Wednesday, October 13, 2010

*deep breath*

me and my mom biking

Autumn in Minnesota is my favorite time of year. The weather cools, the air becomes crisp and clean and the colors blaze a path straight to my heart. I've been away for the last several days with my husband and mom and dad. We've been biking along rivers and through sheltered wooded areas that remind me of cathedrals. It's easy to worship here.

And yet, I've been sad, always just a little sad. I'm thinking of my friend Kirsten and her lost baby Ewan. I'm breathing prayers in these cathedrals and sending her love and comfort. Lord have mercy on my sweet friend.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I've been thinking about the kind of person I'm becoming.

I want to be kind and gentle and forgiving. I want to be thoughtful. I want to live simply. I want to have integrity. I want to be available and open. I want to be wise. I want to care for my body and soul so that I am well. More than anything, I want to love freely.

And I want all of these things to come easily. But they don't.

It's occurred to me lately that I've been drifting in directions that I haven't chosen. Depression and anxiety and cynicism are easy for me. I don't have to work at all to find myself in dark places. I can blame this on hormones or my history or illness or any number of other things, but none of that really matters in the end.

I am becoming.

Right now.

And that's a hopeful thing because it means I can become in another direction.

So I think I will.

Monday, August 16, 2010

for a while in haiti

for a while
it was just too terrible
to live inside the sharp edges
of my skin
so i went away-

for a while i was the swelling
in the gecko's neck-

for a while i was the blur
of hummingbird wings-

for a while i was waxy palm leaves
and ripe fruit-

for a while
i sunk into the sounds
that made no sense-
the singing and wailing and screaming-
the rooster call
and barking dogs
and the blare of radio distortion-

for a while i was anywhere but here.

then i slipped into the blackness
of my own heart
and found myself
a foreign country
speaking a strange tongue
gesturing wildly to make myself

i found myself searching for
a familiar road-
something not covered in
dust and suffering-
something soft and cool-
something beneath this fever dream-

something like your voice
speaking my name-
speaking words i can understand-
calling me home.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

bel ti zwazo de (beautiful little bird two)

photos by marcia erickson

i've never seen a hummingbird sit still as long as my little friend has been lately. maybe jesus is trying to tell me something.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

new words i'm learning

move rev: nightmare
pe: afraid
kraze: break/smash
soufri: suffer
doute: doubt
kwe: believe

Friday, August 6, 2010

bel ti zwazo (beautiful little bird)

when i sit out on the balcony of providence house, there's a little hummingbird that comes to refresh herself in the fruit tree in the yard. the tree is lush and green and full of life. geckos hang out there and puff out their necks as they dance their funny gecko dance. there are huge flying insects with plump black bodies and bright orange wings that float among the branches. years ago, you never saw birds in haiti. we asked the girls about this and they said they used to eat the birds. i'm not sure what to think about that, but for whatever reason, the birds have returned. this gives me hope. maybe life is returning to this place. if all you ever saw was the trees in this yard, you'd think you were in paradise.

but this is not paradise.

Monday, August 2, 2010

the importance of belonging

it's hard for me to find words to describe what i do when i'm in haiti. the truth is, it's easier to navigate the language barrier from english to kreyol than it is to navigate the cultural differences and the problem of communicating my experience here back to the people i've left behind.

when i first got here i was surprised by the difficulty i had getting comfortable. i've been to haiti over a dozen times so i expected that i would be just fine. but what i found when i got here is that about three days in i experienced a deep loneliness and near desperation. the heat is difficult for me and i've had migraines every day since i arrived, but i don't think that accounts for what was going on with me. i cried a lot and felt a lot of panic about my ability to make it to september.

when i think back on it, i realize that the language wasn't making sense to me yet - my brain wasn't hearing and understanding it yet - so i felt isolated from the girls. i was a stranger in a way. marcia had been here three weeks when i arrived and it was obvious that everyone was very comfortable with her. she had picked up a lot of kreyol in that time. so i was an outsider feeling like things would be like this for my whole whole stay in haiti. it was awful.

since that day, things have been much better for me. i'm starting to get in a groove with the language. i'm picking up things that went over my head in the days after i first arrived. i've been able to connect with the girls and they're warming up to me too. this has made all the difference. it's just as hot and i'm still getting headaches every day, but i can handle that. it's good to begin to pass through the doors of belonging...even in this place where i will never really belong.

i've even started to have fun.

more later...

