Of slow crawl and stretch and set fire to the night….

Been chunking on extra wood to make a bonfire
out of the coals of gratitude I tend,
stoking it to a roar
because these times.
And this week.
So here,  bright flames leaping a fury of joy for….

~ dreamy dahlias and their diverse faces,

~ safe spaces to twirl and move and dance and groove healing
’till it flows barefoot to my bones
and soothes away the sick and tired of me.

~ all the silly cards and jokes sent to my Dad as he recovers his strength
alone at home.

~ the grace and capacity to re-learn and repent and change my mind,
to tolerate the discomfort of a painful honest look
at my internalized superiority (ouch) and privilege.
and do the slow work of learning,
even when it feels at times like drinking from a firehose.

~ for permission to step back from fb and the gram as a learning tool,
from all the partials and pieces that may prevent me from thinking through thoroughly
these wildly complex ideas and thoughts,
that “there is no humility in certainty”;
that “some people never learn anything
because they understand everything too soon.”
(Alexander Pope)
For the long slow crawl of this thing.
And that it’s okay to scrape my knees.

~ for the soft breath of evening and the way the last glow of each day lingers on the ridges
before it dips down low behind the night.

~ that delicious knowing that you’re actually,  finally,  gratefully dipping again
into a sleep that may hold you for a little while.

Just sharing these short snippets because i don’t feel good.
But I’m feeling it big to write it down,  these next little words,
and send them out into the big wide……

Right now,  just especially,  try a little tenderness.

Let loose compassion
for the humans holding on.
For me that is strong creed that family,  friendship and faith community
are not places to rally around political beliefs
but to care even more carefully for the core
around which we gather
– the Love that overrides every political position.

Fight for relationship when you sense it’s getting dragged under the wheels
of the political machine.
In the end that’s what’s going to matter:   did we learn how to love.

I didn’t want to not show up.
Because my heart has a thing for you:)

“You can resist bullcrap and live to tell.
The status quo is counting on your submission but you do not have to bow down.
This will create tension,  but I’m convinced that a tension-free culture is a dangerous one.
Tension can be defined as the act of stretching or the state of being stretched.
You will feel the stretch,  you will cause the stretch in others,  and this is called growing.
If no one injects tension into the atmosphere,  we will always default
to existing power structures that operate beautifully
as long as no one puts any pressure on them.”
– Jen Hatmaker

These days I feel like g-u-m-b-y; embracing the burn:)

Giveaway!  This week it’s a bundle.
Tell Me Something Good – a bundle of made-for-you bites of art
with handwritten encouragement for uniquely you – I will spend some Rivertime,  have a soak about you
and write down what bubbles up as I listen to hear what the ripples speak.
For you.  And send them to you in a bundle.
* Coming soon to my etsy shop *

(And happy little leap to send last post’s giveaway to Sue of Elephants Child!)

The wonder, the welcome and the walls…..

It’s the walls I hate the most
as we head deeper into the tangle of briars that is this season
of lines drawn hard and stories and hearts left unpacked in the corners
where we may polarize and hide
because it doesn’t feel safe right now to show our underbellies.
As if we weren’t already lonely enough.

All the sharp biting can make it feel too dangerous to be honest online,
and that fear can spill right across the table in real time where we actually gather.
As if connection may be easily severed.
Un-knowing each other so hard only grows our sense of isolation,
and when you feel unheard,
a deep lonely can set in strong.

I love the way Brene’ Brown describes this experience:

“I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve called Steve from the road and said,
‘I’ve got the lonely feeling.’  It’s not unusual for Ellen or Charlie to say,
‘I don’t like that restaurant.  It gives me the lonely feeling,’ or ‘Can my friend spend the night here?
Her house gives me the lonely feeling.’
When the four of us tried to drill down on what the lonely feeling meant for our family,
we all agreed that we get the lonely feeling in places
that don’t feel alive with connection.

