15 January, 2020

Three (negative) Beliefs, Three Authors, and the Trinity

Two things are embarrassingly true about the way I think--wait,
make that three---there could be more, but we're going to talk about three. First, I still have moments when I can't believe people actually saw my call to the priesthood and that I am actually ordained. I rarely feel worthy. Second, I judge/rank holiness. And third, I can be cynical about how God speaks through people to us.

Saturday night the three came to a full blown head-on collision right smack dab in my face!

First, what? I'm really a priest? Who saw that coming? I am so far from the textbook ideal of a priest I'm not even in the library. (Which brings up a whole other conversation about who gets to define the ideal priest...) I'm loud. I am sometimes sarcastic and sometimes have questionable language (language is my star word for the year so hopefully that will improve). I refuse to wear all black. I wear either outrageous over the top high heeled shoes or go barefoot. It is a close call to figure out whether I'd rather talk sports or theology--I prefer to mix the two. I'm often slightly irreverant. I laugh at inappropriate jokes like a middle school boy. I have a very small filter. (You should definitely now be worried about what I actually do filter since you were probably already thinking I have no filter.) And the list goes on.....

Second, I judge/rank holiness or at least my holiness, and I can assuredly say according to how I judge, I am not even on the measuring stick. When I think about holiness I think about quiet people, reverent people, people who can quote scripture in any and all circumstances. I think about people who bring a quiet, peaceful, calm to a room. I imagine people who talk in soft, silky. soothing voices (not porn star silky voices, get your mind out of the gutter). And I am none of those things (not even the porn star)--see above.

And third, I can be cynical about how people hear God speaking to them and through others. It's not that I don't hear and experience God. I do. It's actually how I felt God's call--finding the holy in the ordinary. But those times when I hear people say, "God wants me to tell you this." I'll admit it, I've been known to scoff. Years ago I was in a non denominational bible study for young mothers (think infants and toddlers). The room was always packed. Every week at the end the leader would say, "I hear God telling me there is someone in the room who needs special prayer because she is overwhelmed. Make yourself known and we will lay our hands on you and pray." Every week someone raised her hand and said, "Me." I wanted to be like others who teared up at how God was letting the leader know this about someone, but all I could think was, "No shit, (remember the language thing) we're all overwhelmed because we have all these freaking little kids and we have no idea what we're doing! It doesn't take God or even a semi genius to figure that out!!!!"

This past Saturday, three women decided to destroy my trinity--not the Trinitarian one--the one bouncing around in my mind.

First, I read Sarah Bessey's Miracles and Other Reasonable Things, and she wrote "...a word of knowledge--was a "supernatural revelation of information pertaining to a person of an event, given for a specific purpose, usually having to do with an immediate need." It's one part prophetic, one part discernment, all Spirit-led." She wrote about how it can and is misused and sometimes in very hurtful ways, but she also wrote about several times she and her family had personally experienced it. I've got to admit I was still skeptical, but I, on Saturday morning, decided to at least open my mind to the possibility it could be real. I very much respect Sarah Bessey and believe her.  (And I secretly--I guess not so secretly anymore hope to meet her one day and have a chat.)

Second, this whole holiness thing. In her book Bessey referred to another book, Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World by Osheta Moore. I circled the book thinking maybe I'd read it at some point. It sounded intriguing, but it also sounded like something I couldn't do. I do know shalom means peace--and remember what my definition of peace is--calm and quiet. The way Bessey described Moore's book made me begin to wonder if there was a different way to think about shalom.

Here's where that whole not much of a filter thing comes in....

We were driving home from Virginia after watching Caroline's game (where I did keep keep from saying any four letter words I can proudly report). I was reading another book by Bessey, but then it started getting dark and my wonderful, only he drives husband also has this thing about me using flashlights or turning on the car light to read in the dark. But I wanted to keep reading. What I had been reading was making me feel alive and inspired and energized. So I did what any neurotic, can't wait until tomorrow and certainly don't want to just sit in the car person does--I bought Moore's book on kindle and downloaded it to my phone! Yes, I admit it--only because it was dark.

