Transition + Anxiety

movingWe moved! This was the culmination of months of job search, impatient waiting, packing, finding a house and so many things that added increasing amounts of stress into our life. The act of moving was the final piece. In some ways it feels like we can breathe again now. All that we have been working for has now shifted into place.

But . . . we moved. All that I had known and became accustomed to (and yes, that even includes the stress and discomfort of waiting) has changed. While I am breathing more easily now and feeling the stress lift from my shoulders, I am not comfortable. One of the triggers of my anxiety is transition. I sometimes forget how much I rely on simple familiarity to help me maintain a sense of safety. To wake in a new room, though exciting, is also unsettling to me. Setting up a new house is a chance to start fresh, organize and clean up the cluttered aspects of our house and life. But in the midst of the accumulating order, I lose the comfort of the disorder. I see hugely positive changes in our family’s emotional landscape, like my husband’s rising hope, and yet I sense the loss of the difficult emotions I had become accustomed to. I don’t grieve the loss of those hard things or regret the chance to set things up fresh and new, I just feel unanchored.

I’m trying to put it into words because I don’t think I can be the only one who struggles with this weird discomfort even in the midst of positive change. I may not have liked the clutter, I may have sworn that I wanted things to be different, yet I am so good at fitting into spaces without making waves that I can get attached to almost anything, no matter how messy. I think a portion of this has to do with my personality. Maybe it is my enneagram 2ishness, the fact that I identify so strongly in my relationships to others. I like to feel needed, and so I unconsciously start to build my identity around the ways in which I am needed. And so when that shifts, when people start to need me less, or in different ways, my mind screams out in panic, afraid that I am also losing core pieces of who I am. I think what is keeping me from completely spiralling (in addition to the practice I’ve put in daily the last few months at mindfulness) is the knowledge of two apparently contradictory, yet complimentary truths: I take up important space no matter where I am AND I have my own set of needs that must be attended to. Does it seem selfish that my method of coping is to focus more on myself (both my strengths and my weaknesses)? I am convinced that this is the healthiest way for me to navigate change. Since I most naturally tend to focus on others, I need to intentionally shift that focus during times of stress in order not to get lost or spiral into unhealthy attention seeking habits (expecting others to fill me or define me).

Of course it isn’t only negative things that we lost in this change. For me there were lots of positive aspects of our life in VA that I am grieving. Most of those center around my job. The grief of leaving is strong, and I have been trying to give it space and honor it. On Saturday, while my husband worked hours and hours to load the U-Haul, I went to work for my last day. It was not a demanding day. Most of my tasks had already been handed over to others; my attention had been shifting towards other things for several weeks now. But there were good-byes. Sweet ones. I’m not very good with good-byes. They are incredibly important to me, but I get super awkward when actually faced with them. I’m never sure if I look cold and unfeeling outwardly while I inwardly treasure every hug and soak in every word. When the day came to a close, the emotional weight of the end of something settled on my heart. I climbed into my car and let some of the tears fall, looking forward to settling in to focus a little on this grief when I got home.

But there was no home. I returned to a half empty house, messy beyond recognition. There was still so much work to be done, and no comfortable space physically or emotionally. And so instead of attending to my grief carefully and gently, I attempted to set it aside and pour myself into the packing. Of course, not surprisingly, I became a bit of a grouch that evening. And when I went to bed it became apparent that my unprocessed emotions had pushed me over the tipping point. I had managed the stress of change and the discomfort of the unknown for so long, and yet, on this night, the last night in VA I fell completely apart. It took me hours to go to sleep. There were tears of grief that were shed amidst anxiety for all that still needed to be done before we could actually get on the road the next day. My stomach was physically distressed and my mood was sour.

It took time, but I eventually regained a level of composure outwardly and inwardly on Sunday. One of the pieces that helped me was listening to my 16 year old daughter preach a good-bye sermon at her church before we left. It was thoughtful, very mature, and incredibly vulnerable. And though I shed a few tears on her behalf as she shared her grief at leaving such an amazing community, it was her strength that reached the innermost recesses of my soul. Her strength reminded me of my own.

In order to find a place for myself in this new place, I must make room for it.



A Fall and my Relationship to Loneliness.

I fell down a set of concrete steps last week. And as the bruises start to surface and the scrapes reach that ugly scabby stage, I wonder if these outward wounds are a representation of something deep inside. 


When I tumbled down those stairs, I landed at the bottom with my skirt up around my waist and as one of my friends would have delicately put it, tomorrow’s laundry in plain view. No one was around to see me in this undignified state, and I was deeply grateful for that. Yet, there was a certain loneliness I experienced as I arranged my skirts and gently picked myself up off the ground while trying to assess the damage. Though most people would have felt like intruders in that moment, there are a handful of people that I would have gladly fallen in front of in order to hear them ask me if I were ok as they rushed to my aid and made sure I was presentable and whole before helping me to my feet.

