Thursday, December 23, 2010

I'll Meet You in the Field

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” ~Jalal ad-Din Rumi

Somehow I know that it's there in that field that I'll find the Tree of Life that Adam and Eve felt "driven away from." The "good" and the "bad" sorting system will collapse and it will just be...us. To imagine the sort of love and connections we could have without that sorting system governing us is stunning. THAT, to me, would be "heaven." To not need to have sorting words in our vocabulary but to instead show ourselves as we truly are and see the beautiful truth of everyone else. And then to simply love one another. That would be home.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On a Sunday in '81
















Red velvety pew seats that aren't as soft as they look
11 o'clock sun hesitantly shining through dirty stained glass windows
Heads all around me - curly, grey, short, long, brown, straight, blonde - bowed.
Pastor's soft but loud voice in the microphone murmurs
Then lifts and falls
Falls and then lifts

And then
Like a transistor radio my four-year-old ears suddenly tune in words and phrases
"...cast into burning hell"
"...a place prepared for the devil and his angels"
"...eternal separation from God"
"...those who are saved will be ushered into glory"
"...they will be with God"
Some words fall to the ground, incomprehensible
Others stick to the lobes of my brain
Where cement is quickly poured
Grey matter will eventually learn to skip agiley over those spots without even looking down

Many more words later
Many more pages later
Many more wordless cries later
Many more appeals through ragged sobs later
Many shouts into empty rooms later
Many more thoughts locked away before they can become words later...

A door opens
Fingers pick at lobes grown around cemented old words
They dig deep
Oh!
Pain in core of my being
Blood - so much blood
And then the cement is finally removed - all but a crusty film
And I am broken
So broken

Bandage up, or try to
And then the angry voices
A few sad voices
They are angry about my bandaged wound
Or more accurately, bloody pieces of cement cast aside
You can't do that, they say
But it's done, I say
There's no putting that back
That's done
That's over
That's through
They leave - for now
Silence
And then
Aching, crawling, relentless pain
I can hear my own groaning in my ears
It's your own fault, they say over their shoulders
They keep walking

Pain knocks me over
I fall in the discarded shards of broken, bloody cement
That cut my knees
That try to enter through my hands
But I roll away
Into the shadows
My own voice in my ears -
Someday wounds will heal (whispered)
Someday wounds will heal? (voice breaks into splinters as it falls like a glass into a sink)
Someday wounds will heal
And then?
Learning to think around and through
Scar tissue

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why I'm Never Making Another To-Do List Ever Again

I hate "to-do"Lists.

I always have.

And yet I make them.

I always have.

I guess I just keep thinking that one day I will check every last thing off that list. And when I imagine how that will feel...well it goes something like this....

One day I will get up, ready to rock, my to-do list in hand, and will one by one, check every single task off the list. When I've checked off the last task and my work is done, I will feel a sense of accomplishment and the license to put my feet up, breathe in the sweet scent of cleaning supplies filling the house, have a slice of the delicious freshly-baked chocolate cake that of course popped out of the oven exactly on cue, the moment I finished my "to-do's." And which I can eat without guilt since I of course ran 6 miles that day. Duh...it was on my to-do list. I will push my perfectly-styled hair out of my face, since of course showering and primping was part of my to-do list, right after that run. I will take a sip of my coffee. And I will just. Breathe.

This is the kind of idiotic, idealistic and impossible thinking that prompts me make to-do lists that I never DO. And you don't have to tell me this all adds up my being a "type A"/obsessive compulsive nutcase. I'm well aware.

What always happens is I check a few off and then the sheer number of things still remaining overwhelms me and I end up rebelling against my own to-do list! Then I feel like I'm a loser at everything: Loser Mama, Loser Friend, Loser Writer, Loser Blogger, Loser Editor, Loser Ship-You-the-Stuff-You-Ordered-From-Me, etc. I feel frustrated with myself and can't even feel good about the stuff I DID get done.

It's really awful. Except that I really like writing with my favorite Sharpie Extra Fine pens. Like...a lot.

But anyway...
I think I get LESS done when I have an exhaustive to-do list with dozens of items than if I just get through the day doing what I can, when I can.

So today I tried something new.

Instead of writing tons of tasks I am quite aware need doing and would do, without the to-do list (dishes, countertops, moving laundry through, picking up the morning mess the kids left behind, etc.), I wrote down names.

Yes. Names. Four names to be exact.

Two were friends. One was a writer I'm working with. One was my 4-year-old.

All four people were people with needs I specifically wanted to address today. I could have made a list of individual tasks related to those names that would have overwhelmed and probably shut me down. But somehow four names on a paper, all four whom I like a great deal, felt do-able. I hoped.

And it worked!

It kind of surprised me! There were unexpected phone calls, interruptions I hadn't anticipated, additional tasks I'd not counted on that presented themselves, pink applesauce I hadn't planned on finding smashed into my rug, but I took them in stride because they didn't block me from dealing with the four people on my list.

I texted one friend. I emailed the other friend and then worked on some art stuff she and I are collaborating on. I talked to the writer on the phone, re-read some writing he did and then emailed him some follow-up thoughts. And I purposely spent time just sitting and scratching my son's back, listening to him talk about Thomas the Train and who has "passenger cars" versus who doesn't.

And I feel...strangely peaceful.

My hair is not done. I never put make-up on. But I didn't go anywhere and James thinks it's cute when my hair is all crazy! I didn't push "enough" laundry through. But there are four people who I loved, connected with, took care of, reached out to, helped, encouraged and gave my best.

And it feels so great. And I'm going to keep doing this, as long as it continues to work. No more To-Do lists for me! I'm going to make People Lists.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What My Grief & Benjamin Button Have in Common

I was talking to a friend who is going through a very painful time…her whole life is seemingly turning upside down…and inside out. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I listened to her heart breaking.

