With Weariness

The current wave of human shortcomings and character flaws found in the news these last couple months have left me pummeled like the time I was on Oahu at some beach innocently talking to my friend when a wave came from behind and threw me into the sand. I was scratched for days by the grit left in hard to reach places, undetected until a long hike or bike ride.

Amazon fires, binary positions about climate change, and the US military strike killing innocent farmers in Afghanistan. And then this week – Moreno Valley. Oh that smiling face. I do not know him but he could be mine. He might some day be mine. The lives of these middle school children, let me repeat – children, forever changed. One’s breath to never breathe again except through another body (organ donation) and at least two 13 year olds whose families I imagine are devastated (at least that would be the appropriate response) for the sin of their son’s fists and what these boys will live with for the rest of their lives.

The hate and greed in the world today is nothing new. In fact, one doesn’t need to look too deep into history to realize the atrocities human beings can do to one another. Think Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, King Leopold in the Congo, Hitler, Cecil Rhodes in South Africa, Cortes in modern day Mexico, Christopher Columbus or Andrew Jackson to name a few that come to mind. Over the last eighteen months I’ve read some the excellent books that drive home these aspects of the human condition. Non-fiction accounts: Evicted by Matthew Desmond; King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild; When A Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa by Peter Godwin; Born A Crime by Trevor Noah; Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File by John Edgar Wideman. Fiction accounts: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly; Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd and the classic by Wilma Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop, which touches on the ugly cost to Native American’s of pioneering settlements. There are obviously many more but these are the ones that have been in my hands recently.

Oh how we need to be transformed by something greater than ourselves.

When my heart cries out, sometimes putting pen to paper helps reorient me back to the realities of this world. The following was inspired this week by St. Teresa of Avila “bookmark” prayer.

Let human being’s decisions disturb you.

Let your heart cry out from injustices.

With people, your heart will break again and again.

God alone is unchanging, perfect.

With Him, unity and communion with the earth and all people is possible.

Whoever has God is complete.

God alone avenges the weak and helpless.

–Kimber Del Valle

Good Friday

Good Friday.  It’s a day I’d rather ignore.  Too uncomfortable and sobering, especially the Good Friday service where year after year I’m unable to leave with dry eyes.  However what feels different about this year is I’ve been sitting in a bit of a Good Friday since January 6th when my friend, Danielle, passed away leaving her three children and husband (and all of us who loved her) to move through life without her.  I’m reminded in this moment that even though I knew her body would feel better, she wouldn’t be suffering, and she would be going to be with her Heavenly Father, in those last moments, I didn’t want her to leave.  I didn’t want her breath to slow until it was no longer.  I didn’t want to lose this three dimensional self – that could be hugged, touched, kissed.  And yet, just like Jesus, she breathed her last breath surrounded by people who loved and knew her.

In past years, I’ve been wrapped up in the excruciating pain and humiliation of Jesus’ Good Friday experience.  I’ve related to his cry, “Take this cup from me, Lord,” especially sitting with so many who’ve suffered tremendously.  But this year, I find myself at the bottom of the cross – feeling abandoned and disappointed.

My thoughts go something like, “This is all you got?  Hanging from a tree, crucified? Where is your promise?  Where is your victory?  You were supposed to raise our status – take us out of oppressive Roman rules and culture.  Instead, you’re dead on a cross.  Hanging.  Lifeless.  What use were you?  Why did you even come – raising our hopes, drawing us into your compassion, your healing power, your promise that God was your Father?  We were fine without you, 32 years ago.  We were managing.  Now, deflated.  Full of despair and hurt.  You’ve abandoned me, all of us really.  Was I crazy to believe in you?  Was I crazy to believe your promises that God’s Kingdom was being made new?  That God was a kind and loving master? That you would free us from Roman oppression.   We are at their mercy, not yours.”

If I were there now, beneath Jesus, I may walk away in disgust.  I’m not sure I would have lasted to see his body wrapped and put into a tomb.  I might have missed Jesus’ own feelings of abandonment, “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” which is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  I know this to be true, my sorrow would have been laced with disappointment.

With Danielle’s journey of cancer, we hoped for time, for even just one successful treatment but we were given none of it – only one brief respite with markers falling before they stormed back a month later worse than before.  During her fight against cancer with failed treatment after failed treatment, I found comfort studying the life of John the Baptist, who spent his whole life serving God only to be beheaded because a girl requested it.  Then there was Herod’s violence against the sons born within the window he’d suspected Jesus was born – thousands died because Herod was afraid for his status as King.  I’m left with questions: What kind of God brings this type of violence to innocent people and individuals who love Him and spend their whole lives serving Him?  My conclusion for today is that He is a God who isn’t as simpleminded as I am. In other words, I can’t even come close to having a mind like God.  I cannot reconcile His ways.

