a weary world, not rejoicing

a weary world, not rejoicing

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Early in the pandemic, there were piles of memes to wade through on any given day, but there was one which I found to be particularly funny:

Introverts, please check on your extrovert friends during this time of need. They are not OK.

For many introverts, this meme was not only hilarious but pointed out how often introverts are the ones who are expected to adapt in an extroverted world. In a sense, extroverts found a way to make aspects of quarantine all about themselves, their needs, their comfort, or discomfort. 

 But it’s just a meme, right?

This past week with all the news coverage regarding George Floyd and the woman calling the police on a black man in Central Park, I was flooded with grief. 

On Wednesday, I could not get myself together. 

I sat dazed in a chair and read a fantasy novel most of the day, now and then glancing at social media littered with hashtags and photos AND videos. I hadn’t anticipated feeling quite so assaulted by the images. I mean, it’s sad to admit but apart of me has become accustomed to this horrific violence. I could spend the rest of this post listing the names of those we know who have been killed because of skin color and leave a lengthy space for the names we don’t know, only their families and loved ones know. Each image, every name, a source of trauma attaching itself to my soul, my DNA. 

I haven’t been one who easily picks up a sign or marches for a cause. Maybe I have spent too many years of being polite. I considered myself to be one person in a group possessing a specific amount of assigned power hoping that collectively we might amass some power, some influence, maybe even credibility in this world.

I believed if I dressed a certain way, styled my hair in a palatable way, never put my hands in my pockets while in a store, and chose to let kindness be my guiding principle, then maybe I, this one person, might add a chain link to the legacy of my great grandparents, grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles.  Extending to my brother, sister, cousins, husband, children, niece, and nephew to shift people’s opinions and obliterate fears about people who look like us.

So when I scroll through Instagram stories and see a quick photo with a hashtag followed by photo after photo of trivial things to me, it is perplexing. Instagram stories last 24 hours but a physical post can last indefinitely. It feels like announcing you are going swimming but only your big toe gets wet.  Maybe it feels tolerable to display murder on one frame and a sweaty workout selfie on the next frame. It feels like drive-by social justice, fleeting. It’s like jumping on a bandwagon and deciding when the ride ends. The wheels are still moving for me, for many.

Back to the meme at the beginning of this post, allow me to change it up:

White friends, please check on your black friends during this time of need. They are not okay. 

I lost pieces of hope this week. I wish the wearing down of my soul made it smoother but I am unsure.  I have never felt more fear for my male family members and especially for my son beginning to tiptoe into adulthood. 

I have lived as if racism was my problem to fix. When in reality, it is mine to be healed from and for those who don’t look like me to lend their voices, time, and power to end its deadly message. Racism is not a hashtag. Protests, education, and reading books are valid ways to stand against this evil monster of racial injustice but true healing can only start in my opinion when empathy leads the way.

Empathy is not about feeling bad about something and remaining silent, returning to life as normal because the alternative feels uncomfortable. It is a privilege to be able to return to life as usual without the fears so many people of color bear. It is important to be aware of the privilege of not having to change any part of daily life when it is not the reality for Black people and other people of color.

 Can you jog or take a walk without a second thought?

Can you enjoy bird watching without fear of being arrested? 

Are you able to drive a nice car without concern you will be questioned about your ownership?

These are rights and shouldn’t be just for some.

My daughters and I have talked over the years about how we unconsciously exaggerate our actions in stores. We want to make it absolutely clear when we touch something that we have replaced it, if we decided against buying it. This is an intrinsic message based on a  potential (not imagined) threat during a routine activity of life. This is why I keep my hands out of my pockets, in case you wondered. 

Empathy is feeling the pain and refusing to turn away. It is acknowledging your own feelings and turning your eyes from those onto another’s pain. It is a willingness to proclaim your presence beside someone else because their pain is different than your own and experience. Empathy shouts despite the discomfort, it might involve saying the wrong words but affirming a desire to walk together. It’s weeping with those who weep and to mourn with those who mourn. It’s asking “how are you?” and then leaning in, listening without discounting experience, or projecting a defensive stance.

