Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dreams of success

I was dreaming of writing. Scribbling frantically with pen and paper. A good friend came up and wanted to talk. I said "No, not now." He begged for time. I replied "I'm not here for you, I'm here for myself, for this. I came to write." His feelings were hurt but I felt justified and then I felt guilt. I was writing about redemption and love and kindness. I was guilty of putting myself and my writing first, putting it over my relationship, my friendship, taking care of another. I was angry at myself and at my friend for not understanding that I had gone to that time and place and space to write. Yet I knew that I would want for our friendship and camaraderie when the writing was done, when I had exhausted myself from the scribbling and purging of thoughts and emotions. What else could I do but come here to write after such a dream?

I've been relieved of failure and fear!  I wish! I have been relieved of writing and focusing on failure and fear for my mentor!  It is now time to focus on success and what that looks like for me.

This morning, success looks and feels like taking care of myself. I haven't been doing such a good job of that lately. Work has zapped my time and energy. Family has been hard lately as well. Interesting that I've been encouraged to think and write about success and here I am flailing my back once again. What does success look like right now? Taking care of myself, treating myself and my body with love and respect

  • writing: creating time and space to express myself 
  • hitting and kicking bags at 9 Round--it's good for my body and mind, one of the best stress relievers I've ever experienced and the people there are encouraging and supportive
  • eating and drinking things that help my body rather than hurt it--I know gluten and dairy rob my body of energy and create pain
  • while I'm treating my body as a temple then I should also get some new stained glass (tattoos)
  • ooh, spending some time at R.E.S.T. Float solutions--indulging in relaxation and prayer
  • writing
  • time playing with my family--the girls are older and so play looks different now but our best times have been painting together, ooh, yes, we need a painting day!
  • time with Joel
  • time with friends
  • reading--this past week I started reading again, it had been months since I've read for pleasure
  • prayer--significant time spent in prayer
  • focus at work and then leaving work at the office
  • not working on Sundays and enjoying the time with my church family
  • dreaming
  • making love
  • leaving fear and failure behind, not letting it get in my way, understanding that both are normal parts of life but not giving them control
  • preaching with heart and love 
  • acting in and for justice
  • hosting parties for family and friends
  • cooking and baking
My fingers gobbled up more time than I had planned. It felt good though. I really like this to-do list!  What does success look like to you?

Friday, November 18, 2016

Sleep Deprived Post

First of all, I am a sleeper. I can sleep through nearly anything.  I can still sleep until noon. As soon as my head hits the pillow I fall asleep. I can wake up and go back to sleep almost immediately. I'm a sleeper, it's what I do.

This morning I woke up around 2:30 or 3. I have not been able to go back to sleep! I've been yawning for hours, I've tried laying down and going back to sleep but it's not working. So here I am 2.5 hours later writing on my blog. I'm not sure I can be responsible for what I write in this sleep deprived state.

In about 5 hours I'll leave to pick up my eldest daughter and her BFF from college. Let's hope I don't sleep during the drive!  Okay, not really funny. I'll have to take a cue from my mom and pull over and take a nap when I get drowsy.

I think it was my junior year of high school and I was driving a boat of a car that looked a lot like this:
Image result for 4 door 70s long carsIf possible, I think it was even longer and not as pretty but it was gold. Anyways, it was sort of embarrassing to drive but it was also utterly heavenly to drive. It was like sailing, smoothest ride I ever had.

I had a habit of skipping school in Manhattan and driving back to Emporia to visit my friends at my old high school. One day as I was going back to Manhattan I fell asleep driving. I woke up with the sound of metal scraping the passenger side of the car along the  railing of a bridge. I was one lucky kid, my neighbor Wilma always said "God protects fools and children." Thank goodness for that! I quickly righted my boat and pulled over to check the damage. Miraculously it wasn't much at all. I had a long scrape where the paint was etched off but that was it!  Of course I tried to keep the boat parked across the street so my mom wouldn't notice. She eventually did and I lied and told her that someone must have scraped it in the school parking lot. Back then I was sure I had covered my lies but looking back I'm pretty sure my mom had my number.

