Some Light Blinds, Some Illuminates: I Once Was Right But Now I See

In the chaos of upended routines and travel and summer heat, words have been coming to me fast and wild, unplanned reflections and questions and poems born out of a swirling cacophony of new experiences and ideas crashing into old rhythms and assumptions. Like pouring from a full pitcher, each time inspiration struck the flow was heavy and relentless to the last drop, and then there wasn’t any more. Now all of those words sit on my computer, untouched, unseen. I’m unsure what to do with them. The passion they were written with evaporated like water from swimsuit on a line. A limp memory, waiting for a body to set it back into motion. My body? I’m at a loss. 

This kind of creative existential crisis has struck before, though I have no new insights about how to steer out of it. It usually involves blankly staring at the blinking cursor while wondering who I’m actually writing for and if it’s actually useful, or if it’s just my private therapy that I foist upon the public. (The public! I have to laugh at my own vanity. I love you, dear readers, but you hover in the double digits.)

Some expert writers tell you that you must clearly define the question your writing answers or the problem that it solves. That way your readers know right away if they need you. Others encourage free-form stream of conscious writing, they passionately declare the craft an end to itself that should never be bridled with platforms or marketing strategies. I’ve also read that writers should always be responding to the world around them, engaging with the issues of the day in order to stay relevant. Of course, “they” also say it is our unique voice and interests that make this whole pursuit worthwhile, and losing touch with our own lens would be catastrophic. Naturally, my response to all these competing perspectives has been to attempt to appease every last one. The radio silence on this blog tells you everything there is to know about how that went down.

I didn’t always feel this way. I remember writing with urgency and conviction when I was younger and still firmly bound to the traditions and ideas of my childhood. Certainty was a brilliant light that blasted all competing questions to the shadows. I knew just what I wanted to say, and I knew that everyone needed to hear it. The light was my guide and my home. It burned so bright that I could not see anything else beyond some vague awareness of the dark periphery. Why would anyone go there when you could gaze into this luminous purity? It burned through my whole being until there was nothing left of me and I was pure light too.

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But no matter how intently I focused on the brightness, the shadows converge. It’s simply not possible to move through life without bumping up against these dark forms and ripples that filter and bend the light. As I turn my gaze from the single minded conviction of what “ought to be” and encounter what I thought were shadows, I realize my eyes were actually being blinded, not illuminated. There is a whole universe waiting to be taken in and explored.

Do you know this sensation? It takes a while for our eyes to adjust and make sense of what we are seeing – a riotous display of colors and textures and music and emotion and creativity and, of all things, light! We begin to realize all that we were missing in our single-minded pursuit of pure light alone. We realize that the people we thought were “lost” to the shadows were merely on their own journey of exploration, many of them now reaching out towards us in compassion and love. We can finally really see them because they are no longer others. This new dimension, blending together color and emotion and music and light, it unites us without rules or doctrines or creeds.  There is Divinity here. But also Humanity. We are not in tension. We experience freedom we didn’t know we were longing for. Bit by bit we learn to honor all the parts of ourselves, our bodies, our experiences, our needs and desires. The purging, forging, and burning of our former reality seems absurd in this new realm. And to think it was here all along!

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And yet, I still find myself longing for the old binary. Fear, doubt, insecurity, stress, pain, the weight of any of these emotions can send me reeling back to familiar certainties. Just like staring into a bright light leaves a temporary mark in your field of vision, I think that all my years staring into the floodlights of certainty has left a lasting blind spot. I am learning to trust other senses to compensate for the loss, other voices too, but when I become disembodied – when I feel shame about my emotions or experiences – I feel my eyes searching for that light again. I want the complexities to fade. I want the simple answers. I want to feel right and pure and clean. I want what it promises, even though I know it can’t deliver.

If this summer is any indication, I think that the times when we are flourishing and growing in new patterns and self care are exactly the seasons when we are most susceptible to falling back into old ways. We are like children hungrily taking in a wonderful new experience. When our senses become overloaded our emotions follow and without the compassionate embrace of a friend or guide, and sometimes even with it, meltdown is immanent. And that’s okay.

