Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tales of a Wandering Wild Child

In the middle of sorting through my fears, dreams, hopes, and future plans I have found an Eden.

The wildness is calling me.

Lately, on my days off I am outside.

I’m running the trails behind Fullerton. I am in the mountains with my family. I am pinching the flowering heads off of my basil plants, and leaning into and the rich, deep smell of homegrown tomatoes in the sunshine. When I’m inside, I’m wearing woolen hiking socks and T-Shirt that says “Go climb a rock.” I am smelling the left-over bonfire smoke in my hair and reading John Muir letters.

The wildernesses outside and inside collide.

Life is huge. It is full of things we do not understand. There are great joys and great tragedies. And sometimes in the rush and crush of overwhelming feelings we miss the grandiosity, the extravagance and joy. I think the unexplained wildness of creation may be the very thing that calls to our hearts, the trigger of creation and the intricate detail of our innermost cells. Calling, calling, calling. It echoes through the uncertainty.

Nature is lifeline that ties my soul to a greatness and goodness that is beyond me. 

Years ago my family was in Yosemite for the Thanksgiving holiday. We were hiking in the Sequoias- the great trees near the southern entrance to the park. My younger cousin was walking next to me holding my hand. In the trees and the mist of the low laying clouds, she asked me, “Who is older, the trees or God?” The big, red, towering trunks drew our souls upward. I answered, “Well, God made the trees. So, He must be older, right?” I think He must be bigger and older, and far beyond our understanding.

I don’t want to be afraid of uncertainty, of deep emotions or of what comes next So, I look at the rocks, the trees and the symmetry, perfection and vastness of nature and I rest. I imagine all things made new, the joy that comes in the morning, and the face of the one who set the stars up in the sky.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” –John Muir

Wildness heals, frees and strengthens our hearts, or at least it does for mine. 

Let's wander there for a little while together.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fear and Feminism

This week I guest posted over at my friend Jen's blog for her series called "Expand." I felt pretty nervous about this because although I felt like I HAD to write about this, I also felt like it could cause some controversy.

Would people read grace behind what I was saying? Would they think I was just another woman screaming that men have gotten it all wrong? NOT what I believe by the way.

Anywho, in great trepidation I wrote and re-wrote and then sent this off to Jen for final editing. It's a part of my self examination of how fear has ruled my life. It's a part of the writing challenge that I set early this year.

Here's an excerpt from the middle;

"Looking back now, I feel like God was working on my trust issues with men at the same time as He was making me into feminist. Ironic. But, isn’t that the way that He does things?

I want to say here that there are a lot of people who I deeply respect who don’t like the word “feminist.” For them it is a militant term. It conjures up memories of bloody intellect wars, woman against woman, men against women, and accusations that multiply like popcorn. I’m pretty sure I’ve told people I was a feminist, only to have them do a double take and check for a bra strap.

Nevertheless, I still think it’s important to use the word feminist, regardless of the negative stereotypes or maybe even because of them."

For the complete post and some of the back story you can head over to Jen's blog by clicking HERE.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Fear Thou Not

Somewhere around the turn of the New Year, thoughts about fear kept weaving themselves through the fabric of prayers, experiences and conversations that make up the living, breathing fabric of Life. I suddenly stepped back and saw a greater pattern in mine. I saw some of the ways that fear has dictated my thinking and guided my decision making process. 

Fear dominated much of the way I approached my faith.

Fear snuck its way into my thoughts about femininity.

Fear told me to hold back reserves even in my deepest friendships. 

Fear kept me from following. 

Fear had my hopes for the future locked up tight in cages. 

But something has been shaking loose. 

"Be a Lamp. Or a Lifeboat. Or a Ladder. Help someone's soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd."  - Rumi

The BIG parts of life and death keep hitting me like a Mack truck. Rather than be the sad llama who feels oh so sorry for herself, I want to be the little big me, who puts one foot in front of the other and is a lamp, lifeboat, or ladder. 

Because fear damages our souls when it keeps us from looking at other people. It keeps fixated on our belly buttons, it would have us stay under false phosphorescent lamps rather than enter the darkness with a candle, steers us away from the storm-wrecked lives of those who need help, and tells us that the heights are only for those who are not grounded in reality.

Even worse is the way that fear has us lock up our questions about God and faith into neat little boxes rather than let our hearts be honest, clear, and messy. One thing I learned this year was to be unafraid of asking my questions. Because sometimes, our spiritual lives are more like a shouting match, than the traditional and celebrated "quiet time."