Sometimes it’s as simple as saying I am here for you because I see you.

*****

I wrote this post on Friday and then over the weekend, I had several friends text to check in with me. I was very moved by these offerings. It caused me to debate whether to post this piece but then I remembered one of my aims is to remind people they are not alone. I believe there is at least one other black person who is wondering why there is so much noise online but silence towards them.  Maybe they are wondering if they are really seen by those who don’t share their skin tone. They also may fear by a pointed post like this, they will now be avalanched by concern, so many days and years late. 

So please be gentle with your black friends and family members. 

Be authentic.

Apologize. 

Check-in by making it about them. Use the correct pronouns. not just how badly you feel. 

Listen and then listen some more.

*****

 

May we walk in love with each other.

May we grieve with each other.

May we share space for uncomfortable words.

May we have the courage to look at one another in the eyes and listen to each other’s histories.

May we have the strength to apologize where we have wounded and may we be people who extend grace to those who simply had no idea. 

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  

II Corinthian 1: 3-4

 

hugs and grief

hugs and grief

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Sometime during the early swirling days when we were learning how to conduct ourselves whenever we braved the world beyond our walls, Caleb and I happened to walk across a parking lot and heard his name called.

Suddenly I saw a blur of swinging hair and as I swiveled my head to get a better view, Caleb and a childhood friend advanced towards each other with arms outstretched.  At that moment, I smiled because of my recognition of two long time friends but I also heard from behind me, a voice say “Don’t touch each other!” As if I had been dazed, I snapped back into reality, this newfound reality, and watched as the duo stopped quickly enough to achieve an air hug. From a distance, two moms stood wearing the same facial expressions of joy tangled up with sadness because, despite affection, touching can be dangerous.  I won’t soon forget the image of two friends grasping at the space around them to attempt an embrace.

*****

Two Sundays ago, we did a family check-in. We talked about how we each were doing and how we could be praying for one another. Some of us had a lot to say and some did not.

Since we all process and cope in different ways, it is perfectly fine to not have words to adequately describe our emotions. 

I think it is important to keep asking (and asking in different ways, without nagging) allowing for pauses, to give opportunities for fuller answers.  Last week, one of the house dwellers stated, “I’m tired.” Had I rushed to relate or offer a “solution” instead of waiting, I would have missed the fuller response a few breaths later of “I’m tired of this.” Two very different statements spaced apart, a tiny megaphone revealed their current status. 

Another aspect of our checking in with each other has been naming our grief. For example, last weekend, Caleb and a friend were to be away for outdoor school counselor training. It’s disappointing this won’t happen. We are endeavoring to not ignore the crossed off items on the calendar, we are speaking them out loud and honoring the loss. It’s a personal loss but it also extends to countless six graders who are missing this experience. Speaking aloud the canceled event helped loosen his tongue to express a fear of his school year not resuming. Saying the words doesn’t lessen the pain but it does allow the hidden fear to escape from hiding among our deepest thoughts which tend to bore a hole for anxiety to fill. 

We are embarking on a time frame when the activities we have been holding out hope for will be laid aside, postponed or canceled. There has been bad news and the possibility of more news to be received in the future.  Each of our points of grief are important and never meant to be a contest to determine whose is the biggest or the hardest. It can feel this way at times when we hear of so many different ways others are feeling the effects of this solitary time mingled with losses.

The worst grief is always yours.

This is a quote from David Kessler, a grief expert and a recent guest on Unlocking Us podcast hosted by Brené  Brown. If you are not listening to her podcast, I would highly recommend it. I listen to many podcasts in my normal life but there have been very few I feel drawn to now. She has such a soothing voice and perhaps the science related to our emotions feels essential right now.

This quote has allowed me to have compassion for myself alongside empathy for others. 

It is not a comparison game, we feel what we feel. Allow yourself to feel your sadness and if you are able, express it to others. If nothing else, take a deep breath, exhale and wrap your arms around yourself. We all need to keep breathing and feel a hug, even if it is our own. 

*****

What has been helping me:

Being vigilant about what I watch, listen to or read.

