My tongue is in my hand…

Archive for the ‘perspective’ Category

Sometimes, I think about the blessings I have and I don’t understand. Material things that I don’t necessarily want or need. And then there are these other intangible things that I do want or need. And I feel guilty because I still have so much more than so many others. And I feel sad because I would give up so much to just have the things I really want.

I feel like I should be happy with what I have and do something good and cherish it all, because they are certain blessings.

And I feel like I should be working towards being the person who has what they really want. I have to keep the faith. I have to fake it til I make it, I suppose.

And I have this fear, underneath these other things…that the thing I crave the most is something I am not ready for, something I would mess up if I had it…

so I’m thinking, I should work towards keeping it, even though I don’t have it…I have to believe in the timing, the cosmic timing of it.

I am hungry and tired. Why do I feel that way so much?

My perspective is off this weekend. I feel this weird sort of feeling. I need someone to bounce it off of. I need that thing I always need. I just want to know that everything’s okay.

I guess I’ll just believe it is.

Sometimes, that means moving through the motions of a life, of a day, with my mind and heart far away. As if all of this life is just moonlighting for the real deal that seems just right beyond my grasp, that I get the smallest taste of every once in a while. (the sweetest taste. my most favorite thing. a moment that makes everything else fade away and…it’s too much to write even…)

And regret…regret is useless but tempting. As if it could change anything. Particularly anything a decade old. All I can do is trust this road that has managed to…to allow me some hope and prepare myself for the life I want…there must be a purpose in the blessings, the needs, the moments, the struggle. There’s got to be a purpose in the struggle.

I’m all stirred up and haven’t been able to pour it into anything yet (or onto anyone yet).

 

musing

Posted on: June 20, 2011

Sometimes it hits me hard, quick and hard, what I know about people’s lives now. That I know there are children that were systematically sexually and emotionally abused by their families. Children pimped out by their mothers for drugs. Children tied up in sheds fed like dogs. These sound like news stories, but the thing about news stories is they are real. This is real. I have met these people. I have sat across from them, hugged them, driven them places in my car, laughed with them, seen their constant struggles and frustrations and disappointments and confusions. Their sadness, their underlying hurt and doubt and fear and anger. And I can’t go back and make sure that someone held them and took care of them and made them laugh and feel safe. Like children should.

Heartbreaking is not the word. It hurts my soul. It’s just there are so many ways to be lucky, to be blessed, to be wealthy. And there are so many ways to be poor. Most of us are a little of both. Rich in some things, poor in others. They don’t cancel one another out.

I just hate, really hate, what some people are robbed of. And I just really want to see us all taking care of one another. To be connected…I can’t pinpoint it right now, but it makes a difference.

 

 

As a general practice, I try to keep some things private or vague when blogging, just because it generally seems like a good thing to do. But right now, I just want to be utterly and painstakingly honest. I just need to be. On the very off chance that my husband happens upon this, I’m sorry if I revealed more than you are comfortable with.  But none of it is your fault, or something you should feel or be ashamed of. It’s life. It’s just honesty.

My husband was laid off today (along with several other members of his shift and some long-time office staff and truck drivers who had 15 years + with the company). He has been at this job since January of this year (10 months). He loved this job. He recently blacked out at work and could not wait till the doctors cleared him so that he could get back. (It turned out to be a medication related thing, not a seizure as initially thought). Prior to that he was employed by a local school system in the mechanic and landscaping departments. He began there in August and was laid off in April due to budget cuts system wide (this school system is now closing schools, laying of principals, teachers, and all other variety of staff). Prior to that he was at a trucking company for 5 years. He was laid off due to decreased business/budget cuts. They have since continued to lay off long time staff, some within a year or two of retirement.

His first lay off happened in January 2008. We had just bought our home in October 2007 (3 months prior). Our daughter had just turned 2. We just spent the last of our tax refund on planting bushes around our property line in the back yard. He spent 8 months, until August 2008, unemployed. At first, I was just sure he’d get something soon. I didn’t ask anyone for help, I just used our credit cards to pay bills and figured we’d be back on our feet in no time, pay it all down and off and move on. Thankfully I work full time and was able to put myself and our daughter on my insurance (decreasing my take home pay). We didn’t put him on my insurance. It was another 50$ a paycheck and we figured he would get something soon enough.

Once he found a job,  he took a 4$/hr pay cut.  He was miserable at the job itself. He had to have emergency gall bladder surgery only a few weeks into the job and was out of work for 6 weeks. Thankfully, my mom worked for the same school system (she’s now laid off too) and was able to donate her excess of PTO to him, so we didn’t have to go without pay for 6 weeks. Also, thankfully as a state employee, his insurance had already kicked in.

He had that job for 8 months. He was laid off in April of 2009. He did not get another job until January of 2010. That was 9 months unemployed. When he found this job he had to take another 2$ pay cut from his last job. That’s an 8$/hr pay cut from when we bought this house. that’s a $1200/month deficit. He had this job 10 months. Only one month longer than it took to find this job.

I have received a slight raise since this happened. We had to stop paying credit cards. They are in collections. Every single bill is late. We have 2 credit cards and 2 loans we are trying to keep up along with my car payment, house payment, car insurance, power, natural gas, water, internet ( I need for work), cell phones (we don’t have a land line), gas for our cars, groceries, and clothing/medical/misc. We’ve both looked for 2nd jobs. I have applied for and been turned down for mortgage loan modifications and the Making Home Affordable program (bet your ass I’m trying again). Thankfully my mother in law watches my daughter when she’s not in preschool. Also thankfully, my mother in law covers Natalie’s preschool tuition, as she used to get it free when my mother in law worked at her preschool and though she doesn’t anymore, she has still generously and lovingly offered to pay her MWF preschool tuition.

