Friday, December 24, 2010

A touch

My four and a half year old loves to sleep in my bed. I think he was probably two and a half when he figured out that he could sneak into my bed at night. He was a great crib sleeper - he loved his crib, and would willingly let me place him into the crib every night. Once I moved him to a bed though, he began to slip into my room at night. At first I fought his presence in my bed. I wanted him to be independent and sleep in his own bed. After a time, I realized that fighting him was actually adding to fuel to the fire - it was some sort of an elusive privilege to get in my bed. Over the past year, I've stopped fighting him. I figure eventually he will grow out of this phase of life, and want his own space. For now, I'm joined most nights by my son at some point through the night.

My son is not just content to be sleeping in the same space with me, he needs to touch me. Sometimes it's his foot or his bottom or his hand...but some part of him needs to be in contact with some part of me. This doesn't usually please me. My preference is that he would stay in a corner of the bed, and leave me in some peace. But, I can't really get too angry with him, he doesn't even know he's reaching out most of the time. He just does this instinctively.

A few days ago, as I was trying to fall asleep and had a hand on arm, I was reminded of a time he was in the hospital right before Christmas. My baby was a year old. He was there for five days. Because he was so small, I was afraid to leave him, even for a moment. I was fearful that he would wake up and not see anyone he knew, and panic. I lived in his hospital room those days, and spent hours and hours holding and touching this child. Even in his sleep. I would hold his hand or touch his feet.

As I thought more and more about my experiences with my child, I was reminded of the coming of the Christ child. What does this time of year remind me of? What am I preparing for? What am I most hoping for?

And in reality, it is for that one touch. Like Thomas, I'm not at all satisfied with just hearing about the Good News - no, I want to experience it for myself. I want the emotion of it and the love made manifest. An intellectual faith stopped making sense to me awhile ago. I want the wild and holy love of God.

The only place I know to look for this is in every relationship I have. It's in every interaction, every moment. Whether I recognize it or not, it is there. It is in the small things that seem insignificant and the grand things that seem overdone. In the laughter with good friends, and the tears of the kids I work with. I simply have to become more and more adept at recognizing all the times I come into contact with it. It really remains my job to open my hands and heart to the gift.

Like my child and his ability to locate my hand or foot in his sleep, I recognize the touch of God in life - my life and the lives around me. I deny it at times, I run from it at other times, and sometimes I just plain miss the big picture, but deep in my heart, the recognition is still there.

Last night I had dinner with friends. As we talked about my new "thing" - gatherings of people to talk about faith, life, love...I was excited and that excitement was evident. At some point in the conversation, one of them looked at me, and said, "I'm in. Just tell me when and where to show up." There is great wisdom in that statement - particularly as it relates to the Divine. My hope this year in this time of great expectation and joy is just that simple - God, I'm in. Just tell me when and where to show up. And maybe, as an added help - help me to recognize the divine everywhere in everything. Amen.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


"Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt, but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." From the 20th chapter of John's Gospel

For the past few weeks I have been wearing a St. Thomas medal quite a bit. I'm not entirely certain why, or even what I expect to get from Thomas, but I feel a kinship with him. When I first began to experience a renewal of faith, life and love, Thomas seemed to be my guide. A man who most of us only think about when talking about his doubt or his lack of faith has become a symbol for me.

Doubt is an awfully frightening thing. It tends to isolate us in many ways, and sometimes even paralyzes us. Who among us is eager to admit we doubt God or Jesus or the resurrection or even smaller parts of the story like Noah, Moses or the whole virgin birth thing? After all, it seems like a slippery slope. Once you start doubting parts of the story, the whole narrative is called into question. And what does life look like if none of it is true? For someone who has grown up in the church, it looks pretty damn scary, I can tell you that much. But, what if?

How would my life, and the way I live it, be different if Jesus really was executed, and never rose from the dead? If Jesus was simply another hero of another time that I read would my life be different? Quite honestly, the question isn't a fair one, or even one that I can possibly answer. I've spent the better part of 30 years believing in God, Jesus and the story. To try and undo my history of believing is nearly impossible. Jesus's story, my story, they are part of one story. I cannot imagine one without the other.

Thomas's story has always moved me, because I can see myself very clearly in the story, I'm fairly sure I'm that guy. I'm the one who wouldn't know what to do with it all. I can very easily picture myself as that overwhelmed, frightened, slightly angry man. It reminds me of a time I was sitting in a political science class in college, and I was being told in very clear terms that in many ways, it was all hopeless. Our political systems, parties and way of doing things would never accomplish what we hoped it would. Our leaders would fail us, our ideals would give way to the campaign dollar and our dreams of a just and merciful society were just that - a dream, not a reality that could be attained. I remember my frustration at being told all this, and my exasperated expression to the bearer of the bad news, "Then, what the hell is the point of all this?" She smiled at me, and gently said, "That's what you need to work out for yourself."

As I continue to work out what Thomas's story means to me, and how his story is mine in many ways, I am led to wonder what about all of this doubt business? What is it good for anyway? How does it help me? And then I recall the lesson I've learned this year.

I've always been an end game kind of girl. I want to know why we're doing whatever it is we're doing. Why does it matter? What is it good for? At the end of the day, will it matter? If not, then I have a hard time investing myself fully in whatever it is. It's not that I'm all about results, and not one to believe the journey can be worth something, but I want to believe that what I'm doing makes some difference, to someone. I don't have to believe I'm achieving world peace, but I want to believe that what I do matters to someone besides me. But, like Thomas, sometimes I'm not so sure. I begin to want to *see* the happy endings. I want to know for sure that the decisions I'm making ultimately lead to something good happening, at least in the end.

This past week a friend posted a status on facebook that caught my attention - his question, can we ever really resolve the traumatic events of life? It was at that moment, the epiphany finally reached my heart. (I never said I was a quick study)It's really not about resolving the past, it's about learning what we can from it in a gentle way, and then allowing it to be our past, and not our present or future.

Certainly I'm not thankful for the experiences that I had as a child and young adult that were hard and painful. But, I know who I am, my ability to be a healing agent, a loving person, were at least partially shaped by those experiences. And, so it's not about resolving those events or changing what happened, because that really isn't possible. We can go around or through or into those moments, but the truth of the matter is, they still hurt. And trying to deny the hurt and damage only lands us in deeper water. Just as Thomas acknowledges, when confronted head on with a recently risen Jesus, "My Lord and my God" - acknowledging the hurt is important. But, that's not where we stop. No, we must move forward, and we must be able to see the beauty all around us. Lest our pain define us to the point of destruction rather than transformation.

I'm glad to be walking alongside Thomas. Only someone who has expressed his profound doubt, really understands how I feel. My heart aches because it is full with the love and pain of being all too human. Of experiencing both the incredible presence of God and the desperate absence of God. Our stories remain intertwined.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Old and the New

Today I spoke with a friend I hadn't spoken with in years. We've kept in touch through things like facebook and email, but we don't speak or see one another with any regularity. We went to college together. She was part of the Honors college I was involved in. We knew each other fairly well by the end of 4 years, and I enjoyed her. Our lives have moved in different directions, but still we share a history. Our memories of those years are still part of who we are.

Life goes by with such speed, sometimes I don't feel like I've had time to catch my breath. It seems like it was 5 minutes ago when she and I spent significant time together. When she called, the first words out of her mouth were, "what does this time of year make you think of?" And I immediately knew the answer she was thinking of...pancakes.

Each December, our professor, who was also my mentor/mother/sister in college, would invite all of us over to her home. We would find her in her kitchen, in blue jeans and bare feet. She would be making us pancakes on a big griddle on the counter, adding in pecans or blueberries or chocolate chips. Once we all had a pancake, she would join us in her great room. We would be snuggled up with one another when she came in, and she would join for a time in our chatter. A bunch of college kids, enjoying each other and eating pancakes. After awhile, she would pick up a well-worn book. Sometimes it was Dr. Suess. Sometimes it was Shel Silverstein. After a few minutes, she would start reading to us. The room would fall quiet as we all soaked in the holiness of the moment. The divisions we ordinarily felt...politics, religion, the Greek system, whatever...fell away. We were children again, and our mother was reading to us, teaching us, loving us. It was my favorite night of each school year. I felt her warmth and the love of my friends so strongly on those nights.

I remember my first December experience at my teacher's home. Late into the night, when we began to file out to head back to our dorms, she stood by the front door and hugged each of us. As she held each of us in her arms, she would whisper a blessing of sorts. I still remember her smiling at me and telling me she how very happy she was that I was there. I recall watching the seniors in our group become teary-eyed as they realized they were receiving their final blessing from our beloved professor. A few years later, I remember being one of those seniors, wiping my own tears away as I left her home.

As my friend and I caught up on our lives and how they look and feel these days, she asked me if I missed those nights. I answered her with a resounding yes, but for different reasons than even I understand. Those days, and that age of my life, were filled with so much promise. I felt pregnant with hope and possibility. I was just discovering who I was. My life seemed rich and full and textured. There was a part of me that felt strongly that I could change the world. That my life would mean something, that all I was learning and seeing and believing would lead me right into the next stage of my life, and I welcomed that. Those experiences at my professor's home were at least partially about love and relationships for me. The conversations, the pancakes, the affection was so vital to my survival during those times. Those times have sustained me, even to this day. More than perhaps at any other time in my life, I realize now how important loving relationships really are.

