{This is for the Dads. I See You}

This blurry pic, a copy of a copy, is my father holding my son.  You cannot see it from this cropped copy but they are sitting on the floor.

This is for the dads, I see you.

Recently at wedding of two friends it hit me.  I’m past the feeling of broken-heart-ache when I see tiny babies.  For nearly a decade each time I saw a newborn I’d practically lactate with longing for just one more child.  My body kept telling me it needed another baby—even after two miscarriages, three unbelievable and healthy children, an exquisite step daughter, (who is now twenty-five, but only five when we met.)

and yet my body kept crying for more. 

At this wedding I noticed for the first time I was no longer at risk for snatching someone’s infant from them, out of a need to smell that baby’s goodness.

I tried holding a baby that night and my mother magic was gone.  I couldn’t console that child and I think that he read my fear.

This is for the dads who are afraid.

Petrified and yet cannot admit it, dads who take off work to “babysit” their own kids. But guiltily, if they’re honest, would rather go to a movie, or for a motorcycle ride or make music or read a book.  Don’t feel bad, you are taking time off work for your kids.  My dad never did that.

This is for the dads that shuffle meekly behind harried young mothers while they nurse.  Somehow showing solidarity?  I don’t quite understand it.  For the dads that never quite do it right—the bottles, the diapers, the comforting. You should understand that moms don’t mean to make you feel incompetent.

I sensed your fear, even pain, holding a baby that I could not console.  That I didn’t quite have it anymore.

Suddenly I felt weak, un-mothering, broken.  Something inside me hurt—but more than for my lost ability to have babies, I was aware of all the Dads in the room.  All the dads who perhaps feel like they don’t quite ever measure up.

This is for the dads who trudge off to work to earn an income for a family when they’d rather be making music, or writing poems, or doing whatever men do in “man caves.”  While their wives have ten year nervous breakdowns, while sitting at the pool and don’t even manage to have a meal cooked at 5 pm or throw a load of laundry in.

This is for the dads who never criticize.

This for the dads who are fair and good, “egalitarian”—mindful of their partner’s thoughts, and tears, and breakdowns, when what they really want is dinner and maybe if they’re lucky sex.

My dad, he worked. 

Came home and kicked us all around.  He didn’t listen to my mother— no matter how he pretended.  She couldn’t debate him, not about big or little things.  She was never quite good enough. When she asked for help, he told her to be stronger.

As for me, I shuffled in the background trying not to be seen.  I lost myself.  I lost perspective of my own center, that I was a human being who deserved (just as much as him) to have opinions, emotions, and take up space in the room.

I stopped breathing.

I’m a forty-six year Old Woman who was never a child.  I’m not saying it’s my father’s fault entirely, but this is to all the dads who need to know. You matter to your kids and your partner—You have power.

You can break your children. Or help them grow up into people of compassion and empathy.

You may “only” bring home the paycheck; causing your kids to think somehow you don’t care as much as mommy.

This is what I say to you Dads—Don’t buy into the bullshit of being less compassionate.  There is a type of empathy that all people have and God and nature intended.  It is not exclusive to women.  It’s not exclusive to mothers.  You may do it differently, but we need you.

This is for all the dad’s that need to know, it’s okay to let go of macho and give more hugs. To work less and BE more.  To change the diaper differently than your wife.  To cook dinner and throw in a load of laundry, listening all the while to your hapless sad wife.

This if for all the dads, no matter what the culture says, that step in the door of your home at the end of the day and get down on the floor—your kids need to know you. Stop rushing.  Say no once in a while to external things.

Be available.

This is for all the dads.  I see you.

At the end of his life, in the last months when my father was pretty sure he was dying (though he was holding out for a miracle) my Dad admitted to me this stunning truth.  That his “incompetence” as a father caused his anger and raging, his disapproval, his meanness, his perfectionist expectations; they all came from feeling like he didn’t know how to be a good dad. (Here’s a poem I wrote not long after his death titled: Good Dad, Bad Dad.)

When we were very young he stopped trying.

What a tragedy.  It’s too late for me and my dad, but it’s not too late for you.

This is dedicated to Tom.

The Tale that Cautions: I was a Drunk

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I write down words.
I was a drunk.
It hurts still, the heavy story bulges in my heart.
Knowing it’s true, that’s one thing.

Going back
to the vomit and need and empty
ache
the desperation
sits heavy with me again
all day.

But in writing comes a slow redemption.

My words
are a gift:
the tale that cautions.

If you are there, broken

believing that you can drink away your fear

come home.

Home to the place in the crook of the rocks,
where the eagle wings of God cover and protect.

Come home, beloved because.  No one
is too far gone into addiction, or into any other ugly dark thing
that Jesus’ sweet, mystical

life altering LIGHT fails to shine.
He weeps for us, whispering

Beloved come home.

