The Offering. (A poem about our words being an offering)

I have always known that words have power
to disappoint and even threaten.
They so often offend and injure, colliding with others
perceptions

of me,
of themselves,
of life together in this messy place.

And words heal,
offered as a rich confession that brings one to the edge of truth
and back again to our plain old lives.
Sometimes it’s a sweet and holy thing,
words.  The offering.

If I didn’t choose to put pen to paper, finger to keyboard?
What if, what then?  If I didn’t fight to get
this very moment down through distractions, through issues and problems of my day.
What if I stopped fighting for these words?
Driving along, I feel that anxious gnawing in my stomach, again.
I am full of self-loathing, doubt and fear. I hate this weakness, but I am questioning every word put down,
wondering how and why.
Why try so hard?
But then I know.

I would write even if no one tells me I’m good.
Then it’s said to me: “you’re good” and I don’t believe.  Or I wonder,
is this enough?
These thoughts, do they change
anything
anyone
for
the
better?
This not merely about purpose.
It’s not simply about being good or even great at this craft.

I don’t know why I write, except that I was made for this.
Each thought, scratched out on a piece of tattered envelope is an offering.
Each confession a piece of me. My flesh, my hopes, my mind
are all there on the page. I write.
This is what I was made to do.
And I will have to leave the rest up you.

———————————————

Something else I wrote on the negative power of our words, Hatred’s Sweet Kiss.

Just Make the Salsa: Living without Fear

A response to a Blackhawk’s Sermon.  A part of my Be Real Series.

April, 2007Do one thing every day that scares you!  — Eleanor Roosevelt

f.e.a.r.

The strangest things scare me. I was not afraid to become a mother. But almost every day I am afraid of being a mother who messes up her kids beyond repair.  I am not afraid of travelling the world and yet I am afraid to talk to my Indian neighbor and invite her for tea.  I am afraid to learn Russian or to play the piano again, but I do not fear writing this blog (mostly).  I know that I take beautiful unique photographs, but I am afraid of people paying me for my images.  Every shoot I do, I wrestle with the little demon on my shoulder that says that I should turn them down.  I have allowed my fear to make me stop taking pictures.

I allow my fear keep me from lovin’ on other people, many times, because I need others’ validation to tell me I’m okay. Oh how I hate it!  That is why it hit me so profoundly recently that I was squandering my skills as a photographer mainly because I was afraid. My struggle with low self-esteem and too easily needing the word of validation from others keeps me from living my life.  What is this about?

This is about not getting my identity from Christ.

So for me a sermon on the idol of image — this was profound.  I want other people to validate me and not just that, but the people who I decide are important.

When you continuously seek this validation from others you can never stop.  It is never enough.  I believe that was one of the things my father was plagued by and perhaps what fueled his anger — the constant need to do more because he wasn’t good enough. Thankfully the “do more” piece has been worked out of my life through my depression experience when I quit work to be at-home, but the “I’m Not Okay” hole is huge and intense.  And kind of embarrassing to admit.

Of all the crazy, mixed up ideas!  If I actually found my full identity in Jesus there would be nothing to prove!

That would be a life without f.e.a.r.

I have a friend that makes amazing salsa with fresh ingredients chopped just right, in a way that people love.  And they buy jars and jars of her salsa.  So she keeps making it.  I don’t think she would say she’s an entrepreneur.  She’s a very humble person.  She just saw an opportunity in front of her and went for it.  She didn’t have fear holding her back.  I would have had a thousand “what ifs” keeping me from doing it.  I know, because I’ve had a similar idea to sell Mel’s Soups and Pies out of my home kitchen, but I am too afraid of failing.

Just Make the Salsa!

I want to be willing to just “make the salsa!”  Life doesn’t have to be a place where we fear failure all the time, where we worry about what others will think of our actions, where we are constantly protecting the “image” of what others perceive of us.

This fractured, broken life is not the way that God intended it be.  If I can learn to be a reflection of Jesus in my life, then I can lose my f.e.a.r.

Oh God, please help me to receive my validation from you.  Help me to know that your approval is all I really need.  I am your child.  I am loved dearly — beloved.  The rest of it, success or affirmation of others, acclamation is just extra. Help me to rest in you, the source of everything I am, or ever will be.

9 t Do not lie to one another, seeing that u you have put off vthe old self 4 with its practices 10 and w have put on x the new self, y which is being renewed in knowledge z after the image of a its creator. 11 b Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, 5 free; but Christ is c all, and in all.

12 d Put on then, as f compassionate hearts, g kindness, h humility, meekness, and patience, 13 h bearing with one another and, i if one has a complaint against another, g forgiving each other; g as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on j love, which k binds everything together in l perfect harmony. 15 And let m the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called n in one body. And o be thankful. 16 Let p the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, q singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, r with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And s whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, t giving thanks to God the Father through him. —  Colossians 3:9-14

Imagine living without f.e.a.r.


When I’m thin, I’ll …

This is me in Honolulu, about five years ago or six or seven …  With my good soul mate and friend Junko and her son.  I put it here, because I was probably 25 pounds thinner and I thought at that time I was fat.  Just goes to show….

I just found myself writing on Facebook: “I am feeling dissatisfied and out of sorts.”  I know this is true — it has been so for days.  It put me in such a funk last week I thought I was coming down with the Black Dog (you know, depression.)