At some point and time over the past few years, our water has been cut off, our natural gas has been cut off, our phones have been cut off, our tv service has been cut off, we had a threat of our home being foreclosed, and of my car being repossessed. I’ve bounced checks and overdrafted our bank account (usually just to get groceries to cover until our next paycheck). Last year, right at the end of the year, we were negative in the bank and I seriously rolled quarters to get us to the next paycheck. Not to mention the endless phone calls of bill collectors. Our parents have helped us. Our friends have helped us. Our church has helped us. No one has much though. But they are generous and gracious. With the exception of one. I won’t be that honest though. There’s just no need. Just to say, I do have it thrown in my face that I owe money. Not just by bill collectors.

Somehow, we’re still here. But I’m really tired. Every month, I am hustling our money around, bargaining and begging and I’m just tired. I have no long term plan. I’m just trying to get through a week. I have, though, rediscovered my love of bargain shopping, goodwill hunting, consignment, and yard sales. I really do enjoy those things. Mostly.

I’m just dreading what’s coming. Because we’ve been here before. Everyone I’ve talked to has said “It’ll be okay”. And at this point, I don’t really doubt that anymore. We’ve come this far. I don’t really doubt provision. I’m just tired. I just don’t know what will happen to me between now and the time that it’s “okay”. I just want to be able to pay my bills. All of them. On time. I just want my husband to have a job he enjoys, that is secure, that he feels good about, that pays him what he’s worth. While I’m at it, I want a job that I feel good about that pays me what I’m worth.But seriously…

I’m dreading his job search. Him being home, bored, bummed, and no longer medicated. He’s on a medication for his OCD/anxiety that is 240$ without insurance. He’s going off of the medication now, since he won’t have insurance. He thinks it will be fine. But I remember. And it’s not fine. I may go fucking insane. Or become a day drinker. Either way…

I know we are blessed. I do not for a minute deny that. That doesn’t mean I’m not tired.

I cried for at least an hour in the car today. Like a maniac. The only thing that really made me stop was driving to the coffee shop (Caribou) to meet a friend. I parked behind the dumpster and gathered myself. I wiped my face, blew my nose for the millionth time and put on makeup. Slowly. Then I downed a muscle relaxer and a pain killer that were prescribed to me for migraines by drinking water from my daughter’s sippy cup, as it was the only beverage in the car and that pain pill was big. I took a deep breath, checked my bloodshot eyes one more time and kind of wished I smoked so that I would have some eyedrops on me and stepped out of my car and spent the afternoon there. I never made it back to work that afternoon.

It’s funny, something like this doesn’t make you want to work harder to keep your job. It just makes you not give a damn. What does it matter? If they need to axe people, they axe them, doesn’t matter how many times you came to work an utter mess, or how many times you gave up seeing your kid’s thanksgiving program, or went above and beyond your job description. There’s no real formula for success, except figuring out how to enjoy your life regardless of the bullshit.

On the way home, I bought him a bottle of Crown and myself a bottle of Skinnygirl Margarita (never had it before). I called my girlfriends. I went to the grocery store and bought junk food and a dog toy. I got Chinese for our dinner. After I played with our daughter and got her into bed, I spent 28$ on Amazon because I needed to buy the book for book club and it was 4$ with free shipping if I bought 25$ worth of stuff. So I got a Christmas present for my husband and one for my daughter and some kind of luminous lotion for myself along with the book. I drank and made him a  drink and I watched Without a Trace and he played xbox and then I made cookies and cheese sticks and gave him a back rub and he’s sleeping and I’m typing the longest blog ever. And still drinking.

I forgot to mention. We got a check in the mail yesterday from Jason’s insurance company from when he blacked out at work. It was out of network for some reason, so instead of sending payment to the EMS, they sent it to him. $1200.00. For us to pay the ambulance company. I told him and my mom (who was over when I opened the mail) that we should put that shit in the bank, use it as needed and deal with the bill when it comes. It’s not like we’re worried about messing up our credit. They said no. I told them they need to get on my level. The insurance company put the check in my husband’s name, with no indication of what he was to do with it (he found out by calling this morning). I say, that’s your dumb fault if you write checks to people and expect them to pay whoever with them. Really.

As of today, my husband and my mom got on my level. They said, in essence, pay bills with that shit. I said. Thank you. It’s about damn time.

Also, my husband finally decided to do without satellite. I grew up with only like 8 channels, so I’m okay with going back to tv minimal life. Between Netflix and Hulu, I think we’ll be just fine. Our daughter will be most irritated at first probably, but you know, she’s young, she’ll adjust. She probably watches way too much anyways.

He’s so bummed. I keep forgetting this is real. Like it’s a joke and I’m waiting for the punchline. He gets two weeks severance. He put in for unemployment already. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a “Welcome back!” message when he signed on. I know he’s tired too. He did start taking online classes a few months ago, for wildlife conservation. He has time to catch up on classes now…

Things like this do make you shake off the rest of the world for a minute. Kind of a “Fuck you, I don’t give a shit what you think or want right now” kind of thing and that’s relieving sometimes. Actually my true self is very similar to this, I just have come so far from that true self lately. It’s kind of nice to be there again, regardless of circumstances. Because the truth of the matter is this: not only is there no formula for success (besides finding a way to be happy in spite of the bullshit), but there’s also no way to really walk the line between giving damn and not giving a damn. Pretty sure Reese Witherspoon told this to Joaquin already, In “Walk The Line” but you know, I guess I try most of the time to keep some kind of middle ground. But you know, I’m tired. I guess what I have to figure out is what exactly it is I’m tired of and what’s keeping me from letting it go…

In the meantime…we’re a single income household again. We’re a drawing unemployment household with an uninsured adult male not receiving the medication he needs family again. Oh fucking well. Gotta roll with the punches, right?

