Monday, December 23, 2019

'Tis A Season

'Tis the season, they say. Today I read an incredible post. A post about a season. That there is a time for everything. A season for everything. And I so needed to hear this. Because I am in that season.

It is a season where I need to sit quietly. Ponder things. Process things. Look at life from different angles.

It is a season where I have pried off the lid of Pandora's Box of some childhood trauma and am daring to peek inside.

It is a season where I am having to let go of so many things. Long held dreams. Deep longings. False securities. Youth. Physical beauty. A quick and agile mind.

It is a season of unbuilding. Of taking apart the relationship with God that I have had for 38 years. A relationship built too much on a foundation of fear and shame and all the "shoulds" of the kingdom . It is a season to start over from scratch.

It is a season of acceptance. Of being OK with being weak, broken, exhausted to the core.

It is a season of listening. Learning. Learning from one whose yoke and easy and whose burden is light.

It is a season to be quiet and soak in the stillness and the silence. To just be for a while.

Maybe one day I will have the energy again and the drive to get out and push forward and to pour, pour, pour into others, but for now I just can't.

Perhaps most of all it is a season of learning that it is OK to be in a season. And seasons don't last forever.

Friday, December 6, 2019


I have come to love winter. It just might be my favorite time of the year.

I love the colors. The faded russet of the oak leaves, some fallen and some clinging to their branches until spring. I love the light brown of the cornfields, harvested and sitting empty until ready to give life again. I love the deep green of a grove of pines poking through the mottled brown of the mountainsides. I especially love all of these colors against the backdrop of the gray-blue of winter cloud cover.

I love the crispness of the air. It makes me feel like I can breathe. I love the starkness of the landscape. I can see better. Every tree branch is outlined and out my front windows I can see for miles and miles, a view of the distant mountain peaks across the county and into the next. No other season can hold a candle to the sunsets of winter.

And then the sounds of winter. Winter is the quietest season.

There is a stillness to winter. A slowing down.

Winter, of all seasons, is a season of rest. Animals hibernate. Plants hunker down underground. Life seems to be reduced the the bare essentials.

I feel like I am in a season of winter. And I need this season of winter. I need the quiet. I need the pace. I need to be able to cut away to the bare essentials. I need to see clearly.

I know winter may not look productive. But, for the most part, it is a good and necessary part of life.

If you want to buy a piece of land, look at it in winter. That is the season when the vegetation dies back and you can assess what you have. The barrenness of the landscape allows you to see.

I seem to be in a season of winter, not just on the calendar, but in my life. I am slowing down. I am craving quiet. In the stillness of winter and in the barrenness of my own personal landscape I am able to take an inventory. I am able to see more clearly who I am and who God is and why he has me on the planet in the first place.

For everything there is a season....

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A Severe Mercy

I've told this story before. Many times. And probably in previous blog posts. Who knows? I can't remember anything. I am indeed a brainless wonder.

But I tell it again today and for a couple of reasons. First I tell it because sometimes the healing is in the telling and the being heard. And second, I tell it because, in spite of the intense pain and subsequent damage, it had to happen. Bear with me and I'll tell you why.

Yesterday was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving will always be a day that sticks in my mind. And in my heart.

It was November 1977. I had turned 14 a few weeks earlier and had a fresh set of braces (AKA the "Grill of Shame") gracing my teeth. I felt awkward and ugly, thanks to my newly found hormones and mouth full of metal. Fourteen is an awful age.

I was in 8th grade. My older sister was a senior. My oldest sister and my brother were away at college. Early in November my mother called my sister and I together and told us, almost casually, that she and my father were getting a divorce. I didn't think a lot of it and I certainly wasn't surprised. My dad had hardly been around for the past year and I had known for a long time that that there were other ladies in his life.

Over the course of the next few weeks I noticed that some of the furniture and various household items gradually made their way into our garage. And then on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, as my sister and I drove into the driveway from school, I saw it. Empty.The garage was empty.

That moment was the turning point for our family and for my life. It wasn't so much that I lost my dad that day. I had never really had him. But I lost my family. My mother broke down and didn't recover emotionally for years, if ever. We became fractured and scattered. Each seeking stability and love and happiness wherever we could find it. At 14, my options were limited. I was alone.

And yet....and yet it had to happen. Theirs was an unhealthy marriage at best. Each brought their own pathologies into the relationship. Each was so needy in their own way. But after years of living with an unfaithful husband my mother finally did what she had to do. She hired a private investigator, gathered the evidence she needed, and filed for divorce. I do not blame her for this. It was hard. It was devastating. It was shameful (at least in her eyes). But it was necessary.

And that is the point I want to make. Divorce is sometimes necessary. Despite all the collateral damage that comes from divorce, and I am well aware of such damage, it is still sometimes the lesser of two evils and oftentimes a severe mercy.

Yesterday, as I was pondering the day that shattered my family, I read that Wayne Grudem, the top dog, so to speak, in systematic theology in the Evangelical world, has changed his tune on divorce. Until recently he had held out that the only biblical reasons for divorce are adultery and desertion. Since getting to know situations where victims were incredibly damaged by abusive marriages, he has taken a second look and determined that abuse is also a biblical reason for divorce. Funny how, when the theoretical becomes concrete, laced with pain, your views of things can change.

