Monday, September 28, 2009


I'm getting ready to go on a trip. I'm traveling to Mexico. By myself. This will be the first time in many, many years that I am going somewhere by myself. For the last 10 plus years, when i have went somewhere it has been because my job required it...or my husband wanted to go there...or because my family was traveling to a place. I have not went somewhere strictly because I wanted to go. And I have never went alone.

This trip didn't start as a solitary plan. I originally thought I would travel with 3 friends, a married couple and a good girlfriend of mine. In the past several weeks though, they've individually had different reasons for not being able to go. So I was left with the choice of either going on my own or skipping the trip. I was really growing to like the idea of going to a warm place with a clear ocean to play in 10 I go. By myself.

I'm really looking forward to the trip. I expect to nap and read and swim. I've planned one formal thing and that's a day of snorkeling. I love the water and I haven't been snorkeling since I was 10 or 11...I can't wait!

The reactions of my friends and family to my adventure have been surprising to me. Some of them feel sad for me...that I have no one to go with. Some of them have seemingly thought I was fibbing about the trip, that maybe I had a man on the side, and that perhaps I was intending on sneaking away with "him" and didn't want to tell the truth. Others have applauded my independence and believe it's a great opportunity for me. I tend to agree with the third group. I think it *is* a great opportunity for me. I will have time to reflect, meditate, pray and relax without the time clock of everyday life. No little ones to care for and no ex-husband to detract my the time.

The second group - the ones that think there might be some mystery man I'm not disclosing - surprise me. It's like the folks that have asked me if I'm "dating." Holy moly. I just got divorced. I haven't even adjusted to that life change. A new relationship? Not even in the distant horizon in my view. And quite honestly I wouldn't know what to do with a relationship right now. I'm trying to figure out what the heck happened to my last one. And I spent over 1/3 of my life in that one. It's time for me to figure Maybe someday I will feel differently, but I can tell you, I don't imagine it anytime soon. Not that I want to be a eunuch or celibate for life...but for right's exactly what I want to be. I have so much to discover about who I was created to be. I have two little people who rely on me for everything and I have a challenging job that takes a lot of energy. I don't want to fall into the trap of "I don't need a man" but this point I don't think I do!

I'll post more after the trip - I've planned a ritual of sorts for the trip, and life seems good and full.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I've been wordy lately. Even for me. (and that's saying something...) I view a lot of life in terms of metaphors. I often think they speak better than all of my wordiness can. For instance, we've all heard the metaphor of the caterpillar turning into a butterfly. That one has been out there for awhile, and yet it perfectly describes my current experience of life.

As a child, I was your typical caterpillar. Exploring my world, but not able to wander too far because after all, for all the legs a caterpillar has, they are short legs and not capable of running too far, too fast. As a young adult, I committed myself to the cocoon. I was probably 18 or 19. And I was learning about who I was, and how I fit into the world. I was exploring my religious, political and philsophical beliefs about the world, God and me. Those college years were tumultuous, but ultimately they provided a space for me to crawl into the cocoon to prepare to fly.

Once I was in that place, I had a hard time leaving it. While it was dimly lit and cramped at times, it was familiar and not too scary. So I stayed. Long past the time I needed to be ready to fly. But I was fearful. Out of fear, I made a lot of decisions. I married for somes sense of security in life. I lost who I was by becoming who I thought I was supposed to be. I worked in a dysfunctional and chaotic environment for many years simply because my that's what i was "supposed" to do. I couldn't get out of the cocoon, but if you asked me, I'm sure I would've said I was free, free to do what I wanted and how I wanted. In reality, I felt trapped, misunderstood and confused.

As life goes, things don't remain the same for too, too long. One day, seemingly out of nowhere, I spied a glimmer of light. As if the cocoon had cracked just enough to allow a sliver of light through the darkness. In the beginning the light was so overwhelming and bright, that I hid my face. I didn't know what I was seeing, and I was frightened. Eventually though, that big, bright world beckoned. And I couldn't resist. I wanted to see what was out there.

So, I entered into a journey of becoming. It hurt at first. I felt exposed, vulnerable and very alone. But with every step in the journey, the One who is Love, provided me with bits and pieces of who I was to become. Communities of faith, people who cared about where I was headed, and the knowledge that somehow, some way I would figure this all out. The journey was not to a place but to the center of who I am, who I was made to be.

