Main Pic

Main Pic

October 15, 2015

Paths



 
"Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost
 

 
I have been thinking so much lately about the symbolism of walking down a path, how we end up there and how it relates to life. Life is filled with so much symbolism and that is why I love photography and writing; you can turn the imagery contained in the mind into art.
 
My meditation on paths comes back to a feeling I have that we all end up where we are because we choose, consciously or unconsciously, to walk down a certain one and that leads us into the present moment. During the journey we encounter obstacles and circumstances that we did not plan or foresee and they challenge us and thereby humble us. These situations accompany us sometimes as a trusted friend or unwelcome foe and many times they define us. 
 
I think I am at a place in my life where I can pause and reflect on the paths that I feel I was called to by a voice greater than my own.

 

 
These pathways are still filled with road blocks and detours, choices, lessons and a lot of hard walking all the same, but there is something different about them.

 
 
 
They are filled with harmony, balance, connection and most importantly, they are filled with hope and joy. Wandering along I find myself pausing often, taking in all the little details that are important. I am a backpacker hiking a trail and I collect everything I need and I carry it with me.




I am not alone because I have the guidance I need inside of me. I have the wisdom I have gained through all this walking to consult with. I have fellow hikers, life wayfarers, to come and walk awhile with me. I have the songbirds singing melodies, the wind whispering secrets, the trees sheltering me when it's time to rest and dream a little. I have the Spirit leading me.  I have my breath to connect with, legs to move me, a passion for change directing me to travel deep into the broken places.  Most importantly I have LOVE and that can never fail me.


 
 
I feel grateful and alive. I haven't always felt this way, back when I walked some roads that tripped me up, but I walked them anyway and I can't go back. I move forward with thankfulness for every place I have passed knowing they made me who I am today.
 
 
 
 
This is it for me, walking these paths. This is all I have. I don't know what tomorrow holds. Life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. I know I have answered a call to do what I can to help this world heal while I am still here in the world healing. I am the hands and feet of a great movement of love and I do not take this responsibility lightly.  For the good works that come from my heart, the credit does not belong to me. It belongs to the voice that called me here and asked me to keep walking, keep noticing, keep showing up to love and help using the gifts I've been given.
 
Much love from a fellow sojourner.
 
xx
 
 
 
 
 
 

October 10, 2015

The beauty of brokenness

 



 
 
 
What do you see when you look at this barn?
 
Worn, toppling over, hazardous, useless; perhaps just a collapsing barn like my kids pointed out? 
 
Maybe you see a perfectly broken object that tells a story.
 
Do you see art?
 
I would love to have seen this barn in its glory days, standing tall and strong, a sturdy shelter for animals or hard working machinery. I wonder if this barn would go unnoticed if each piece of wood was solidly in place as before? Would people see all the potential?
 
I can imagine all of the reclaimed furniture that could be created with this weathered wood: farm tables where family could gather over home cooked meals; mantles that lovingly hold pictures of toothless kids and grandparents who left a legacy of love. I can envision long beams placed high into the ceilings of houses, stabilizing the very foundations we build inside the places we inhabit.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When I see objects like this barn, it reminds me that life is all about perspective and our histories often shape the way we look at things. It also points out that it's never too late to take a step closer to the brokenness and find the beauty residing there no matter how hard it is to get close.
 
Stepping near, into the shadow of this barn and all that it has become as a result of the physical storms of life, I can see where life springs forth from the fragmented, damaged spaces and it is so very beautiful.
 
 


 
 
 
 
Today this barn had a story to tell me about my own humanity.  
 
"Come closer to me. Don't just see me as broken down and weary from the downpours and the windstorms that have left me withered. Don't be scared of the fa├žade of my defectiveness because I can no longer meet the expectations you have always placed upon me.  I am not useless and I am not done. Step closer and notice the way the flowers cling to the framework of my being, how the sunshine streams in and washes the rust, the chipping paint, the shattered stone in radiant light. I may be insignificant by the world's standards but I am filled with  infinite potentiality.  When you are able to see the value in me, then so you will see it in yourself."
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 

August 24, 2015

"Paybacks"



I have discovered something in my almost nine years of parenting that is quite an unexpected thing: I am most often learning the same lesson my kids are learning at the exact same time. Solidarity with my kids makes swallowing these cautionary tales easier because I can say "I have been there, in fact, I am there."  This time it's about how to be the bigger person when faced with people that hurt us. There are many reasons why people choose to inflict pain on others. Maybe they have impulse control issues and say or do the first thing that comes to mind. Many adults never outgrow this. Perhaps they harbor resentments toward us that they are unable to verbalize and it later comes out in a hostile way.  Sometimes people are just insecure and act in a way that brings them power over you and ultimately makes themselves feel better. Often it comes down to a boundaries issue. I am sure there are many scenarios in between but I have decided not to spend time worrying about why people act the way they do because many times they themselves don't even have that insight into their own behavior.

I feel part of my calling as a human being is to be awakened to my feelings and behaviors and teach my children to do the same. Spending time in the "being" part of my nature manifests itself by observing why I do the things I do and how I feel about what I feel. I can carry my truths and I can work to actively change to become a kinder, more functional member of society. How can we act out of kindness if we walk around unaware of why we do the things we do? It's a difficult journey to wake up and witness our actions and how they play out in our every day lives. Sometimes I notice myself becoming short with my kids when inwardly I feel anxious or stressed out about a scenario that does not relate to them.  This is so common in all of us and yet we can choose to live in a way that honors our true selves and our callings if we make a choice to do so.