I’ve been thinking about where my tears came from. I don’t always cry when others share their pain, even when I am close to them. I realized that as she described the dreams that are lying in shards around her feet, she was speaking words that have come out of my mouth, too. And some that haven’t.

After listening to her talk about the depth of her pain, I began thinking about how much I hope she can accept whatever the shape her pain takes and not to worry if she is "grieving right."

The image that came into my mind was of a newborn baby, all swaddled up. The shape of her pain. No matter how ugly, deformed, loud, demanding, fussy or weak a baby is, there is something in us that rushes forth, without our even having to tell ourselves to do so, and cradles a baby. Babies are innocent, helpless and simply NEED. They don’t have anything to give back. And yet, we would protect and comfort a baby, whether it was our baby or someone else's, whether it had years of life ahead or mere moments.

As I imagined my friend’s grief as a little life, in need of love and nurturance, I had to ask myself why I didn’t feel a similar compassion for the shape my own grief has taken. In my own life, even when I’m in the darkest of places, I tend to care far more about what I'm "supposed to" do, how it's "supposed to" be, instead of simply “tending to” myself with the compassion I feel toward my friend today. Why is that?

Months ago I saw “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and I remember when they showed the baby’s face I felt simultaneous disgust and compassion, right along with the woman in the film who would later become his “mother.” She couldn’t help herself.

When I approach my own grief and pull the blanket back from around its face, I see a monster that I’d rather drop off on a doorstep the way Benjamin’s father did in the movie. My grief shouldn’t be here, my mind tells me. My grief has no place here. It’s my fault that I feel the loss that I feel. If I hadn’t made the choices I made I wouldn’t have the burden of this ugly, misshapen grief to carry around my life.

After all, my grief is illegitimate. It shames me every time it fills my heart and mind. Every time the feelings of loss, sadness or pain come, there is the inevitable shame right behind them. If I show this grief to someone else, to try and receive some empathy or comfort, I am met with more judgment, more rejection and more shame. So I hide it.

This ugly child that is my grief was one born out of sin, I’m told. I fucked up and this is the illegitimate result of my mistakes. Basically I’m told, I deserve this pain. I deserve this grief. This grief is what I GET for sinning. It doesn’t matter why I sinned. It doesn’t matter how bad the pain was or what had been done to me. It doesn’t matter. The point is, I sinned. That’s what matters, everyone seems to think.

It seems that if my grief had been born out of something besides my sin, I’d have the right to the comfort, empathy and compassion of others I long for. I’d be held. I’d be patted. I’d be hugged. I’d be kissed. I’d be fawned over. I’d be loved. “I’m so sorry you are going through this pain,” they’d say, softly, concerned that even the tone of their voice would go even a little way to ease my pain.

But this…this ugly grief…this grief that is my own fault…it is my just punishment. I must endure it, and how dare I complain.

Not only that, this grief is the kind I should learn to keep to myself. No one wants to hear about it. In fact, I should pretend not to feel it. When it threatens to swallow me up, I should choke it down. I should eat it until I am sick, and only spit out the bones when no one is watching. How dare I offend the sensibilities of others by allowing them to see this hideous spawn of my sinful acts?

No, I do not love or accept the shape of my grief. How can I, when no one else does? There is no lap for me to sob on. There are no arms to hold me up when the grief knocks me to the floor. There are no ears to hear the ragged sobs.

So I pick up my ugly, squalling, illegitimate grief and cover it. I want to smother it, but then I know it would live on inside of me. So I wrap it up, put a finger in its mouth to soothe its screams, hold it close and sneak quickly and silently into the night.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What makes you feel loved? Besides gifts of cash and comments about your smokin' hot body?

I was having a conversation with a friend and I found myself trying to explain the difference between "knowing" I am loved (like..."I know my therapist loves me because she doesn't cancel my sessions and only occasionally suggests that I might try coming only once per week and see how it goes") and "feeling" loved ("You know I can sometimes have a potty-mouth and use more toilet paper than anyone you have ever known or heard of, but you still love me").

It got me thinking. The differences aren't simply shades of intellectual understanding. I can actually pin-point behaviors and actions that, when someone points them in my direction, make me FEEL loved. This is mostly g-rated, so please don't treat this as an exhaustive list:

Some things that make me feel loved:

-Having some of my "responsibilities" lifted off my sore shoulders and taken care of for me. Stuff like, "No, no, no...STOP RIGHT THERE...drop that sponge and remove yourself from this kitchen IMMEDIATELY. And get the hell out of here and take this glass of Muscato wine with you! Acutally, take the bottle! And when I come in the studio to check on you, half that bottle better be gone, young lady!" That's just an example, of course.

-Back/neck rubs. I have a lot of discomfort and carry tension there. I'm a 33-year-old woman with one of those ugly blue heating pads lying around my house like old people have. This is serious. I'm contemplating the purchase of Epsom Salts.

-When someone says, "This reminded me of you," especially when it's something I didn't know anyone else knew I liked/would appreciate. A beautiful diamond necklace. Anything from the "Victorian Trading Co." catalog, especially that one thing on page 10. The entire season of The Office on DVD. A case of that nectar of the gods, Peppermint Mocha Coffee Mate creamer.That kind of thing.
-Compliments. Stuff like, "You're the hottest woman in the whole world" or "I'm aghast at the sheer genius of your deep, pentrating and fucking-awesome prose." You know...simple, sincere stuff, from the heart. (o.k. I guess it's not totally a g-rated list...sorry)
-Little reminders someone is thinking about me...a simple text, an email, link to a special song on youtube, notes, large cash gifts, etc.
-Surprises. Not like a surprise party! I don't like those. In fact, I might run out crying if you try to give me one. But a pre-planned evening that I don't know about, a surprise trip, a gift I don't know about or a dress picked out with me in mind (maybe at, say...Black and White Market...if anyone wants to know).
But seriously...you know what all that means to me?