Deciding to stop apologizing about sleeping longer in the morning.

Listening to this podcast and this one.

Using this app.

My end of day journal- I read my first entry a few days ago, the day began with my wondering about my jury duty service and ended with our governor limiting gatherings to ten people. In case you are wondering, I will serve in December. In case you are also wondering, I am not perfect in this practice. My mind is easily scattered and I haven’t written in it in several days. But I am glad when I have written in it.

A new mantra-The days are both slow and fast.
I am extending myself grace when I don’t feel productive. 

Good mood songs. I put this song and this one on my Spotify playlist twice to increase the probability of hearing them.

I am praying for more lovely days and dream of summer breezes for all of us.

May God fill the spaces within our lives which suddenly feel vacant and less occupied in the days to come. May He pour out His presence and banish loneliness and emptiness. May He extend His mercy and comfort to bridge the gap from our inability to embrace each other the way we want and are accustomed.

Lord have mercy.

 

bookmarks of the past and present

bookmarks of the past and present

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Back in December when I started thinking about writing more consistently on this blog, it was a challenge to align my heart with my mind. My heart was completely on board but my mind kept telling me to not get ahead of myself. There was a faint whisper reminding me to look at the space between my posting history if I needed further proof of my lack of consistency.

My mind has been reluctant to admit this has been a sweet surprise to have posted every Monday since the beginning of January.  My heart swells and pumps an affectionate response of knowing it was always possible.

I thought from time to time, I would share an update or another thought related to a previous post or a short tip for living a slower life. These posts will be shorter in length and perhaps give the writer and the reader a little breather (wink).

/////

On Wednesday I finished the book from last week’s post. I choked up several times while reading the last several pages.  For those non-book enthusiasts, I won’t write at length about how the sentiments of happily ever after felt more applicable upon book completion. 

Last week, I was reminded of a piece I wrote for an online writing class I took in 2005. I started this blog the following year. I posted those words as my first attempt to share with others. So much has changed in 15 years but so much has remained the same. I am including a paragraph excerpt without revising it. There are sentence fragments and during this time, I loved using the ellipsis. Because this is my writing from the past resonating with the present.

There are many times that I feel as if my bookmark has fallen to the ground.  I scramble to pick it up as if by simply holding it in my hand, it will magically replace itself.  I rifle through the pages trying desperately to find my location. Where am I? If I backtrack needlessly, it is fruitless…territory already covered.  Lessons learned and vision restored. If I jump ahead of my place, I will only be skipping important details that are essential to any good story. Oh, it is so tempting to sneak a peek, just one juicy tidbit to keep my interest engaged, but that morsel will be all the tastier when it is revealed at the proper time.

Why had my bookmark fallen? At that time, our children were 16, 12 and 2. We were at the beginning of one of the deepest, darkest times of our lives. It was a prolonged season of loss, grief and immeasurable pain. I recall being asked to speak at church possibly in 2007 and expressing how it had been the hardest season of our lives. I would advise never saying those words because life can get even harder. The crush of those years has passed however I don’t know if anyone ever fully recovers.

I cannot count the number of people who are suffering today. They are people I know and others I won’t ever meet. To be honest, it is overwhelming. To them, life is not simply a book to be leafed through. It’s an assigned textbook too difficult to comprehend or desire reading. It’s not being able to articulate a sentence which has changed days and life as it once was. Many days, I can remember wishing to go back a few chapters, before our narrative changed.

I weep with you today. 

One hard reality I remember during our times of trial was how some people will come close and others will withdraw. Pain is uncomfortable. I will confess to wanting to help others but also not wanting to hover or intrude. I have learned drawing near even in silent presence is always better than quiet from a distance. 

I extend my arms toward you today if you are in a hard place. 

If no one knows your pain, text a trusted family member or friend. Don’t live in silent pain.

If you know someone in pain, reach out even if you feel you don’t have adequate words or might say the wrong words. Presence wins over perfection every time.

If you feel you have no one who can share your pain, my email is on the sidebar. 

You are not alone.

 

The Joy Collection

The Joy Collection

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It’s a new year.