You know what?!?!?! Bessey was RIGHT! (I told you she writes truth). Moore did write, "Shalom is what happens when the love of God meets our most tender places." which made me a little nervous because I think of tender kind of like that whole peace thing--quiet and calm. But she writes MORE!!! She writes about how shalom is "the breadth, depth, climate and smell of the kingdom of God." and I know in God's kingdom we are all beloved even those of us who are loud and obnoxious. She also writes about shalom/peace as being fierce and active and alive. I was starting to really get into this book, but then I was interrupted by my need to check social media. (Did I mention I am also easily distracted as well as a social media over posting groupie?)

I jumped over to twitter and one of my favorites was tweeting up a storm! Apparently while I was driving home in the pouring rain reading theology like a mad woman, Laurie Brock was watching a 70's movie about Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. (Going to just admit this right now, it does my heart good to know that a woman I consider exceptionally holy and an amazing writer and priest watches the kind of thing I would....) AND SHE COMPARED THEM TO CLERGY!!! No
seriously, she did!!!!

Suddenly it was like these three amazing women were speaking straight to me--giving me a word of knowledge. (Maybe now is the time to also admit I am secretly over the top jealous of them because I want to be a published author and so sometimes I don't want to like their books--but I always do.) But back to this moment....

I truly believed and believe God was at work on me right there crossing the state line from West Virginia to Kentucky in the pouring rain. I heard, "God needs and wants and loves and desires priests just like you." Y'all I cannot even explain how light and giddy I suddenly felt. It's not that people haven't said that to me, but I didn't feel it deep down into the bottom of my heart.

Monday morning as I was running, I was still feeling that joy. I kept going over and over what had happened in my mind, and I was brand new falling in love giddy. I also know (because I'm also middle aged) that those giddy feelings don't remain constant, and that sneaky self doubt creature finds ways to wheedle himself into life, so I knew I needed something to remind me. I knew just what to do. I slowed down and texted my exceptionally talented niece and told her I needed a picture asap of a clergy woman wearing white majorette boots and holding pompoms! She's really used to me being crazy...but then TWO MORE THINGS HAPPENED!!

When I opened my phone to text her the last text she had sent me told me I had inspired her! And
then she said okay to my request. Mutual inspiration--it was a dadgum love fest happening right there in the middle of the road.

Twenty four hours later, I have the picture. I put it up in my office at the Dioceses and I'll put it up in my office at St. Thomas. I taped it to my computer, and I'll put a copy in my prayer book and another in my bible. I'll probably even stick one in my wallet. They'll remind me not only that God needs me as I am, but everyone else.
They'll remind me to love myself, accept myself, and then I can more fully love others--I can more fully live into shalom--the loud kind of course!

You know what's really cool? It happened because three authors challenged three of my deepest darkest doubts--you get it three? Like the Trinity--like community and unity. The community of authors spoke to me!!! The community of authors shared a word of knowledge with me!!! Yep, God is speaking....

Now y'all go read these books; the ones I listed and EVERYTHING by these authors!!! They're not just for or even mainly for clergy. They're for EVERYONE!!!  (yes, I'm screaming--in my giddy newly in love way)

Osheta Moore, Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2017), 31.
Sarah Bessey, Miracles and Other Reasonable Things (New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2019), 98.

06 January, 2020

Putting Christmas Away

Telling yourself the truth is really hard...listening to yourself is even harder.

But that's what I got to do today.

Last night I celebrated a dear friend's 40th birthday, and I had too much wine. I woke up this morning mad at myself and kind of dragging. I also knew I had to put Christmas away--an event that even on the best of days leads to my feeling morose, not to mention overwhelmed. I started digging in the drawers and closets to bring back all the "things" that sit out when Christmas is not covering every nook and cranny.

Here's another truth I have to tell myself; actually I told myself this years ago and I'm quite comfortable with it now. I am not good at interior decorating at any level. So every year I either take pictures of (yes I am that neurotic) where everything goes or it's been in the same place for so long, it's seared into my memory. This year is a little more complicated because we have a couple of new pieces of furniture. This is not the year for things to be more complicated!

I decided to take things step by step, you know start with something easy so I don't lose momentum--I chose my desk. That would be easy. I pulled out the pictures that usually sit on top of the desk. I looked at one and thought, "I do not like this picture at all." Now there is nothing inherently wrong with this picture. It's just not my style; it has never been my style; it will never be my style. "Oh well," I sighed as I placed it on top of my desk. See, it was a gift. How could I not keep it out? This person took the time to choose this gift and send it to me to mark a special occasion, of course I had to leave it out. It was required. It was one of those shoulds of life.