I posted later that day about the incident and I mentioned that my internal angst had manifested itself externally. I didn’t mean that flippantly. Lately, I find myself juggling the deep gratitude I hold for my own internal strength and the desire to have someone notice that I am not ok. Sometimes it feels like it has to be either/or. But, as was mentioned in a beautiful sermon I heard on Sunday, oftentimes it is actually both/and. It’s ok to want someone to help you up even while knowing you have the strength to do it yourself.

I feel like to a certain extent this has been my internal struggle for the past five years. Five years ago I began a journey of self-discovery. It included a major faith shift, huge life changes, and lots and lots of processing of who I have been, who I am now and  who I am becoming. It’s been a rewarding process. And I’ve grown really strong through it. The external circumstances that have been a part of this process have required that strength in order for me to survive them. In my husband’s words: I “have gently but firmly held things together against what often seemed like overwhelming odds.” When the therapist I had near the beginning of this process helped me realize what exactly I was doing, she warned me that this is a lonely process. There has been a lot of separation from those around me in order to discover who I am. Separation from family, from friends, and even in some ways from my husband. I am glad she told me that then, because it has helped my extroverted, community-longing self hang on through a time when past connections were slowly dissolving.

That separation has been hard for me. I hold wounds from the past 5 years that are still not completely healed. And I think most of the time, I keep those wounds to myself. Yes, I have held things together, but sometimes I don’t want to. Sometimes I want to let it all go and let myself fall just to see if anyone will be there to catch me.

Now, more than ever I want friends. I will never be done discovering myself, but I am hopeful that I am ready now to both reform connections and make new ones. I long for connections that are not shallow, but deep, real, raw and vulnerable. I am ready for a friend who not only can pick me up when I fall down, but who knows me well enough to notice that I’m in danger of falling before it even happens.

This is not to say that I haven’t had deep, strong connections the last five years. I have found very rewarding friendships over and over again. But our transient life the last few years has meant that what I feel I am missing is those friends that are physically present in my life. I look back with loneliness and grief on periods of time when that has been true for me, even if it was only for a short time. Even as I list out these relationships to myself, I realize how few of them actually reached a level of complete vulnerability and how very few of them have maintained it with distance. I long for intimacy, to have friends that I can feel completely safe and open with. My husband and I have discussed this often, our longing for friends and community, and our fear that it will not happen.

When I fell, I was on my way to have coffee with a friend, someone who had offered to have coffee with me should I ever need it, and I had finally taken her up on the offer. I walked shakily into that coffee shop and she bandaged up my elbow without a second thought. I know that there are people around who are ready to step up and stand beside me were I to give them the chance. But in this time of transition, I hold back from engaging too deeply, waiting rather impatiently for the next stage and hoping that it will bring with it a feeling of being settled and the courage and capacity to open myself up to be vulnerable with new people. 


We live in a world in between. A past that we have known is soon coming to a close and an unknown future looms darkly ahead of us. How do you stay anchored in a space that has nothing to hold on to? Or is it an illusion, this idea that there is nothing certain here in this space?  

My past self whispers that here, even here, especially here, there is God. But God is not who I thought him to be. He is not an all powerful being whose unseen fingers are holding the pieces of my life, putting them together, building the puzzle of good things that have been promised me.

My head reminds me that I exist. That in the midst of uncertainty I still stand. I hold within me an image of myself that I wish I had the artistic ability to recreate. She stands holding out her hands with the palms up. In them she holds pain, pulsing, beautiful pain. The wind whips her pink hair behind her like a cape. Pure bright light bursts from some unseen point behind her, lighting up the pink streaks like flames, highlighting the beauty of her curves, the strength in her legs and arms. The pain seeps between her fingers, but she stands strong, holding it out as a sacrifice, her piercing blue eyes staring ahead into her future, not blindly, but with hope. There is a fierceness in me that will not give up. Is this enough to cling to?

My heart tells me that I cannot exist alone. It reminds me that I also hold love in those blue eyes because of those people who have stood within their gaze. It reminds me that I am anchored always by the invisible connections that extend from my chest reaching out to touch those who mean so much to me. It reminds me that my best words are written when I have felt those connections pulse about me. It reminds me of what I have always known, that life is not worth living without the fellow souls who live it with me. As I lie my head on my husband’s chest and link my fingers with his I wonder if this is my anchor. We live this unknown together. He knows perhaps more than anyone else the uncertainty that haunts my soul, because he shares it.

My feet remind me that they still long to dance. Any music that fills my head, my ears, my soul, finds its way to my feet and they dance. They teach me, remind me, that joy lives within my soul. Never has it been completely quenched, never has it been lost forever. Every dark night has ended in a sunrise. Every painful emotion has been linked inexplicably with deep, passionate, meaningful joy. Joy of discovery. Joy of friendship. Joy of love. Joy of beauty. Joy, unabashed, beautiful joy. This also anchors me. I have known enough of joy to know that it will continue to find me even in the darkest of places.