So, I’ve seen this  link passed around, where a doctor states that our problem as a country is not that we need health care reform, but that we have a culture crisis of people that think “I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me”. He then follows that up with “life is really not that hard”. That line in and of itself reveals a good bit about the person behind this. Anyone who has the naivete to say this should not be patted on the back for spouting off his short sighted opinions. Not to mention there are plenty of explanations as to why someone on Medicaid has a cell phone (with, god forbid, an R&B ring tone) or new tennis shoes but can not afford their own health insurance.

First of all, a cell phone is no longer a luxury (and a ring tone is like $2.99, and who knows, maybe that song keeps the person’s spirits up, all for $2.99). Many people only have cell phones and do not have home phones. If you expect someone to orchestrate getting a job, childcare, and schooling, they need a phone to do so. Especially if they don’t have a car. Tennis shoes are also not a luxury. You have absolutely no idea what someone spent on their shoes, or if they were a gift. Nevertheless, shoes are a one time expense. Health insurance is expensive on a monthly basis (my cheap plan through work is 150$ a month for my daughter and I, without vision coverage), and not all jobs offer it, especially if you are working 2 part time jobs because neither company wants to pay benefits. Or if you make minimum wage ($7.25/hr) and live below the poverty line raising children and can’t afford to have it taken out of your measly check.

And just shut up about things like people’s fake nails, cigarettes, and beer. We all have our vices or our little ways we treat ourselves. If you really think that that extra 20$ will make a huge dent in their financial situation, you have no idea what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck your entire life, so just stop running your mouth. It’s important for our mental and emotional health as human beings (that’s right, people on welfare are human beings too) to do things to take care of ourselves and to have an indulgence or something that we enjoy or relieves stress for us. (Not that I think smoking is a great choice, but it could be worse).You can’t walk a tightrope all the time, even if the more fortunate think you should (because, by being poor, you’ve proven that you don’t deserve any of these things apparently).

Now beyond that, it still appalls me that there are people who don’t believe that health care is something we all have a right to have (like public education) and that it’s okay that it’s for-profit (unlike a public education, why is this okay?). That people think it should be earned, as if not everyone is worthy or worth health care (and as if it is not completely detrimental to our society to have people without health care). And that if you get help, you are relinquishing your rights to live as you want and you are opening your life to constant scrutiny, as if by accepting help, you have sold yourself to any and all taxpayers (even if you are also a taxpayer). And beyond this, what about all those people that can’t qualify for Medicaid or regular insurance? Too bad, so sad?

It must be nice to have your life so put together and unaffected by any misfortune that you can’t buy your way out of that you’ve got nothing else to do but criticize other people’s.

The fact that we have masses and masses of people with no apparent understanding of the concept of being part of a community, a society, a connected group of people whose well-being depends upon all others within that group is a culture crisis.

Guess what? The more poor, homeless, sick, needy people you have in your community, the worse off your community is. Walking around grunting about “your money” won’t improve your society. You being well-off does not benefit your society unless you utilize your resources to benefit your community. And guess what? You’ll only be safe in your little cocoon of “well-off” for so long before it all trickles up to you, or before you fall. At some point, the deterioration of your society will become a disadvantage to you. Is that the only time it matters?This is the culture crisis.

The problem is not that people think they can do nothing and have someone else take care of them, but that people can be so selfish, naive, and uninformed to think that’s really the case. Every group of people (race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, social class, etc) has a set of outliers that makes the whole group look bad, as the people that abuse the welfare system do for all those living below the poverty line. Why is it okay within our society to make such sweeping prejudice remarks and judgments about our fellow citizens? That is a culture crisis.

Oh, I know this is not the only group of people that are suffering from societal prejudice, as we all know there’s still ugly racism, sexism, homophobia and religious intolerance running rampant all over this country. And there’s the rest of our culture crisis right there.

The fact that teens and children are committing suicide because they were bullied for being homosexual is a culture crisis. The fact that a “Christian” pastor was trying to lead a group of people to burn the Quran (and people were going to do it!) is a culture crisis. The fact that women are made to feel bad whether they are work or stay at home and dads are made to feel bad for staying home is a culture crisis. The fact that there is even an Arizona Immigration Bill SB1070 that people support is a culture crisis. The fact that we have people routinely believing sensationalized media stories that affect the way they treat others, act, and vote is a culture crisis. The fact that anyone believes socioeconomic status is an indicator of someone’s worth, including their own, is a culture crisis.  The fact that  the amount of millionaires in the U.S. rose while the amount of those living below the poverty line increased this year is a culture crisis. The fact that victims of sexual abuse have to validate that they weren’t “asking for it” is a culture crisis. The fact that in 1.5 million children are homeless in the U.S.  is a culture crisis. The fact that the U.S. has a grade D mental health system is a culture crisis.  These are culture crises. The fact that someone on Medicaid has new tennis shoes and an R&B ring tone on their cell phone is not a culture crisis. It’s actually none of your business.

I seriously hope that any of my friends or family that jump onto the kind of bandwagons that people like the doctor who wrote this little rant are driving are doing so due to lack of information, not because they are actually that selfish and naive. There is no way to grasp the full scope of someone’s life within one encounter and it’s an insult to your own intelligence to criticize the life or lifestyle decisions of someone you don’t even know.

