Follow the Pull

Today I got together with a friend who I hadn’t talked to in almost a decade. Neither of us had stayed up on each other’s lives very well, so there were lots of gaps to fill in. We swapped highs and lows. We talked about the big moves and the big changes.

I loved hearing about the ways in which he followed curiosity and intuition and the places that has taken him. And though, in many ways his life, like my own, has been different than he expected or anticipated or perhaps at times even wanted, his life has been full and rich with experiences. And as I listened there was some envy that stirred in me, and some desire that woke from sleep and whispered for my attention.

Before meeting this friend I had woken up already processing through a certain aspect of my story, and I held that part of me as I listened, and she joined her voice with the voice of envy and desire.

Before Bryan and I got married my parents expressed one concern: they weren’t sure that Bryan would be able to give me the “big life” that I wanted. It sounds a little silly perhaps. But, it wasn’t an invalid concern, you see my husband has a fairly contented nature. Sometimes I think his ideal life would maybe look like a little cabin in the woods, all on his own, or maybe with a few close friends walking distance away. Somewhere he could live a simple minimalist life and rarely leave the house except for long walks.

I, on the other hand, have always longed for more, for change, for experience. Don’t get me wrong, there are times, especially during seasons of stress (which most of the past few years have been) when a little minimalist house in the middle of nowhere sounds pretty good. But, the overarching theme in my life is not for a simple, quiet life.

I want my life to be unique. I want to matter, to influence people, to change things, to build something, to be part of something bigger than myself.

In high school I didn’t just want to go to school, I wanted to influence my class in such a way that they would all love God and continue to walk a spiritual journey even after graduation. I didn’t just want to be part of a church, I wanted to change the church, or start a new kind of church. In college when I studied education I didn’t just want to teach, I wanted to change the education system, I wanted to start my own school, I wanted to teach differently.

I had dolls as a little girl, and I did play house, but I preferred to set up shop with my sister and best friend and create our own little company. I preferred playing with the boys. I preferred reading about great adventures and brave heroines. I preferred playing with Lego or to sketch out elaborate architectural plans. I preferred reading poetry while daydreaming outside. I wanted to do something, build something, create something. I wanted to feel inspired and I dreamed about one day being inspiring.

When I dreamed about my life, it never looked like life in suburbia with two kids and a picket fence. I wanted more than that.

My life now looks a lot like life in suburbia with two kids and a picket fence (although our fences here in AZ are cement brick rather than picket). But, I still want more. I still want unique. I still want different. I still want big.

I woke up this morning with this desire in my hands. So I started to look it over, examine it, and ask it some questions. Why do I want this? Is it part of me, part of who I am and who I’m called to be? Or is it an alter ego? How do I define the words unique, important, and big? How might I pursue some aspects of that desire even while staying faithful to the responsibilities I have and the place in life I’ve been given?

It was amidst processing through these thoughts and questions that I met with this friend, who by all outward standards has had a big life. He’s lived and studied and worked all over the world. He’s started a non-profit. His life is fluid and changing and full of experiences and creativity. I have no doubt that he’s touched and changed people’s lives.

And yet over and over throughout our conversation he kept making comments about how he hadn’t expected his life to go this way, how it was different than he had planned, how life took him towards things he hadn’t wanted.

Themes kept popping up in the conversation; themes of trusting the path that comes for us, of trusting that life takes us where we need to go (even if it’s not where we thought or wanted), of trusting that what is for us will come for us, and that all of the twists and turns and unexpected are preparation for what’s to come.

I have to admit, when I first left our time together, I felt the smallness of my life. Driving my minivan to pick my daughter up from school, stopping by the store to get groceries, coming home to laundry and dishes. It all felt so mundane, so repetitive and pointless. I didn’t feel like I was building anything, creating anything, leaving a mark on the world in any way, apart from maybe the three humans that trust me to care for them. It felt small. I felt small.

But, then I started to sit again with these questions, and with the conversation.

I started to wondered. What might it look like to live fluidly in the live I already lead, to listen to the prompting of the Spirit and respond even if it feels small, trusting that what is for me will come?