My hands remind me as I type these words that they create their best work when filled with pain. My arms are strong, they hold not only my pain, but many others’ as well. And in that work that I am called to do, creativity pulses through my fingers and I find ways to express myself. Words to paint a picture of the woman who lives within. I create in other ways too, make beautiful things to wear, but when the strongest passionate emotions fill me, it is not the sewing machine that I turn to, but the pencil. Words are my greatest passion, the thing I must do when there is nothing else left to do. Is this my anchor? The call to write, to pour myself out on to paper so that I am not lost inside myself?


Each piece exists, and therefore each piece works with the others to anchor me. And in the interplay of the pieces together each piece gains even greater strength. A circle of energy surrounds me and allows me to survive when everything around me falls apart. It is the relationship of each piece to the others, the energy found in the connections, that speaks to me of God. If God exists, she is not out there somewhere laying a path ahead of me, but rather here inside, around, above, below and behind me. She is the source of the light behind me. She is the energy that connects souls together. She dances with me and feels the joy I feel. She pulses within my veins, bringing the words to the surface, rejoicing in the beauty I create. She is the love I feel, the hope I cling to, the energy in my dance, the strength in my arms. 

Pink = Passion


This pink in my hair is more than just a fun experiment. It is a symbol. That doesn’t mean it isn’t also fun. 🙂 It most definitely is, and I am ok with that being what other people see when they look at me.

But for me it goes much deeper. When I look in the mirror and see these pink streaks, I am reminded of pieces of myself that are sometimes hidden. The pink actually symbolizes a lot of things for me and I’m not going to go into all of them right now, but I’d like to share about one piece of it that has become incredibly important to me right now. It is almost as if I knew that during this period of my life I would need the visible reminder of pink hair.

Pink is not practical. Pink is passion. Running deep within my soul I have discovered a woman who is strong, brave and a little bit wild. That woman is me, even though it seems easier somehow to label her as someone else. But that deep core piece of who I am, the one who makes choices based on passion rather than practicality, is the piece that has carried me through some of the most difficult years of adulthood. And I haven’t been merely surviving. Most of the time I’ve been thriving.

And as the work of the last five years seems to be all coming together, and everything feels like it’s about to burst at the seams, it is not practicality that is getting me through each day, but rather passion. In fact, practically speaking, things are pretty much a mess. The budget is all but forgotten. The house waffles between messy and barely passable. And all sorts of “practical” things are just pushed aside right now. My physical surroundings in some way mirror the internal jumble of things. John says this is a liminal space. A space between. We are nearing a threshold, about to step into a different future. We are nearly there, but not there yet. And as we hang out in this weird in between, uncomfortable space, we sometimes struggle to make it through the day to day stuff.

In particular right now the stress of everything, the unknown future, the endless to dos, the responsibilities I feel like I am shirking, the individual struggles of each of my children, and the need to constantly weigh different possible options in the never ending job search is getting to me. I feel as if I am walking along a precipice and one big gust of wind will knock me right over the edge. In fact, several times the last few days I actually did feel like I was falling. But then this passionate, no nonsense, crazy energy pushes its way forward and laughs in the face of danger. She not only walks the narrow path, but dances across it on her toes.

There is a piece of me that has always been ready for an adventure. There is a piece of me that has always made decisions based on gut and passion. I am relying on this piece to lead the way right now. And it is this piece that I am reminding myself to speak out of when in conversation with my husband. Because I do not want a safe and practical future. I want an adventure. I want a life filled with joy and passion. And I will fight hard to remind him to not settle, to remember that he married someone a little bit wild, who is not afraid to try something new, to risk it all with the hope that something amazing could possibly happen.

This pink in my hair is not all fun. It reminds me that I can do amazing things. And that, my friends, is a a dangerous and supremely wonderful truth.

Voices in my head.

The last two days I’ve been angry. Angry about a lot of things actually. My therapist has reminded me that anger is not wrong. Anger is a signal pointing out to us something important. I struggle to admit when I am angry because it doesn’t fit into the persona that I like to cultivate about who I am. I’m not an angry person. Therefore I am not angry. I’m frustrated, or a little emotional, or . . . No. I am angry.

After naming the anger, I am working on identifying what it is pointing to. Why am I angry? One of the most important things I learned from Dr. Bailey’s book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline is that we are rarely, if ever, angry for the reason we think we are. “You are making me angry,” is said so often, but never, ever true. Anger is our stuff, it stems from our internalized messages or wounds that we have or insecurities or fear. If I am angry at you, it is never your fault. I might need to address something hurtful you said or did, but you didn’t make me angry. I got angry because I have an issue that I am working on.

So, why am I angry? I’m working on that. Some of the anger I can tell you where it comes from, some of it, I am not sure. I have a feeling that deep inside I know, but I’m hiding it even from myself because I’m ashamed of it. So, I’ll keep digging.

But even after recognizing the anger and identifying where it comes from, it is important to know what to do with it. Do we let it go? Do we speak up? Do we confront? Do we forgive? Anger is powerful. But that power does not have to be destructive. It can be constructive. So, for now, I wrote a poem. I took my anger and tried to give it a voice. There are wounds here, but also hope, hope that I can rise above those wounds and choose the non-violent path of peace and love.