The more I looked at it, the more irritated I became. I want LESS stuff out not more, and if I'm going to have less stuff out, shouldn't it be things I actually like? I sat on the floor and seriously argued with myself. The argument turned into a full blown fight--you know the kind of fight they warn you about in pre-marriage counseling? The kind of fight that starts over one thing but then becomes about every negative thing that has ever happened. Yep, that's the rabbit hole I went down....

I have not hidden from myself or the world for that matter, the fact that 2019 was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. Until this morning, however, I have taken very little responsibility for it. The truth is that is unusual for me, or maybe therapy is just working better than I thought. In the past I have felt the need to take responsibility for every thing including but not limited to the state of the world and bad weather.

Now I am not saying the year wasn't horrible--too many young deaths, too much addiction, too many health crisis, too much suffering, just altogether too much. And I will, grudgingly but I will, give myself some credit for simply weathering the storm and getting through. I just realize now I didn't have to get so soaking wet; I could have put on a raincoat and put up an umbrella.

Throughout this year I struggled with keeping a good attitude, keeping my faith life in order, keeping organized, and just keeping on. So I kept trying to use the same routines that have worked for so many years. Getting up at the same time, weighing myself 3 times, starting the coffee, starting the laundry, sitting down for morning prayer...you get the picture. But it wasn't working no matter how much I tried to force it to.

So then I tried to do what other people do--copy their routines. That definitely didn't work--no matter how hard I try to become a quiet contemplative, it just doesn't work!

And here's the truth I had to tell myself, instead of looking for new patterns of behavior, new coping strategies, new ways of being when the tried and true no longer worked, sometimes, I either did nothing or resorted to less than healthy behaviors like not exercising, eating too much or too little, drinking too much, not sleeping enough or too much and making lots of excuses.

I'm not entirely sure how I made this connection as I sat on the floor looking at this picture I don't like but this thought popped into my head. (I'm not entirely sure how I make most connections--and my family, don't even get them started on it...) But anyway, the connection I made was, all those routines didn't work anymore because they were from the past--they were outdated. They no longer fit me, and it was okay to say so. And other people's routines? They don't work, not because there is anything wrong with them, but because they are not my "style." I don't have to keep doing what doesn't work just like I don't have to put this picture up. I can honor what was; I can honor the gifts I have been given, tangible and intangible, and move forward. Things don't have to, in fact things can't, stay the same.

I started putting Christmas away feeling a little bit lighter. I started rearranging where things have always gone and putting them in new places. I chose to only put things out that bring joy to me and the family. I chose to simplify. I chose to leave some things packed away, and I chose to donate or trash others. It is very safe to say neither Southern Living or Architectural Digest is going to request a photo shoot at our home, but it's comfortable and it's me. And I have learned a valuable lesson in responsibility and moving forward.

(For the record, that picture I don't like, it's tucked safely in a drawer...)

23 December, 2019

Meredith Did You Know?

When I followed my sister (note older sister) to UVA. Okay that's a lie, I was going to do anything BUT follow my sister to UVA and I even told the Dean of Admissions that in no uncertain terms. I made a detour freshmen year, but the pull of The University was too much, and I transferred for my second year.  (A brief but important aside--my father received my call telling him I wanted to transfer and to this day has not said a word about the scholarship I scoffed at in the Dean's office....)

Back to the story.....

Even though Meredith only had 1 year left when I got there, she stayed for an extra 2 for graduate school, so we got three years together in our little bit of heaven on earth. We decided we would take a class together each semester so we could make sure we saw each other a couple of times a week and could keep up with what each was doing. (Remember this was the stone age--no cell phones or social media--thanks be to God.)

During the first semester I was there, we took History of American Catholicism. (I will confess every class we took we took pass/fail which was good because another class we took History of Virginia was taught by the same man who taught our father and he (DA Williams) made sure we knew Daddy got an A. Meredith announced to him and to the entire class we were fine because we were taking it pass/fail.) UVA is on the honor system, and we were allowed to take exams any time we wanted.