I don’t know how to live the big influential life I sometimes dream about, I’m still not entirely sure if it’s even something that is for me, but I think perhaps the way there isn’t found in pursuit of the desire itself, but instead in pursuit of curiosity, in pursuit of intuition and the voice of the Spirit that urges and prompts and pulls us forward into what is for us.

Perhaps I don’t need to change a whole system,
or build something that lasts,
or even make people’s lives better,
perhaps I just need to follow the pull,
listen and obey,
and trust that in so doing I will change what I need to change,
build what I’m intended to build,
and make better the lives of the people I’m called to love.

 

Grace and peace,
Bethany

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A Country Called Cancer

There’s something they don’t tell you, something you don’t realize when you’re first diagnosed with cancer or when you first have an immediate family member diagnosed with cancer. You aren’t just entering the “worst club with the best people” as they sometimes say, you are crossing a border. You’re becoming an expat in a new land, a war zone. 

You hope that you can live there a short time, fight in the battle you’ve been recruited into, and then move on, move out, make a new home in a city called Survivor, in a town called Remission. What you don’t realize though, is that Survivor and Remission are just border towns in the country of Cancer. Once you cross the borders into Cancer, you can never go back. There are always check points, check ups, and always the chance of being recruited back into the battle again.

You also don’t realize that sometimes, for many soldiers, Survivor and Remission will never open their gates. These solders will fight in the battle and live in the war zone for the rest of their life. They may have weeks, or, God willing, maybe whole years, when they can visit or even set up home in the small neighborhood of Stable Disease. But, leaving the war zone is never an option. They’ve been drafted for life.

Often those on the outside don’t realize that you are a resident in the country of Cancer now. They think you can leave, they pray for your return, they expect you to move home someday, to be completely free of the battle. But this is a battle that leaves permanent scars, this is a citizenship that is irrevocable.

Bryan is one of those soldiers that’s been drafted for life and as his wife I’ve been drafted along with him. And we’re tired.

You see there’s something else that you can’t really understand until you’ve experienced it: sometimes the periods of reprieve, the times when tumors are shrinking or stable, the times when you aren’t fighting head on and you can take a little breather on the side lines, those times are harder than being in the heart of the battle. It sounds ironic and ridiculous doesn’t it? But, let me tell you it’s true.

In the middle of the fight, in the height of the struggle, Adrenaline comes to the rescue. Fight kicks in and takes over. At the height of Bryan’s pain during the past few months I was more productive than I’ve been in ages. There was something to do, a battle to fight, and I fought it and then some extra ones too. Adrenaline carried me.

After almost three months of intense and growing pain, last week Bryan’s tumors started to shrink. His pain stopped. Thanks to lots of prayer, three tiny little pills, and God’s unending grace, we experienced our own little miracle.

Friends and family celebrate, and praise, and scatter.

And I wish I could join them, but I sit on the sidelines feeling the bruises that adrenaline kept me from feeling before. Now Adrenaline has said it’s goodbyes and left us feeling wasted and weary. With more breathing room, anxiety has space to come to the surface and yell. It lobbies for my attention at every turn. It keeps me awake at night with it’s voice in my ear.

We are grateful. And we do rejoice. We are relieved and we continually count this season a blessing we weren’t sure we were going to get. But we are still in the war zone and the quiet is deafening. We have no idea when the next raid will come, when the next battle will break in, when the next air strike will drop. And all the fight has gone out of me.

This yo-yoing back and forth, this being relieved and then being struck down again, and again, and again. It takes a toll.

Next month it’ll be five years since Bryan was drafted into this battle and we moved into the Country of Cancer. Five years. We are grateful that it has been so long. Grateful that each season of battle has been followed by a season of reprieve. Grateful that we have lived long by melanoma standards in the land that many don’t last long in. But we are weary of this citizenship.

I see the walls my little heart has built after 5 years and I wonder what sort of armor I’ll wear after a decade. Could I do a decade? I pray for a decade. I pray for more. Yet at the same time fearing the bruising and battles that a decade of this would bring.

They say “bloom where you’re planted”, but I still haven’t figured out how to bloom in the the country of Cancer. These battles take everything from me, the fear that gets stirred up each time my husband’s cancer grows again demands my full attention. And when the bombs stop falling and these battles leave me space to breathe and imagine, I always find I’m too weary and beat down to do the work. To do any work.