If you don’t understand what’s so hard about becoming a U.S. citizen, then go find someone who’s trying to do this and stick with them through the whole process no matter how many years, setbacks, or roadblocks it takes. If you don’t understand how someone can need Medicaid and food stamps for an extended period of time, then get to know someone in that situation and watch them try to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and get to know the system that you’re criticizing- you may find yourself criticizing it for all new reasons. If you don’t understand how bullying could push someone to suicide, then find a group of people who hate you for what you are (white, tall, female, a dog lover, whatever) and let them spit hate speech at you on a daily basis. If you think people should not expose you to their religion, then don’t expose anyone to yours, ever, and if you slip up and mention something religious in a public place, I hope that everyone looks at you like you’re a terrorist.

Life is hard. You know what’s really not that hard though? Being a decent human being and caring about people are are different from you as if they were you or your loved ones (because you never know, one day it may be you or someone you love in a tough spot)- offering them compassion, tolerance, and support.

The fact that some people live differently than we do or make decisions we don’t agree with is not our culture crisis. The fact that we are a society that struggles with human decency and respect towards one another is.

So much of our life is about perception.

What if everything is okay, right now, always? What if we’re missing it the whole time because of how we’re looking at it? What if nothing was not okay?

What if our expectations, standards, and perspectives are the only thing making things not okay? What if we were to stop thinking in terms of right and wrong, to stop trying to make everything fit into an equation or a diagram, to stop thinking in  “should” and “shouldn’t s”. How would this change us?

So many of us are fed such stringent stories and guidelines of faith and prayer and God that even if well intentioned (and I’m not sure it always is), it hinders us. Because there are discrepancies in the kind of belief you have before you see so many perceived bad things happen to perceived good people.  Before you realize that no matter how much someone plays by the rules they can still lose it all or get burned.  Before you see suffering and sickness and death strike with no order, not passing over the faithful. When you’re really out there living, nothing is like it was taught to you, you have to find for yourself what your faith is, what your prayer is, who your God is.

You have to find what’s within you, you have to build within yourself. The more you have within you, the less you need from anyone, anything else. And, ultimately, the more you have within you, the less you have to lose from around you.

This is how I come to belief- from within, from the place where I am defining for myself what belief is, who God is, what prayer is. From the place where I am letting go of all the definitions I’ve been fed.

I have decided that prayer is about energy, and belief. It is communion, it is communication. It is the way we live, our lives are prayers. And the times we stop to pray, we are aligning ourselves with the energies around us, we are drawing respite and renewal, we are releasing negativity, requesting assistance, we are communicating, we are connecting, we are believing that prayer matters, that our concerns matter, that we matter, that God exists, and that God cares, that God is able.

I have decided that belief is a choice. It is how I choose to interact with myself and my world. Belief, like love, is not earned, it is an effort from within.

I believe we can choose what to do with the shatter that comes into our lives. And that sometimes (or maybe all the time) it takes something falling apart for us to really dig in and develop some depth to faith and belief. I believe that belief is a choice to constantly make, I believe that the act of belief is a defiance of fear, circumstance, hate, and ugliness.

I think we get chances all the time to choose belief, or choose anything else in it’s place. And I think we have to be careful of what we choose, because there’s only so much room in us. I think that it’s something to constantly reconsider, redefine, and reshape as our lives and hearts and minds move through this life.

I think the dirtier we get believing, the more we know about what we believe. I think laying down belief for a little bit due to anger, disappointment, doubt, etc, allows us to see ourselves and our world without it and allows us to decide if we want it back and what amendments we want or have to make to it. I think it takes seeing what our faith is not to know what it is. I think that all of these things make our faith not only more authentic for us, but to others as well.

I believe not blindly and not because my world hasn’t shattered, but because it has, and I have laid down belief and I know who I am without belief and I don’t like that person. I believe because I have to if I’m going to get up in the morning, because I need to, because I want to. I believe, even knowing that bad things do happen, have happened, can happen, will happen.

I believe we are part of something so much bigger than we can see, something that we only occasionally get a glimpse at, still unsure what it creates in the big picture. Like a stained glass mural or patchwork quilt, a symphony; all the pieces needing the others to make the masterpiece.

I believe because I’m a fighter and I’ll fight off darkness with belief because I don’t have room for both in me. And while I know I have to enter the dark at times, I will fight to keep it from entering me. And I don’t always succeed at that, but I will keep defying it.

I have seen that there are tunnels and there is light. I believe not because I always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but because I know there is a light. I believe knowing that there is light before and after the tunnel; and there is a tunnel before and after the light. I believe that with each light, I can take for myself a portion to carry through the next tunnel, and I can do this until the tunnel has no more room for darkness, and I am with the light all the time. But I have to keep moving and I have to keep pushing the darkness out with the light; within me, around me, before me.

There is a beautiful release in belief and I think we talk about that a lot, but we don’t always talk about the battle. And it is both. Freedom comes at a price. It always has.

Because fear is an enemy, an army. Fear debilitates, censors, triggers the ugliest places in us, limits us, locks us into panic rooms with no light, no air.  Fear is a wolf that comes to our door in sheep’s clothing and devours us.  Fear paralyzes, marbleizes, tethers us to dry and barren places and tells us they are safe zones.  Fear is a lie.

Belief is defiance of fear.  Belief is free and open and empowering.  Belief breathes life into us.  Belief unchains us from regulations and codes and methods that were designed to control us with fear, manipulating our desire for control and sense of security.  The only security I’ve found is belief. The only freedom I’ve found is belief.

