Am I a sheep in wolf’s clothing?

The author, having a moment

The author, having a moment

I used to be passionate about Halloween. I loved it! I decorated the house with all sorts of fall surprises and carved elaborate pumpkins. My favorite part, even better than the roasted pumpkin seeds, was the costumes. I have bins and bins of them. People call me often and ask to borrow them this time of year. It’s always a pleasure to dig through the bins and find something that suits them perfectly. I like to take pieces and put them together in crazy combinations. Haunted Harry Potter? Rock’n’Roll Pharaoh? Dead Scarlet O’Hara? You want it. I’ve got it. Not only did I like creating someone else, I really enjoyed being someone or something else for a little while.

However, something in me has changed. I just do not have the same Halloween huzzah as I used to. I not only don’t want to make mozzarella and pretzel broomsticks, I can’t even decide if I am wearing a costume this year.

Why the shift? Introspection is whispering something from deep within me. It’s been a long time coming, but I think that I almost can put it into words. I can hear the core of me saying, “I like myself.” Its also saying, “Why would you want to be anybody else?”

I have heard other people say that I am confident. Perhaps they would say I have a strong sense of who I am and other’s opinions do not bother me. This is, for the most part, true. What is NOT true is the fact that I have not really loved myself for a really long time. As women, sometimes it is so difficult to fully accept and appreciate and love the self we have become. I have found the closer that I get to the Lord, the stronger my love of self is. As I look to Him, it’s a mirror of the good things in me. To me, that is amazing. It’s a revelation. It’s a shedding of false beliefs. Its a shedding of a costume and emerging as myself.

Forgiveness Comes From Without

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In one aspect of his life, my ex-husband is incredibly generous: he gives me countless opportunities to practice forgiveness. Time and repetition have not made forgiveness easier. If anything, my anger and disappointment have leaked into other areas of life, instead of immediately charring to blackened curls on the most recent act of stupidity.

Leaked, because instead of having charity, there have been times when I have wanted to go and break my hand punching him, and the lack of his address was the only save/spoiler. Other times, I am so bitterly disappointed in myself at being surprised by his behaviour that eucalyptus and lemon scent the air around me, which then cooks into steam in my fury. Then, sodden with my emotions and burdens, I flash fry everything within arms reach in frustrated realisation – now I have to try and forgive myself as WELL as the idiot I once loved.

Forgiveness hurts. Like when it’s left me cramping in a corner, trying to straighten out my fingers, because countless things I’ve forgiven have had my claw marks on them by the time God gets them. At times, the knowledge of how hard I’d have to work to repent and forgive has been the only barrier stopping me from hating my ex-husband. (That doesn’t mean I haven’t straddled that fence, wondering if I could still deliver a good kick from where I’m fuming). Sometimes, the only reason I can forgive others is because sometimes I see them in my sons.

Forgiveness hurts. It hurts right in your heart, and in the middle of your throat, and at 4pm on a sweaty afternoon when you’re struck mute at the beauty, majesty, stench and brilliance of your first born son, who clears his throat exactly the same way as his father and grandfather, and who has a mole just like his Oma’s above his lip. Forgiveness hurts as it burrows into the dry, desiccated threads of your uncertain soul, only to pour out glorias and exultation as your youngest drums out a crazy solo on the soft belly his paternal family has gifted him with. Forgiveness hurts as the love I have for my boys swamps me like an endless ocean, flooding back up the genetic ladder, until I’m unable to hate the flawed, frozen, fragile people that have had starring roles in creating my cruelest memories and – above all, and ultimately – my sons’ bodies, which house such incredible souls.

Forgiveness hurts. It cracks me open, from my furious logic to my scared, scarred heart, and scatters pieces of me into new, aching alignment. It hurts. The cracks are wide, fathomless, gentle and ferocious. The cracks are where the light gets in, swirls, soaks, soothes and – hopefully, thankfully, eventually – sweeps away to shine on others, even those lost in the dark.

