Monday, January 27, 2014

When Farewell is Easy and Excruciating [Made 2014 Update]

I didn't expect this, when I woke up this morning.  Didn't expect to for my eyes to open to the new day, only to open all over again to certain, freeing truth.  To the needed, good, but excruciating thing my soul needed.

My soul, my soul, with its wings tethered for all these years to my sides with cords that cut and bite my flesh deep.  My soul, that I've tried to forget, to silence and bury, to form into a shape she was not made to hold.

I'd tried so hard for so long to be what everyone expected, wanted, needed me to be.  Everyone, that is, except my self.

But then 2014 dawned as my fearless year, my year of experimentation, of meeting this woman I am and yet am not, the woman that was almost lost but now (I hope) will imminently be found.  A person can not be both fearless and stifled at the same time.

And it has hurt, terribly, to try to be this person that I am not.  Perhaps I never was her, or maybe I was but have since outgrown her and my body longs to slough that old skin off like a snake.  It's time to let the dead and withered shell yield to the raw and vibrant skin beneath, skin that longs to kiss the sun.

In this morning's dark, I knew that it was time.  To full step into fearless, to chew through these last remaining threads on the cord that binds my wings.  

So I did.  And it was terrifying.  And excruciating.  And -- exhilarating.  So, so right, and needed.

The cord fell away like ash, and my wings groaned and creaked as they unfurled to uncertain freedom.  I am still learning to use them, but it feels delicious to finally have them spread wide and reaching toward the sky.

All this to say -- I am stepping away from the leadership of Made 2014 (yes, there is going to be a 2014 round of the seminal art + faith ecourse with all new content).  I'm handing the reins of this beautiful beast over to the one woman I know was made for the job, Anna K.  

Let me be clear.  I am not stepping away from Made for any other reason than because my soul needs space, to question and discover and fly into uncharted skies . . . and doing that while running a faith-based course just does not work well.  I felt like I had to hide who I was, and that was poisoning me, and poisoning Made.  It's better this way.

This was an easy decision . . . and an excruciating one.  Easy, because it was so needed, and because my soul felt so light in letting Made go.  But excruciating because Made is one of my babies, born from my soulful innards as surely as my two human children were.  I know that she's in good hands, but I'm going to miss her.

And who knows, perhaps I will be back at the helm for Made 2015 (if there will be a Made 2015 at all) . . . but I'm not too worried about that.  I've got atrophied wings that want to remember how to soar, and a heart that's fired up for the bruises and skinned knees that I'm sure I'll earn in the process, badges of a life well lived.  

And that's the thing, really.  I want to live.  Because I haven't been, not truly.  And I cannot stand it for one single second longer.  

Here's to limitless horizons and remembering who I am, and releasing Made to be who she was born to be, too.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

When a New Envy Rises

I thought I was done with it. Done with the surge of jealousy, the searing resentment that would boil whenever I saw a pregnant woman at the grocery store, or the doctor’s office, or anywhere (everywhere). I envied her seeming not-knowing, her innocence of all the terrible ways that a blissful pregnancy could end.

The jealousy was one of many facets of that wretched new normal that everyone in the babyloss and grief communities is always talking about. Things are not as they once were, and we can never turn back.

But now I’m twenty-six months out from our first child’s stillbirth, two years and two months, and our rainbow is a happy sixteen month old who fills my life with a light so beautiful that my heart can hardly bear it.

And there has been healing, too. I can pass pregnant women in the grocery aisles and wish them well, hoping that I never meet them in our local babyloss support group. I see families cherishing tiny newborns and I no longer scowl at them, coveting what they have, what had almost been mine with our daughter who died before she breathed.

Two years and two months in this life after stillbirth is what it takes to leave the jealousy behind. Two years and two months, and the envy no longer surges.

Or does it?

Today I'm writing  over at Still Standing Magazine.

Monday, January 13, 2014

When Our Love is Conditional

Why do you love me?  Do you love me for my me-ness, or for the me you think I ought to be?

Would you love and care for me if my quest for my me-ness led me out beyond the boundaries of labels and compartments, outside the church walls, beyond the narrow-road living we used to spur each other along?

