Warm Blankets

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My soul exhales. My soul writes.
My inner critic says in a snarky tone of voice, “what’s so special about what you have to say?” Yet, secretly, I still write perhaps when my grouchy inner critic takes a nap. Just as I breathe. Just as I pray. Everyday, I write.
I recently have had the privilege and honor of taking a class(again) with Ginger Rothhaas, a remarkably inspiring woman, overflowing with hope and love. She kindly spills herself onto all of us as she coaches our souls. You should check her out @ compassionfix.com or ManyOpenGates.com Ginger gently leads, turning my head in a direction that I often avoid. Walking before me, loosely holding the reins, she escorts me down the gravel road of self-compassion. I look ahead and I see the beautiful mountains of God’s overflowing love, grace and patience. For me. I have not travelled this road often enough in my past. This road has not been paved. Yet.
I trust in Ginger’s guidance. She believes in me, probably more than I believe in myself. She has spoken truth to me at such hard times in my life. Times when my inner lies were playing a seemingly endless game of tag in my head. “You’re it. No, you’re it. No tag backs!” She gracefully teaches me how to delicately tend to myself like I would care for a dear loved one.
Today, in class, she asked us to describe what images come to mind when we think of God. I have many loving images and deep feelings that accompany my understanding of God. Feeling safe. Protected. Hugging my children when they’re excitedly running up the hill after school. I watch the hummingbirds and feel God’s love through their beauty and the complexity in their mere existence. I marvel at a creation so tiny yet so breathtakingly mesmerizing. God’s presence seems to accompany me when I’m stuck in the bathroom for the nine millionth time in my life. God has never gone to get me another roll of toilet paper. That would be weird. And hard to believe probably. Thank goodness for my husband. He certainly helps me feel God’s love.
I raised my hand in class today and said that God feels like warm blankets to me. One of the small joys I had when I worked in the pediatric emergency department was bringing warm blankets to kids and sometimes parents too. I loved tucking the warm blanket around their anxious, shivering bodies.
I have also had so many surgeries for Crohn’s disease. I’ve sat in my hospital gown waiting for hours before surgery. I have felt cold, shaky, worried and afraid. But yet, when a kind nurse covers me with warm blankets, their warmth has helped calm me and allowed me to feel less affected by the sterile walls, the bright lights and the hospital smells. Sometimes the nurses have piled multiple warm blankets on top of me to help me. It’s a seemingly small act that I remember vividly despite the memory erasing medicines.
Warm blankets.
My sons have always loved when I preheat their pajamas or towels in the dryer. I love watching the joy on their faces when they hold their warm clothes. “They’re sooooooo warm!” I rarely get to wrap them up in their warm towels anymore, but it’s a beloved bath time ritual that has brought me such joy over the bathtub years.
It’s the beautiful love-fueled and love-filled protected moments like these that help me understand God’s love. For me. And I feel special. And I want to share that feeling. It’s funny how writing works. God’s influence on my snarky thoughts can be pretty overwhelming too.
Thank you, dear Ginger, for the tender construction work that you do on our souls.

Human Thorns

IMG_9083We have these crazy fast growing, never-stopping, always-multiplying vines in our yard. They spring up in the front and back and everystinkingwhere. They taunt the pseudo-gardener in me. They seem to snicker and stick their leafy little tongues out at me as I walk out the front door past the bushes.

Some of them are so easy to pull out of the dirt. I reach down quickly in the middle of taking the recycling out. I feel strong. Proud. Accomplished. Other vines are a bit more established and sneaky too. They strategically tangle themselves up in flowers or bushes in difficult to reach places. I want to grab them at their roots so I’m not repeating this process every week or so. But this can be an awkward task and falling-into-the-bushes hard.

Lately, I have had the most challenging time pulling these vines out of our rosebushes. It’s a tedious and painful process, especially for a woman who never wears gloves. Every time I have tried to help the rose bushes, I end up bleeding. Poke. Ouch. Stab. Stab. Ouch. Cuss. Those thorns don’t mess around. They hurt. I suppose they are fulfilling their purpose. They are the aggressive protectors of some of the most brightly colored and fragrant flowers. I investigate and interrogate the thorns but they don’t care that I’m trying to help the beautiful flowers too. Our rose bushes are getting all choked up, literally, by the sneaky vines that wrap up and around their delicate branches and stems.

I sow some of my deepest thoughts outside. While I am bleeding from the thorn attacks, it occurs to me that we, beautiful and complex humans, have our own thorns. We often overprotect ourselves from things that may hinder our growth. We want to keep moving in the direction of light but sometimes our thorns injure those who want to help. Those trying to clean up our vines or prune our branches. Thankfully, if we are lucky, we have those relentless green thumb kind of people who won’t let a little flesh wound stop the weeding.

