Trauma Written on the Heart and Mind: The tragedy of Christian “Faith”

Old silver christian cross on bible

It was a violent birth. The term violent is something I’ve embraced only recently. My husband’s pained reaction “Yes. It was,” spoke truth to our memory. It’ was twenty-eight years ago today that I felt the searing pain of a labor and a delivery that would go terribly wrong. It’s not a memory of pain tainted by the death of our infant son, or made larger than life by the exaggeration of time and trauma – it simply was. I knew something was wrong. It was my sixth birth. I’d never been so out of control because of the intense level of pain.  I’d never been so afraid – but “faith” meant not to doubt – “true” faith meant everything would be OK.

“While the heart is the doorway to the self-transcendent, it is a doorway through which we cannot pass without bringing the mind” (Benner 2016, 89).

The violence of trying to deliver a baby that was “stuck,” and needing to be turned, the ignorance of statements like “We don’t turn the Lord delivers” is a glaring example of the kind of mindless “faith” that many forms of Biblicist, fundamentalists, engage. It’s a glaring example of the lack of compassion towards those suffering from grief, loss, and trauma, and mental health issues, present in many evangelical churches today. It’s also an example of the lack of critical thinking that leaves the life of Jesus as our model, the model we are to follow, pushed aside. Jesus’ life of powerless, self-sacrificing, love and mutuality towards others has been replaced by self-interests, wealth, and personal safety.

I’ve been told that I am “extreme” when I use our example as an example of the Biblicism that effects ideologies and beliefs such as gender, healing, immigration, and nationalism. I’m not. There is a fine line between what is good and what is oppressive and an even finer line between what people consider fundamental truths and the reality of who God is. It’s arrogant to think we can truly know the mind of God. It’s not led by sacrificial love – it’s not God.

I can’t help but think that if the birth happened today, an unassisted, homebirth as part of a Christian cult, probably would have landed Dave and me in jail. What would that have gained? Instead of growing up to be contributing members of society they would have been in foster care, split up (five children are rarely kept together), and most likely statistics of the abuse and brokenness of children lacking family structure and raised in the system. We all have our brokenness to contend with, but it’s better, a step closer to redemption, a step closer to Shalom. No penalty imposed could ever overwhelm the pain of missing our child and knowing the avoidable reason for his death.

My brokenness has helped me to empathize with others, to empathize with the micro-cultures of families and systems that cause us to make foolish and mindless decisions. It has helped me to forgive the church when her Biblicism causes oppression to the fatherless, widow, alien, genders, minorities, ethnicities, etc., and strive to do better myself. To model Jesus.

We never “get over” this kind of violence against us. We never “let go of the past” (all terms others have prayed for me). We never forget. To let go, to forget, to get over it, would be to remove ourselves from the pain and injustice of it all. It would mean we enter back into a mindless faith that is, in reality, devoid of the knowledge of the transcendent. We would remove ourselves from the very redemption and restoration granted us by God when we choose to enter into the suffering of all humanity.

On Thursday night I was reminded of the tragedy of checking our minds for a group religious identity – I was frantic and stressed out about completing my Masters Project which was due twenty-eight hours later. I reacted with the full-blown traumatic stress of the past instead of the redemption of my present. I was unaware of the day, the date, and the anniversary approaching. For fifteen years I lost the first two weeks of December, unconsciously burying any pain and remembrance of December 10, 1990, until it was well past the date.  I’m now very intentional about remaining self-aware in the early weeks of December, aware of the presence of God, and aware of embracing the pain of loss. I prepare my conscious mind to avoid unconscious reactions. My impending paper clouded my thoughts, and it wasn’t aware of the date until I was reminded on December 8th.

The ugly side of trauma is that it’s always with us even in the redemption and restoration. It hides in our shadow selves, waiting for the light to dim so we temporarily lose sight of it and it can wreak havoc on our lives and emotions.

As long as we continue to bring our mind with us into the transcendent the shadow loses the strength of abuse. Instead, it becomes that constant companion reminding us that our grief and trauma have a purpose. Our lives have a purpose. We bring the shalom of God into the lives of those around us when we engage our minds in the actions of our “faith.”

We were created to be more than we are, “more mature, more conscious, more aligned with the truth of our being, and more whole” (Benner 2016, 87).

Our trauma may not define who we but it should re-define who God is.

Human hands with bread

The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Isiah 53:3-6 MSG

Benner, David G. 2016. Human Being and Becoming: Living the Adventure of Life and        Love. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press.

Mothers Day Reflection: Losses, Lies, Adult Children, and Ezer’s

I haven’t blogged in a really long time. The reasons are for another day.