So what happens when someone close to you makes a hurtful comment about your appearance that seems so harsh and unnecessary at that time? What if it comes completely out of the blue by someone you care about that it's such a shock and so upsetting that you are stunned into silence?

What if as a child an older, much bigger kid uses force to get his way and ultimately hurts you physically? Perhaps it's on your own space and you cannot fathom how, while you see yourself  being kind and sharing your property, someone could be so hurtful to you out of the blue?

These are the situations my 6 year-old and I encountered recently and although at first it was upsetting in a very real way involving some tears and ultimately some anger at being treated so badly, it opened the door to some deep and meaningful discussion and solutions that neither of us will soon forget.

My 6 year-old chewed a little bit on the idea of giving this bigger boy a "payback" because he has seen other kids do that. He wondered what it would be like if he hit him back or blocked him with a board or tripped him. As parents who never condone violence unless needed for self defense, we sympathized and directed his feelings to brainstorming some healthy scenarios that would not escalate the situation more. His instinct to get an adult and make it known that he was hurt was ultimately what we agreed was the safest and wisest scenario and we praised him for being brave enough to seek help. However, a simple question remained in my son's head and a day later he questioned why that boy did not get any consequences for his behavior? Why was he still aloud to play? Not being disciplined for such disruptive and mean behavior was unconscionable to a child who understands that using physical harm in our house holds serious repercussions. Everyone parents differently is what we told him and all that matters now is how we respond to that behavior.

So why do adults behave the same way? Why do some people find it acceptable to criticize the flaws of others or inflict harm? How are we to respond to that? Sometimes just using silence can be beneficial and sometimes we need to communicate how we feel to make it known it's not okay. I thought of what I could say to pay this person back just like my 6 year-old verbalized to us and it feels good to imagine having the power back that they stole from us in that moment. Ultimately, this isn't a response that sits well with me and I hope will not sit well with my kiddos. It's okay to stand up for ourselves and say "Enough!"  It's not okay to pay back in the same way, throwing harsh, overly critical and hurtful comments or kicks in the shins in retaliation. Believe me, I've done it and have to bite my tongue, take a deep breath, walk away, seek help in order to stay in control over my emotions. The important part of this lesson is learning what boundaries need to be established in relation to those people and what that will look like in the future. You can say, "it's inappropriate for you to weigh in about my appearance and if you bring it up again, the conversation is over." And if someone becomes physical with you and you feel unsafe around them, it's absolutely okay to stay far away from them and seek help immediately!!

 So often in our society setting boundaries equates to lack of graciousness. Coming from a codependent child of alcoholics, setting boundaries is not only pertinent and necessary for our own well-being, it is showing ourselves the ultimate form of compassion.

It's not easy to be a "turn-the-other-cheek" person in a society that lives by an "eye-for-an-eye" mentality and yet it is worth the pursuit.  One of my favorite quotes by Mark Nepo says, “In a world that lives like a fist, mercy is not more than waking with your hands open.” My other favorite: "Do no harm, but take no shit."

May kindness be on your side today.

June 30, 2015

"Love"



We are here to love. That's all I know. Everything else gets so loud and murky sometimes. I find myself getting caught up in all the opinions for a little while, trying to do the thing that I do, make sense of it, see the human behind the words however harsh they may be, try to understand, try to relate, try to care and see that in the differences maybe there is a similarity. I do that for awhile until most of the time I get chewed up and spit out and land back on my butt even more confused than I was before I logged on and started reading anyway. All I know is that my heart hurts for everyone that is hurting right now and my heart rejoices for those that see the beauty in life and who gain freedom and equality. Shouldn't we all wake up feeling free?  I feel all of those things. Many people are hurt in the world and want love. I want love, I hurt sometimes. I am human. Maybe you are, too? Maybe you are gay or a Christian or you are black or white or Latino or have been abused by another human or maybe you are many of those things that really don't even define you. Maybe you are scared of putting yourself out there and fumble around like me.

You know what though? We are all pretty brave.

And we aren't very different from each other. Republican and Democrat, we are all pretty similar. We want protection for our families, we want to be treated fairly. We want to be cared about and care about others. We want others to understand us. To see us.

We want to be loved. In my mind this is what defines me: the way we are so very human yet with a great capacity to love, nurture, care and accept love into our hearts and let it transform us if we choose to. I don't know about you, but I have been so very lucky to have some hard love in my life. I say it's hard because love is a verb and it's an action. It feels like a tough weight to lift sometimes, to let love in enough to break that hard spot in our hearts that wants to be right. To put others before ourselves in a way that feels like it's the right thing to do, albeit not always the easiest. Love looks a lot like kindness, like compassion, like a question instead of a statement.

Learning to love as a human also looks a little like a debate sometimes and maybe even a little like a wrestling match. It's okay. I think love is worth wrestling with and love is worth learning about.

 
When I look at rainbows, I see love.


 
When I look at church steeples, I see love.



When I look at sunsets I see love.

When I see black and white and brown skin, when I hear different languages, when I allow myself to really see the differences and how they make us beautiful and unique, I see love. When I see children I see love and redemption. A symbol of a chance to get it right.

 


I don't always know the answers and often appear idealistic and juvenile but truly, in my mind, it's pretty simple. It's just the journey to get there that challenges us, scares us, tests us.

These lyrics by The Avett Brothers keep running through my mind.  I have read so many words and heard so many statements, I have locked myself in my mind and let it all swirl around in there and it channeled itself back out with the simplicity of this:

Temporary is my time
Ain't nothin' on this world that's mine
Except the will I found to carry on.

Free is not your right to choose
It's answering what's asked of you

To give the love you find until it's gone.

Love. Amen.