-The other person wants to know me and when they find something new about me, they mirror it back to me verbally (feeling SEEN).
-The other person knows all of me, including my mistakes, and they look past them to the real me they know me to be (in practice: they don't define me by my mistakes)

-They "rush toward me," leaving the "half-way point" way behind, even when I am in so much pain that all I can do is curl up in a ball. They "come and get me."

-They delight in my personal growth. They don't freak out when I change. They want for me to be an authentic person MORE than they want me to make them feel a certain way or agree with them.

-When I am in pain or experiencing some other strong emotion, the other person is visibly "moved" and can't help but respond and/or take action. This means I don't feel like my feelings (pain, passion, sadness, joy, etc.) happen in a vacuum. I am SEEN, and because I am SEEN, the other is MOVED. And they make sure I know it.
So how about you? What makes you feel loved?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"I Want To Be Seen with a Fresh Pair of Eyes"



Lyrics:

"'Cause I want to be seen
With a fresh pair of eyes
The single white tree
In a black hood of disguise

I want, I want to be seen
With a fresh pair of eyes
The single, the single white tree
In a black hood of disguise

I miss God, I miss God
I miss God, I miss God"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Why does this touch something so deep? The Christians who love me might be hoping "I miss God" means I'm coming back into the fold (knowing smile/wink/the "I'm sorry!" look on my face) but alas, that's not it at all. Sorry guys. :)

So why does this strike something so deep inside of me. Well, I think, after some reflection it means:

I miss...

something I don't know if I've ever felt before, yet somehow I know what it is.

I want...

"to be seen with a fresh pair of eyes."

Which means...I think...

seeing myself in a way I never have.

Which can be summarized in one word:

Enough

I don't know (when I'm honest)....

If that's because I am not "enough" or because I can't see myself.

There. I said it. And not because I want a response. In fact, comments are closed on this one.

You see, if I've learned anything, it's that depending on the opinion of someone else...the approval of someone else...to give me value is.one.big.fat.mistake.

Perhaps that sounds like it comes from a jaded, callous heart.

That's because it does. But the real me...the one that KNOWS...knows that it's not just that.

My knowing says there's a deeper truth there, under the pain.

Somehow I got to age 33 (o.k. almost 34) with the mistaken belief that I need to be seen, understood and then loved by someone else in order to be "enough." I have walked around thinking that until someone really sees ME, really GETS ME, and looks at me, warts and all, and says, "Cheryl, you are enough...you are everything I have ever wanted...," that I'm...well....NOT enough. If you want to read about how MUCH I've wanted this, you can find it here, here and here.

That so doesn't work.

I could write a book (and probably will) about how I figured this out. But you probably already know the story, because really, when we look at it deep enough, beyond the unique details of one person's life, it's a very HUMAN story.

That story is simply this:

I am more than other people say that I am.

And...this one's the hardest to really "get:"

I am more than I say that I am.

That's where the "Fresh Pair of Eyes" comes in.

A friend sent me a link to this absolutely amazing video that simply must be watched, and watched to the very end. 

Here's the big "a-ha" moment for me in this: 
"When we work from a place that says, 'I am enough,' we stop screaming and we start listening." (Brene Brown)

For me that means that maybe, just maybe, if I can stop looking to others to define my value, I can "un-curl" out of the little ball of pain I've been in for so long, I can really SEE me. And maybe...just maybe...see myself as "enough."

And today I realize...<Tears>...today I realize....

That what I really long for is not someone else to tell me I am enough, but to really believe I am enough. I can't wait any longer to hear someone else say that. And what if they change their minds? There's the rub. So I realize it's going to have be my own voice saying, "You are enough." And somehow I'm going to have to learn to believe it.

I'm so not there.

Normally I wouldn't write about this if I didn't have this down. But hey...I'm trying some new stuff.

So I guess what I really want...

underneath all the pain...

Is not to "be seen by a fresh pair of eyes,"

But to see MYSELF with a fresh pair of eyes.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Put down the pooper scooper: I'm not shit and you aren't, either!

















I was interacting with Ron Hollenbach on Twitter and in my effort to explain why I take issue with this post by Fleming Rutledge about Advent, I ended up realizing something pretty big for me.

Fleming Rutledge wrote, "When a culture of impunity is present human beings become bestial toward one another~that’s not an opinion; that’s a fact." She goes on to say, "Imagine a world without judgment. That’s impunity," and to basically imply that without impunity we'd all be doing atrocious acts of violence.

I just don't buy it. As I was trying to put this into words, I ended up tweeting,

"The problem is not our hearts; Our hearts are the solution."

And then I had that sensation that you get when you have one of those rare but wonderful "a-ha!" moments. The heavens open up. The hallelujah chorus. Rays of sunshine. The whole nine yards.


O.k. so maybe your thought is, "Duh..."


Or maybe it just feels so freaking-super-duper-significant in my funny little mind because of its uniquely goofy wiring and idiosyncrasies. And genius, of course. haha.


But either way, it's really, really BIG for me!

See...I grew up thinking...hang on...here comes a caveat... 

(not because anyone intended to teach me this...I need to preface these "I grew up" statements because I am fully aware my own kids will grow up and say, "I grew up..." and I will say, "What the HELL??? That's the opposite of what I was saying, you dodo-head!" or something along those lines)

I grew up thinking that without Jesus' death, which covered over my sins and allowed him to come into my life in the form of the Holy Spirit, I was pretty much...well...SHIT. To put it simply.

Yes. I was shit. And there I was all stinky and nasty and needing to be picked up with a pooper-scooper and flung straight into...well...HELL.