A new day has dawned and with it, I found my voice again. I’ll go out swinging as an older Ezer Warrior as long as I have breath.

Woman with traditional indian headdress and face paint

I’m the mother of adult children now as my last babe approaches 19. I’m not the mom I was at 20, or 30, or even 40, and I know I’m not who I will be when I say my last farewell. This Mother’s Days is the first I’m fully looking back knowing it’s quite possibly my last one with a babe still living in the house.

I have a lot to reflect on.

When my children were small people always said “Enjoy it. It goes so fast. I wish I’d____.” Many also told me that it was the best time of their lives. It all seemed so far away I couldn’t understand when they spoke of special relationships with grandchildren.

I understand.

Grandchildren are our babes, babes, and I would jump in front of a train even faster to save them – and to save our babes the heartaches of loss. We know the immeasurable love we feel for our babes and can imagine how deeply wounding the loss of a babe would be.

For some of us it is more than an imagining. We walk with the limp of experience. We look up at the stars and long for a burst of grace to see just one smile. Hear one laugh. Catch one single tear.

A lifetime of memories lost for eternity.

I’m not sure if time really lessens the pain of loss, or if the gap simply closes between the time we say goodbye and our own advancing age and hello again. 

Even without death, there’s pain. We can’t keep it from our children no matter how hard we try. We shouldn’t. Pain opens the door to joy. We are all promised suffering – some more than others. A flicker of joy shatters total darkness far more brightly than fluorescent light in sunshine.

I never wanted my children to know pain. But it’s too late.

The wounding is already done.

A broken mother, raising broken children, in a broken world – it was and is inevitable. Today I reflect on a lifetime. Thirty-eight years as a full time, stay at home mother; thirty-two years as a full-time homeschooling mother, K through 12. I am justified in saying my entire adult life and career were given to raising my children.

My whole life I’ve been their mother and his wife.

For the first time in a lifetime – I am Jamie. I’m learning what that really sounds like, looks like, and the value in it.

I am now the mother of adult children and there isn’t any manual for them; few books are written about parenting adults who will always be our children. We are now adults together.

There are things I want my children to know. For those who are fans of the television show This is Us, you understand it is all about perceptions.

“Now we see through a glass darkly” speaks to all relationships this side of Kingdom restoration.  As we see Jesus, we will see ourselves and others clearly for the first time. (I Cor. 13:12).

I believe it’s necessary to be real, to see into the lives of others, to understand brokenness that we may embrace compassion and share in suffering as God does. Maybe some child will read this and have a glimmer of recognition in their own mother. Maybe a mother will read it and have just one piece of their heart healed from past errors in judgment.

My faith has changed. A lot. I believe that age and experience, and more age, and a bit more experience has granted me the wisdom I didn’t have before suffering changed the face of God.

I want my daughters to know I’m sorry they were raised with patriarchy – with round parents trying to fit into a square hole because that’s what “church people” said we had to do to please God.

“Someone has to be in charge.”

I’m sorry that awful belief about marriage made me less than, and as children and daughters, they were even lesser than, the less than. Be unseen and unheard.

But God always sees and always hears. I believe that it broke his heart that I never told them the simple truth: “You are of full worth and value – your gender does not define you. God does. He has said you are created in his image and likeness – YOU daughters, are partakers of the Divine nature.”

I want them to know they are powerful, warriors, beautiful, talented, strong, and gifted. I want them to know they don’t need men to make them whole because God has already done that by virtue of the image they bear. I want them to know if they marry a man who empowers them to be more than who they are, embrace it, and do the same for him. Rise above Ezer, soar.

They’re strong like Jesus. 

“Don’t ever allow anyone make you feel you are a “less than” again. It’s a lie they told me, and I lied to you. Rise up.”

I want my sons to know that I’m sorry I told them to suck it up, man up, don’t cry, be tough, or otherwise deny the healthy emotions God gave them to process pain. I’m sorry their Dad was every reflected as being weak because he didn’t reign or lead in the way church people said he had to. He is kind. He leads by example.

He is the strongest man I know.

For only strong men can empower women to be their best, to lead, to grow, to challenge them, and still be fully man.

Only powerful men can rejoice in powerful Ezer women and aren’t threatened by them.

I want my sons to know they are powerful men. They are compassionate, caring, loving, gentle, and leaders.

They look like Jesus.

I want my babes to know they will always be my babes but they are strong now.

I am Jamie, I am a woman surrounded by men and women. No longer children but amazing fathers, mothers, teachers, nurses, pastors, police, military, singers, resource people, actors, artists, fighters, lovers and so much more. Image bearers.

They are my children, always, but they are God’s children, eternally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Mothers Day Message To All Women. I See You.