Weird, Wacky, Wonderful Life?

DSC_0128Weird, wacky and wonderful at the same time, was returning from this vacation. I’m all upside-down.

I’m tired, and head-achy, and did I mention tired and that just makes no sense for someone who spent two weeks doing next to nothing.  I finished reading one book and did little else, though worked overtime as usual thinking.

Something odd is going on inside by body that’s scaring me.  Abnormal aches, pains, funny symptoms (and unmentionable ones too.)  I’ve been with older people enough lately (and I don’t just mean my in-laws, who are young old!) but neighbors moving on to a retirement home and my mother facing those hard decisions of where to live, asking can she take care of herself. That I’m considering my mortality I suppose.  And facing aches a little fearfully. And pondering aging as it happens to me. Just before vacation I spent nearly a month unable to use my right knee, from a stupid thing.  These are things that happen as you age.

Coming home to my messy old house, I feel suddenly ashamed of all our stuff.  The end of year school means now home the many pencils, and calculators and spirals that went unused again?  Ugh, I’m not organized enough to take advantage of the excess.  Simply want to brush it all into a dumpster.  Along with my whole kitchen that is dying.

I’ve written and then scrapped.  I mean who do I write for and what sense can I make of the world for others if I’m such a poor example. My words feel like more clutter, in an already chaotic head, life. There are so many important topics, things I care about deeply, and I cannot work up the gumption to write.  So, I’ll not force it.  Plenty of opinionated others out there in cyberspace.

This summer we’re doing projects so every room of the house it seems is upside-down or maybe we live like this all the time and I’m just seeing it with new fresh vacationed eyes. Either way I don’t like it, at all.

I’ve read along, virtually watching friends travel across the planet wanting to “make a difference” somehow, knowing they are the ones who will be changed.  And I’m envious.  My life is too much of boring, stupid shit sometimes. Our question of the day being: Should we replace the garage door (it’s old and sodden and barely works) that still works? 

We are such materialists in general with our things all around us, and on us.  Do our clothes and our homes really say who we are?  I’m aging, and I’m no longer cool (trust me I have a teenager that knows and isn’t shy to tell me) and I’m beginning to wonder if it’s important, even as I worry about being relevant.  I sat people watching at the airport, noting Capri’s definitely said “Middle aged and dumpy.”  Why do I even think about that stuff?

I have just ended, yes ENDED in the sense of a school year anyway, the most difficult,challenging year of my life and honestly most of it I cannot write about because it is family and it’s private and it’s hard, so f-ing hard.

What am I learning?

That love of family is perhaps central to joy and contentment (and pain!) That I have too much stuff and it’s making me feel smothered.  That my health cannot be taken for granted and must be a priority. That I don’t have enough friendship, in real life, the kind where you spit up laughing or end up crying, because you feel so understood.

Also, I’m learning I haven’t seen the end the suffering or pain, but we’ve ended one part of the cycle and that’s to be celebrated. Life goes on—weird, wacky and wonderful.  And on the spiritual dimension I am reading and studying about the Christian notion of prayer and for that you will have to stay tuned.

Here are some images from Florida.

Here’s a link to some Florida pictures.

{Don’t Simply Collect Belief, Be Changed}

hands

Life is a dithering between Belief and Disbelief.

Walking steadily, drawing Truth toward us like small prized stones found and stuffed quickly into a pocket, along the way. This Walk is unassuming and ordinary; most days are unpretentious, in the hunt for Assurance. Life is full of yearning.  I have learned. I don’t need to fear the Path. It is solid and sure.  I can trust The Journey as I lean down to pick up a new unusual stone.

I have a jar full of them by now, saving Ideas. I have collected Belief all my life.  At first I didn’t trust the Path, and then I didn’t trust the Stones. If I found one, I’d give it a quick glance or thought, and I’d toss it away.  Not sparkly enough, or exciting.

I’ve been searching for magnificent glittery stones—for a Life of Significance. In the process I threw many Truths away because I am unimpressed.

I’m a True Collector now—these pebbles and stones I now pick up joyfully, turning them over in my hand gratefully. I take them home, rinsing in the sink seeking to see their splendor found underneath the dirt and wear and tear. I place them in a Collection Jar of my heart. They are heavy inside, weighty.  Their shapes change me in important ways, forging Awareness; I am emerging into a new, different person.  I’m eager for each insight, even when the transformation hurts.

Sometimes it is very uncomfortable.

Finding Faith, Hope, and Love were hard to accept at first because they change the shape of a person.  I was soon adding to them Kindness and Goodness, even Compassion.  Found bit by bit, over the years I’ve been surprised by Joy, Acceptance, Tolerance, Mercy and Generosity.  I’ve found Justice and Integrity, and Wonder and Awe.  I’ve found Beauty and Creativity, in these small and large pebbles or stones.  I hold them close, prized—precious. I am grateful, changed from the inside out, shaped into a New and Different person.