Hello.

I thought it would be fun to recap the many ways I encountered joy during the previous month.

This year I have been using the Passion Planner as my daily calendar. Within each weekly spread is room for Space of Infinite Possibility. I am dedicating one box monthly to collect joy which might slip from my view unless documented.
This month, reaffirmed how technology can be used for good in my life. I suppose there isn’t anything new or earth-shattering in my collection but isn’t it marvelous how often joy is contained in familiar and mundane places.

Bring on the joy.

Fitbit: When I was a physical therapist, I never worried about the number of steps I walked in a day. My day consisted of walking patients up and down hallways and stairs. I was always eager to take the stairs instead of elevators to access a patient’s room.
For the past four years, I began my first-ever sit down job in a small office building.

I started wearing a Fitbit a few years ago and was horrified by the average number of steps logged at the end of my work day. I am here to tell you, inactivity breeds inactivity but thank goodness, activity breeds activity.

  • I have started taking 15 minute walking breaks during my work day. It has been such a great way to add steps to my day, clear my head by actually walking away from my desk and deposits renewed energy for the remainder of my day.
  • I invited my family to do a Workweek Fitbit Challenge a few weeks ago. Before the week was over, Courtney had already invited us all into a Weekend challenge. It has been a lot of fun to gently nudge one another to be active. I don’t see any end to the challenges. We dragged our feet about Caleb having a Fitbit as he doesn’t need one and more importantly he will clobber us. Are we competitive? Yes!
    But Adam our newest family member disagreed and bought him one this past weekend. The first day at noon, Caleb had already logged 9500+ steps. (Currently he averages about 26,000 steps/day). Another reason I walk the track while he has soccer practice. Every step counts:)

The Bible App: Currently Carl and I are reading through the Bible using a 3 year plan and Carlen and I are reading through the Bible in 90 Days. Slow and fast.
I can’t tell you what a touchstone this has been to my days. Each of us leaves our thoughts on the readings. Doing these plans together has helped me stay connected with two important people in my life, given me built-in accountability and provided rich face-to-face conversations.

Power Sheets: As I said above, I am using the Passion Planner as my daily calendar. During a Cyber Monday sale, I took the plunge and bought Lara Casey’s Power Sheets.
I have loved using this goal setting system. For me, it was helpful to have it in my hands in advance of January as there is plenty of prep work before a single goal is formed. I found the process thought-provoking and glad not to rush because January 1st was beckoning. The sections about what I am saying No and Yes to this year as well as what worked and didn’t work for me were enlightening. By the time I finished, I had a great grasp on the direction to head in the year ahead, instead of grasping at familiar popular goals. The built-in monthly assessments of goals allows me to change my mind. What a novel thought 🙂

Family Skype Calls: My parents live 350 miles away. My brother and his family live 250 miles away in a different direction. We only span two states but we don’t see one another as often as we would like. I am horrible about picking up the phone. In fact, I have to put it on my calendar to remind myself. It’s not my preferred method of communication. For an introvert, texting and email are divine. For the last year, my family has had as often as possible weekly Skype calls. Yes, Skype is old-school and out of date but it keeps our family up-to-date. It’s so nice to see each other’s faces in motion. We have had serious calls recounting test and treatment results and unfortunately, those topics aren’t over yet. We have watched and listened as my brother Bill cooked spaghetti, comical and noisy. We have laughed over past history and it’s always fun when the younger set who favor SnapChat or FaceTime make an appearance. I believe our record is 12 people making a chatty, fun time.

Favorite bite:  A toasted bagel with equal parts cream cheese, avocado sprinkled with Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend, topped with arugula.
I eat carbs.
Shudder.

Feed the birds: “People living in neighborhoods with more birds, shrubs and trees are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress” ~the University of Exeter.

For many years our family has hung bird feeders. I can attest to the fact it is soothing to watch the birds at the feeders. I also know this has been a slow act of faithfulness. We have placed an offering of food on branches and have waited to become a regular feeding stop for different types of birds. We love to watch outside our dining room window during breakfast and witness our feathered tenants. This is not a new joy but one which continues to endure.

