I’ve been in the thick of a tremendous wrestle;
feels fearful to share because in hurtful ways I may get it wrong
but the conversation seems important enough
to take the risk so please hold space for my fumbling
Dear black people,
I didn’t actually see you.
Didn’t see your experience, that is.
I never heard clear all the places where your hearts bleed –
didn’t understand the depth of generational trauma.
Sometimes I wanted you to stop acting like a victim,
to stop being so angry.
It became a habit to just not look
I held a secret hard edge
because of the fear I felt in high school
when the frequent fights would break out,
especially when the friend I rode to school with each day
in his sky blue Volkswagen beetle was stabbed and beaten so severely
that he never again returned to our high school.
I felt undone by the loss and bewildered at your rage.
I didn’t see the system we were all swimming in,
the one set long in motion against you.
I didn’t understand that blackness and whiteness were constructs,
and that in this system my whiteness gave me gills.
I never saw how hard you had to fight to surface again and again for air.
I come from people who taught that we all have a reasonably fair swim,
that if you just swam harder…..
(wince and grieve)
I really didn’t see.
That same system stacked against you – to disadvantage you – was rigged to make
us believe there is no rigging.
And the thing is, I’ve considered myself a progressive.
I recoil at obvious white supremacy.
But when I watched the recent murders with my own eyes
I realized I was seeing something that was screaming to be recognized
and that I needed to brave behind that curtain and sit in the discomfort of a painful look and listen.
I took an 8 week deep dive into an intensive with diverse and challenging voices;
actually learned some history (not just the whitewashed parts)
and considered the effects of The Doctrine of Discovery,
Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Affirmative Action. 13th Amendment,
– too many to unwrap here –
that “in the U.S. we often let our institutions do our sinning for us.”
I finally see the spirit of racism is a shape-shifter, and that once chattel slavery ended,
the evil re-emerged again and again through new policy and law,
still at large and armed.
I realize I cherry-picked the hand-full of black voices saying what I already thought,
realized that we still benefit economically as a nation,
from oppressive, exploitive laws and trauma to people groups,
that the harm has not been addressed- there’s been no formal reckoning.
The wound is still open on a systemic level even if individuals have heroically moved forward.
Few states have formally apologized, and until we have owned it as a nation, taken responsibility,
and stopped the effects by deconstructing and re-imagining systems,
that just moving on isn’t even biblical (for my Christian friends).
(Do we think that God is at a lack for strategy?)
I’ve considered that this monster, racism, isn’t political;
that both parties have contributed significant pain
(thank you, Mark Charles. And deep respect. You have my heart’s vote).
I’ve considered what we did, not just to you, but to Africa,
considered that racism’s power is to destroy everyone’s humanity.
I’m learning to learn slow, to take the time to search a thing out,
to not move in a spirit of suspicion toward orgs like Black Lives Matter,
even when I can’t buy into all the internal ideology.
I’ve explored the foundation of conspiracy theory and slander and
grown in respect for the 9th Commandment
(and love for the God who I’m re-discovering as Justice and Mercy).
I’m learning to listen less defensive, to lose more of my flinch
and let entire ideas roll out like carpet and air dry
rather than hurriedly tossing them with my hasty opinion
(example: defund police to re-imagine public safety,
or statues – what was the context of the erecting of all these statues?
When were the artists commissioned? What was going on in society at the time?
I committed to practice slowing my roll, to listen with humility)
I could hardly stay in my skin at times these last 8 weeks.
My stomach hurt and my heart pounded with shock
and eventually lament.
I’ve stood in the breakers of your unheard voices
instead of diving for cover or scurrying back to shore
as I’ve done so many times before.
For now I have just this,
and I’m sorry for the drop-in-the-bucket nature of my words,
Just this, dear black people
I acknowledge you.
I acknowledge your suffering,
from the cruel effect of of systems created
in order to advantage one group by disadvantaging another.
By disregarding and dismissing your humanity.
I see you showing up still
and it humbles me.
Your patience, long-suffering, resilience, courage – it drops me to my knees.
I don’t know how reparations will be made or when or what my part will be
but I will participate wholehearted.
For now, I just want to thank you.
For who you are and how you rise.
Please don’t give up.
– With love and respect,
one white person who is seeing clear enough at last
to get messy in the fight for change.
“An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak,
and impossible to remain silent.”
– Edmund Burke
Time and space are limited here and I’m still digging out words to do justice
to what is burning and churning in my heart;
I’m not lumping all of anyone together – that’s not my intention.
My language is limited and
I’m wrestling still for the words to cobble together.
Please hold space for my inevitable fumbles.
Congrats to Cathy Davis for winning the giveaway;
I’ll be sending you a Tell Me Something Good bundle.
And offering up another with this post – plunking your name in hat with each comment!
When life rattles my timbers and storms down hurting so hard
that my peace gets swallowed up in mudslides of un-helpful thinking,
it’s become just shy of muscle memory, this practice,
that throws open the windows of my heart
and lets the bad air out.
It started years ago while driving down the road with my husband,
the silence between us thick with a heavy worry.
I squeezed hard on the wheel and breathed aloud “tell me something good.”
He laughed and offered something – I don’t remember what.
Then I dug in and hurled into the space another something true – something balm to my heart.