It was late in December, Meredith and I had been studying all day. Around 5 pm we said, "Let's just go get the exam and go ahead and take it so we can leave early in the morning." We trotted over to the basement in Cabell Hall, picked up the exam, set our alarms for 2 hours, took the exams and turned them in. The Grounds were dark and most students had already left for the Christmas break. As we were walking back to the Chi O house (don't tell, I wasn't supposed to be there...I wasn't a sister yet), we looked at each other and almost simultaneously said, "Let's just go now."

We packed quickly, loaded the car and hit the road. (We did not tell our parents our plan....)

That year, The Waitresses "Christmas Wrapping" was a Christmas hit--or maybe it was just a hit for the Kanto girls. Meredith's boyfriend had made us (I like to say us--let's be honest her) a mixed tape of Christmas music for our 8 hour drive home. We drove and listened to it over and over and over--no not the whole tape, that particular song with a few others thrown in occasionally. (for your listening pleasure--Wrapping Paper)

It was dark and as we drove down 29 the night sky was lit with bright stars and the Christmas lights festively hung. It was magical. We turned the volume way up and sang at the top of our lungs. I remember feeling happier than I had in months. I remember the joy of having found my place, being with my sister, and going home. I remember wishing the drive would never end (well I wished that for the first 6 1/2 hours).

Yesterday as I was driving to church the song came on and all those feelings returned. For a few moments I was back in that car and I could feel the warmth, the love, the joy and the peace I felt then. I sang at the top of my lungs again.

When I got to church I texted my sister. She sort of remembered it (God bless her, she is older than me. She did remember the speeding ticket I got--the one she told the police officer "I told her not to speed." He, for the record, was not amused.)

All day yesterday I carried that feeling of joy, unconditional love, and the magic of that car ride.

I've been thinking--I'm glad I told my sister about my memory. I'm glad she knows how much that car ride, and I hope she can translate it to how much our relationship means to me. Transferring is hard, and as much as I loved my first semester, knowing my sister had my back and was there with me was a true Christmas miracle. I don't say that lightly.

The gift of Christmas the miracle of Christmas is love--unconditional love. And I felt that in the car that night.

This Christmas give someone the gift of unconditional love, or let someone know how they have given it to you. One encounter, one relationship at a time--it matters. You never know how it will impact another.

Merry Christmas.

21 December, 2019

The Monster Under the Bed--My Planner

Before I became one of them--them, the empty nesters, I heard a lot of "what to expect" statements. I will say, people give you the "good news" without the counter bad news, but hey, when you're talking a soon to be empty nest mama off the ledge, you go with what you got.

"Your grocery bill will go down significantly" But your housing and allowance for the new college students, far exceeds that....

"You won't have to pick up shoes, books, dirty clothes (fill in the blank)" But now you can see all the dust because it's not covered by the above....

"You can have whatever you want for dinner and at whatever time you want." But you do have to learn how to cook for two--still working on that...oh, and significant other now wants to help which adds a whole other level...yes, I'm also a control freak, might as well admit everything today.

"You won't have to sit in the cold night after night at sporting events or on uncomfortable bleachers in either too hot or too cold gyms." But for us it just means we have to drive 7 hours each way to sit in the cold or on uncomfortable bleachers. Not as often as before, but we still do....and we don't get to know their friends in the same way, and we might think unpleasant things about the parents who live close enough to be at everything....

"You won't have to stay up late waiting for them to come home." But you will wake up several times through the night for other reasons, because now you are OLD!

I heard these and other statements, and I'll say it, empty nest isn't all bad. In fact, there are times we rather enjoy it. And it did help to have friends who walked this road before us to help us prepare. But no one prepared me for this....


I'm not kidding--this is where the tears have really fallen over the past 2 weeks....I'm just going to admit it right here. I am a planner, office supply, colored pen junkie. I LOVE searching for and finding just the right one. We could probably send another child to college with all the money I've spent over the years in my search.

And I found some really good ones that were perfect for the time. The MomAgenda, Erin Condren, Happy planner, wall calendars from Shutterfly, daytimers, and several others. They all had their place, and they worked for our busy, color coded, chaotic life.