But Jesus strong-armed the pooper-scooper out of God's hands, calmed him down (he really despises poop, you know, and was always itching to pitch me and all the other shit in the place he specifically, intentionally designed for shit since the beginning of creation...you know...he made us...then made a place to torture us...totally logical) and threw himself on the cross. When he died there, then came back to life, now God looked at me and saw....flowers. Or at least less stinky poop. Depends on the particular brand of theology you subscribe to. But anyway, I wasn't just plain old poop anymore.

IF!

And oh, that's a big "if." IF...I agreed with God, "Yes, God, I am stinky shit and I deserved to be thrown into hell, but thank you for sending Jesus to wrestle the pooper-scooper out of your hands and die on the cross so that you could get those awesome rose-colored glasses you wear now when you look at me."

You see, depending on what church it was, what pastor it was, or how well my ears had been cleaned (you never know where these ideas come from), I vacillated between thinking that God super-glued those rose-colored glasses on his face OR that I had been reconstituted from stinky shit into something different...pretty flowers, let's say. It was usually a funny melding of the two.

Either way, I was stinky shit without God. Either way, I was on the way to hell with all the other stinky shit, until Jesus saved me. And either way, now, on this side of agreeing to all the right things, I'm going to heaven when I die and I'm now capable of maybe possibly doing some good because now God is in me in the form of the Holy Spirit.

But here's the problem I've always had with this idea. That means, if you aren't a Christian, YOU, my lovely bloggy friend, are stinky shit. It's easy to think Sadaam Hussein is stinky shit or the guys raping women in Zimbabwe in the Advent post I am reacting to are stinky shit. But what about....your friend? Your spouse? The lovely, caring man at the nursing home who doesn't have to visit your elderly mother every day, but does anyway...who it turns out is Buddhist? The sweetest angel of a kindergarten teacher who it turns out is an atheist? And what do you do when Stinky-Shit-Atheist-Lady is nicer than you? Or what do you do when you find out your pastor was molesting little boys?

So this has been a really big problem for me. I just don't buy that we are all "desperately wicked," "evil" bastards that, given the opportunity, if no one were watching, would rape, kill, steal, maim and destroy everyone else.

But then people get raped, killed, stolen from, maimed and destroyed by people who it is way easier to just agree are "Stinky Shit." It's much more convenient to believe that if they just accepted the free gift of salvation through Jesus, they would stop being Stinky Shit. It's a lot easier to think that their problem is being HUMAN.

But I'm human. And I don't rape or kill. Guess what? I just checked really thoroughly in my heart and...surprise! I don't even WANT to rape or kill! And here's the inconvenient truth...brace yourself...

I'm not a Christian.

So what to do now?

I'm being all snarky and sarcastic, but now I'm going to stop, sit down and let the tears flow.

Yes. Tears.

How many years did I waste not feeling good enough? How many years did I waste feeling guilty because I clearly wasn't fully surrendered to Jesus if I wanted to make out with my boyfriend? How many years did I spend begging God to take all of me and reconstitute every little cell of me, no matter how long it took, or how painful it was, into who he wanted me to be?

My chest aches thinking about it. Why?

Because I was already who he wanted me to be.

Oh my that hurts.

So today, when I was finally able to say,


"The problem is not our hearts; Our hearts are the solution,"


It felt AMAZING. There it was. All simple and shiny and right.

The truth. What I've been trying to say. What my knowing inside has whispered my whole life.

It's not a removing of my shittiness.
It's not a reconstituting of my humanity.
It's not a covering up of God's eyes so he doesn't see the reality of my shittiness.
It's not a big giant holy fix-up job.

It's a looking into our hearts and finding...oh my goodness...LOVE.

It's looking into our hearts and NOT finding nasty black shit all over. It doesn't mean that we're perfect. It just means the "answer" is that our hearts are good, and the solution to EVERYTHING is already there.

It's a falling back into. It's a laying back in. It's a turning my head toward what I always desired anyway.

It's a, "It was there all along!"
It's a, "I knew it."
It's a, "I've always known it."

And then I can turn to YOU, because I know you are not stinky shit at all, I can look deep into your eyes and I can say,

"You are good. You are very, very good."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I don't want God's forgiveness....I want YOURS

The above song came on while I was sewing and kind of took me aback. If you know me very well, you know the whole idea of a personal relationship with God just hasn't worked for me and not for lack of trying. So these kinds of songs can potentially really drive me nuts. It's these songs that when I really, really wanted nothing more than to have a relationship with Jesus, got me all choked up and my chest all tight and full of longing. It was disappointing and painful to not find that relationship that I wanted so much. So hearing songs like this one can kind of sock me in the gut the way listening to an old song you associate with a past relationship gone bad can do.

But today I was too lazy to get up from the sewing machine and pass the song so I listened to it. I heard something different this time. Instead of hearing it as a song about how God overlooks my mistakes and sees past them (I could write a book about why this feels like bullshit, but that's not this post), I heard it in a much more meaningful way. The song wasn't about God at all today. It was about my husband. My friends. It was about the people who, despite the mistakes I've made and despite the pain I've caused, love me.

Instead I heard this (I've changed some words and set them in red):

Well the past is playing with my head

And failure knocks me down again
I’m reminded of the wrong
That I have said and done
And that devil just wont let me forget


In this life
I know what I’ve been
But here in your arms
I know what I am


[chorus]
I’m forgiven
I’m forgiven
And I don’t have to carry
The weight of who I’ve been
Cause I’m forgiven


My mistakes are running through my mind
And I’ll relive my days, in the middle of the night
When I struggle with my pain, wrestle with my pride
Sometimes I feel alone, and I cry


In this life
I know what I’ve been
But here in your arms
I know what I am


[back to chorus]


When I don't fit in and I don’t feel like I belong anywhere
When I don’t measure up to much in this life
Oh, I’m a treasure in the arms of [James, Belinda, Pat, Vicki, Brian, Laura, etc.] 