I don’t need your voices in my head.

Don’t you know they already echo in the dark recesses of my soul?

Your expectations.

Who you think I’m supposed to be.

Don’t you realize that I step out of the box in order to dismantle it?

You tell me God loves me, but what I really want to know is, do you?

Even more importantly, do I?

Do I love myself?

Do I love you?

Can I experience the love of God without saying the name of God?

Can I be the love of God without your permission or approval?

Can I create a space in this world that is truly mine. 

Can I be who I am created to be, or do I have to be what I am told to be?

Your picture is not the only picture.

Your path is not the only path.

I wish to be free.

I wish to put on wings and fly beyond the words.

Maybe up there, above everything, it will all be clear. 

Maybe up there, I will see the energy and the spaces and the connections. 

Maybe up there I will see my space and know how to fill it well.

And I will see you and how you are connected to me.

I don’t need your voices in my head.

But maybe, if I truly saw you, touched you, felt you.

Who you are. 

I would understand your place and how it connects to mine.

And I would love you.

And there, and only there, in that love, do I want to find the face of God.

It’s a New Year. 2019.

When you tend to process things in writing and you also like to be vulnerable and post about such things publicly, you will find that when the New Year rolls around Facebook will present you with undeniable evidence that you tend to exhibit certain trends around this time of year. Healthy eating goals, exercise, hopeful schedule changes. I tend to reset around this time of year. This year, my reset has as much to do with attitude as with any of those things. And as with all of those intentions, this one will also need to be revisited throughout the year to maintain.

My husband has a birthday at the end of December. It is, without a doubt, possibly one of the worst times to have a birthday. Right smack between Christmas and New Year’s, his expectations are somewhat low for a special day devoted to marking his start of a new year. This year we had a communication failure that ended up in him having a pretty lousy day. This coupled with the depression that was already quite low, meant the days leading up to New Year’s Day were quite hard.

John’s birthday is the 30th. On New Year’s Even I woke up without hope. It was so hard to envision any sort of future as I look into a year that will have to include a lot of change. We can’t just sit back and maintain the status quo. It isn’t that the status quo is that great right now anyway. The last year has been rough. There are lots of positive highlights, but just as many, if not more, really sucky things. And right now, even though we are technically in the middle of a job search for a priest position starting this summer, there are days I cannot picture a future at all.

I wrote the following words in my journal that morning: “This year is hard to hold hope. There is so much unknown. I can see clearly the pain that lies ahead. I want to be able to face it with courage, to remind myself that the pain is the shadow, which means there must also be light. But right now I am afraid. I do not know how much will be asked of me this coming year. Will I have the strength to meet it?”

Along with the fear that I was feeling, I also recognized anger. Anger at circumstances and situations that have robbed me of things. And in my journal I allowed myself to express those things. But afterwards I wrote gentle words of encouragement to myself, ending with “It’s ok to be angry. But what you do with it matters.”

That night, we lit a fire in the fireplace and gathered around it. Being all together as a family is important, but I’m going to be very real with you and admit that it is hard right now. The kids ages and all the stress that we have all internalized the last few years mean that peace and calm are never long-lived, and even meaningful connection is punctuated by frustration, tears, and misunderstanding. So, it is important to focus not on the negative parts of that night, but the positive. The light reflecting off my children’s faces. Their smiles. Their laughter. Seth had written a letter to Emma and had asked if he could put it in the fire to let the message go up to her in the smoke. So, we lit that fire, and all together, we watched the note burn and crumble and the smoke rise. This was true sacrament. 

I asked my kids what their favorite memories of the year had been and I asked them what their hopes for the new year were. Some answers were expected, some took me by surprise. All showed my kids deep inner selves.

After everyone but Elise, John, and I had gone to bed, we sat and talked. We laughed and teased. Regrets were shared. Hopes and creative ideas for the future were discussed. Eventually Elise also retired and John and I sat and dreamed together. We painted a picture of what life could be like this year. We talked about job opportunities and we talked about logistics. I don’t know if the specific plans we made will actually come to be as obviously we don’t yet know where he will get job offers to, but what we envisioned was hopeful and exciting to the both of us and that was something that I hadn’t felt in awhile.

I woke the morning of January 1, 2019 full of hope. A song by George Ezra ran through my head:

“If it’s a new day,

Why don’t we invent a new world to explore?

Why don’t we create a moment to remember

In five years?

Winner’s just a word,

Loser’s just one too.

Oh, forever dreaming



The song is called “Only a Human” and the chorus goes like this:

“You can run, you can jump

Might fuck it up

But you can’t blame yourself

No, you’re just human

Come on, come on

No, you can’t blame yourself

You’re just human.”

This is my song for the year. I step forward choosing hope. I will take risks this year. Risks that open up possibilities for a healthy future for me and my family. But I will also hold gentleness. Gentleness for myself and for others when things inevitably fall apart. Because life is not perfect. In the light, there is pain. In the shadow of joy, sorrow lives. I choose it all because it is beautiful only in its wholeness.newyearseve2018

Three Paths to and from Relationship.