And when the storm is at its loudest point, and the winds of disappointment whisper that darkness and despair are all that is left, THAT is when we see the figure in the waves shouting back at us, "Hey! It's me. Fear Thou Not. I'm right here. Let me get into that boat and ride this storm out with you." [John 6:17-21]

Fear Thou Not. 

I say it over and over again to myself, "Fear Thou Not."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Perpetual Motion

Somedays I feel like my nickname should be “perpetual motion” but then days like today happen and I find myself sitting in the my living room, in a dark and quiet house, with the light from one candle and the chatter of far away traffic for company.

I feel shaken from the Holiness of death. Not in a fearful way, but it’s as if something Big has happened, and as if the longing space in my heart just grew deeper.

I feel like moving slowly and purposefully. Then I feel like tying on my minimalist shoes and finding a trail that runs a pathway under that big, clear moon that has just risen up to quiet the noisy sky.

I feel like eating chocolate and drinking whisky.

Or maybe I should just lay down on the wooden floor, and let silence wash over me. These moments are precious and if we “Have not Love” then all the words we speak are just noise, and all the actions we take are empty. Sometimes we must stop moving to feel and be filled.

And I remember:

And this time can I pray it true. By some miracle, I can pray it true.

Today, it's time to sit in the stillness again and listen.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ouchy-Ouch and Touchy-Feely

Welp. I was going to write something about pain, but… It just wasn’t gelling. Like seriously, this past weekend I wrote 4 different fragments of thought collections, and none of them were anything that I felt in my bones. I was on vacation with my friend Lindsay, trying to write, and suddenly turned to her and said, “This is not working. I think I maybe need to write something… gritty.” She nodded supportively and asked me ½ hr. later how my “getting gritty was going.” Yeah. I had nothing.

I have no success at "grittiness." It just looks like crazy eyes. 

Yesterday I was in a patients home with no words, tears in my eyes, and barren comfort to give the daughters of a young mom who is dying of cancer. Last night I was sweating the emotion out of every single pore of my body in a hot yoga class. And today was like listening to the same song on repeat- another family, more tears, and eye contact with my patients hazel eyes that blinked to push back the medications that are her life raft on a sea of pain.

I thought that I had a lot of "gritty" stuff to write about pain, but when I stopped today for my lunch break I found myself thinking instead about all the falling down messy laughing and terrible karaoke that I’ve done this year. And I remembered that a year ago when I was talking with a friend about starting my job at hospice, I told him that my theory about how to handle this work was to “be emotionally honest with myself as often as possible.” A year later, I have thicker “thinker” shadows in my forehead and new crinkles under my eyes. It’s been a year of touchy-feely moments; adventure, heartbreak, growth, and moments of being 100% THERE in what I was doing.

I’d like to think that it’s been a year of emotional honesty, although, it was also pretty scary at times.

In August, I felt SO much emotion that it was hard to function. From my well of sadness and confusion, I said to my brother. “It’s just hard to see anything good right now.” And Michael grabbed my shoulders and said; “I don’t think it’s going to be like this for you for long.” And he was right, because a month later I was on a trail in the Peruvian Andes, letting go of disappointment, chasing condors and bringing rocks home as mementos.

The scariest thing about emotions is how big they are, and how small we feel to contain them. To contain so much sadness, pain, anger, joy, and love, seems impossible. But, somehow, letting them out has kept me from becoming bitter, from hardening over, from freezing.  Henri Nouwen says that when we feel pain because of deep love, we allow the ground in our hearts to be broken deeper and deeper. So the pain and deep feeling are connected, and somehow it's worth it when we let the places we had hardened to keep ourselves safe be shattered. It makes no sense, the very pain of deep loving and feeling breaks us down and makes us more vulnerable to more pain and deep loving… The more we really let go and love, the more we have to keep loving. It becomes a way of life. And it kinda sounds like Jesus.

In 2013 I felt a lot, and it was terrifying but also beautiful. This year I’m going to keep feeling, and also practice telling that little voice of fear to suck it (I mean… Um, insert something appropriately ladylike here ________).

How’s that for gritty?

Saturday, November 30, 2013


Thankful. People have been using that word a lot this week. As it turns out, this time of year is a good time to look at all the things you have in your life, to count your blessings, to name them all, and then to celebrate.

Lately, I've talked a lot about the emptiness that I sometimes feel. I've talked a lot about the open handed, bleeding kind of love. I've talked about my tendency to throw myself pity parties and think "Why is life so hard?" What has been missing from this narrative are the moments of deep thanks and satisfaction; the full moments, or thankful moments- if you like.

