in my experience, the introverts worked too hard and the extroverts seemed effortless. And we all compared ourselves wanting to be different than we were. It’s a vicious cycle in church before you learn who you are.

But this retreat was different.

My breath caught in my throat. Heads bent over broken and repaired bowls, heartfelt talks in hushed tones, tears wiped away followed by hugs, raucous games with broken rules.

I felt something foreign and familiar with a touch of terrifying.

Joy.

I wanted to bottle and contain the moments. We all know where that leads, don’t we?  Control, fear, hoarding. The moments must be released back into the wild, to show up unexpected. A gift for future surprises.

It’s been an interesting year navigating the work of pastor. I am terrible at compartmentalizing, so most of the time what people see is what they get. I cannot be one way as a pastor, a different way as mom, another way as wife, and still another way as friend. I am all one in the same, with aspects of each shining when needed. I don’t know how to do this any other way.

And to take it in, to be all me – all friend, all wife, all mother, all pastor – I become  integrated and whole.

Joy visited me.

I love our people. I love the celebration of life and hope. I love coming alongside. I love showing up as I am, knowing they minister to me just as much as I minister to them. There is no hierarchy. There is circular generosity and mutual feeding.

This is the farthest thing from the sinister and sin-filled system of patriarchy I think I have ever known in my lifetime.

Nothing is a threat. Brokenness is not a valid, nor is it an irreparable, state. Our presence with one another, our bodies in proximity, our hearts and guts and wombs all inform our wholeness. And as our fearless leaders Christy and Sarah reminded us, we can rest our minds for awhile. They have been far overworked for far too many years in our faith expression – and look where we’ve been – proving, striving, acting.

I was over the retreat business. But I am sold once again on beautiful expressions of truth. I am not talking about Biblical truth. What does that even mean? I am not talking about truth AND grace. Nope. I am talking about the truth of beauty, the truth of joy, the truth of community informing all of our neglected parts that know. My body knows. She knows and she is aflame with the fiery truth of Love.

Joy is present everywhere but first we have to be honest enough with ourselves to reach out for healing. Healing leads to our wholeness. Wholeness leads to knowing truth. Truth is not found in our minds. Truth is found in our bodies.

Our whole and holy bodies.

 

What do you see?

 

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There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
– Edith Wharton

The other day Tammy and I were out for our biweekly experience. We used to call them runs but seems we prefer to count steps instead of pace and words instead of miles. Our regular route is scattered with small farms, vineyards, and roaming chickens. Sometimes we encounter a curious dog, offering us a good excuse for a rest to shoo it on home.

This day we rounded the corner where the farm with the sign for free eggs sits. Our focus intent upon fixing all the problems, we ran without interruption until a yellow Labrador bounded across the yard. We hesitated as a matter of self-protection, unsure if our own dogs would go bonkers. Expecting to be greeted we stood, waiting for an exuberant meeting, but instead she stopped just shy of us at the newspaper receptacle underneath the mailbox. Gingerly she mouthed the open end of the plastic bag and tugged the local paper down and out of the box before trotting toward home.

She was not interested in us. She had a duty to perform.

We resumed our experience, laughing at ourselves and at the precious sight that seemed exactly reserved for us at that perfect moment. Our steps lightened along with our conversation.

We were given a gift. And we had eyes to see that gift.

These small things remind us of goodness in the world – a loping dog, a returned smile across the aisle, a conversation with someone you’ve just met despite lifting weights together for two years.

The goodness is there, surrounding us, we just have to have eyes to see.

I’m not finding 2019 much easier than 2018. I don’t know if I was expecting it to be. We like things to move in an upward trajectory but this doesn’t seem to be happening for us.

The difficult stories resulting from the government shutdown are gaining steam.  Federal benefits for food and housing may soon be coming to an end.

And in my personal realm – there are tough stories with no relief on the horizon. Children are suffering, parents fretting. There is no shortage of concern for the people in my immediate life.

Cruelty in the name of God grows too. Hatred in the name of love is masked as telling it like it is, as speaking truth. Sermons implant white followers with the notion of persecution, that they are persecuted for what? Because they’re rejected?

Meanwhile, those who are truly rejected believe that God has abandoned them. Their churches and families cannot humble themselves enough to ask questions that don’t have easy answers. The truly persecuted are dying. They need and deserve our tender love and care.