I want to explore this experience. To be more present to my feelings as they surface rather than trying to stuff them down or shame them away. I wonder why I continue to revert to old, self-defeating habits just after spending time listening to what my body needs. Why do my heckles still rise when I hear stories of lives lived so differently than my own? What tools can embodiment offer us as we navigate this vibrant and difficult world? How can we walk with one another in postures of compassion and love on a journey that is anything but linear? Why does the shame spiral of a loved one so often trigger our own reflex of self-preservation and denial, and what can we do about that? I have so many questions about how my body and mind are working together in all this – I hope some research will help me gain a better understanding about how our physical and mental/emotional and spiritual forms impact one another. But I also want to follow the questions that wonder why, and why not, and what now, and what if?

It was a strange summer, a failure by any measure of productivity. I didn’t accomplish a single one of my writing goals. And yet, I feel that I have grown. I write to you now, this first week of September, with fresh eyes and gratitude to all those writing teachers who insist on the stream of consciousness sort of writing. They were so right.

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Marriage and Borderline Personality Disorder (New Post at The Mighty)

I am thrilled to announce I’ve become a contributor at The Mighty, an organization that has been a source of comfort, support and endless resources for me over the last few years. I look forward to sharing more there about the ways that mental illness and the pursuit of wellness weave through our family, marriage, parenting, and friendships. If you are also on this path, I know you’ll find encouragement and insight in their resources and community!


When I was young and in love and putting the final details on our wedding plans, I spent an evening curled up on our scratchy goodwill sofa reading through the vows we would be making in a few short weeks. I tried to picture it, all of our loved ones gathered together, our friends standing up beside us, the beautiful Rock River flowing behind as we made lifelong promises to one another. Dreams finally becoming reality, the beginning of our life together, the first day of a grand new adventure.

The line “in sickness and in health” felt so out of place in all the flowery, lovey language. A little bit of real talk smashed in the middle of the wedding day magic. I tried to picture what would happen if a tragic accident or illness rendered this man I love totally reliant on me. Could I feed him, change his diapers, wash his body, attend to his every need? Could I accept the loss of a lover, a confidant, a fellow adventurer? The answer came fast, confident. Of course. Of course I would. I would do anything for him.

What I didn’t know then was how illness was already creeping into our lives…

Read the rest here: The Tangled Web of Marriage, Love and My Husband’s Borderline Personality Disorder

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The MoMs

I performed this piece at The Horse’s Mouth Storytelling night in Lexington, KY. You can watch it here, beginning around the 12 minute mark. I would also encourage you to listen to the other fabulous women sharing stories around the theme Mothers And Others. It was a wonderful night!


Today is my 30th birthday. Five years ago I was celebrating with my best college girls. They assembled this amazing brunch on our kitchen table and held my babies while I feasted. Babies. It was still shocking to say. I was 25 and somehow had 6 week old twins. These women who had been with me through every transition and change of our adult lives were with me now – caring for us, feeding us, showering us with gifts – but something had shifted. My whole world had shrunk down to fit within the walls of that tiny apartment – the couch where I spent my long days and the bedroom where I spent even longer nights. My friends bubbled with news of life beyond, catching me up on their work and relationships and hobbies, weekend plans and upcoming special events and I just sat there eating french toast while my milk leaked through my dress, realizing that things would never be the same again. For weeks I had been trying to learn the new rhythms of motherhood, feeling overwhelmed, incompetent, and lost. I thought a day together would restore me to my old self, but instead it made the distance between our paths even more pronounced. I missed my old self, I resented my friends for their freedom, and I didn’t know how to explain any of it.

As time went on I grew more confident in my mothering – learning how to tandem nurse and occasionally time their naps together so I managed an hour of peace – but I couldn’t seem to launch us outside the walls of our fortress. Visits from friends became less frequent. The loneliness grew heavy, and I felt helpless to free us from our captivity. The first time we tried a walk, just the three of us, we made it to the sidewalk before my daughter was screaming so loudly I feared someone would call the police, assuming I was hurting her. A few weeks later I powered through the screams and made it to the house of a “mom friend” a few blocks away. I sat, exhausted, on her couch until I had the energy for the return trip.