I plan NOT to repeat the scenario today, rather than flatlands I'll be driving over mountain passes to pick up my eldest and her BFF. Perhaps that's why I can't sleep, I would love to get dressed and head out now but I need to stick around to get my youngest to school.

Happy Friday, stay woke my friends!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Saints and Sinners

It's been a bit harry lately. Ainsley's depression has kicked back into high gear and it's a big mess. Thus far no hospitalizations so that's positive.

Today was a great day for me. I was honored to preach this morning and celebrate All Saints Day with the church.  Since I haven't posted in a while, I thought I'd post my sermon here and let whoever happens upon this blog know that I am alive!

Luke 6:20-31
20Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.24“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.25“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
27“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Ephesians 1:11-23
11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit;14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

“Saints and Sinners”

Today is the day in which we take a moment to reflect on those whose faith has shaped and inspired our own faith, those who have listened to our doubts and questions, taught us to pray, and share in this journey to know and love God deeply.

We refer to these people as Saints. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he refers to the church, to that body of believers as Saints. In the early church “Saints” was the common name for the people of the church. They were people just like us. They experienced times of great joy and great faith and they experienced times of doubt and questioning. They weren’t perfect, not at all but they gathered together to support one another in times of need and to rejoice together in times of joy. They spoke about their faith and beliefs, they had courage to share their doubts and questions, they learned together and from one another. These are our saints.

Over the years the term Saint has become rather bloated with great expectations of perfection and honor. We’ve added to the title of Saints a person who has done great works of love and mercy and had a hand in spectacular miracles. To be canonized, meaning to be officially recognized as a Saint by the Catholic Church is quite a feat. First you have to have lived a life as a “Servant of God”—much like Mother Theresa feeding and caring for the sick and hungry, the Untouchables of Calcutta, for her entire life through moments of faith as well as doubt. Or if you are a martyr for the faith, meaning you died in honor of your faith or in honor of God, and then you can be on the fast track to sainthood. Then there must be at least two miracles must have occurred after his or her death, unless you died for your faith and then only 1 miracle needs to occur. It’s quite a process.

Through the years we’ve transformed Saints into Superheroes of Christianity. Saints are put on pedestals that we could never reach, nor is it likely that we’d even try. Some of us give up before we ever start.
If truth be told, I’d imagine most of the official saints might be a little embarrassed. From the readings on saints such as St. Teresa of Avila, St. Augustine, and St. Francis, they too struggled greatly in their faith. St. Teresa went a few years refusing to pray because she believed she was so unworthy and such a great sinner that she didn’t deserve to experience that time with God. She declared herself a sinner and yet we’ve declared her a saint. St. Augustine and St. Francis experienced great doubts and questioned their own faiths as well. Please understand, in no way am I denigrating them, they lived extraordinary lives of faith and doing God’s work in the world.

My point is that they are not so unlike us. We too struggle in our faith; we and they are not perfect they too bore the title of sinner. They too continued in their moments of doubt and questioning. They too experienced moments of blessed clarity, moments I refer to as “God moments.” Those times in which we meet or are speaking with someone, or witness something so incredible that we know it has come directly from God. Sometimes, we participate in those moments for others without ever knowing it.

What if we return to the early church definition of Saint? In that case, Saints are also sinners. Saints are people just like us—people with flaws and heartaches, people who make mistakes but continue to try to do better, people who don’t give up, people who come together to learn about and share their Christian faith, loving and supporting each other as we seek to know God better. We do what we can to live lives that follow Jesus the Christ. To live lives of love and kindness, knowing that at times we fall short.

Some saints volunteer to teach Sunday school, some saints help out at the food pantry, some saints give up their Saturdays to come and fix a leak at the church, some saints prepare a meal for a friend who just had surgery. Sainthood is less about miracles and more about acting out of God’s love and caring for those around us—sometimes in little quiet acts of kindness and sometimes in major campaigns to create worldwide positive change.

Earlier we listened to Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plains,” in Luke, Jesus had returned from the mountain and has come to the plain, the flatland to be with the disciples and his followers. This tells us something important, Jesus comes to our level. Jesus meets us where we are, he isn’t afraid to get dirty and get in the mud and muck of human life.