And yet, I’m learning that I cannot simply collect these Stones of Truth.  The weight of them in my heart becomes a burden, lessening my Joy increasing the Encumbrance.  This Knowing without Sharing becomes a discomfort I cannot live with as I feel their weight and significance and choose moment by moment to begin to give them away.

This is the lesson of the Writer or creative of any kind, who comes to a stage in life when Knowledge sits heavy within. Life’s experiences of Joys and Sorrows become a burden, without giving your Stories away.  The Pebbles and Stones can become relief for others travelling the rugged path of life together. 

As I give away a glittering pebble, or even a weighty gray Stone of Truth, I find another and the truth of that stone has shaped me, making me different already.  These stones like Forgiveness, Compassion, Justice and Mercy, as I am willing to give away such beauty. Reshaped, I’m becoming more whole and complete.

God is restructuring, altering me and changing me for the better, again and again. In the telling, in the flow of Story from one person to the next, what was incomplete inside me is now completely altered and worthy.

My stories are Stones heavy within me if I simply collect them.  Don’t simply be a collector of Truth, allow your heart to be transformed by giving away your Story, again and again.

Daydream Believer

8729055227_1d7dc7d062I break free

in my day time dream, away
from human suffering.  To float,

up,
alone and free.

Sometimes as I fly away, the clouds are thick that hold me.
And I trust they’ll keep me safer than solid ground.

Suddenly, free-falling, I understand it was only a dream.
Landing hard, here in Wisconsin’s fields.
I am still human
solidly sore, hurting, knowing
pain.

You cannot wish away this life, complete
with heartache. 

You mustn’t embrace pain
fully either.

Certain moments, let them soak deep

in.
Grooves,

wounds, all that make you
you, and me who I am.
This human ache is teaching us to know
one another’s pain. See?
Sense it.
Firm and persistent,
pain is everywhere,

in and on everyone.

Although my heart is still,
longing to float away and pretend.
Finally it knows better. Knows
a freedom, in stepping firmly
on solid ground.

Feel the earth beneath you,
and believe. Life,
as sure as grief will find you and suffering too,
is only lived well together.

Love is all that is holding
this day dreamer down.

An Ode To Joy: When Chasing Significance, Ministry, Motherhood, & Alcohol Isn’t Enough

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My daughter thinks she Knows My Dreams, she pushed hard recently trying to get me to admit them. Telling me “Go to seminary and be a pastor that writes, mom. That’s what you want. Just do it.” It’s so easy for her to say, I think to myself, with my incessant dissatisfaction and oh so many fears.

I think to myself: I’m stuck. I’m not worthy. I’ll never Be.

First came sin.

I mean we’re all sinners for sure, but the home I grew up in, I never met Jesus. I never knew Grace.

I didn’t know Jesus who is the Lord of the Universe and Hope for the world, that my Dad was always talking about.  I couldn’t believe, not for decades, that I was loved and that if I were the only Blessed Sinner on Planet Earth, Jesus would have died that grizzly death, for me. No Way.

Work Harder.

I have lived day by day, believing that if I could just be A Better Person.  If I accomplished that much more than other people, worked harder, worked longer, worked better, then, I’d be okay. And so for years that’s what I did. I worked and worked and worked, and I lived a lie.

I was never okay. I was always terrified.

I was a mess inside, deep down where you cannot admit working at a Christian organization that you’re not sure that you ever believed.

Motherhood.

So I quit all that, thinking Being a Mother is noble (enough) and even a very good thing to do.  I mean, who doesn’t find meaning in motherhood?

Never mind that I just wasn’t ready to be at home.

Too Broken Up Inside, Not Even Knowing Jesus and With a Hole in my Heart, I quit work in ministry for all the wrong reasons.

Then came Despair on a Colossal Level.

Was I ever unprepared for the depth of my anguish. For the loss of meaning without Work. The hole in my soul was frantic with fear, day after day, still.

I thought to myself I must miss My Important Work!  All those years of Chasing Significance and Feeling Important, all that had made life meaningful in the past was gone.

Stripped Naked, the rug pulled out from under me, I fell hard; I fell flat.

Major Depression.

Depression hit just as I was starting to meet the Jesus Everyone Knew and Believed in. We were now attending a lovely church that ministered to my Broken-down Heart.   Just as I began to learn and study scripture for myself.  Just as I was learning that no matter what things I did or didn’t do with my life, I was loved and okay.  Just as a little of that truth sank in,

I slid down into the darkest pit of misery and hopelessness and despair. A place So dark, so bleak, so heavy that I was surprised by this new level of unhappiness.  I never knew that people could feel that lost. (I wrote about that in Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression.)