Those loyal and faithful friend, sister, and mother gardeners don’t give up. They keep after us even while we poke them, sometimes purposely, sometimes unknowingly with our ever-present thorns. Oftentimes, these vine gardeners are the people who know us the very best and still love us the most. They possess the instinctual power to feel the vines choking us. They show up at the times when we are trying our hardest to stop growing through the pain. Or stop growing altogether. Or perhaps we momentarily surrendered to letting our prickly thorns do all the talking.

It’s not so bad to have the thorns. After all, we are each such beautiful complex creatures. But, we have to recognize the potential of our thorns. To hurt. Isolate. And create physical and emotional distance from those who wear gloves and come ready to gently untangle the vines that surround us.

Letting others help us is one of love’s most humbling and delicate tasks. The practice takes root with a wheel barrow full of patience and our willingness to surrender control. I recently read one of Brennan Manning’s books, The Rabbi’s Heartbeat. I nearly copied the entire book since I borrowed it from the library.  I highly recommend it. Among so many others, I love this excerpt,

“The child spontaneously expresses emotions; the Pharisee carefully represses them. To open yourself to another person…is a sign of the Holy Spirit. To ignore, repress, or dismiss our feelings is to fail to listen to the stirrings of the Spirit within our emotional life. Jesus listened, cried, got frustrated, righteously angry, and felt sorrow for people in pain.”

When I untangled the vines creeping up their fragile branches,  the roses didn’t say “thank you.”  They didn’t need to. Their beauty, their fragrance, and their mere existence is enough. Just as giving and surrendering our entire selves for each other is enough. More than enough.

In the Hall Closet

IMG_9854Don’t worry about me when I’m writing. I’m processing. I’m sharing what I’m feeling. Or what I’ve already felt. I’m reliving or retelling a moment in time. Not a perpetual state of mind. Perhaps, worry about me when I stop. When I’m silent. Apathetic. Hopeless. Without you knowing. When I’m numb. Worry about me when my feelings have gotten all clogged up in the drain of my heart or my head. When they’re packed in over time, too hard. I can’t get them out. They’re stuck. Trapped. Going nowhere.

Writing helps me. It frees me from my overthinking. Super size feeling. It breaks my pursed lips and opens my tightly crossed arms. It grabs the door handle to a closet filled with all kinds of thoughts. Life-giving kite flying thoughts and life-robbing, weighted thoughts. Pesky untrue thoughts that have the power to alienate, isolate and suffocate me. If I let them.

But I won’t.

I did for a long time. I closed my eyes. I would not peek. It was my choice to see that there was no light. I could dim or brighten my room the way that I wanted. Pretend. Escape. I built a lonely hiding spot. Nobody knew to find me.

I was afraid to open my eyes to see things the way they were. Maybe it was the kind of pitch blackness that confused me. Is it that dark or was it me, were my eyes shut so tightly? Where’s my hand? There was a thunderous sigh, a release, when I recognized that I possessed the power to open my eyes. Immediately, my perspective changed. I noticed the small crack of light from underneath the door. Then, I realized if I grabbed the handle, I could slowly open up the door and let myself out.

When another person says with their words or with their eyes that they’ve been there or felt something similar too, the light floods in. Opening up the dark hidden linen closet of his heart or her mind. It’s freeing. Like finally breathing without someone’s hands covering your mouth. Like a kite bobbing up and down on a fluffy big clouded day.

Feelings, thoughts, and worries escape. They’re not so consuming or heavy in the light. They’re less powerful, less heavy. More healing. It’s like holding your breath.
Holding your breath.
Holding your breath.
Breathe.
Exhale.
The pressure releases.

Freedom begins. The tiny yet enormous healing power to live in the way that you choose. You do have control. It’s not an illusion. You’re no magician but you fight, you learn how to escape. Those are the unpurchased gifts waiting in the cart of your mind: perseverance, hope, God’s constant presence, time and experience. After experience.

There are many hidden exits to get you out of your mind. When you discover them, remember to tromp, tromp, tromp your heavy, weary feet on your way out.

You will leave easy-to-trace tracks for yourself the next time.

You will find the door handle more quickly. You will remember to tell others you’re hiding. You will take your pen and moleskin notebook and you will write your way out.

 

Overcoming

IMG_9649I’ve spooned many dark nights with sadness. I’ve arm-wrestled with anger. I’ve sobbed on the bathroom floor with disappointment. I’ve had one too many drinks with resentment. I’ve hand-cuffed myself to shame. Apathy and I have stared outside my kitchen window. I’ve shared a tarnished best friend’s necklace with inadequacy. Fear has driven me home many nights.

