Welcome back

“When God invites me to give voice to something like the importance of self-compassion and self-care,

it seems that an integral part of that giving voice is to live what I speak.

Ahhhh… the relief of no more guilt from neglecting my blog.

Okay, maybe I need to start that again on a more compassionate note.

Ahhhh… the gift of experiencing enough pain relief, creative energy, and schedule discipline to finally be able to have the head and body space to write again.

This has been an odd season for me…

but in some ways, not entirely unexpected….

When God invites me to give voice to something like the importance of self-compassion and self-care, it seems that an integral part of that giving voice is to live what I speak. So, in these days of dealing with my pain, obedience has looked like choosing NOT to force myself to push through, but caring for myself and accepting, with some grief and patience, my limitations.

Though I haven’t been writing, I have been:

            Further exploring my new diagnosis of visceral hypersensitivity

            Playing with Georgia

            Finding yet another physical therapist with yet another approach because the nerves are being stimulated by alignment issues (postural restoration)

            Learning a new low histamine diet because they are also stimulated by foods. 

I call this the downside of being so fearful and wonderfully made. It’s all so very complex.  Which, interestingly, is a part of where God shows up in this story.

I have a deep belief that one of the gifts women offer our communities is to live in a woven way, more holistically. 

God is in my body and my calling.

God is in my pain and my words.

God is in my limitations and my opportunities.

I think of the woman with the hemorrhage

26She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.

I’ve often asked God if this is really how God wanted to spend my energy and our money.  Like the woman with the hemorrhage, apparently so.

How does one sustain hope in times like this? How did she find the strength to fight the crowd and reach out to Jesus?  How did I find the strength to try a new diet and tell my long and twisted tale to another physical therapist?

There is an odd little verse I often think of in moments like this… it references the people of God as prisoners of hope.

 Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
    even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

(Though I know better than to pull a random phrase out of context in Scripture, let’s just say the Holy Spirit gave me special permission because She repeatedly brought it to mind.)

As a prisoner of hope I keep moving toward healing on this long and twisted path.  I don’t give up on this blogging endeavor because there has been a long interruption. I welcome back my own energy and creativity.

I also welcome your voice back into this small community. I’ve missed you as a community. I would love to hear where you find yourself to be a prisoner of hope.  In your marriage? With a child? A friendship? A community? Your body? A dream? A calling?

Welcome back!

Not the Lent I intended

Some years, we elect our Lenten discipline, thoughtfully chosen to strategically open or soften parts of our hearts that feel more like stone than like flesh.

This year my heart got a different kind of  journey than I had plotted.

The Lent I had planned included a series of 40 reflections, 31 already thought through and outlined…. All focused on feminine spirituality and why we as church seem determined to avoid this reality of gender different spirituality in favor of being insistent on this view of unisex spirituality. Like Mary of Magdalene who met Jesus in the garden, I felt called to go and tell that story whether anyone listened or not.

 

That was the Lent I planned.

Then life entered and

Side lined

Erased

Evicted my plans.

Well, “life” is likely too broad of a word to be truly honest… a simple generality I am hiding behind because I don’t want to write about my pain. I really, really don’t want to write about my physical pain. I don’t want to give it space or power or attention or even words. In many ways, I am thankful to have been able to carry on with much of life and work.

Though I am now making more serious adjustments.  I have missed a few of my appointments. I am traveling less for business. (Thankfully, still vacationed with our family.) And, with a new tentative diagnosis and better meds, the end may be in sight. Maybe.

But writing has suffered the most (hum, maybe I should have chosen a different discipline)

When pain is bad, I can’t concentrate to write.

When it is better, I am so tired or behind on everything else that all I want to do is sleep and recover.

The other part of Lent that has been a surprise has been where the comfort has come from.

Though the list is long, I will describe but one scene since it happened just this evening at the Maunday Thursday service I almost didn’t attend.

In some Episcopal churches, including our big downtown one, we really do still wash each other’s feet. Last year we went to the kid’s service which was a BLAST (or shall I say SPLASH!) This, year, I was too late for that one, even late for the grown up one but went anyway.

Comfort came tonight in the way that a big muscly dude with tattoos and a golden paisley-like shirt, a man I don’t know at all, washed my feet. He was so careful and gentle and thorough.  There was no rush only care, real care to each detail. And afterwards, he thanked me so sincerely.

It’s been a tough Lent. I have still mostly related to Mary of Magdalane in the garden…. it’s just not yet the part about going forth to use my voice but instead the less comfortable moment when she could not see Jesus because of her tears.  Unlike her, I know he’s here somewhere. Maybe I will find him by Easter…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“M” is for mystery and for mystic

“The more I listened, the more I recognized within myself a deep hunger to be more aware of the Mystery all around me.”

I don’t know why it is that when I attempt to meditate, my mind resorts to Dr. Seuss. It has been more than 30 years since I was first read Dr. Seuss’s ABCs to our son, but it is still stuck deep in the crevasses of my neural folds.

Big “A” little “a”, what begins with “A”? Aunt Annie’s alligator “A”, “A”, “A.”

Big “B” little “b” what begins with “B”?  Barber, baby, bubbles, and a bumble bee.

Honest. I didn’t even need to look it up. (And now I have a grand-daughter.  Lord help me!)

So, when my mind was wondering as it is so prone to do, it landed on “M” and I immediately thought of two words: mystery and mystic.

I sometimes think meditation mind wandering is a little like the stuff of dreams: a mix of images from long ago and this week!