In truth, I don’t want to rush to Easter.  I don’t care Jesus rose from the dead in the moments of my Good Friday experiences, just like those who live in Good Friday due to the suffering of this world, helpless to know the day when they will emerge to Easter.  And for some, it will never come here on Earth.  Good Friday happens over and over as grief washes over parents who’ve lost children, husbands their wives and wives their husbands, and most disheartening, young children their mothers or fathers.  I think of the refugees who have no place to rest their head, the foster children who endure feeling unwanted in a system bound to fail them, the sexual minority persecuted by the church commanded to love their neighbor as themselves, the environment groaning from overuse, pollution, and neglect and the list of atrocities encountered in human and environmental life goes on and on.  In Good Friday moments we all feel the despair, the abandonment, the lack of response to our cries for relief.  In these moments, I don’t care that I will see my friends, family members – my son, in heaven.  I’m still living here – with my feelings of abandonment, betrayal, even disbelief over what “God has allowed?”

Where does my hope come from, here at the base of the cross?  I’ve learned it does come from Yahweh.  He showed His presence to all those people scoffing, grieving, and feeling abandoned or disappointed at the foot of the cross in earth’s momentary darkness, the ripping of the temple veil, the ground shaking and the rocks splitting open.  I believe in a God who holds complexity in mind-blowing ways.  I believe in a God who can from one perspective, abandon, yet show up.  Who can give, yet take away.  Who can heal, yet allow death and physical pain.  Who can convert, yet allow executions.  Who can adopt, yet allow neglect and abuse.

I believe I serve a God who doesn’t ask me to put away my Good Friday feelings – to pretend Easter has arrived prematurely.  Yet, I believe that God asks me to remember His promises, including He will never leave me nor forsake me, that He’s making all things new, that Palm Sunday happened as He foretold it, and that Easter, though unsatisfying to my earthly self who, had I known Jesus, would miss him tremendously and wouldn’t care about the Holy Spirit coming because I’d want Him – his person, gives me hope in the unseen.  And it is in this space – holding onto Hope, while feeling abandoned and disappointed that I sit at the foot of the cross acknowledging something much, much greater than myself.

To God be the Glory.

Avon 39 – Breast Cancer Walk

Someone asked me recently, what led me to walk the Avon 39?  My answer: It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for many years, when my friend and mentor, Beth Brokaw’s cancer came out of remission and catapulted her into living with stage 4 cancer, miraculously, for 15 years.

So, I signed up this year after hearing a friend was diagnosed with stage 3 in November, which very quickly became stage 4.  In my complete helpless feelings for this friend, Danielle, and her family, immediate and extended, whom I’m very connected with (very is the descriptor that gets placed after one spends Thanksgiving together at her mom’s house so very long ago, you’ve known family members for 20 years, and we’ve moved through pre-children to growing children), I hoped to at least DO something that kept her not just on my mind mentally, prayerfully, but also reminded me of the suffering she’s enduring every day.  I wanted to join her momentarily in this suffering space with something that would take everything I had.  It feels a bit silly – after all what can my suffering do to alleviate hers?  Nothing.  However, on an emotional and spiritual level, it brought me face to face with limitations, helplessness, the need for community and cheers of encouragement as well as facing vulnerability head on.  In this way, I walked in Danielle’s shoes with new understanding of her needs through my suffering experience.  Which I recognize as very limiting because the reality is I know only of momentary life-threatening anxiety, when I got held at gunpoint in my garage in 2000, I’m not having to contain and hold it as she does on a daily basis -living with unknown in the tension of fear and hope.  My own suffering started several weeks before the race after an 18-mile practice walk.  I developed deep, deep blisters on the balls of my feet.  They hadn’t recovered by the time I walked so I spent many hours researching how to take care of them, which turned into experimenting with what works (process included shoes, socks, and blister products).  As sometimes God does with timing, Danielle’s feet also became painful, a side effect of her chemotherapy, so I trained and hurt,then trained and hurt, which gave me hours to pray for her as well as experience a glimpse of her pain, how much time and space research can take (after all there are lots of opinions on best socks, shoes, best blister practices as there are lots of cancer treatment ideas and options) – at time it felt like i was on my own with loads of information but no idea of how to decipher what information applied to me or how it applied.