[back to chorus]

Listen to the song again and insert the name of someone you know loves you 100% unconditionally. Imagine those arms being where you "know who you are." I don't know about you, but it means so much more to be the treasure in the arms of my husband, especially after the year we have just gone through, than to be a treasure in the arms of Christ.When I'm in pain, it's not God's arms around me...it's those who love and accept me. When I feel rejected, judged and most of all, misunderstood, being able to be really SEEN by even one person is huge.

The point is...this is what love feels like:
-To be more you in the arms of the other than out of them.
-To be seen, really seen...and loved because of that.
-To look into the eyes of the other and see that they TREASURE you.
-To be forgiven. And that means more than, "It's o.k." It means they look past your mistakes to the person they know you ARE and they don't define you by your mistakes.

Why is it that Christians talk so much about God feeling those things for us, and so little about us loving others that way? Being loved that way? I'm not saying I have a problem with others talking about God loving me that way, but I do have a problem if the person saying it to me isn't loving me that way themselves. As a Christian I did a lot of this. I would love people in this lazy "third party" way, essentially referring them, their pain and their longings TO God. Instead of bear-hugging them or taking them home for dinner, I'd tell them I'd be praying for them.

And that's pretty insane. If my daughter comes to me in tears and says, "Nobody loves me. I feel like I don't fit in. I hurt," I am not going to give her the therapist's phone number. I'm not going to tell her to go talk to her daddy. I'm not even going to tell her to go read the Bible and think about how much God loves her. I'm going to wrap that little girl up in my arms and not let go until I have done everything in my power to make sure she "gets" just how fantastic she is and how much I love her.

Maybe Christian musical artists would do better to stop singing about God's love all the time and start singing about loving others. Isn't that who Jesus was anyway? He didn't walk around asking to be loved and saying he loved people. He walked around and LOVED. He met needs. He spoke comfort. He touched people. He loved them with his heart, his mind, his hands, his face and his voice. It's the whole "becoming flesh and dwelling among us" business, right?

Let's talk more about THAT. Let's talk about how to love. Let's talk about what kind of love we long for. That's HOW we will know how to love others. If your someone who does experience God's love as real, that's awesome. Maybe you can try to keep in mind that there are people like me for whom words about God loving me just fall flat. I don't want words. I want hands that reach for me, arms that hold me and eyes that light up when they see me.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Boy of Four

Dear Andrew,

Today my "baby" is turning four. I can hardly believe it! It's a little bitter-sweet that you're not a baby anymore but you are turning into such a wonderful little boy and I'm so proud to be your mama.

Thinking about the last four years, there are so many wonderful memories with you in it. You're my sweetheart, the love of my life and my little man. I love your big, brown eyes. I love your mischievous smile. I love the way you tell me you love me constantly and sing "Hey, I'll be gone today, but I'll be back around the way...it seems like everywhere I go, the more I see, the less I know...but I know one thing...that I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you" and dance around like a crazy person. I love your crazy break-dancing we don't know how you learned. I love the way you look when you are asleep. I love to watch you drawing, digging in the dirt and torturing your sisters. I love the way you hold my hand when we walk someplace. I love your sweet kisses. I love your chubby hugs.

I adore you, Drewbie.

Here are just a few memories from the last few years of birthdays....

This one is just hours before you were in my arms for the first time. You were huge!
Brand-New you with my daddy, Pee-Paw, who delivered you...

You turning ONE and trying cake for the first time...



You turning TWO...

Also turning TWO...getting your fire engine. You were just a LITTLE bit excited!




My big THREE-year-old...
And now...you're FOUR.
Mama loves you so much, sweetie. I'm the luckiest Mama in the world. I'm looking forward to spending this next year with my little man.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Boy...

Love,
Mama

New Corset Cushion..."Eliza"

Find the "Eliza Corset Cushion" HERE
Made from actual corsets, each of our Boudoir Cushions are decadent, one-of-a-kind creations. Filled with our signature combination of the best pillow-fill and the most beautifully aromatic dried French lavender we can find, this cushion will add beauty, as well as a subtle romantic scent, to your boudoir or parlor.


The Eliza Boudoir Cushion you are considering in this auction is fashioned from a mattelasse-style champagne corset that is dripping with Belgian lace. Gorgeous champagne ribbons lace this cushion up in the back and tiny hooks close up the front.

The Marie Antoinette sachet you see in the photos is available in our other listings. The others items you see are not for sale at this time. 





Friday, November 19, 2010

"Shaddaim" (A God with Breasts)

Brown. I am falling into a deep chocolate brown.  
Brown, yes, but somehow different than any other brown I have ever seen. It is almost as if it is the first color my eyes have ever beheld. Perhaps it is.
 
It is a deep color, a three-, or possibly three-hundred- dimensional color, something more alive and more real than any of the browns in my life: the bark of the oak tree in the middle of our yard in Clovis, the coat of my grandmother’s dachshund, Shautzie, the brown of my daughter's hair, still damp from birth, or the leathery skin of our housemaid, Mantuya, in Papua New Guinea. Those were brown and this is....somehow different.
 
I am mesmerized. I would be happy to see only one color forever, if it could be this color.


I feel myself being pulled and tugged, as if a rope is tied to my heart and the brown is holding the other side. I give in, letting myself be drawn I know not where by the invisible rope. As my skin, my bones, my mind and even my soul, are moved by this unseen force, I am filled with a feeling that can only be described as pure, ultimate joy. It is the feeling of finally moving in the direction I have always tried to move in but could never quite find the door to. It is the feeling of an aching need that has been as part of me as my own flesh being finally fulfilled more exquisitely than I could ever have imagined. I am not fighting. I am joyfully going where I am being taken, with every fiber of my being. It is a feeling of falling, deliciously, into joy.