I've finally allowed the cocoon to fall away. The work begun in me so many years ago is now beginning to make manifest in a new and wonderfilled way. There are moments when I see the old shell of the cocoon hanging from the tree, and I crave it's sameness, its security. But then I look again and see the brilliant colors of these wings, and I know that I was not meant to stay in that drab, gray place forever. Finally, it's time to fly.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Stony, God and Me

I've had a dog named Stony as my close friend for over 11 years. I adopted Stony from the Humane Society while I was in law school. I was lonely, and hated my life in that town. I hated law school, and the competitiveness of it all. Stony was my faithful companion.

Stony is a mutt. He is some beagle, some sort of shepherd mix...some of more stuff. He's tan and white, a mid-sized kind of dog. Too big to be a lapdog, but small enough to occupy a small spot on the bed. He loves car rides where he can hang his head out the window. He's a runner. If he gets out, he runs. He typically always comes back. Unless someone picks him up, but mostly he's even too smart for that. Believe it or not, he looks both ways before crossing the street. He's a smart dog. He likes to chase rodents and birds, though he's never hurt one that i know of. He can swim quite well if there are ducks to chase in a pond. And he's perceptive. When I had a broken foot, he was constantly by my side, and only asked to go out if I was already up and around. He has soulful brown eyes that seem to penetrate my soul. I love this dog. He has outlasted many relationships in my life, several physical moves and even my marriage.

I recently started walking with Stony at night after dark around the neighborhood I live in now. He loves to go for a good walk. He pees on a bunch of stuff, and sniffs for the trail of some rabbit or squirrel. And he otherwise is a fun walker. He doesn't make me run and strain against the leash, but he keeps a brisk pace only stopping every now and again for a deeper sniff.

Stony and I have been walking, and I've been talking to God a lot. I've felt pretty overwhelmed this past week. My life seems a bit out of control. I'm divorced, but remaining in the same home with my ex at this point, with no end in sight. I want desperately to move on, and can't seem to get out of my rut. I tried to talk to him last night...and well it didn't go well. More than any other emotion, I feel angry right now. I just wrote out a private list of what all I'm mad about it. It spanned 3 pages. I don't express anger well. I've always learned to squash that kind of thing. Nice girls don't get mad. Or something like that.

But, me, Stony and God, well we had a good walk and talk last night. I told God I was sorry, but that I was pretty ticked off right now. I think if He/She was trying to make me feel better, he told Stony to be extra caring with me. And it worked. Stony knew just how to be.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Holding Something Back

This morning, at church, I had a moment. These happen every now and again. Sort of a recognition that something/someone is speaking, and that it is time for me to listen.

The priest who preached this morning was talking about separation and relationship. But what created the moment was a statement somewhere in the middle about holding back. This is perhaps what I struggle with most these days. There is a part of me that I hold back. Whether from myself, God or's what I do. I'm not sure if I've ever figured out how *not* to hold something back.

Sometimes it's because I don't want to feel exposed. Sometimes it's because I fear the reactions of other people to something I say or express. Other times it's because I worry about what saying something out loud does. Does it give the statement some power or effect that it would not have had but before giving it words?

The topic that is most easily avoided by me these days is my divorce. Hell, I still have yet to tell many friends and most family that I am already legally divorced. That should perhaps be a signal to me that I hold back. At moments I'm not sure how to begin the conversation. At other moments, I am ashamed of my own choice in all of this, and so I avoid speaking the words. This morning's gospel was at least partially about a woman whose daughter needs to be healed. She begs Jesus to heal her child. It reminds me again that my own daughter will need to be healed from all of this.

And then I remember of course we all need to be healed in some way. From some old hurt. For me, more than ever, I need to be healed of my own old pain, old shame. There's still so much I carry with me that doesn't need to be carried any longer. It can be released. It's time. But, for whatever reason, I insist on holding at least part of it back. Saving it for some later day. When of course, this is precisely what traps me in the same spot I sit in day in and day out.

Perhaps not holding back is what I fear. What if I let out everything? What will happen? Will I be enough? Will I be accepted? Even in my frailty. Even in my sadness. Even in my joy. From very early on in my life I learned that to be sure I was accepted I did that which was acceptable. I was the class clown as a kid. As a young adult I married a man I knew wouldn't be what i needed because he accepted me. He promised to love me. That was enough. That was all I ever wanted. Or so I thought. Then I seemingly woke up one day. I think more as a result of having my own children as anything else. Or maybe it was just time, I don't know. Once the egg cracks, the contents are hard to put back in. So I find myself struggling with holding back. Where it was second nature, it now doesn't make sense to me. So, I've taken small risks in letting things out. I'm more honest with God than I've ever been. When my tears rise to the surface, I let them flow. And I don't apologize for it anymore.