He first addresses the poor. Luke is clear, these are poor people meaning literally poor-they are struggling to simply live, they are the have-nots. The poor struggle to pay for things, to have enough food to eat, they don’t always have safe shelter and yet Jesus tells them that they are blessed with the kingdom of God. I don’t know about you but I’ve been poor. It is not glamorous and it certainly doesn’t feel like a blessing. But here Jesus is heaping blessings on the poor, the hungry, those experiencing grief or depression, those who’ve been cast out due to their faith. These were and continue to be those of us in the church. These blessings Jesus is heaping upon us help us to see  the  blessings in our own lives. They gives us hope that the struggle will not go on forever, that we will have relief.

Then, Jesus addresses the rich. Again, he means those with money, wealth, and power. Those who have plenty to eat, those who have safe shelter, those who are happy and content, and those who do the casting out. These are the haves. Jesus’ words to the haves are not comforting, they shake us, and leave us worried that we won’t always have the power and wealth, that one day our bellies and bank accounts will not be full.
Jesus knows both groups were present on the plains; both groups are present in the church today. For all of us, a reversal is coming. For some of us, this is good news. For others of us, this is scary.

I’m not sure that this scripture is meant to simply condemn the rich and uplift the poor. I think it is recognition of the way things are. It reminds us that we are all in this together. This moment in our life does not define us—changes and reversals are coming. We should not be judging the haves and the have-nots and laughing at their situations, for change is coming.

Regardless of where we find ourselves on that spectrum of haves and have-nots, we are all called to be Saints. We are called to go beyond the cultural norms and love and pray for our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us (and I don’t mean “bless her heart”, we all know that isn’t truly a blessing), to pray for those who abuse us (it doesn’t say we have to stay in a relationship with them but to pray for them). 

Jesus goes on to say “If anyone strikes you on the cheek offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
These actions are no small feat, but they are what Jesus calls us to do. I want to offer up an idea, when we pray for our enemies; we should probably pray to help love them too. I know I have a hard time loving my enemies on my own. I think the experience of truly praying for our enemies, praying for those who have hurt us, likely does more to change us than them. When we are so entrenched in prayer and love, it becomes more difficult to see people as enemies. We tend to see them as fellow human beings with flaws much like our own.

I want to be clear, if you are in an abusive relationship, I don’t believe that God expects you to stay and pray for that other person. I believe God wants you to pray for them but that God does not expect or want you to stay in harm’s way. The act of offering your other cheek when someone has slapped you on the other is a way to get them to stop. It’s a sort of humiliation, just as giving your shirt as well as your coat. In Jesus’ time, Roman soldiers would walk with civilians and demand their coats, to give the soldier your shirt as well as your coat essentially left you naked, which then drew attention to the bad behavior of the soldier. Sometimes these verses have been used to keep people oppressed but I do not believe that is the sacred message here. I believe Jesus is telling us to go beyond our cultural norms and to go beyond in love, I don’t believe it is telling us to be doormats.

For a minute, close your eyes and imagine that during this election cycle, we and the candidates prayed for one another, not just for our favorite candidate but for all of them. I believe this would create a totally different kind of election cycle. Rather than defaming and yelling at one another when we disagree, we would speak politely and truly listen to each other. Can you imagine an election cycle surrounded with prayers for love and grace? I’m positive this would be transformative and create a time of healing and consideration of what is best for our country. We need relief from the grime and bitterness of this election.

We must remember that we are not enemies. Just like the crowd Jesus spoke to, we are all represented. We are all offered a new way of living and being in this world. We can choose to accept the challenge of living a life grounded in love and prayer, kindness and generosity, a life lived in faith.

Does this mean we won’t sin? We won’t slip up? We won’t fall short? Of course not. It means that we are committed to getting back up and trying again and again and again.

Take a moment to picture a person who has inspired your faith.

Was this person perfect? Or were they a beautiful blend of sinner and saint?

Here these words of Paul from the Message Bible. Hold them close, let them sink in, let this be our prayer for all…

“I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!”
Let us live as the Saints (and sinners) we are called to be! Amen.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Failure to act...