I'm certain if someone had asked me at 21 what I thought my life would like at 35, I would have answered very differently than how life actually turned out for me. But still, here I am. And life is rich and full and textured. The past year has made me see, and believe, that there is still so much to come. As I caught up with my friend I couldn't help but laugh and smile (and cry just a little) at our common history and our common story now. Two girls who have grown up, but who are somehow still pregnant with hope for the future. My vision now is different, for sure, but it is still one full of so much promise.

As I settled in to read to my children tonight, I see so clearly how my life and development have come full circle. I'm so thankful for the old relationships that have nurtured me and formed (and perhaps even transformed) me, but today I'm just as thankful for the new relationships that are defining me in the here and now. And I still find myself as hopeful at 35 as I was at 19; hopeful that love never fails and hopeful that the future is still full of the possibilities and opportunities I first glimpsed all those years ago, when I was sitting on the floor in that warm house, surrounded by so much love and pancakes. My relationships look different and feel different today, but still they are what supports me and nourishes me from the inside out, and make me convinced that I still can change the world.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Sometimes I write about things I think I have a good understanding of. Other days I write about things that confound me, or that I'm struggling with. Today I suppose I'm writing about both of these things at the same time. As seems so often the case, I feel a confluence of events/things/ideas are coming to me at one time. As is also usually the case, I'm not certain what to do with all of these things coming together right now.

I've been contemplating forgiveness lately. And not in the abstract way I often contemplate things. For the first time in my recent memory, I've really wanted to forgive someone, and yet I can't seem to find my way. I know my own ability to forgive would bring me healing, and being able to let go would be living into the way I think God intends for me to live this short life I've been given. Still, here I sit, unable to really forgive and move beyond the bitterness.

In the past week, I have come to understand that God is speaking to me about this. The message has come across in different forms and through different people, but it may as well as be a burning bush; it is increasingly evident.

I got together with an old friend this past Monday. We hadn't seen one another in quite awhile. I really enjoyed the time I had with him. He has always understood me, and always seen the best in me, even when I couldn't quite see it or feel it for myself. We talked old times and new times. As our conversation turned more serious, I confessed to him that I was struggling with being able to forgive my ex-husband for his infidelity and a host of other things. I insisted to my friend that my ex wasn't even sorry, how could I be expected to really be able to forgive him when he had never bothered to apologize, or to even be completely honest with me? My old friend listened quietly, and then said, "It's going to hurt for a long time, but if you are who I know you are, you have to open your heart again and forgive him." His words brought me to tears, but still I find myself stuck in this place of sadness and not just a little bit of anger. At least part of my own stuck-ness is that I struggle with forgiving myself for the parts I have played in my own drama, whether with my ex-husband or with others around me.

Just to be certain I got the message, a few days later my ex-husband showed up at my office. To say this was unusual is an understatement. We haven't had a real conversation in months, perhaps a year or more. Our last months under the same roof were ones filled with minimal interaction, we only spoke to one another when forced to. Once he left our home, and I discovered his betrayal was not just imagined, we rarely spoke at all. Most of our interaction was via text message, and was only the most basic of communication, the "when are you picking up the kids?" kind of interaction.

My ex-husband stopped by my office, and I wasn't clear why. Eventually after chatting with me for awhile, he said he was sorry, sorry that he caused me pain and he understood why I was so upset with him. I think his motivations were slightly less than pure, but still, I can no longer complain that he has failed to apologize. I can't use his lack of repentance as an excuse any longer for my own refusal to forgive him, to forgive myself.

In the midst of all of my self-imposed angst over forgiving my ex-husband, I have considered the hypocrisy in my own inability to forgive. After all how many times have I screwed up? And yet I still come to the table. I still ask for and receive the absolution so freely offered by a God I believe loves me again and again even when I'm not sorry, and I don't get it right. I've hurt so many people in my lifetime, and I've felt the relief and joy of being forgiven so many times.

Later that day I was listening to a guy sing a song that was simple, and yet so expressed where I find myself this strange place of seeking forgiveness for myself and yet being unable or unwilling to forgive another. It's an exile of sorts. Perhaps a self-created one, but still it feels a bit like exile. Knowing what needs to happen, knowing who I am and knowing what I value demands that I forgive, and still I seem determined to remain in my current place of separation. I'm not clear where the answer lies. I'm hopeful that I will get to that place in my journey where I will forgive freely, where I will judge less harshly, if at all, where I will seek to understand rather than be understood.

"You are my strength, and I am weak.
You are my strength, and I am weak.
You are my strength, and I am weak.
Maranatha. Maranatha. Maranatha.

I've given up sometimes when I've been tired.
I've given up sometimes when I've been tired.
I've given up sometimes when I've been tired.
Does it move you? Does it move you? Does it move you?

I've fucked it up so many times.
I've fucked it up so many times.
I've fucked it up so many times.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

I've found my home in Babylon.
I've found my home in Babylon.
I've found my home in Babylon.
Here in exile. Here in exile. Here in exile."

"Maranatha" - Padraig O Tuama

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thank you

A confession: Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday of the year. In fact, to be honest, I dread the coming of Thanksgiving every year.

I have a lot of not-so-fond memories of Thanksgiving. On a day so many spend with their families, I can recall spending more than one Thanksgiving alone as a child. In my late teens and twenties, I worked very diligently to create a family for Thanksgiving. I made elaborate meals and traveled to friends' homes in other states, and still I felt some sense of loss on this holiday. A day people traditionally spend with their families seemed to highlight my alone-ness, my separateness from others.

Four years ago at Thanksgiving time was when I was first confronted rather head-on with my husband's infidelity. Last year I insisted my ex-husband move from our home at Thanksgiving time. The holiday has not been especially happy for me in either my distant or my recent memory.

It isn't that I'm not thankful or don't love the idea of a holiday that is centered on being grateful. In fact, I would characterize myself as someone who often sees the gifts in life, and is abundantly thankful for them. I find myself saying to God multiple times a day a simple, "thank you." And in the past few years I have started to recognize the value in telling the people in my life that I love them and am thankful for their lives. Gratitude is a huge part of my life nowadays. And I'm...well...I'm thankful for that, too.

Tonight I spent some time with an old friend. She and I have known each other since we were 5 or 6 years old. Our current lives are vastly different, and yet our histories are very much the same. As we talked about our families, both of which have been difficult to contend with since we were little girls, she expressed how hard it is to let go of the hurt when there is an expectation that you "be happy" at holiday celebrations with the family that has hurt you so intensely in the past. As I listened to her words, I realized what I am truly thankful for this year. It's really very simple. It's clarity. And it's the grace to let go of all of those old expectations so I can fully open my hands and accept all the blessings in and around and through my life now.

Yes, my family of origin has continually been a disappointment to me. And it's not getting any better. It's true, I have lived through a divorce in the past 18 months, and I still struggle with feeling bitter and sad about it. My job, on some days, is incredibly painful and difficult. I continue to struggle with my weight and my insecurity about my weight. I don't know where I'm headed in many ways. My friends are people who struggle with their own families, addictions, conflicts and issues. And yet...and still...

There are more and more days when I feel really good. Those days and times when I realize that I have created my own family - one centered around love and goodness and laughter and compassion. There are times when I look at the two little people sleeping in my bed and see very clearly that they are healthy, inquisitive, funny and loving. Over and over, I have laughed, loud and long, with the people I work with about whatever serious stuff we are confronting. There are those moments when I understand that all the pain I see and feel for these kids pales in comparison to the joy I see and feel when a child is adopted or loved or cared for. There are days when I know that my weight will again come under control, but that perhaps giving myself a little time and gentleness is what is called for in this moment. There is the hour I confront that I don't know where I'm going, but I know where I've been. I've been to some incredible places, and I've known and loved some wonderful people, and I've been known and loved by some even more wonderful people. But mostly today I am thankful for conversations like the one I had tonight. To be able to listen to someone's struggle and realize that this is what I know to love my sister. I know how to hear what she cannot say and to bear witness to the fact that she is here: a strong, compassionate and beautiful woman.

Out of the ruins of a family who could not love her, she is here, and so am I - and she is thankful for her incredible life and the grace of the Divine, and so am I.

For whatever inexplicable reasons, God has loved me and cared for me in more ways than I can possibly know in my lifetime. Life, as it is ever unfolding, is good and full and amazing. And all I know to say is "thank you."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My boy

This Sunday I'm having my little one, my son, baptized into the community that has already accepted him (and us) into their midst. Last year when my daughter asked to go through this ritual, I knew that she had reasons for wanting to do this. She had seen many children baptized, and she had thought about it. Even though she was only six years old, she seemed to grasp some of the weight of her decision.

Last year when my daughter was baptized, I decided, that as a family, I wanted both of my children to be able to share in the Eucharist - receiving the bread and wineat the table. So despite the fact that my son had not yet been baptized, I let him begin receiving communion. My reasoning, faulty it may be, was that as a family, we had all been attending the church for nearly a year and together we would go to the table to receive what was being offered and to give what we offer - the love of Christ, fellowship with a new family, our own thanksgiving for the blessings of our common life.

For the past few months, my son has mentioned that he wants now to do what his sister did a year ago. At first I sort of let the conversation drift around and didn't really question him or talk with him much about it. I offered the typical momism..."OK, we'll see." As he has grown more and more sure of himself recently, I finally told him I would mention it to our priest and move forward. He was pleased, and for the past week he has gotten downright excited about what was to come.