Uncomfortable. Miserable. Trudging. Falling. Bargaining. Despising. All-consuming. Short-lived. Neverending.

I will allow you a brief cameo in my life. On my stage. In my thoughts. Then, I will close the curtain on you.

I recognize you. I’ve met you. I know exactly who you are. And what you are. You’re necessary. Yet, you’re one dimensional.

But I am not.

Goodbye for now. The unknown. My temporary struggles. I have made long term plans with peace. Joy is on my speed dial. My soul patiently holds her hand out for me. Grace knows the code to my garage door. Self-compassion opens her arms wide to hold my truths. Because I have love and mercy overflowing, I will not run dry in the midst of pain, uncertainty and my struggles. My discomfort and questions and lack of answers will not consume me. My faith will steady me.

I will be watching the setting sun before me admiring the gorgeous colors of the sky as they change every day. I will hear the giggling boy beside me. I will push on his left-sided dimple and I will point to mine. I always will be healing. I will never stop growing. As long as I am living. I will stumble. I will fall. And I will get back up again.

Struggles and strengths. They will lead me through this complicated world filled with hope.

God has never left me. He hears my sighs, my laughter and my tears. Jesus feels my pain. And He willingly fills my love tank. The Holy Spirit revives me, recharges me, inspires me. Time after time again.

I am overcoming.

A Winter Hummingbird

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I’m trying, God.
I’m trying.
But you’re going to need to help me out tonight. Right now.
This is a really long shift.
How am I doing?
I feel like I’m flailing. Tumbling. Or failing. Maybe all three.
Where do I need to improve? It seems like everywhere
.

I prayed as I loaded the dirty dishes. Tears dripped down my face. Below freezing temps give me the never ending chills. The winter funk. I thought about stepping outside to see if my tears would freeze. They’re probably too salty. Maybe the bitter air would numb my overfeeling heart. And solidify my tears. A cool crying experiment of sorts. My dog would probably come lick my face repeatedly and ruin my weird backyard science lab.

Why do the smallest things ignite the fastest growing fires?

I need a winter hummingbird, God. Please. Send one.

Spilled hot chocolate. Rejection. Dishes everywhere. Insecurities fall onto the floor. I sop them up with a small stained dishcloth. Back and forth I walk to the sink to wring out the mess.

I hear the dragging sound of a nine year old boy’s house shoes behind me. He doesn’t pick up his feet, much like his mother.

“Mom? Sorry your day was stressful.”

Oh, he noticed. Perhaps he sees my smeared eye makeup. Or did I remove my heavy daytime armor revealing my worn-out nighttime emotions and feelings underneath?

My sensitive-souled boy hugs me. I rest my head on his. A few tears slowly sneak out. I don’t let go. Not yet.

“I love you the morst, Mom.”

I know in my thirty eight year old heart. It’s not possible.

“I love you the morst, buddy.”

My winter hummingbird stares me in the eyes. Hanging in my kitchen window. Sheltered from the snow. A reminder of my Grandma’s love. Given to me by a dear friend who sees, hears and listens with her heart.

I am trying. And some days my trying is better than others. You know this, God.

Thank you for moving me. Past my fears, insecurities, failures and doubts for tonight. Thank you for helping me notice the fluttering boy that entered the room.

I trust that God sees me. He grabs the paddles and resuscitates me with endless love and ever-present hope. Fills me with a warm peace. He surrounds me with tiny moments that reveal the love tucked away, sometimes under the snow. He hears my cries, the silent and the loud ones, in between the running water and the dishes clanging. He holds a place for my busy thoughts, slithering worries, constant questions and my hopes that get trapped, forgotten or lost in my heart-mind translation. He gently transforms my defeated thoughts.

Please send me a winter hummingbird.

I asked for one. And I had the honor of saying “goodnight” to three.

Oh, my beating heart. Thank you for those hummingbird boys of mine. They love with an energy and passion and joy that leaves me humbled. Inspired.

I’m trying, God.

I will keep trying.

 

Super-glued Soul

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We break things. All of us. It’s one of our strongest family traits. My boys play hard. I unload the dishes hard. Sometimes I even put ice cold water in crystal bowls and pitchers to cool them off from the steamy dishwasher. Perhaps they got a little pissed that I didn’t hand-wash them so they retaliate by shattering. Everywhere. Overreaction, much? Or maybe they overheard me say one too many times, “I never registered for crystal.” I’m not a crystal person. Because I break things, remember?

We have a specific designated area on our kitchen counter where we place broken things. It’s similar to a waiting room at a doctor’s office though it’s not on Google maps yet. My husband waits for enough of these broken pieces and parts to accumulate to justify a super glue session out in the garage.