I won’t worship with community today – no “church” services. I chose this day to sleep late and enjoy true Sabbath rest. To lament a little, to escape a little.  To ponder. To write.

Mothers dayTo be relocated in hope, deep in the corners of my mind where only God can interpret and renew the reimagining that I need to see, and hear, and feel.

And to know, I am seen.

The world only gets more broken with each passing year, gender, racial, and religious oppressions are grievous, wars and refugees increase.  In my mind’s eye, I see the suffering and loss of babies, women, and children, worldwide. The judgment that still falls upon single women and childless women, sex workers, working women, and women warriors. Expectations of what you should do and be which are so often not who you are. 

My own sadness which is a just a tiny molecule in a galaxy of intense suffering mingle with the voices of those weeping.

A close friends daughter is slowly dying. I know she is holding the pain of loss and the joy of one more day tightly together.  Another mourns her singleness and deep desire to have a child.  Yet another mourns the suicide of her son, and another the loss of her infant.  Another empty nest.

Meanwhile, multitudes are kept hidden by the abusers who hold them.

Galaxies of galaxies of pain, joy, and what is.

I no longer see a dichotomy between suffering and joy – they are held in that space between the two where hope rests and where God works – all blended together in a Trinitarian dance – the perichoresis of us. 

I will always remember my first time attending Plattsburgh Faith Assembly on Mothers Day, 2005. We had moved into the small community a month before. After about 17 moves it was our “forever home.” Our dream farm purchased in part by my father who was to move in with us. He died two days before.

The pastor had asked all mothers to stand up along the back wall. My introverted cells were freaking out over the thought, but all my kids were making a bigger scene at trying to get me to stand up. Little did I know mothers would be asked to raise their hands at “one child,” “two children” “three children” … “When he said “more than five” I knew I was in trouble with ten who called me “mom” at that time.

When you lead an active busy life the time goes swiftly. We were farmers, parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, students, community volunteers, college small group leaders – we were going to die in that community. Home.

Life was a whir of relationships. It wasn’t unusual to have fifteen, twenty, thirty people in our home. The whir was slowly chipped away but never did I imagine Dave would lose his life long job, or that a job loss would be followed by so much change.

Today I remember a better time when laughter rang and small feet ran, friends gathered, and family abounded. Before the scattering. Before the brokenness. Before the losses. Before the days of social media and cell phones further disconnected people while simultaneously shouting the joys of others. Today I’m thankful for lunch with grandkids and those who I can laugh with. I’m thankful that I can touch the lives of other women who have suffered from the loss of stillbirths, broken relationships, miscarriages, divorces, child loss, financial loss, abortions…

I see you. 

I identify with the mothers who wish they had known then what they know now. Before the mistakes and irreversible decisions. Before the miscommunications and wrong perceptions. Before the pain.

I see you. 

I join with all those whose memories of their own mothers bring visions of abuse, neglect, and pain.  Or those who can only mourn the loss of what never was, in place of joyful, motherly love.

God sees you.

God see you, loves you… delights in you. Delights in you.

You are a Trinitarian gift to the world…

…wrapped in all the mistakes, the brokenness, the pain, the hiding – the beauty. God calls you.

You.

Humanity calls you to lift up your heads and be the role models of what is real, and true, and deep, and redemptive. 

So rejoice this day, lament this day, wail, weep, cry, shout, sing, dance, struggle, rest …

I see you. 

If we have the freedom to be a voice for others, we have the freedom to be a voice for ourselves.

See them. Be heard. Be seen. 

I see you. 

 

Surviving Love: The Way of Grace in the Pain of Now

43522813 - man on path and doorway with aged clock

Love is is filled with intense emotions, joyful high’s and neverending laughter, sexual pleasures, even the joy of holding a new baby – the ultimate mama high.

This past month I’ve been reminded of the pain of love. The relationship struggles, the end of love, the goodbyes, the deaths, the letting go’s, the end of dreams, even the bittersweet emotions of parents as they give away a beautiful daughter into the hand of another, or watch a child leave for military basic training, college, or simply “good-bye” without knowing when you may again say “hello.”

For deeply passionate people love and hate, anger and joy create a place where the tensions of each must find rest. Newton’s third law:  “The law of interaction is also Newton’s third law of motion, stating that each action brings an equal and opposite reaction. Forces are either pushes or pulls resulting from the interactions between objects.

Push and pull, pursue and retreat. In relationships, we each become the object of the other person’s actions and reactions. 

Created in the image of God we are so easily reduced to the scientific matter of our creation as opposed to the spirit person God has breathed into us. Only the Holy Spirit of God – the essence of the Trinity can hold a sacred space within this dichotomy,  a third space between the dualism of “either or” in relationships. This is the place where Shalom resides yet it is so hard to locate with the broken compasses that make up our lives – our world.