(Did you know that women lose their identities when they become mothers? I didn’t. Friends with kids quickly became “mom friends”, or “charlie’s mom”. You meet someone at a park or playgroup and nobody even asks’s your name. You’re just someone else’s mother, everything else about you now irrelevant in the face of your new all consuming tiny dictator(s).)

The first time I tried to attend a “mom group”, my kids were nearly 6 months old. We were late, because: twins, and when I rolled our massive stroller full of screaming children through the silent building I felt every head turn to stare. I deposited my still screaming children with some nice old ladies in the nursery and  forced myself to go sit with the energetic, well dressed women drinking coffee around circular tables. The speaker that day encouraged us to prioritize making ourselves presentable for our husbands. You know, make sure you don’t “let yourself go”. I was too exhausted to be outraged. We went home early.

I did have one outlet that was just for me. A podcast called The Longest Shortest Time. Every week the host/producer, Hillary Frank, tells stories about parenthood that are honest and vulnerable, stories that reflected her un-shiny experiences as a mom who felt like she was always screwing things up, always failing to follow the “right “advice, always stretched to her limit. She interviews ordinary parents about all the crazy, ridiculous expectations, the mythology of “perfect parenting”, the loneliness of all the posturing and pretending everything is fine. She started a facebook group for her listeners – parents desperate for a judgement free space to share honestly about their experiences. It was exactly what I needed.

While I nursed in the dark, lonely hours of the early morning, I mined posts for insights about the weird new things my kids were doing, asked all my rookie questions, and vented about how hard it all was. I felt instantly connected to people across the country and around the world who were also stuck in their tiny apartments, people who also felt disconnected from their old friends and even from themselves as they learned the new terrain of parenthood.  

One day I came across a post from a woman asking if there were any other parents of multiples who wanted to commiserate. That thread turned into a group of women who would become my closest companions on this journey – mothering me through the darkest parts of those early years, helping me to see the light beyond them.

Of course, it started timid and cautious: we were all sweet and clever and started our posts with “not to bother you all, but…” or trying really hard to be funny and upbeat. But the veneer of politeness didn’t last long. We were all just surviving, minute by minute, and we didn’t have the energy or time to be cute. We bonded instantly over our parenting failures, exhaustion, non-existent sex lives, and endless kid illnesses, and also over the magical moments of kid love – we were all in the thick of it together. Nobody was less than. Nobody was smug. We were just radically for one another.  

Our guiding rule is non-judgement – if you don’t agree with the philosophy of the person posting and can’t find a way to share your ideas without judgement, go ahead and scroll on by, that post was not for you. And maybe it was just our desperation for connection that kept us in line, but it worked! And as our friendships grew, so did we. We held space for the important work of re-imagining ourselves. Who were we, and who did we want to be, beyond this new role? There is such power in naming our secret dreams, longings, and ambitions. It’s the first step in fleshing out the path that will bring them to fruition. In these conversations, I regained my voice as a woman and a writer. I found courage in the brave women around me, and in weekly check ins and off the cuff messages we cheered each other along, each step of the way.

There are so many jokes about moms and facebook, about social media as a meaningless, phony, time wasting sphere. And I get that. I know there’s plenty of posturing and sanctimonious advice giving and unhelpful shaming that happens online. It can definitely highlight the worst of our humanity. But it’s also this incredible tool that allows us to reach across miles and cultures and work schedules and religious/political/insert-your-divisive-issue-here differences to support one another in the minutiae of everyday life. I have come to think of it as a sacred space. And when we tend it well – reigning in our insecurities and judgments, opening our hearts to learn from others – it serves us with beautiful connection.