Now I have read some other statements of his that greatly concern me, like how restoration of the marriage should always first be pursued, and I have my own thoughts on that that perhaps I will share in another post. But I was thrilled to hear that he had changed his mind on this and this is why: he has a tremendous amount of influence in theologically conservative circles. Many people, many leaders, take their cues from what he teaches and have thus kept victims trapped in abusive marriages or face church discipline for pursuing an unbiblical divorce.

So, yeah, that's huge.

I guess, what I am saying is that divorce, as horrible as it is, is sometimes necessary. And it is funny how, on a day that still brings a feeling of emptiness to my soul because of divorce, I was yet finding myself thankful for it.

It is indeed, at times, a gift from God. A severe mercy.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

On Rape and Slaughtered Lambs

I was reading this morning yet another powerful article about King David and what we have heard called for forever it seems as his "adultery" and how this "adultery" was, in fact, rape. This article brings to the forefront the very destruction of the abuse of power.

I was reminded again of when the prophet Nathan comes to David and tells him the story. There was a  rich man with a whole ton o' sheep and there was a poor man with one lamb. He nurtured and cared for this one lamb and loved this one lamb dearly.

Some dude comes through town and the rich man wants to serve him so instead of choosing a lamb from his own ample supply, he takes the one lamb from the poor man to serve up to his guest.

This is where the story of the lamb ends. Nathan tells the dim-bulb David "You are that man" and David falls down weeping and cries that he has sinned against God. That is where the story ends for us.  We are taught that ll sin is sin against God. Poor Uriah was the poor man whose sheep was stolen from him.

But the lamb? We don't hear about the lamb. It is almost like the lamb didn't matter. Like so many victims of abuse don't matter.

But I stopped and thought about the lamb. The lamb was taken. The lamb was used to satisfy the appetite of another.

The lamb was slaughtered.


She was a lamb that was slaughtered. Those who are abused by power and by appetites, those are lambs that are slaughtered.

Jesus knows. He gets it. Because he was the Lamb that was slaughtered.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

On Casseroles and Private Pain

Making its way around Facebook is an incredible article called The Casserole Rules which talks about the unspoken rules, so deeply ingrained, which determine what crisis warrants support. Or at least warrants a vat of lasagna or that steaming pan of chicken, rice and broccoli glop that everybody makes and nobody has a name for.

Death. Sickness. A new baby. Maybe a bad car accident or even a house fire. Public pain. Shameless pain. Polite pain. When these things happen, the troops rally and the fridges and freezers fill. Nobody goes hungry. Nobody goes it alone.

But what happens when the husband leaves or a child goes AWOL? What happens when the wave of depression comes crushing down and you can't get out of bed? What happens when you have to spend time and money and more emotional resources than you even thought you had in the lawyer's office? The therapist's office? The pastor's office? More often than not there is silence. No acknowledgement. No support. And certainly no casseroles.

I remember this well in my own life when my father left. There was no public acknowledgement of his leaving. No obituary of the marriage. No neighbors rallying around. No extended family rushing in. Because of the shame surrounding the whole thing we weren't even allowed to tell but one or two people from the time he left until 3 months later when the divorce was final. It was a death with no grieving. A burial done alone.

In the 1990s Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control conducted a study looking into the correlation between childhood trauma and health problems across the lifespan and the association is staggering. They pulled together a list of 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and your ACE score is an indicator of your risk for all sorts of issues well into adulthood. You get one point for each "yes" to the following questions:

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
  2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
  3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
  4. Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
  5. Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
  6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
  7. Was your mother or stepmother:
    Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
  8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
  9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?      
  10. Did a household member go to prison?
When I first read these questions I found it baffling that the death of a parent or sibling was not included. Or a major accident or perhaps a natural disaster. A dear friend had just lost her husband and I was well aware of the intense pain and trauma that she and her children were going through. The explanation is that the list comprises the most common traumas of childhood mentioned in the survey. But I think there is something else to it as well. The Casserole Rule.

Death and accidents and natural disasters are one time incidents that garner much social support. But look at the above list. These are all private traumas. Ongoing traumas. Shame-filled traumas. Traumas nobody wants to talk about. Traumas that, if talked about, make the conversation uncomfortable. And that is part of what makes them so very damaging. That a child enduring these kinds of traumas must do so alone. 

I don't have an answer, really. I wish we could talk about things. About the hard things we face or have faced in the past. I wish people didn't get so uncomfortable about it all. Shuffle their feet and laugh under their breath and change the subject. Or worse, put a smiley face on it. Tell you to be thankful. Pat you on the head. Find a way to tell you what you should have done. Or lob a scripture bomb your way. 

I wish that divorce, abuse, depression, wayward children, addiction, job loss, bankruptcy, special needs children got the same support as the more public and polite traumas. 

Perhaps it starts with being able to share these hard things in life openly, without fear of judgment or scorn. 

How can we do better? 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

More Than I Can Handle

“I just said, ‘Listen God, if you don’t give people things they can’t handle, I’m just going to say I can’t handle this, so please handle this,’” she says.
“I had this very frank conversation with God saying, ‘I’m just going to turn over this situation to You, and I’ll work as hard as I can in whatever way You can guide me, but there’s no one else I can turn to in this situation.’”