My daughter used to call it the Sunday night feeling,
and I think as a nation we’re cultivating it like a well-worked orchard.
Miles of barbed wire and disconnect grow the now-thriving acres of lonesome.
How can we be love in all this crazy?
We work and pray for systemic change in the long game, yes,
but we bring healing into the fray every opportunity we get
during those moments when we find ourselves offended.
Right before the fight or flight kicks in,
each time our soul breaks out in hives
and we feel compelled to slam a door….

…in just that hair-trigger jolt,
before up come our defenses,  our posturing,  our pride,
we can (big breath)
go
low
and instead of rising up ready to battle or bolt
we choose to maybe  e-a-s-e  open some space to listen and better know
the human, the heart
and the hope.

We could be addicted to closure,
to feeling clear and correct and certain,
and we humans can make stuff up if necessary – whatever narrative we need to hold –
so that we feel like we’ve got this thing handled
on the moral high ground
and have wrangled into our journey some sense of control
on this huge spinning dizzying ball.

I believe it’s possible to do this season from a more spacious place –
that we can hold our beliefs and opinions  strong and with courage,
examined and curious and unashamed,
and also hold also brave space for connection.
That each time we feel the prickle of offense,
instead of throwing up walls,
we
can
lean
instead
into having an awkward sit in that uncomfortable place
of listen-and-slow-your-breath-down,
holding space for: “I don’t see or  agree,
but will work to understand,  to offer acceptance,
and hold space for where you land.
I won’t judge you,  won’t fear you,
will acknowledge your value and worth.
I honor you as more than your affiliation.
You’re included,  you’re welcome,  you’re heard.

Oh God I want to not give my ego what it’s hungry for,
to un-satisfy it’s demand be large and in charge.
I want to choose an open heart,  an uncertain path,  and a big wide love lit bright.
Still baby-stepping and re-learning and willing to change
through the long of this hard day’s night.

“Cruelty is easy,  cheap and rampant.”
“You cannot shame or belittle people into
changing their behaviors.”
– Brene’ Brown

Pride assumes
Creativity wonders.”
– Stephen Roach

Congrats to Lisa Moreland – your name popped up in the giveaway this post;
I’ll be sending your print along to you – with a whole lot of love.
This week I want to give away a new handmade journal
Leave a comment and you’re in the hat!

When the heart thumps of longings and lanes…..

In the heat of our culture’s loud and frantic traffic right now,
it’s sometimes hard to find and hold steady to your lane.
The message is loud and the pressure real:

                      ~ you should be doing more to protect your family and community from the virus.

~  you should be doing more to end ignorance and fear,  and to dismantle racism.

~ you should doing more to connect with truth – to navigate the hype and the false
and arrive correctly on the right square.  And quickly.

~ you should be doing more of all the things and also taking more
of a pro-active role in fighting more for social justice
in every arena,  anywhere there is suffering,
(If you’re not quarantined,  say if you are running a small business,
there is a lot of extra to catch up on
once you’ve served your community so you’re just
gonna have to sleep a little faster and go a little harder,  man.)

And,  hey,  if this is all too intense to absorb and process in your 24,
you just need to pick a side.
One of the two.  Pick one wing of this big bird and devote unquestioning loyalty,
then begin to lob insult and venom at the other
(yes,  you’re all on the same bird but don’t think too hard about that
while you bloody the wing you didn’t choose – it’s easier to go with the
good vs. evil narrative.  Keeps it simple.)

Cult Tip:
If you want to keep it super sweet and simple,  just pick a side and then go with
whatever that side is saying about all the issues.  Lots less bother.
You’ll even get a script.

Either way,  the shoulds are clear:
you’re expected to weigh in and raise a flag on every issue.
In every fight.
At every moment.
And whatever work you’re learning or doing already,
you should do way more.

Are you tired already?

                                           One  option:   Succumb to inertia.   Or despair
Better option:
Find and focus on doing your work.

I believe in the work.
I believe that this season is pregnant with the call to dismantle racism,
to require justice for the marginalized, for the objectified,  for the de-humanized.
My heart burns hot for systemic change.

I also believe that we are all many parts
-you have a lane and it’s where you’re made to thrive,
where you’re most productive
and there your passion carries weight
that creates sustainable good.
In your lane,  the riffs your voice makes are not only delicious,
they also help make this planet and her people more whole.
You were born to fill that space – we need you there.