The truth is that I usually feel like one really lucky girl.

My friendships are the kind that you cross oceans for, the ones who let you cry on their shoulders, and the ones who give you pep talks but also tell it to you like it is. We celebrated friendship and life a few weeks ago when we all passed around Megan's baby. A baby! Our little friend group, our circle of love is expanding! We belly laugh with each other. We know what the other persons voice sounds like on the phone when one is crying. We want the best and cheer for each other through the victories and failures. We make space for each other in the brightest and darkest places in our hearts. We whisper pray together. These are my friends.

My family.

I mean, what else is there to say? Can I really describe to you how blessed I am with my family?  My siblings are also my friends. If I ever needed someone to fight for me, they would, but in the meantime they just invite me over when I'm sad, and give me hugs and then feed me. My parents taught us how to serve, commit, communicate and love. Their generosity continues. And even in my extended family the ties seem to grow ever stronger, the aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents are all woven into a blanket of affection that spreads out over a widening landscape and a prettier panorama.

My job means something to me. Every so often, on a difficult day, I close my eyes and remind myself that this job was unexpected, and that it popped up in front of me. I had literally been praying for a month, "God, I don't know what's next so please just bring something and put it right in front of me." And tada! This job happened. The weight of people's fear and pain is hard sometimes. I'm still sorting out how much of "each others" burdens I'm supposed to bear. I have, on average, cried once a week since I started this job. But over half of those tears were shed over Hope rather than sadness. Deep down in these difficult places I felt a sense of awe. Being there during death is BIGGER than I ever thought it would be, and it makes me believe that God is bigger than I have ever let him be.

My home is a place where rainbows light the sky after the rain, where clouds peel off of the mountains, and where the ocean changes colors and rolls onto the shore. But my home is not here, or in Peru, or really anywhere. I don't feel like I fit here anymore. That feeling never went away, even after the "culture shock" of coming back to Orange County. My friend Josh calls this a state of Holy Discontentment. The real realization that we are just square pegs trying to fit into round holes wherever we go. So, I don't feel completely "comfortable" anywhere anymore, but you know what, I think that's ok.

If I open my hands in thankfulness and celebration then it's easier to look for the ways that life is a blessing. It's easier to see possibility and growth. It's easier to appreciate the good in the people around me. I'm remembering that today. I'm remembering all the ways that I am full.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Nothing and Everything

On Monday I lit a candle and prayed about Faith, Hope and Love. It went something like this; “Let our Love keep burning when Faith and Hope flicker.” A beautiful prayer… 

Except that my innermost being was saying something more like this. Ahem.
“shit, shit, shit. F***”

So, I guess that should be filed away with my other not so beautiful, and yet honest, prayers.

 I also said to God, “I have nothing. And I have everything.” I didn't understand that statement but it felt real, and it kept coming up throughout the week.

I had nothing and everything when my family sat together grieving, crying, and praying. When we called each other to see “how it was going,” and when other people outside of our immediate family asked to come and to BE there. You realize how many people you have when you really need them.

Later in the week I walked with a dear friend. We were talking about singleness, and circling a reservoir while the stars and glow of city lights came out to illuminate the sky. It was dimly lit, and I kept tripping over the uneven asphalt. A barn owl slowly swiveled its head towards us, startled, and then glided slowly away into the California scrub oaks. We fell silent. The things we didn't have flitted from our minds as effortlessly as a five foot wingspan opening into the cool darkness. We may have had “nothing,” but we also had everything, every potential and every dream.

Then, today during a long first visit, a new patient, a new life and a new family full of grief, "nothing and everything" circled back again. My patient was unable to speak, but tapped her long nails, manicured two days ago- before her debilitating and sudden illness, into the palm of my hand, and then squeezed. I felt her squeezing my heart, not just my hand, and I bent over to whisper her name. I had nothing to give to her, no understanding of the mystery of death, but somehow felt that I had everything. I could just sit and BE there with her.

After nearly a week of nothing and everything I have decided that love does burn on. It courses through our veins as we reach out and are real with the people around us. THIS LOVE is Jesus’ love that bled out of His hands, feet and side. This love knows what loss feels like. This love is still waiting. So, even though Faith and Hope took a hit this week, and even though we can feel the sadness and grief pouring out of open and surrendered hands, Love remains. 

At least, I think it does.

And in the meantime, I'm still burning my candle.