Would you still love me if I left the word "Christian" behind to step more ever deeply into the excruciating, exquisite mystery of the God-Man and his gospels? Into the femininity of divinity?

This is what crosses my mind more and more and more, what I silently ask of others as I wrestle out what feels true and holy.  Three decades I've breathed in the winds of this world and yet still I do not know who I am, and I am tired of living by everyone else's description.  I want the wild and untamed self, just as I want the earth-smudged savior(ess). 

I have been so very loved by the souls we share circles with.  So very, very loved.  That love has been a saving force, has been one of many buoys that God threw me when I was floundering in the tear-salted ocean, drowning. 


I wonder (I fear) if now that the very growing that was born of the buoys, the growing that is stripping me of all safe definitions, is the growing that will lose me the friendship of of all.  Not because they have said so or demonstrated so (mostly), but because I see it happening in our culture, in our church.  I see it in the cheering of homophobia and racism.  I see it in the droves of customers eager to take a stand against perceived immorality by consuming righteous chicken, not realizing that they are boycotting their own humanity, while their flesh and blood gay brethren are force-fed steaming shame and hatred and you-are-not-worth-loving.  I see it in how the way we live contradicts that way that Jesus lived.

We have a history of hating each other.  We have a history of hating other and different and not us.

And so when I find my{self} changing, shifting, outgrowing her old skin and sloughing it off, I have to wonder if I will be seen as other and written off as a sad story of falling away and rebellion.

Is your love conditional on the category you can sort me into?  Will you value our friendship, our sister flesh and human blood, over toeing the line that someone else has drawn for us?  If I howl at the moon, will you acknowledge the freedom I have to choose to do so?  Will you howl with me, or come at me with a muzzle, "for my own good"?  

Will you love me if you can't "save" me?

I fear the answer to these questions.  I fear the loss that may come.  But even more than these terrors, I fear living asleep for a single second more. 


Saturday, January 4, 2014

When Church-Going is a Tricky Quesiton

art journaling by Beth Morey

I thought that my fearless year was going to be about exploring and casting my net wide to see what truth I might fish from the depths, about no text or tradition being off limits.  I had all these plans . . . and here it is, just four days in and I'm sitting in my kitchen on a Saturday night wondering if I will go to church in the morning.

It's not church that I have a problem with, really, because the church that we call ours is open and sweet-spirited and bleeds love.  Our pastor and his wife, I suspect them to be Christian mystics and perhaps feminists, which I count as good.

But there's all this wrestling going on inside, a tug-o-war in my guts pulling this way and that, and a month ago or so I went back to church because I thought I was ready, thought I'd made my peace and laid down my wrestling belt

only to find that it wasn't that I was done with the gray space and that doubt and the vital questions, but that I had run back to the comfortable, to where I knew the rules and the steps to every dance.

And that, that running back when I should be, want to be, excavating inward and upward, sweeping out the musty cobwebbed corners of my soul wounds -- that running back to the known is death.  Who ever grew an inch when they followed every American rule?  Who ever leaned into the questions when they already knew every tidy, flaccid answer?

I won't be a victim of my own fear, of the neat box I'm meant to shoulder my{self} into.  Too much is on the line.  My soul is on the line.

And so I type in the kitchen's dark and wonder at how I've felt this tugging on the hem of my melancholy heart back toward this Jesus fellow and his people, wonder if this is fearless excavation of where I am or if it's another fleeing from the growing.

How can I tell?  How can I know?  I reached elbow deep into the sticky muck of my innards and guts and everything is sinew and silence and it's only four days in and I'm already impatient for the day when I wiggle my fingers and find them wrapping around that most precious jewel that I've been sifting for, the answer to who. am. I. and it's coming, I trust it's coming, but

it's not here, not warming in my palm, not yet.  And I'm anxious for it, desperate for it, because I think that all the other answers are tied to that one like rainbowed ribbons fluttering from a ring.  And I know I shouldn't think this way, that I should shove this so-called vital self away and away because that's the Christian way, I hear, but I can't.  I

can't.  I've already done all the self-sublimating I can stand. I'm looking for a different way to soul and savior and this spirit soaring whole.