Friday, July 30, 2010

mwen gen pwoblem (i have a problem)

Just quickly wanted to let you all know that the internet is something of a beast here at Providence House. I had to turn off the ability to view images on my web browser. This means that if you post pics on your blog or facebook, I can't see them. And if you have a word verification feature on your blog, I can't leave a comment. (I tried the option of listening for the word, but I think they were speaking french.) Bug. But I wanted to let you know that I'm waiting and waiting for your blogs to load everyday so that I can read them. It helps me to feel connected. I'm with you, even when it seems like I'm not.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

lapli (rain)

It's late in the day, and the clouds are beginning to roll in the distance. The thunder is a rumble beneath the smothering heat. I'm torn because I know a storm will cool the air around me for a short time, but that's not all it will do. There are the tents. Miles and miles of blue tarp that can provide a little shelter from the sun, but not the rain. I can't stand to think of it.

I'd take the heat if I could, but the rain will come anyway. It doesn't care about the tents or the people living inside them.

Lord have mercy.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

mwen la

I'm here.

I'm seeing things and feeling things and smelling things and hearing things that my brain cannot really take in quite yet. It's like a flood pushing through a straw. I'm trying to stay open and absorb it, but my body is smarter than me and it's only giving me a teaspoon at a time.

I'll have more to say as it all unfolds and becomes more understandable to me. But for now it's enough that I'm here. And I'm writing. I wonder what I'll have to say?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

off to haiti soon

I've been really busy lately, so I've been unable to keep up with my online life. I won't go into everything that I've been doing, but I will share one thing that has been getting more and more of my attention theses days.

In a little over three weeks, I'll be leaving for Haiti. I'll be there for six weeks.

Yes, six weeks.

Although I've been to Haiti more than a dozen times over the years, I've never been there longer than two weeks. And I've never been away from Dave for longer than two weeks either. Marcia, one of my best friends, is leaving next Tuesday and she'll be spending nine weeks there. We'll both be returning home on Labor Day. Marcia and I are hoping this helps us to deepen our Kreyol skills and we'd like to help the girls learn more English as well. And as a side benefit, we hope to get to know them all on a deeper level.

I have to be honest and say that I'm a little anxious. Maybe occasionally I'm crazy anxious. I know I'm going to miss everyone more than I can even imagine. I'm leaving David with a lot of loose ends in terms of our housing situation which makes me sad and nervous and guilty. Also, Haiti is not the safest place in the world, and I worry about my health issues. My doctor is going to hook me up with a travel kit of anything-I-might-possibly-need, so that's kind of reassuring. But it's still Haiti, where anything can go wrong and usually does. The heat is also on my mind and the torrential rains. I even worry that the concrete ceiling and walls of the home have been weakened by the earthquake and rain and they'll collapse on us. I also worry about what I'll see and experience in Port au Prince and other places that have suffered heavily from the earthquake. When one of our friends who has spent a lot of time in Haiti since the quake heard that we were going she said, "It'll f*#& you up." I'm pretty sure she's right. These are the voices crashing around in my brain when I take the time to think about it and really give some space to my concerns. They're not all reasonable concerns (I'm pretty sure the house is not going to fall on my head) but they're pretty persistent voices.

And then there's those other voices.

When I listen to the deeper parts of my soul, I remember how my life somehow sorts itself out in Haiti. Things that seem important in my American life seem trivial there. Priorities shift. Life s-l-o-w-s d-o-w-n. Even when you're busy it's a different kind of busy-ness. There is time to think and pray and dream. There is time to sleep (if you can sleep with the heat and the bugs...oh wait, that's those other voices.) There is time to connect. I remember that Haiti is a place that God cares about and he has shared that caring with me. I love Haiti and I grieve for the brokenness she is suffering. I am glad to be going and to be listening for what God is asking of me there. It will be good. No matter how terrible, it will be good.