These aren't my words. They belong to Jeannie Gaffigan, wife of comedian Jim Gaffigan. She said these words to God after the diagnosis of a pear-sized brain tumor. I read these yesterday. They stuck with me. This morning I had a conversation with God and used these words myself.

Now, as far as I know, I don't have a pear-sized brain tumor, though it might be a better explanation for my overall forgetfulness, inability to focus, and brain fog than my current belief, that there is a starving weasel inside my head gobbling my brain cells, or the most likely possibility, that those damn hormones are to blame for it all.

No, I am not staring a huge, life-threatening BIG THING, the way Jeannie was. But nevertheless, I am overwhelmed by so many of the smaller things and yet things that I cannot handle. My heart aches with the stress, confusion, challenges and struggles of my adult children, as they work to find their way. I want to be there as a stable and safe place for my granddaughter. I want so badly to serve the often complex needs of my clients well. As I transition to a new company, I want to learn the ropes with confidence (not in large supply) and competence (do I have that either?). I wrestle with this middle-age stage of life where I question what I have done and what I should do and why I am here and why do I feel like it is all over (am I all washed up?) when I could quite reasonably live another 35-40 years, given my genetics. The more stress I am under, the harder it is to fight off the internal prosecutor who tells me I am a failure and turns the mirror into a reflection from the House of Horrors. And sometimes it seems like there are things knocking to bust out of the Pandora's Box of my past. Things I just don't think I have the time or the energy or the focus to deal with, but things that are screamer louder and louder to not be ignored. And over all that is my wrestling with God. With who he is and what he expects from me and is he really there at all and why does everything churchy make my skin crawl and my stomach turn?

So this morning I told God it was all just too much. I could never handle a brain tumor. But I can't handle all of this either. So I am asking God to handle this, please. Please. I'm not sure, but I think he heard me.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

They Say

They say not to throw the baby out with the bathwater but sometimes the bathwater has become so thick with filth and slime and chunks of refuse and sometimes the baby is so covered with the mud and mire that he is more swamp monster than baby. Sometimes you can't find the baby at all in the foul-smelling, toxic stew. And so sometimes you have to dump it all out, mud, baby and all, and begin the rinsing and the cleaning. Slowly. Gently. Until you see a baby again. A baby who was born to give sight to the blind and bring justice to the oppressed, to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds, to feed the poor and heal the sick and raise the dead.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

On Deconstruction

The idea of the deconstruction of faith has been buzzing around the interwebs for quite some time but it came to the forefront recently when homeschool world hero turned pastor turned seminary student Josh Harris announced not only that he and his wife are separating but that he no longer considers himself a Christian. Weeping and gnashing of teeth and all sorts of name calling and finger pointing have ensued.

While nobody but God knows exactly where Josh Harris is and where he will end up regarding his faith, many people I know, myself included, have or are in the process of deconstructing their faith.

I want to say this for the record, lest some get up in arms: deconstruction is not the same as destruction.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines deconstruction as the act of breaking something down into its separate parts in order to understand its meaning, especially when this is different from how it was previously understood."

For many of us, that is precisely what we have been doing.

I've likened it before to the process of cleaning out my purse. When it gets so heavy and overloaded and I can't reach in to grab my keys without jamming my fingers into a pile of exploded ink goo or a melted Hershey Kiss, I have to dump everything out, determine just what I need, and put back only the essentials.

Or think of it like this:

A house on our street has a super steep and quite dangerous set of stairs to the basement, making the prospect of carrying a basket of laundry, much less a wiggly toddler, down the stairs rather terrifying. The new owners are fixing this and in order to do so they have to tear out the existing stairs. Demolition is loud and messy and has resulted in a big-ass pile of debris but it is absolutely necessary before they can build the new, safer set of stairs.

Some of us are just now starting the demo process. Some of us are busy slinging crowbars and sledgehammers. Some of us are watching as the storms of life do the demo for us. Some of us are sitting, dazed, on a pile of debris, too exhausted to move. And some of us are getting a vision for what our faith can and should look like and are starting the building process.

This process isn't pretty and can take time. We can lose hope and feel like heretics. But I believe that we all have a responsibility to ourselves and before God to examine who we are and what we believe and why we believe what we do. God isn't threatened by this. He gives us the freedom to work these things out. We shouldn't feel threatened either.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Online Shopping and the Memory Pouch

Lately I've been scrolling through the websites of those ads that float through Facebook, looking for a dress. I'm not really sure why I'm looking for a dress as I don't have a lot of occasions to wear a dress, but they look so nice and airy and I picture myself in one and it makes me happy, so I scroll anyway.

I saw a dress I liked today and then I asked myself, "But would that dress accentuate my Memory Pouch?" My Memory Pouch is the lump that my husband and I have decided to affectionately call that area of my front between my belly button and the nether regions. It's that know, the thing that looks like a fanny pack but isn't because it is part of you? The thing that might make some brave and/or clueless people ask if you are expecting but they won't because they know you're not because you have grey hair and wrinkles and sag in places. Yes, that place. We call it the Memory Pouch because when you have spent 55 years on this planet you have a lot of life and a lot of memories to store somewhere and, if you are like me, your brain sure as hell ain't doin' it.