And all the while I count these friends as some of my most precious gifts. They are beautiful souls who love so very well. A beautiful challenge to me. A beautiful challenge to all of us with eyes to see.

Each and every one of these gifts invite me back into simple gratitude, counting the moments as sacred talismans of hope, breadcrumbs of grace, touches of the Divine.

We choose to see. We choose to embrace kindness. We choose Love.

No matter what it costs.

 

That One Wild and Precious Life

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Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.
― Mary Oliver

I have had a hard year. Twenty-eighteen was tough. Yes, so many blessings. So much gratitude. The people in my life now – so rich. The church that I was called to build – my favorite place. The family bending and growing – takes my breath away. The partner building new bonds with me – an honor to share this life.

But all of this goodness doesn’t mean it’s not hard. Change is a terrible process. I can now understand why few paddle far from the familiar shores. Change demands a breaking of the familiar and expected. Change requires our sweat and the end of our presuppositions of how it was supposed to be.

But yet I’m here. I have stared down my complicity in the patriarchal systems of my churched upbringing. I have gazed long at the ways I’ve tried to keep my children small. I have confessed over and over and over the longing for simple and carefree, for which I was never made. I have grieved the loss of the small dreams, to make way for the better dreams.

And the hardest part of this year, I have found me. And isn’t that a terrifying endeavor? Because not everyone who knew old me likes new me. I make the introductions but few connect upon greeting – a limp handshake and a shifty gaze are the extent. To their credit, I don’t try hard either. I let it be what it is. I’m not the same. It isn’t their fault.

I wonder why it’s so hard to find ourselves. The gain is obviously preferred over the loss, but the loss is real. The loss must be owned and examined before it can be surrendered.

And so I honor that which hurts. As I let go I find myself in new ways. But love is never over, and bonds from love are impervious to easy breakage. Instead a respectful turning happens, a generous wishing well followed by a separation of ways.

Easier said than done, but done nevertheless.

The year of giving me myself has given me life. The vulnerability, the mistakes, the success and failure, the unmet expectations and the terrible sleeplessness have deposited a package on my doorstep of perfection. I know things now. I trust the low rumble and I know she’s telling me something. I believe the tears when they flow and I honor the raucous laughter.

As a good lover tends to their beloved, I am attentive to me. I find myself fascinating. My emotions are the best teachers, and their lessons trickle and pool across the floors of my home, down the walk, and into the streets.

The world needs us to be ourselves. We aim for small because someone along the line said. But they lied. We live this one life, and we get to live it well.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
― Mary Oliver

Being Woman.

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It was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials.
― John Steinbeck

I think I love being a woman. It took me awhile to accept my womanhood. I tend to identify more as a girl, a young one. The first time I was called Ma’am, it felt like an affront.

I look in the mirror every new day and throughout wondering where my youth went, for I certainly don’t feel like the grownup in the house, nor do I act like it much of the time. I know I am, married for more than half my life, a too responsible child for the other half. I know I am a grown up but it feels like such a waste – all those years concerned about this and that, running from myself.

And now in full embrace of who I am and I’m more than half my age. I’m not sure to consider this a gift or a travesty.

Purity wrecked me. I’m rebuilding my dignity and assumptions. The poor husband doesn’t know which end is up when my insides shift and what worked last week no longer works. I feel sorry for him and then I don’t, knowing his life gets the benefit of steadiness. I expected steadiness from myself once and realized I’m steady until I’m not – which could be a year from now or a minute. None of us will ever know.

I’m as much of a mystery to me as I am to everyone else.

And yet I am grateful. Being a woman enables me to hold the hand of God. We meet early in the mornings and in the middle of the nights and on long car rides. God is in the face of most everyone I meet, in circumstances wide and narrow. God is in the bare branches of winter and in the pile of Kleenex by my bed. God is in the hug of a slumped over teen boy and in the meow of a finicky cat.

I know the touch of God. I feel her to my bones, her laugh is mine, in the midst of sorrowful tears. Her heart is mine in the midst of the myriad of questions. Her touch is mine as I hug and hug and hug on a Saturday night at church. God to God, a community of broken hearts yearning for mysterious, yet undeniable connection.

