Category: writing

a different way

photo by Jennifer Upton (http://asharedlens.smugmug.com/)
photo by Jennifer Upton (http://asharedlens.smugmug.com/)

When I was little my sister and I fought all of the time. One of us would eventually run and complain to mom. Her standard response was “Don’t tell me what she did. Tell me what you did. Tell me what you could have done better.” 

It’s a good step—wise, although not very therapeutic. The part I’ve learned to supplement with is called reflecting feeling. It’s the part that comes before correction. You feel really upset that your sister didn’t ask to borrow your toy and now it got broken. I’m so sorry that happened. It’s unjust and you feel angry…

As my super smart counselor friend has taught me, this practice builds connection. The individual with the hurt (big or small) feels seen and heard. And especially when you’re talking to littles it’s a crucial step in teaching them to express their emotions in hopes that they’ll grow up to be healthy, emoting adults. After the feelings are reflected, it opens us up to receive comfort because we know the person sees us and is with us in that moment. As someone who loves Jesus, I will talk about how he feels for me.

 “Jesus knows how you feel right now. He loves you so much and cares deeply that you are hurting. What do you think he’s telling you?”

“He feels sad that I feel sad. He’s hurting that I’m hurting.”

“What do you think he’s asking you to do right now?”

“I think he wants me to forgive my sister. Because it was an accident and I know she didn’t mean to.” (Just pretend that my six year old self was this rational.) And here we’ve come full circle—the desired result in a family is unity. And I’ve been brought back around, while still having my emotional needs met. My needs mattered. I was seen and heard. And then I was able to let them go because I do desire to love my sister.

//

I saw a twitter exchange a few days ago and it made me deeply sad. An individual declared something on twitter that he probably shouldn’t have—but it was a conviction of his and he felt the need to share it. I don’t agree with him. I think 140 characters is a sham way to share a conviction because people miss all the nuances and shading that went into said conviction. But what horrified me was the way others began to mock him and throw stones. It was not “all in good fun” as they proceeded to run him to the ground and scrape his skin off. Memes were made. It was an undignified response to a comment that should have been left to rot. 

Because here’s the deal—I believe that all parties involved love Jesus. I think we are all working out our salvation with fear and trembling and while there are some pretty sharp disagreements, I don’t think we have to stoop to the level of toddlers flinging mud. I have a problem with humor at the expense of someone else. We have to see the human dignity in each other—it’s all we have left in this cold, harsh world. I hate that people tweet asinine things with what seems a divisive heart to draw a line in the sand—reminding the world there’s an “us” and a “them.” But we are all made in the image of God and we can’t forget that.

These tweets happen. And I think it’s fair that they anger and hurt us, or hurt those we care about. And I think it’s fair to respond—but not in a mocking or patronizing way. We need to expand the dialogue—not join him/her in the mud. We’re trying to erase the line—not draw it deeper in the sand.

I think unity comes when we reflect feeling. When we say, “these words hurt,” and we sit in that hurt. Because we will hurt one another—it’s a harsh reality in this almost but not yet world. And we can ask Jesus how he feels about that hurt. Then we can lean deeply into the Holy Spirit and ask how we should respond in a way that “preserves the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Sometimes that does look like making a mess and knocking over tables. Sometimes it might look like speaking up for the marginalized, offering a different lens from which to view the gospel. Sometimes we’ll need to pick up a sword to attack the lie. But I think the further we can stay away from mocking one another, the more love we show one another even in our disagreements, the more the world will see Jesus’s fingerprints all over us. We won’t ever be “disagreement” free, but maybe we can be conflict free…maybe we can be gracious and loving towards one another, even when we don’t deserve it. Maybe the hope of the world isn’t that we all agree all of the time, but that there’s room for all of us with all of our different shapes, stories, and experiences to sit together and break bread at the table.

Maybe we can nod our heads to the God we see in each other instead of slaughtering each other.

breathing in the untamed

IMG_3119There’s a savagery to civilization. Cutting down the sacred to make room for the new and improved. We have to destroy and mold it in order to make it safer. We beat and subdue it until it succumbs to our needs. Modern convenience. It’s a sacrifice we’ve made to tame the wild. Sometimes I look at the world and my heart breaks for how we’ve carved and divided it. We staked and claimed and ran out the native inhabitants (both animal and people) who were before us. We put in streets and neighborhoods and spread out over the land like locusts. We cut out the hearts of mountains, raped and plundered the earth’s depths forcing it to reveal it’s secrets.

We’ve tamed and subdued it so much that it has lost its wild beauty. There isn’t much that hasn’t been conquered or felt the effects of our rapid development. Yet without the modern conveniences of pavement and planes I wouldn’t be able to experience even a taste of this wild beauty. I stand at the edge of the world. It’s a place where animals still own much of the land, and civilization hasn’t fully invaded. I’m in a city—but it’s small compared to the ones I’ve left. I stand at a point in time where I can look out my window and see lush forests for miles, the people are few and far between.