Broken by a life that was bereft of meaning, tired beyond comprehension with three babies in diapers, bored by being at home, dissatisfied with my contribution to the world, rejecting Grace still though I had begun to understand it intellectually, then came drink.  It was a respite in the beginning, an oasis.

Alcoholism.

As the years went by what had been a brief escape, a place to go when all else seemed

Worthless, Hopeless and Endless,

I drank.  And drank. And five years passed, and I was

Work-less, Meaningless, and soon a Fallen Down Drunk. I was addicted.  And working through the Depression and All Of The Above, I finally heard the

Sweet

Whisper

of the Spirit.  By this time I knew a bit more, I believed in the Grace of Jesus and God broke in and confronted my

Cycling Toilet of Shame, the hole in my heart leaking pain all over the floor, and

my F E A R.

An Ode to Joy.

A decade has passed and I’ve been sober almost five years.  I’m still

a colossal addict even sober, who wakes up every day on the verge of an existential crisis.  Deep, DEEP within, I crave significance. I crave making a meaningful contribution to the world. I long for Joy, real Joy.

Even now, listening to the mystical, providential, sweeping Spirit of God who Speaks and Holds me every day and quiets my frantic heart, that says:

{Just Be. And wait and Trust me.}

The surrender daily is bittersweet. Because I still don’t know What I’m Doing with my LIFE.  This poverty of spirit within me breaks my heart; I feel I betray Jesus in every moment that I’m

fearful, restless, dissatisfied, and confused.

Because unlike what my daughter believes, I don’t know what I am to DO, more than

Just Be. And so, I wait.  And in the waiting, I am transformed.

Life is not Pass or Fail: A Mother’s Day Remembrance

020-20120504_0185I have always seen “weakness” as a defect and here on this blog I say a lot about what I consider to be my own weaknesses – the narrative playing in my head and here on these pages for years has been a fear that I am too broken and weak to be useful at all.

This story starts with what has been and where I came from.

My mother has suffered most of her life.  I know this intellectually and because as her children we hurt alongside her in my father’s home.

For most of my life I thought she was weak to stay with him.  I resented her sticking in there with him.  Looking back, I hated the way she propped him up, when his fragile ego quaked and he wanted to quit this or that ministry, or when he felt betrayed by someone, or was sure that so and so was out to get him or them. She was the strong woman behind the ministry “leader.”  Only back then, she didn’t look strong to me.

After being angry at her for most of my life (and receiving a lot of therapy) I now see that she was strong all those years, and is, today.  I can see how much she loved my father and was loyal and faithful and good to him.  I see that she thought that she was helping us all by propping up the ego maniacal and abusive man that was my father sometimes.

But you see it wasn’t that simple.  He was a beloved man who did many incredibly good and important things.  He served well and long, and loyally. He loved his family. He sincerely wanted to please God.  He loved his few close friends deeply. I can see this looking back, even though he came home and took out his internal demons on a fragile and devoted woman, his wife and my mom and on his daughters. 

Apparently, he was only physically abusive to Mother once.  So the restraint he showed to never hit my mother again was … commendable?   And yet she lived with that intimidation and threat for forty-five years, knowing what he was capable of doing she was faithful to him.

Today a woman would have packed her bag the night that, in a fit of rage, he put her head through a wall.  Here’s the thing. Once you do something like that your household is always terrified, no matter how you promise, regret, or apologize.

And he did often, after a fit of raging, make promises and express sorrowful regret.  We experienced his rages.  Things “the public” never knew.  Things you wouldn’t quite believe possible from a man who could also be tender and gentle, who so often eloquently expressed his faith and devotion to God.  Perhaps she should have left him.  I used to think so.  And I would have, I frequently thought to myself in my twenties and thirties as I was learning about feminism and independence.   Though I never did choose to leave him and I even went to work for him for nearly a decade.

She stayed and so did we.

It was complex and codependent.  How he longed to be perfected by God but in his lifetime this never happened.  This skewed my view of men, of fathers, and especially of a Father God, for a long time.

But this is about my mother, who was loyal and strong; yes strong even though all my life I looked at her and thought of her as weak.

What kind of strength is required to endure the unyielding shouting and frequent berating over years,

and years,

and years?

Her depression was not obvious to me then but now, of course, palpable and understandable.  Frequently in poor health, she stayed in bed and that became her place of refuge from the strain and stress of our home.  She internalized his anger and used her illnesses to escape.   She had very few if any personal friends.  Abused women are often very isolated. And, she withdrew from her children emotionally. We got very little physical comfort growing up, though I’m sure there was much she wanted to say and do. She just didn’t.

Or couldn’t.

