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