So, through this, I’ve decided that I believe this about God:

When God is small, when God is punishing, when God is vengeful, when God is abandoning, when God is limited, when God is no longer magnificent and loving and graceful and magical and majestic and caring and powerful and a worker of miracles, it is because we have perceived God as such. It doesn’t mean any of those things are God, it just means that is what we have decided God is, and so, for us, that’s what God is.

When God is timeless and present and kind and understanding, it is because we believe God is so. When God is magnificent and loving and graceful and magical and majestic and caring and powerful and the worker of miracles, it is because we allow God to be these things in our lives, because we perceive God to be these things and with this perception, we bust the doors of our souls wide open and anything is possible.

I believe in God with us, in us, for us. God as companion, God as love, God as compassion, God as service, God as an artist, God as beauty, God as powerful, God as present, God as supernatural.

I believe God loves me fully, passionately, unconditionally, irrevocably, honestly, adoringly, and lives in me, around me, with me, through me. I believe this is true for everyone.

I truly believe we find what we seek, not we we demand, not what we wish, but what we seek, actively seek.

I believe when you see God as the fullness that God is, you begin to see God everywhere. You begin to see beauty in places and people you haven’t before, you begin to see the movement of the  spirit all around.  You begin to see, because you are looking.

When I let go and just be, just believe, everything is stars and light and colors and gorgeous. Everything is what it is and that is somehow fine. I find myself in places, with people that are both blessings and sanctuaries. It’s amazing the things you can enjoy when you’re not factoring in anyone elses standards or opinions and you are just being the being that you were created to be. It’s a beautiful high.

So I believe because I need to, because I want to, because I choose to. I struggle, I crash, but I keep coming back to this. I feel the most beautiful, the most fearless, the most alive, the most inspired, the most powerful, the most passionate, the most creative, the most hopeful, peaceful, joyful, loving, and kind when I am believing the things I believe. At this point, that’s all the evidence I need.

Today

Posted on: June 15, 2010

I will never fail you nor forsake you. (Heb. 13:5)

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wing’s as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

I’m leaving you with a gift: peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So, don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters … they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God” (Isaiah 43:1-3).

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

God,

Please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Belief

Posted on: June 6, 2010

Sometimes, a lot of times, writing is the only thing that makes me feel powerful…it’s empowering…it’s active…I don’ t know why I just don’t write sometimes. I should write all the time, but it’s like there’s some block…not writers block, something else. And it’s not just with writing, there are the walls I hit, far too often that just knock me down, or that I just keep hitting my head against, over and over until I feel defeated. I don’t know how it happen, what it is, but it takes me down…anyways, I’m writing right now…

Do you ever feel like there is only one lesson you are ever really supposed to learn in your life, something that you keep coming back to, over and over in varying degrees? Belief is my lesson. I just know it.

I will not let anything steal my joy. I won’t. New decision. Our joy is our strength, so I won’t let it be stolen. Even as I write this, I am struggling to believe it, but I’m going to write it. Because writing is powerful.

“If you would just trust me, your whole life would be amazing…even the struggles would be adventures, opportunities, open doors…open your mind to more than the world, what the world says is good or bad or scary or sad…get beyond that, beyond people, even the people you love…they have their own lessons, their own journeys and all you can do is live your life the best way you know how, that’s the most help you can ever give, honestly…it really really is. I love you. I’m the mountain mover. Why don’t you believe me? Just believe me. It’s a beautiful world, it’s a beautiful life…you have to believe…and write even when you feel blocked. Don’t get discouraged when you feel exhausted, cloudy…just give it to me, just let it go. Just believe.”

I’m trying, I’m trying. Guide me Lord, I need you. I keep falling back into the same thoughts, the same habits, the same fears. I keep getting overwhelmed and exhausted. I’m not delving into your grace, into faith. I need help to be free from what holds me back. I need help with clarity. I need help with follow through. I need help living the best I can. I know I’m not right now. There’s too much negativity and anxiety for this to be the “best”, so please deliver me from the chains, help me please be free in you. Lift me when I fall, encourage me when I feel defeated, give me energy when I feel exhausted, grant me clarity when I feel confused, hope when I feel despair, strength when I feel weak, joy when I feel depressed, peace when I feel worried, please please help me. I can’t live with anxiety, exhaustion. I need your deliverance. I know there are life circumstances that I’ve been letting get the best of me- instead of seeking your magnificence, I’ve been fearful, anxious, confused, weary. I want to let that go, I’m letting that go. You are more, life is more. I can not live worried anymore. I have to let it go and believe you will guide me, you will show me the ways to go, you will make a way where there seems to be no way, so that’s it. No point in knotting myself up about it. You are in control, you have it all in your hands. I need to let it go. And the thing is, it’s everywhere…the things I fear, the anxiousness – it can be triggered anywhere I am, anytime of day or night, all thinking about money or the lack there of and what the world tells me that means, what the world says will happen, what the world thinks of that, how scared the world is of that and it makes me feel like I should be scared, like I should be freaking out all the time and like I should feel discouraged and defeated and I’ve been believing this crap. Please help me believe in miracles, in your miracles, not just water to wine kinds of things, but the miracle that is life outside of this earth, the miracle that is trust, that is belief, that is hope and joy. Lead me in these ways, in the ways of peace and in the powerful presence of everlasting hope and eternal love, redeeming, powerful thing that it is. May the things that bother me become convictions to seek you out, to delve into hope and belief, to pray for peace and guidance to move as you will have me move, to allow you to move as you will move, may my worries become convictions and my convictions become actions of faith…I want more than worry, I want more than the world…  Please, help me let it go…I love you.