She’s apologetic now, at seventy-five and expresses openly her love, physically and emotionally, and her regrets which are many. Now that he’s dead, she has chosen to make her life incredibly simple.  She likes her condo, and her health remedies, and baseball or basketball on the television. She plays memory games on her hand-held game.

She’s chosen this unassuming, even guileless life.  This makes sense to me considering that my father dragged her all over the world for most of their married life; as it turns out most of the moves we made (two or three dozen) she didn’t even want to make.  Today her life consists of getting a message or her nails done.  She does energy work.  Much of it I don’t understand completely, but I respect the obvious need for self-care and lack of relational complexity in her life, still.

I’m grateful that she is quick check in on me, if she thinks I’m disappointed or angry with her.   I’m glad that she’s finally content with her life, set up just the way she likes it.  And I respect her for these choices, even if I wouldn’t choose them.   She’s seventy-five and is finishing life in a way she seems to like – justifiably simple and safe.

This Mother’s Day I honor my mother for surviving. I honor her for her quiet internal strength.

I honor her for her loyalty and commitment, even when I didn’t understand it.

As children we watch our parents and want them to be our idea of perfect.  Each time they supposedly fail we have a choice, to be disappointed or to accept knowingly that life is made up of hundreds of these choices.

Life isn’t pass or fail. 

Life is to be examined carefully and closely, to be lived openly and yet with great care for the people in it.

You never know why someone chooses a certain path. 

And in the end, you can only live your own life, embracing your apparent weaknesses as well as strengths, knowing that each one makes you who you are today.

Life is fragile. Love is unimaginably complicated. Parenting is by example but no one is perfected in their lifetime. 

I think life’s purpose is found in how we take the journey, in the small and seemingly innocuous choices that become important along the way.

I honor my mother this Mother’s Day for being both strong and weak – for being human.

MHH

Other Posts about my parents:

Remembering Daddy, Ten Thousand Tears, A Message From my Dead Father, Forgiving is a Miracle, My Father is Dead, When Did you First Believe God is Male, A Good Day Is, Watching My Father Die, Lessons From a Monastery, On Parenting Deeply & Well, On Putting the Dark & the Light Together, Strongest in the Broken Places, Who Needs a Heart When a Heart Can Be Broken?, Parenting by Free Fall, What Kind of  A Mother, A New Way to Be Human, Forgiveness: Expect Miracles, A World Of Possibilities, My Mother.

Dancing with the Holy: On Being Broken, Spiritually Mended and Called

Dancing with the Holy

It was holy—it was so intimate, so exquisite and precious, that to put it down in words here for you will diminish it immediately. That is the nature of being Spiritually Mended.

There I was, clinging. I came with a cavernous pain, my need was huge.

I came saying to myself I’m broken into pieces. I’m useless. 

But isn’t that the way we must always come to Him, open?

I’ve been hurting. Life’s been bitter and difficult for a long, long time.  Most recently I thought, I won’t survive this.  But here’s the beauty of what I learned: We are all Broken and the Holy One offers healing.

This weekend was Pulse, a conference for Artists in the Church.  I barely showed up, but there I was breathless and desperate. I sat. I worshiped. I walked amongst other artists and creatives. I sensed the Spirit of God who is always with us, mystically and profoundly, but at times we allow the chaos and rush and performance and pain of life to intervene.  I did.  I had.

I thought this weekend might be intellectually stimulating. In my pride and arrogance, and no small amount of insecurity, I slipped into critique mode where others always come up lacking. Reflexively I began to evaluate and not admit that I was there to receive.

God saw my haughty heart.
God said bring me your broken heart.

And there it was, in tension.

I think I’m too good for this.
I think I’m not good enough.

Both, And. 

Strangely that is the dichotomy of being Spiritual Creatives.

We have to accept our humanity but so many days it is our very humanity that gets in the way of growing spiritually and being able to celebrate – being able to absorb, to revel, to dance and sing with others who are different from us, perhaps even better than us, at least more accomplished and successful and happy.

It is there, in our doubt and weakness, that we must face our brokenness, humbly. And receive from and celebrate others.  And most importantly accept that God has gifted us all in some unique, distinctive way.

I sat, knowing all this and facing that I’ve allowed my broken heart to keep me from Believing, from Creating, from Joy, from Hope. To receive A Holy Call takes brave heart.  We know our brokenness, we’re all too aware of our ugly hearts

God was saying to me—I want to use the way I’ve made you, I want your Story.  It has a purpose.

Say What?

I was imprisoned; the bars surrounding me were of my making.  I had built a cage and painted a bold sign on it: DISQUALIFIED. I believed it too.  I came convinced that my brokenness disqualified me from making anything good, from being useful, from my life holding a Holy Purpose.

Life’s psychotic touch had sucked the breath out of me; it felt as if I might drop dead in a moment from the strain of life’s challenges. I was living a lamentation, I was walking dead with Job, and I was crying and desperate on my knees confessing with David.