Anyway, my reflexive response to seeing this dress was how would I look in it? And all you ladies know this. That those models are all 5'9" with thin, gangley bodies, no hips, and certainly no Memory Pouches. So it is hard to tell if I could pull off such a dress or would look like a sleeping bag poorly rolled into its stuff bag.

Then it hit me. When I see a woman with a perfect body, especially a woman my age or older with a perfect body, I feel a total disconnect. They aren't like me. They must have it together. They must have more discipline. More time. More energy. More something that I ain't got. And I step back and step away.

I remember one day watching Chopped. I hate cooking and I love watching Chopped. It doesn't make sense to me either. Well, after years of watching Chopped I have found that I really admire the women chefs who serve as judges. During this particular episode the judges themselves were competing with each other. Now they were no longer talking torsos behind the judges panel but full bodies, rushing, and chopping, and cooking. And I noticed that the chefs like Alex Guarnaschelli and Amanda Freitag, though both gorgeous in any estimation, had normal looking bodies. They weren't supermodels with killer culinary skills. And this may sound strange to you and maybe I am just weird like this but for some reason the fact that these highly esteemed, awesome, beautiful women had ordinary bodies gave me permission to have an ordinary body, too.

Those who spend any time reading my posts on Facebook or my blog posts know that I feel things intensely and have some pretty strong (an understatement that would make my husband snicker) convictions and one of my convictions is that the unrealistic expectations regarding women and physical beauty must change. I have realized that I cannot be simultaneously caving to these standards and trying to change them at the same time. That is why I no longer color my hair (and, yes, people now assume that I am older than my older sister).

Back to the dress and the Memory Pouch. What if I bought a dress I really loved and I let my Memory Pouch do its thing? What if the obvious presence of my Memory Pouch makes another woman feel more normal? More acceptable? What if having an ordinary body gives somebody else permission to have an ordinary body, too? Then it is all worth it. Bring on the dresses!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Mother Love

When I was a young mother, the emphasis in parenting was all on training. Training your kids to do things. Training them to work hard. To do chores. To obey the first time. And cheerfully at that. I failed terribly on most of these fronts.

The emphasis was on structure. "Kids need structure," I was told again and again and again as I shrugged when asked about naps and meals and bedtime schedules and rituals. I wasn't so good at structure.

The push was always on performance. Either theirs or mine. A woman called me one day to ask how I got my kids to make up their beds neatly every morning. Her children were 2 and 3 and struggling to keep up with the program and she was baffled. Why on earth she thought I would have a solution, I'll never know.

Babies were supposed to be able to fall asleep alone and self-soothe. Kids were supposed to learn responsibility and competence and independence. I knew kids who, by age 10, were capable enough to run a small country.

What I never heard was how important it was to just flat out love on your kids. To nurture them. Rock them. Sing them to sleep. Listen to their fears. Rub their backs. Laugh with them inside their forts made of appliance boxes. Cry with them. And love them no matter what.

In Without a Map, Meredith Hall tells the story of a friend who gives blood every time there is a blood drive. When she tells her friend how generous this is her friend responds, "I only go because I need the mothering so much. It feels good to be touched. The nurses are kind and make me feel loved."

This breaks my heart that there is an adult woman out there who so desperately needs someone to nurture her, even for a few minutes, that she has to seek it out at the local Red Cross.

Mothers, love on your kids. Even when they make a mess or fail a test (even when they could have done better) Love on your kids when they make you proud and when they embarrass the heck out of you. When they grumble and grunt at you or roll their eyes. Love on them when they come home pregnant or come out of the closet. Be there for them. Be their safe place. Give it to them while you can. Love on your kids.

Nobody should have to go to the Red Cross to get mothered.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

In Defense of Medication

A few weeks back I was driving down the road when some words leapt off a sign and punched me in the face.

Taking meds to make you healthy is like getting a loan to make you rich. 

I just about ran off the road in a mad rage with steam puffing out my ears and my eyes all Cruella DeVille-like. I am so so SO freaking sick of the idea that medication is not only unnecessary, it is downright bad.

This isn't the first time I've encountered this ideology. I once saw a meme that basically gave you the option: a basket full of fresh, healthy produce or a spoon full of pills. As if a it is an either/or proposition. As if eating your fruits and veggies will mean you don't need to swallow those evil pills pushed on you by Big Pharma and the corollary being that if you need to take those pills, you obviously aren't doing it right. People, this has got to stop.

While it is true that eating in a healthy manner and getting regular exercise can reduce your risk of a number of illnesses and while it is true that many people, in changing over to a healthier lifestyle, have been able to reduce or eliminate their need for certain medications, it is also true that there are so very many conditions out there that are NOT impacted by the food you eat because there are so many other factors at play. And to those who have these conditions,  this anti-medication bias is discouraging and downright cruel.

While others out there may brag that they don't take any medication for anything or that their Grandpa Carbunkel is 87 and still isn't on any meds, as if it is some sort of a professional accomplishment or test of his character, there are a lot of us....a LOT of us, who take daily medication. And for many of us, taking medication isn't because we refuse to give up our Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls or our 3 packs per day of Marlboro Lights or our PBR 12-pack. Many of us take medication because our conditions are not in any way related to our food or exercise choices. We take medication because we struggle with faulty wiring, intense pain, hormonal imbalances, a crappy set of genes.