Dear Natalie,

It’s been while since I’ve written you a letter (the others are in a yellow spiral notebook on the bookshelf in the computer room, not that they’ll be there forever, but that’s where they are right now…)

As a  mother, I know I don’t always do everything right, but I am doing the best I can at any given moment. Sometimes, that may seem like it’s not good enough, believe me, I know – but be assured that I’m a work in progress, just like everyone else on this whole entire earth (so don’t let anyone fool you), I’m learning as I go, and doing my very very best.

Right now, more than I have in years and years, I’m paying attention to the debates and criticisms regarding feminism, racism, Christianity. I think about the world I was raised in, versus the world you will be raised in. I think about the world I was raised in versus the world others in my generation were raised in. We can’t separate ourselves from the places we are raised, we can only be willing to love and learn from those places that we begin.

And know this, I’m far less interested in the technicalities than the big picture, so I may let some things slide that other parent’s wouldn’t, but I can guarantee you that if I ever witness or hear of you degrading another human being for any reason whatsoever, I will tear into you in ways you can never imagine until we can re-arrange whatever spring that ugliness sprang from. You are not allowed to treat people poorly, no matter who they are, no matter what you or anyone else thinks of them. We are all equally worthy beings on this earth. I will not insist on many things from you, but I do insist that you treat others with respect, and that you treat yourself with respect. If it is my job to do anything as a parent, I believe it is my job to do this, to help you cultivate respect for yourself and others. I won’t tolerate you degrading yourself any more than I will tolerate you degrading someone else. And believe me, I know how hard it is to do this sometimes. For me right now, the struggle is with respecting myself as much as I respect others. I don’t know what your struggles will be, but I’m doing my best to work through things myself, so I can help you do the same, as much as possible.

I’ve been thinking about all kinds of things lately, things I want to pass along to you, things I want you to know. I have no idea how old you’ll be when you read this, assuming you read this, but I’m not going to talk down to you. I don’t believe in talking down or up to people. Whether you are six or sixteen or twenty six, I’m sure you will take from this what you can, what you need at the time. I’m also sure this will only be one of many many things I write you. Maybe one day they’ll be all bound together in notebooks or folders or envelopes. I can’t promise you that though. I realize that I can’t promise you much about the future at all.

But I do promise you this, I love you fully and deeply. Your father loves you fully and deeply. Your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins love you fully and deeply. God loves you fully and deeply. You are loved completely, always, as you are, no exceptions, no conditions. You are unconditionally loved, for eternity. If you are still and quiet enough, you’ll feel it in the sun, in the wind, in all the energy around you- you’ll see it in the trees and clouds and in the faces of strangers, you’ll see it everywhere you go. If you look, if you believe it, you will see it everywhere you go.

Which leads me to the next thing- belief. Belief is the very most important thing I’ve learned about so far in my life. Your belief will determine everything. Whether you believe the good or the bad, it will determine everything for you. I struggle every day with belief, so by no means at all do I expect you to master this, I just want to share this with you – I hope you see it in me, that I believe; that my life is better because of belief in good, in love, in forgiveness, in kindness, in magic, in God, in beauty, in joy, in mercy, in fun, in grace, in creativity, in respect, in humor, in the power of caring, in the supernatural, in peace, in freedom.

I want you to know that you always have the option to be free from the chains the world offers you. The chains look so pretty sometimes, it’s easy to wear them, to wrap yourself up in them and get comfortable. But one day, you will want to fly, and you will want to be free.

This is what I know about freedom: Freedom is choosing to love instead of hate. It is choosing to accept the unconditional love you are offered, and using it to propel you. It is choosing to forgive others instead of harboring ill will or seeking revenge. It is choosing to forgive yourself instead of engaging in regret. It is choosing to love yourself instead of giving in to self-hate. It is choosing to be generous instead of selfish. It is choosing gratitude instead of envy or bitterness. It is choosing determination instead of defeat. It is choosing to hope instead of despair. It is choosing to have faith instead of anxiety. It is choosing to be kind instead of hateful. It is choosing to believe that mountains can move instead of being fearful that they will crush you. It is choosing to allow yourself to feel whatever you feel, instead of numbing yourself.  It is choosing to think for yourself instead of being told what to think. It is choosing to be a positive member of your community instead of complaining about the problems. It is choosing to be open to people, to possibilities  instead of being closed to them. It is choosing to allow yourself to be ordinary, or extraordinary as you see fit for yourself. It is choosing to stand with the crowd at times and at others,  it is choosing to be alone  instead of being with the crowd.  And though at times you may feel that freedom means you are standing all by yourself, rest assured that you are not alone. Keep moving, you’ll find so many others like you along the way, don’t let fear keep you in a box, there are millions of amazing souls out here to mingle with. But don’t burn your bridges, freedom is about opening yourself and allowing yourself to connect, it’s not about separating yourself.

I will do everything I can to protect you from those who try to harm you, but I know I can not protect you from life, from the aches and hurts and disappointments and struggles. To do so would rob you of the joys and excitements and challenges that will allow you to utilize what you have within in you. Besides, there are some battles we all have to fight for ourselves at some time or another, and to do so, we need to practice. I would be doing you a disservice to jump in and save you every time you struggled. That being said, I may step back, but I’ll never leave you. I’ll always be with you, even when there are battles you must fight on your own, I will be right here, cheering you on. I will be right here, to help you gather your resources, to help you heal. You carry me with you, as I carry you with me. That is an unchangeable truth.