Today I’m reminding myself that though I have been a citizen of Cancer for five years, and a citizen of another battle ridden country (Special Needs Parenting) for just as long, these are not my only citizenships. 

I am also a citizen of another country,

a country with a promise, 

a country ruled by the King of Grace,

the God of Love. 

 

Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

 

Grace and peace,

Bethany

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Sabbath Thoughts

When I was 13 I started spending the summer with my aunt and uncle who were Seventh Day Adventists, and who practiced a strict Sabbath (or at least it felt strict to my teenage self). They didn’t go out to eat or spend money on Sabbath. They didn’t watch TV or go to the movies or play video games or computer games on Sabbath. They didn’t work on Sabbath.

At first this felt like a limitation, but even as a young girl I slowly started to feel the sweetness in it. We spent a lot of Saturdays laying on the living room floor laughing as my cousin entertained us. We snuggled on the couch together and listened to Adventures in Odyssey tapes. My aunt and I went for long walks and talked. My sister-cousin and I giggled and shared secrets. They were slow, long, lingering days. And they were sweet.

After my cousin died this summer I kept thinking about those lingering summer Sabbaths. I couldn’t shake them. I felt so grateful for those days, for those moments, for those memories.

Ever since then I’ve been trying on limitations for Sabbath. I say trying on because it has been like a woman trying to decide what to wear for a date. I try on a limitation and then discard it and try on another. There’s been lots of grace and flexibility and gentleness, but slowly I’m finding my way. I’m trying to pursue a Sabbath that feels like rest, celebration, and freedom, for us in this season. I’m seeking a day that feels set apart and different from other days. So I’ve been sitting with a few questions…

What things do I want to rest from, set aside, not HAVE to do?

What things do I want to focus on, lean into, and celebrate? 

What activities feel like freedom and rest to me and what activities feel like bondage?

I’m still figuring it out. Truthfully, there are plenty of things in my life as a caregiver that feel like bondage that I can’t set aside, like the syringes of food I need to give my daughter every 15 minutes. But I’m finding that there are plenty of things that I can set aside, that I can limit. For example, I may not be able to stop giving Sage food every 15 minutes, but I can make her blended food ahead of time so I don’t have to do it on Saturday. So on Friday I make enough food to last her from Friday night to Sunday morning.

Slowly I’m finding some freedom in a few limits I’ve gently adopted. 

I don’t clean or do laundry on Sabbath. As any of my friends will tell you, I’m not a natural housewife. My house isn’t often clean and my laundry is rarely done. I hate these tasks, they are drudgery to me and they spread into each and every day of my week, but not Saturdays. Saturdays I’m choosing something different. This has lead to me making sure that all the laundry is done and the house is picked up before Friday night, which means we sit down to dinner Friday in a clean space, a space that feels light, and free, and clear. For at least this one night a week my house is clean. And I can enter into my decision to not clean or do laundry on Saturday with freedom. 

Now this doesn’t mean I stubbornly refuse to do ANY dishes on Saturday. There have been Saturdays I have washed dishes while talking to my husband and hanging out together, but I did them because I wanted to do them, because it was a shared activity rather than a chore or a task on my to-do list. I don’t require myself to do them and if the dishes stay in the sink all day on Saturday I let that happen.

Another “rule” we’ve started has been attempting to make Friday night dinners something special. We sit down to dinner together at the table most nights, but on Fridays we also light a candle, pull out a jar of questions and ask them to one another, and linger a little longer. Last week we read the Friday Compline from the Celtic Book of Daily Prayer together before starting dinner. We don’t eat leftovers on Fridays and I do what I can to make this a special meal and time together. 

We also actively pursue quality time on Saturdays. On Saturday mornings my husband and I sit and drink coffee and talk together. If he invites me to do a cross word puzzle with him I say yes, rather than my norm of saying no and rushing off to my to-do list, or to something else I enjoy more. I don’t check social media at all on Saturdays. Sometime on Saturday we play a game together as a family and often we pick out a movie to watch all together rather than being on our own devises. 