Last year I got to meet some of those women in person at our first ever conference. I use the word conference loosely – we rented out a fancy old home on airbnb, stocked up on wine and snacks, and bunked up for the weekend. But it was a big deal – an attempt to bring to real life what we had been cultivating online for years. Leading up to it I was so anxious, it felt like I was going on a first date but worse – these women already knew all my neuroses, all of my greatest failures and biggest dreams and I needed them to still like and support me when this was over! But I shouldn’t have worried. The embrace of someone who has seen and loved you at your worst is a gift I wish I could give every parent, every person that I know. These friendships forged in the fires of early parenthood have forever changed me. They have shown me that vulnerability shouldn’t be rare in friendships. That it should be the core of how we connect – sharing our truest selves in a crisis, in the mundane, and everything in between.

As an introvert, I find it exhausting to do this in person. It’s much easier to pour my heart out from the safety of my couch. But there’s nothing like that moment when you finally take a deep breath and reveal a dream or confess a weakness and the person across the table lights up and says “Me too! I thought I was the only one.” I hope to live a long life collecting those moments. They make me feel alive, reborn to the possibilities of growth and what could be. These “internet moms” have given me an enduring optimism about cultivating space for those moments to bloom, no matter how many awkward first friend dates I have to persevere through to get there.

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❤ 

 

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A Mental Health Advocate Uncovers Her Own Internalized Stigma: my journey toward healing

Over the last several months, have you been continually worried or anxious about a number of events or activities in your daily life? “No.” What good would worrying do? Worrying is for the weak and undisciplined. 

Do you feel bad about yourself — that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down? “No.” Failure is obviously not an option. 

Do you feel tired or like you have little energy for things you need or want to do? “No.” It doesn’t matter if I have energy, I must do all the things regardless of how I feel. 

My doctor sets her computer down and gently asks if it’s possible I’m assessing my mental health against my husband’s. This catches me off guard and I look up, feeling guilty. She leans forward, compassionate but resolute as she says, “You know, he doesn’t set the standard. Your experiences and needs are valid, even if his are more intense. You deserve peace too. You can’t do this alone, nobody could.”

My eyes fill with tears and I look back at the tile floor, mumbling something about how hard it is to tell what is normal after being in crisis for so long. I minimize my own needs because I can’t imagine how I could handle one more diagnosis, one more issue, one more thing to become an expert about before I can find relief. But sometimes it catches up with us, no matter how hard we try to shove it down.

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A year ago on an ordinary school night I was tucked into bed with my kids, reading a pile of storybooks. All of the sudden my arm started to go limp, my sense of reality slowed, and my heart began pounding explosively loud in my ears. I felt like I was going to throw up, had cold sweats, gasped for breath like an elephant was on my chest. I thought I was having a heart attack. I thought I was dying.

8 hours and a dozen tests later an ER doctor pronounced me perfectly healthy. “It’s amazing how the mind and body work together.” He said. “Even though you have all the symptoms of a heart attack, your heart is working perfectly well. Sometimes our brains do this in response to stress.”

“But I wasn’t stressed,” I protested. “I was relaxed, cozy with my kids in bed. It hadn’t even been a stressful day!” He nodded and explained that stress triggers a release of cortisol into our blood where it builds up over time and can lead to these massive events that occur randomly, without warning. He told me to take it easy, let my body recover, and follow up with my doctor.

It took three days before I felt like myself again. I was baffled and embarrassed. Sure, our life was stressful. Being a full time caregiver and advocate for my husband in his mental illness while also caring for our preschool twins was taking a toll. Yes, we had recently lost the support of our faith community. No, we didn’t have family nearby or the resources to pay for help. But I was managing just fine! I prided myself on keeping our little family going, on attending to every need. “I can do this” was the mantra that got me through the worst days. I’m doing it. I’m doing it.

The follow up appointment with my doctor left me feeling even more defeated. She suggested I do a better job of prioritizing my own needs – sleep, eating healthy foods, making time for movement. It seemed laughable. My kids still woke up at least once a night, my grad student husband has life-halting anxiety attacks at least twice a week, and we were surviving on whatever I could quickly throw together for meals. How was I supposed to make time for all of this extra stuff? “You just have to. You’re carrying so much. I know it’s hard, but you need to take it easier. Your body needs rest.” Yeah, I know. But HOW?