My son is in many ways me, in male form. My son, since the night before his birth, has not been an easy child. His entrance into this world was rocky. After a simple, and full 39 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy, I was preparing for bed. I had put our 2 and 1/2 year old daughter to bed in her toddler bed, fed the dogs and was ready to heave my large belly into bed. I had been assured by my doctor a day earlier, that I was still probably a week or so away from delivering. My son, unlike my daughter, was in the right position to be delivered naturally, and I was living in that slow period of waiting for his arrival. As I crawled into bed, I decided to make one last trip to the bathroom. And then in dramatic fashion when I stood up, my water broke. I was stunned. And a little unnerved. I wasn't ready for this new adventure just yet.

Regardless of my preparations, the contractions started, and pretty soon I found myself in a hospital room. We arrived there around midnight, and I assumed that by morning I would be holding my son. My expectations were not immediately met. I labored through the night and the next morning...and the next afternoon...finally my doctor came to me and said, the baby was in distress each time I contracted, and that he was not going to come on his own, that they wanted to perform a c section. I was so tired by the time this development happened, I quickly consented, and was ready to meet this child. I recall very clearly the moment of my son's was silent. He didn't cry. He was blue. I was frightened. Within a minute he was screaming and bright pink. I remember crying in relief. He was here, he was alive and by all accounts he was healthy, and born on his due date, after 21 hours of labor.

My daughter, as an infant and toddler, was affectionate, loving and happy most days. My son was not really any of these things. He was an adorable baby, and not at all a fussy infant...but he had his quirks that were clear early on. He didn't take to people the way his sister did. He was cautious and sometimes seemingly anxious about situations and events. He resisted change, and was only content if we were following our ordinary routine. And to complicate things further, he had health issues that landed him in a doctor's office or hospital often from birth until he was over 2 years old.

And yet...and still...I have always understood him. He is so much who and how I was at his age, and his life has healed me in so many ways. I recall feeling the way he often seems to feel. Not entirely trusting people around me, not having an innate ability to show affection to those around me. As he ages and learns to express himself and to accept the love of those around him, I am continually amazed by this boy.

By far the best part of today was seeing how much he has changed and grown in just a few, short years. He was excited, loving and happy. And he was able to express those feelings openly to the people around him. Shortly after he was baptized, he ran into my arms and said, "that was awesome mom." I told him how I proud of him I was. He is in all ways, my child.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Things left unsaid

As is common for me, I've come crashing back to earth. I tend to be reactionary, emotional and a little crazy. The past month has been ripe with new ideas, new people and excitement for me. In a way, I feel as if for a moment I left behind all of the wreckage of my personal life for bigger things. But, still I know myself well enough, and perhaps even accept myself enough, to feel it coming on and I'm ready to listen to what the lessons are this time around. About a week ago, I could feel this "spell" a-coming on. So what's eating me?

I'm not entirely sure. I think part of it has to do with trying to figure out some balance with my ex-husband, and still feeling ill-equipped to get it all ironed out in my mind. To my chagrin, I've discovered that some days I miss him. That seems strange to me, to even say those words, but it's true. Not that I've said those words out loud to anyone. It might be that I think it's strange because I chose this road. I made the decision that both of us feared. In the end, I decided for both of us that we would no longer be together. As I was getting misty-eyed listening to some Amy Grant last night, a line from one of her songs struck me, "the road of life is rugged, any road you choose, when I find the other side...I'll wait for you."

I suppose I didn't really get how hard this would be. To be alone. To feel alone. I find myself feeling sad that no one is "waiting for me" anywhere. And yet, I don't feel ready or able to love someone the way I loved my husband. I don't feel ready to admit my own neediness. In many ways he was my first, my only. It still hurts too much. The loss is still fresh in so many ways. I find myself envying those around me who move onward and upward so quickly. My fears are too great. I find myself silent.

I sat in the emergency room with my daughter Friday night after she experienced an allergic reaction to something. I called her dad on my way to the ER. I'm not certain what I was hoping for. Regardless he asked me to call him when it was over and let him know what was going on. The difference for me this time is that I was just left sad. So many words left unsaid.

Back when our son was an infant and I was sitting in hospital rooms with him - holding him for hours, quieting his tears, pacing the hallways, praying that he would be all right - I was alone then, too. My ex-husband hasn't changed in the past year. Back then I was so consumed with anger at him for not being who I wanted him to be in those moments, I could barely look at him. And yet, I was quiet.

And just so I don't appear the martyr, I don't believe he ever meant anything by not being present. I think he figured I had it handled. After all I never let myself crumble with him. I was stoic, in control and edgy when it came to our children and their crises. Even now, I'm not certain how to talk about being scared. I expected him to know, to understand, to see past my bravado. And when he didn't or couldn't, I was angry.

I still recall with more than a little bitterness the night I labored with our son. We left for the hospital around 10pm after my water broke unexpectedly. My parents met us and took our sleepy little girl home with them. I was determined to have our son naturally. As the hours came and went, I grew more and more scared. I was in pain, my labor wasn't progressing and I was becoming increasingly tired. In the midst of all this, my husband decided to "take a break" and left me alone for 3 hours. I had a mini-breakdown. Here I was, in a hospital room, in intense labor with our child and completely and totally alone. And yet, when he returned, I said very little. Some days I believe that was the beginning of the end of our marriage.

There are so many things I never said. And so I feel sad today. I wonder if any of those things would have made a difference for us. I've made tough decisions. And while I can't honestly say I regret those decisions, I also am still left full of sorrow in some ways that I had to make them. So many things left unsaid.

Monday, October 25, 2010


As is my custom on Mondays, I read the upcoming Gospel lesson for next Sunday. I like to let it soak in a bit before Sunday rolls around. The week generally passes so quickly, that I don't really feel that gives me enough time...but I try.

This lesson is the one that kids at Vacation Bible School have been singing about since the beginning of time...the story of the "wee little man" - Zaccheus. As I re-read the story this week, it occurred to me, that Zaccheus's transformation is exactly what Peter Rollins has been talking about with some of his recent blogs. ( Transformation brings about change. If we are truly transformed, change is imminent for us.

We aren't told what happened at Zaccheus's house between him and Jesus. Jesus gets him out of the tree, they head out, and then we hear about the end result - Zaccheus's entire way of doing "life" is changed in an instant. He goes from sinner to sanctified, just like that.

More than ever I'm curious what the intervening day/evening looked like. Did Jesus just have such a presence, that he swayed Zaccheus without even really saying a word? Or did Jesus ask him about his life and they get to know one another over some bread and wine? Did Jesus move him with beautiful, powerful words? I'm left wondering. How did it go? What did it look like?

Sometimes life happens like an instant we feel alive, the connection between ourselves and another person is overwhelming. It's as if we are set on fire about some thing or someone. It's inexplicable really, that moment of *knowing.*

Today I was in court with a woman who was losing her rights to her two small daughters. I have found myself very moved by her situation from the beginning. I cannot imagine the pain she had to face today. Her addiction has landed her in a number of messes, but this one had to have been the worse. Not only is she in prison for her drug problem, but heap on the insults...she loses her parental rights to the children she carried in her womb, delivered and loved. Despite her addiction, or perhaps in addition to being an addict, she was a mother. And no one would have testified today that she didn't love those girls. She and I met today in a tiny jail cell prior to her hearing. She was shackled and looked like a child herself. I sat next to her. As she cried, and I fumbled for words and fought my own tears, I finally looked her dead in the eye and said, "You will always and forever be their mother. No court proceedings will change how you feel about them. They were yours from the day you knew of their existence, and they always will be in your heart." She stopped crying for a minute and met my gaze. She understood. I wasn't her lawyer anymore, I was another woman who knew what it was to carry, deliver and love my own children, imperfectly. There was a moment of transformation for her, for me. My life has been altered by hers, by the intersection of our lives. As my son sleeps softly next to me, I am thinking about her and her daughters, and hoping for their futures.

Try as we might to turn over a rock and find it somewhere else, the message, the Good News is always there, just at or below the surface of where we live. We find it always in relationship to another.

I still wonder about Zaccheus. I wonder what Jesus said or did (or perhaps what he didn't say or didn't do) to usher in transformation for Zaccheus. I wonder how Jesus was changed by Zaccheus. Because we can't relate to another and not be changed/transformed/altered in some fundamental way. I suppose it's another question I don't have an answer to. But all the same, I know the result. And it's a beautiful thing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Home Free

Every so often I go through a phase of looking up songs I listened to years and years ago to see what I think about the thoughts expressed in them now. (Thank you very much iTunes) Mostly the songs I look up are from the contemporary christian stuff I used to like in high school and somewhat in my college years. This past week I recalled a lovely song called "Home Free" by Wayne Watson. I don't know whatever happened to Wayne, but I used to love this song.

It is basically a "sweet by and by" kind of tune. It's a song that talks about the yearning for what he calls "ultimate healing." I find myself still liking the song, but of course for vastly different reasons today.

When I was younger, late teens/early 20's - I subscribed to the idea that someday we would understand it all. When we got to heaven we would have some sort of list of explanations handed to us. A sort of conference where God would say, "This is why I caused/allowed the tsunami, here was the reason behind HIV/AIDS, this is why I allowed all the bad things that happened in the lives of everyone I knew". And I also assumed that whatever the explanations were, they would all make perfect sense. I would have arrived home to my Father's house, and I would have a room and everything would all add up just the way it should. Even better, I would get to see all those people I knew who had died before me, and they also would be able to explain to me the stuff that I didn't "get" in this life.

