Raindrops & Rivers

Raise your words, not voice. It is the rain that grows flowers, not thunder. – Rumi


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Give Him Your Cloak, Too

Matthew 5:38-48; The Message (MSG)

Love Your Enemies

38-42 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

******

I cannot believe I actually participated.
I know better.
And I did not even know this Christian leader at all.

Yet, there I was.
Incredulous at something he wrote on social media.
And I responded.
And then realized I should not have done so, so I deleted it, and then proceeded to post an apology for reactively responding.

My apology was not accepted.
In fact, it was used against me to shame me.
And then, the choir joined in and comment after comment ensued.
None of which I read, only heard about from a friend.

And the worst part?
I have held onto the experience tightly because this male, Christian leader represents a place of hurt and betrayal for me.
And even though the Giver of All Things has been so gracious in an outpouring of healing and has brought into my life friendships that have proven to be redemptive and restorative, this particular individual was a
threat,
unsafe,
adversarial.

And so, I must admit to you that I have found myself on more than one occasion, unable to sleep at night as my brain plays out scenarios of righteous vengeance that I could take – all under the blanket of anonymity, of course.

Our family recently moved.
And in doing so, we have been looking for a church to call home.
It is such a weirdly daunting endeavor.
And our family is unique, so it is nearly impossible to find one that feels like a good fit for us all. We are not seeking perfection mind you, but certainly a place where we are able to find community and growth.
And this weekend –
it happened.
And, as per our usual,
in the most unlikely of places.

The sermon was on the passage quoted above.
And I use The Message text because this was what hit me right between the eyes.
The pastor talked about the idea of vengeance, and our desire in all righteousness, to right the wrongs of our world.
As a social justice activist, this is my wheelhouse, right?

Well.

Here is another version of verse 40 as quoted by the pastor this weekend,

“and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well.”

And the verse prior to this one even compels the reader to not resist an evildoer.
Do NOT resist.
Instead, not only offer one’s coat, but one’s cloak as well –
and offer it following a threat of harm
to you.

The pastor went on to explain that in doing this,
in offering one’s cloak to an evildoer,
one experiences
freedom.

Freedom.

In offering my cloak to this male Christian leader,

I
experience 
freedom.

I am no longer enslaved to that relentless pursuit of vengeance, or
the shame and hurt I feel and allow to take root,
or the wall of protection I want to continually construct and maintain so that I am impenetrable of feeling pain or vulnerability  – or welcoming community and friendship and finding joy  and enrichment in my life.

I have been pursued by the Giver of All Things whom I have wronged frequently, who has EVERY reason to seek retaliation for the wrongs I have committed, and yet like the parable of the Prodigal Son,
I have been offered not only the cloak,
but also the fatted calf,
a party,
everything that the Giver of All Things has to offer –
all that I could possibly want or need.
And then some.

So, I will offer this man my cloak as well.
I will accept the freedom that comes with releasing the desire for righteous vengeance and that sense that I deserve to be justified.

I will cling to the truth that I have been relentlessly pursued and loved unconditionally, and that knowledge allows, compels, me to love my enemies in my perfectly human nature not from a place of rote obedience (although sometimes that is where it has to start) but because I have the freedom
to
reflect the holy
and
let go of the rest.

Amen.

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Art by Anne C. Brink   / annecbrink.com


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Him

He grew up under the last remnants of Communism –
red neck scarf and in formation
bootleg movies from the West
the permeation of grey.

The son of an engineer, who wanted to be a professional violinist, and an ophthalmologist.
The grandson of an army general, who was in charge of a smattering of spa towns, and an opera singer.

I remember the first time I saw him, as he entered my classroom, tardy and with earbuds.
His smile, his eyes.
How little I knew then.

We became the best of friends – his family, my surrogate family – in a country that was not my own but had become a place I was loathe to leave.
It snuck up on us, the love that is.
And when it took root, he chose to adopt my country and culture as his own – an incredible sacrifice.

Two and a half years later, overlooking a Mendocino cliffside sunset, after having said “I Do” – I looked into those eyes and said for the first time of many, many times over the past 18 years –
“thank you for sparing me from a life without you.”
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He is the best kind of person one could encounter.
Extremely bright and demonstrably introverted has produced such deep wisdom in him.
He is a stalwart feminist who adamantly encourages his wife and daughters to go after just about anything she desires to accomplish and he will sacrifice his needs in order to ensure that those of his ladies are not only met, but flourish.