I hope you'll all be able to follow me and leave me comments. You can't imagine how word from a friend means everything in that place. I hope you'll come along with me in this way.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

NDY Rocks

So, for any of you who don't know it already, my husband is a rock star. It's true. He's the lead singer for the band NDY (Not Dead Yet). They're playing a benefit concert for Providence Ministries this Friday at the Dugout in Mahtomedi at 8:30. If you're in the Twin Cities, stop on over. Here's the promo poster for the event. (Dave's the knockout on the right holding the sax.) After all these years (we just celebrated out 29th wedding anniversary) the guy still makes my knees weak.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

how rude am i?

I just realized that I kind of left you all hanging about the results of the chest CT. No worries: everything is dandy. The lesions on my lung are unchanged so they're confident that they're only scar tissue from an old infection. You can consider this a post-script on the scoop. :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

gift from a friend from the sea

i have such lovely friends.

thank you di.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

the scoop, part nine

"I want singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out all my obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact -- to borrow from the language of the saints -- to live 'in grace' as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense: by grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking, perhaps, what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, 'May the outward and inward man be one.' I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eyes of God."

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh, A Gift from the Sea

Last Friday, I finally finished writing the book on simplicity. Or at least I finished the first draft and sent it off for editing and suggestions. Several months ago this project was the final straw that broke my back, but today it feels like a generous gift from God. It feels like a friend who has pulled me from a burning building. I am grateful to be keeping company with the many voices I have encountered along the way, voices like the one I've quoted above. They are gentle voices, at least most of them are, and even when they've called on me to loosen my death-grip on things I imagined I needed, they've been friendly and patient.

In fact, I feel as though I am discovering my life, the life that was buried under so much debris and years of accumulated trivialities. I am discovering the delicious joy of reading and writing, not the kind of reading and writing that I've done most of my life, the required texts of a profession. No. I am reading novels and poets and journals of saints. And I am writing things that flow out of the center of me, the way I am when I'm most deeply myself. I'm learning to be at home with my limitations and my talents. To quote God, it is all "very good".

I'm still suspended between places, still losing my home, but I'm not worried. Dave and I will land wherever we land and it will be just fine. And I'm still dealing with THAT, as much as I can tolerate and mostly through writing. It will work its way out in its own good time. Next Tuesday I have to go in to have a follow-up chest CT and I meet with a lung specialist on Thursday, but I'm confident that they'll give me a clean bill of health. And even if they don't, I'll be OK. Finally, I'm just satisfied to be exactly where I am.

So that brings us to today, and we've arrived here in less than ten installments. The scoop is officially told. You see, I've learned to stop when I'm done. Aren't you glad?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

my prayer today (a short break from the never-ending-scoop)

Philippians 4:10-14 (The Message)

I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you're again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don't mean that your help didn't mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.

The last few days I've kind of lost my mind and my sense of direction. Probably tomorrow I'll get all twisted up in some new way (or very old way). But today, I'm starting again. I'm claiming these words as my own by faith, even in the middle of a lot of confusion and uncertainty, even in the middle of a strange land.

Lord have mercy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

the scoop, part eight

"Life does not accommodate you, it shatters you...Every seed destroys its container or else there would be no fruition." -Florida Scott-Maxwell

True that.

I stumbled on this quote in a book called The Way of Transition. When I quit my job, my therapist suggested that this book might be important for me. It's about those times in life when changes cut you loose from the dock and you find yourself in the middle of indifferent and unfamiliar waters with no oars. A person experiencing this kind of transition is like a trapeze artist suspended between bars, having let go of one thing and hoping like hell the next thing materializes before gravity gets all demanding on you. I could relate to that.

When I told you that I quit my job, it might have sounded more like a choice than it seemed to me at the time. It really was more like an artist who has gone blind: you can keep splashing paint on the canvas, but it's not going to be pretty. I felt completely incapable of doing what my job required. And it wasn't just this particular job. The truth is that I was so out-of-joint that I couldn't even think about getting another job. I knew I would just end up back at square one: depressed and anxious and sick. I knew I would have to take a leap of faith and hope I didn't end up like Rietta Wallenda.