The message this morning to me was this: You are enough. And you always were. You didn't earn it. You can't buy it or barter for it. From the moment you took your first breath, you were enough, all on your own. You are the beloved. There can be no more or no less. Stop holding back who you are. I created you. I know you intimately, completely. Just like the father of the prodigal son, my arms remain open to you. Now you must open your arms. You must only accept the gift that has always been yours, your birthright. This was what you were created to do.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Organized Religion

The revelation that has struck me in the past few months is that organized religion, and particularly the christian church in america (in my case the Episcopal Church, but perhaps any church) evokes a sort of bipolar reaction in me. On one hand, I love the church. For all its flaws, and wingnuts, it is a place of community and of love at its best. On the other hand, the church can be as divisive and contrary as any other place on earth. Perhaps that is at its worst.

I have trouble with the idea of leaving it behind. Perhaps it's my upbringing. Or maybe all of the kind souls I've met there (or by connection with) that make me want to stay and see what's next. I'm not sure.

As a child the church was a comfort to me. My home life often felt chaotic and I often felt neglected. I was a needy child. I wanted someone to care about me and what I was doing. I found people like that in the church. The first example was probably my Pastor - the same guy who baptized me at 20 days old, confirmed me at 13 years old and was a support all through high school until his retirement in my college years. He was, and remains in my mind, one of the most compassionate and caring people I've ever met. Later, in my pre-teens and teen years it was youth counselors- all three of which I still maintain contact with despite our moves to different states and different lives. All three of those folks were Jesus with skin on for me. They loved and supported me through the turbulent years of my adolescense.

When I was in high school I started attending Teens Encounter Christ weekends (TEC). Those weekends were eye-opening, and I really began to come into my own in those years. I became less a follower and more a leader. I learned who I was in the light of my faith, and my faith became a living, breathing thing during that time in my life.

Later, in college, I found my way to the Episcopal church. I felt at ease there and enjoyed spending time with the priest and deacon at the church I was involved in during those four years. They were both, in vastly different ways, important influences for me.

From the time I graduated from college until perhaps 2003, I stumbled from church to church. I never felt at home, and I didn't stay any one place long. Part of this was actual geograhic moves from Tennessee to mid-Missouri back to the St. Louis area, and part of it was the changes in my life. The man who became my husband (who I met within 6 months of completing college) didn't particularly value church, and so I took my cues from him to some degree. Beginning around the time I gave birth to my daughter, I again began to yearn for a church home. At the time we were living in the City of St. Louis and so I attended the cathedral there. I loved worship there. The pomp and circumstance was beautiful, and I didn't stick out. I also didn't try very hard to become part of the community there. I was a new mother, working a lot of hours at a job I hated, trying to balance my life. I didn't make the time.

Slowly I moved away from church again, until about 8 months ago. My daughter, who is now 6, was beginning to ask me a lot of questions about church, God and death. She attended a Christian based preschool and then a catholic school, so her questions were a natural progression. I decided that it made sense to try and find a church home that could provide her with the community I felt as a child and teen. Almost completely by accident, I happened upon St. Stephens - an Episcopal church in a neighboring community from where we live. I started going there in February of this year with both of my babies - the little one came along in 2006.

The part I struggle with is the animosity. The gossip. The conflict. My idea of church is not defined by these things, and yet they exist. For all of the love and roses above about my "church history" - there were conflicts. One of the youth workers of my teenage years was forced out of our church over politics. In my childhood church our board of elders was constantly making life difficult for those that were not behaving as they should. TEC had its share of scandals and issues with those that were not Lutherans. For all the good, there was bad too I suppose. My last church home split over the ordination of Bishop Robinson a few years ago. All is not perfect. I get that. After all we humans run our churches. It can't be perfect.

What I find disheartening, or perhaps why I find myself feeling like a square peg at times is that I don't really care about the conflicts. I want to worship. I want to feel part of a community. That's about it. The color of the curtains, who sings at one point in the service and whether someone has Buddhist tendencies really don't much matter to me. I have gotten to the point in my life where I truly believe there are many paths to God. And I don't have a corner on the market. While I choose to recite (and to believe) the words of the Nicene Creed, I don't insist that you do the same thing. The church at times seems a confining and limiting institution that is outgrowing its usefulness. That's me stating it at its worst I suppose.

I'm still not sure I fit. For all the affection I feel for the church, I still feel as if I'm outside looking in. Perhaps it's me that hasn't figured out how to walk through the door yet.