Over the last year I’ve done my best to lean into this intense self-care regimen. I enrolled my kids in full day prek, prioritized early morning workouts, allowed myself to explore this writing dream, found a few new favorite cookbooks and threw myself into preparing exciting new healthy dinners several times each week. I got to bed earlier and said no to more things, set boundaries in relationships that were doing me harm. But the symptoms persisted. Every other week or so I would feel the fluttering in my chest before a heaviness moved in, keeping me awake all night or immobilizing me all day. I tried to breathe through it, journal through it, reason myself through it. It was a lot to manage but it was sort of working.

Until it wasn’t. I woke up one night this winter in a full episode, my heart beating wildly and my body so seized up I couldn’t move. The next morning I finally called for another follow up with my doctor and a few days later found myself sitting in the exam room, spilling out the story of the last year: all the things I’ve tried, all the plates I’ve kept spinning, how defeated I feel. She listened carefully until I finished, making notes murmuring affirmations. Then she smiled and asked if we could do a mental health screening.

Oh great. I thought. Now she thinks I’m crazy. My internal dialogue swung between guilt about my own stigmatized thoughts and a desperate need to preserve the story I’ve been telling myself: that I am the healthy one, dependable, strong, unshakable.

I didn’t know what to say so I just nod, keeping my eyes fixed on the floor.

As she asks each question it seems to hang between us, suspended in the deafening silence. I bat them away with emotionless one-word answers until she pauses and gives that speech about my mental health being entirely independent from Drew’s. More tears.

She continues, “There’s a medication I would like you to think about trying. It’s very safe, and when it works properly it helps people to feel like they have that extra bit of head space, a little less weight on their shoulders. I know it can feel like a big step, but I really think it could help you.”

And she was right. It took me two months and another massive panic attack before I was  brave enough to try it, but since then it has truly changed everything. For the first time in years I feel like I can breathe again. I can see beyond the immediate crisis cloud and hear what my body is telling me. I am so grateful.

The other day a friend was telling me about a mental health training she had at work. “Did you know,” she said, “that people wait, on average, 10 years before seeking medication for their mental illness?”

I did not. TEN YEARS? It sounds ridiculous – who would wait ten years for medication that could so easily improve their lives?

Then I thought, oh yeah. That’s me.  

Sometimes stigma isn’t intentional antagonism about mental illness. Sometimes stigma is just the quiet lie that we aren’t miserable enough to deserve care. That our experiences don’t matter. That as long as someone else is worse off, we should stop complaining and soldier on.

But it’s not true.

You deserve health.

Peace.

Good sleep.

Support.

Freedom from anxiety, physical pain, intrusive thoughts.

It doesn’t matter if they happen every day, or only once in a blue moon.

You deserve health.

We all do.

We cannot de-stigmatize mental illness until we learn to honor the connection between social, psychological, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. If we lack language to name our complex experiences, how can we pursue health for ourselves or others? One of the most important mental health practices we can adopt is simply to honor our own experiences, feelings, and needs. When we are tuned into our bodies we can more easily notice when things shift, when we begin to feel a bit frayed, when we need help. And, in turn, we can support those we love without over extending or denying our own needs.

The spectrum of mental unhealth to mental wellness is wide and we move back and forth across it day by day, season by season. Just as we would be outraged if a doctor turned away a patient with an infection or rash and told them to suck it up and come back when they were totally incapacitated, we should be equally concerned with the wounds of our mental health; adjusting our lives and seeking support and treatment to keep all of the parts of ourselves in balance as we pursue health and wholeness in every area of our lives.

I was so afraid to acknowledge my own decaying mental health because I thought it would mean a loss of control, accepting defeat, disqualifying me from the role of caregiver and advocate for my husband. Instead, I have found that learning language for my own mental health experiences has helped me to connect more deeply in my marriage and allowed me to better advocate for my own needs, validating them alongside, rather than in conflict, with his own.