I am finding my body. I am learning my voice. Both are foreign entities, the product of our separation that happened when I transformed to woman – when the thighs rounded and the blood flowed. I became foreign to myself. I lost what I love. I lost desire.

But desire returns when we sit still long enough and stop operating from obligation and martyrdom. Desire winds her way up from the ground and she whispers to our deepest longings. My word, she is misunderstood. I worry desire will turn me wayward, but instead desire turns me fierce and loyal.

What does desire ask of me? She asks me to find the girl. She implores me to discover the woman. She demands I own my femininity – the parts of me I’ve tamped down for fear of being too much. She melds all of me into one able-bodied, fair-minded, intelligent, ferocious soul that owns her zealous laughter, her raucous enthusiasm, her unmatched opinion.

Desire doesn’t ask for permission, desire paves the way for truth to emerge. My truth. My self. My way is good and it is right.

I love being a woman. I am in remarkable company. I consider myself gifted. I am filled to full.

Thank you to the company of women who remind me of our beautiful offering – we will save the world.

Just please, don’t call me Ma’am.

A Coup in the Coop

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Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
Emily Dickinson

The Broody Hen died yesterday.

Our oldest hen, the one at the top of the pecking order, who dictated the flock’s mood and egglaying patterns died. It was apparently a gruesome scene that I didn’t have to clean up. Thank God. The seven other hens decided they couldn’t take it anymore and took matters into their own hands, or beaks as the case may be.

Even in her early years, she ruled the coop. Her intolerance for being anything less than top bird was notable, a subject of much of my writing. In fact, my first blog was named after her. I understood her broodiness. As she tended to her unfertilized pile, I tended to my tentative words, infant thoughts finding purchase in the world.

Apparently her intolerable ways reached a tipping point among the younger birds who determined it was time for an overthrow of the old government.

A coup in the coop.

I’m glad she’s gone, but a little sad too. She was hardy, resourceful. At four years of age, she outran and outsmarted foxes and owls and wayward neighborhood dogs. While she employed dubious methods to ensure her survival, at the expense of other hens, she was a tough old bird, propelled by reservoirs of misplaced anger.

Today I watched the swearing in of our 116th House of Representatives. I’m not usually one glued to C-SPAN, but with the historic numbers of women of color I wouldn’t miss it for anything. The kids wanted some lunch so I withheld nourishment, forcing them to watch for ten minutes. These are fascinating times where we claim hope every chance we can find it. They didn’t starve.

The women rose up. Our electorate said: No more! Not on my watch! in the November midterms and today we got to watch history happen. The pecking order of our systems of government is shifting and it’s time we pay attention. It’s time to find the glimmers of hope.

The last two years have been rough. I just completed Michelle Obama’s book Becoming. Of course I adored every bit of it but found myself in a funk. I had to put the book down at certain points to breathe and grieve our national losses – decorum, norms, values, compassion. To witness America’s first black family and then to witness our current situation, well, it can take my breath away. I had to take some moments.

But today, bearing witness to these halls of Congress, the children, infants, freshman representatives, mothers and fathers, brown, black, white, LGBTQ – Stage Right burst with energy and enthusiasm.

I found hope again.

I am a self-diagnosed optimist prone toward disappointment. And today I hold onto the goodness I witnessed across C-SPAN’s airwaves while also holding onto the reality we still face. The work isn’t over. Love demands we find a way. Love asks us to place kindness, compassion, belonging at the forefront. Kindness, compassion, and belonging not just for others, but also for ourselves. We deserve goodness and care. The nights have been so long and cold, but the light I hope is winning.

Power is rising among the women and our allied men. Women are not having it. The pecking order of our country is being overhauled in favor of our majority minority. It is time for all Americans to have representation. The old ways of oppression and shame and gaslighting need to die. Self-preservation is for the weak who will use dubious methods to ensure their survival. This is not the way of Love, nor is this the way of God.

Our former First Lady, Michelle Obama offers us some light, a path forward in these days from Becoming:

What I won’t allow myself to do, though, is to become cynical. In my most worried moments, I take a breath and remind myself of the dignity and decency I’ve seen in people throughout my life, the many obstacles that have already been overcome. I hope others will do the same. We all play a role in this democracy. We need to remember the power of every vote. I continue, too, to keep myself connected to a force that’s larger and more potent than any one election, or leader, or news story – and that’s optimism. For me, this is a form of faith, an antidote to fear (pp 419-420).