The loss of my job was scary because my husband and I depended on my income. Our finances were stretched to begin with, and losing my income would necessitate other losses. I won't go into all of that in detail, but let's just say that in another time and place we'd be inmates in a debtor's prison. Bill collectors pretty much have me on speed-dial these days. Our home is for sale, which is a funny concept to me because usually when you sell something you get some money. And when it's all said and done, we have no idea where we'll live.

Actually, we're oddly at peace, and I blame this inappropriate peace on the work I did with simplicity. I've become addicted to giving things away. I'm in a race to see how much I can live without. We made a lot of mistakes in our life, and it's kind of a shame that it's taken us so long to figure out what matters, but Dave and I are no longer interested in having a bunch of stuff at the expense of everything else. This is a terrible lesson to learn and it can be downright humiliating, but we're looking forward to something on the other end of all this loss. I'll tell you more about that next time.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

the scoop, part seven

Thanks for hanging with me you guys. I didn't realize when I started this that it would take this many installments to unpack everything. My goal is to finish by the time we reach part ten, but we'll have to see.

*Before I launch into this part of my story, there's something I should mention. For those of you who don't know about it, I've been working with an organization called Providence Ministries for the last 13 years. We set up a children's home called Providence House in southern Haiti to care for a few girls who were in desperate situations, and we also provide educational opportunities and work with established ministries in the area.*

Now, let's continue.

At some point in all of this, we made the decision to move Dave's mom to Alaska to be with his brother's family. His brother has extended family who all live near him and can help with his mom's care, and they've dealt with a family member with dementia before so they know what to expect. In fact, this was their suggestion in the first place. I won't lie to you: I was very relieved at this development. We just weren't able to care for her any more, and we knew she wouldn't want to go into a sheltered living situation. So, in January we were very busy making preparations for her departure on the 16th. Dave and his sister were going to accompany her and stay for a few days to get her settled in.

But first came January 12th.

Around suppertime I got a phone call from my dad. "Did you hear about the earthquake in Haiti?" I had no idea how to respond. I was used to hearing about hurricanes and mudslides and riots and kidnapping, but earthquakes? I thought it must be a mistake. "Where in Haiti, Dad?" I asked. He said he thought it was just outside of Port au Prince and it was a big one. I told him that I'd call him back, and as soon as I hung up I called my friend Marcia. She had just heard about it too, but she didn't know anything more than I did. We didn't say it at the time, but we were both very scared.

For the next several days we watched CNN non-stop and tried to get through to our friends. Providence House is located 120 miles from Port au Prince, a fairly safe distance, but we weren't just worried about the direct effects of the earthquake. Haiti is very centralized and extremely poor. Something like this hitting the capital city would have dramatic consequences for the whole country. So we waited and prayed. It was torture. We watched the video footage of decimated homes and trapped children, and we barely spoke a word. We finally got a brief phone call from one of the girls and learned that they were all OK and the house was still standing, but they were terrified. I'm not sure I've ever felt so helpless.

I've lost count of the number of times I've traveled to Haiti in the last thirteen years. I was standing just outside the palace a year ago in April, and now that majestic landmark is just a pile of concrete. I've shopped dozens of times at the Caribbean Market that was the scene of so much death (and a few dramatic rescues, thank God.) As the camera panned the streets, I searched for something I could recognize, but this was a wasteland that was not at all familiar to me. I grieved over and over again for my friends who would never be the same, and the unimaginable suffering of so many. This changed everything. We continued to get Lorraine packed, but our hearts were all over the place. Suddenly everything I had been preoccupied with over the last many months seemed utterly trivial.

The really weird part of all this is that my health started to improve almost immediately after the news of the earthquake hit. I suppose it could have had something to do with the relief of my mother-in-law moving away. As much as we love her it lifted an enormous burden when her care was transferred to others (although we're still sifting through the tangled knot of her finances and her belongings). Nevertheless, I think the earthquake somehow reset my body and my mind. I remembered that there are more important concerns than the ones I had been immersed in for so long. I remembered that I am incredibly fortunate. I remembered (and maybe even discovered to some degree) my values.