I hope you find ways to take the things in your life that you can’t control, the things that hurt you and anger you and disappoint you and break your heart and dampen your spirit and use them to move you; I hope you find ways to turn them within you, into something bigger, to provide fuel, to create something defiant and beautiful. As long as you are loving and respectful, you are encouraged to be defiant and beautiful (you couldn’t be beautiful without being loving and respectful anyways).

And here’s something else I want you to know, many have fought for you to do what you want with your life. You don’t have to be a mother or a wife. You don’t have to be a lawyer or a rock star. You don’t have to be a teacher or a construction worker. You don’t have to be a politician or a preacher. You don’t have to be a fast food worker or a tattoo artist. You don’t have to be a farmer or a mill worker or a secretary. You don’t have to be a chemist or a missionary. You don’t have to be a nurse or a bus driver or a entrepreneur. You don’t have to be a postal worker or a nanny or a firefighter. You don’t have to be a hairstylist or an interior designer. You don’t have to be a writer or a mechanical engineer or a psychiatrist or a chef. You don’t have to be an insurance agent or a mechanic or a doctor. You don’t have to be a dental assistant or a veterinarian or a salesperson or an executive. But you can be. You can be whatever you find that fits, whatever you choose. You can be many many things. That opportunity did not come without a price. It does not come without a price. Value your options, daughter and choose wisely, choose selfishly, choose bravely, choose lovingly.

Value your life. Value the people in your life. Value yourself. Value your days: your good days, your bad days, your boring days, your monumental days. Value all the intricacies of your life.

Because here’s the thing about life- You have to be willing to commit to loving it, the whole of it, and everyone in it, or you’re just going to hate it. You have to love it enough to take it as it is. You have to love it enough to always engage in making it better. You’ll probably find that how you feel about life is how you feel about God. And that how you think life feels about you is how you think God feels about you. So believe life loves you, take what life gives you and embrace all the tiniest pieces of it. Don’t let the busyness, the negative, the pessimists around you keep you from absorbing the love, keep you from loving. Don’t let yourself box life and people up. Life is fluid, people are multidimensional, don’t let your spirit get wrapped up in structures. You have the option to be free, you always have this option.

Take what you are given and give it back into life, love life back. Be brave, be loving, have belief. Have belief so you can believe. Believe in love. Believe so much that you don’t have room for fear or hate or self pity. Believe enough to see past the mountains that pop up in your way, believe the mountains are beautiful, movable, or that the route over or around them is amazing.

Commit. Commit to loving life. Otherwise, you’ll wind up wasting all your time hating it.

Now, I’ve written this as much (if not more)  for myself  as I have for you, my precious precious heart. Like I said, I’m learning along the way. I love you fiercely little one. Little silly, sweet, crazy, smart, joyful girl. The prayer in my heart for you right now is that you know love, that you feel within you the breadth and depth of the love that is yours. Love will get you so much farther than anything else, but remember, you have to believe it.

I love you Natalie Grace.

Love,

Me (Mom)

Growing up in a Christian church, there was always a lot of talk about putting God first, making God a priority, and about denying ourselves our “selfish desires”. I think these two things contradict themselves for someone who has accepted the love of God into their lives. If now, God lives in me as love, and God created me, then wouldn’t one of the best ways to get in touch with God be to get in touch with myself? To explore my desires, to indulge the things that pull at my heart and spirit? If God lives in us, then wouldn’t listening to our selves be listening to God? To do this, wouldn’t it take tuning out everything else at times, or most of the time? Shouldn’t we, with God in us, be the priority in our lives, with all other things coming after? If I can not hear myself, can not mend myself, can not refresh myself, can not address my needs, can not engage in the things that press on my God- designed, God-entwined heart, can not touch base with God within myself then how can anything else I do be in tune with God, how can I touch base with God anywhere outside of myself? But the church taught me for so long to deny myself, that it’s taken me years to understand that this was incomplete information, it was the beginning of a lesson that no one bothered to follow up on. I’m realizing that the things I do that perhaps no one else in the whole entire world (or my whole entire world) seems to agree with, but rests well on my heart, always serves me better than following anyone else’s guidelines for “the right thing”. Because my relationship with God is about me. Not anyone else (not even the church). Everyone else has to settle what they have to settle between God and themselves. I have to trust that God is handling everything else, whatever I forsake to indulge in the movement. Moving against the standards  set up by those around me is moving in faith. Even if it’s moving against the standards of the (imperfect, human run, though- most- likely- well intentioned) church. I have to trust that whatever time I spend with God, forsaking all else, will make me a better person for all else. And I have to spend time evaluating everything, sans the world- what’s working, what’s not, what have I learned, what do I need, etc. More time, just God and I. While, in the church, quiet time or devotions are encouraged, I’ve found that they are encouraged within the realm of the world – that you don’t dare disrupt any of the worlds in which you reside.  Christianity seems to expect you to tread so lightly in every realm of your life that you are constantly tangled up in the world and it’s expectations. Yes, by acting in and with love, we can honor God in anything we do…but when we’re suffocated by the standards and expectations of everyone around us, we are ineffective. Why isn’t this a constant conversation in the church?

Sometimes, I feel like the Christian church perpetually teaches the remedial version of faith, never moving forward, always waiting for everyone in their midst to grasp the basics of the religion, before they really get into the abstract parts. While anyone can gain from reviewing the basics, what do you do when it’s time to start applying the basics? Where’s the person talking about how sometimes, to put God first, you literally have to forsake all others: you have to stop working, ignore your boss, your job, your church, your parents, your spouse, your children, your debts, your home, your pets, your friends, your government, your responsibilities, everything: every standard, every rule, every expectation , all of it being worldly, and subject to seperating you from God, even with the best intentions.  And you have trust that God will take care of everything while you sit alone with God, with yourself, for however long is necessary, while you move where ever you are moved.