As the balance of power tips, the old ways no longer define us. The ways of mercy must guide us. The ways of generosity must propel us. No longer must we be ruled by the harsh winds of fear and foreboding. We deserve better. We deserve benevolence. We deserve to be known.

R.I.P. Broody Hen

2014-2018

How We Are Seen

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For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning – not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.
Frederick Buechner

Earlier this week Eric and I attended a memorial service for the people in our community who died while experiencing homelessness. The service was held at The Journey Church in Longmont where the shelter operates for much of the year. They continue year after year to open their doors to the tired and hungry among us with nowhere else to turn.

The service was beautiful. In front across the stage were nine glass bowls of water with a floating candle in each. Corresponding with each bowl was the name of the deceased. We processed forward holding a long stemmed rose, peeling petals, placing them in the water. The mood was somber, offset by the few lively instrumental Christmas tunes accompanying our procession. The now and not-yet of Advent never more evident than at this moment.

As we settled into our seats, the microphone was passed around the room as friends and chosen family shared heartfelt words of grief and memories. I was moved by this little community that loved one another so well. I sat silent, curious and pensive, learning about these individuals who lead a far different life than I. I held no judgment, only tenderness for people who work so hard to get through the day, and even harder to get through the nights. Many who are overlooked, misunderstood, despised.

I have three kids. Depending on the season, one may struggle more than the others. And some of you have one that struggles more than the others all the time. It’s a reality. One needs support, services, encouragement far more than any of the other kids. It just is. It’s what good parents do.

And any teacher may have one or two in the classroom that requires far more effort and attention than the rest of the class. For reasons beyond the child’s control there are needs that demand special care. It just is. It’s what good teachers do.

Here we have in our community a population many of us don’t know what to do with. If you’re like me, it’s not that you don’t see or notice them, it’s just there’s so little any of us can do. We turn away not for lack of caring but because of impotence, and maybe a modicum of shame.

As I sat there, listening to the heartfelt words, seeking to understand the emotion, I realized these overlooked and despised, misunderstood people hold a special place in the heart of God. God knows them, sees them, loves them with a tenderness reserved for those who know suffering.

I wept in my seat, now understanding the way we are all loved. We are all fully known, seen, and held. We are all favored. And some of us get special treatment because we need it.

This is the hope we hold during Advent. The last among us are first. Those smelly, cast-aside- from-society shepherds were chosen because God was rooting for them. God knew they would be the first to recognize the Christ in their midst.

The least among us are adored, given front seat to the birth of Immanuel, God with us.

All who suffer are adored, cherished, favored. The God of all Creation roots for us. This is the beauty of God’s economy – a powerless infant changed the course of human history, upon whom the Law and the Prophets would pivot.

This is how we are seen.

The Re-Creation Center

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When one has once fully entered the realm of love, the world — no matter how imperfect — becomes rich and beautiful, it consists solely of opportunities for love.
Søren Kierkegaard

I have been lifting weights for over two years at the Longmont Recreation Center. I go on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on my better weeks and I’ve developed some good friendships. We have our proverbial water cooler chats over weight benches and dumbbells. Some days we’re up, other days we’re down. The bank of television sets spouting news from ESPN to NBC grab our attention as we roll our eyes or pump our fists depending upon the day. When our current president was inaugurated I did my first two pull ups in thirty-plus years. And depending on life and the morning drive tuned to NPR, some of us do better than others.

This week on Monday we discussed the pending midterm elections. I wondered aloud how the mood would shift on Wednesday depending upon the results. My wise friend Eric looked at me and said, “Does it matter? Does our job change? What is this all about anyways?”

“Love,” I said

Apparently I got the answer right because he stopped peppering me with questions while boring holes into my soul.

Love.

The last thing I want to do is minimize the impact our current administration has had upon our American fabric. The white nationalism, the fear in the eyes of my friends of color, the terrible concern of my LGBTQ friends, the weeping of the mothers for their daughters – none of this is acceptable nor is it welcome in a country that claims Christianity as its bedrock. This administration is terrible for the vulnerable among us.

But we’ve learned something haven’t we? If truth sets us free, we are closer to freedom. The truth of our national reality is harsh but we can no longer claim ignorance.