The other side of this heavenly coin was the idea that magically all of our shortcomings would be healed. Finally, I would stop overeating, and be magnificently thin. All of the scars I got from living in this world would be magically erased as if the wounds never occurred. What a lovely thing: to die as if I had never lived the bad parts of life...

The song's chorus goes like this: Home free, eventually. At the ultimate healing, we will be home free. Home free, oh I want to be there, at the ultimate healing, we will be home free.

I'm pretty sure what Wayne meant by the "utlimate healing" was death/heaven/the afterlife. And that is a lovely thought. But what about now?

Is our only real hope in the afterlife? Is that really what Jesus meant? If so, it seems pretty hopeless down here on earth, doesn't it?

More and more I see the message of Jesus, truly the Good News, as something that is happening all around us. When my child learns to be loving, when I learn to forgive, when my heart is healed after feeling torn apart...these things are the here and now of faith. And thank God for her grace. It's not that I don't wonder about all the terrible things that happen, and that I don't try and figure out some solutions that are woefully inadequate to fix the problem, but still healing is here and now - and perhaps faith really does allow for the "ultimate healing" Wayne sings about. Only because the healing comes in community.

In a similar vein, I saw a sign this week that I have read and chuckled about for a few weeks, but didn't think about its significance until today, it reads, "Free Seeking the Truth self-study DVD's." Really? Seeking the truth can be done through self study? I can't imagine that's true. It seems to me the only way to find the truth (not that it's a one-time mission so much as journey with lots of pit stops)is in community. It is only with my sister's journey in my heart that I can discover where I am supposed to go and where my journey fits into the tapestry of faith. It is only when I take my brother's hand that I have the strength to continue, the courage to see what it is that lies before me. Without the context of community, healing seems like an event that must happen in some other time and some other place. Within the context of community we can see healing as sure as one can see a wound scab over.

In some meditation time yesterday a strange image popped into my mind...a large wound that had developed an equally large scab. Out of the scab, flowers grew. All in and around the wound were blooms of pink and yellow and purple. So much so that the scab was barely visible. However if you looked carefully, it was still there. When this thought occurred to me, I knew nothing else to do but to thank God immediately for all of those scabs that have become beautiful in some way. I don't thank God for the wound that caused the scab...that seems almost masochistic to me. But I am so thankful that in the healing I have been able to see the beauty that is there and that grows wildly all around. It is only in community, in the context of another's hurt, that I become incredibly aware of the healing I have already received. It is only in the moment of loving the other, that the healing becomes complete in my own life.

In the end, I don't think I'm awaiting the "ultimate healing" to come so much as I am blessed to receive it on a daily basis now. Still love the song.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Luke 18:9 (NRSV) He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Phar'isee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Phar'isee, standing by himself, was praying thus, "God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.' 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."

This is the gospel lesson for Sunday...and as usual it seems especially poignant today. I was having a conversation with a friend this week. It started innocently enough, but soon it turned into a free for all. I inquired about another friend and asked how the two were getting on these days. I didn't realize the land mine I had stepped on. Before I could respond, she began to categorize all of the things she believed this other person was doing that were inappropriate, foolish or downright wrong. I think my jaw dropped open slightly at some point. I wasn't sure how to respond to her criticisms. I mostly listened interjecting to defend the other person on occasion. Perhaps some of the criticisms were valid, but mostly they seemed petty and insignficant to me. Though clearly they were serious concerns for her. Her message seemed to be, "Thank God I'm not like HIM."

I'm not certain what we do when our ability to convey a message becomes hindered. When we simply cannot reach the other with our intentions/our heart. Whether it's because of his or her baggage or our own, sometimes we lose the ability to effectively communicate with another person.

I think back to a time when my ex-husband and I really enjoyed one another. We would talk for hours. Politics, religion, life, love, all matter of things. In the beginning when I was still a student, I would drive to his flat on the weekends, and we would lie in bed for hours. Besides the sex there was always a commonality of ideas. We were gentle with one another, and we could disagree without it being dramatic.

Somewhere along the line life got in the way. We stopped really seeing one another. The fact that we had a history together seemed to almost complicate matters even more. Our conversations became stilted, forced. Our disagreements became occasions for silence or bitterness. I don't know what day things changed. Or what even precipitated it, I just know things changed.

If I think back on some of the other relationships that I've had, I can see the same pattern. And if I'm honest, I can see my own participation. Whether it be that I withdrew from the relationship because it became hard. Or that I struggled with my own feelings of inadequacy or my fear of intimacy. I'm not certain. Regardless the pulling apart happened. And oftentimes I stood, in my self-righteousness, and thought to myself, "at least I'm not like that person." At least I'm smart or liberal or open to new ideas or saavy or rooted in faith or... And of course I should be able to trace these thoughts to the beginning of the end. When the beloved becomes an "it" or an "other" it becomes easier to be critical. I know for myself that I become condescending, dismissive and distant. And at some point down the road, I seem confused about how I got there.

Therein lies the lesson. I'm fairly certain the gospel's tax collector didn't feel glorious when he walked away after baring his soul to God in the temple. He wasn't smug or self-righteous or even particularly pleased with himself. Rather, it says he "could not even look up to heaven." When we are our most vulnerable with others, our most honest, it often is hard to look the other person in the eye. But that moment is where true relationship begins. Suddenly someone's faults, whatever they may be, seem to be less serious and certainly can be overlooked in favor of love you feel for him or her.

I have found myself saying often in the past year that if we could just start with the premise that people mean well, that we could get much, much further down the road in our conflict resolution. Whether it's in my mediation practice or my life. If I can push aside what I think I know about someone in favor of simply believing for at least a few minutes that he or she has the best of intentions, I can really hear the other. And when I can hear him or her, I can love the person, for the person that he or she is.

And so what is the good news? That we can start anew each day with one another. No, I think it's better than that. I think the good news is that despite our differences, we can love one another anew each day. And that love means forgiving what we think is wrong or mistaken about the other person. Whether that person is a sinner who knows full well his or her shortcomings or a pharisee who will never admit wrongdoing - both of these are the beloved.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Absence of God

I took some much needed respite this weekend from my ordinary life. I set out with some lofty goals of figuring out why I've been so troubled by my job lately and what all this theology/discernment means for me. Though I won't claim to have caught sight of any burning bushes, I was confronted with some real truth.

This weekend I heard a lot about the theological/conceptual idea of the death of God. I haven't read much about this, although I have followed some of the debate over time. Still, this concept of the absence of God sparked something in me that I can't fully articulate. (Although apparently here I am, trying).

Peter Rollins talks a lot about doubt - and the almost sacred nature of doubt. When Peter talked about the crucifixion as an experience of Jesus being abandoned by God, it shook me up. And it resonated somewhere deep within me.

I have struggled in the past months with my own past, and that part of my past I have kept hidden - from God, from others. I have struggled with the abuse I see on a daily basis with the kids I work with. By and large, I have kept my sadness and anger at their situations hidden - from God, from others. I have struggled to remain silent and objective lately in the face of the suffering of these kids. It bothers me. And I can't seem to get control of myself and my feelings. I vacillate from being mad as hell and crying out for some mercy. It is a strange out of control kind of space, and I'm not particularly comfortable occupying it.

The idea of the absence of God is a terrifying thing for me. Peter Rollins is right when he says for some of us belief is easy, but doubt is terribly hard. Suddenly, sitting there listening to the concept that God could or would abandon Jesus/me/anyone else struck me with some force. This, of course, is what I have believed for some time. But, I don't say that out loud to anyone, not even to myself. After all I'm a believer, and have been my whole life. What would it sound like/look like/feel like to admit that I have felt, in the moments I needed God most, that I was left behind by God. That He turned and walked away from me without so much as a backward glance.

And therein the connection to what has made working in juvenile court so hard for me lately. Part of me believes God has also abandoned the kids I work with. Why else or how else would these things happen to them? And so my wound, the wound I've carried all these years becomes more painful, like someone is picking at a scab on my soul.

Now if I were feeling particularly evangelical today I would write that obviously Jesus is and was with me in the most painful moments of my life. Unfortunately I can't say that I believe that. Not today, and if I am to be painfully honest, I have never believed that. Not really. Not completely.

Part of me is bothered by this revelation and part of me feels startlingly free to write the words. As I chatted with God on my drive home today, I explained my anger, my sadness in the best way I knew. Haltingly, but finally truthfully. I asked God in some sort of strange, Jacob-like wrestling match to give me faith. I want to be convinced that God never abandons us - his/her beloved. I want to understand a God of compassion above all else. Or as John Caputo would say hope against hope that such a God is possible even if the face of the impossibility of faith. It is only in the absence of faith that authentic faith is realized fully.

The irony I suppose is that the presence of God is only truly known after the absence of God is truly felt. I cannot have one without the other. I have lived for a very long time with the absence of God as a reality. I have refused to admit it, but I have lived it. It has been somewhat of a schizophrenic life really. To on one hand see and believe in the grace and love of God in my life and those around me, and on the other hand feel as if God could not permeate the worst part of my life and the worst parts of the lives of others. I cannot help but feel hopeful in this moment. My doubts are opening up my heart again, anew to the possibility of the divine. The hope of it all is enough for today. A new day.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The "I" word

For the past few months my weight has been accelerating upward with some speed. It makes me nervous and self-conscious. While I am somewhat aware of what I'm doing and not doing...still I seem to be gaining quickly. Yesterday as I was driving to work, the truth of it all came crashing down on me as I recalled a recent conversation with a good friend. He was trying to coach me through a divorce issue I've been having. He's been there, done that - having divorced from his wife when his children were small and being much further down the road than I am now. I felt vulnerable in the discussion, like he could see right through my facade. I could feel that creeping uneasiness coming over me. I felt exposed in that moment. As if my friend, a person I've developed a very good relationship with in the past 6 months was seeing too much, getting too close.