This matter we live in – this ordinary creation in ordinary days are the places of extraordinary moments caught in cosmic battles of redemption.

God enters into this common, chaotic, ordinary space and simply is.

He doens’t show up through binding or loosing, by claiming or declaring, in prayer or fasting – or even seeking – He simply is.  When we know our compass is utterly worthless and we can’t find our way to Him in the desperation of trying, He is. When we are crying out in pain and anguish “Daddy, please, please help me,” as our souls are ripped asunder from the pain of this world, He is. When it feels as if we will never, ever, ever be whole again, He is. 

All of a sudden He is becomes more than the plea to find him – but the essence of the plea itself. In the calm – grace. In the quiet – grace. In the rest- grace. In the midst of the heartbreaking pain and confusion, the Trinity is holding together time and space – suspended in infinite now.

Grace

Just for a moment, He breathes for us – between the sobs, between the tears, He breathes for us. The breath of life goes in and we know and the utterance of grace comes out. We know we’ll be OK. Somehow.

We are going to be alright because the God with us sacrificed himself that he maybe become the God in us. 

It’s tangible. Real. Embracing. Otherworldly. God in Triunity with our singleness dancing in harmony, twirling in pieces of healing among the shards of brokenness. Undivided – us and Him. Infinite love. 

Even now – I am feeling the pain of a broken, wounded relationships. A few nights ago I wept those tears that rend the heavens in waves of grief but as my plea became his presence I felt the cosmic shift. I’d like to say the pain was gone but it wasn’t – it isn’t. It’s wrenching at times – but He is. To walk through fire means we get to know God’s fireproof presence. How can we know if we can walk on water if we never get tossed into the raging sea To be under crushing weight means we get to know His strength. His strength. His strength. It is only when we are weak that we know His strength (2 Cor. 12:9). I am so thankful to learn of his strength.

We never know ourselves, our strength, or what we are capable of nor do we never really know God or his strength or his faithfulness unless we’re given a chance to prove and to be proven.

So if anyone is surviving love, it is all about grace.

We keep moving forward with love, in love, revealing God in the presence of love and pray that grace will clear the path.

 

 

 

 

“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down. Lent, ashes, and mother’s love.

Children sing it joyfully. Dancing in celebration of all the good and playful engagements that childhood is made of. On Ash Wednesday the song played and replayed in mind…

“… ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

fireSurrender

Ash Wednesday is a reminder that from dust we came and to dust we will return. It is a reminder that the cross is at the end of dust.

We, His beloved, are at the end of dust. 

The forest fire wipes clean the growth of everything that is dead and barren, but in just a little while we see the new growth rise from the ashes. Resurrection.

If we can hold on just a little while longer, and sometimes just a little while longer yet. 

The earth doesn’t want the pain of fire. There is a surrender to the flames that are beyond its control. Beyond our control. Something greater is about to happen, but it is painful, oh so painful right now.

So Lent begins – ashes, ashes, ashes. 

We are reminded that all of life is a circle – a ring around which we play and joyfully sing…

…and the fire where we fall.

We are feeble. We are burned. It’s terrifying. Exhausting. We cry out for answers in the midst of the flames but all we get back is the crackling of the fire. Noise, chaos, confusion. We strain to listen for that still small voice…                (I Kings 19:12).

…we know you are there God. We are listening for your to speak. We are begging you to respond.

Are you weeping too? God my Father – is your son grieving? Is your Spirit moving? Is the Trinity mourning with me? What does your dance look like today?  

My friend is in the fire with her little girl. Her beloved. Claire has been struggling with life-threatening medical issues for too long.  Pain for too long. A ring of ashes without the joy. Every day in March is an anniversary of one year of hospital stays. One year of turmoil. One year of suffering

Lent ushers in a long year of ashes for Claire.

The pain and the fear are unbearable. Yet God remains silent in the midst of it all and the questions rise. The unbreakable wall between the fire and safety grows bigger. All God has to do is shout and the wall comes down.

Why don’t you shout Lord? 

Why are You silent?

Why don’t you break down the wall between death and life, winter and spring, suffering and joy?

You are in the whispers, the gentle, the consoling. We have to strain our ears to listen and the noise drowns out Your voice.

Yet, You are there in the pain. In the fire. In the suffering.

In the Love

He doesn’t shout over our fears or command over the fire – He walks in the pain, through the flames, consumes the fire.

God stills our hearts. He embraces our soul. He picks us up when we fall in the ashes. He cradles the grief, the loss, the emptiness, and the questions. 