So how do you know that place?
How do you find that niche – your own true north?
Finding and filling it is maybe much of the work of being human
because we want to love wide,  yes,  but where exactly do we put our heft and hands
every single day?

The answers,  I believe,  are rumbling around down there in the deeps of your very own heart.
Always it’s in the heart connection- that God-container –
from which our truest and most satisfying life-living flows.

And what I want to say to you right now is
don’t be driven by the shoulds.
Especially in the loud of this season,
don’t lose your heart.
That still small voice in the quiet of you
– it’s your lifeline.

“There are a million creative paths through compassion work…
That thing that is bursting in your chest?  Listen to it.  Give it energy;  give it life.”
– Jen Hatmaker

My lane,  for now,  is to dive deep to listen and learn and also
to offer up process that helps turn up the quiet and cultivate the listen and know.
It’s been growing in me for years, this way, and it feels to me like
tall trees and big sky and laughing waters
and helps tug the trueness from my often overcrowded heart.
It’s been a slow and bumpy launch because of Covid, and my website is still in the works
because I’m still nose-to-the-ground like a hound dog in a tall meadow
sniffing out the path.
I’ll come back with details soon.

Congratulations to Elizabeth Nelson – I drew your name in the giveaway
and I’m honored to send you an art journal I made.  With big love!

Another giveaway this post.
This time it’s a print – a warm starry night in a Summertime garden.
15 x 20 inches
Leave a comment and you’re in the hat:)

 

When people get brushed off like crumbs….

I’ve been doing some deep dives into the shades of fear and dismissal
that are wrapped in the privilege that came with my skin.
I’m discovering some attitudes that I’ll be keeping
and tossing some been hiding in the basement of my thinking,
like forgotten relics
until the roof got torn off in this storm.

Mostly I’m shutting up and listening,
listening hard for what my ears weren’t tuned by my life to hear.
And I’m loving these new voices I’m feeding on
that sound to my heart like thundering waves and cicadas singing  and warm winds stirring and God.
And even though I’ve been in community with people of color for decades,
I have so much to listen and learn
and so I hush.

But I’m feeling it strong to say something
when exposed to the deep black pain that groans
every single time someone twists the knife with the words
“but all lives matter”
because the sting of having deep pain minimized,
well,  for that I have something of a grid.

~  ~  ~

I’m swept back some years into a living room lit dim as women gathered
to explore how to embrace the courage to shed our shame
to learn to process and share the hidden pain,
because shame gathers strength sitting alone in the dark.
I’d held back,  wrestling to say the thing that made my throat close down
and my lungs fold over tight.
When I finally stacked my awkward words on a ledge and pushed them off,
I held my breath as they fell into the light.

During the sharp quick moments after my words
tumbled to the ground
in that space where I longed for someone to hold them with me,
or say “oh Jen” or come alongside to help breathe just one next breath,
there came the brisk sweep of dismissal that felt like a broom
sweeping up some chips I’d just spilled.
Brushed away quick by the leader
who hopped over my share
as if I’d sneezed into a crowd.

I felt humiliated.
I packed my entrails back up
and held it all tight between my un-cried sobs until I could get to the safety of my car.
The sounds I cried in the bathtub that night
didn’t even sound human and it scared me hard
to hurt so guttural and exposed.
I felt banished in that someone had seen the soft underbelly of my experience
and showed no empathy.

And then when I called the leader on it,  privately,  and asked was this was a safe space for me
she was defensive,  dismissive,  deflective,
and minimized all the feels.
And then struck out how dare I “attack” her so vicious.
I’d never known pain like it. Or since.

~ ~  ~

Bearing a wound and carrying the pain unacknowledged,
(especially from leadership)
is a gut-wrenching and isolating place.
When the black community hears over and over
our protests – “but all lives matter”
I want to scream “stop it!”
Just. stop.
Can we sit with our brother and sister
and share the next breath they need to take
alongside of them?