I get nervous and uptight when I start getting too close to people. Whether it's a boy or a friend or a group of friends...I'm not good with intimacy. Hell, I don't even like the word. Over the past year I have found myself drawn into 2 communities more deeply than before. In addition to that, I have forged a few new relationships with men in my life as well as renewed an old friendship with a girlfriend that had fallen away years ago. The natural reaction, for me, is to pour on weight.

I'm not sure how this started for me...but I know myself well enough to recognize the pattern. I meet someone, whether it's a boyfriend sort of thing or just a close friendship, and the relationship begins to develop. I find myself enjoying the time I'm spending with this person or group of people, and I start feeling some level of reciprocity in the friendship. Then, out of nowhere it seems, part of me feels invaded. To try and protect myself, I gain weight. It sounds simple really, but it's not. Most of the time it takes years and a hundred pounds for me to even recognize what I'm doing. This time I seem to be a little quicker on my game. I've gained 50 or so in the past year. And it is startling to me how clear it is right now what I'm doing. I can even see it happening. While on one hand I long for closeness to others, I still feel threatened by the relationships somehow. Logically I can say that this isn't sensible. But my heart seems oblivious to what my brain knows.

About 18 months ago I started attending a new church as well as meeting regularly with a priest about some of the turmoil and transition in my life. At about the same time I started hanging out with a new group of attorneys. I've grown close to both the church community as well as the lawyer community. And so when stress comes up I struggle with how to gloss over it or act as if everything is wonderful. It's easier to pull off the act with people I don't know very well. And so I eat crap and become sedentary. It's as if the stress has to go somewhere...and the only place I know to put it is in my mouth.

Now that I finally see this pattern clearly, the question remains whether I can reverse it. A few years ago when I dropped significant weight it was as a result of a singular focus on weight loss. I became obsessive. I thought about it all the time, and I ignored all of the areas of stress or concern in my life at the time. It became easy over time, to have one focus. It was simple in many ways. At the time my marriage was crumbling, my son was sick and I was in a job I hated. Why not focus on weight loss? I could avoid thinking about all the other terrible stuff in my life.

This time around, I feel like it has a lot to do with balance. I can't climb back into the cocoon, that's surely not the answer. But still, there has to be a way for me to get more at ease with intimacy. To not take a step forward in a relationship by being honest about what I'm thinking and then quickly retreat by destroying my physical self.

My size and weight is upsetting to me right now. And embarrassing. I don't like being this size. All I know to do is to try and be conscious of what I'm doing. To live in the now as opposed to the past or the not yet. I do hope that the lessons are more easily learned the second, third or fourth time around. I don't want to lose the relationships I've begun to develop. I think there is room for both my fear and my openness in intimate relationships I have.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Problem of Evil

For as long as I've considered myself a Christian, which has been the vast majority of my life, I've struggled with what we do with evil. I don't mean the evening news kind of stuff. Although, that too is problematic. No, I mean the run of the mill tough stuff that many of us endure in our lifetimes. The crap of life that seems to go on unabated for some people.

It seems some days to be all around me. Children who have been battered or molested or just plain not cared for. Women who are manipulated, controlled and mistreated. Parents whose children have gone astray somehow. I still don't know what it all means in the grand scheme of things. I cannot reconcile what I see with who I believe God to be. It seems incongruent.

Sometimes it doesn't bother me. The not knowing of this life. Why *this* child? Logically I know this kid didn't do anything so terrible to deserve what has happened to him or why? And where is God in the mess that exists? I don't have soft, easy answers to that. At times I'm able to live in the not knowing.

But on other days I become overwhelmed with it all. Why doesn't really sum up my questions...although it seems a good place to start at times. It's not as simple as why do bad things happen? It's more specific than that. Why do bad things happen to people if God is so good? If I believe that there is this Being/Light/Source that embodies love - where is the divine intervention to stop this madness?

And if God doesn't intervene ever, then what's the point in all this? Surely God is God. He/She can step in. After all who wants to be Superman if he can't really fly? If God is God, and therefore always present, always able to aid us in the time of fear and trembling, what's the hold up?

I think these sorts of ideas started bouncing around in my brain years ago - when I was a kid. God, the Church, was my refuge. I remember sitting in the balcony of the sanctuary in the quiet of a night. I was not able to speak most of what I thought about back then. It was too much, it overwhelmed my sensibilities. But being in that place, I felt some sort of Presence. It just seemed things would be ok. In the end. Looking back though, things weren't ok.

I recently heard God compared to a father who tries to shelter his child. During the analogy the speaker talked about how perhaps in our most terrified moments, God is there holding us. He stopped just short of suggesting that God is ok with our being terrified, because he gets to be the one to carry us through those times. These sentiments disturb me on some very fundamental level. If my darkest hour was God's greatest hour...well that seems more than just a little sick to me. I would compare it to taking one of my children into a horrific place just so I could protect them from the worst of the horror. No, I hope that's not how the story ends.

In my darkest moments, I still believe God exists, that He is present. Perhaps the painful realization I'm coming to lately is that I don't trust God very much in those moments. Such a realization shakes me up and springs tears to my eyes. I want to trust God, but sometimes I have to wonder. Does He know how much it hurts? Why didn't He/doesn't He intervene? While the image of a parent holding his child close to try and protect and love him is of sentimental value to me as a mother, I have a hard time being in that picture. I have a hard time being the child in that picture. I'm not certain how that looks or feels. It certainly strikes some fear in my heart. The out-of-controlness that such an idea evokes is terrifying to me.

As I sat today with a young boy whose heart is hurting, I recalled a scene in Forrest Gump where the young girl kneels in the corn field and prays, "Dear God, make me bird, so I can fly far, far away from here" over and over. As Forrest notes, "God didn't make Jenny a bird." No, Jenny endured sexual and physical abuse by her father. And as a result, Jenny was pretty screwed up. It took the whole rest of her life to figure out how to undo the damage done to her.

Here I sit at age 35. And I wonder if I'm any closer to understanding me, God, God and me than I was at 25 or 15 or 5. I hope so. But still I'm plagued by the doubts of my childhood. And maybe if I had chosen another line of work...I could forget all the bad things that happen to the least of these. Unfortunately I'm slapped in the face with the realities of ugly human behavior on a very regular basis. Why didn't God rescue me? Where is the redemption? If the word "redeem" means "to make worthwhile" - how is that possible? How can any of those experiences be made worthwhile? It reminds me of my days spent in evangelical land where we were told that "everything happens for a reason" and "if you just believe the right stuff, God will bless you." I always wanted to stand up and heckle the guy spouting this crap. "Really?! Everything happens for a reason? Let's start with the Holocaust and work our way up to today."

I'm still uncertain what to say to these kids. The ones who look at me with tear-stained faces and ask "Why?" I'm not certain what to tell myself in the dark nights, when my heart hurts from the memories I carry deep in my soul. I'm tempted to say, have a little faith. It will be ok.

But I worry about what I will say when it's not ok.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


We are such mysterious creatures. All of us. Our love, our hurt is all so intense.

A few days ago I was unkind to a friend. I'm not sure why exactly. One minute I was laughing at something he said, and then next moment I was rude, abrasive, abrupt. I can't say I feel horribly about it, but I do wonder what my motivation was. Why this friend? In this moment? I remain unconvinced it was random on my part, but still I'm unsure what I was thinking. I didn't apologize directly, but certainly his skin is thicker than mine, and we have moved on past the experience. Whatever forgiveness I needed from him, I received, and we remain good friends...we enjoy one another. Still my words hurt him. Our story includes that experience.

I had a particularly frustrating mediation this week. After two very successful ones, where walls came down and the transformation was lovely, this group wasn't having it.

As I listened, really listened to what was not being said, I could hear the anger and bitterness these two people had for one another and for the situation they were in. Then I heard it...the underlying thing in every one of these situations...the hurt, pain, sorrow, the out-of-control-ness of it all. Sometimes in that moment, I'm able to speak words that make sense, that speak to people's hearts. For some reason, I didn't have the words this time. I tried, but they were not able to hear me just yet. When I felt they could not hear me, I felt tension set in for me. My voice was getting louder, I was becoming more abrasive. I think I was thinking if they would just *listen* to me, I could make them understand. I could fix their problems.

I'm continually reminded, in the midst of a two hour session with a divorcing couple, that there is very little I know about who these two people are. What I am observing is who they are allowing me to see. I am perceiving them at a crisis moment for them. Fair or not, it is the moment my life intersects with theirs. I've discovered that I have very little time to get to the heart of the matter. If I can't identify where the source of their pain or anger or guilt lies, then I'm not likely to get very far in the mediation. Even if I can get to the root, it is not always so easy to pull it extract it from the soil that is their life. And perhaps that's not my function. My real role is to help them to see for just a moment why it makes more sense to work through their issues with one another rather than to continue to hide them from the light of day. I was not able to do my job in the mediation, I couldn't get to that moment of transformation. I'm always disappointed when that happens. I hope for the best.