I’m terrified of the bears that live up on these Alaskan mountains. But I want to climb them. It’s an agonizing tension—the need for safety and the call to this wild beauty where everything is possible. All the savagery but also all the expansion of my tiny body. My soul screams to experience life to its fullest almost as if it knows this is it’s one chance at adventure. But my body fights because it knows it is so fragile and mortal—torn apart easily by vicious teeth. And my mind mediates between the two…trying to appease the hunger of my soul and the fear of my flesh. And bit by bit I am succumbing to the desire for a savage beauty, an untamed wilderness, the call of the wild. 

a million ways

There’s a million ways. An infinite number of moments to say yes–to breathe life into dreams. Sometimes I have to say no. Sometimes I can’t be fully present or give my all and I have to step back. But I’m hoping my yeses outweigh the no’s.

We’re camping right now. Out in the woods of Tennessee enjoying slightly cooler weather and being unplugged from life a little bit. Although I did manage to find Free People on sale, get decent coffee and internet along the way. But before all that happened we took our kids down to the lake to swim. They laughed and played and built sandcastles. As we were getting ready to walk back to the campsite Doug showed Matthew a frog. He fell in love with the thing and wanted to bring it with us. We didn’t have anything to put it in and since our campsite is near the other side of the lake, there are also tons of frogs over there. We could find another one.

My boy is sweet. He’s a gentle, kind-hearted soul. So he was going to let his frog go because he understood we didn’t really have a way to carry it and it was a long walk back, and we could find another. He felt sad but he understood as much as his little heart could. And something in me roared to life in that moment. I told him I’d carry this frog back to the campsite for him.

His whole face lit up. I had just given him the world. We talked about his frog on the long walk back. I helped him pick out a name (Fishlegs) and told him how his frog was a wily little one, finding the cracks in my fingers and pushing his nose through, trying to escape. I had entered his world. In a small way, I had given him a moment that showed him I cared about what mattered to him. I love my son. I take care of him. I wash his clothes. I feed him. I give him good things and make sure he’s safe. But I feel like it’s these moments where he feels seen and heard. It wasn’t hard to carry the frog—a little tricky and maybe a little gross—but it would have been so easy to explain it away. “There’s more back there…” “You’ll get another…” “It’s not a big deal, it’s just a frog…” 

But it wasn’t just a frog to him. And I feel like by saying yes I kept his child-like wonder alive a little longer. He gets to believe a little more that the world is actually a caring place that will meet his silly froggy dreams. 

And sometimes I have to say no because we don’t have time, or I’m tired, or it’s not feasible. But my best moments are when I say yes to the unorthodox, the times when I bend towards my children and lift up the things that are important to them—treasuring them as if they are my own. Those are the moments when my kids feel seen and heard, and where I have connected with them.

I say no a lot.

But I hope I say yes more–a million random yeses so that when they’re older they’ll know their dreams matter to me.

they’re just…

A few months ago I started seeing a nutritionist because I had some friends who had really powerful stories about how she changed their life. That’s not really what this post is about. My nutritionist encouraged me to stop wearing an underwire bra because they have been related to certain health risks. Since I’m married to the man that I am, I can’t just accept a claim without research. So I did some research and couldn’t really find an answer that fully supported either argument. This post isn’t about that either.

Rather this is about the first time I left the house without a bra and how I felt like I was participating in some sort of licentious behavior. I texted one my friends:

Going bra-less today and I feel like such a rebel. And not approved of by “conservative circles.” It’s weird. I’m embarrassed by my overt sexuality–like my unconformed breasts are scandalous and more sexual. What is wrong with society?!?!?

Pride and hatefulness, that’s what. Jesus was friends with lots of women and none of them wore bras!

It’s pretty awesome how quickly that puts everything into perspective.

I haven’t worn a traditional bra for months. At first it was really weird and I noticed it all the time. It felt uncomfortable having skin touch skin in an area where I’d never experienced it before. I felt bouncy in a way that felt naughty. But the more comfortable I’ve gotten with it, the less aware I am of it. And I don’t think anyone but me has really noticed.

And for me, one result of this bralessness is that I have been able to embrace a part of my body that used to bother me. They’re just breasts. They are tissues of fat that are created as a means of feeding another human being before that human can get food for themselves. They are not sexual in and of themselves. They just exist–like my elbow or my shoulder. Sure, I can make them sexual and draw attention to them and put them on display. But in and of themselves they are not more or less than any other part of my body.

I have found a freedom to just exist. I am more gracious to the softer parts of my body because I’m not ashamed by a part that has been with me since I was thirteen years old. I have accepted the whole of me as I am and not as I think I should be. This is me–I am playful, flirtatious, funny, and sexual only when I want to be–not because a part of my body somehow claims that just by existing. I am able to better love my friends and their unique and differently shaped bodies. I see beauty in them because their bodies are wondrous things. Some remind me of mother earth, soft in all the best places. Some remind me of warriors as they champion for others and fight battles that most of us are oblivious to. Some are dryads and earthy and bring peace where they walk. All are beautiful in very non-traditional ways. Their bodies are strong and healthy.

My body just is. It exists the way that God created it. It is strong and soft and a cacophony of hills and valleys. It is not tempting or seducing anyone. And it doesn’t have to answer to anyone. I can love it for what it is and what it has done.

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