On Mondays I go to therapy. This is a new addition to my schedule, so my relationship with this therapist is just beginning. But despite the fact that I’ve only had two sessions so far, there is a sensitivity to the undercurrents in my life that has resulted from my openness to delve deeper into my soul with someone else. The intention to do this work has been enough to initiate it.

This week my focus has been on relationship. My mind has been turning that word over and over and looking at from all different angles. And it was all a result of one question my therapist asked me: “Is there someone in your life who you’d be willing to take a risk with and go deeper?” This simple question has led me down several different interesting and unexpected paths this week.

A story, in which I recognize that I don’t like to be alone.

Before I take you down these paths with me, let me tell you a story. Once I was a little girl growing up on a farm in a house heated by a wood stove and the bodies of six healthy active children. I was rarely alone, and as one of the few true extroverts in my family, I never saw that as a bad thing. 

Family w Grandpa M_blog.jpg

Even at night I shared a bed with my older sister. Sometimes she would force me to lie on her side of the bed for 10 minutes while she lay on mine so that when we switched her side would be nice and toasty. It doesn’t make a lot of sense in my adult head, but at the time we were both convinced that I was so much warmer than her that I warmed up her spot more than she warmed up mine. But it didn’t really matter that much to me. To have companionship even while sleeping was enough to put up with any sibling tension. If I kept her physically warm, she kept me emotionally safe.

I don’t think I realized how much I relied on her until the day she went on a two week trip without me. For the first time in my life, I was forced to sleep alone and the prospect was terrifying to me. I was so used to her protective presence that I slept with our large stuffed bear at my back each night to keep myself from feeling exposed to whatever dangers lurked outside our dark windows.

Path 1, in which I unexpectedly cry over unhealed wounds and loneliness.

So, with that little peek into how I tick, let us proceed with this week’s journey. Monday I went to therapy. During my session we touched briefly on the need for healthy supportive friendships. And my therapist asked the above mentioned question.

On Wednesday morning I sat at my table in my patio visualizing my relationship with a particular friend, practicing the ability to sit with and then let go, as I often cling to people. As I let that friend go, I was suddenly aware of so many other people. The names of my family and other people I love, as well as the general sense of the community that we are physically surrounded with here on campus, filled my head, one after another. I was aware of an interconnectedness that left me with an actual physical sensation of tingling energy. I felt joy and peace as I sat with these people.

But it didn’t end there. As is my morning practice, I picked up my journal to record my experience and see where it led me. That path should have been full of light, but it got dark surprisingly fast. With my mind full of these people I thought about the question my therapist had asked. Which of these people could I go deeper with? There are several that I am already doing that with, but as I pondered my present community I was hit with grief. A past event emerged and a wound reopened and before the morning was out I found myself sobbing in the car after I dropped the kids off at school. 

I am not at liberty to share the details of that event because it would trespass on the privacy of others, and that is part of the problem. It is hard to know how to navigate a painful situation with transparency and sensitivity. How to keep private what belongs to others and still process the pain that is mine. There is a lot of perceived rejection surrounding this event. Rejection that I recognize is mostly in my head, but the pain I internalized is still very real. And as I cried tears of pain and anger and grief, I realized that because of this event, I chose to start looking at my present community as temporary rather than essential. I withdrew. And therefore I have experienced loneliness as a result.

Path 2, in which I remember that loss is part of life.

I pulled myself together, made a mental note that this would probably be something worth discussing in my next Monday session and headed to work. It was a good day. Work went well, and there was an interaction with someone that was significant to me. Someone brought up Emma, and in our brief conversation, even though I had tears in my eyes, I appreciated the connection this friend initiated and the connection to my daughter that it allowed me to reinforce.

I didn’t think much more of it until Thursday morning when I woke from a dream in which I was pregnant. This is sort of a recurring theme in many of my dreams, and as I usually do, I wondered where it came from. What is it that lies deep within me that brings this out? 

I was exhausted, and I was facing one of the hardest days of my week, so I put the dream aside and continued with my morning routine. There were no fascinating events in my quiet time and my journaling was filled with recognition that the day was going to be hard and I would need to be aware of self-care.

It wasn’t until I sat on the bus headed to work that I found myself on this second path. Deep sadness hit me. It was very real, but very comfortable. The kind of sadness I don’t mind inviting in and sitting with. I thought of Emma and of loss, and I held the sadness close. And I realized that this was also a story of relationship — relationship lost.


This path is very familiar to me. This particular journey down this well trodden path began last week. One of the reasons relationship came up in my therapy session on Monday was because of a conversation I had with a friend about the need to hold people loosely, with an open hand. The authority in which I spoke to her was experience. The two examples I used were the loss of my child Emma and the journey over the last two years to see myself as separate from my husband, a journey that has allowed me to love both myself and him more fully. It is in fact just a deeper and more serious version of the lesson I learned as a little girl learning to sleep alone. The words I wrote to her were these: “You see, in order to really help others, we need to reach out to them from a place of centeredness in ourselves. When we do that, we are actually able to offer them a place of stability and safety. If we are reaching out to them because we are defined by them or because we cannot imagine our lives without them, then we are not safe and it is hard for us to help them be safe.”