I still occasionally experience the heart palpitations and fatigue of minor panic attacks. But now, instead of powering through or beating myself up for “failing”, I thank my body for showing me what it needs. And I tell someone. Because nobody can fight this battle alone, and because I’m learning to see that our inherent codependency is actually a really beautiful gift.

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A Letter to the Church on Mother’s Day (Guest Post at Spiritual Parent)

One night a couple years ago, I was in the middle of our bedtime saga—trying to get dinner put away and my twin toddlers wrestled into pajamas so we could begin the  battle that would end, inevitably, with me sitting on the floor between two wiggly toddler bodies, a hand on each back, patting slowly while the white noise machine and the Moana soundtrack drowned out every thought.

I was marching my troops towards the bathroom, a slimy kid under each arm, when I heard my phone buzz on the table. It was from my pastor.

“Would you like to write a mother’s day prayer for the service tomorrow?”

Mother’s Day. Already?

I winced, thinking of the card I hadn’t even managed to get sent off to my own mother. A toddler wriggled free as I dashed off a quick “Sure! I’d love to!” Because I did want to. Because I grew up in a church that barred women from speaking from the pulpit. Because even though this church didn’t restrict female voices, we rarely heard from them. Because our church had a reputation for caring for women and families, but only because young mothers did the lion’s share of the caregiving for the community. Because I had strong opinions about all of it.

The dinner dishes would have to wait.

Click here to read the rest of this post at the Spiritual Parent. 

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Resurrection

It’s gray and misty outside today. Sometimes rain feels fresh and cleansing but this is the cold, sleety, spitting kind. I’m at a coffee shop but I want to be at home under a big heavy blanket with my kids tucked in beside me. I want to sleep. One of my most beloved spiritual mothers lies unconscious in the hospital. Good Friday was yesterday, Easter tomorrow, and I feel the expansive silence of this day. It yawns into the damp corners of my home and my mind.

I’m remembering Easter Sunday in the church of my childhood. The dozens of lilies circling the stage and the way the pastor greeted our pastel-clad congregation, “He is Risen!” and we’d shout, “He is risen indeed!” A full orchestra led us in the hallelujah chorus, and the pews emptied as men and women crushed in upon the choir to join them for the four part harmony.

For those of us who struggle to find a faith home, to find our part in the choir, to make ourselves presentable, Easter is another lonely holiday. I miss the old certainties during this season more than any other time of the church year. I miss the easy joy, shouting the refrain, singing the triumphal hymns without a flood of questions about what the hell they even mean or how this is good news for the poor and oppressed in this here and now world. I miss the comfort of community where everyone mostly agrees on mostly everything – biblical interpretations, politics, parenting. Nobody thinks about these messy, complicated questions. Nobody wonders what Jesus was actually like, or what he would think of our celebrations. It’s a day of victorious shouts and scalloped potatoes, why ruin that with unanswerable questions?

But it comes with a cost, doesn’t it? The millstone of atonement theology – praying to thank Jesus for dying for my sins, apologizing that he had to, singing “it was my sin that held him there” while I imagine Jesus bloody and limp because I didn’t empty the dishwasher the first time my mom asked, because I shoved my brother, because I had a crush on a boy and daydreamed about being kissed.

It makes a lot of sense that so many of us who were whipped into church submission as 8-year-olds grow up to be the people who jeer “ALL lives matter”, who want to purge our nation of asylum seekers, who scream about bathroom bills. Jesus was, after all, only turned over for execution after the mobs, whipped to religious fervor by the men in power, screamed for his crucifixion.

It’s insidious the way we’ve retold the story of Jesus. He’s been weaponized, a tool for shaming children and adults alike into unquestioning submission. He’s been sanitized from a more aloof Shane Claiborne type into someone who would have been welcomed at a mega church on Sunday morning, someone charmingly edgy who has “a past” (nothing too scandalous), someone who has been carefully groomed to stay theologically “on message”.