We may not know when, or how, or always have the answers we hope for – the longed for answers…

…but we have Him. 

And he remains. Even when it feels as if he is an eternity away.

God is in the dance of pain and suffering and leading the ring of weeping. He is holding our hands with a grasp that never, ever lets go. He is breathing, and moving, and flowing through the new life that springs from destruction. It’s just a tiny indistinguishable seed among the ruins right now but it is there…

…growing, yearning, reaching for the life.

Waiting

Waiting

He is nurturing the seed and bringing life. To Him, it is already a forest full of grace and beauty, planted before we were formed – growing as we wait.

We wait for the end of times that is just the beginning of something greater. As mother’s we question and cry and suffer, and ponder…

… and Hope.

We hope with vision. We believe that what we don’t yet see is greater than we can imagine. We hope for the rains. We hope for the sun to shine. We hope for the light.

We hope for Life. 

fb_img_1488550724530God, our mother hearts wait for you. Among the ashes, we wait. 

We wait.

We love.

We surrender.

Please pray for Claire and Claire’s family. 

(Ring a Ring o’ Roses is not about the plague, that is an urban legend.)

For more on Lent and Ash Wednesday.

when the 3

Honey, you’re a grumpy old Christian and you’re scaring the kids

gods little 8

My heart is breaking for the anger, fear, bickering, pride and hatred that is spewed every day. Many of my generation have lost their way (under 40’s too but it’s to my generation over 45’s I implore)  If I was Peter Pan I would say, “You’ve forgotten how to fly.” The term “grumpy old man/ women” comes from somewhere, doesn’ it? We use the term “snarly” in our home when Dave gets that overworked, tired, face twitching tension and tone of voice. Me, well, that’s for another day…

There’s been a whole lot of snarly the last year. (Especially social media. So much so I can’t even go on anymore. )

Obviously, I know how this happened. I’ve lived it too. It looks like this: (And please remember, the following is not what I believe the Way to be but an example of what white, evangelicalism now is).

We have lived out the “truth” of our own gospel (within American culture) for so long we no longer remember what it was like to have a zealous love for questions. There’s no excitement about navigating the path spiritual growth. We don’t need a journey of Knowing. We know it all already and can spew scriptures to prove it. We’re unable to hold two opposing views in our two feeble hands and we can’t image a third option – a place in the middle – a balance, an equalizing place, a grace-filled place. A place for discussion, sacred listening, and meditation. It’s either or, right or wrong, black or white, republican or democrat, “believer or unbeliever,” legal or illegal, resident or alien, “Christian” or “other.”

we have a GPS that’s infallible.

Culture does not impact our biblical interpretations. We are on the narrow path and our interpretations are correct, others are swinging way too wide and caving into the culture.

We are in a post-modern, post-Christian, ant-Christ, persecuted time and we need to be careful not to be led astray by doctrines of demons, dogmas of secularism, or the terrorism  of the “other.” We need to fight for the solidly Western “Christian” heritage that was exemplified by our forefathers.

The ones who not only owned slaves but raped and bore children by them? We romanticize it by calling them “mistresses.”  They were Theists, pluralists, and held to doctrines far broader than The Shack Movie which is now being criticized as heresy. But if it fits our ideologies of a Christian nation worth defending against at all costs then so be it.

Oh stop it, you’re just scaring everyone. The Good News is not about apocalypse but redemption. There are more than 12 people sitting next to Jesus and they aren’t conservatives or liberals or moderates. They aren’t even “Christians.” They are disciples of The Way. Titles aren’t the way in, Jesus is. 

Why would anyone want to follow a message handed out in such angry, bitter, contention? They would rather fly without a compass then be led into the abyss.

Much of the next generation is too educated to buy into the lies they’ve been fed. I’m so thankful my children grew up and gently exemplified the Jesus who I read about in the Bible as a child. The one I actually knew before I was led astray by sin… and some bible teachers who claimed to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Amen.

I love the younger generation because they have taught me about…

The Jesus who cares more about the lives of others than Himself.

The One who brought the lowest members of society into the middle of his presence…

… children, women, Samaritans, lepers, and the infirm and gave them a place of prominence.

The Jesus who wasn’t preoccupied with politics and policy but justice and mercy.

The refugee Jesus, the outcast Jesus, the counselor Jesus, the friend Jesus, the guy who hung around tax collectors, prostitutes, and crooks, the vulnerable Jesus, who opened his arms wide to be shamefully crucified – modeling how we should live. 

We posture as if we are more worried about protecting our lives than how we actually live – self-preservation, prosperity, safety, individualism is more important than the desire to stand before God and know he doesn’t only see the righteousness of Christ in us (the only righteousness we have – for by grace you are saved but also witnessed us live our lives out as followers of The Way – here, now, every minute of every day as living testimonies of great Love.