I’ve walked this path before, and I feel comfortable on it. I may be noticing new things along the way, like the fact that my pregnancy dreams perhaps relate to the death of the  relationship with my daughter, but I sort of feel like I know where this path goes.

It is of course when we think we know where we are going that we find ourselves somewhere completely new and unexpected. Path 2 was actually very much a shadow of path 1, but I didn’t make that connection until I had walked path 3 and then taken the time to write the journey down.

Path 3, in which I am humbled in the realization that I have barely begun to know how to love.

Thursday ended with a long talk with another friend via phone. The connection between us is strong and vibrant and fills me with energy. Which is why I woke early on Friday morning with my mind and body still humming with that energy. But this is a person that I tend to cling to, and my time in silence Friday morning was spent reminding myself that I am separate, but connected. To hold him with an open hand.

I envisioned another connection that morning as well. Still, strong and stable, a cord stretched between my heart and my husband’s. I was comfortable in those feelings, but something niggled at the back of my mind. I had used my relationship with John several times over the last week as an example of holding someone with an open hand, but something didn’t feel quite right. As I pondered my hesitancy to envision this connection with a pulsing vibrant power, rather than the still quiet strength that I was feeling, a thought surfaced in my journaling. A relationship is made of two people. Both must hold each other loosely. A truly healthy fulfilling relationship is one in which each person is there because they want to be there, not because they need to be. And so I started wondering about the possibility of holding someone loosely while they held on tight. What would that connection feel like? Humbled, I realized that the more important question is how do I respond if I perceive this to be the case? I like to be needed. It wasn’t hard for my sister to convince me to warm her side of the bed because deep down I desire to fill someone else’s needs. So, it is not enough for me to recognize that I exist apart from the other person and that without them I will survive. I must also recognize that they exist apart from me, and without me they will also survive. To truly love someone is to desire them to not need me. And that hits me hard. Because my true fear is this–if they do not need me, will they still want me? 

And so this path ended up circling me back to the first path. I have experienced the loss that comes through death, but that is not the only type of loss that we can experience in life. Loss can also come in the form of rejection. And that type of loss I am a whole lot more uncomfortable with. 

A Dance, in which it all gets mixed together and I experience a metaphor of life.

Friday night was Advent Affair–a night of revelry and dancing for the students of VTS and their significant others. John and I have always gone, partly because once I realized that I was expected and encouraged to dance in public at this thing, I don’t like to miss it. This year, both John and I approached this day with a bit of hesitation. Despite being a part of this community for 2 1/2 years, we both feel the struggle to find our true space within it. John’s stress and depression affect his willingness to interact with people and the pain that surfaced earlier in this week for me colored my perspective as well. I went for the dancing and I think my husband went for me. And so we walked in that door, full of our insecurities and pain, but there. Present. And I danced. Two previous years of Advent Affair have loosened me up and given me the permission to let go on the dance floor. Sometimes I danced alone. Sometimes I danced with a partner. Sometimes I danced with everyone in that room at the same time. Some moments were awkward. Some were full of confidence. I smiled and laughed and eventually lost myself and found myself in the chaotic abandon of full body expression. I’m still learning to dance with people. Since I was not raised in a tradition that valued dancing, I have learned to dance alone. And in my few experiences of dancing on a crowded dance floor, I am surprised at how easy it is to still be dancing alone. But that’s ok. I’ve worked so hard to learn to be safe alone, that I don’t mind taking a bit longer to learn to dance with others.

My night ended with a rare dance with John. Rare because he has not yet learned the art of abandoning himself to the dance. Our steps are not very synched, our energies so very different, but I still found extreme pleasure in being in his arms, being together with him, letting it be whatever it was. This is life–sometimes awkward, sometimes graceful. A beautiful attempt to connect with those around us. Sometimes we fail, sometimes we get it right. Our best attempts flow out of the security and confidence we find in ourselves. But even our shy inexperienced steps are rewarded because we are all in this together, and our energies interact to fill and empty and play and learn and dance with each other.

My thoughts on Veteran’s Day.

How should a pacifist approach Veteran’s Day? It’s a day that always makes me a little uneasy. On this day my social media feeds are filled with recognition of those who have served in the military. And I am usually silent. I have no desire to disrespect veterans or those who are in military service now, some of whom are family members of mine. So I usually let the day pass without thinking too much about the unease that I feel with every post. But I don’t post either, because I do not want to condone the system of violence that underlies much of the messages we hear about the military. Can we respect individuals while also critiquing a government that makes really poor choices with their use of the military? Can we honor the service of these individuals while also promoting the way of peace and questioning whether being a military power is at all wise? I recognize that many may think my questions are in bad taste on this day. I anticipate that my silence is exactly what quite a few people would prefer. So, I’m choosing a compromise. I’m posting this blog on the day after Veteran’s Day is observed. But I am still posting it because I think these things are important things to be having a conversation about.