We haven’t limited electronics on Sabbath, apart from my personal choice to be off social media, but I have organically tried to encourage other activities. We have also tried to engage in electronics more as a family activity on this day rather than an individual activity. So if my son really wants to play minecraft, rather than letting him and going to do my own thing, or telling him he can’t and has to do what I want to do, I ask if I can play with him and we play together.

We intentionally pursue togetherness.

Cooking is another one of those daily tasks that looses it’s joy and becomes a chore for me, so on Saturdays I’ve decided not to cook. I make food for Saturday on Friday. Maybe this means prepping a meal that I can just dump in the crockpot in the morning. Maybe it’s making something for Friday’s dinner that will give us enough leftovers to eat for Saturday. Maybe it means my kids have cereal or toast or something they can get themselves. Maybe it means my husband cooks. After Friday nights nice dinner, I don’t cook. 

I won’t spend money or talk about spending money on Sabbath. This means that on Saturdays my son can’t ask me for a toy or app that he wants over and over and over again. This rule is especially soft and bendable when others are in town or when we are out of town, but it’s a helpful way for me to not allow a common stress trigger to influence my thoughts or behavior for a day. 

Both my husband and I don’t do any work on this day. I don’t prepare for yoga classes, or work on writing, or check email, or work on various projects or ideas I may have. We don’t cross things off our to-do list on this one day. This day is for rest and being together, not for furthering our goals. 

These rules have been gentle, there’s space for breaking them. There have been Sabbaths in the past few months that don’t look at all like this, but slowly we are settling into this rhythm, and Saturdays are starting to become a day that feels different and set apart.

We are still very much just figuring this out. Some of these things are decisions and limitations I’m not sure about yet. It may shift and change, but right now these things are working for us in this season. 

How about you? Have you ever implemented an intentional day of rest? What did/does that look like for you?

Grace and peace,
Bethany

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)

I’m With You, All of You

I am full of arguments against writing this post.

The first is the loudest voice, it tells me that it is more loving to stay silent, or if I can’t stay silent then to stay vague. Don’t offend anyone. Don’t cause conflict. Don’t rock the boat. It’s wiser to just listen. And while this voice speaks some truth, it also lies. I have spent a lot of my life listening to the voices that tell me to get smaller and quieter and I don’t want to follow their lead anymore.

The way of love also asks us to listen, but it asks more of us than just getting quiet. It asks that we show up to the table, that we listen when others speak, but that we also speak up ourselves. It asks that we show up with all of ourselves and our hearts and we let others show up with all of their selves and their hearts too. It asks that we love and value others enough to hear them, really truly hear them, but also that we know ourselves to be loved and valuable enough to not tolerate anyone who doesn’t respect, validate, and listen to our voice as well.

Without good people speaking out, disregarding their own security and acceptance, ignoring the apparent wisdom of silence for the courage of love, we would never have change of any kind.

And I think the way of love is the way of change, because love wants growth. Love is not passively condoning an action that hurts someone because saying something might hurt someone’s feelings. Love is speaking up and calling forth something higher, something better, some growth that would lead more and more towards wholeness, health, well being, and true connection.

The voice that tells me to stay silent, even if the reason is that “it’s more loving”, is not a loving voice. It is the voice of shame. Period. And I will not live under shame’s tyranny. I want to live under love’s dominion.

Having gotten over one hurdle towards writing another emerges.

“Other’s are already saying it better.”

I have felt proud of my Instagram feed this week. I am sure there are those out there who are being hurtful, hateful, and spiteful, but I have heard little of that. What I have heard and seen from so many people, people who are disappointed and hurt, is grace. I have seen love in action from so many people as they engage socially in sharing their thoughts, their feelings, there ideas, their fear, and their disappointment. I have seen people inviting those very different from them to the conversation both online and face-to-face. I have read words that are more thoughtful, beautiful, and powerful than anything I have read in the modern era in a long while.

Others are saying it better.

And then today I happen to be reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet in which she writes:

“If I thought I had to say it better than anybody else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said; by me; ontologically. We each have to say it, to say it our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes out through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn’t what human creation is about.”