Even though I had a desire to do the Avon 39 walk, what really made me follow through with actually signing up for the event were these partners in crime….I couldn’t have done it without my wonderful team of friends and former workout partners – Jansen, Kathy and Seungee (from left to right in picture).

Here’s a recap of our time…

We look nice and fresh here…all full of smiles.  Ignorant smiles.Acquainting ourselves with our event sleeping arrangements…All smiles at 5:30 am.

1600 walkers

From the start, we had people cheering for us along the way.  People coming out of their houses, others going from section to section – singing, handing out red licorice, water, wet towels, and amazing otter pops, which none of us had eaten for decades (or at least didn’t admit to eating them for decades)!  Some of our favorite “cheerleaders” were a couple of guys who held up hilarious signs at different locations around the route.  For example, at around mile 5 or 6, one sign said “You are NOT almost there.”

We made it 1/3 of the way.  Lunch time!  Group stop for me to fix my blister – mile 19.  Thank goodness for my glacier gels and Seungee’s foot corn pads which were thicker than my moleskin.  From this picture – you cannot tell the steepness.  However, this hill and then when we went back down the other side was part of a mile long route…it was so steep my GPS only calculated 1/2 mile.  This was at MILE 24!!!!!  WHAT?  WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS?  We have no idea but someone must have been smiling.  Us – we just kept on keeping on, one foot after another.Yup!  We did it.  What didn’t get counted was then needing to walk down some smaller hills to hit the showers at the polo club.  We were disappointed they didn’t have horse carriages as transportation.Thank goodness, Kathy gave us wax earplugs!  Teamwork continues.Ready for round 2 — 13.1 miles.  We were grateful we’d participated in foam rolling, foot massagers and for some of us, an actual 10 minute massage.We needed these guys (and gals) to get us through!!  They stopped traffic, gave us encouragement and were full of energy!  Each had personality and brought their ‘A’ game.It wasn’t easy to get up on day two knowing we had 13 miles to go after already walked 26.2 but recognizing our pain was temporary moved us from self-pity to one foot in front of the other with hope and determination, the same character traits needed for cancer fighters.

With that said, the second day was grueling.  It was hotter.  We were sore.  Our quads were crying out for us to stop and our feet were protesting.  We were grateful for Jan’s suggestion for compression socks because they helped keep the cramping away.  There was so much discomfort it’s hard to describe.  One of our inspirational figures, who was walking about our pace was a Chicago fireman who wore his uniform (heavy!) while pushing his mother in a wheelchair for 39 miles. He walked because he’d been an absent son and had abandoned his mother during some of her breast cancer treatment.  Spending time with her walking was part of his redemption.  He’d walked 4 events when we saw him. His story can be found on Facebook, walking4ma.

We were greeted by so many people along the way.  With some, their sorrow could be felt, especially in the eyes of the children, and for others, they showed up to encourage us with their sense of humor with their comments like , “when else can I chase girls for two days and not get arrested,” and their signs like, “you think your legs are hurting, my arms are killing me” (from holding the sign), “Go total strangers go” “worst parade yet,” “where’s the floats?”

Our LB hats brought us lots of love.  We were proud to represent our city along with the other women we met from the LB.  We were supported all along the way at every turn and we met some beautiful people – one woman had raised over 4 million dollars in her lifetime of walks, another had walked in 141 events.

After the event, my feet had two blisters on them…a new one from the day that I had once again treated with foot corn pads and gel as soon as I felt it (wasn’t soon enough) and the first blister at mile 19, even though drained by the medical team at the end of day 1 (26.2 miles), decided to reappear again on day 2.  My battle wounds– This is the day one blister a week out….still healing.One thing that was reinforced from this walk is I desperately need community coming alongside and cheering when the going gets tough – gets life and death tough.  I’m not sure I can imagine finishing this event without the massive support we received.  Their were so many levels of support from the traffic people, to the rest stops, to the water stops, to the bathroom stops, etc.  Even the pink arrows and mile markers, were so helpful because we could break up our race in small chunks, telling ourselves, just get to the next marker.  One mile at a time.  I think it is the same when navigating extremely painful things – it’s about getting through ________ before worrying about what’s next.  And it’s when we can’t get through ____________(fill in the blank) then we must have people in our space so we can get through it.