On the heels of my messy mediation, I was by and large an observer in a group this weekend. This group is attempting to be centered on God, the Source, the Light, Jesus. The group is struggling with change, the potential for growth and forward momentum.

My history in this community is both a great story of loving relationships and also one with some disappointments. It didn't take me long to recognize some of the same issues we have everywhere else in life existed in this space, with the people here. The honeymoon ended pretty quickly. Fairly early on in my attending this church, I witnessed some amount of backbiting and mean-spirited comments.

As I listened to the group talk, I was overwhelmed by the amount of hurt that seemed to be just below the surface. It felt eerily similar to a mediation to me. All of the unspoken words, the untapped emotions, the bubbling just below the surface. Clearly these folks have history that I'm unaware of. I feel that way in every mediation I work on. The difference - there are several people within this group I care deeply for. I consider them friends, perhaps even family. I know parts of their stories. So to see their hurt...well it hurt me. I don't know how they got here, but it is evident how it is impacting their current level of functioning with one another. I was so overwhelmed by it at one point, that I escaped to the sanctuary of the church for 10 minutes to think, pray, pause. As I sat there the thought that occurred to me was, "How did we get here?" As a church, as a people, as followers of Jesus.

There is a song by Rich Mullins I've never really fully appreciated that has a line in it that says, "Jesus, write me into your story. Whisper it to me. And let me know...I'm yours." That's all I think we can hope for. As a a people. We hope to be part of the story. Our hurt, our love, our hope. I recognize that hurt is a part of life. And mostly it comes back to knowing we are still loved, still cared for, still valued. And that is what appears to be missing.

Similar to the mediations I work on with dysfunctional families, this group seems to have trust issues. There doesn't seem to be a common story uniting them, at least not all the time. In the case of the church, the common story is Jesus - the man, the intense love, the invitation to participate in his body and his blood. Perhaps thinking that such a group can exist is pie in the sky. Afterall the church hasn't exactly lived up to the highest standards in the last few thousand years.

Still I was left feeling sad. Not because the group wasn't able to overcome their differences, but because I see my own sadness reflected in theirs. The pain I saw in the faces and words left unsaid reminded me of how hard it is for us to let the walls down. Even in the safest of places, we still hold something back. We still can't quite allow our hurt to be brought out in the open. I know that difficulty. There is still so much I cannot say, cannot express for fear of being judged.

At the end of the day, I hope for this group, as I hope for myself. That as I grow into more and more the person I was created to be perhaps I will be able to see my own hurt as a chance. An opportunity to connect more deeply with others. And if I'm really able to live this life, the one I know was given to me to live...then when others are hurting I will not be able to turn a blind eye to their pain. I will have the courage to see their hurt for what it is...and respond by connecting to their story, our story. Jesus, write me into your story. Whisper it to me. And remind us, we are yours.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Message

Today I watched two very different scenes unfold around my son. I recalled again what I hope my son takes from our life together. I hope that I can continue to surround him with people who love him, who value him simply because he is on this earth.

My son is going through what I would call a "testing boundaries" phase. I would call it the "terrible 2's" - but he is now 4, so that doesn't fit exactly. At 2 he was a sweet, loveable little guy. This phase, well it likely began some months ago, and continues on. He challenges authority. He pushes me to find out where the lines are, and add that to his ordinary level of energy, and well, he wears me out somedays. He is a very different animal from his sister. He is stubborn. And I don't mean the ordinary stubborn-ness that little kids have. I mean he is obstinate. When he doesn't get what he wants, he can hold a grudge like no other kid I have known. He will argue with me. He will cry, whine and generally make life miserable for those around him when life is not progressing as he hoped.

I must admit to having lost my patience more than once or twice with him. Overall, he is and remains my child at heart. While he is stubborn, I can see now as an adult how stubborn-ness is at times a gift. While he is testing boundaries, I can see the importance of being consistent with him. Still, I don't know if it's because he had health issues early on...but he gets away with more than his sister did at this age. Or perhaps she just didn't push the envelope the way he does. I'm not certain. Regardless, I am not oblivious to the fact that he can be a challenging child.

Today I was reminded in a direct way what I hope for him to get from the adults in his life. When I was child I was taught that adults were by and large infallible. Certainly we were not to question the adults in our lives. If they made a mistake, well, I was taught to overlook that fact, and to not expect an amends. I grew up in a household, and in a larger family, that was not amused by children. We were typically to be seen and not heard, and we were taught that until we were grown up, we had little to nothing to offer the family. It's strange that I would wind up the person I am today. The way I parent is drastically different than the way I was taught.

When we walked into church this morning, we were greeted by the people we ordinarily see. My son was excited to be there. Sunday school was starting up again for the year, and as he put it, "he missed Ms. Ruth" - his teacher. As he hugged the adults we saw walking in, he was swept up in the arms of our priest. He was happy to see him as well. When he finished with sunday school and he came into the service, towards the end, he was fairly calm and cooperative with me. As we went forward to accept the Eucharist, he became a little bit of a tyrant. He was pulling, pushing and generally acting out. When it came his turn to take the bread, he held his hand out. One hand contained gum he had just taken out of his mouth in preparation for communion, and the other hand he used to take the bread from our priest. Unfortunately, at 4, his communication skills are lacking at times, and because I didn't understand what was happening either, our priest asked him if he was going to eat the bread. I don't think my son knew how to respond, so he was quiet. The ordinary course of events at the altar is that he accepts the bread from the celebrant, and then dips it into the cup of wine when the chalice bearer comes to us shortly thereafter. However in a comedy of errors, our priest ended up taking the bread back from him, misunderstanding his intent.

As we walked back to our pew, my son leaned close to me and said quietly, "Father Steve is mean." I couldn't help but giggle a little bit. After the service, I tried to explain that our priest didn't understand, that he had just made a mistake. Regardless, the boy was angry. After church, I explained to my priest what had happened. A few minutes later he appeared smiling with a giant wafer to give to my son. I didn't get to witness him giving it to him, but a bit later this child of mine came running to me and told me, "Father Steve gave me the BIG bread." He was happy. Pleased with himself and with our priest. If I was a therapist, I would say his feelings were validated.

Later on in the day, I took my kids to an art fair and to play in a nearby park. My son ran, jumped and rode his scooter around the large park. We were joined by a friend and her infant daughter. Both of my kids had fun, but by the time we got back to our car late in the afternoon, my baby was worn out. But ever the ball of energy, he managed to run to the car and hop in his car seat. On the way to a relative's house, he fell asleep in the back seat. Forty-five minutes later we arrived at her home. I had to wake my child up as we got out of the car to see her. He good-naturedly greeted her and began to do what he ordinarily does at her house - color and play with stickers. As he played, he chatted about his favorite stickers, favorite colors and what he had been doing that day. While he was still tired, he was fairly happy.

I should explain that in the past several months, I have decreased my visits to this relative's home. While I used to take my kids there fairly often, I have found for my own sanity, it is better if we go less often. Everything my kids do and everything they don't do is scrutinized. It seems they notice this on some level, and seem to act badly more so than usual when we're there. I can't explain the phenomenon, but it seems to hold true most days when we're there.

As if on cue, my son began getting an attitude. I don't know why. Maybe it was just his time to act out, or maybe he was getting overly tired. Perhaps he was even getting hungry. I don't have a great explanation for it. But it started. He began getting mouthy and not being cooperative about picking up, listening, etc. Before I could respond to his unruly behavior, my relative said to him pointedly, "You don't know how to act right at home, but you won't act that way here." I must've looked slightly taken aback. Because then she turned to me and said something about how I didn't know how to handle my children. This should have been my cue. I likely should've gathered the kids up at that point and gotten ready to go home. But, trying to remain polite, I scolded my child and turned back to what I had been doing. Of course because he is my son, he was not going to be outdone. He stomped across the floor into the kitchen. This time my relative scolded him and put him in time out. I didn't find this punishment inappropriate, although I will say I don't find time out to be particularly effective with my son. Still, I held my tongue. When his time out was through, I gathered up our things and we ended the visit. As we went to the car, my family member doted on my daughter (who had been well-behaved this visit) and didn't speak to my son. The message to him was loud and clear. And my own face reddened slightly at the way she was treating my child. She is one of the older generation in my family (those over 50) who still believe children should be seen and not heard. I question to some degree why I subject my kids to these folks, but for whatever reason I cannot entirely cut the biological cord that connects me to them.

As I drove home, I thought over these two seemingly unrelated incidents of my son's encounter with adults that are not me. I wondered what the experiences looked like to my child. If I could read the thoughts playing in his head, what would they tell me about who my son is growing up to be? Of all the influences that I allow him to experience, which ones are the ones that stick with him? It didn't take me too long to know.

This evening as we prepared for bed, I asked him to say prayers. As he went through his litany of "thank you for ... and God bless...." I reminded him to thank God for our family and friends. He did, not by name as he sometimes does when he wants prayers to last awhile, but as a group. Then just before his "Amen" he whispered quietly, "and thank you for Father Steve" and he smiled at me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

My church

This weekend I traveled south to Nashville and the surrounding area for the holiday. The kids and I were going to visit my old college roommate and her family. I hadn't seen her family in quite awhile, and I was looking forward to getting away.

On Sunday morning, I attended church at St. Ann's Episcopal in Nashville. I had wanted to attend because my roommate's brother attends and is very active there. I arrived a few minutes late and quickly took my place in the back of the church. It was a typical service in my tradition. Liturgy, hymns, a short sermon. The norm for me. I can recite most of the liturgy without looking at it, and there is something comforting about that to me. I can really consider the words, and their meaning changes for me over time. What might be particularly poignant one Sunday is a blur a year later.