We’re told the takeaway, the “good news”, is that we have hope now, now that he’s dead and raised to life. He conquered the grave so you can live forever! Don’t worry about what that means, they say. It’s a wonderful mystery, they say. Jesus is at the right hand of God the Father. Yes, his literal right hand. In heaven, where you’ll have a literal body/no, no body, it’s a place for the soul/we’ll get new bodies. We will/won’t work and learn and marry and have families/new families/we’ll be reunited with old loved ones and live happily every after. We won’t want relationships/won’t want new children/ won’t have sex/we’ll be satisfied in Christ. (ew) You will/won’t get to meet your dead baby/dog/grandma. You won’t want any of that because all you will want is God. There’s really no point in worrying about it. What you need to know is that you should be hell-bound, but thanks to Jesus/predestination/the sinner’s prayer you’re not, and God no longer hates your guts because he murdered his only son for you, to fix the problem of the evil he allowed/created, so just be grateful/trust the bible/don’t ruin Easter dinner with these questions, dammit.

And yet, here I am, 8 or 10 years into the questions and I’m coming back around on this story. On Jesus. On the gospel. I can finally see that Jesus’s cosmic-breaking-in was  for those of us on the margins, those of us that can’t find hope in the answers of the religious elite. Less Gospel Coalition heretic hunting, more college students hunger striking on behalf of their food insecure friends.

The hope of Jesus is the breaking through of the cosmic Christ. The end of the us vs them binary.  In Christ we learn to see the Divine in our sister, our neighbor, and our enemy as we do in ourselves. In Christ we learn to spend our privilege for those without it and to center their stories in our communities, working towards justice together.

I imagine Jesus shaking his head at us, not because we haven’t evangelized enough souls out of hell or because we are “sinful”, but because we’re so distracted by all our rules that we completely miss the work God is already doing in our midst.

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he would say,

“She has called me to give hope to the poor. Yes, just the poor. You wealthy folks are going to have a mighty hard time understanding the kingdom of heaven.

“She has stirred in me a passion to free women and children trapped in the sex trade or in homes with abusive partners and fathers. Her spirit guides us to free the children and their parents held like animals in cages at your borders.

“She insists we ensure proper representation and fair trials for Black and Brown men incarcerated in your evil criminal ‘justice’ system.

“Our great healer waves the banner of healthcare for all, pointing out how ridiculous it is that a civilization advanced enough to develop life-saving medications and surgeries to heal the sick lacks the ethic to actually heal them without demanding payment.

“Most importantly, and hear me on this because y’all struggle: our Divine Mother calls for the centering of the stories of all who have been stepped on and used and tossed aside in your relentless pursuit of a bargain and a bottom line.

“I have come to proclaim a year of jubilee because you thick headed people need a hard reset. Forgive debts, turn over industry to the people, marry, care tenderly for the children and the aged, focus on the needs of the poorest among you.

“Then you will know the kingdom of heaven.”

The government was angry. The religious leaders were incensed. The crowd was full of fear and their imaginations could not see the imprint of the Divine in this vagabond.

So they murdered him.

Not quietly, but publicly. A warning to any others who would dare follow in his steps. I’m not sure what I believe about Jesus’ divinity or his knowledge about what was to come, but he certainly could have run away. He could have fled like his parents did 30 years before, living as refugees while the king had a price on his head. But no, not this time. He submitted to their anger, their fear, their evil. He hung on a cross, a bodily witness to the stone cold hearts of men.

His disciples hid.

The women waited.

And then the women (the women!) told the story, the story of the boy who lived.

I don’t know what the resurrection actually, literally was, and that has bothered me so much for so many years. But even so, I feel this story in my bones. I believe with my whole heart that evil, angry, powerful people do not win. Love abides. It flourishes in the weak, in the forgotten. Perhaps the Resurrection was both an infusion of hope in our desperate humanity and a tugging of the edges of our timeline, a cosmic bend away from our fear-fueled destruction.