I had an opportunity to get on the Comfort hospital ship, but that ended up falling through. I was really disappointed about that, but it got me moving in a particular direction. My leave of absence was running out, and I knew I wasn't ready to go back. Even more important though, was the growing suspicion that i wasn't supposed to go back. Ever. That part of my life was over. Something new was emerging from the wreckage of my life.

So I quit my job.

*big gulping breath*

Thursday, April 29, 2010

the scoop, part six

Where was I? Oh yeah, simplicity. Hah!

When I realized that my life was SO FAR from the ideal of simplicity everything came grinding to a halt. I kept trying to write because I had this deadline looming, and I didn't want to disappoint anyone. (Disappointing people is the worst thing you can do and you'll probably go to hell for it for crying out loud!) I kept on pushing and pushing even when my body started to push back. It started pushing back in the form of headaches and sleeplessness. My thinking became more confused. I would sit for long stretches of time staring at the blinking cursor on my computer screen, but nothing came to mind except a rush of tangled thoughts.

Then, little by little, breathing became an issue. I didn't notice it too much at first. I yawned all the time, and I thought, "Well of course I'm yawning more than usual: I'm not sleeping." But then I started feeling a constant pressure in my chest, like my ribs were crowding my lungs, and I began to breathe in big gulps of air all the time. It was the kind of breathing that someone does when they are swimming in choppy water and starting to sink under the waves. The way I was breathing reminded me of something

(something terrible from a long time ago)

but I couldn't think about THAT.

So I quickly distracted myself and kept pushing and pushing and pushing. And I kept getting sicker and sicker and sicker.

Eventually the breathing thing got bad enough to land me at my doctor's office. She explored a few possibilities and then sent me to get a chest CT. She wanted to rule out a pulmonary embolism. I went directly to the hospital and had the scan and they made me wait there until they could call my doctor with the results. I waited for a couple of hours and she finally called.

Her voice sounded tinny and thin to me. She said, "Well, you don't have a pulmonary embolism, but there were some findings. You have multiple lesions throughout your right lung that are different sizes and have different characteristics. You also have several lesions on your thyroid and one on your breast. You're going to have to have a mammogram and see an endocrinologist and a lung specialist."

None of that sounded very good to me.

I could go on and on with this next part, but I'll spare you. Let's just say that things were not looking very good, and for about a week and a half I thought I was a goner. But at the end of a lot more procedures and appointments everything turned out fine. Kind of. I was still breathing like a crazy person, but I wasn't going to die. And you want to know something? Thinking you're going to die has a strange way of putting some things back in order. But I still couldn't write and I still felt horrible.

My doctor thought that the breathing problems were stress-related and wanted me to see a therapist. As a person who counsels other people I knew this was a good idea and I dreaded it like nothing else. I made the appointment and we got to work gutting me. At least that's what it felt like. He fairly quickly started poking around in


(the thing in my history that I was hoping to avoid for the rest of my life or longer).

I gulped some more air and wished I was dead.

At some point (the order of all this is a little fuzzy to me) I ended up taking a leave of absence because I just couldn't keep going anymore and I thought a break might help. The leave started in mid-December and I was scheduled to return at the beginning of February. I thought maybe if everything else was out of the way I'd be able to write again (yes, I was still clinging to that hope) and maybe put my past behind me. But things didn't play out the way I planned.

Not by a long shot.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

the scoop, part five

Sorry about that time lapse. I kind of forgot about me for a minute there.

Let's continue.

For the last eight years, my work has mostly revolved around counseling as well as training and mentoring volunteer counselors at my church. It's work that I have sincerely loved for the most part, but I noticed over time that I seemed less able to do it. I was tired. I was easily hurt and discouraged. I felt vulnerable. I can't even really say specifically why I was feeling these things. I had the sense that something had worn down inside of me, like I lost my emotional skin and now everything that touched me was sharp and painful. When Lorraine began to decline, I felt like I was trapped in a helping role from which there was no escape. The role followed me everywhere, always tugging on my sleeve and demanding my attention. In fact, I was gradually becoming less human as I absorbed the drip, drip, drip of the demands on me.