It's nearly tomorrow, day five of this so-called year of fearless, and the dawning will carry with it the inevitable telling of whether I go to church or not.  I can't say what I hope for, except that my actions emanate from my rich and deepest being. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

What Women Want From the Church: A Whole Church

photo by Jennifer Upton

I need you to believe what I have to say has value for all people, for women and men.  I need you to believe that what I am about to share here is my heart, and that it is worth consideration by all readers regardless of their sex, because it does.

I need you to believe that I and my sisters and mothers and aunts and daughters and grandmothers carry just as much power and authority and responsibility in the church and our marriages and this world as my husband, as my brothers and fathers and uncles and sons and grandfathers, because we do.

I need you to believe that women are adventurous and brave and strong and sharp and talented and eloquent and funny and as able as men to change the world and hearts and lives, because we are.  And I need you to believe that men are emotional and sensitive and thoughtful and lovely and nurturing and as able as women to soften the world's hard edges with their tears and their laughter, because they are.

I'm writing  over at Preston Yancey's blog for his series, "What Women Want From the Church."

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Re-Birthing {My Fearless Year}

“grieve. so that you can be free to feel something else.” — nayyirah waheed*

I feel reborn. Or, that I am re-birthing. Being born again, but not in the usual way.

The past two years have had me digging. Excavating, pounding against the deep. Yes, because of Eve, because she died and left my body, left us in all the ways that count, except for her absence. That remains.

She died before breath and she's had me digging ever since, twenty-five months of black earth and muddy filth beneath my fingernails. Digging through the grief of losing her, but that was only the beginning.

That girl that barely was, she broke the dam I'd kept beaver-strong for all these years, since that adolescent time when I was supposed to awaken to the world and my self and instead found all growth trapped and tied and knotted down. And --

I left it that way, added more soul-baling twine to cut into my spirit-flesh, let the knots chafe and bloody


and thought it was fine. Fine, I said, I'm fine. But

I was wrong, living small and gasping, and this soul, she was not meant for that. Somehow she -- I -- lived in spite of their/my best efforts, and when my body birthed the limp and lifeless we had long expected, those knots began to fray.

My Eve girl, she loosened the twine, handed me a subject from whatever waits beyond to use with my new-wakening limbs.

Dig, her death said.

Dig, her ashes sifted.

Dig! her memory cried.

And so I pressed the shovel blade to the desiccated ground of the Story of Me and pressed in, leaned close, hauled sand and rock and pain and grit and hurt and dirt and fear and

the hardness began to give way to something below, something soft and loamy, the fertile earth that my soul -- every soul -- was made to grow deep into. It has been there all along, but three decades of disbelief in dignity and worth and all those intrinsic things each child breaches first air possessing, that I had been taught I did not deserve, that I had thought did not matter.

Two years, I've sifted grief, missing her and mourning the self that was nearly stolen forever from me. But that baby girl, she taught me to dig, to fight for life, for the pulse pounding to the fullest beat, and I have and I am, and

I realize today as words sway my spirit and I run less and less from the work I was made for, I am living that life, for the first, the first, the first time and my breath comes quick, that full beating my dead daughter wanted for me rocking this tendered heart, and my soul crows with the glory of this wild life that she birthed in me.

Today is day one, again.  For the first time in nineteen years, the new moon coincides with the first of the calendar year.  The symbol drips with meaning for me.  And so here, amidst the moon-dark and the everyday newness and the mountains of soul-earth that I have sifted and that I have yet to sift, let me share with you my guiding word for 2014.  I whisper it in your ear, and let its fullness en-courage us both -- fearless.

This year, I will dig -- fearlessly.
This year, I will question and seek -- fearlessly.
This year, I will rebel, throw off the moorings of heart decay and bondage -- fearlessly.
This year, I will love -- fearlessly.
This year, I will show up, I will try imperfectly, I will press into my soul's yearning -- fearlessly.
This year, I will write and I will lead -- fearlessly.
This year, I will breathe deep and connect -- fearlessly. 
This year, I step forward from grief, and back into grief, as needed -- fearlessly.
This year, I will listen to and honor my intuition, the leadings of my feminine soul -- fearlessly.

This year, I continue -- we all continue -- the journey of the soul, wild and tender.   Fearlessly.

Are you with me?

*quote courtesy of Hillary at Spirit Soul Earth