Over the last week I have seen the evidence of the public school system’s indoctrination of my children as we approached this day. And I feel a responsibility to point out the problems I see in the messages they are receiving. My 9 year old has started musing about which branch of the military he will join when he grows up, and asking me again why it is that he can’t play violent video games. My 5 year old gave me his handout about veterans and asked me to read the words across the bottom of the sheet — “Thank you for being brave.”

Now, I know that these things seem harmless to most people, and maybe even beneficial. But to this pacifist momma, they make me cringe. I have told my 9 year old that just because his parents are pacifists does not mean that he has to be. He’s asked me if I will be upset if he grows up and joins the military and I have said that I do not plan to meddle in his life when he is an adult. It will be his decision. But right now, as his parent, I also feel the need to make sure he is hearing more than one message, because I know his fascination with the idea comes from an American ideal that I do not support–the glorification of violence.


And my 5 year old? This bothers me perhaps the most. None of my other kids did their Kindergarten year in an American public school, and I am discouraged that the message begins so young. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset that they taught him what a veteran is, or that they encouraged him to thank them. But I am upset with the way the message was framed. When we discussed it today, these were his words: “Veterans are all around us, like God. They are there to protect us. And they have guns so they can keep us safe from bad guys.” Oh man, there are so many problematic pieces to this that it is hard to even know where to begin. And in our conversation while I was yet again trying to convince my son that “bad guys” do not actually exist he responded. “You are wrong. They do. They are in other countries.” Gah! Do you know how hard it is to deconstruct these ideas once they are in a 5 year old’s head? Now, granted, I am not entirely sure he understood what he was saying. He was upset with me because he thought that I was somehow telling him that veterans were the bad guys, and I wasn’t. So, maybe he just meant that veterans are in other countries. Hopefully I misunderstood him and he wasn’t actually repeating some nationalist agenda. I don’t know. But I am frustrated. Somehow my 5 year old believes that guns exist to keep him safe, and that the world is somehow made up of good guys and bad guys, a dichotomy that is possibly even defined by national boundaries.

The simple phrase–thank you for being brave–he has really latched on to. Can those who serve in the military be brave? Absolutely! But something about this message seems to equate military service unequivocally with bravery, which belittles the actual brave actions that do occur on the battlefield and completely ignores the brave acts of those peaceful warriors who choose to stand in opposition to a government that sends these men and women into war often needlessly. “Hero” is another word that I hear a lot on this day. Individual military personnel often do heroic things, but please do not tell my children that just putting on a uniform of brown or green or blue automatically makes them a hero. Why does that bother me? Because if we think that a person’s actions are automatically heroic because of their uniform, it becomes too easy to justify harm in the name of heroism. It becomes too easy to act out questionable orders in the name of duty. It becomes too easy to kill in the name of patriotism. Last week a veteran with a gun (someone who in my son’s words should be there to protect him) entered a bar and killed someone else’s sons and daughters. We must be able to critique this. We must be able to ask the hard question of whether or not our military, our government, our system that glorifies violence in the name of patriotism had something to do with this.  

Veterans are important. Their sacrifices and service should be remembered and recognized. But not blindly. We must open our eyes and see how our country has broken many of them, and not be afraid to ask the question: Was it worth it? We can love and honor and respect those who’ve chosen to serve while also speaking up against the violence the larger system perpetrates. And we can tell our children the whole story, the true reasons wars are fought, the heavy weight of responsibility they will carry if they choose to pick up a gun in the name of their country, and the humanity that exists on both sides of national borders; so that when the choice is theirs, they can look beyond the rhetoric and make a truly informed choice.

A little bit of poetry.


It should be obvious to anyone who reads my blog that I tend to express myself in prose, not poetry. But there have been occasions when poetry comes to me unexpectedly. I have no idea if it would stand scrutiny by anyone who actually knows how to write or critique or even how to read poetry, but when words come to me in this fashion, it feels important to write them down. Sometimes art is the attempt to communicate something that cannot be easily expressed in other ways.

I attended a conference entitled “Evolving Faith” a couple weeks ago. It was a very full two days of listening to intense speakers presenting how an evolving faith intersects with relationships, parenting, social justice, politics, art, theology, church and everything in between. I soaked in the words, trying to internalize, to critique, to listen, to learn. All the things. And afterwards I was so exhausted all I could do was bundle up all the swirling words I had heard and carry them deep into my soul where they pulsed with color and light as I tried to tuck them away safely into the fabric of my being. Little bits and pieces of it have emerged when things come up in conversations with others, but for the most part, I haven’t really touched these things intentionally yet.