I wish I had made my shrink appointments to be weekly instead of bi-weekly. This morning I woke from a dream that I just can't shake off.

I take pride in being a good mom to my kids. We have open conversations and yet I keep good boundaries so that they know I'm Mom and not their BFF.

But I failed my youngest when she was very young. I should have done something differently. She was spending the night at a friend's house and when I went to pick her up the other mom said "I found them playing naked in the bathroom but I tried not to overreact." I know that kids have normal sex play so I didn't make a big deal of it. I assumed it was normal kid sex play, nothing to be worried about.

I was wrong. My youngest hadn't wanted to participate. It was not consensual sex play. She felt violated. She was violated and I did nothing.

She now has PTSD and is struggling with sexual feelings. She spent most of last year in mental hospitals with a large part due to this non-consensual sex play. (I don't call it rape, even though that is the experience my daughter had, I don't refer to it as rape because the other party was just a child as well. I think this child was a bully but I'm not sure I can refer to her as a rapist at the age of 7. Who knows what had happened to her.)

The theme I'm noticing here is a lack of action. For me, guilt and failure result not from the things I've done but the times in which I did not act.

So how do I begin to make that right?

Monday, September 26, 2016

More ramblings on failure

I had an appointment with my shrink today. She asked how often I've failed at things. I honestly replied not often. I've made more than my share of mistakes but failing at a task? Not often.

However, I carry with me my Aunt Susie's voice every time I make a mistake. She's been dead several years and she was absent for many years of my life and yet i still hear smoker voice with a tilt of laughter saying "Crystal, everything you touch turns to shit." I can't remember when she first said it. I can't remember the context. What I remember is that I've always been hard on things. As I kid I blew through shoes, I still tear up shoes. I have to get new dishes every few years because mine break. A year or so ago I was doing lawn work and sliced the electrical cord and weed-wacked my own leg. I bought a new car last year and my front right bumper is totally scratched up. It's true, I'm hard on things. It's not true that everything I touch turns to shit. Every time I do something stupid and innocent, like driving to the wrong town for my hotel a few weeks back and discovering I had passed the hotel 30 miles before. I started to beat myself up with talk about being a dumb-ass when my daughter stopped me and helped me to laugh at myself. I'd never be so cruel to someone else and yet I do speak to myself that way.

One of the things I'm supposed to be doing for my mentor is creating a collage on fear and failure with cutouts from magazines. I started going through a pile of magazines today. I wasn't finding much inspiration or pictures that represent fear or failure to me. Then my view shifted. I realized  I'd been looking for the wrong things, I was being too literal. The more I flipped through the magazines the worse I felt about myself. I hated seeing the pictures of beautiful women, these beautiful seascapes and landscapes of places I'll likely never visit. Pictures of families hiking and having fun made me feel like I was wasting my life. I was judging myself, my family, my life on pictures in a magazine that is posed and created to sell items or tell me where to go on my dream vacation or how to organize and decorate my dream home. Rather than being inspired, it made me depressed to know I'd never spend $65 on a pair of jeans and I find it nearly impossible to envision myself in Cuba and that my bedroom will probably never be clean let alone perfectly decorated. I was judging myself, condemning myself, and wishing for a different life.

And yet, as I put the scissors and magazines away, I walked into my home (which is beyond what I ever imagined for myself) and my youngest was holding the kitten her sister rescued. My husband kissed my neck, my middle daughter petting my dog, and I realized that my life is good, my life is far more than good, far more than I ever imagined for myself. I am not a failure. I may or may not go to Cuba. I find it a point of honor not to spend $65 on a pair of jeans; I'm proud that my girls are not wrapped up in name brand clothing and consider thrift store shopping an adventure. I'd love to give my home a fresh splash of paint and do some decorating but I can do that a piece at a time. I want my home to be clean but not perfect...some days that's a huge struggle but I'm working on it. Our house is a house of love and laughter, that's far better than anything a magazine could offer.