Just when I thought I was going to crack up, I got some news that was very exciting to me. The church approached me to see if I would be willing to collaborate with the senior pastor (a close friend of mine) to write a book on simplicity. This felt to me like an opportunity directly from heaven. They allowed me to take about half of every week away from the office to write, and they handed off parts of my job temporarily to give me extra space. If all went well, they promised that they would find a way to make writing a permanent part of my job. Seriously, what could be better than that? So I started researching and writing about simplicity, and that's when things got really complicated.

It turns out (shocker!) that my life was not at all simple. Not even close. I won't go into the gory details, but let's just say that I suddenly felt like I had been asked to write a book about quantum mechanics or calculus...I had no idea what this concept even was supposed to mean. This created a ton of incongruence in me. I couldn't, in good conscience, write about something that I had so little actual experience with. I felt really stuck.

But there was another element of this material that sent me into a tailspin. There's a strain of the writing on simplicity that is fairly radical and is concerned with the dwindling resources on this planet, and the greed and mindlessness of western culture that is using up what ought to be shared. The math of this reasoning goes something like this:

1) Every person on earth has a little more than four bio-productive acres of land for their use.
2) Most of us in the United States use about sixty or more acres because of things like the amount of meat we eat, ecological practices involved in the mass-production of food, large homes that require lots of energy to run, lack of sharing, etc.
3) If we don't correct this radically we're all going to hell in a hand basket.

I don't have enough information to be able to rationally argue about the finer points of this reasoning, and I'm not even saying that it's not true, but I do know this much: it made me more than a little crazy. I felt like I was having a 24/7 panic attack. In order for me to use only my four acres of bio-productive land I would have had to make some lifestyle changes that I couldn't even begin to imagine, especially given that I share my home with others who are not exactly on board with this program. AND even if I were to make all of the changes this line of reasoning suggests, I couldn't see many people around me making these kinds of choices. Was it my job to write about these things and convince the church to follow suit? I started doing my best to keep up with everything, but I felt like I was sinking into a tar pit. The earth was doomed and it was pretty much my fault!

Way. not. simple.

So the project that I imagined being a creative break ended up launching me into a deeper depression than I've experienced in a very long time. I hit a brick wall and could not write a word.

That was when breathing became a problem.

But we'll get to that next time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

the scoop, part four

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that distancing myself from blogging distanced me from my flesh-and-blood relationships and even from myself. When I first began blogging, the people around me commented how changed I much more alive and engaged. It's almost like the process of intentionally listening for my own experience was creating me somehow. When I stopped blogging, loneliness kind of snuck up on me, but I was only aware of this in the most remote sense. The tree was falling in the forest, but no one was there to hear the sound.

But there's one more really essential piece of my life that will help you (and me) to understand the environment that I was living in when everything came undone. My 87-year-old mother-in-law (Lorraine) had been living with us for the past fifteen years. This had always been an easy arrangement. She was a sharp and active old woman with a quick wit. She was always very independent and helped us around our house. We loved sharing our lives with her. But that all changed in the last year and a half.

Little by little, Lorraine's memory and judgment became impaired. Dave and I began to hear things and see things that were disturbing to us, and we finally had to take away her car keys. This made her very angry and suspicious. Our relationship with her changed almost over night. It was kind of like having a toddler who wanted to drive and cook. Soon, she became delusional and started to hallucinate. She thought we were stealing from her and that people were looking in her window and sitting in her chair. She could no longer be trusted with a credit card or really with much of anything at all including her personal care. It's so hard to watch this happen over time to someone close to you.

Don't get me wrong: we still loved her like crazy, and she still had moments when things seemed fine. But mostly, we were constantly anxious and overwrought. There was even a time when she nearly killed us all by turning the gas on the stove while my grandbaby and I slept. By the time my son arrived and woke us up the house was filled with gas and we had to call the fire department and escape to the neighbor's house. She never understood her role in that incident, and I never tried to explain it to her. It would only have upset her and she wouldn't have remembered it anyway.