He is confident, yet humble. You will not hear him boast about his accomplishments even though he has every right to do so. He is stealthily generous, with his time and talents, as well as financially to those in need. And again – one would not know it.

I understand that he seems just too good to be true, and I submit to you that he quite honestly
most certainly
is.

I don’t deserve him.
I really don’t.
And I am so acutely aware how fortunate I am that after 18 years of marriage,
I have the honor of loving him so much, much more.

Just about 12 years ago, I stood at those ominous E.R. doors where I kissed him as he was wheeled through, and subsequently kissed my 15 month old daughter, as she was wheeled through those same doors.
My husband giving life to my daughter by having one of his kidneys removed and placed into her abdomen.
beyond-double-doors

And those early years with a child who might not survive the night led to an exchange of words across a table one date night that spoke to the stress and our fear that the marriage may end but the love remained, and so we worked extremely hard to not only salvage our marriage, but to breathe new life and definition into it.

This man has held me through massive panic attacks.
He has laid on the floor through the night next to a sickly daughter.
He says he is sorry.
He is slow to speak and quick to be loyal.

He is proud of me
and he consistently reminds me that I am so worthy of love,
which is a balm to a place of deep hurt and insecurity in me.

I write this tonight, staring out at the rain before the fire and the twinkle lights in mason jars, because sometimes we just need a reminder – especially as women – that there are men who are capable of being virile and strong and all those “manly” things
and yet
have absolutely no desire
to diminish the women around them.

Their very masculine strength is in their feminism.

I thank the Giver of All Things for sparing me from a life without him.

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Us. In the 1990s.

 


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This is Me

Like most of you, I am a huge fan of the television show, This is Us.

And last night’s episode was no exception, so if you have not yet seen it, consider this your spoiler alert.

As per usual, I DVR’d the episode so that I could watch it today by myself with no risk of distraction or disruption. And as per usual, I had tissues ready because I have yet to make it through an episode without demonstrable tears.

As I watched the episode unfold, especially the character of Randall, by the final scene with him in the fetal position on the floor of his office and his brother’s arms around him – all I could think is
that is me.

Please hear me when I say that this is not an instance of cultural appropriation, nor do I claim that the life portrayed of Randall is my own, however I share some of the coping mechanisms of dear Randall.

I, too, am what is called a “high functioning” person with anxiety. I am adept at caring for those in my charge, as well as those who are not. I am a master at appearing to have everything under control and I am capable of holding it all together until I suffer such a physical and emotional toll that I end up physically sick and most likely bedridden for a good 24+ hours.

The Giver of All Things has been gracious to me in all of this, as one also saw with the character of Randall. I, too, have found in the most unusual of places, people who have been willing to show up and sit with me in the grief and the grime and have also often done so in such a way that it has cost them something.

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Image courtesy of nbc.com

I am also learning so much about self-care and how different it is than I thought it would be. I used to often turn to social media as a place to receive encouragement and to connect with my Village – it is the only place where all of my worlds collide as one who has lived in many different places and has found friendships in a variety of life experiences. Since November, that world has altered for me and for the first time ever – I have found myself in the company of hostility and disillusionment. That does not mean I still do not love my “Village” there, but I do log on less often, with more caution, and the boundaries have been instilled.

That is just one example of how self-care plays out for me. There are so many other ways I lean into it, and I find that the more I do – the more aware and open I am to embrace that which enhances my daily life and my friendships, and therefore diffuses that anxiety and frantic need to hold it all together.

This is nothing new, is it?
So many of us have all read similar articles and sought wisdom in this area.
Perhaps I am just adding to the noise or speaking to what you already know to be true in your own life about grief and “high-functioning” anxiety and the need for self -care and thanking the Giver of All Things for those dear treasured souls who are willing to show up despite the cost and sit in the dark office corner with you as you release it all.

As art so often imitates life –
Randall.
My goodness.
This is Me.
This is Us.

 

 


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2017:: My One Word – BadAss.

I know I took advantage of the “bait the hook” of writing in the title to this blog post. I did that purposefully because if the title compelled you to cringe – even just a little bit – just know that I do as well.
And that is exactly why this word is so important to me.

I am the granddaughter of a pastor.
I am the daughter of a woman who has been in the limelight in ministry for my entire life.

As I head into my mid-forties, I am having to acknowledge how deeply I have allowed their roles in ministry to dictate my behavior. I am also having to acknowledge the obvious, which is of course I felt pressure from my grandfather and my mother to be the model pastor’s kid. I was very, very good at it.