And so, on this Wednesday, the day after the midterm elections, our work remains. We can never – we must never – forget the most powerful word that is ours: Love.

Is love the easiest thing you’ll ever do? Yes.
Is love the hardest thing you’ll ever do? Yes.

Love is not linear, nor is it sensical. Love is subversive and obvious, clear and nebulous, tender and fierce, honest and discerning.

Many believe that resorting to love is giving up. I contend, resorting to love is the best choice all the way around.

Love demands we discover a third way. Love demands an obvious creativity, imagining  new ways to be generous and compassionate. Love asks that we look outside ourselves for answers.

The way of love is the way of the Spirit. She is tough to pin down, ebbing and flowing with the tide of hope and truth and surrender. She shows up when you least expect it, but you have to be open for her, ready to receive her inspiration.

This Spirit-filled love is fire, consuming the hate and confusion and snarky judgement. The Spirit-filled love knows. She discerns. She will not waste her precious energies and resources on an unreceptive host. She will not cast pearls to pigs. She is efficient and industrious, flowing in and through, around and beyond.

The Spirit-filled love is justice. She knows the first are last, the big are small, and the oppressed are the righteous. She knows the powerful will be brought low and the hungry will be filled to overflowing. She knows the confident will be rendered afraid, and the afraid will know they are secure in Her arms.

She fills us with Her fire. As we freely give we will freely receive. Her generosity is abundant, limitless. Our souls will be filled, passing the gift on and on and on. There is not a mountain high enough or valley low enough where she will not find the hungry, lonely, frightened.

I want to know this love. I want Her to fill me with Her fire. I want to receive Her love and I want Her love to flow through me to you and to you and to you and to you.

Today we woke up to the results. And true to form while lifting dumbbells some of us were up and some of us were down. But what flowed in our recreation center space was the re-creation of beauty, the re-creation of hope, the re-creation of working it out, the re-creation of love.

The Spirit’s love flows beyond elections and this nation and this world. She will not be contained and as we speak she bubbles up from the ground. And if you can still yourself long enough you might hear her whisper. I love you.

May we listen.

Small is the New Big

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Earth is crammed with Heaven,
and every common bush afire with God,
but only he who sees
takes off his shoes.

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Last week we saw the truth of what we have become. Multiple incidents of racist and extreme violence perpetrated, rendering current and former leaders threatened by bombs, two people of color killed in Kentucky, and eleven Jewish worshippers gunned down in Pittsburgh. It was a culmination of fear, an uprising of conspiratorial rhetoric resulting in bloodshed and terror.

And next week we have an election. Groundbreaking turnout is already being reported throughout our nation, people on both sides with vehement belief that their’s is the right side. I voted early. My ballot is received and accounted for. While I recognize the importance of my vote and voice, I didn’t know the magnitude and impact of my small act until now.

How do we grieve last week and await next week?

How do we be in this messy middle?

It seems to me all I’ve got is love. All of it, every tiny scrap of it, boils down to love.

As a person of great privilege, I have resources and power I can leverage. I have a family and a job, but I also have flexibility. I’ve got time. I have time to linger on a run. I have time to meet friends for coffee. I have time to ask my children about their days when I drive them around. I have time to bake a cake. I have time to study a book with friends. I have time to watch a show before bed. I have time to write.

I have time to love.

My friend and I ran early this week, catching up on our thoughts and impressions of last week’s events.  On the last few turns, winding through the neighborhood, we took note of the dipping temperature. A storm was blowing in. A woman with a Labradoodle took interest in our doodles and before we knew it she was pulled, tumbling to the ground. She knocked her head hard on the concrete.

While I corralled three dogs, Tammy skillfully got to work assessing damage, checking on the swelling right wrist and temple, asking inquiring questions to determine any cognitive impairment. Another woman ran across the park, assisting where needed. The three of us walked her home with great care, back to her ailing husband.

We had time. We leveraged our flexibility, consoling and caring for our new friend, making sure she was situated with frozen peas and corn to stifle the swelling. After exchanging phone numbers and stories we each returned to our days and lives.

I know we all have a lot going on. I know there are sports and jobs and meetings and upcoming holidays. I know the roads are busy and the people crabby. I know the easy answer is to match frustration with irritation and anger. I get it.