Nobody relishes the idea of having to take medication on daily basis. But many of us do so because that medication makes a huge difference in quality of life, in the ability to function at our jobs and love our families and do the things we love. For some of us, that medication means that we will be able to stave off the debilitating effects of disease for years longer. And for some of us, that medication means the difference between life and death.

Please be gentle then, you who have stellar bodies and naturally mentally healthy minds. Please use restraint, you who believe that your herbal remedy or special diet is the right potion for everyone. Please respect that some of us (and I say us because I am one of us) need medication for reasons you might not understand. Please trust that we are not lazy or stupid or easily duped by some corporation but that we make informed decisions based on benefits and risks.

And please stop with the pithy sayings. And, for the record, sometimes taking out a loan to build wealth is a wise thing to do.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Doing Better

Sometimes it's a big thing, a life-altering tragedy, a death, a disfiguring illness, or financial ruin that breaks you down. But sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it is the accumulation of smaller things. The kick in the belly while you are down. The second, third, fourth blows to the already fractured skull. You are left flattened. Motionless. Unable to move on. And wondering where the hell God is. You can't see him. You can't feel him. You can't touch him. And you are all alone. Or so it seems.

Kelly Kapic, Covenant College professor and author of Embodied Hope, says this in an interview with By Faith Magazine:

One of the reasons our suffering can be so difficult is that in the West, including in the church, we have become so individualistic. We put all the weight on the isolated person, rather than also seeing that person within a larger community. 
Employing the ideas of faith, hope, and love, I try to argue that we need each other if we are to live this Christian life, and that seasons of suffering just make what is true undeniable. I want people to know that amid their difficulties, it shouldn’t surprise them to have really hard questions and doubts about God, about His seeming absence or unconcern, and about their struggles. 
During these difficult times, we must lean on other people; when we struggle to believe in God’s compassion and presence, they believe for us; when we find it almost impossible to hope in the promises of the Gospel, they gently hope for us, embodying those promises to us; and when we feel alone and afraid, they are genuine physical representatives of God’s loving presence. Alone we are in trouble, but together, we are sustained in faith, hope, and love.

I'll be totally honest here. I don't think we as a church know how to do this. Oh, we are good at fixing others. Giving advice. Teaching them. Rebuking them. We are trained in right theology and saving souls and personal piety and whatever manifestation of that we prefer. But we don't know how to come alongside the suffering. Hold them up. Stand in the gap. Plead for them and with them when they can no longer plead for themselves.

Too many of us have opened up and begged for help only to be set aside, ignored, chastised, patted on the head, or worse. Nothing is more painful than begging for support and care and being met with silence, pat answers, or reproof. As one friend said, "I've learned to be very quiet in the church is messed up..."

People, this should not be.

We in our fragile shells of humanity cannot go it alone, (no matter how much we introverts want to try). At some point we need each other. We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. We are told that if part of the body hurts the whole body hurts. Then why is it so damn hard to care for each other?

People don't get in the way of ministry. People are ministry. We are called to be the flesh and blood of Jesus to one another. If we can't even love each other what business do we have trying to tell people God loves them?

We can do better. We are called to do better. We had better do better. I want to do better.

Friday, May 3, 2019

A Sword Is a Dangerous Thing

People like to get up in each other's business. It's natural. We are relational beings. The problem comes when we get up in each other's business in hopes of controlling and changing each other.

Honey, that ain't your job. 

The problem gets even worse when we jump to conclusions and rush in to fix whatever it is, waving around the Word of God like a battery operated light saber, eager to be the one to save the day and save the soul.

The Bible likens the Word of God to a sword. A very, very sharp one. Sharp. Not like the knives I have in my kitchen. Sharp like the knives I see on Chopped.  In Ephesians 6 the Word of God is called to be our weapon. Even children know that weapons must be handled very, very carefully or people get hurt. Really hurt. Waving around the Word of God, often out of context and in order to further our own agenda, can cause unspeakable destruction.

In fact, using the Word of God to bolster our own position (and this has been done throughout Christian history to the detriment of mankind and to the shame of the church), in my opinion, qualifies as a violation of the 3rd commandment, to not use the name of the Lord in vain.

I've seen the misapplication of God's Word and some really circuitous and faulty Bible-speak used to endorse all sorts of ideals and control the choices of others from how you feed your baby to how you educate your children to how you dress to what you eat or drink (or don't) to how you spend your money to whether or not you have a right to leave your husband or call the police. Scripture can be worked into a pretzel to say anything anybody wants it to. This is straight out of Satan's textbook. He, after all, used the same moves on Jesus.

The reality is that we all need to be very careful about the assumptions we make about another person and what our role might be in coming alongside. We may be called to care well or to confront boldly. We may need to speak the truth in love (but never in arrogance). But we need to remember that we may not have all the facts. We may not know the whole story. And we always have to remember that it is never our job to control the other person or to get a guaranteed outcome.