But I wonder why.  Examining ourselves is hard.  And I get the feeling that I do it a lot.  But I can easily not engage with things emotionally and stay on the surface of life.

On the level of superficial, surface things, I know why I’m grumpy:

  1. There are piles of laundry that are never “done.”
  2. The stuff, everywhere! And I can’t keep up.  My kids are clueless, and useless!  No matter how many reminders, of the stuff they leave  around the house and yard — practically dropping it anywhere they finish with it — it is everywhere.
  3. There is no open surface in my life – except the kitchen – after I clean it – daily, sometimes twice depending on things in the evening.
  4. my garage is driving me nuts.  my basement is driving me nuts. my bedroom is driving me nuts.
  5. I can never keep food in the house.  My preteens are eating everything that isn’t nailed down.  and what we have is never what they want.  Now I’m not one to really care about that, them getting what they “like”  but it starts to rub me wrong, after a while.

That’s the surface and it’s bad, but then if I go below the surface:

I never see my friends.  Rarely have deep conversations with people.  Just living on the surface of my friend’s lives and I feel lonely.  Did I just write that.  I think I’m not sure.  Do I feel lonely?  I mean, I could choose to pick up the phone.  I like isolation I think.  But then, internally, I know accountability in friendship is good and deep connections are so life-giving. Yes, connection is important to me and I don’t have it.  There is no where in my life, not church, not my kids schools, where else do I go – not the grocery store, that I connect with people.  Okay, at Trader Joe’s they are really nice and I always leave there feeling good, because they are quite happy to be talking to you.   That is so pathetic.

Another thing. I decided last year, to not buy clothes for myself, for a year.  Mostly, cause I’m fairly stupid about spending money and I was wasting away the fortune we did not have on this and that.  I mean how many hats does a girl need?  And to be honest, since early October I haven’t spent a dime, on myself.  I did find myself buying a lot more clothing for Emma.  That had to stop cause it definitely defeats the purpose and she’s swimming in clothes.  Really though, I haven’t missed shopping.

I worried about what ideas I was giving my daughter about looks. (I blogged about all this in October of last year.)

The other reason that I stopped was because I was tired of thinking and caring so much about image.  But that bit hasn’t changed (much) and frankly I’ve let myself go over the last six months.  I feel shabby, and dumpy and what was that word that my friend in college used to call me?  Frumpy.  What a word.  I’ve lived up to that of late and I hate myself.  And we won’t even go into the weight thing.  No, not today.  When I say hate I’m talking about the suicide kind of self-hatred, or harming yourself, or anything tragic like an eating disorder.  I’m just referring to simple self-esteem.  Body image.  Naked in the mirror stuff.  Can’t find an outfit that feels good to me kind of days.

And then this trip to the Bahamas comes (two and a half weeks and counting) and I start freaking out.  For some reason, I have this crazy need to impress and  seem cultured and look urban and eclectic and interesting.  It matters to me (and that’s a long story from being an MK that I think I’ve written about here before.)  So I wasn’t going to buy anything.   And then I started obsessing about this awards night banquet that everyone gets all spiffy for and I couldn’t let -it -go.

I looked at my clothes, of which I have an abundance, in sizes 10, 12 and 14 and I don’t have anything  for an evening dinner in the Bahamas, not fancy but not too casual. So, I “don’t have anything” and yet I know that if I was saving money for my kid’s transplant or something I could find something to wear in my closet.  So it wouldn’t be Tommy Bahama   or nicely starched from newness.  But it would be just fineOne night.  One outfit. Perhaps three total hours of my life.   But there’s no transplant needed, and Tom doesn’t care if I buy a dress, he’s getting a new shirt.

So dammit I bought one, online, it probably won’t even look good.  Which is okay cause I can return it but every time I think about that stupid trip I get all anxious.  Like what’s on the outside is what matters.   Tho I don’t believe that, already I’ve fallen back into that kind of thinking.  …. If I have a new dress, I will also need new shoes, a necklace, earrings,and a decent bag. Oh, and can’t forget the very important cover up for the cool nights and to cover the flabby size 14 arms…..  so I spend the evening last night (while watching Idol among other things) tooling the internet looking for the perfect dress.  And even this morning ….

No wonder I feel dissatisfied and grumpy.   As a friend just said, (on Facebook not in person, I told you I have no face-to-face friendships any more.) I need to check this more closely.

Identity.  Self-esteem.  Body image.  Eureka!  I have ignored the root of my problems with shopping.  Wow!  I can’t believe I’ve been able to stick my head in the proverbial sand about this!

We all do it.  I know we do.  Except for those few say 20% of exercising folk, most of us ignore our bodies a good part of the time.  Just living with regret, or wishing it were different, or saying when I lose those ten pounds, I will  …

Absolutely what I’ve done!

“I will like myself when I’m thin.  I know I’m thin inside there somewhere.  I was thin(ner) for most of my life and that person is still in there.  When I’m thin, I’ll … pursue showing my photography.  And take more risks like searching for a publisher for my poetry.  And ….blah, blah frikin’ blah…”

Well, isn’t that interesting.

P.S.  If you’re one of those actually thin people or in your early thirties (or younger) and you don’t know what I’m talking about — related to your body, just wait.  Call me when it hits.  I will so be there for you to cry on my shoulder.  By then, I’ll be thin.  Surely.

This Strange Desire: On Materialism and Image: How it all started, the year without new clothes.