And then I land. I am in The Brown. The Brown is all around me, enfolding me and caressing me. I have never known this deep, brown joy. I never even dreamed it. I spread my arms, my legs, my mouth, my pores in a joyous acceptance of The Brown. I drink it, eat it, breathe it in, spread it all over my skin and then turn my body around and around in it. I am wanting to be full of this Brown. A warmth fills me as every cell of my body willingly absorbs The Brown.

Now I realize: this has been my only unfulfilled desire. I thought I desired so many things, but now that I am here in this moment, I realize those desires were really only one. And here I am, being utterly satisfied. Every moment in The Brown is more lovely than the last, and as my heart and mind embrace the multi-dimensions of this realization, it is as though my capacity to desire grows. I desire more; it is fulfilled. I desire even more; it is fulfilled. I am fuller and fuller, yet I know I can never be too full. I know now what in some part of myself I have always known: Joy is The Brown; The Brown is Joy.

And then from The Brown, comes a voice. Not like any noise I have ever heard, but like every noise I have ever heart, all at once. My body responds without my mind willing it to. It turns of its own volition, toward the voice and moves toward it. My eyes strain, for in that voice was a call to look, and of course I must do just that. My body is full of eyes, it seems, all of them, looking, looking. I will know when I see what I am looking for. My ears were made to hear this sound and I have been, without knowing, straining to hear this voice all my life. Now, suddenly, it is close. It’s so close I can almost touch it, taste it and hold it.

And then it is here….right here. It was there all along, I realize, but my ears were not ready until this moment. My eyes didn't know how to see until this moment. They dance: here is what they were made to see. A feeling of deep knowing overtakes me, temporarily banishing all other thoughts and I can not help but weep with the emotion of it. Through my tears, I see the source of that voice. I see The Brown. I know what it is, and I remember that this is not the first time my eyes have seen this sight, after all. It was this memory, almost forgotten, that drove me on for a lifetime. And it has all been leading up to this….

Oh! I realize all of life was a wall with little cracks through which, every once in awhile, I could see bits of this. I remember seeing those cracks in the beauty of a sunset on Nissan Island, reflected in the pink, purple and orange waves. I saw a corner of this in the face of my newborn sister as she took her first breath. I saw a speck of it in a friend’s artwork, the colors and shapes mixing and meeting in a way that touched something deep inside of me.

I see Her.

The voice was Her voice. The Brown was her eyes - deep, dark eyes. Each second, more of her comes into focus. Everything makes sense, fits perfectly, and seems so achingly, beautifully familiar, more familiar than my own body.

My eyes drink in this beauty, but they can't keep up. My eyes seem to see in slower motion than the beauty is growing. Every nerve in my body responds to Her, moves toward her Brown, breathes Her in and is breathed in by Her. I realize that I am becoming lost in her at the same time that I am becoming more real, more solid, more alive than I have ever been.

Then I look deeper into the eyes. This is The Brown I saw first. This is what pulled me as surely as a magnet. This is what has always been pulling me. I gaze deeply, unblinking, into a pool of something both strange and familiar. Where have I seen those eyes before? I can not remember, but I know that I have seen these eyes, as surely as I know this is the first time I have seen them. This is not a contradiction. Both are somehow equally true, equally real.

I realize that she is looking at me. I relax, burn and become in her gaze. This is what I have always longed for: to be looked full in the face and to feel that I am understood completely, not loved in spite of that understanding, but because of it.

The Brown is love. Just as this Brown is different but truer than any brown I have known, so this love I see, feel, and know, coming from her eyes is different and true. I feel it settling into me, but it feels like a new feeling. As if I've gained a seventh sense.
I know even as I feel this love that without it I would never be happy or content again, yet I find within myself no fear at all. I have never known a love without fear. Love and fear are two sides of the same coin in my world. To love is to risk losing, to risk being betrayed, hurt, rejected and left behind. But these things are impossible to feel as she gazes at me, love in her eyes. I look for the familiar tell-tale signs of anxiety and suspicion in my heart and mind but they are nowhere inside of me. I am full of love and it is overflowing. I am so full. There is no room for fear.

She opens her mouth to speak and my entire body listens. My whole being becomes an ear, taking in this sound. It is a voice I know, that I have always known, I realize with surprise. From deep within me bubbles up a response that I can’t hold back, can’t not say. It erupts form me involuntarily.

Mother…” I sob.

Another word wells up inside of me and explodes from my moth, from every pore in my body.

Shaddaim,” I hear myself say.

And then what I have been longing for all along, but didn’t know to ask for or even want….what I have been hungering and thirsting for since my first breath in this world... fills my mouth, my heart and every part of me, utterly and completely.

It is flesh: soft, warm flesh and from it comes a taste that transcends any and all tastes I have tasted before. It is how truth tastes, I realize. How joy tastes. How pleasure tastes. How completeness and fulfillment taste. When I was hungry, I was hungry for this. When I was thirsty, I was thirsty for this. When I felt there was something I desired…something more…but couldn’t pinpoint what, it was this.

This is the milk I was made to drink and I drink deeply.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Runaway Bunnies, Breasts & Hell (yup, you read that right!)
















Read this post over at In the Hush of the Moon. I understand the feeling of watching a little guy growing up...my youngest is going to be four in a couple weeks. Four is NOT a baby. I've asked him to stay three but he said no. sigh.

But this post isn't about that. This post is about The Runaway Bunny that Emily referenced in her post. I read the snippets from the book that she included and that thing happened that often does when I read a children's book: a little piece of truth went around to the back door of my brain, snuck in quietly and sat down when I wasn't looking. Funny how that happens.

I have tried several times, in several venues, to write about why I don't believe there can be a hell. It's because I am a mother and I know how I love my three little ones. And I'm not even the best, most well-balanced, unselfish mother, either...but I'm their mama. So as a mama, with a mama's heart (and I daresay it's similar in a daddy's heart), I can't help but love my children unconditionally. I don't know how to do otherwise. My heart says the words of The Runaway Bunny (below) right along with Mama Bunny. My heart already knows these words by heart because they mirror it perfectly.