Out louder – back and forth – we lobbed truth until the atmosphere
shifted and our thoughts settled into a clearwater place.
It became a thing,
sprung up maybe from a practice I’d been cultivating
of having a sit with God over whatever was brewing in my brain.
I’d get quiet, drop down to that still place inside, and begin to write out
whatever bubbled up from the deep.
Sometimes what landed on the page felt like gift and gold;
going back over the pages years later still feels like superfood for my soul.
So I have a big love for this practice.
Most of what I write comes from this place.
(big distinction between this rivery process and toxic positivity,
which feels like death
and doesn’t seem to grow a thing.
Like malnourished dirt.)
Been growing up in my garden these past years
and feels ripe and ready to harvest.
I want to tell you something good,
to splash hope and healing all over bites of art soaked in love
and send them straight to the heart of you
where coals of hope may need breeze to flow brisk across the embers
until you’re standing up taller inside yourself,
and feeling more seen, more included,
more brave in your breathing
for the deepest and dearest that you dare to dream.
Oh how I want to acknowledge you,
to tap into the big and seeing Love that sings over you sweet
and let it pass through my paints and pens and poetry,
then pass you the love-note
across the great big wide.
To let it land in your box like a gift from your future
calling back that the view from up ahead
is something that you’re gonna want to see
so lean into the wind
and hold tight to
the Love –
that you’re held,
To hold the door for you to feel it, bones and breath,
that this Love is looking and listening
to the faintest thought and thump of your heart;
that there’s no indifference to your place and pain.
To pass a note of warm embrace
and to hold space for the journey that is exactly and only yours.
With love and celebration.
Tell Me Something Good
– also the title of my book in the works
and looks to be available by Christmas.
“First I would write for you a poem
to be shouted into the teeth of a strong wind.”
– Carl Sandburg
I’m offering up these Tell Me Something Good bundles in my etsy shop,
and in a giveaway this week;
leave a comment and you’re in the hat:)
I’ll be sending a bundle out to Rebecca this week from last post’s drawing – geesh sorry it’s taken so long!
Always thanks for coming around and acknowledging.
I appreciate your presence here.
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)
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,
into having an awkward sit in that uncomfortable place
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
– 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!
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!”
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.”
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.
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
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
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,
who perch that brave spot of tension
and reject assumption
in order to deeply listen.
Who are breaking up with being driven by agenda.
“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 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
– 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.
During these days of strange things
I’ve fallen deeper in love with creativity,
with that thing that draws us into collaboration with God,
for the way it goes like flutter and flight and drift and wings
that spirits through the fingers of strangling things,
to that free-at-last feeling of s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g out cramped ways
been folded up tight too long.
That there’s no bottom to this bucket,
no scarcity to this well,
that it’s endless flowing fountain
even when we’re blocked or can’t seem to tap in,
it’s worth wooing, worth investing in, worth cultivating wholehearted
until it bubbles up and breaks through as we lean in thirsty
and wait with open hands.
I’m learning more to be tender with my creativity, as if with a bird on my shoulder
that I’m mindful not to fluster or fritter away
on worry or numbing or energetic drains
but to respect, to steward like this amazing inheritance
that I dare not waste on catastrophizing or blame.
These are days to re-imagine,
to deep-dive to see what may could be
and I feel as if I’m turning the whole weight of my being into wooing
this costly friendship with Spirit
to go a little more weightless in that place where solution gets born
where unfettered things set their wings
and ride fierce and soft and surrendered
this sweet wild holy air.
“That cannot be.
Unless it could!”
– from Alice in Wonderland
Big grin to Gwen Lily that your name jumped up in the drawing;
go on over to my etsy shop (on sidebar) and pick out a journal and I’ll send it right out to you.
I want to give another away this week – these are turning out so much better now that I’ve
ironed out some glitches and I’m loving the making!
I hope the sparkle I felt while creating them lingers long on the pages:)
Leave a comment and you’re in the hat for next week.
(Every page, for me, is poetry and prayer
that solution gets born in fierce and freeing ways
in leadership for change in every nook and cranny of this world)
Just a little offering
because I want to show up
even thought my shaky places need to wait this week out
so that I have headspace enough for this stormy season with my Dad
who has been in and out of emergency rooms and surgery
in a heavy-hit city,
back and forth in his own crisis during these strange weeks and
I’ve felt vulnerable and exposed and scared to tears at times,
especially as we pick him up from hospital and lean in to support him at home.
So, no, I’m not eyes-wide-shut to the pain and stress happening
in hospitals and homes.
I have thoughts and will cobble together what’s stirring in my spirit
when I can sit slower in the light.
Just this. Still this: I believe in beauty more – in the powerful, life-giving
brave and badass glory of a bigger and heftier Hope.
That’s where my heart makes camp,
even when I feel fragile and fried.
I’ll be back next week with a bouquet of better words:)
“Hold tight the hand that reaches for yours in the storm.”
– I don’t know who originally wrote this.
I penned it in an old journal without quotation marks or name – maybe it’s mine?
My apologies to the author if it isn’t me:)
I’ll be sending a new handmade art journal and some handwritten love
and goodies to Candace Flanagan this week (i added comments from fb to the drawing).
She is dear to me and I’m excited to draw my friend’s name.
Gonna take a little break from the giveaway this week
until I feel less frazzled in the fray.
Love and sweet grace to you all.