My one word: Unwavering

It would be easy to say last year was a difficult year sprinkled with patches of great joy. If I am honest, the last many years have been challenging. I am learning this might be the bittersweet gift of aging, experiencing more joy and sorrow. I have lost track of myself. I can see it in my body, not paying attention or taking the time to care for my entrusted vessel. I witness it in forgetfulness of what I like in favor of other’s preferences. I sense it in how overwhelmed I feel by the immensity of suffering of those around and beyond me. I feel the ripple of fear of finding myself in the most unsettled place I have ever resided within my faith community. I recognize how neglectful I have been to hold in my hands, the grief of the past decades in favor of simply soldiering on.

The paragraph above might scare you or read as a real bummer.

You might think, wasn’t this post supposed to be about joy?

It should scare me.

It should completely bum me out.

Instead, it feels like a flashlight or perhaps a penlight has been flipped on. I can’t hide the corners of my life anymore. It’s time to remember who I am and also honor the road walked and the path still to tread. I know it won’t be easy. There will be days when I will pray for the flashlight’s batteries to dim the light or to die.

Joy often shares a lap with sorrow.

This is why I chose the word unwavering for 2019. I am on an unwavering pursuit in many areas but most importantly, I am on an unwavering pursuit of Helen. I need to rediscover and reintroduce her to all the inhabited spaces she occupies. At times, I have lived in the third person. There is joy in recognizing this awkward speech pattern.

Every time I am tempted to whisper to myself any back talk, I have been running towards and repeating a verse allowing the truth to establish residence in my mind, heart and soul.  This verse is the first of I hope many to guide my steps and beliefs this year and hopefully, forever.

I am believing as I stretch my arms like branches, with hands full of crumbs, He will faithfully create a resting spot for me to feast.

That’s joy today and to come.

 So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the hope we cherish and confess and our acknowledgement of it, for He Who promised is reliable (sure) and faithful to His word.

Hebrews 10:23 (Amplified, classic version)

What’s on your joy list today?

friday joy (transitions edition)

friday joy (transitions edition)

 

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I believe joy is always present.

It’s just that during roll call, joy frequently chooses to respond inaudibly.

But joy is there.

Even when it has to be dug up from the depths.

Sometimes joy hides.

Or we push it away and simply don’t have or want

our line of vision adjusted to spy it.

Joy can seem like a fickle companion cloaked in mystery.

You might feel all frowny, out of sorts and then without warning

joy lands as unexpected as a dragonfly lighting in your midst.

Joy is a direct hit to the soul, like shouting,

“You sunk my battleship!”

Except even if your vessel takes on water,

you win.

Your soul has been saturated with an ocean of joy.

          *****

I skipped last Friday’s joy post.

Last week, was an exceedingly difficult one for several people I love.

So many dear ones have been in long and short holding

patterns of waiting for the deepest sorrow to land.

Friends waded into the crashing waves of grief as

they said goodbye to a precious 2-day old baby,

a brave husband and a dearly beloved mother.

I am sure if I took a poll of readers, you could offer

your own version of pain or sadness you experienced.

It seemed hollow to write about the joyous wonders of

ice cream or a favorite pen.

It’s important to mourn with those who mourn.

I am praying  each family will discover joy hasn’t

abandoned them, it’s pressed down during this

time of weeping and reflection.

I haven’t witnessed the dragonfly landings of last summer.

But I know dragonflies exist.

We might not always feel joy.

But joy exists and quite remarkably can

coexist with sorrow.

(If you don’t believe me, take yourself to see the
movie Inside Out immediately….brilliant!)

Joy came and is coming to me in two ways this week:

Ocean Joy

Honestly, I am kind of cheating as I write this post.
(see what I did?)

But by the time, you read these words, we will be on

a beach, enjoying cooler weather and my soul will

be drunk with joy and rest.

I love the Oregon coast for so many reasons.

I feel the presence of God in every thunderous clapping of waves and

each cycle of foam skimming my toes.

 I hear Him in the wind that inevitably destroys my

hair style yet rebuilds my frame.