We hold a lot of fear. Fear of the future, fear of not measuring up, fear of inadequacy, fear of surrender, fear of being genuine, fear of aging, fear of losing out. For women, we hide behind hair color, make-up, lying about age, and (for some) facelifts, tucks, botox and enlargements. It’s all to look, act, and be the way we think we should before society. We conform to the culture. 

But we are to live in the way Jesus did. That’s the way of love. The way of forgiving our enemies. The way of sacrifice. We are to live as examples of restorative, redemptive, liberating, communal peace for everything who breathes because all of humanity bears the image of God.

That’s a life lived without masks, pretenses, or safeguards. It’s a life of make-up or none, gray hair or green but it’s a life that doesn’t compel us to hide behind dangerous surgeries to protect our images or geographical border walls to protect our lives.

It’s youthfulness born out of reckless abandonment and lived out by risky faith; it’s trust forged in the power of imperfection which rests in an unknown future that is held by a very Known God.

It’s the faith of the young who lean into their future instead of grabbing for the past. It is the faith of the child. The faith we must possess.

There is more to following Jesus than believing, or trust, or even faith. To know God is to follow him even when the stakes are high.

It’s following Him to stakes in our wrists and ankles. I think a lof of the younger generation has figured this out.

I’m glad. I’ll just sit here in the middle for a while and listen. I happen to know an Essence of Three that provides a pretty good place to hang out. 

 

 

 

 

 

Advent Waiting: Moments of Movement Differences in Grieving

There must have been total chaos in the creation of the universe. I like the way it is depicted in the movie The Tree of Life. Thundering, crashing, upheaval…  rolling in and out of darkness and light…

… constant movement…  bringing about beauty.

shutterstock_273960467-2

Bringing about life.

It’s as if the beauty of creation had to be filled with confusion to depict what was to come. Darkness. Brokenness. Pain. Death. What is.

Not what will be.

Life. Redemption. Restoration. Beauty.

No pain.

Sometimes life in the now, but not yet, is simply awful. It’s a dance of pain and joy. Heartache and healing. Clarity and confusion. Stillness and agitation. 

We wait for the Child King; we wait for redemption from pain.

We wait for the not yet, to be the finally now. 

He said he was sad on Friday, December 9th, the day before the day of sadness. I was sad on the day of sadness. It’s not that there aren’t other moments in time when I feel the loss – not a day goes by that my son who isn’t, but is, is far beyond the reaches of my conscious thoughts. I carry him with me always. Never here, yet always here.

But December 10th is the day. It’s the day that didn’t exist for that decade plus more when grief was repressed. It was December 7th or 8th, and then it was December 13th or 14. Like vapor, days just passed by without notice. I couldn’t notice. It was deep inside in a place where light doesn’t shine. Hidden in darkness I didn’t have to look at pain. I didn’t have to think. Or feel. Or remember.

Or live with “what if?”

For greater than a decade we didn’t talk about it. If he was sad, he didn’t express it. If I was sad, I didn’t know it. For me it was all deep down in the darkness waiting to spill out in an angry mess.

They say that’s how repressed memories are. They simply don’t exist, suspended in a dissociation of elapsed time.

He is an instrumental griever – a doer. He expresses grief by getting busy. I am an intuitive griever – a thinker feeler. I need to process.

I need to dance. 

I need to be in the abstract (like now) when only those who think in the abstract understand –in that place beyond words, where thoughts run in a pattern of ordered chaos. After almost fifteen years of repression, I need the the warmth of what can be and with a spark of imagination to find my momentum into the pain.

He wants to stay away from all that. Away from pain. Away from my grief. “I’ll wash dishes.” “I’ll vacuum. ” The subconscious thoughts drive him to his movement of grief, and away from my mine, even as he tries to do those things which are helpful.

Grief is hard work. Marriage is hard work. Grief in marriage is chaos.

One of the burdens of grief in relationship is that people express grief differently. It’s a simple concept really.

Not really.

When I need him, he is far away. Grieving in his way, and in his time. 

It can be lonely. Really, really, lonely.

I want to grieve together; he wants to grieve alone.

Yet it is all movement and movement is healing.

The only way to heal from our brokenness is through the movement that  flows in and out of our brokenness.

If we rest in brokenness too long the life is sucked out of us. It’s a  vacuum of endless sorrow, devoid of light. The movement is lost and we float without direction.

Still. Unmoving. Without air.

If we try to stay out of the brokenness, we miss the waves of growth that grace pours out only in the darkest places.

The movement is big, disturbing.

Creative. 

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The movement is small, a whisper, floating on the breeze.