As I looked around me, there was a fairly good cross-section of society in attendance. Straight, gay, young, old, a few black folks, a guy robed that I discovered later was a Franciscan brother. People were friendly without being intrusive. I was greeted after the service by the rector of the parish among other people. When I explained that I was just passing through, I still received a warm reception.

As we prepared to recite the prayers of the people, the woman leading asked us to pray for our Jewish brothers and sisters who would observe Rosh Hoshanah this coming week as well as our Muslim brothers and sisters who would be observing the end of Ramadan this coming week. I was struck by this simple gesture. And I was moved by it. This is my family, this is my church.

As Episcopalians, we are people who pray for others regardless of the religious, political and sociological differences that so often divide us. We prayed for the unity of the church universal. We prayed for those who are alone. We prayed for the sick and the healers alike. We prayed for justice and peace for all people.

I've always been drawn to the liturgical church. There is something about the order and sameness of it that comforts me and makes me feel at home no matter where I worship. But more than that, I am drawn to the Episocopal church because of scenes just like the one that played out in front of me Sunday. A group of 80 or so folks who gathered for an hour to be together in worship and in life. People who care about one another and the broader world. I was encouraged by them and their commitment to those around them. Part of their work involved a homeless shelter that was getting ready to open its doors in the coming week.

I am not an ideological person in a lot of ways. I would never profess that my way is the only way, or that the Episcopal church has the corner on the truth market. I don't pledge my allegiance to much. I don't belong to a political party. I'm not ordinarily a follower of much. Not to be glib, but don't think most movements are completely correct about any one thing. While saying all that, I don't mean to indicate I don't take seriously our political dilemmas and our moral and religious crises. Certainly I take them too seriously most days. And while I'm an American who typically votes for Democrats and consider myself a Christian, I don't think any of those groups (Americans, Democrats, Christians) get it right all the time.

Perhaps it's not that I don't take things seriously enough, but rather that I take my loyalty a bit too seriously. For me too offer my support, my unabashed, undying allegiance, I have to believe that on some level those in charge of that body/institution/country have it right. And quite honestly that doesn't happen very often. I mistrust most institutions. And I think rightfully so in most ways.

Having said all that, I was proud of my church Sunday. Pleased to be an Episcopalian. Happy that my children get to be part of this body of believers. And loyal to the values we talk about, that we live out everyday. We love each other and we love the world. The rest can be argued, debated and worked out later. If we start there, that regardless of your creed, color, sexual orienation, gender (name all the other things that separate us)...we will love you, we will accept you where you are and we will welcome you to worship with us and to live in community with us. Certainly that's the way I read the gospel (the "Good News") of Jesus. And it makes me proud to be among those who are doing their best to live out this good news.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A year later

Today was the one year anniversary of my legal divorce from my now ex-husband. The past few weeks have brought some moments of relative peace between us. We have never been the sort to outwardly war with one another. Still, there has been fighting for the past year. Some of it bitter, some of it hurtful, all of it sad.

Tonight my ex had our children for a few hours. I was cleaning house and started watching Joe versus the Volcano. I had been reminded of this movie recently and so I ordered it through NetFlix. I watched the first hour until the kids got home. I forgot how alive Joe becomes after having been so dead in so many ways. I feel much the same way about letting go of my marriage. Each day, each week, each month that passes, I realize how dead I was in the relationship. What I understood my role to be, what I took on, what I perceived, none of it seems to make much sense to me anymore. I still wake up and wonder how I got so far afield.

When my kids burst through the door I said yet another prayer thanking God for them, and for my ex-husband who was part of their creation. I gave him some pictures I had taken of them recently. He thanked me. We talked about a friend who had a baby recently. Then he left. My daughter looked quizzically at me and said, "You know... you and dad can still get back together." I wonder if the woundedness she carries from our divorce will heal in time. I pray it will. My son quickly added, "I don't want you to marry anyone mom!"

Now a year later, I can see what I couldn't see a year ago. My perspective is shifting back into some semblance of focus again. It's not entirely in focus yet, but it's shifting. Like a kaleidoscope, the colors are becoming more brilliant and yet more cohesive again.

Tomorrow I will have go to my office and do my best to shepherd more people through a sticky process. And tomorrow night I will have dinner with an old friend. We will laugh and remember when. But best of all, my babies will come bursting through the front door and I'll remember my highest calling. To be a witness to their lives...their growing, their changing, their loving. What a gift my life is.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


A few nights ago I went to a comedy show. In the interest of full disclosure, I knew nothing about the comic ahead of time...and this of course was my own fault. A friend had lent me a few DVD's of his work, but I never got around to watching them. I assumed that given my love of laughing, jokes and teasing I would enjoy the comic and even if his material wasn't hilarious, I would still laugh. It doesn't take much.

I have loved to laugh as long as I can remember. I crack jokes constantly. At one point in my life I'm sure it was a coping mechanism, but still all in all I love to laugh. I was voted "Class Clown" in high school. I have pulled awesome practical jokes on people, and have been the target of a few myself. I laugh at slapstick humor like Chris Farley, profane humor like Ron White and Chris Rock and more sophisticated humor like Jon Stewart. I'm not what I would call a comedy snob. I think a lot of things are funny.

So I showed up at this show thinking it would be funny. The opening act immediately launched into a song he wrote about how "Arizona has gotten it right" - referring to the current immigration reform. The song crossed more than a few lines and was quite simply offensive. He then cracked a few jokes about Democrats and launched into a rock star version of the national anthem.

This is probably the moment I should also confess to not being very patriotic. I think my country (and I do claim it as my own) does a lot of stupid stuff. I do not think that just by virtue of my birthplace I'm better or more entitled to anyone else on the planet. I'm bothered by the Pledge of Allegiance and am by and large a pacificist. I don't think we have any business invading other countries, and I don't think Muslims are to blame for the downfall of America. I think our own greed is.

So, the main act emerged on the stage and essentially spent 90 minutes making jokes of every stereotype ever known to white, straight men. Women are nags , Asians can't speak English, Hispanics are dull-speaking and lazy, Blacks speak in incoherent slang, wear big jewelry and listen to rap music all day long, gay men are all hairdressers. You name it, he generalized it. And then to top it off, he mixed it in with some good ol' "God Bless America" kind of Muslim hatred. He actually has a character he does named "Achmed the Dead Terrorist." His mantra, "I keeelll you."

I'm not laughing. As a matter of fact, the two hour show made me realize all that is wrong with my fellow Missourians who find this sort of humor funny. He wasn't laughing "with" these groups of people, he was clearly laughing "at" them. As if by virtue of his whiteness or straightness or whatever, he was obviously superior. To top it all off, his hatred of Muslims is so en vogue these days that it made him all the more popular with the folks who had paid, some of the more than $100 to see him, to see him and laugh with him.

I felt my face redden a few times, I'm not certain if it was embarrassment or anger...though certainly I felt both. I was bothered for all of the people I knew who fit his categories. My gay and lesbian friends, my Jewish friends, my black friends. And I felt as if I was somehow betraying them by sitting and there and not speaking out. Or at a minimum leaving the show.

I thought about what message I want my kids to have in this life about people who are different than them...I remember taking a barely 5 year old Melena with me to the voting polls in the election of Barack Obama...and the pride I felt at being able to vote, in this country of so much history of racism, for a black man to be our President. I remember the tears rolling down my cheeks as I watched the civil rights leaders of the 60's and 70's watching this man become President, tears rolling down their faces. I remember trying to explain to my 5 year old how important that day much had had to change to reach that day. I recall those weeks after 9/11 and feeling embarrassed for our country as we lashed out at the Muslim community in misdirected hatred. I remember crying for Matthew Shephard. I know what it is to be a woman, and therefore judged to be less than a man. These things that separate us, what do we do with these distinctions? I am not naive enough to believe we are at a place in history where we are able to celebrate our differences. But surely we have come further than arena filled with people who are laughing at those who are different as if they are and always will be inferior. A gathering to celebrate that which we fear...the unknown, the not yet understood.

I'm still not sure what I think my reaction should've been besides outrage. I had plenty of that. But I wonder what else I'm feeling and what lies below my own surface. What prejudices do I have underneath it all? What stereotypes and preconceived notions am I hanging on to that should be let go of? I'm still not certain. I just know that none of it struck me as very funny at all.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A soft place to fall

Tonight I was struck by something. As is ordinarily the case for me, it took me a minute. Oftentimes when my kids return from visiting with their dad for a few hours they have vastly different reactions when they walk through my door.

My son is typically thrilled to see me. He flings himself at me and is laughing and smiling. He takes an hour or so to really unwind. It's as if he has pent up energy that he needs to be let out. While he is a high energy kid on a normal day, he seems even more wound up. Not in a bad way...just bouncing around. He is full of hugs and kisses and is clearly happy to be home.

My daughter is often the opposite. She typically rushes through the front door with her stuff in tow, dropping it on the way down the short hallway to my arms. She often is tearful. She will express something happened that day...she stubbed her toe, she missed a word on a spelling test, she didn't feel well...most often it is that something bothered her. It seems as if she has been waiting to tell someone this information all day, and now that it's spilling out she can't control her tears. She sits on my lap and buries her head in my shoulder. Most of the time she is consoled quickly and we move about getting ready for bed. During our "tuck-in" talk, she often is quiet, wanting reassurance that I love her. That life will continue on much the same tomorrow.