New sets of dishes every few years is fun. I can replace my shoes. I live and love with passion and that may mean my things may not be gently worn but that is far from turning them to shit. Knowing my Aunt Susie, she probably said it with love and laughter never intending to hurt me and certainly not expecting it to stick.

Failure...

It's been busy, so what's new right? I guess this could be about a failure to post blogs in a timely manner. I gotta be honest. I'm sick of thinking about failure. I've found that I don't like the word at all. I don't like considering myself or anyone else a failure. I prefer an "oops" or mistake; not failure.To me failure means the end; that there's no coming back. Thankfully, that isn't how the world works.

Nearly every week I attend a staffing for men (mostly) who are in a program to help them face their problems and perpetration of domestic violence. These guys have usually had multiple arrests and convictions of DV, this is their last chance if you will. I'm amazed and frustrated by this process. One of the things that frustrates me is knowing some of their histories and realizing that instead of sitting in jail, they are out on the streets and thus it feels that DV isn't always taken seriously. However, on the other side of things this program makes my heart sing. These are guys who've been through their own trauma and have inflicted trauma on others but yet this program sees their value as human beings, as people who have had trauma that has led them down a dark path and instead of giving up and calling them failures, they are surrounded by professionals that want to help them deal with their trauma and go forth as good and decent partners, spouses, and parents. They may have failed in their relationships before but they are not failures; they are people who need support so that they can do better.

In that sense, failure does not exist because we have grace, we have second, third, seventy-second chances to be better, to make it work.

Yet, one failure to act still nags at me and haunts me. When I was in my late twenties and early thirties I had a younger cousin who was very much challenged at home, she had a rough life. We talked about bringing her into our home and raising her. We were barely scraping by and knew there wouldn't be assistance available unless she ended up in the system and we didn't want that to happen to her. We were also afraid, afraid of what I'm not totally sure but fear was definitely present. We didn't take her into our home. She's now a drug addict and has lost her own kiddos to the system. I, we, failed her. I can't make it right. So how do I begin to forgive myself for that failure? It happened. I don't know that she would have done any better in our home, she would have moved to a large city and potentially be exposed to more drugs there than in the small town in which she lived. Maybe we couldn't of handled her but my failure is that I didn't even try. I gave up the fight for her before it was even started. So there is failure, I have failed her. That is how the world works at least part of  the time.

It's a cliche but it's true: our regrets are made not by the things we tried but those we did not attempt. So is regret the same as failure or something completely different? Perhaps regret is the haunting residue of failure.

As sick of it as I am, I guess I still have work to do. Until next time...

Friday, September 16, 2016

She's coming home

A few weeks ago I drove my middle child across states to try living with my sister. She lives in a small town, there's more family and my baby girl (I refer to all of my girls as "baby girl") has high anxiety so we all thought it might be a good thing for her. Yesterday she told me she wanted to come home. She said she feels "worthless." That broke my heart. I wanted to leave last night to go get her.

So why talk about that hear? My self talk immediately became that of my failure: "What have I done wrong that she struggles with so much anxiety? I should gotten her to therapy before she left. I should have done xyz." I also heard in her voice that she feels a bit of that failure vibe too. She's worried that she's disappointed the family there by coming home so quickly. 

Realistically neither of us should be considering failure at this point. We wanted to try something different, we did. We didn't know what would happen, we weren't sure if it would be a good fit or not, there weren't expectations. Okay, I think she had some unstated expectations, the expectations I had were confined to her learning to drive and coming home sooner than later. She didn't learn to drive but she did drive more there than she ever has here. She is coming home sooner than later, I just wish it wasn't breaking her heart so much.

I'm glad to have my baby girl back. I have a better idea of what I need to do to support her. Those are good things. We can give her some extra support and love so that she can fly when she feels ready. I think she feels like she should be flying now. She's seen most of her friends fly off to college and they seem great. She wasn't ready for that and that's okay. I hope she'll relieve herself of that pressure. If you have suggestions about how I can help her release that let me know. 

I want to help her release those expectations and fears and that feeling of failure so she can be free. I realize that I too need to release my own expectations and fears and feelings of failure so I do not infect her any more than what's been done. Perhaps we can learn to fly together.