The words of my heart, and any mama's heart, are not the voice of a God who made a hell with a door that opens "in"....but not "out." Not ever. Maybe as my friend, Jonathan, suggests in his book, the verse about hell's gates means you can leave hell when you want to, that it's not God's hand pushing you back into the hottest part of the fiery inferno to make sure you really "get" how stupid you were to not believe in Jesus and his death on the cross, the inerrancy of the Bible, or whatever.

So read the words of Runaway Bunny as the words of God, if there is one. Don't even bother trying not to cry:

Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away. So he said to his mother, “I am running away.”
“If you run away,” said his mother, “I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.”

“If you run after me,” said the little bunny,“I will become a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you.”

“If you become a fish in a trout stream,” said his mother,“I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.”

“If you become a fisherman,” said the little bunny,“I will become a rock on the mountain, high above you.”

“If you become a rock on the mountain high above me,” said his mother, “I will become a mountain climber, and I will climb to where you are.”

“If you become a mountain climber,” said the little bunny, “I will be a crocus in a hidden garden.”

“If you become a crocus in a hidden garden,” said his mother, “I will be a gardener. And I will find you.”

“If you are a gardener and find me,” said the little bunny, “I will be a bird and fly away from you.”

“If you become a bird and fly away from me,” said his mother, “I will be a tree that you come home to.”

“If you become a tree,” said the little bunny, “I will become a little sailboat, and I will sail away from you.”

“If you become a sailboat and sail away from me,” said his mother, “I will become the wind and blow you where I want you to go.”

“If you become the wind and blow me,” said the little bunny, “I will join a circus and fly away on a flying trapeze.”

“If you go flying on a flying trapeze,” said his mother,“I will be a tightrope walker, and I will walk across the air to you.”

“If you become a tightrope walker and walk across the air,” said the bunny, “I will become a little boy and run into a house.”

“If you become a little boy and run into a house,” said the mother bunny, “I will become your mother and catch you in my arms and hug you.”

“Shucks,” said the bunny, “I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.”

And so he did.

“Have a carrot,” said the mother bunny.

What do you think? It touches something deep inside, that something that whispers, "That's the love I've waited my whole life for."
So, as you know, if you read my blog, I really am not sure about there being a God "out there." However, I am sure that I love my kids with that love that runs after a runaway child and never gives up. I can't help it. I feel it. I don't have to believe it...I know it. And a God who doesn't love that way...I have no use for.

A God who doesn't just not chase down his child, forever, but actually goes so far as to create a place of eternal punishment for that child, just because he or she "didn't get it"...that is a God that does not love like a mother does. If God is real and I am made in his image, how is that possible?

I dearly love one translation of the word, "Shaddaim," one of the names of God in the Old Testament: "a God with breasts." I know how my kids' eyes looked up at me when they nursed as infants. That utter rest, peace and satisfaction. A mother with milk in her breasts doesn't give sustenance when her baby acts like he loves her enough. In fact, if she waits too long to give the rooting infant what he wants, the milk begins to leak out! A nursing mother becomes the most terrifying being in the universe if someone tries to tear her nursing baby from her breast.

So, as Emily eloquently describes, when that same infant becomes a toddler and toddles away, a mother is watching a piece of herself walk away. I have no idea how it feels to watch them move out when they reach adulthood; I don't even want to begin to think about it. All I know is no matter how far my children try to go from me, I will always find them.

I'll storm the very gates of hell if I have to.

More New Ribbons & Trims!

Decadent French Daydream: HERE

Set of 3 velvet ribbon and flowers: HERE





French Primitive Trims: HERE



Vintage Sheet Music Rag Ribbon: HERE

Sweet Pink Linen Rag Ribbon & Vintage Milinery Flower: HERE


Wide French Blue Rag Ribbon & Brown Velvet Ribbon: HERE

Heaven & Hell: through a 3-year-old's eyes


















My almost-4-year-old has been drawing very detailed drawings all of a sudden. It's fun to watch. In fact, as I type, he is sitting on the couch in a little sunny spot, drawing in his red composition book with a purple pencil he grudgingly accepted even though "girls like purple and pink."

Lately those drawings are a whole STORY that no one else but him could ever decipher. They are monsters with dozens of eyes "to scare sister," or they are elaborate "computers" with squares for the keys covering the whole paper. That kind of thing.

So yesterday when he proudly showed me another of his drawings, I asked him what the picture was. He said, "This is blood and that man died and went to heaven but he got medicine in heaven and he came back down."

One of our cats died this past year, as well as his great-grandpa, and ever since, he asks every couple weeks, "When is Abel and Great-Grandpa coming back down?"

Not ARE they going to come back, but WHEN are they going to come back.

I remember being a child and the fear of heaven and/or hell was not about burning in the lake of fire so much as it was being potentially separated from my family. That gave me a sense of panic. So I think I understand my son's insistence that the separation of death can't possibly be forever. That thought doesn't even occur to him.

At my son's age, there's no philisophical "figuring it out" when it comes to things like God, heaven or hell. Their minds accept what they've been told and thank goodness no one has taken it upon themselves to tell him about hell. I wasn't the one who said Abel and Great-Grandpa went to heaven, but someone did, and that satisifed him temporarily. They had gone "someplace," which he understands happens sometimes. But in his little life (thankfully), most of the time people don't go and never come back. They go...and then they come back. 

To my son, though, it doesn't matter what or where heaven OR hell is...the issue is being back in relationship with someone he loves who has left, of course temporarily, and he's rather impatient for that time to come.

When he asks, "When is Great-Grandpa coming back down?" some might say, "They're not coming back, sweetie, but someday you will see them in heaven."

When he asks me, I just say, "What do you think?"

And his response?