But the truth is, those of us with the privilege, we have to use it to make the lives better for those who don’t have the same. Privilege is our gift to leverage. Well spent privilege is the underpinning of love.

I have a tendency to believe I need to make a larger impact, that staying small and focused on my home, neighborhood, and town isn’t enough. I think it’s a temptation for many of us, to think we must do big things, that only big things count. But I disagree. Our people are right under our noses. If we tilt our heads over and to the left, we will see our neighbors. And the way of love will absolutely make itself known.

My people are here – sleeping in my bed, eating at my table, drinking my milk, attending my church, frequenting my grocery store, trick-or-treating with my kids. My people are lifting weights and running on treadmills, they are strolling by my house and driving in the car next to me. My people are adjusting my spine and examining my eyes and selling me beer. We have countless opportunities each and every day to love our neighbors. It’s not groundbreaking. It’s not exhausting. It’s not overwhelming. It’s easy and it’s obvious.

I’m tired of the addiction to importance. Just as each of our votes matters, so do each and every one of our attentive smiles and kind words and courteous waves. We make the world better one act at a time. Let’s remember the impact we make just by noticing.

In God’s economy, small is the new big.

Damn the Words

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The universe took its time on you
Crafted you to offer the world
Something different from everyone else
When you doubt
How you were created
You doubt an energy greater than us both
–irreplaceable
― Rupi Kaur

We purchased our cabin in the mountains when the kids were small. For me, it was sight unseen. Long story short, Eric holds the vision and I try not to complain. The early days were rough. A double-wide not equipped for the frigid temperatures of the Gunnison Valley of Colorado, the previous owner winterized every year on Labor Day, returning on Memorial Day for three decades of summers. After his passing, his children tried to keep it up but they chose to part with the maintenance efforts of a 1975 uninsulated manufactured home alongside a tricky sibling relationship.

After enough visits with backed up sewage, broken pipes, fogged up storm windows, Eric overhauled the plumbing and heating systems. We also got a new paint job to minimize the vibe that resembled the possessed home in Stranger Things.

The sellers left us with all the furniture, including three vintage sewing machines, two console record player/stereo systems, a large selection of albums from the mid-1960’s, four percolating coffee makers and a host of vintage, industrial sofas that could seat a small village. The house was packed and dark and oppressive – but clean, filled with possibility and a potential for loads of memories.

After eight years of ownership, our home is comfortable in all four seasons. A pellet stove, along with some new furniture items, balance out the older pieces to create an atmosphere of eclectic ease. When we are busy in our daily lives the last thing we want  to worry about are expensive home furnishings.

Our  home away from home is the best of us, but with the passing of time, the needs of our family have changed.

Duty calls and our cabin has to take on new purpose. After a hefty handful of Gunnison summers and extended winter visits, we put the house on the rental market. Placing our home in the hands of others was scary. Would they find our humble double-wide as cozy as we do? Would they appreciate the serenity and surroundings?

Every guest is pestered by VRBO to write a review, to evaluate their visit. It’s a vulnerable thing to read the words of others about something you’ve poured your heart into, but all of our reviews have been glowing. That is, all but one.

And now we aim a critical eye at our eclectic, cozy cabin furnishings. The innocence is over. Someone wrote hurtful and condescending words which made us question our home. No longer do we view our mishmash of furnishings as cozy, we now reconsider our personal taste, wondering if it just might be tacky.

As much as we try to ignore the words, we are still impacted. The jabs lodge themselves far more than any compliment ever could and we question if we are good enough.

Harvard Business Review says it takes an average of 5.6 compliments to make up for a single criticism. The hurtful statements, the ones that attack our essence and our ways of being in the world, are the indelible ones. The simple goodness of my home was attacked with entitled, superior opinion. The words hurt. And I stand in my home wondering if they are right, that maybe I’m the one missing something, that maybe they know things I don’t. My taste, my hope for my home, my offering is all called into question.

I think of the people doing their work in the world – vulnerable people making a mark for the common good on a constant and consistent basis. I think of the women in my circles who are calling out injustice, who are telling the world how they’ve been hurt and violated, with quaking in their bodies alongside an indescribable fierceness. I think of beautiful people living into their call and purpose, knowing the paycheck will barely cover expenses for a month.