Who’s going to talk about how this may not necessarily be one big event or moment in your life, but that it may be a daily thing, a weekly thing, a seasonal thing? Why am I wondering if I’m the only person in the world who is in this place, who’s been here? Sure, someone’s read me a verse that says, you must forsake all others and follow Christ. Sure, someone will say that if the world hates you, it’s okay, because Christ has overcome the world. Great. Two sentences. Why aren’t we talking about what this looks like, how this feels, in real life?   Where’s the incessant discussion regarding this (instead of, perhaps, homosexuality- or something equally less important to our spiritual growth)? Why aren’t we evolving as spiritual beings? Why do we only expect people to be able to spout out Sunday School answers?   Where’s the discussion on the individuality of faith, of spiritual growth? Why do we all expect it to look the same on everyone? Why is the church afraid of getting messy with faith? Why does the church rely on black and white so much, why is it so fearful of all the gray that is the individual application of faith? Why do the standards of Christians get more specific than love God, love one another? Are Christians that dense that we need someone to give us rules beyond love to live by? The church is so wrapped up in setting and applying it’s own standards for faith in the world, that it has become part of the world that one must ignore to really hear God. Are the structures of the church impeding the growth of the church in regards to allowing and encouraging members to evolve spiritually?

Oh, people are good at saying they know faith is individual, but the actions of the Christian church do not support this. It supports conformity far more than it supports growth outside of conformity. It seems to have so low an expectation for it’s community of believers that it simplifies everything to boxes and lists and categories to keep from confusing anyone. It is a social and political organization, as well as a religious one, and it’s rare to find a church were you can escape these undertones and overtones.  Not to say I dismiss the potential and positive impact of being part of a church community, because I do believe people can benefit from being part of a group of people who care about you and care about others as well. I think church is, overall, a good thing to be part of. I just wonder, is there too much teaching in churches and too little discussion and application when it comes to the intangibles? It’s great that someone has studied the Bible and public speaking and can “teach me” about the Bible, and I gather good info and insight through sermons most of the time, and if nothing else, it gives me a chance to sit in one place, quiet, for an hour with others who are doing the same…it serves me well, no doubt. But when do we come together to discuss it? Bible study and Sunday School are another hour of the basics being taught with little opportunity for discussion beyond more basic answers….it’s like we’ve got everyone on the short bus of faith, perpetually. Shouldn’t we expect more from ourselves, from each other? Shouldn’t we be going deeper on a regular basis? Shouldn’t we be experimenting with love and faith and hope and joy and forgiveness  and then evaluating the results as some kind of community? Shouldn’t we be sharing more? Shouldn’t we be getting messier with our faith amongst one another (and in the world as a whole)?

I want to talk  in church, with my church families. I want discussions. Group discussions. Where we push ourselves and each other, where we get uncomfortable, where we question, where we discuss personal applications of faith, where we get confused and frustrated and show one another grace and mercy, where we seek answers, where we share insight, where we agree to disagree, where we intersect among our spiritual journeys, share stories, gather resources and reserves, where we let go of the standards of the world, of our worlds, where we evolve and move…where we practice among each other what we hope to practice outside of the church…unconditional love…

I’m so tired of feeling like I’m trapped in remedial classes every time I’m in church. As much as I love the people in the church, sometimes it’s like I’m suffocating;  we can’t keep breathing the same air over and over without it eventually becoming toxic. We’ve got to open up the doors, the windows, the emergecy exit- something. Come on guys. We’re capable of more, we should expect more, we should grow more.

We’ve got to do something, it’s getting crowded on the short bus and everybody’s laughing at us.

Disclaimer: I have not and do not laugh at those who ride short buses, nor do I condone such behavior. I just found it to be a fitting methaphor.

This (like most things here lately) is for my personal reference later or never, or whatever. I feel like the more I record right now ( and I feel like recording random things), the freer my mind is, so:

Compliment: dinner was good

Good call yesterday- Disney store instead of dollar store for b-day gift

Unfortunate comment that wasn’t a joke yesterday- you should eat only half a cookie, I’ve lost weight, you haven’t, we’re going to the beach soon

Thankful that- stayed up with Nat last night and watched a movie (she couldn’t sleep) while I slept

First (and basically only) conversation this morning- where are the clothes I want (that I told you nothing about but need right now) and put them in the dryer for me, isn’t the picture she drew in her cousin’s b-day card cute, the dog chewed up my shoe – I need new ones, the house is a mess, look at it, it’s a mess, you need to do something about it. love you, bye.

I feel like maybe I’m not, or haven’t been paying attention to parts of my day or life that ultimately matter, that I’m overlooking something crucial on a day to day basis for whatever reason (peacekeeping, too busy, too tired, too oblivious,too confused, too thrown off guard, too anxious, too whatever)… and then I’m looking back and realizing that maybe the things I was overlooking were important, changed my life, changed me…by not paying attention to certain things, I’m apathetically allowing things I don’t want in my life, or allowing my life, my day, my self to be steered into places I don’t want to be…I don’t know, it’s just a little theory….I obviously am in need of a variation in approach to my daily life and various things within my daily life. Just some trial and error here. I’ll see if writing seemingly useless, random, petty, odd, personal info about my days and interactions will matter… Maybe because I don’t have as much time to decompress and evaluate as I used to…I don’t know…just gonna try it. Beware: more trivial, possibly dull, and nonsensical things to come…