It's a strange thing, my children's reactions to me. I often describe them to others much the opposite of these reactions. My son typically is the quieter, more reserved child. He likes routine and is uncertain at times. My daughter is the outgoing charmer. Always making friends and with a great ability to "roll with the punches" she is rarely bothered by change or chaos.

Tonight it occurred to me what's happening. And in some ways I felt honored to be my daughter's mother. Yesterday when my son was again undergoing medical procedures and issues, I was pretty composed. I rarely show signs of stress, particularly when he is having medical issues. My job in these situations is to hold his hand, get thrown up on sometimes and to advocate for the best treatment for my child. And I know how to do those things well. There is nothing that bring outs the lioness in me more than when my child is sick. This morning, on my way to work, I had a mini breakdown in the car. I was talking out loud to God (something I do in my car often). And I lost it. I think part of me senses that it's ok. God has heard my stuff before. She gets me. It's ok for me to cry and to be out of control for a time. I feel some comfort in those moments with God. Knowing that despite my own judgments, I'm just Her kid, and the world is scary sometimes. And it's ok to cry about it.

I realized tonight that's what's happening with my daughter. She has this angst...sometimes it's a big deal and sometimes it's not...but regardless she needs an outlet...someplace to say it. And for her, I'm that person. Her mom will listen. I don't judge her feelings, and at the end of all of it I hug her, kiss her and tell her I love her.

All of us, as human as we are, need that place we can fall down and cry. As I find myself wandering deeper into this forest with God, I am so thankful for that soft place to fall. I don't know how I got this place in my life...but I'm so thankful to have both sides of the be the one falling and to be the one someone else can fall on. I continue to pray for the ability to be the soft place for my child, to be whatever she needs me to be. I continue to pray that God will be my soft place as well. That She will listen, hug me, kiss me and still love me at the end of it all.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Seek and ye shall find

Today I was sitting in church listening to the Gospel lesson, and a thought occurred to me. Admittedly this is not going to be a well-thought out post...but...that never stopped me before.

The Gospel was from Luke, "And so I say unto you, ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." I'm fairly sure I've heard this gospel a hundred times in my life in the church, and yet the primary emotion for me today was one of doubt.

You see, I've known a lot of people in my life who aren't ever going to ask. They've been too wounded. It hurts too much. Maybe it's because they've been burnt by the church. Or because they've suffered wounds too deep to be able to believe that if they ask they might get what they want or need. The hope of it all has been beat out of them. Or maybe it's just because they aren't really the seeking kind. What about those people? What happens to them? If they never find their voice to ask, how will it work out for them?

Or perhaps it's not even that they don't know to ask, but they're not sure what it is they're asking for. I'm familiar with that scenario. "Um, God, I don't know where the hell (oops sorry God) you want me or how you want me or what you would like from me. But I'm here. And I want to understand. And I hope you want to understand me too." I'm not sure what my question is there, but surely it's not clear to me. I hope God can translate "confused and disoriented in Missouri" well enough that those well-meaning prayers count as "seeking."

There are even others who are lost. They have wandered in the woods so long, that they can't make it back out. What happens if they never get to the door in time? If their whole lives is an exercise in trying to survive and they never get to the point of seeking. In my opinion, it's hard to be a seeker if you're hungry and homeless or an addict or a mother of 4 and not sure where you're going to get your kids' next meal. Seeking in those situations seems an existential luxury that many never have.

I have to believe that God didn't mean the passage in Luke the way it sounds. That it never begins or ends with what we can muster up on any given day or time. That if we are weary and hopeless and confused and preoccupied, that She will seek us out. That if we cannot find the strength to lift our hands and knock... that if our voice has been stolen and disregarded by this world...that if we cannot seek, because we cannot bear the thought of another loss...that God in her wisdom and abounding love gets that and is able to meet us wherever we may be in ...this ...very ...moment. That She knows our hearts, our intentions, our capacity to love; and that rather than condemning our efforts, however small and insignificant, that She cherishes each of those moments when we are able to seek Her out. That She is delighted when we stumble over our words and hide our faces in doubt...but still offer what there is offer of ourselves. When we stand before Her and say that I don't know and I'm unsure and I'm fearful of how it will all work out...but still I have faith that God is good.

Even when I'm afraid to seek or ask or knock...I know that God still hears, responds and loves me. For all of my Lutheran upbringing, I have to think Luther stopped just short of getting it. While I agree that salvation is not something that can be earned...I would take it step a further and say I'm not sure Jesus cares much about how sorry we are or whether we have repented sufficiently. I have to believe that God loved us from the start. That anything good comes from God. And that we are enough on our own. Even when we don't know it or can't accept it or can't come to it on our own.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


So I've met this boy. My downfall starts and ends with that sentence. Alright, maybe it's not that serious or dramatic, but still, I know my own limitations. And keeping things in perspective is not my strong suit. I tend to get caught up relatively easily.

The interesting thing about this new boy is that I've finally (admittedly, it's taken me a minute) realized that relationships can be all different shapes and sizes. That not every relationship has to end up at an altar. And in fact, most aren't meant to ever reach that point.

My relationship with the boy...well it's not likely to be a marriage sort of thing. In fact, I can say 100% that it won't end there. We are more different than we are the same. We are different religions, have a pretty serious age difference and are at very different places in our lives. Still, he makes me laugh. A lot. And I enjoy spending time with him. And I make him laugh. A lot. Both of us have very clear priorities. He has two children (older than mine) and I have two children. They are the clear priority. So there's no real pressure. If one of us has our children, then we aren't going anywhere together that day. And there's no angst over being torn between a boy and my kids. It's just the way things are. And I'm not complaining about that. It's nice to have a part-time relationship. One that is there when I want it, but not when I don't. I would typically rather spend time with my kids than a boy. They are only small for such a short time...I'm not inclined to miss out on seeing them grow up to chase men. It doesn't make sense to me. They are the coolest people I know.

When we do spend time together, we're not talking about world politics or who the historical Jesus really was or how to solve the current recession. We don't talk shop much either, despite the fact we do much the same sort of work. We talk about our lives, how we got here, what we were like as kids, what we think about divorce and we joke even more. It's a fun distraction. A flirty thing. Sweet and somewhat innocent in nature.

I was talking with a friend recently about him, and questioning whether it makes sense to be involved with this boy. My friend laughed and said, "why the hell not? Don't you deserve to have fun and be loved with no strings attached?" I tend to agree, although it still seems foreign to me. To enter into a relationship realizing that it won't be the be all, end all of my life.

Sometimes I realize just how limited my experience has been with men. My relationship with my ex-husband started when I was barely 22. And didn't end until I was 34. I had very little history prior to him, and no history since meeting him.

I'm inclined to go with what my friend said, "why the hell not?"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Was that a spiritual thing or what?

This past Thursday I got my nose pierced. I almost took off out of the place before I could get seated in the chair...but the actual process was really simple and hurt very little. I was pleasantly surprised. I had been anticipating today being the day for the past several days. It's something I've considered for months, but the last few weeks of feminist writings sort of set me in motion.

Today at church, a woman I know slightly asked me, "So was that a spiritual thing or what?" I don't know that I would have called it spiritual...but then I thought about the word and realized that in fact, that was likely the best word to describe the experience.

The past few weeks have felt very much like an awakening for me. An awakening to what I have been denying and running from for years. My last post was the angry part...but there is a sad part of me, too. And there is an overwhelming feeling of change approaching. I feel it coming on, and part of me wants to abandon myself to it.

The image that has occurred to me and drove me to the nose piercing was of a woman (most of the time me, but increasingly my daughter) on her knees. It seems I've spent a good part of my life there, figuratively speaking. When I was a little girl, I was told regularly there were things I couldn't do or achieve. These messages came from both men and women ... my father, my church, my pastor, the older folks in my life as a child. I'm sure that no one meant much harm by what they told me...but harmful it was. Like a deep wound that is hard to even talk about...much less heal from.

Later on, during the month I turned 13 I was victimized by a man, and very literally pushed to my knees by him. What he did was horrible and I carry that scar on my spirit. 22 years later and that experience of being pushed down is still painful.

I went away to college at 18, and yet again I was greeted by young men and older ones alike who knew very clearly what a woman's role should be. That age though for me, brought my first real crisis of faith. Suddenly what I *knew* came into conflict with what I was being taught, told and preached. I wasn't sure how to reconcile the two worlds, and so I burrowed into the ground and went to law school.

Surely I had arived... there I was bucking all the gender stereotypes...a tough woman in a man's world. Still, a part of me felt lost in that world. I still do.

My marriage turned out to be one long exercise in kneeling...making my husband primary. He didn't even have to ask, I just did it. After all that's what women do, isn't it?

And so now I find myself on a very spiritual journey. One that is at least partially defined by the fact that I am a woman. Spiritual journey is really about becoming more of a comprehensive self, isn't it? One that can incorporate the parts of life that have been difficult and trying with the parts that are pure joy and light. Certainly there has been joy and light in my life...and the nose ring is about that. While I knew that the men in my father, my ex-husband, many of the male attorneys I come into contact with...would disapprove of my choice...for me it was about rising from my knees and standing.

The thought I had immediately before the piercing was, "It's about time to stand up." And so I have. And I will. And I'm pleased that I've found the strength to again take the first steps on yet another spiritual journey. It feels authentic. And good. And full of promise.