A new life in the way of Love.

Resurrection.

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Selah, child of light

For years I have said that miscarrying our tiny Selah was the beginning of the end of faith for me. In the days after that very worst day, family and friends reached out with words of comfort, with meals, with stories of their own loss. Tangible, vulnerable acts of kindness that made me feel less alone. But there were also family and friends and trusted mentors who felt it was important that I understand that no child is promised to heaven except those that God predestines. In fact, they said, it was prideful to claim an assurance of grace for my child – who was I to know the will of God? They said I should find comfort in God who is “in control”, who leads us into suffering for our sake, or for his glory, or to teach us to trust him. It felt like a threat. If he wants to create a child to die in your womb and then condemn that tiny soul to hell, who are you to question him? Maybe he did it precisely because you are the sort who would be brazen enough to call foul. 

The sentiment itself wasn’t shocking. I had always believed this theology, I had even offered those words to friends in their own suffering. But something changed in the sharpness of my grief. Ideas that had once given me comfort now failed because they made God look like a monster who delighted in inflicting suffering or creating and then murdering unborn children and destining their souls for hell, all in some bid to bring himself more glory.  Okay crazy nightmare hitler god. At least hitler was finite. This is the all knowing, all loving, all powerful God, and this is how he uses his power? This is goodness? This is love?

These were the first questions of my deconstruction out of reformed fundamentalism, made possible by the life and death of our dear first daughter. Deconstruction is, itself, a kind of death. An end. But as the years have passed I have begun to see her brief existence as more than just the tipping point out of a toxic faith. She was like a portal to the non-dualities of this universe. Through her I gained eyes to see the fear and oppression that was keeping me in line with this frightening theology. Through her I found the courage to imagine that, if there was a God, a Divine Being, a movement of Love in the universe, it would not, could not, delight in inflicting suffering on human beings or burning tiny fetuses eternally in hell.

Selah taught me how to wonder, how to fight against fear, how to sit with grief and heartache without pithy answers or submission to a dictator’s will. I don’t know if I ever would have found my way out of that toxic theology without her. She led me, with her short life, through all the rules and gates meant to protect God from our humanity. She showed me that God is not a king in a walled off fortress. Love cannot be contained.

I have gained momentum in running after her, following her small frame towards glimpses of the Divine in the wilderness beyond the gates, but it hasn’t been easy. The blinding flood lights and the hum of fluorescent bulbs that keep every doubt or shadowed thought at bay distorted my view of what laid beyond. The light of certainty illuminates all the carefully laid doctrinal walls between the desperate within and the desperate without. For so many years I was so sure that they were right, that God could only exist in this pure architectural wonder. I left timidly, with backwards steps, tripping my way down the front steps and across the grounds. I told myself that I just needed perspective, perhaps a new group or guide could show me how to find my way back in, back to God, back to the community I loved.  The further we ventured, the dimmer the light, the light I thought was God, became. I grew angry, then weary, then hopeless.

But then, at the edges of human answers, I stopped. It felt like the small soul that was tugging me out there was trying to turn my face, to finally look ahead rather than back at what was. By now the fortress was nothing but a dim glow on the horizon and my eyes were finally adjusting to the dark. It was so quiet. But then I turned and found the whole universe stretched out before me, before us, a resplendent tapestry of light and void. It pulsed with hope, with song, and I could finally see the shimmering movement of Love in and among all beings, across time. 

I fell into it, and it caught me, like a child safe in her mother’s arms.


Thank you, Selah-girl, for showing me the way.  For giving me the anger and the courage to escape the oppressive ‘certainties’ so I could experience the delight of true wonder and mystery and awe. Your name means “pause, reflect deeply” and is found at the end of many lines of psalmic poetry. It came to me in those vulnerable days curled up on the couch as you faded from my form, and at the time all I could reflect on was my helplessness and sorrow. I am so grateful for the journey we have been on from that place. Together we have lived into your name fully, always circling back, always with more questions. I never would have had the courage without you, my beloved girl. Thank you leading me home.

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