And like a flash of lighting I know I have to write this post. There is something I have to say. Not because I can say it better, or in some new way, but because it has to be said by me. There is something in me, which must come out. Not because of anyone else, but because of me. Because in the process of speaking, writing, sharing, creating, there is some growth that happens in the one who speaks, writes, shares and creates. There are words that need to come out of me because in doing so they can change me. And I need that. Always. No matter how many others are also doing that work and seem to be doing it better.

So, I sat down to write and a new fear rose, a new argument made it’s case. What if someone takes my words the wrong way? What if someone feels personally hurt or angered or harmed by my words? That can’t be the way of love, can it?

I think of a post I read this morning in which a woman I follow wrote beautifully on the cyclical nature of change and progress, the discomfort of it, the way the pendulum swings back and forth. The words were thoughtful, and gentle, and reading it felt like a call towards peace. But then I scrolled down and a rather long comment caught my eye. The person writing the comment was clearly upset, angry, and feeling their choice was being attacked by something that I could see clearly didn’t aim at attacking.

What if someone misunderstands? What if they take my feelings as a personal attack?

And I’m reminded of a truth that seems to be everywhere in my life right now. It is both simple and one of the most complex ideas I have ever grappled with:

I am not responsible for other people’s feelings. Just as someone else is not responsible for mine.

When I try to make someone responsible for my feelings I am placing shame and blame somewhere it can’t be placed.

Where this get’s complicated is that I do have a responsibility to my words and actions. I want to live in love, speak in love, act in love. I want to be aware and intentional. I don’t want to harm another, even in their feelings. And if I degrade, devalue, humiliate, abuse, dehumanize, brutalize, wrongfully accuse, or shame someone either in my words or my actions I am absolutely responsible for that. If I intentionally (or unintentionally) inflict harm on another with my words (or actions) I am responsible for that.

But, I cannot be responsible for how someone takes something I say in love, for how they interpret my words or how it makes them feel. Feelings are a rather tricky thing, and they come not just from what I say but from how what I say triggers a myriad of past experiences and stories in someone else. I can’t control that reaction. I am not responsible for another person’s feelings. I am responsible for my own actions, my own words, my own responses, that’s it.

So, here’s my promise to you: I will speak carefully.

I will chose my words with intention and caution. I will not use shame, I will not devalue, or degrade.

Will you read this post with grace? Will you read it with softness and understanding, not taking it as a personal attack, but as exactly what it is, my own processing, the words that must be said by me?

So, here it is…

I felt shocked, saddened, angry and discouraged that Donald Trump won the presidency. I could even go so far as to say I felt heartbroken by it. I walked around in a depressed daze for much of this week.

It wasn’t because a Republican won. I don’t often feel that Republicans value the things I value, but I have nothing against Republicans and I feel like there are plenty of them who would do a fine job running the country even though I may not agree with them.

It wasn’t that Hillary lost, I voted for her and I feel good about that vote, but I don’t love her. I didn’t want her to win the Democratic ticket. She feels like a typical politician.

The depression didn’t come from those things, it came from who won and how they won.

It was because someone won who is endorsed by the KKK and other white supremacy groups (yes, those groups shockingly still exist), who continually makes racist comments, who advocates for war crimes, who according to politifact tells the truth only 4% of the time, and has bragged about sexually predatory behavior.

It felt to me like a victory for hatred, for racism, for bigotry, for sexism, for disrespect, for inequality, for fear.

It felt to me like love and respect and civilized human decency lost. And that feels rather discouraging (to say it lightly).

I know a lot of wonderful, kind, loving thoughtful people who voted for Trump. I do NOT think they are about everything he seems to be about.

I am personally struggling to understand how, not being about those things, a person could vote for someone who is so blatantly about those things. But, I know this was a complicated race. I know people value different things than I do. I know there’s a lot that went into every persons decision, but knowing that doesn’t make me any less sad. I’m sad.

I’m sad for our country. I’m sad for the world, because this swing towards extremism, towards fundamentalism, towards exclusivism, and ethnocentrism, is not just happening in America it’s happening in a lot of places right now.

And I personally chose not to value those things.

The truth is those things are in me, as I wake up to myself I can see all of it.

In 1942 Etty Hillesum, a Jewish women in Amsterdam, wrote this in her journal as Nazis were rounding people up in the streets:

“I try to look things straight in the face, even the worst of crimes…I feel like a small battlefield in which the problems of our time are being fought out. All one can hope to do is to keep oneself humbly available, to allow oneself to be a battlefield.”