In October someone stole my briefcase and in it was my planner. I'm going to be honest here, I don't remember which one that was only that it had my WHOLE life in it, and it was working. I also learned it is very hard to find a planner in October you can use immediately. So I went to a friend who is also a neurotic color coding, paper planner and asked what she was using. She gave me all the details, the exact specs of what she was using, and I bought one just like hers! (well not the cover). I used it, or tried to use it for a couple months. Here's the deal, my wonderful friend still has two children at home--two young children whose schedules she has to manage (and drive them to). I tried and tried to fill this planner up and make it work, instead it just made me sad. And as crazy as it sounds, I have spent time actually crying as I look at and try to use this planner.

So last Saturday I spent 4 1/2 hours going down the rabbit hole of youtube videos on "the best planners" and how to organize them. I kid you not, I took notes, made charts, and diligently considered all the options. And if you think that makes me seem a little cuckoo, google it yourself and check out the HUNDREDS of people who make these videos and websites. I HAVE FOUND MY PEOPLE!!!

After much searching, I have found what I think will work this year (I do have to return 2 I bought just to compare.....). I'm even going to try to use fun stickers, something I've always wanted to do, and in theory seemed like a great idea, but 4 children, a job and a husband didn't leave a lot of time for me to sit around and be creative! But that's not the important thing I  learned. I learned more about grief--a classroom I'd like to leave and never come back to. Grief that comes in many forms, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, the loss of what was, the loss.... I thought I understood it, but I realize none of us ever completely understands it.

Grief is the monster under your bed from your childhood. You "know" it's lurking there, but you don't see it. Some nights you head up to bed, have your bedtime story, say your prayers and settle in for a night of peaceful sleep. But sometimes you head up to bed, have your bedtime story, say your prayers, and out of nowhere it springs. The small nightlight you've begged for casts larger than life shadows you are sure are the fangs or claws of your monster. You can "hear" it breathing and "feel" it squirming. Grief is the under the bed monster with an insidious hold on people. You can't control it, or predict it, instead you have to endure the nights when it comes and give thanks for the ones when it doesn't. And you don't know from day to day which it will be or what may unleash its fury, for me this fall, it was a dang blasted planner that didn't work.

The other thing I know about the monster under the bed, over time it loses its power. As a child I was terrified of going upstairs or downstairs by myself, and lying in bed was often complete terror for me. (It didn't help my lovely little brother whom I adore, took great pleasure in jumping out from behind doors....) I now go months, maybe even a year, without thinking once about what is "under the bed" or what danger may lurk, but sometimes, especially when I'm alone in the house, it suddenly hits me and I am again shaking, possibly crying, and scared.

I know there are many people right now full of grief that seems to be overpowering them--many people I know and love, and many I do not. This season of holiday joy and the planning for the New Year, for many is a monster under the bed. I pray you know and can feel that you are not alone. You are loved.

And I pray there is someone who will sit with you and hold you on that bed until the monster is deeply slumbering and temporarily forgotten.

In the meantime, I am praying for and with you. It seems dark and scary right now, because it is, but I know this to be true. The light shines, even the smallest of lights, but it shines in the darkness and the darkness has not and will not overcome it. (paraphrased John 1:5).

I see you.

03 December, 2019

I Quit the I Would Never Camp

I get it. I know by being so out there on social media (and in life) I
leave myself wide open to judgement--to criticism either spoken directly to me or spoken about me (or maybe people just say it to themselves). This morning the world of me being over the top transparent and the world of me being super sensitive collided, but I learned something--or maybe was just reminded of something.

I thought back on the year I taught a parenting class. I was 24; I wasn't married; and I had no children.  I'm pretty sure I owe a lot of people a refund. The truth is, however, I'm not sure even now at 51, married with 4 just about grown children I am qualified to teach a parenting class; I certainly don't know what the "right" way to parent all children is because, well because, children are people--uniquely and wonderfully made in the image of God--uniquely. I truly believe there is no one way fits all. I also believe what may be right today may not be tomorrow, so that be consistent 100% of the time stuff doesn't really work. (Yep that was my go to about why parents were struggling with rearing children....)

But I haven't always seen it this way....

I've been, and still can be, that person. I've changed over the years. I've become a little less neurotic. My dear friend Gillian can attest to the fact, SK never left the house without her smocked dress, hair bow, and panty covers completely coordinated, ruffled socks and keds to match the outfit or saddle oxfords.. My good friend Karin can tell you not four years later we stood together as my fourth and her fifth child walked into preschool with mixed match clothes, wearing rain boots on a particularly bright and sunny day. Caroline's bow was askew, and I'm pretty sure her hair wasn't completely brushed. We were well aware we were being judged, but we didn't care--we were late to the tennis courts!