If we truly trust God to work in the heart of someone we care about, we don't need to fling around his words, willy nilly, to get the kind of outcome we think is right. We can use the Word of God carefully, love deeply, and trust God with the outcome.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Hiding My Story

Some of you know my story, especially if you knew me as a teenager or have read the My Story posts of my blog. Some don't. There is a lot of my story I haven't shared in length or detail. A lot I don't mention very often. But here goes....

July 1981 found me in the hospital. Seventeen years-old and 82 pounds of anxiety, depression, confusion, and despair. The psychiatric facility, a trip to hell and back, had only made matters worse. My home life was torture. A diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa in 1981 meant that nobody understood what was happening nor knew how to treat me. Socially, I was a freak. I felt I had nothing to live for. 

That is when I opened the Bible I had brought with me and the pages fell open to Romans 8:28. 
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Because of that verse, I kept reading. Because of that verse, for the first time in my life, I had hope.  My spiritual development from that moment on has been a dizzying trip, complete with carsickness and full of ups and downs, twists and turns, growth and setbacks (or seemingly so), but that is beyond the scope here. But that day I had hope because I believed God when he said that all things, including the horror of my eating disorder, would work together for good.

In college, I thought that was happening. I thought God was using it. I could tell people my story and they listened and were amazed. Eating disorders were a hot topic in the 80s. Celebrities such as Karen Carpenter died as a result of her eating disorder so people listened. Everybody knew somebody with an eating disorder and so my story meant something. It seemed to have a purpose. Then things changed.

In 1988, shortly after Matt and I were married, I chose to tell my story to my small group at church. It was a group of about 10 couples. We were taking turns telling our stories ("testimonies" as they are called in church circles). The guy the week before me had told his story of drugs and crime and years in a motorcycle gang and how God had stepped in and plucked him out of it all. He was met with the "ooohs" and "ahhhhs" of admiration and approval. So the next week I told my story. It was met with horror. Discomfort. Silence. It was the silence that was the hardest. With the exception of one person, nobody ever spoke to me again. For the first time I felt shame. Shame about my story. The very story that I believed God was going to work for good.

I pulled back. After that I rarely told my story and when I did, it was with fear and trembling and so very much shame. And when I did, it was almost always met with silence or disinterest or, worse, condescension (my least favorite reaction on the planet).

Then it happened. It was 1997, I was the mother of 4 children. A couple from church offered to provide a babysitter and take us out to dinner. As we sat down at the table at the restaurant, the husband asked us how we came to know Jesus. I got brave and went first. And told my story. Then our food came. He thanked me for sharing and then he pointed at my food and said emphatically, "And you are going to eat every bite of that food!"

You know how in movies or TV shows and it does that little rewind thing to show what happened earlier, yeah, that. All of the sudden I was no longer the 33 year-old mother of 4 and wife of 9 years. I was the emaciated teenager, angering and exasperating those around me. I was a child. A naughty child, being told what to do. The shame was suffocating.

My past had followed me, but not in the way I had expected. I wouldn't share my story again.

And I didn't for many, many years. Perhaps I didn't because life has thrown me so many, many other stories. Perhaps I didn't because an eating disorder, for me, is a thing of my past, and distant past at that. But mostly I didn't share because of shame.

The reality is that people still don't understand eating disorders like they don't understand most mental illness. But there is something about eating disorders that is even MORE shameful, I think that other mental illness.

I think Christians love stories of guilt and redemption. That is why the druggie biker dude who shared his story the week before I shared mine was applauded for his journey. We have a theological framework for sin, guilt, repentance and redemption. We don't have a theological framework for complex combination of biology, family dynamics, trauma, and cultural messages that produce an eating disorder. Christians don't know how to "fix" that. They don't know what to do when they can't point to a willful sin and shout "REPENT!"

But, for whatever reason, I am wanting to share again. I am wanting to see God use that particular, horrible chapter of my life for good. I'm not sure why, because I only know one person right now with a diagnosed eating disorder. And yet I see so many that I suspect do struggle terribly, even if they may not be classified as such according to the DSM-5.

I think it is easier to hide an eating disorder these days. The cultural obsession with healthy eating and fitness can mask a far from healthy personal obsession. In fact, it is those of us who do not jump on the bandwagon of organic or paleo or vegan who are viewed with skepticism or considered uninformed.

I suppose that what I am trying to say is that if you are struggling with an obsession over what you put in your body or the shape and size of your body, I get it. I've been there. And while I have had what I consider an amazingly healthy attitude toward food for almost 30 years, my body image issues have been a bit slower in healing. Menopause ("when your metabolism slows down but your appetite doesn't") and aging are forcing me face some of my deep-seated beliefs of what gives me value and to let go of the last tidbits of a screwed-up sense of self. I am still a work in progress.

But if you have a tortured relationship with food or your body, please know that I get it and am here. I'm not hiding my story any more. And you don't have to, either.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Gift

All around me I am seeing marriages falling apart or in varying degrees of anguish. So much heartache. So much hard.

I know what I have. I know he is a gift. I know he is something that I never, ever deserved, this husband of mine.

He isn't perfect and Lord know's I'm not. But we are each other's best friend and somehow we are able to work together as business partners without killing each other (so long as he doesn't boss me around, I say).