"Soon. Soon they will come back down."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Book Review- "Discovering the God Imagination: Reconstructing a Whole New Christianity," by Jonathan Brink


Sometimes we are absolutely certain we understand something, and are in fact so sure of our comprehension, we base our entire lives on it. I was sure I understood Christianity and even more sure I had no use for it. And then I read Discovering the God Imagination, by Jonathan Brink and it changed everything.

I hope I’m not getting anyone’s hopes up. I should probably clarify: I’m not going to start attending church and I still don’t believe in hell. But I’m literally and figuratively re-opening the book on God. Yeah…that book. I have a love-hate relationship with the Bible, but thanks to Brink, I’m giving it another read.

If you were to take the classic fairy tale, Cinderella, cut each individual word out, throw all these words into a hat, shake them around, pour them out on the table and ask someone unfamiliar with the Cinderella storyline to use the individual words to create a story, it is unlikely that the end result would be the version of the story we grew up with. Sure, there would be a pretty dress, a pumpkin coach, a beautiful maiden and a romantic ball, but the way the happily-ever-after shakes out might be nothing like the story we have come to expect.

Jonathan Brink does something similar in his book. All the elements of the creation-to-crucifixion drama are there, but they are told in a way that changes the entire meaning of the story that has defined modern Christianity. Brink himself comes out of this very tradition, 2,000 years in the making, which has interpreted the God/Human story in a very definitive way; he clearly grasps this widely-accepted interpretation and then promptly turns it inside out.

Brink challenges the Christian framework in a manner that is, at once, supremely bold and stunningly simple. All the key elements of the story remain, but they are arranged in an entirely different way that makes the “happily ever after” something altogether new and different. It’s as though Disney’s Cinderella was re-told so that the evil stepmother is reformed, becomes the heroine and rides off, Prince Charming in tow, to begin a new life as a fairy godmother.

I spent the first 30 years of my life trying, not to make a religion work, but to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I was an evangelical Christian in the truest sense. But about 2 years ago, I opened the door, invited all the questions, doubts and instincts I’d kept locked up tight to come in, have a seat and speak freely. I finally got honest with myself and the consensus was that not only did I not want to go to church anymore, but I could no longer say I was a Christian. I wanted to believe the “right” things, but I just didn’t, and in retrospect, I realized I hadn’t for quite some time.

Leaving Christianity was painful; I’ve likened it in many ways to a divorce. Though it was a profound and palpable relief to finally allow myself to stop fighting to keep my true feelings and thoughts at bay, Christianity was like a thread woven through the entire fabric of my life and pulling it out was simultaneously the removal of a source of huge pain and a deep, gut-wrenching loss. The desire for a personal relationship with a God who loved me wasn’t easy to give up and walk away from.

It was difficult and painful to insist on what my inner knowing says when, from all accounts, I was walking away from God by doing so. I don’t want to “walk away from God.” Decades of my life were spent wanting a personal connection with God more than any one thing in my whole life, so following my knowing, what felt like away from God, has been painful, hard and many times, desperately lonely.

Then I read this book. Brink’s interpretation of the Biblical narrative is like looking at the whole of my life with a pair of glasses on and being shocked to realize what looked and felt like one thing was something else entirely. What if it wasn’t that I was “walking away from God” at all? What if, all along, he was “calling” me away? The exercise of thinking that’s possible, for even a minute, floods me with a mixture of joy, remorse, regret, pain and sadness.

Brink looks at the Biblical narrative and sees what he calls “the God imagination” at work. To look at not just the Bible, but my own life, through that lens means letting my assumptions go. Among other things, Brink says challenging our assumptions involves “leaving old stories behind.” He goes on to say that, “it means starting over again and building new ones…finally answering the deeper questions in our souls, the ones haunting us when we sleep.” (p. 72)

The prospect of doing so is, for me, terrifying. Re-opening the book on God means going back to “the scene of the crime,” as Brink refers to it. It means returning to the very ground on which I was hurt most, knowing I might be hurt again. I know from experience that anything that’s worth anything requires just that sort of “all in” risk, but that doesn’t change that it scares me to death.

Brink responds to this very fear when he says: “Reconciling our assumptions means we just might have to engage in our own restoration. It means we just might have to tear away the covering which blinds us to the God imagination. It means coming out of hiding to discover our worst fears aren’t true.” (p. 72)

Now I have to ask: what if the stuff that has always felt “off” for me about Christianity is also “off” in God’s mind? I experienced such pain, rejection and fear during my “questioning/doubting” years that the idea that I was on the right track all along makes me weep – both for the waste and the hope. Do I have the guts to go back and take another look?

Previous to reading this book, I had easily and without equivocation left Christianity behind. Discovering the God Imagination hasn’t “brought me back into the fold” by any stretch of the imagination, but it has created a space in which I am able to look at the concept of God with new eyes, for one reason and one reason only: it paints a picture of a God who sees me with eyes that, when I look into them, I realize I have seen before. They are familiar in the way the bar of a song sung in childhood might be. The expression of love and acceptance in those eyes is what I recognize I’ve been waiting for all my life. To be honest, I don’t know what to do with that, except to keep gazing into them and follow my heart.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

To Love Me is to Know Me


















Question...

~Do you feel like you are understood by someone in your life? Like....reallllllllly understood?

Perhaps a couple better questions...

~Is there anyone you trust enough to show the real you?
~Have you ever shown anyone the real you?

And lastly...

~If you haven't shown anyone the real you, can you EVER really feel loved by anyone?
~If someone says they love you, but you know you've kept the real you hidden from them, is it possible to accept that person's love? 

Decadent Trims & Treats

Lots of new things are coming out of my studio. I am having so much fun hand-dyeing scrumptious velvet and vintage linen, stamping them, making ruffles out of them, creating romantic bags and...well, so much more! You can find them HERE. Working on lots more, as well.
Here's some photos....