I’m not sure any of them would say they are strong or brave or courageous. I think all of them would say I’m just doing what needs to be done. And all the while they remain generous, unassailable, warm, inviting, a comfortable place to land. The attacks fly and the insults lodge but the softness remains, unyielding in love and compassion.

The words may cut us down, rendering us impotent for a time as we re-evaluate and regroup. But, my friends, the rising is remarkable. The power of adversity and defiance is holy as the divine feminine bubbles up from the soil. The flood of beauty will never be contained, no matter the scorn. There is only reverence and fierce hope.

Despite the doubt and quaking, despite the fear and trembling, we will rise. Our bodies, wombs for renewed life. Just as we are – cozy, eclectic, wondrous.

Damn the words.

Some Words for These Days

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You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
― Maya Angelou

I come to this space today a reluctant writer. This is my fourth attempt to make sense of our national situation. A situation that feels on par with November 2016. I might dare to claim it feels worse. We are doing the best we can and we are tired. We’ve resisted and questioned and sought answers. We’ve raged and cried and prayed. We’ve eaten too much and spent more time on social media than is appropriate. We have carried the weight of the world in our bodies, with few bouts of relief. We have cycled between fasting from news and engaging, depending upon our mental, physical, spiritual wellness. We’ve found our safe people, the ones we can sequester ourselves with at parties, the ones who get us and need to make sense of things too.

It’s been a long upward hike. The air is getting thin and the laden backpack pulls us downward. The mountain pitch just notched up another few degrees. We stop, gather our wits, cuss, swig some water and shuffle forward – one foot in front of the other.

There’s no perfect or right way to do this. There isn’t. Ignore the voices that tell you there is. There isn’t. All of us have our path to plod, built for our unique story and body and experience. None of us can tell another what to do or how to do it.

Take some time away. The rest of us will breathe for you. It’s okay. Keep mindful but factor in some mindlessness too. A little Queer Eye is perfect medicine. A walk outside. Look up, notice the leaves, stop long enough to absorb the clouds – how they blossom and scoot. Remember that all life is life. All life is sacred, even those damned weeds that grow in the concrete cracks too skinny for plucking fingers. Talk to the weeds. Talk to the dogs, and if you’re in a good space, talk to the people about the dogs.

Find a book, one that sucks you in and is more exciting than anything your phone can offer. Put the coziest sheets and covers on the bed. Use your best hand lotion before you fall asleep. Open the window and let the breeze blow.

Make love.

Crack open a game of Monopoly. Play with the kid you know you can beat. It will teach them an important lesson while it helps you feel successful. Don’t rub it in, just retreat to a hidden corner and do a happy dance for five seconds or so.

Get good music on repeat. Mumford and Sons has a new release – I’ll pay large sums of money (or a limb) to anyone who can get me an advance copy of Delta, their new album that drops in November. This is a public service. Greg Laswell has a wonderful new album, too. I Will Not Resign is a perfect mantra for all of us.

If there’s a church in your remote neck of the woods you know is safe and welcoming to all, think about attending (Church Clarity can help). Maybe sit in the back and slip out if you have to. You can come to mine. We would love to have you.

Don’t answer the phone if you don’t know the number. Recruit someone else to listen to the voicemails. Refrain from answering your doorbell if you’re not expecting anyone.

Find your coziest blanket and snuggle with a child, a pet, a pillow, a partner (not always in that order).

Take your space. Wear the comfortable clothes.

Eat. Just eat. It doesn’t matter what it is. I still have the ten pounds from November, 2016 on the 3B (beer, bread, butter) Diet. Message me, I’ll send the details.

Monitor social media usage. As a form of solidarity and community, few things can match Instagram right now. But be careful with Facebook. Be careful with comments. Your engagement will NOT change anyone’s mind. Is it your work to be in community or is your work to challenge?  Pick one, you can’t do both right now.

Women, stoke your anger. We need you soon. If your anger is latent, it’s because you need to grieve. Grieve well, friends. This is the true beginning.

Talk to someone – a pastor, therapist, friend. I have names.

I’m not sure what tomorrow holds but something has died this week. The personal and collective grief is real. My bones ache. My eyes are heavy-laden. My muscles twinge. My body is tired – a deep, painful weariness.

We don’t have to do our best right now. We just have to be: caring for ourselves, holding our people and/or pets, loving the earth, staring at the sky.

We belong to one another and I need you.

Whole.