What I loved about suffering together, is that I grew to enjoy the small things about each one of my team members.  Jan, she’s steady and loyal.  She’s going to get done what needs to get done and she’ll bring you with her.  She’s going to own her pain and support you through yours.  Kathy, is engaging and observant.  She keeps on keeping on, able to both receive and give in her suffering – coming up with that funny quip or observation at just the right time.  She’s up for anything.  Seungee is our social member – full of energy and encouragement.  She had no qualms about engaging the people around us, asking about the names on their shirts or the money they raised.  She knew what was up through her information gathering techniques and helped us keep up the news.  As a team, we raised our hands “woohoo” as cars beeped at us or people cheered – engaging with others – letting them know we received their encouragement and shouts.  We encouraged one another whether it was to make it to the next mile or to fix the problems flaring on our feet. It was a lovely adventure.  One I’m trying to talk them into repeating – only this time the 60 mile walk.  Just kidding, LBC Girls who may be reading this. 😉

For everyone who contributed to our walk, i want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Our LBC Girls team raised $8375 to go to breast cancer research and access to screenings and treatment to underserved populations.  The 1600 walkers who participated in the weekend raised 4.1 million by Saturday morning and more donations were expected.

Thanks for walking with me, with us, through your interest, donations, thoughts and prayers.  We received them.  If you didn’t know we were walking, lift up a family you know facing cancer.  They need you with them in their fight against cancer.  They can’t do it without you.  You’re important.  Don’t underestimate your value as family, a friend, a church member, a co-worker, a neighbor, or someone standing in the grocery store line (Jansen).  You are needed in this fight.  We all are.

Blessings,

Kimber

 

Unexpected Gifts

“Habit and self-complacency are almost always a sign of spiritual stagnation.  The complacent no longer feel in themselves any real indigence, any urgent need for God.  Their meditations are comfortable, reassuring and inconclusive.  Their mental prayer quickly degenerates into day dreaming…For this real reason trials and tribulations can prove a real blessing in the life of prayer, simply because they force us to pray.  It is when we begin to find our real need for God that we first learn to make a real meditation.”

— p. 72, Thomas Merton, Spiritual Direction

In my mid-thirties, I unknowingly hit a patch of habit and self-complacency.  Married eight years, pregnant with our second child and gaining post-doctoral hours in clinical psychology for licensure, I would’ve said life was good.  I went to church every Sunday.  I believed God existed and knew He cared about me.  I was known by others; friends knew me intimately.  I thought I was living a meaningful life, even one filled with sanctification (God’s characterological growth process to holiness).

Then, June 29, 2006, my son died at 34 weeks in utero.  My world turned upside down and I leaned into God and my community for stability.  I questioned God’s love for me, my family.  I questioned whether I’d done everything I could to keep my baby alive.  I was woken up to my “go with the flow” life and realized my marriage was almost dead, my faith was based in service rather than an active prayer life and I hadn’t experienced joy in a really long time.  I grieved not only my son’s death but also my habit of being distracted by looking ahead, which kept me from thoroughly enjoying the time he lived in my womb.  I hadn’t known that was all the time we had together.

What I know now, that I didn’t know then, is that it would take six years before the cloud of grief would lift.  It would take eight years before my marriage would emerge out of being an emotional desert.  The gift of being aware in the present moment has stayed.  It is the surprise that emerged out of this horrific trial.  As well, the habits of my marriage died with my son and from these deaths, a new kind of marriage emerged that required a gestational period much longer than 10 months.

This June we will celebrate 20 years of marriage, the day before my son’s death anniversary of 11 years – only God and His unfathomable ways could create a web of death and life being so closely connected.  I believe if my son wouldn’t have died, my marriage likely would have due to our self-complacency and our lack of awareness of how much we needed one another.

These days, I can’t get around the reality that we all need one another as much as we need God.  I call myself lucky to know what it means to be naked and in need in order that I may be an “other” for those whose life situation stripped them of all their proverbial clothing.

Today, tears can run freely down my cheeks with no need to wipe them off.  Today, I can come to God in protest that a college freshman should be able to break down on the freeway without getting killed by a 24 year old driving too fast as well as a mother of three young children who has lived a life serving Him should be able to find a successful breast cancer treatment without facing the news that the cancer has spread.  I can no longer go back to a life of self-complacency because God showed up in the form of community, both divinely and humanly orchestrated, when I was devastated.  Now, knitted in my bones is the reality that even if I don’t have an urgent need, I’m part of His Kingdom here on Earth, which makes another’s urgent need my own.