Have you ever found your self at forgiveness, from an unexpected angle? How do you stop yourself being furious, hurt or betrayed at someone?

Peculiar Treasures: Stories For Our Selves and Stories of Ourselves

 

133HAnytime can be story time as far as my kids are concerned, but is there at time limit on when you should stop enjoying the books written for the kids or young adults? And are we limiting our children’s childhood (and stories of their own) when we limit their freedom and don’t leave them alone?

There’s a reason why children with trauma (those who have been truly left alone) don’t “get over it?”

Parents too.

Gangly-limbed teens may trick or treat at your door this week, perhaps it’s best if we remember its hard work growing up.

Have a quick bite of a story that will soothe and shock you in sixty quick seconds. Or settle into one of our favorites from one of our own, Angela’s book is being reprinted. Traveling and wanting to “do like the Romans do?”  (but in the  US ) you can now find the local flavor with ease.

On a more personal note, more information about some of our own stories from the history of our faith and people is now on the church website. (Please, keep these coming.) But don’t miss this fascinating find about much, much earlier faith stories.

This publication on the church site is also the source for one of our two (!) first draft poems this week. From Melissa Y.:

one thing (among many)
that religion has to offer
is a daily walk
with the possibility
of being wrong
about almost everything

of wondering
how dark that glass
really is

of finding that
for all my knowing,
it’s the unknowing
that feels most valuable,
this doubt not of God,
but of myself,
in a way that smiles
at my teaspoon grasp
of mystery

of learning to accept
mistakenness as a grace,
and those awkward,
stumbling steps
as dance

Our second poem comes from Jessie who crafted hers after reading a piece that spoke to her own experience when her spouse came out and moved on.

After years of tight confinement,
In the dark,
You emerge:
A beautiful, rainbow butterfly
Free to wave your true colors in the wind.
And I? I am left behind, forgotten
The empty husk, a forlorn chrysalis dangling from a branch.

 

 

Sabbath Revival: Elephant Tears

Indulge me today as I republish one of my first pieces I wrote here. Moving once again has refreshed so many of the feelings from this post I wrote three years ago.

I don’t cry a lot. I exercise my tear ducts often enough to make sure they still work, but I have hardly been called a water-works, cry baby or someone with leaky eyes. Yet, I am not at all like my husband, who I have never seen cry. In our ten year history I have seen his eyes well up twice. Once was telling me he wanted to marry me and the other was pulling out a nose hair. He saves his tears for very special occasions. I’m confident salted tears haven’t rolled his cheeks since 1992. My reservoirs spill over much more than that.

I can’t use the excuse that crying makes us human. Crying could also mark me as an elephant. These pachyderms, along with a few other animals, also produce tears from sorrow or stress. Elephants are highly emotive creatures, and show their emotions more readily than most people. They don’t bottle it up or wonder if it is socially acceptable, the way I try to schedule many of my tears. Continue reading

The Long View

My children and I starting a new path in 2011. Photo by Katie Stirling

My children and I starting a new path in 2011. Photo by Katie Stirling

 

Last year I took a full-time job at the university where I completed my undergraduate and graduate degrees. After several years away, being back where I spent so much time in my past has been both a wonderful and strange experience. The campus is a palimpsest, with layers of time and memory revealing themselves as I walk through buildings and down tree-shaded paths. There are the benches in the fine arts building where I took naps after art history class my freshman year; the school supplies area in the bookstore where I spent my hard-earned money on fancy gel pens to liven up my note taking; the building where I received my patriarchal blessing in a small campus office. Some of the places where I lived, worked, and studied have been completely erased—torn down to make way for new construction that still disorients me after being back on campus for a year. Eighteen years ago I was one of the new freshmen I now see walking around feeling simultaneously excited and scared (although I didn’t have a cell phone glued to my ear at the time). Continue reading