“Next in line. The super-glue doctor will see you.”

Despite my clumsy tendencies and big-hands and haste that often makes broken waste, I have a patient, loving, gorilla-glueing husband. I believe in him. Truly. I think he can super-glue damn-near anything back together again. I’m talking to you, Humpty Dumpty.

“Mooooooooom….this broke.”

“Just set it on the counter. Your Dad will fix it,” I confidently tell our children.

He’s not only spectacular at super-glueing back together broken pieces and parts of toys, pottery, chairs, tables etc. he also helps fix people. He harvests time, even when he’s exhausted and burnt-out on people. His time is always in season. He listens and questions and hugs and forgives and tries so hard to understand. Jesus would be proud. Super proud.

He has helped super-glue my worn-out and anxious soul back together time and time again. Especially when I feel so unfixable. Or broken in too many pieces. He waits and searches under the bed or in the closet. He gently knocks on the bathroom door. He helps find the parts of me that matter the most. My joy. My laugh. My compassion. My empathy. My weary confused soul. My resilience.

My
hope.

Life can be fragile yet it can break us. There’s nothing wrong with having a special broken space on the counter or in your room or in your car, especially if there’s a certain someone who knows how and when to super-glue you back together.

It may be thoughtful to let this person know from time to time how he or she mends you.

Thank you, Cory. You’re the greatest super gluer I know.

Oh, Christmas Tree

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One of my boys asked me how I hurt my forehead. Oh. Ouch. Sweet compassionate boy. However, it’s not quite the story he might have hoped for. The knot protruding from my forehead is the result of what I’m assuming is wacky hormones in the form of a megazit, (not a “megabit”, spellcheck) a zit that shames all others. No filter can hide the new life force that has landed on my face. It may have a tiny brain but I don’t feel like getting a CT scan. What if my baby zit brain has a sympathy baby tumor on its pituitary gland? That would be a real pain.

I know I’m not the only one who gets gigantic hormonal zits. As a grown ass woman.

Wait. What? But who cares? What’s the point? The other night I was feeling joyful about our Christmas tree and our life. But it’s not perfect. It’s a bit weighed down, a bit crooked. It’s really messy, literally and figuratively. “The Christmas room” has all sorts of stuff in it. I wanted to take a picture and write a brief post, but then I got to feeling inadequate. It seems like this is the time of year when everybody posts these pictures of perfectly clean rooms with runway model Christmas trees. Perfect family photos. Sometimes, I tend to care more about the zits. Of life. The imperfections. The messes.

Our house is a mess. I can’t seem to get it all cleaned up. What a satisfactory homemaker I make.

I try my best but I get so easily distracted by people. So, I leave the house. Strangely, when I come home, the secret cleaning, organizing fairies have not come. I told a few new small group friends that I thought if I could just get all my messes cleaned up and organized, surely some transformation would occur. But I think that’s a lie.

I sat with the sweetest woman today who constantly reminds me of what life really is about: helping each other out. She lets me give her a hand massage and rub the old nail polish off of her nails. She tells me beautiful love stories. She speaks to me gently and genuinely. She matters and she reminds me that every small act of kindness and love matters. She has experienced loss. So much loss in her life. But she keeps on living and saying, “thank you” to those who surround her. Everybody wants her to live forever. How do I get so lucky to know so many heart filling people? I always wish I could give her a giant hug but I would hurt her. Yet, again, she teaches me how to be more gentle. More present. More aware.

She teaches me to be kind. Always. She unknowingly reminds me of my freedom, my gifts. And I love her for who she is and I love her for loving me, a stranger who turned into a friend. She asked me, “did you know you were going to help take care of another child when you signed up for this?” I laughed and told her that it’s my pleasure, that I don’t have a daughter. She smiled. God continually stirs up this beautiful pot of Love stew.

It’s heart work. Soul shaping. People work. And so I will boast of my insecurities, my uncertainties, and my fears because I know God moves in these times. He shifts the fragile ground on which we all walk. He moves us in the direction of love if we let him. He crosses our paths with people who teach us, guide us, help us and love us.

God loves me. Imperfect, messy and easily distracted me. God loves me more than I love my joyful, dancing tree decorators. Hard to believe because I love those boys in heart pounding, heart stopping ways. I look up at our Christmas tree. We are the the most weighed down branches. He is the tree. He holds us up. He carries us through. He shines light and love in our lives. No matter what.

God’s pulse. Ever present. Strong as ever. Never leaving. Steady. If you slow down, place two fingers on your wrist. You can feel it. It’s fascinating. Your heart pumping blood throughout your entire body. God’s working a never ending shift out of the love He has for you and your life.

Keep up the good work.