But, twice in the last two weeks, words have bubbled up unexpectedly in poetic form. Words that express the feelings and emotions that this conference stirred in me better than I can right now in prose. And so, here are two poems. One more personally expresses the painful intersection of internal faith shift and external action; the other is an encouragement to those who I’ve intentionally left behind, a call for them to join me.

Where to stand

I don’t know where to stand,
On the rock or in the sand.

I don’t know where to wait,
In the crooked or the straight.

I don’t know where to fight,
In the dark or in the light.

I don’t know what to do,
Turn away or follow you.

I don’t know the shape my voice takes.
Is it the breath of angels
or the roar of lions that I make?

I don’t know the power that I hold.
Is it the force that builds the new
or the fire that burns the old?

If I were hurt and if I bled,
Would my blood be white or is it red?

If I were asked to be bold,
Could I find a hand to hold?

And when we go out into the night,
Will we make peace or will we fight?


A Call to the Evangelical Church

Step out.
Step out from the faith you have known.
Go forth into the great unknown.
Move forward with your head held high.
But hurry, for there isn’t much time.

There are people here who are crying.
There are people here who are dying.
There are people here.
There are people.

Step out.
Step out from the faith you have known.
Go forth into the great unknown.
Find beauty in the ashes.
Stand shoulder to shoulder with the masses.

There is truth here to build hope with.
There is hope here to build a home with.
There is love here.
There is peace.

Step out.
Step out from the faith you have known.
Go forth into the great unknown.
Let go of your assumptions.
The idea that all that isn’t you is nothing.

There are people here who are striving.
There are people here who are thriving.
There are people here.
There are people.

Step out.
Step out from the faith you have known.
Go forth into the great unknown.
The kingdom of God is near.
The kingdom of God is here.

There is freedom here for those who doubt.
There is freedom here for those who shout.
There is freedom here.
There is freedom.

The Ritual of Renewal

Today I started bleeding. This monthly rite of womanhood is a reminder of the flow of life. Of time passing, yet always returning to the origin. A reminder of where things begin. A breath. A break. A place I am invited to each month. 

I know that many women my age want to be rid of this. If they have chosen to be done with childbearing, they feel ready to also be done with the bleeding. To them, menopause will be a release, a freedom. Freedom from the fear and worry of pregnancy; freedom from the inconvenience of bleeding.

I wonder if I am alone in viewing this monthly ritual as freedom itself. It is this time of the month when I feel that my body is mine and mine alone. No matter how empowered, how informed, and how self-confident I am, I still struggle with those past voices in my head and the training I was given by my culture. The history of my patriarchal society told me that my body belongs to someone else. The story I was given was that in marriage my husband possesses me and in motherhood my children rely on me to be self-sacrificing. I pour myself out for others and there is guilt, a burden that I carry anytime I say “no.” Except when I am bleeding. When I am bleeding I know that my body is mine and mine alone. When I am bleeding there is no guilt. I allow myself permission to make space within myself for me. I allow myself the luxury of boundaries around my body. I say no to sex and feel no guilt. I more readily tell my children that I need space and time for myself. What I sometimes label as grumpiness is really my body reminding me that I exist. 

Day one of a woman’s cycle the body stops the process of creating space for the other. Before that moment, it has been preparing gifts, sacrificing of itself to provide for another. It has quite literally created a space within me for someone else. On day one the focus shifts to the body itself. The lining of the uterus is shed, the space that was created to receive life is released and the body heals itself to prepare to do the process all over again. 

Six times, possibly seven, that space my body created received a life. My womb began the process of pouring into another human being. Once, possibly twice, that life was lost within days to miscarriage. And five times I had the privilege of joining in the creative act of God. My heart beat not just for me, but for another. The space that was prepared was filled and grew with the life of a child. Five times I labored, gave myself to the painful act of releasing that life into the world, watching it separate from myself to become a separate being. 

And every month as my body goes through the process of the preparation for life, I am reminded of the strength of being a woman. I am reminded that we give, over and over again to others. That we pour of ourselves, give gifts, create, and serve those around us. Life giving birth to life. All of this beauty, all of this sacrifice, all of this joy, all of this pain. In the rhythm of the menstrual cycle, all of it is revealed, over and over again. Our capacity, our sacrifice, our strength and our pain.

Day one. Day one, we release it. Our focus turns inward. When I bleed, I belong not to my husband or to my children, but to myself. When I bleed I am reminded that in order to sustain my ability to give to others, I must also give to myself. I do not live in a culture that recognizes this externally. Sometimes I wish I did. Not in a shameful way, but in an empowered way. I wish we as women had the courage to step aside, retreat and reconnect with ourselves, our shared womanhood, and our need to be filled. So that when we step back into the lives of those we love, we can give freely, fully, without restraint. So that when we give, it is not because we have been told to give, but because we know our own capacity to give. So that when we pour ourselves out, we do not worry about being emptied, because we know that each month the time will come again when we will be filled, because we choose to love ourselves as much as the other. I wish that this monthly rite and ritual would free us. Free us to love. Free us to give. Free us to know who we are, so that we can enter the lives of others without losing ourselves.lifegiving