I came, fraught and anxious, suspicious, daring God to speak.

But I came.  And that’s really all he asked.  Come to me.  I came, doubting.  Worried that if I surrendered there, admitted my weakness, I was already disqualified to create and I’d get a double crushing from God.  How twisted, fearful, and uncertain I was.

And He called me: Beloved. Chosen. Blessed.  

Like Mary when she learned that she was to be mother of Jesus, as she was being told by the angel that this was her destiny — doubt, disbelief, and dismay all ran through her. And yet she did not question it or seek clarification.  She boldly said, “Yes. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said will be accomplished.”  She believed.

I’m full of doubt, disbelief and dismay. I keep thinking I’m not good enough, I’m too broken. I am certain I of all people am shattered into so many pieces that not even God can glue them, paint them, write them, duct tape them back into something useful,and in that,

I am wrong.

Jesus called to me: Beloved Sister, I love you.

I thought all my pain had made me self-centered in a gross distasteful way, “curved inward on myself” as Tim Keller calls it, “creating a dissatisfaction, irritability, an envy and brooding, a resentment toward others” whose lives aren’t as painful and difficult as mine.

I resented those whose spiritual walk seemed dreamy, whose day-to-day was so much less complex than mine.  Who seem to create so easily, have less troubles, and live full of joy – I disliked them all!

But I heard Him. He called to me, the Holy One breathed in me an awareness this weekend.

  • Broken doesn’t disqualify. 
  • Honesty and transparency are not shameful when you are living on the way to healing. When there is Grace.
  • God’s work is Restoration; he’s in the work of renewing us.
  • We are made in the image of God for a purpose, to live, to worship, to create beautiful art!

But, all for His Glory not our own.

“Whoever wants to save her life shall lose it, but whoever loses her life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

This is what I see now. We’re all wounded. Some of us admit it.  

In disclosing my story, there is a cost and risk.  Living and creating on the precipice of risk and possibility, that’s petrifying.

But it can also make you gentle and empathetic. It will help you SEE others differently; both their pain and their glorious gifts and you’ll want to dance with them! I don’t naturally dance, literally or euphemistically, so this is a holy uncomfortable realization.

God made me with an inclination to be vulnerable and with a melancholy that aches within me. Many days I resist admitting how much the pain sits on me heavy, thinking it makes me look weak, less than holy, and not good enough to be a spiritual leader.

I’m learning: Confessing our anxious humanity, fraught with our need, perhaps even accepting our brokenness, this living on the edge is accepting the way God put me together.  Have you accepted the way God put you together?

And this is accepting a Holy Call.

She named me—Story Teller.  She didn’t know me or my story but she said it’s important to tell our stories.  To the audience of many, she said our Stories Matter.  As we learn to tell our Stories of Suffering, they become an Offering.  As we set aside fear, we can accept the gifts God has given us.  He didn’t make a mistake.  And this opens a Doorway to a different life.

This song says it all.

Joyful, joyful we adore thee.

God of Glory Lord of Love.

Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,

Hail the as the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin, sin and sadness

Drive the dark of doubt away, Drive it away

Giver of immortal gladness

Fill us Fill us with the light of day Light of day!

As Artists we live on the Edge of the Precipice and we have a Choice.  We live between the worlds of What I Am and What is Possible with God.

Because of the Hope we have in Christ, we can lay our inadequacies and fear, our sin, our broken duct taped hearts, whatever it is, we can lay it all down at Jesus feet.

We can accept that we are broken.
We must accept that we are healed, we are useful, our life has a Holy Purpose.

Both. And.

And then, we must listen to Him, with our intelligence and fierce expectation, with our minds and hearts.  This discipline of listening (John 10:3-4) is as important as our confession.

Creatives are you listening? 

How is God shaping your soul?  How did he make you, both the strong and the weak parts?  He wants both. What is he saying to you in your broken places and how is he mending you? That’s your story.  That’s your Purpose and Holy Calling. It is through our Stories that God will renew the world, in the coming together of Us and Him.

The visions are intoxicating and limitless, filling the world with the Light of his Gladness. Frederick Buechner’s challenge is to find “the voice of our own Gladness.”  That’s where we find our Call.

I woke up today, still Broken.  I’ll face this day with my Fears hanging heavy, like most days.  The difference is, today I’m refreshed and relieved to start again.  Mercifully, I’ve found some Gladness.  I’m filled with a little bit of light; the rays are shining through the shuttered places in my heart.  In sharing this I hope, just for a moment that you see it too, as you dance with the Holy that you’ll find your gladness too.

One Day: On Suicide, On Melancholy, On Living … On

359563392_8922d86823_oIt is a silent crucible
brimming with ache,

mostly inside.