Can we just squeeze their collective hand and say “I’m sorry.”
“I’m here.”
“Keep talking”
“We’re listening.”
Can we just hold some space for the hurting hearts out there?
Without rushing to dismiss
because it’s way un-comfy
and from our little white bubbles we don’t compute.

Can we please grow our repertoire of tools.
Accept our lack of empathy and focus in on learning to listen,
to becoming the humans we hope to be
– can we stop with the defensive posturing
and let black lives be heard?

If someone sobs and rages because we slam a heavy door on their hand,
can we lean in to see and serve the crushed fingers
instead of chiding them for being unruly in their pain.
We’ve crushed some things.
In sitting with this we will suffer.
Are we willing to do the work of humility
to hurt with the hurting
until a fierce tide of healing rolls in?

Oh God grow our empathy.
May we not leave a single soul alone
in their pain.

“Empathy is simply listening,  holding space,  withholding judgement,
emotionally connecting,  and communicating that incredibly healing message
of you’re not alone.
– Brene’ Brown

Congrats to Linda Mann – your name jumped up in the drawing and I’ll be sending
your package in the mail post haste.
Another art journal up for giveaway this week – leave a comment
to have your name in the hat.
And thanks – always thanks – for coming around.
I appreciate you big.

When silence boils over and tears catch fire…..

 

Sometimes the grief sits so low in my voice
that I can only lift one finger slow to say thanks
and I must,
must let it twitch breath enough
into the heavy
until my heart starts to rise
to meet the moment
so that my life,
doesn’t close down
in a silence
that can
sink
me

if
I
don’t
grab hold the line
that the gratitude tosses me.
It’s in the thank you that the wind begins to fill me again,
gives me fresh eyes to see again the kind heart thumping grace into places grown thin.
Here I’ve landed tonight and I want to share this safe place I’ve pulled into for my soul to park
while healing prayers rise.

Feel free to share the space and rest here with me
giving thanks for

~ the big rip – the yanking off of this social band-aid
in not allowing us to cover over the wound any longer
with our hasty bandages,
grateful even for the howl of pain that shakes us to either look up and deal
or acknowledge that we choose to diminish
a bleeding human heart
(multitudes of them).

~ For leaders who get down on their knees
to scoop up the tears of the brokenhearted
and walk alongside to protect their voices,
even when those leaders must rise to protect the peaceful
in order that their voices not be
de-legitimized
by those who’ve gotten lost in the pain.

~ for voices that heal,
that respect our humanity even at our most broken.
Who refuse to demonize, to de-humanize – who hold fiery prayerful vigil in their hearts
for the right,  for the left,  for our leadership,
for people of color,  for people who are white,  for the oppressed
and for their oppressors.
For those who will not hate even though it cost them.

~ For those who keep a loving foot on each side of the political chasm.
For the bridge-builders,
the peace-makers
who perch that brave spot of tension
and reject assumption
in order to deeply listen.
Who are breaking up with being driven by agenda.

~ for
“I don’t know.”
“Help me understand.”
“Tell me more.”
”  Keep talking.  I’m not going anywhere.  Still here.  I’m listening.”

~ for every prayer rising
for leadership,
for solution,
for healing change.

~ For every heart that refuses to stop breathing hope
even when you lose it again and again.
God,  it’s so brave to hope again.
To defy disappointment and
take on hope
like a boat going down
in a storm of mercy.

And while I’m grateful also for wildly green ferns carpeting the forest floor
and the first little cucumber sliced warm into my salad
I will keep this back right now in this space
and sit instead with my white heart open to listen and learn
what my privilege may have not let me see.

“Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men.
It is the refusal to defeat any individual.
When you rise up to the level of love,  of it’s great beauty and power,
you seek only to defeat evil systems.
Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system,  you love,
but you seek to defeat the system
…..inject within the very structure of the universe the very strong and powerful element
of love.”
– Martin Luther King
(from his sermon “Loving your Enemies”)

Barbara Shallue, your name came up from the hat – big grin to send you some love.
One more giveaway this week – fresh new journal to share
Leave a comment and your name is in.