Stop Being Afraid: A letter to Us All

This will be short,
a letter
to the Artist inside us all
but especially to me,
and the Artist that I’ve been afraid to become.
I’ve been thinking.

I’m electrified
with the current state of affairs, I know
how lucky I am
to have space even a few hours every day to make art.
I’ve decided,  I know
that I want write, but I’ve been sick to my stomach,
afraid.  I know
that I want
to express my soul with images
but I’ve been afraid.

I have assumed
that my words,

my heart, my way of seeing isn’t good
(enough);
isn’t trained,
isn’t schooled.
Doesn’t “know.”

Whatever that means, really, what it comes down to ya’ll is simple
fear of failure,
fear of measuring against others,
fear of being different, and not in a good way, just
so afraid.

I’m going to start
dreaming. It is time to start
thinking
for myself, listening
to my own
muse, casting
aside fear for something better.
I’m going to revel in my own buzz.

But who’s the critic now? Creepy voices
in my head that say, most people aren’t even listening,
and to that I say, perhaps not
yet, and yup that’s

so okay,

for now.  I’m gonna
Just do it.
Stop being afraid

and Jump!

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.

The Writing Life, the Power of Voice

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Life is pathways that become our Story; where we meet the Holy One and God renews us.  These realities run parallel to one another, making life unbelievably complex.

I am a woman, a mother, daughter, and sister while being a life-partner and friend.  And I’m a writer, a creative photographer, a poet, bringing logic and imagination together here, all which engender Me–this follower of Christ. I am also a sometimes runner, forever an alcoholic who is sober with gratitude and Grace, I am so many things.

I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s hand all these roles and trajectories, this my first year of being an intentional writer, finding my voice, my story, my purpose.

For me, one pathway has been as a stay-at-home parent and homemaker, a role I haven’t liked, more like suffered through, but that’s a part of my story of resistance to what is.

Another part of my story is working solidly on perfecting writing as a craft, including relentless reading and writing; finding and accepting my style, my voice, which is different from others, but these are the ways and words that God puts in me. Again, I resist this discipline. 

I’m also a person drawn to studying scripture and this year I’ve been rethinking How I read the Bible, learning the big Story of the Bible, reluctantly accepting both the patriarchy of organized religion, and the most incredible fall-down-on-your-knees awe for a good and loving God.  Time and again the stretches I spend, the more of a contemplative I become, brings a craving for the quiet whispering voice of the Holy One. I have sought the life of the Spirit in new and ancient ways. This is discipline.

Another path I have been on is learning what it means to be a woman in the evangelical church and being healed; coming utterly unstuck from years of bitterness over women’s roles.

I was feeling ignored, unheard, and even unimportant – lacking a voice, while being gently chastised for being so outspoken and for clinging to Feminism.  I was simply keen to talk with others about their experiences as women.  I felt alone, except for some community I found online.  Writing “Why I Stay” (as essay in Finding Church by Civitas Press) brought a healing that I couldn’t  have experienced any other way.

Being at home, being a contemplative, being hungry for the Bible, being a women, being a writer, I have had years of feeling very alone in all respects of my spirituality—Joining Redbud, I experienced the affirmation and community of women. It is a place of healing, growth and affirmation for me if I allow myself to enter in.

More than a year ago, at a time when I was crying out for my life’s purpose (or even just a job) what I wanted was to believe that my life could make a significant impact. I was challenged by my husband and a pastor friend to write, ahem, TO BE A WRITER as my vocation.

I remembered all the others over the last year or two, and over the course of my life, who affirmed this in me. I was full of arguments “I don’t know how.  And you cannot just do it. You need a plan, a proposal or idea for a book or two, and connections eventually to an agent or a publisher.”  This was more of my resistance.

But I also knew, before all those lofty goals, if you want to be a writing you must simply write—write often, write everything, write it all down learning to collect words and ideas, putting them together in your individual way, finding your voice.

I have learned this year too, that you must occupy your own Story and portion out your life experiences with care and discretion.  You will be exposed and vulnerable, and yet you’ll learn to trust yourself and your story to others, as you engrave your story on the “page,” sharing it with a community of readers, it deepens your character.

There is an excavating of the soul as you stay vulnerable and open to the Holy Spirit, to evolving in your faith journey, to sighting places where God’s work in you—and God does and it is the most miraculous, deeply challenging thing. 

There will be times of feeling abysmal, but always the promptings and the difficulties that seem to come are a part of life and if you allow them they will be your writing life. 

Writers must grow!  Lean in to your troubles, to your pain, to the heartache and write it all.   This year of intentional writing has been one of the more difficult of my life and yet, I thank God for the panics, the gaffes, the worry, the heartache and the pain.

Even as I often feel alone in a desert of fear and solitude, and worry that perhaps my writing will be forever done in obscurity, I know that God doesn’t ever turn away from me and my story.  The story still matters with or without the accolades. If you believe that you are on the right pathway.

This writing life has become about remembering and living My Story, no one else’s, and acknowledging the power of God in Me.  Believing deeply and knowing with certainty in the midst of heartache, that God is good, and God is Present and God is okay with the fact that I’m quite imperfect.

And as each of  these paths run parallel, of being a writer and living this imperfect yet Spirit filled life, the challenge is to not allow the writing to overtake the emerging  of your Life Story.

I cannot let my writing out shout the Holy Spirit’s whispering and the narrative of scripture’s truths and all that God is doing inside me.

This is the tension filled place of living the writing life, which is less a place of perfection and more a place of being perfected into the image of God.

The writing life does this in me.