But I know this is special. And I know the deep pain others may feel when they see us together or interact in playful banter on Facebook. I know that pain because I feel that same pain when I see other relationships that showcase what someone else has and I have not.

Today a friend wrote a long monologue to her grandfather who passed away at the age of 96. Her relationship with him was something that I could never imagine. Other times friends write of their fathers in a way that says they knew and were known and loved and were loved. It is beyond my comprehension. I read stories of close families and cousins and cherished memories and I don't get it because I never had that. And it can hurt.

I think it would hurt less if I knew that people understood just what a blessing a relationship is. What a gift. If, for example, when they post a moving tribute to their dad on Father's Day they acknowledged how rare it is to have someone like that in their life.

So I want to acknowledge something. I want to acknowledge that, for whatever reason, God gave me a tremendous gift. I don't ever want to take what I have for granted or wave it in front of another. I want to cherish what I have and thank God for it. I want to learn from it and give out of its fullness to those who don't have this.

And I want to thank you, Matt Barker, for being there. For being my safe place. I love you. More than you'll ever know.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Go With My Blessing

He left yesterday afternoon, my son did. Left on a 25-hour, 1700 mile trek across the country for a new adventure. It's awesome. I'm a mess. A puddle.

I don't know why this is so hard. This isn't my first rodeo. When my oldest left for St. Louis 3.5 years ago, I thought in my heart it was temporary. It wasn't. When my youngest left for Iowa one year ago this week, I thought in my heart it was temporary. It wasn't. I realize that I don't have any such illusions this time. I have to know it could be for good.

People assume the sorrow is because I now have an empty nest...well, sort of. (My nest regularly refills with my 6 year-old granddaughter several times a week.) And no. It isn't that I no longer feel needed. And it isn't so much that I long to have some chick under my feathers to cluck over. I don't cluck. I never have. And my son refused to ever be clucked at. We were a good team that way.

It is just that I feel this absence so keenly. And I don't know why.

I don't know a lot of things these days. In fact I seem to know less than I used to.

But there is one thing I do know. I want my kids to thrive. I want them to go...go...GO out there. Wherever. I want them to go wherever they need to go and do whatever they need to do and be whatever God has called them to be. I don't ever want to hold them back or bring them down because I have some silly emotional need to be close.

I never had that freedom. Yes, I moved away from my home but I never felt that it was really OK for me to do that. It was never OK for me to be where I was or what I was or who I was. I never had the emotional backing from a mother to do my thing and be who God created me to be and not what she so wanted me to be. I refuse to do that to my children.

This is what I want for you, my children. GO, DO, BE. Wherever you need to. You have my blessing. And my love. Always.


Tender Spots

I have crappy posture and the neck muscles from hell. Every snippet of tension is stored in my upper back and shoulders. I guess you could say I have a chronic pain in the neck. (Some might say I AM a chronic pain in the neck.😂)
Because neck pain causes head pain, I am having regular visits with a physical therapist to retrain muscles to do something that I can’t explain but sounds reasonable. One is the techniques my PT uses is dry needling. Basically, he pokes these tiny needles directly into my muscle and leaves them there for 10 minutes. No. It’s not fun.
The interwebs say that if the muscle is healthy, it really won’t hurt that much. I can attest to that. Some of the needles don’t hurt that much. And yet others are a different story. Yesterday I went in to PT with increased migraine twinges and a sore upper back. The teeny, tiny needles felt like daggers slicing through my neck and stabbing my nerve endings. I squealed and squirmed and clawed at the vinyl on the table. “Your muscles are really inflamed and reactive today,” he said. No s**t.
I’ve had a really hard couple of weeks.
I am looking a life change in the face as another child sets off on a wonderful new adventure thousands of miles away. I want him to experience the best of life, wherever it may be, but my mother heart still just plain hurts.
The recent publicity regarding sexual abuse with Southern Baptist Churches has brought back to the surface those intense feelings of frustration and anger at those in power who refuse to listen to and protect the vulnerable in their midst. I am thankful that the truth is being told and apologies are being made but furious that it is taking public exposure to goad leadership into doing the right thing.
And, as per the usual, I am sure that this hard has something to do with hormones, too. (Damn, damn, DAMN you, menopause and send chocolate!)
The crux of the matter is that I hurt. Everything hurts. Advice feels like a condescending quick fix. Suggestions feel like a lecture. Silence feels like rejection.
I guess that is the way it is in life. There are times that, like my friggin neck muscles, we are extra inflamed and reactive and everything hurts, even the tiny needles that are meant to do us good.
My PT couldn’t see how inflamed my muscles were. He only knew by the amount of pain I got from the poke. I need to remember this the next time my well intentioned poke causes someone else pain. I need to be aware there may be hurt under the skin I can see.

We all, at times, have tender spots. Poke carefully. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019


"What is your word for the year?" This is the first year I think I have hear that question and it seems to be popping up everywhere. I like the concept, actually. I like it much better than New Years resolutions, which are almost always self-improvement based and self-focused in a superficial sort of way and are usually along the lines of weight loss and eating better and exercising more to the end of greater health and youth and beauty.

The word for the year is different. Seven years ago I came close to the concept when I wrote Not a Resolution but a Prayer, about my desire to be able to actually rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourning is really easy for me. Rejoicing with another, especially when I don't have occasion to myself, is a bit of a challenge.