I don’t want to admit it, to see it, and especially not to write it, but the hatred I see in others is mirrored in me, the fear I see in others is mirrored in me. I am just as capable of bigotry and racism and sexism and exclusivity as even Donald Trump. I am just as capable of being close-minded and judgmental as the next person. I am not naive enough to say I am innocent; I am not. My world, my very soul, is subtly and not-so-subtly colored by all those things. Just like Etty I am a “small battlefield in which the problems of our time are being fought out.” But I will fight them out. I will not give in to my baser self. And I think I had hoped that we would not elect a candidate who time and time again seems to give into that baser nature and not even be in the battlefield.

So, what I need to write for me, right now, ontologically – in order to be – is a new commitment, a sort of vote of my own.

I need to say I’m with women, and girls, who are afraid to walk down the street alone at night, who are paid less than their male counterparts, who are kept out of certain jobs and certain industries, who are still in so many settings treated as objects for someone else’s pleasure either blatantly or subtly. I’m with you.

I’m with those who’s skin is darker and history more tumultuous than mine, who are between two and four times more likely to be stopped by police and 3 times more likely to be shot unarmed, who still in this day and age are segregated and looked down on and treated as lesser by so many, who enter their society being seen as a threat before they’ve even done anything. I’m sorry. And I’m with you.

I need to say I’m with the immigrant, those who are searching for home, for place, for safety; whether you come here legally or illegally because I know sometimes coming legally is just too hard and too expensive and you would do anything to have a future and give your children a future even if it means breaking the law. I get it. I would feel that too. I’m with you.

I’m with the disabled, those who walk differently and talk differently and those who don’t walk or talk at all, those who’s brains work differently than mine, who see the world with entirely different eyes, who we label as “disabled” because often we don’t know any better, but who just like me were made in the image of God and have so much to teach me about life and love and what it really means to be healthy and whole. We need you in our societies, in our churches, in our families. I’m with you. I’m with my daughter.

I’m with the sick who don’t know how they will afford the treatments they need, who are concerned that they will be denied insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions, who are held responsible for things they should never be held responsible for, who in any other industrialized civilized country would be cared for, because basic healthcare is a human right, at least equal to that of education, that any ruling government should be obligated to provide, but here we haven’t. I’m with you. I understand your stress and your fear.

I’m with all those who have been treated as less than, because of their race, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation. People matter. You matter. You have value. Even if others don’t treat you as valuable. Even if our highest office of government, the president himself, doesn’t treat you with value.

AND…

I need to say I’m with those of you who voted for Trump. Not because I agree with you, but because you have value too, just as much as me, or anyone else. You are entitled to your choice, to your ideas, to your vote. Just like I am.

I want to try to understand you…

To those of you who voted for him because you’re hurting, you feel like you’ve been forgotten, you feel like you aren’t getting what you’re entitled to, you want a better future for yourself and your children and you think he can give you that, I hear you. I want a better future for you and your children too, for all of us and our children.

To those of you who voted for him because the most important issue to you is abortion, you are outraged that so many innocents are being murdered every year, I hear you. I’m with you in wishing abortions would stop. It’s a complicated issue, but I’m saddened by that loss of life, by all that potential destroyed. I’m with you.

To those of you who voted for him because you believe in the Republican party, you might notice that it’s not the party it was, you might not like that, but you still believe in the things the Republican party stands for and you could never vote otherwise, I respect your loyalty. I was raised Republican, there are things they say that they are about that I could get behind if I actually saw them being about those things. I hear you. I hope for a Republican party that is more than just a hate group, that is really about some of the things they say they are about, and I know that will only happen by kind passionate people like you staying in the party and working to raise the level of discourse and the quality of candidate. I’m for that.

To those of you who voted for him because you wanted change, you liked how he said whatever came into his mind and wasn’t polished and rehearsed, you liked that he wasn’t a politician, and even that he sometimes messed up and said the wrong thing, you value authenticity and people being who they are even in the spot light, I get that. I like that too. We desperately do need change, we desperately do need people in office who are authentic and not two-faced, but I also believe in the value of words and that words matter and what we say matters and we should be careful in how we use our language, using our words to built up rather than abuse or harm.