So my home provided no rest. I'm fairly sure that I could have sailed through the rest of this story with minimal damage if I would have had a home to rest in. But then I wouldn't have been where I am today, so I guess I can't complain. I'm glad the tree fell even though it was utterly silent. It cleared a path so that I could see more of the beautiful forest around me and the clearing beyond it. But I'm getting ahead of myself. We've got a long way to go before we reach the clearing.

Friday, April 9, 2010

the scoop, part three

At about the time that I was beginning to sink into the molasses of my funk, I decided to deliberately withdraw from an online presence. I can't really go into all the reasons for that, but at the time I was thinking of it as a spiritual discipline, sort of like electronic solitude. To this day, I have no idea if I really benefited from this decision. I am a terrible introvert, and it's hard for me to tell the difference between setting a wise boundary and hiding under the covers. I suspect the latter, but it sounds so much more holy and luminous to say I was on a year-long digital silent retreat. So saintly, yes?


What I do know is that I lost something when I stopped blogging. I missed the risk-taking and the challenge and the practice of putting myself out there. I missed the unexpected self-revelation, the way I would find myself reflected in all of your words. I missed the unexplainable kinship I experienced with the community of people who graced my space here. So, ironically, when my body was sending me these haunting letters, I was less able to decipher them because I set aside the discipline of listening to myself in writing.

Don't get me wrong, there were things about the way I was doing my online life that needed to be addressed. I'm embarrassed to say that the amount of energy and time I spent:

• writing a blog
• checking my blog for messages
• responding to messages
• checking other people's blogs
• reading other people's blogs
• commenting on other people's blogs
• checking for comments after my comments, etc.

was considerable and way off balance. But I think it's kind of cheating to deal with it by abandoning it. It's like saying, "I really like you and I value our relationship, but I think we've been spending too much time together and my other relationships are starting to suffer. So let's break up."

Anyway, I'm glad to be back here telling my story. It's just starting to warm up now. Are you curious what comes next? Me too.

Monday, April 5, 2010

the scoop, part two

It's funny to me how we arbitrarily decide where a story begins. This story starts a year ago pretty much because I said so, and because it's just too much to start way back where it really started. I've got enough to tell you as it is.

About a year ago, I began to notice persistent feelings of heaviness that I couldn't really account for by examining my circumstances. I was slightly depressed and slightly anxious and slightly out of breath most of the time. I felt like I was walking in molasses, like I had to be very intentional to lift one foot in front of the other. I became less and less motivated, and more and more sleepy. I swear, I could have slept sixteen hours a day and I still would have felt run down. And most disturbing of all, I couldn't think the molasses had seeped into my brain and was mucking up my synapses.

Outwardly, things were going very well for me. I was just approaching the end of a year of diving into old spiritual practices with a group of amazing people, and I was basking in the glow of a successful writing project that was used by my church to introduce people to imaginative prayer. In fact, the project was such a success that the church was looking at ways to rework my job description so that I would be doing more writing. That was very exciting to me. I was spending lots of time getting to know my little grandbaby, settling into a new and rich stage of my life. I could go on and on here. Really, everything was great, so the heaviness was a puzzle to me. I decided to ignore it and hope it would just go away. (Brilliant strategy, huh?)

I realize, looking back, that this was the first of many "smoke signals" my body was sending me. It was trying to get me to pay attention to something that I didn't particularly want to notice. Bodies are amazing, really. They know stuff. I wish I was as smart and creative as my body. It's a flippin' genius. I think I'll spend the rest of my life saying "thank you" for all the ways it tried to get me to listen, and "I'm sorry" for all the ways I plugged my ears and said, "la la la la...I'm not hearing this!" My poor, ignored, unappreciated body is still suffering from a psychic sore throat because of all the screaming it had to do to finally get my attention. Things had to get very ugly before I began to turn to it and say, "Oh, I'm sorry, was there something you were trying to tell me?"