If you haven’t experienced true melancholia
be glad. And it’s okay to be glad
for some who have gone through cancer and depression say they’d take cancer over the adversary of depression
which is really astounding.

It is difficult to explain and the only reason I keep trying is that

I want the world to be a more compassionate place for all.  You see,

Some people
kill themselves.  Some people cut or hurt
themselves.
And some shrivel up
like the moldy apple core I found under the bed, sticky

and covered in lint and decay.  But many people,

most

do

the hardest thing of all. They carry on, and
life
becomes a steep climb up a high altitude mountain.

I read, I pray, I try to understand

It. I try to understand myself.

I write.  And no matter how hard I work, and I do

work, very, very hard

I am still

a person who carries melancholia on my back.  I cannot shake it.  And if you’re a longtime reader you know,
I’ve tried.  Oh,

how I’ve tried.
This is something I carry, like Jacob’s limp after wrestling with God. And I can only hope

It sits well in me,

and can be redemptive for others,

One Day.

MHH

P.S. This, by Christine A. Scheller, is one of the most empathetic articles I’ve ever read on the topic of Depression and Melancholy   I felt understood.  I felt described.  I felt less alone.

Living a Life Worthy of Writing. It’s Complicated

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It is Virginia Woolf who is credited with the notion that for most of history anonymous was a woman. I thought of that yesterday when a friend (who is more like a mentor) was intently praising me on my writing and expressed that I should continue. Then she said, “Perhaps you should write under a pseudonym.” 

That statement made me wonder. I think she felt that without my name or life connected, that I could write my story even more vulnerably— bravely, truthfully.  She thinks

My Story is one that many people Feel, Live, Carry.

One of the many things I like about being with her, and at the same time frustrates me, is that I often go away from conversations without Answers—pondering hard things, wondering, asking myself questions, many questions.

She’s so Open and Free—with her time, ideas, insights, her life, that it compels me and draws me in to the freedom in which she lives life.

I know that I don’t live with that sort of freedom—not yet. I live with fear of reprisal, with sheer guilt over my Life’s Narrative so far.

I live with the Fear Beast.  I live with the Guilt Monster. 

Yesterday, I read from Richard Rohr that the phrase “Do not be afraid” is present in the Bible up to 365 times.  It’s the most common one liner in the Bible.  A command of sorts, DO NOT BE AFRAID.  The imperative when the angel of the Lord told Mary, who was selected to be the mother of Jesus, Do not be afraid.

I breathe deeply, knowing. I can certainly get stuck

in the life I’ve lived so far feeling like it’s impossible to redeem it.  Stuck in Fear.  Stuck in the Shame Story, feeling nothing but Regret. For it’s a story of Redemption (for sure) which means mistakes, sin and regrets.  But that’s not the point really, My Regret.

In Being Human and facing our humanity we aren’t disqualified from the Story of God, but rather

right in the middle of God’s Grace.  I want to learn to trust Jesus’ powerful presence in My Story and believe that somehow all this serves a Greater Purpose.

I have long believed that if I could sort out how to write it down, the poems and prayers of lament in my story, then it would be Redeemed through the Telling. If I write it down. And before then, or even while that’s progressing, I want

TO BE the person Redeemed, Wholly Forgiven, compelled by Grace, driven down on my knees perpetually,

for I want to live a life worth

writing.

A Bad Poem About My Sobriety

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SOBER.

Antonyms: alcoholic, drinker, drunklush, souse, wino

I’m Sober today. But I’m clutching at it. And not contentedly. Control is an illusion. I’m powerless, that I can confess. Today, when the whole thing, my duct-taped heart, feels like it’s falling apart and I’m heart racing tired, knowing I should never get.this.way. I think, “If I could I’d smoke then, … What?” But the broken down lungs no longer cooperate. I want a drink less than a smoke today, which is weird when you think about it. Alcohol does help you forget, for a while. There’s not anything to compare with the high of tumbling down out of your head, out of your Frantic Over Thinking, out of your heart, Bursting. Nothing like it. Of course,I’m sober and holding.on.tight to Teetotalling Me. Because even though I’m Scared, and Sad, and sitting here alone, feeling all kinds of Awful, I know

I chose that,

And now I choose this. Yes, I choose Sober every.day.

Other things I’ve written about my five years of sobriety, see My Alcoholism & Addiction.

Free To Love One Another or Afraid to be Free?

“if you loved me you’d let me die…”

I went with a reluctant, heavy expectation to the Maundy Thursday service. My child’s words ringing in my ears. 

My need was great.

It hit me, sitting there.  I was in the middle of the Community of God, but felt utterly alone.  And it was all my fault. For I have built up these mammoth walls around myself, so high that I sat there,

Alone, Weeping in the middle of the Community of Believers.  Some in the crowd of hundreds I know, though most were strangers, I had no idea where my friends were sitting.  I sat alone.