With the birth of each child I would think, "I've finally got this figured out." It usually took less than 48 hours to realize, "Nope. This new child is different than the others." I did and do, however, think a lot about parenting. I did and do think about trying my hardest to be a "good" parent. I guess I'm just not sure what that is.

I used to think I knew, and I'm realizing there's lots of people who belong to the same club. The club of "I would never."

"I would never let my child wear that in public."
"I would never let my child speak to me that way."
"I would never buy my child/let my child drive a car if he/she totaled one."
"I would never know my child was doing something wrong and ignore it."
"I would never accept mediocre grades when I knew my child wasn't trying."
"I would never let an adult child move home."
"I would never give money when I didn't know how it was being spent."
"I would never.." fill in the blank.

Looking back over the 24+ years I've been a parent I can tell you this. I have done some things I swore I would never do, and I have not done some things I swore I would do. I have let my child wear things I didn't particularly love or think were entirely appropriate; I have ignored words and tones. I have allowed one child to get away with something I came down hard on another about. Our children have totaled more cars than I can count, and they still drive cars we are funding. I have yelled, cried, coddled, begged, bribed, over compensated, under compensated, ignored, and helicoptered. I have made many, many mistakes, and I have had a few wins.

And I have become sensitive....

Because here's the thing I remembered today. We have NO IDEA what goes on in someone else's family or life. We have no idea why a parent is choosing one "battle" over another. We have no idea what a child is going through, a parent is going through, a family is going through. We have no idea if someone is just trying to get through the day or even the hour.

I do know, nonetheless, what it feels like to be judged. I do know what it feels like to want to defend myself and my choices. I do know what it feels like to hurt for my child. And I do know what it feels like to believe I'm getting everything wrong.

My four children who came from the same parents and were reared in the same home, are so incredibly different. They're different because they are uniquely made, because they are individuals, and because they are not clay to be formed by my hands. We are all the work of God's hands.

I know one other thing...

I know on most days I'm doing my best. That's what I remembered today--to give grace to others because most days we're all just doing our best. And those days when we're not? Well those days let's just love one another, forgive one another and move on.

I'm resigning from the "I Would Never Club."

01 December, 2019

I Lost Part of Me This Year

Yesterday driving home in the dark, cold, rain from an incredible Thanksgiving weekend, I leaned my head against the window and thought, "I've lost a lot this year. But what I haven't allowed myself to think about is, I've lost part of me." 

I wasn't sure what that thought was totally about, but I knew it was true. I am different today than I was a year ago; this year has changed me; this year has taken a part of me, and I can feel it deep in my bones.

Throughout the night as I woke up during a fitful sleep, the words, but more the truth of it, continued to taunt me. I am still trying to make it make total sense, but this I know.

I am not the same. There is more quiet in my heart and my mind--an introspective quiet. I want to be alone more than I ever have before. I crave solitude. I often can't find the words to express what I want to say, and I have lost some of the energy of trying to figure it out. I ache for quiet. I don't immediately find the positive in every situation, and I have lost the ardor to do so. I allow darkness to permeate for longer periods of time before I move forward. And I feel more deeply than I ever have before, and that is often painful. I would more often than not consider myself in a state of melancholy.

Last year at this time I thought I had the world by the tail. I believed all four of my children were in healthy places and were on the straight and arrow path towards adulthood. I was entering my fourth year as priest-in-charge/rector of St. Thomas and my fifth year as coordinator of youth and young adult ministries for the Diocese of Kentucky, and I believed I knew exactly what God was calling me to do and be. Chris and I were enjoying empty nest; I had just officiated at the wedding of a young couple, and I felt that powerful love in our marriage.  My extended family all seemed to be doing well, and our relationships were solid. I had amazing friends and believed this would be the year I would reconnect with many.

Last year on Advent 1 I was full of giggles and excitement. I thought I understood and was fully embracing the theme of the day. As the first candle, the candle of hope was lit by a sweet family with a small child,  I beamed and my heart was full to bursting.

Then 2019 came.