A few years later I had another concept for the year: Listen. It wasn't necessarily something I publicized but more something I tried to do more of. I learned a lot about listening and the truth that, as David Augsburger says, "Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable." Even this past year I heard about another term, vigilant listening, which took my desire to listen to others and for the skill to hear others, to a whole new level.

When the question about the word for the year came up, I rebelled and decided I wouldn't get with the program. I couldn't come up with anything that didn't seem too nebulous. Hope? Peace? Joy? (The fact that joy scares the bejeebers out of me is the subject of a future, perhaps too personal, blogpost.)

But I DO have a word. It is a concept that hit home with me a couple of months ago. According to Google....

Acknowledge: 1.) accept or admit the existence or truth of. 2.) recognize the fact or importance or quality of. 

Everybody wants to know that their presence on the planet isn't an accident, or worse, a mistake. Everybody wants to know they matter.

To acknowledge someone says this:
I see you. You matter. Your ideas matter. Your experiences. Your wisdom. Your hard work. Your gifts. Your generosity. Your ingenuity. Your kindness. Your heart. Your heart matters. 
I see you. You matter. Your suffering matters. Your confusion. Your frustration. Your anger. Your disappointment. Your loneliness. Your pain. Your grief. Your broken heart. It matters. 
You are not invisible to me. You matter. You matter in this world. You matter in God's plan. 
To acknowledge someone does not mean that you have to agree with them or become their very best friend. And it certainly doesn't mean that you have to fix whatever it is that is weighing them down or tearing them apart. It just means that you see them and you are there with them and they matter.

You can acknowledge someone by finding the person outside the group and striking up a conversation. By going out of your way to say hello. By finding something you have in common. Asking questions and their opinion. By listening, yes, listening, to their ideas without the need to argue and set them straight.

You can acknowledge a person by responding to them. Reply to their message or text or phone call or email. Nothing tells a person that they don't matter like complete silence on the other end. Sometimes the silence conveys disapproval. At to other times dismissal. It always conveys the idea that you just don't care. In fact, my husband wants to start a new hashtag #nocrickets, to encourage people to respond, even if it is just to say, "I got your message. Let me think about it." Acknowledge the message and you acknowledge the person.

Pastors, you can do a great deal of good by just acknowledging specific types of suffering in the sermons. It tells your people that you see them. You know their pain. And you are with them in their suffering. Ignoring pain doesn't make it go away. Speaking of it gives it meaning and connection. No fixes needed. Just acknowledgement and understanding.

I am not trying to lecture anybody else as much as to remind myself just how important this is. I know I have failed at this so many times. I acknowledge even that. We can do that. We can acknowledge where we have failed and hurt people.

So, here is to 2019. The year to acknowledge.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Comparing Pain

I got my bubble burst last week. I have always been enamored with natural disasters. Maybe because I love severe weather. Maybe because I love the excitement. Maybe because I a bit of an adrenaline junky. Maybe because I love to see a shakeup in the status quo. But mostly because of the way people are when a collective disaster strikes.Walls come down. Differences fade. Community develops. The little things just don't matter so much. I long for that. I thought that was the way it always was.

Last week I was reading Richard Lloyd Parry's chronicle of the earthquake and the tsunami that hit rural northern Japan in 2011, Ghosts of the Tsunami. He particularly focuses on one village and one school. There were just over 100 students in this K-5 school. After the earthquake, several parents came and took their children home. leaving 78 children at the school when the unexpected happened and the tsunami hit. Of those 78 children, only four survived.

The immediate aftermath of the tsunami brought about what we have all come to expect: kindness, compassion, camaraderie, a pulling together to survive. But after the initial shock wore off and life began to take shape again and families had to move forward, a rift developed. It developed between the families that had lost children and those that had not. Between the families that had lost all their children and those that had at least one left. Then a rift between the families that were able to find and bury the bodies of their children and those who could not. It is absolutely heartbreaking that in a scenario of such horrific loss each person was so completely absorbed in their own brand of loss, in their own story, that they could not see that their stories were more alike than different. Pain, suffering, loss, grief....they do that, I guess.

We all do it. We compare. We compare our pain to somebody else's. Other people compare our pain to somebody else's. And chide us. "At least he isn't hitting you. Look at Sandra's husband. Now I feel sorry for her." "At least it wasn't rape. It can't have been that bad." "Quit whining, you have a roof over your head. Look at those poor people in India." We expect that quantity and quality are the same thing.

Quantity of suffering does matter. The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study shows that with each ACE comes a large percentage increase in physical and mental health issues well into adulthood. And yet even with the ACE, there are mitigating factors. So quality of suffering matters, too. A child with more resilience will have fewer negative effects with a higher score than a child with less resilience. So a child with no social or emotional support will suffer just as much or more over an adverse experience as a child with better support but more experiences.

I saw a meme this morning that said that you can drown in 8 feet of water just as easily at 20 feet of water. The quantity of water doesn't matter.

We can't compare suffering. We just can't. Abuse is abuse. Betrayal is betrayal. Loss is loss. Pain is pain. How can we come alongside each other, alike in our suffering though perhaps different in our circumstances? What are your ideas?