To those of you who voted for him because your parents, or friends, or maybe your pastor and the other people around you told you it was the right thing to do, even the “Christian” thing to do, and you believed them, because your relationships are built on trust and you trust them, I understand that. I voted that way for a time. It’s nice and comforting to see the world in black and white and so much harder to try to start wading through the grey. I get that. I feel that. I’m with you.

To those of you who voted for Trump because you really couldn’t tolerate seeing Hillary in the white house, you have a visceral, extremely negative reaction to the Clintons, you think they are manipulative, lying, slimy, two-faced, disingenuous, and even evil, I hear you. That feeling that you get in your gut when you think about the Clintons, that’s the feeling I have when I think about Trump. I get you. I understand you. The Clintons are far from clean, far from honest or forthcoming. And you value those things. I understand that. I’m with you.

And to those of you who voted for Trump for reasons I haven’t thought of, reasons perhaps beyond my understanding, maybe you really are scared about immigrants taking your jobs, maybe you really do like the few policies he sort of put forth, wherever you are coming from, whatever reason you had for voting for him, I’m with you.

I’m with you.
Not because I agree.
But because I value you.
I value your voice and your right to chose.
I value democracy.

Most of all, I’m with you because it’s the only way we can move forward.

But the second you, or our president-elect, start to devalue another human being, whatever their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion I will call you on it. I will fight you on it. I will not stand behind that.

I am willing to enter into an honest, respectful, discourse about differing political ideologies and plans, with love, but I am finally ok fighting when you say or do something that devalues another human being. Loving, respectful, discourse is so deeply needed and important, but if all I do when you degrade another human being is shrug my shoulders and say you are entitled to your beliefs I am no longer walking in the way of love. I am then part of the problem.

And I do not want to be part of the problem anymore, even in the darkest most subtle and unconscious places of my heart. I will let my heart, my life, be the battlefield. I suspect I will fail at times, but I will try and I will keep fighting.

I do not want to stand silently or idly by any longer.

I am with America.
I believe in the experiment that is America.

I am also for our shared growth, our shared progress, our shared value. Each and every one of us.

Grace and peace,
Bethany

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Self-Rejection and Becoming Beloved

Ok, friends lets get real honest. I’m fighting today, fighting to believe that I am loved. There are lots of things that can trigger insecurity for me, but today I’m sitting with one particular trigger, and it’s stirring up lots of self-doubt and self-rejection.

Henri Nouwen calls self-rejection “the greatest trap in our life”. And then goes on to write,

I am constantly surprised at how quickly I give in to this temptation. As soon as someone accused me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking: “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” Instead of taking a critical look at the circumstances or trying to understand my own and others’ limitations, I tend to blame myself – not just for what I did, but for who I am. My dark side says: “I am no good…I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned.”

Today I’m choosing to “take a critical look at the circumstances” and “try to understand”.

A little over a week ago I announced that I was going to teach two special Yoga Nidra classes. I decided to try something. I decided to try pitching an event rather than just my normal weekly classes. I decided to charge money and make people pay ahead of time in an effort to value myself and what I have to offer. I thought Yoga Nidra would be a good event/workshop type class to start with, since it’s very accessible for all levels, and I picked an evening time since I’ve had a number of people tell me it would be easier for them to come in the evening after their kids are in bed. I also decided to put myself out there and market the classes in a way that I haven’t before – putting out lots of clear asks, updates, reminders, and info about yoga Nidra.

When I launched I told myself I’d have no problem filling the classes and some part of me believed that.

Now it’s been a week and a half since I announced the events, the first class is 5 days away, and only 2 people have signed up

I don’t want to admit that. I don’t want to publicly share that only 2 people signed up so far.

The psychology-intrigued side of me says don’t share, if you make people think others haven’t signed up then they won’t want to either. People want to be where other people are, where things are happening. That’s when the shame side of me jumps in with a very clear, “Plus, admitting only 2 signed up will just prove to everyone how lame and insignificant you are.”

Shame is loud on this one.