I fled as they began the Eucharist.  I was still in the pain of just moments ago, dealing again with the rivers of sorrow carved into my soul over the last year, it was all catching up with me.

How difficult it has been, and that raw emotion was sitting close, heavy, the madness of my child’s mental health situation, an invisible dagger in a wound that I walk around with these days.

Then suddenly Old Regrets began replaying, again and again in my head—my sin and guilt, my humiliation. I have made so many mistakes.

Even after almost five years of sobriety I still haven’t forgiven myself for becoming a drunk in the first place. I am

clearly not willing to receive the freedom of grace and forgiveness for being sober today. That would take a level of courage and humility that I don’t have, at least not yet.

I am clearly still unwilling to admit how little control I have over my life’s circumstances. Sitting there, facing the courageous, loving sacrifice of Jesus, I couldn’t bear it. I fled.

I sat down in the darkened hallway entrance in-between the lobby and the sanctuary  hiding from the Holy One, now I was really crying and embarrassed at my lack of composure.  When just as suddenly it occurred to me – Jesus experienced every human pain—even mine, even my child’s.  (And much much worse.)

And I cannot run from Jesus because no matter how far I flee, he’s there beside me in this moment of anguish.

I have learned.

Listening to your places of pain as a believer in Christ is both mystical and sacred—attending to the Soul’s Ache. It cultivates the depth of understanding that can only come when we slow down and feel.  Although last night I was running away, in general  lately, I’ve been listening hard, in good ways  … And what I hear, finally has been a discovery seen through my photographs …

for a long time I’ve been on the inside looking out at life.

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This has built up an inner turmoil that requires sorting and reconciling and answering this question: Where does all my fear come from?

I’m not petty but I get insecure,  Still, I feel sincere joy at others’ success, and friendships, and connections.

All my life, I have felt alone.

I just don’t think I deserve that sort of thing: a Community who is Free To Love One Another; it’s too beautiful, too holy, and too wonderful to experience the hospitality and community of people. It’s a blessing I’ve never felt worthy of, and I have my bag full of excuses and reasons: I’m too broken and useless, unwanted, undesirable, and therefore, I deserve to be alone.

Even here.  Even now in this Holy Place on Maundy Thursday with hundreds of people around.

And worst of all, I cannot sort out if I made this happen, this Place of Lonesomeness.  But I think I did.

Henri Nouwen expressed so often in his writing and often lamenting:

Even as we need solitude—I know I crave it, seek it, relish it, because it is where I listen for the Spirit and learn—when I finally poke my head back up into the world (go on Facebook or something) I realize that the world went on and people have enjoyed one another  suddenly I feel rejected.  And Alone. And the heartache and feelings of rejection that come are unbearable at times.

Sitting there last night physically alone but in the presence of hundreds of Christ followers, knowing the Saints of Old are there too, with Jesus, surrounding us.

—I laid the last six months down.  Months of being wrapped up in caring for both a sick child and my aging mother. Months of fear over lack of solutions.  Still knowing we don’t have them.

— I laid down my recurring depression which feels like my personal screw-up, a failure I cannot conquer.

— I laid down the isolation and loneliness that comes from shame and fear of rejection by others.

—I remembered all the good people that have reached out to us, asked how they can help and faced my confusion over not knowing what to say.  How many times I said, “thank you but no, we’re managing.”

—I accepted that I don’t know how to receive from others, whether it is because I don’t feel like I deserve it I wonder?  That just might be true.

Jesus’ mandate of Maundy Thursday is a challenge to us to love as we have been loved BY HIM.  Last night, shattered and broken, flooded with all my regrets, I just sat by him and knew, I don’t have to have the answers.

I don’t know how to let people love me.

In Hebrews it says, along with Faith, one must believe that God rewards those who seek him.  (11:4-6).

I’ve had enough looking out of windows, watching others live joyfully and only dreaming of entering into Community while refusing to risk, fearful of the messiness and imperfections of humans.

Jesus said: Love one another ya’ll!  That is so hard to do when you’re on the inside looking out.  When you’re so afraid of being hurt that you continuously push people away.

I heard him, there, Jesus said to me:  

Stop turning away. Love as you are loved, enter into hospitality, healing, wholeness and love—this sort of devotion is made up of my compassion and hope!  There’s no fear when you are abiding in me.

If we allow it, the power of fear dominate us.  What others think of us, fear of failure, fear of intimacy, fear of God, fear of ourselves and what we might actually do for him, even  fear of success.

As Nouwen said, “All our thoughts and actions proceed from a hidden wellspring of fear … but we were loved, before we were born we were declared BELOVED, and that should make us Unafraid.”  

We can walk through the world Free To Love One Another.

—May it be so, friends, I pray.