A friend gave me a CD for Christmas:  The Will to Live and Other Mysteries by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen

In her wonderful wisdom and gentle, steady voice, Dr. Remen speaks of Mystery with a capital “M”.  As she says,

”We will all encounter more Mystery in our lives than we will see.”

The more I listened, the more I recognized within myself a deep hunger to be more aware of the Mystery all around me.

I am beginning to believe that only these encounters with Mystery can sustain me on this journey with pain. One of the biggest losses for me has been the way that pain narrows my vision.  Recently, I have completely missed the birthdays of four good friends (so sorry Mary and Sherry, Carol, and Katharine). On some days, the only thing that breaks through are the smiles of my grand-daughter Georgia, the generous kindness of my husband, and the steady small inquiries of friends who ask, “How is it today?”

Yet there is something about meeting Mystery that allows me to feel the largeness of life once more.

One of the things I loved the most about hospital chaplaincy was the nearness of Mystery.

God is near to the broken-hearted.

God is very present in times of trouble.

I also come near to the Mystery when I wander gardens and waterways with my camera.

In spiritual direction, very often, Mystery comes near.

Also as I read Scripture, especially the stories of women like Anna , an amazing woman of intuition, faithfulness, and voice.  She is a model for those of us, especially women, who happen to be mystics.

Which leads me to the second “m” word I encountered this week: mystic.   A friend mentioned in casual conversation that another friend had referenced me as a mystic. Though I have internally referenced myself in that way, I’ve seldom done so publicly.  I think it tends to conjure up (pun intended) spooky notions that don’t feel like they fit at all.

Reminded once again this week of how deep my hunger for Mystery runs, the label of mystic seems to fit.

One particular aspect of Dr. Remen’s talk was particularly intriguing to me.  It was a spiritual practice (my words, not hers) that was designed to help develop eyes to see more of the Mystery in which we all live.

Her recommendation: journal at the end of the day and answer 3 simple questions in 15 minutes or less:

What surprised you?

What touched or moved you?

What inspired you?

Apparently, these questions were constructed through the work of a sociologist or maybe an anthropologist… someone who might study such things…

For me, today, these were my recollections:

  • Surprised by the simple pleasure of a hot shower.
  • Touched by the fear of a friend who is entering counseling for the first time.
  •  Inspired by the generosity of another friend who offered to take off work and pay for my first visit to a new pain specialist who has helped her.

 The practice made me think of the eight (yes 8) blank (yes blank) journals of various shapes and sizes, all given to me over the last year.  Cleaning up recently, I gathered them from the various corners of my bedroom and office and put them at my bedside.  I was curious about both their number and blankness.  Interestingly those observations feel more like an invitation now.

I’m starting with the one on top tonight.

Maybe you’d like to join me and post some of your discoveries here.

Self-compassion and friends

 “…through the door of my friend’s compassion for me, self-compassion came and softened my heart…”

It was a simple note really, a text I got this morning from a dear friend:

 “Thinking of you this morning- sending a little love your way.”

Surprisingly, that short, thoughtful text message stirred up a great deal of unexpected emotion in me. You see, what was not said, but clearly understood, is that she’s sending me love because she knows how much I need it right now.  She is familiar with my pain journey which, at least for today, feels like the story of the woman with the hemorrhage

26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.

Though I haven’t spent all of our money, I am confident that I’ve spent as much money as I personally have made this year in my small business. In addition to time and energy and hope. And I am no better. Only worse. (All right, biomechanically, I am moving better, it’s just that my pain is worse.)

At first, I didn’t reply to my friend at all.  To reply meant to admit that I still hurt.  It meant I would be known, once again, as a needy person who is suffering right now.

I don’t want that identity.

I thought about pretending… but what’s the use of that?

So, I replied:

“Thank you friend. I don’t really want to respond because I don’t want to be known as the friend whose pain is not able to be explained and is not going away… But neither do I want to be alone in this reality so I will risk yet again being honest and hope that asking you to carry this with me is not asking too much.”

To not be alone, to be available for connection, is to be known authentically. To be known right now for me, is to be known as a woman struggling with pain. It’s not all of who I am, clearly, but it is a major piece.

I cried as I wrote because through the door of my friend’s compassion for me, self-compassion came and softened my heart… a heart I had not recognized as slowly growing hard  and stoic within me.

My tears also opened a new door of curiosity for me: if I feel like the woman with the hemorrhage, maybe she has some wisdom for me. One thing I know about her story is that she broke some rules to find her healing.  I am such a rule-follower; but I wondered if I needed to break some rules, too. The ones that came to mind are the rules that add to my own pain and suffering like the ones that say things like:

  • It’s not okay to be the needy one in relationship.
  •  It’s not okay to admit you hurt if you don’t have a clear indication of exactly what is wrong, external evidence to validate the pain.
  • It’s not okay to show up for work if you come with any distractions like pain.
  • It’s not okay to not work just because you hurt. (Yes, I have internal accusations on both sides of that one!)
  • It’s not okay to write about your pain on your blog.

Today, because of my friend’s kindness, I found the courage to break a few rules. I found a soft space within that allowed me to meet my pain with honesty and openness and compassion and to receive comfort from others, God, and even from myself.

I wonder if that’s a part of why Jesus had the woman with the hemorrhage come forward and tell her story.  Though she was healed, she still had to somehow deal with her whole history of pain. I wonder if she needed to not only experience physical healing but also the healing of the compassion of Jesus and others who heard and held her story of despair and pain as well as the miracle of her healing. I wonder if, in the retelling of her story in the presence of others, she found the tenderness of self-compassion as I did today, through the love of friends.

When has friendship opened a door for self-compassion within you?