It’s where I first knew without wavering,

I loved Carl and we told

each other those three huge words.

Don’t let anyone convince you to believe

“I love you” are three little words.

Our time on the coast will look quite different as

there will be three in attendance.

You may have noticed, I didn’t use the word “only”.

It’s obvious I want our family of five to always be together,

especially at the beach, but I am learning when I use

the word only, it minimizes the number and members.

The word only can kind of have an attitude and I am fighting

this with all I have.

There will be three of us at the beach and we will

build sand castles of joy right beside a couple of missing footprints.

Life verse of joy

I paraphrased a verse to a friend in an email this week.

It caused me to reflect on how this verse has given me

not only peace over the last decade but it also has established

joy in the midst of trials.

“and that is why I suffer these things.
But I am not ashamed,
because I know the One I have believed in
and am persuaded that He is able to guard
what has been entrusted to me until that day.

II Timothy 1: 12

Our family is dealing with growing pains.

I suppose this is the right term for this patch of time.

The only way I can express this season is to say if our family were

a piece of elastic, there has been gradual and rapid stretching away from

the hands who have held the elastic.

And just when our hearts settle into acceptance of this newly created space,

this new dimension, the elastic snaps back into place with a ricochet of hugs.

The elastic remains but changed.

No longer can you run your hand across its smooth surface as

it now possesses ruffles all along its length.

So when there are days when I feel the stretching as well as weeks

of slack, I remember that really in all things but especially regarding my children,

I know God will guard them as I continually entrust them to Him.

I wouldn’t entrust them to anyone but I am confident I can hand

them to their Maker because I know whom I have believed.

I know He remains tethered to me and my family.

I know He is the fullness of joy, because He is the

Designer of dragonflies and oceans and sunsets.

On sad or happy days,

He remains my joy.

*****

Book Joy

Finished: Wild in the Hollowssuch an incredibly honest and transparent memoir. I loved it.

Beach Reading: Big Little Liesbecause I am going to the beach and it was on the Lucky Day shelf at the library.

May joy curl up beside you this weekend and bring you comfort.

And if it’s too hot, may joy come waving a fan to cool your body and soul.

two given fridays

two given fridays

 

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It’s been a nervous-queasy-pit-of-the-stomach-heart-thumping patch of time.

When the Friday sun dips deep into the horizon’s bed,

I will have witnessed two celebrations of life with

collections of people I love and cherish.

Assemblies of people compressed with mourning and gratitude.

The ache is palpable when you surrender those who have

entered the gated confines of eternity.

My mind has been stacked high of thoughts and reflections.

and captivated that in this instance,

the celebrants are two men who lived

strikingly different lives.

To my emotions there is no difference,

only an abiding sense of loss.

One with a cannot-be denied personality and a uniqueness of thought.

A brilliant civil engineer and my father’s best friend.

A life defined and magnified by a multitude of life roles and positions.

My uncle ran the corridors of life with a small footprint many would say.

His impact may have not been scattered abroad like most

who charge through this world.

He may have not had acclaim or an ever-growing list of followers

on social media

but to our family,

to those who loved him,

he embodied a precious life.

The ripples of his life may have only created a few concentric circles

but they changed the surface of the water.

My mom and her now only living brother locked in an embrace before a

sunflower laden casket will forever remain

the most lovely and tender of etched images.

I suppose neither one wanted to be the first to release the other,

breaking a spell of suspended reality,

knowing Felton’s days had been fully counted

and redeemed.

Two men.

Two lives.

Each one mattered because they were precious to us.

Whether footprints softly melted by the shifting tide

or ones immortalized in cement,

every life leaves a priceless imprint.

Look into the faces of the people you love.

Dare yourself to look upon the people who cross

your path,

you know the ones,

the ones without shiny exteriors

and who the world would say possess

puny significance.

Boldly and graciously send a smile towards them.

Your face can remind them of their worth

and today’s blessed existence.

While you are stretching your face muscles,

aim a grin at the super sparkly earth dwellers too.

We are not promised tomorrow.

Spread love today.

It’s the best way to make every

given day,

a celebration of life.