So I’d best get praying:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
    but deliver us from the evil one.[

 

With Hope and Trust: A Psalm

With Hope and Trust

When the Lord restored the nations back to Himself, there were no longer families selling their children as slaves so the rest of the family could eat and be clothed.  There would be feasts on the table, meat in bellies.   No longer did sickness have the last word.  No longer did skin color, sexual attraction, or gender determine treatment or opportunities.  Voices mattered.  There were no oil spills contaminating drinking water or ocean homes.  If there was a drought, starvation didn’t reign.  Countries helped one another regardless of religion, political beliefs or allegiances.  We pitched in because you, God, you created them too.  In that day, we all took a Sabbath.  We filled the streets with celebration and joy.  Laughter could be heard in the schools – no sick moms at home, no bruises needing to be covered, and food wasn’t an all-consuming thought.

Praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord! We would shout, in our hearts – with our lips, day and night.

Yet, our hearts ache.  We live in no such time.  Children and families starve as their governments keep out aid — their cries not heard.  Greed rules our hears without us even knowing it – no other time in history have there been so many human slaves and yet we protest not for the children who picked the cotton, wove the clothes that we wear on our back, on our children’s back in the name of fashion, in the name of my finances, in the name of convenience.

Give us eyes to see our neighbors.  Give me eyes to see how I’m dependent on my brothers and sisters across the world in China, in Vietnam, in Malaysia.  May I see them as you see them.  May their tears become my tears until your restoration comes.  Direct our paths.  Turn our groans into chants of restoration and songs of joy.  Only you can change our ways.  Hurry.  Come Lord Jesus.  You are our only hope.  Save us from ourselves.

Overcoming Perfectionism

IMG_5284I consider myself a recovered perfectionist.  In my youth, my perfectionism helped me succeed and achieve great things – valedictorian, top female scholar-athlete in both high school and college, president of clubs – too many to list, active in church ministry positions and on and on.  However, what festered underneath my achievements was a depression that reared up when I felt I didn’t hit the mark.  From adolescence on, it lead me to stand on bridges contemplating a jump, lead me to isolate vulnerabilities from others, led me to focus on helping others while I neglected my own needs (sacrificing sleep, meals, restoration time).  By my mid-twenties, I’d had mononucleosis recur three times (most likely from stress and lack of sleep).  My doctor said it could turn into a permanent disability.  Also present were my suicidal thoughts — the idea of ending the pressure to do life perfectly seemed tremendously appealing.

It was around this time that a combination of circumstances, which I could no longer navigate while achieving caused me to enter into counseling as I’d once done in college.  It was in this relationship that I came to know how perfectionism was ruling my life.  Like a hamster on an exercise wheel, I consistently felt like I wasn’t making any progress.  The celebration of my achievements never stuck, or never even happened because I was already onto the next thing.  As a result, I constantly felt incompetent, not enough, inadequate, and most importantly, unimportant.  I discovered perfectionism was an idol – an erroneous target.  I needed a new perspective.

DSC_0743The Bible reminds us there is no perfection here on earth – all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23) and yet, God steps in and promises His faithfulness to us as the work which He has begun is completed.  A popular belief in the American church culture is that we need to work and then do more work because God is abiding in us so we can do mighty things but we miss an important point in this perfectionistic mind-set – we miss the importance of being known, being seen and being relational.  God did not create us like he created the turtles, which are left on the sea shore to hatch by themselves, without family, and then make the journey back into the sea without any help.   Instead, God created us as dependent beings right from the beginning.  In fact, the only clear vision a newborn has in those first days is the distance between her mom’s breast and her face.  This is how our design is meant to be – a flow of being seen and seeing.

DSC_0288It reminds me that a perfectionistic mindset can make me believe the best way to conquer life, to live like Jesus did, is to move straight up the proverbial mountain, forget noticing the different landscapes, the animals, the birds because it’s deemed unimportant.  But Jesus didn’t move up any so called mountain, any prestigious positions, or any social ranks.  Instead, he rambled.  He noticed, observed.  He interacted.  He saw and was seen.