My word for the year 2017 is something altogether different.

My word
BadAss
written just so –
represents for me this idea of shedding the need to project badassery as a form of rebellion, and instead embrace it as a calling.

For many of us women who grew up as the daughters of great ministers of faith, especially in the 80’s and 90’s, there is this double edged sword of desiring to use the family name as leverage to get where we want in life and at the same time, rejecting all notion of a connection because we are our own person and desire to make our own way. Muddled into that particular push and pull is the fact that we grew up in a predominantly patriarchal world which made it abundantly clear that there would be consequences if we did not adhere to the oppressive adage of “being seen and not heard”. Often, rebellion ensues due to such frustration in feeling trapped and stifled.

My mom and I talked about this at length recently. The irony is that my mom is also no stranger to the push and pull I felt growing up because as a female minister/leader and a pastor’s kid herself, she too has had to confront some of the same obstacles to a much greater extent than I, and with much greater risk to her both personally and professionally.

So, this word for 2017 represents not only where I am going, but also honors those women like my Mom who have come before me.

More than ever in my lifetime, I believe there is a need for BadAss women.
When I think of what it means to be a BadAss, I believe that as the name connotes, it is uncomfortable and controversial. It requires courage and a sense of determination.
I believe that being a BadAss woman also requires a maturity and wisdom that comes with age and experience, understanding the rebelliousness and a desire to elicit shock and awe are detrimental on all kinds of levels, both personally and collectively.

We do not need more noise.
We need more purpose of vision and the stamina and patience and grace to see it through.
We need to ensure that we respond to what the Giver of All Things has already made clear to us as Truth – that we are not to contrive purpose that emanates from judgment or fear or false righteousness that elevates us over another, but that we are to live out of a place of boldness and love, fueled by justice and mercy, coupled with humility.

That is what I want to be in 2017.
That is what BadAss means to me.

Perhaps we can link our one words for 2017 as women into a tapestry that is a force to be reckoned with this year.

I hope you will join me.

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The Greatest of These

We move into our new home on Sunday.

This move has been a source of panic attacks and sadness for me and I have had trouble understanding why. I mean, this should be a source of joy and gratitude, right? What is wrong with me that I have felt anxiety and dread?

One of the most frustrating things about trauma is that often one’s body and repressed memory responds before the present mind and body catches up.

The last time Martin and I bought a home, we were pregnant with Bella. We moved into that Bend, OR home when Bella was around nine months old – only a couple of weeks before we drove down to Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital in California for Bella to have both of her kidneys removed and I was trained to administer peritoneal dialysis at home so that we could return home.

I was the only parent in my group given the opportunity and responsibility to administer dialysis on my daughter from home – all other families had to remain at the hospital or nearby until time of transplant.

This means my daughter’s life was literally in my hands.

Instead of picking out paint colors or decor for the kitchen, I was setting up a dialysis machine over my baby’s crib and trying not to splatter the fluid on the walls.

Instead of experiencing tummy time with my baby daughter on the newly laid carpet, I was praying over the syringe as I pulled out blood from her catheter to send to the lab to detect infection – praying to God that I would not kill her in the process.

Instead of having a housewarming party or visitors of any sort to our new home, I was investing in cans upon cans of lysol and disinfectant wipes to ensure the most germ free environment I could offer my immuno-suppressed baby.

And in the end?
Our daughter’s lifetime insurance payout of $1 million dollars by the time she was two was the beginning of the spiral toward medical bankruptcy and the loss of our home.

We even lost her Make-A-Wish playhouse in the backyard, customized for her by a team of unbelievably selfless people in our community.

So, thus the panic attacks,
and the sadness,
and the grief.

But it does not end there.
It never does, does it?

For some reason we will never fully understand, we have a new home.

I picked out paint colors.

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And carpet.
And I even bought a couple cool lamps and rugs.

 

We get to have a housewarming party.
We get to host things because my daughter is miraculously stable.
Admittedly, I still get overly excited about lysol and disinfectant wipes.
As a woman of faith, this season of Advent has been super powerful for me.
Advent is for those of us who grieve and mourn and shake our fists. Advent is for those who cling to hope as we do our very breath because life has proven over and over again that Hope does indeed come in the morning.

The Giver of All Things has not forgotten you, nor me – in the grief,
the mourning,
the very personal cries of our souls lined in
beautiful,
silver threads
of Hope.