I've talked to many people about this year. I'll be honest, I have yet to talk to anyone for whom this was the best year. If you're out there, I'd love to hear it. Really I would. It just doesn't hold true for me or for most people I know.

Now a whole year later, I am looking back at the person I was then, and I know part of that person is gone, and I'm almost 100% certain it's a permanent loss.

Some may not notice. I am still pretty out there; I am still loud and "extra"; I still say and do outrageous things. But I am less sure of what the "right" things to say and do are; I am less confident I know how to relate to people. (Just an aside, I am confident and even recently for the first time in probably forever able to verbalize what I know I do well. He was as surprised as I was to hear me do it!) But I am less confident I can handle anything. But this I do know.

I can show up.

I can show up in hospital rooms and funeral homes. I can show up in rehab centers and in the woods. I can show up in phone calls and texts and letters. I can show up in grieving homes and in homes full of joy. I can show up when I am full of energy, and I can show up when doing so takes every ounce of strength I have. I can show up for old friends and new friends and people I can't categorize. I can show up for myself. I can show up even if I have nothing to say.

This morning as a family with grown children lit the candle of hope, I felt tears in my eyes threatening to coarse down my face. This year I lost part of who I was, but I am filled with hope. It is not the hope I thought I understood last year. It is not optimism or exuberance. It is a hope that strengthens me to stay connected to myself, others and God. It is a hope that says through the darkness of the world, there is light. It is a hope that has walked with me through the valley of the shadow of death, and it is a hope that knows to my very core that God was and is there. It is a quiet hope that envelopes me because I know I can't fix everything; I can't stop pain; I don't have the right words; I don't know what is to come, but I can show up.

29 November, 2019

Giving Thanks--Or Not

I'm going to admit it...

I was both over the moon excited about Thanksgiving and terrified about how it would go. In some ways I just wanted the whole thing to be over. The unknown...ugh!

It's been a really long time since we were all together, and a lot has changed. One of the things I have learned, and relearned, and relearned (it takes awhile) is when change happens--any change good or bad--relationships shift. Not only that, the speed at which they shift or don't shift differs between people. AND, where we each are within the change not only differs between people but can differ within ourselves on a daily or even hourly basis.

It's a lot like grief. We grieve in different ways and are at different places within our grief at different times. I guess, in some ways, change, even good change, is a type of grief. We get comfortable in our relationships even in the bad stuff. I mean, at least we know what to expect. But when we change--well you get the picture.

So I was stressed, and I don't handle stress well. I become quiet, withdrawn, extremely sensitive, completely in my head, and all in all panicked. And it's really fun for my husband when I try to pretend I'm not---like on the drive to Virginia two days ago.

As I was trying to talk myself off the proverbial ledge, my thoughts went to all the hard stuff from this year. And there was a TON. I'll be honest, I'm not over a lot of it. "I know God is present in all of the really hard and painful shit that happened this year to me and to others," I thought, "But knowing it and feeling it, and growing from it, and finding anything about it to give thanks about, is a LOOOOOONG time coming." I thought about 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (mainly because I had just written about it and not because I can just pull scripture from my head citing chapter and verse). “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I'm not there. I want to be, but I'm not. Oh in my head, I can list the ways I've grown, but to give thanks for it? No thank you. 

And then my thoughts went to others--to those I know and love, and to those I only know about. I thought about how social media will be full of posts with #grateful, #blessings, #thankful. I thought about how people will ask each other, "What are you thankful for this year?" And I suspected there would be many tables where people ask to go around and say what they're thankful for (and yes ours was one of those). My mind and heart went to those who will have a blank stare because I get it. 

Because it was a 4 1/2 hour drive I got to keep thinking....

I thought about those who are dreading going over the river and through the woods (do people still sing that) because of strained family relationships and I thought about those who could not longer go or had nowhere to go. 

As we rounded a curve and crossed the state line it occurred to me, it's all okay. It's okay to be thankful and it's okay to not be thankful. It's okay to be able to acknowledge how the hard times of life have given me and others the opportunity for growth and new relationships. And it's okay to not be there. 

Before Jesus ascended he promised the disciples "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) I can't be thankful for everything that has happened this year. I'm not ready to find "the good" or "what I've learned" in some of it. I also don't know if I ever will be. But I know with all my heart God is present in and through it all. I can give thanks for that.