If we listen carefully we can hear the voice in the movement.

“It’s your grief not his. It belongs to you and you alone.”

“It’s his grief and not yours, it belongs to him and him alone.”

The movement is a dance of grief. The Holy Spirit spinning with me as we twirl through a cosmos of sadness… and joy… and sadness… and sadness… and joy… and joy…

When the Spirit is the choreographer, the movement is a perfect blend of grace filled Light within the darkness. He is the perfect partner to guide us through the chaotic endless movement of brokenness.

No two dances are alike. He has crafted each one to move in a different way. Unique. Beautiful.

Sometimes I stomp on His toes and hurt my feet. I want to dance my way, not His. Anger fills the space where harmony demands attention.

A dance of life.

It’s only when I step away from my Spirit Partner – my Choreographer- that my dance is confused with David’s waltz. He also dances with the Spirit. It’s a movement designed just for him. It doesn’t look anything like mine. But when he allows himself to enter into it, it is beautiful as well. Graceful. Purposeful. Healing.

Sometimes we just have to switch partners and accept that not everyone dances well together. The dance of grief is best led by the Spirit. No one else can lead. No one. 

As I was writing this yesterday a young boy died in a tragic accident.

A family torn.  Chaos. The circumstances for this family – this mother –  is reminiscent of the natural disaster victims I have been with.

Loss upon loss. Pain upon pain. Darkness within darkness.  

They will not find the rhythm of the dance for a very, very, long time.

Kyrie eleison seems to be my hearts cry this Advent season. Lord have mercy.

Only the One who sees the beginning and the end can enter into the darkness and reveal the way out. Maybe He’ll allow me to help facilitate that meeting – to reveal a movement in and out of brokenness for a newly torn family, here in my own community. For now I’ll pray.

For now we wait. 

For now we dance. 

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelations

Solus Christus

Beauty in the Now; Lessons From My Son

Our youngest son Samuel was adopted from Kazakhstan, just two weeks short of his third birthday.

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The first year, or two, or three that he was home were filled with both joys and challenges. I mean, how could they not be?

Samual Miras,  “Miras Smagulov Kaponovich” was not one of the orphaned children who ran to meet the strangers, accepted treats, or wanted to run off and play. He was the toddler who caused “trouble” because he preferred to stay with his caregivers, have a book read to him, and be loved on by those he knew.

All good signs for an orphaned child in an institution. 

Then we showed up to be his parents and he didn’t want anything to do with us. We took him away from everything he had known (I appreciated the mandatory 21 days of in-country, in orphanage, bonding time so he at least knew us).

We took him from everyone he had known- to a small child this was his  community, peers – brothers and sisters to a small child. The smells were different, the food was different. Cars, planes, appointments, check ups, pictures, visas….

The routine – the routine that never, ever, ever, ever, ever changed in an orphanage in Kazakhstan. The routine was shot, gone, kaput, over.

The neural pathways in his brain that had formed in that routine simply did not know what to make of the changes. The fear response was huge.

Terrifying. 

He didn’t yet know that the hand that was leading him, compelling him to move forward, to walk on wobbly legs, holding him close as he kicked to get away, forcing experiences and greater horizons, enlarging his world…

Did it all for love. He didn’t know the one causing pain loved him more than life itself. 

For many of these formerly orphaned children they have challenges stacked up against them. Trauma, pain, loss…

This blog is not about that – this blog is about life. There will be challenges yet to be revealed. We all have our own inadequacies, shadows, and egos – illusions to overcome throughout our entire lives. It’s all part of the process of living. 

Sam has overcome his challenges to become a young man full of grace, talented, loving, and with a very old soul. 

I can’t help but compare his life and redemption to the life of all of us. Life is scary. It is wrought with challenges and choices. Every day we face the moment by moment choice of loving the Other or saving the Self. Love or hate. Sacrifice or gain. Me or you.

Yet, we too are held by the hand of  One who leads us. Even when we don’t really know Him, when the love hasn’t grown yet, when we are scared, alone, and facing unknown territory, He is still there pushing us forward…

Into the painful, into the joy, the growth, the health, and the peace.

Life is a symphony; sometimes it’s the soothing tones of the cello as it sadly sings a days end lullaby. Other times we hear the thundering piano concerto stirring us to fight.  The Maestro is orchestrating, but we often fail to recognize what piece He is playing.

Lenten Longins Sam cello

I believe those early years of suffering as a child somehow created a deep spiritual sense for Sam – of life – but more – the ethereal – the metaphysical – beyond words or description.

Sam hears the music.

He sees the unseen. 

Glimpses of God. 

Hidden in the recesses of memory, and formed by the Holy Spirit he holds to an inner knowing.