Faith, Hope, Love.
The greatest of these is Love.

Advent Incarnate.

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Draw Near

I ran out of peppermint cocoa this morning.
Just like that.
Not a single ounce to add to my morning coffee, nor console me that the fifth day of Pacific Northwest rain is not so terrible.

 

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My medically fragile daughter, recently diagnosed with anemia, is home today. It is “that time of the month” and it is absolutely wreaking havoc on her already worn out body.

Today was also the day we were supposed to receive the keys to our new home. We have a lousy appraiser who wrote a lousy appraisal and now has strong women from loan offices and realty breathing down his throat to get it fixed and he feels threatened so he refuses to do so in a timely manner. Thus, the domino affect of postponements from getting our daughter transferred to a new school, contractors, and now the possibility of having to move furniture 48 hours before Christmas Day.

The last month for me has been an onslaught of disappointments, from utter devastation for the country I call home, to my personal and professional life (being a writer is the toughest job I have ever had and the pay stinks). I also have an inner voice of shame who likes to try and convince me that my expectations and disappointments are petty and selfish, compared to the utter devastation that is happening to brothers and sisters the world over. How dare I feel sorry for myself!

The Giver of All Things has been talking to me. Usually, our form of communication is metaphorically through nature, followed by the words and actions of community. Very rarely do I hear from God via that still, small voice but when I do – I know it is in my best interest to drop everything and listen closely.

The whispering in my ear has been two words::
“Draw Near”.

Now, that may seem vague and obtuse, but I must tell you – the whisper emanates at the most uncanniest of times.

When tears stream down my face reading about the bombing of a children’s hospital in Aleppo, God whispers “Draw Near”.

When my daughter comes to me, eyes filled with fright, asking if a President can send her back to Ethiopia, God whispers “Draw Near.”

When I awaken in the middle of the night and a panic attack has hit, God whispers “Draw Near”.

When I feel a weariness of body and spirit in which all I want to do is binge Netflix for days and drink coffee, God whispers “Draw Near”.

I do not believe God is a fixer. I do not believe that in those moments of dialogue between us, everything will resolve itself.
I believe that in these moments, as I respond to the invitation to draw near, I am given an opportunity to remember.

Has there ever been a time in life where it has been more imperative to remember?
History – real history – has so much to teach us about moving forward in such a way as to not repeat the atrocities of the past.

The same is true with faith.

“Remembering” is an opportunity for me to look back at the character of God and the manifestation of that character in my own life. It is a chance for me to recall those memories – the long-suffering ones of waiting, as well as the ones in which God’s character was revealed rather quickly.

“Drawing Near” to God is giving myself permission to tune out distraction and embrace the restoration of peace and quiet.

As we enter the Season of Advent, we writers tend to get excited about our craft and sharing words with our readers.
A season of waiting is so characteristic of a writer, and as humans, we all seem to need permission or an invitation to embrace a season of waiting. It is not something that seems to come naturally.

And as we wait, we can embrace that whisper to “Draw Near”. We can respond to that whisper by taking the time to remember as we wait.

Draw Near.

 

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Day 8.

We all know what is going to happen here, don’t we?

As I stare out at the vast array of pumpkins showing off under the blue sky and autumnal sun, it really is quite obvious.

The search for the perfect pumpkin ensues.

Cinerella
Casper white
Jack O’ Lantern
Sweet Dumpling
Galeux d’ Eysines
Jarrahdale

No matter what type you are into –
more than likely, the goal is to find the most perfect specimen in the patch.

And as I strolled and hovered and scrutinized, this is what I discovered::

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and

unnamed-2
.
I stood over them for quite some time, honestly.
To my surprise, I found myself resonating with
misshapen,
rotting,
deformed
pumpkins.

And my inner soul proclaimed,
“these are my pumpkins!”

Somewhere, in the chronicles of time, Fall Harvest and the celebration thereof became capitalism and marketing and the pursuit of the
perfect
pumpkin
to sit and rot
on the front steps
of one’s home.

Of course, in all altruism, we grab one or two for Johnny and Jeannie to carve, or these days, thanks to Pinterest,
we download and trace the “ultimate”
design to adorn our perfect pumpkin,
all the while –

this guy

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remains
back
at the
Patch.

Imperfect and riddled with rot,
yet a survivor that came to full fruit despite the odds.

The former is what is seen, yet the latter is what matters.

The former is what is SEEN,

yet

the
LATTER
is
what
MATTERS.