But at this point, my body was just sending me nice, polite little notes. It didn't pull out all the stops and take me hostage for quite some time...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

the scoop, part one

I'm not terribly certain how I came to be where I am today. The last year is something of a blur. I thought that maybe if I just began writing, the story might start to take some shape and become a bit clearer to me. So here I am writing.

A year ago I was a pastor and a counselor. I had a secure home. I had a fairly settled sense of where the future was taking me.

None of that is true for me today.

And I'm happier.

So let's begin...

Friday, April 2, 2010

good friday

In honor of Easter weekend, I thought I would post a meditation I wrote last year about the Garden of Gethsemane from the viewpoint of Peter. It's meant to be entered into imaginatively with all of your senses.


The heat of the desert is giving way to a biting cold as evening descends. Peter wraps his clothing tighter around him as he approaches the garden with Jesus and James and John. They are Jesus’ closest friends, but he finds no comfort or pride in that now. They’ve just come from the Passover meal, and the words of Jesus are echoing in his mind. Words like “death” and “betrayal” and “before this day is ended, you will deny me three times.” The taste of the bread is still in his mouth and it tastes like crushed dreams and disappointed hopes. This is not what he expected when they entered the city on a path of palm branches to the shouts of “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”.

The darkness of the olive grove is heavy around them, and the gnarled trunks provide no place to rest. Jesus whispers, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Sit here while I go and pray.” Something in Jesus’ voice and eyes is startling; is that fear? How can Jesus be afraid? The knowledge of it shoots through Peter’s heart like an arrow, and he searches the faces of his friends for something more familiar than this, but there is only terror and confusion. He feels the strength draining from his limbs like water as he watches the one he loves walk a little distance from them and fall to his knees.

He hears little ribbons of Jesus’ prayer. He hears him praying that if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him would pass him by…that the cup of suffering would be taken away. And then he hears the words, “yet, I want your will to be done, not mine.” Peter’s eyes feel like heavy wooden doors. His head is pounding and his thoughts are impossible to catch. Against his will, he drifts into a fitful sleep with vivid and tormenting dreams.

Peter wakes to Jesus standing over him, shaking him gently with searching eyes. “Couldn’t you stay awake for even one hour? Keep me company and pray with me a little while so you won’t be tempted. I know your spirit is strong, but your body is weak.” Even here in Peter’s first betrayal, Jesus is his friend, caring for him, watching out for him. A stab of regret goes through Peter and he shakes off the tangled cobwebs of sleep.

Jesus goes to pray again, the same words, the same groaning, the same requests going up to a silent heaven. His body is shaking and his words come in sobs. His clothing is drenched and clinging to him, and appears strangely dark. It’s too much to take in…too much for Peter to grasp. Fatigue and confusion descend on him like a curtain, and he falls asleep again.

Once more Jesus shakes Peter and pleads with him. “Stay awake with me, Peter. I don’t want to be alone. Please pray with me.” Peter lifts himself up and sees that Jesus’ clothing is soaked with blood but there are no wounds to make sense of this. Then he sees the beads of sweat tinged dark red across his face and he understands, and this knowledge comes with the terrifying certainty that Jesus is actually going to die. Peter and James and John promise to stay awake, and they huddle together for warmth as Jesus goes one last time to pray.

When Peter wakes the third time his heart sinks with the knowledge that he has already begun to deny Jesus. He hears the sound of a crowd in the distance and sees the glow of fire flickering off of the leaves of the olive trees. Jesus has changed somehow. He’s calmer now and he speaks the words, “Look, my betrayer is here.” Peter shivers as Judas approaches and kisses the face of Jesus, the sweat and blood leaving their mark on his lips. Jesus glances at Peter, and there is a kind reassurance in his eyes as the soldiers lay their hands on him.

~ ~ ~

Where are you in this story? What is Jesus’ invitation to you?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

a whisper at the end of a long silence

I am here. I am writing again.

It feels good and also feels scary. Sort of like I misplaced my invisibility cloak. (Those things are really handy!)

I'll be back later with more, but for now I felt like it was just important to step back into the world of out-loudness.

I am here. I am writing again.