Another voice rises up and tries to fight, pointing out that someone choosing not to come may have nothing to do with me. In fact it almost certainly has nothing to do with me. Each person has every right to make the choice that’s right for them in this moment and maybe this class just isn’t for them. That’s fine. It’s not going to be for everyone. Not everything I offer will be for everyone. I’m not going to be for everyone. I get that.

But shame doesn’t stop there and back off, of course not. Shame continues to berate me with all the other classes, and projects, offerings and dreams that haven’t been chosen, that no one showed up for, that failed. I begin to wonder if I’m for anyone, maybe I really don’t have anything to offer the world, maybe no one likes what I put out there. I am useless. I am insignificant. I am nothing. I am nobody. 

I take a deep breath. I take captive every thought and surround it with larger truth, “Jesus loves me”. Then I pull myself back from the edge, “Two people signed up, that’s not no one. I’m for those two. They are for me. And there’s still time more could sign up.”

I do battle with my thoughts as I sit in the line of cars waiting to pick up my son. My playlist from this morning’s yoga class plays quietly in the background, and just as Shame roars up again, I catch the words of the song echoing, “You’re enough. You’re enough. You’re enough.” My breath catches in my throat and I fight back tears.

I’m enough. 

Statements like this used to bother me, I’d push back with comments like “I’m not enough. That’s the whole point, that’s why I need Jesus. Only Jesus is enough.” Then I realized enough doesn’t mean perfect. What I need to know in those moments when my heart longs to hear “you’re enough” is that I have nothing to prove, nothing to protect, nothing to gain or force or strive after.

I am enough for Jesus right where I am, right as I am. I am enough for the life he’s placed me in. I don’t have to work, and strive, and pull myself up from my boot straps. I don’t have to kill myself to be something I’m not. I can be me, as he made me. I already have everything I need for life and godliness through Christ Jesus. It’s enough. My weak, feeble hands are enough. I don’t have to kill myself to gain favor, to be accepted, to be significant. I’m enough already. For one generation the phrase that struck the heart was, “Just as I am”, for another it’s “I am enough.”

I turn the music down and open the door for my son. As he climbs in, I think about how I never want him to feel less than, or small, to shrink back from the good God created him for, or to doubt that God created him for any good at all. But I know that he will. Because we all do.

Today I’m feeling “less than” because only a few people signed up for my class. Yesterday, I felt “less than” for entirely different reasons. What I need at both times is a reminder of my original significance, of the value God gives his children, of my identity, not as struggling floundering yoga instructor, or as failing mom, or temperamental wife, or whatever else, but a reminder of my truest, deepest, core identity as “beloved”.

I am loved. 
You are loved. 
We are loved. 

And so I fight shame, and the desire to shrink back, not by puffing up and making you think lots of people have signed up and I’m this great yoga instructor leading all these classes, but with Satya: truthfulness.

I fight shame by getting honest, and open, by pulling off the cover and revealing that which I’d rather keep hidden. I fight shame by showing you my insecurity, my fear, my self-rejection, and claiming something different over myself.

I fight shame by sharing that only 2 people have signed up so far.

Friends, please know I don’t share that to manipulate you into signing up or to put pressure (or shame) on you – God forbid!!! There is complete and total freedom for you, friends. You don’t have to come to my class to prove that you love me or that I’m significant. The truth is you can’t do that anyway, even if you did come to my class. I could have a full class and still feel insignificant and unloved. As long as my self-worth is tied to other people I will always ride a roller coaster of self-rejection. What I need is not affirmation, what I need is to accept the love God pours out on me, to believe that I am valuable to him.

John Philip Newell writes in his book A New Harmony, “What is it we need to know in our lives? That we are loved. That we have always been loved.” We can’t know this simply by other people telling us, we have to claim it for ourselves. We have to take hold of love.

Henri Nouwen writes in Life of The Beloved:

Aren’t you, like me, hoping that some person, thing, or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being you desire?…But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run. This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burn-out. This is the way to spiritual death.

Well, you and I don’t have to kill ourselves. We are Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children, and friends loved or wounded us. That’s the truth of our lives. That’s the truth spoken by the voice that says, “You are my Beloved.”

I am loved. 
You are loved.
We are loved. 

Breath it in friends. Claim it.

Grace and peace,
Bethany

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