 I am often awed by how he seems to connect with the deeper things of life that are foreign to people years ahead of him. Foreign to many people for their entire lives. If I am honest, often foreign to me. What I struggle to embrace comes naturally to him.

Age, does not always equate with emotional or spiritual maturity.

Sam is a photographer but he captures more than just scenery in his photos – he captures life. He doesn’t see through the eye of his lens just something that would look good in print, he sees the essence of it – he sees the eternal.

Sam is teaching me to see. Not through the toddler’s eyes that consumed so many years of my life as the mother of a large family, but through the eyes of being.

Eyes that remind me that in every moment is the thread of times past, present, and eternal. A tapestry that is woven from being to being, place to place, season to season, moment to moment. 

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I’ll let Sam speak for himself:

“Welcome Autumn, with your vibrant colors of red, orange, yellow and brown. Welcome all the misty afternoons and refreshingly crisp air. Welcome all the hats and sweatshirts and warm fires that set an orange glow on the walls. Welcome those long walks down winding roads that call old memories of past joys; the crunch of leaves beneath your feet as you walk. Welcome leaf piles and rakes and crisp apples that are picked with care. Welcome rosy cheeks and cold noses and warm hands in red mittens. Welcome Autumn with all you hold, pointing us to something greater.”

You can see more of  SamShots photos on his Facebook page.

Just Breathe in the Moment – Breathe in Shalom

It’s there in the moment.

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Sandwiched between the sadness and the joy. Between the love and the difficult relationships. Between the sun and the clouds. Between till death do us part, and lets talk about this another time. Between confidence and fear. Between self-preservation and laying down our lives. 

Between risking it all, and guarding our hearts.

Between finding God and losing Him.

Shalom

I am starting to understand Shalom in this time between times as I listen to the rhetoric of a political figure who incites fear and anger. I wonder what has happened to our country – to respecting those in authority as given by God even when we don’t agree. To respect each other and our different opinions – the fabric of freedom.

It is a higher calling to love others rather than to hate –  to have faith instead of fear.

All politics aside – I serve the Son of  a Middle Eastern immigrant who also happens to be the Son of God, born of the Holy Ghost, and born to die that others may live.

A Middle Eastern immigrant who had to flee persecution and death on several occasions beginning as a wee child.

We are compelled to give the person who asks us for our shirt – our coat as well.

We are encouraged if asked to walk one mile to willingly go two instead.

We are called to lay down our life for others with a promise that if we hold tightly to our own lives we will lose them, but if we give up our life we will gain – everything.

We will gain Christ. 

We are called to love, love, and then love some more. We are not called to Patriotism but to Kingdom life.

We are not called to an American flag but a Banner of Love.

We are called to an expansion of the Kingdom, not an expansion of our government.

We are called to this moment in time.

We are called to the person next to us on the bus who is a different color, a different race, a different ethnicity, a different religion – but of one blood. We as Christ followers have the Spirit whispering to us, “You were called for such a time as this.” The pain, the suffering, the wars, the genocides, the immigrants, the oppressed – we were called for them.

The hurting, the weak, the despised. 

We can’t love without Shalom. True Agape love can’t spring forth from the polluted waters of fear, self-preservation or anger. 

Shalom is so much more than peace. Shalom is complete wholeness, peace, tranquility – it is our emotions at harmony with everything that is –  breathing to the rhythm of God’s love. It is a state of being even when everything around you is in a state of doing.

It’s outwardly weeping the pain of one of our children while we breath in it is well with my soul. 

It is crossing thoughts of movie theater terrorism carried away by the laughter of happy grandchildren eating popcorn without a care.

It’s overcoming the fear of flying and seeing the in the Middle Eastern Muslim sitting across from you the face of Jesus instead of the face of the enemy.

Our Triune God is great. Our country is just a group of people fighting to do the best we can with fallen perspectives and selfishness and sin striving against the guiding compass of Love with a small measure of finite greatness. 

We as disciples are to live in the moment of Shalom. It is well with our souls when we put others first.

We must recognize that we are afraid, and fear produces cognitive dissonance…

…and cognitive dissonance causes spiritual dissonance…

…and spiritual dissonance is not where Shalom abides.

Shalom resides only in the God who was willing to lay down His rights – His very life that we as immigrant children could be adopted as sons and daughters into a Kingdom without end, without boundaries, without wars, pain, or suffering. A Kingdom party of Imago Dei.

We can’t invite enemies to the party – we won’t get close enough to them to do that. We must invite friends, acquaintances and neighbors.

We are called to inhale a time as this – and bring others into that breath. 

(All photography courtesy of my son Samuel – SamShots )