I think a growth mindset is similar; it requires us to notice and observe.  It requires us to sit in the imperfect conditions of life and lean into them, not make them perfect or run away.  In fact, growth most often happens in less than ideal circumstances – when we face into negative realities, uncomfortable feelings, when someone important dies or gets sick, when we’re fired or laid off, when we confess our addictions and idols and do the hard work of being transformed out of those unhealthy coping mechanisms.  For the most part, growth happens when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to be open to our brokenness and to not collapse under the feelings of guilt and shame.  It’s in this rich soil of vulnerability where patience and self-compassion are required.

IMG_3469Patience is the discipline of compassion.  The word passion and patience both have Latin roots, pati, meaning “suffering.”  Patience is the capacity to accept life, all one’s circumstances, as present as possible – digging into one’s inner world in order to mindfully navigate one’s external events.  As a group facilitator, I open my groups with a body awareness exercise that requires each person to track his breath.  It is in this simple, yet difficult, exercise that we learn to accept our present experiences, feelings, thoughts, associations, and sensations about being in our current circumstances and proceed without the need to be well; instead, accepting what is, not changing a thing, and looking at how we can move through it staying connected to ourselves and others.

DSC_0061This is how I see it, too often we need ourselves to be well – to be perfect, and it’s in this false place of being that we miss, like overlooking the foliage and animals on the mountain, what’s truly before us – our need for others, our need for God, even our need for grace and truth.  Our need to be well, no matter what the cost, creates a fortress that keeps out our real needs, experiences, and vulnerabilities.  If we can change our fortress into a house with windows and doors – boundaries and assertion, then we can emerge as individuals fully alive to the possibility of God’s perfection taking the place of our own.  Being patient in the present – it’s an experience worth daring to get.  It has the potential to wipe away shame and other remnants of perfectionism – both the kind that keep us from trying new things and the kind that never let us stop – and replace it with eyes to see and ears to hear truth and grace.  Grace, truth and time, as John and Henry remind us, they are the nutrients needed in growth.  And like this once suicidal perfectionist is reminded of, they can take us from the depths of despair to pastures of safety and relationship, where we can thrive and connect – in success and failure.

DSC_1099A version of this article was published for Ultimate Resources July 2016.

February Reflections

This month was a blur.  It’s hard to believe we are already into month 3 of 2016.  I swear time is speeding up with age.  It was a month of trips, hockey games, and a front yard transformation — from grass to drought tolerant.

Photo Review:

From this…

IMG_4257 To This….IMG_4237IMG_4246IMG_4213Hockey in Two Different States…

Dallas Stars…

IMG_4314Anaheim Ducks…(A win in overtime!)IMG_4325And as mentioned in my previous post, Lake Tahoe…

IMG_4296Quotes/ Poetry Worth Chewing On:

Don’t Worry

Things take the time they take. Don’t

worry.

How many roads did St. Augustine follow

before he became St. Augustine?

— Mary Oliver

What This is Not

This is not just surprise and pleasure.

This is not just beauty sometimes

too hot to touch.

This is not a blessing with a beginning

and an end.

This is not just a wild summer.

This is not conditional.

— Mary Oliver

“Though bias seems like bad news all around, it’s a basic human trait.  It’s part of our wiring for survival, explains psychiatrist and professor Daniel Siegel, codirector of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center….The point is not to get rid of bias altogether — an impossible mission — but to get to know what biases we hold, acknowledge the damaging aspects, and learn to see, and do, things differently.  — Karin Evans Unconscious Bias:  Fear Less, Love More In Mindful Magazine, August 2015

“Self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.  Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”

— Parker Palmer

“When the satisfaction or security of another person becomes as significant to one as is one’s own satisfaction or security, then the state of love exists.” — H. S. Sullivan

Songs on Repeat Mode:

Beautiful Addiction by Nate Feuerstein

7 Years — Lukas Graham

Hold Me Down — Halsey

Alone Together — Fall Out Together

Ugly Love — Griffin Peterson

On My Nightstand

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

The Meaning of Marriage Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller

The Seven Principles for Making Marriages Work by John Gottman with Nan Silver

Felicity by Mary Oliver

June Reflections

 

June is a difficult month to navigate.  It’s a month of great sorrow and rich joy.  It’s a time of remembering the people who’ve died over the years this month — my grandpa, Beth, a significant mentor, my dear friend, Amy, who died last June 19th, and my son, Baby Long Beach, who died nine years ago, a stillborn.

In contrast, it’s also a month of celebrating many anniversaries — my brother, Bryce and his wife, Shannon, my brother and sister-in-law, Tony and Sara, Auntie Chris and Uncle Don made 50 years this year!, and my own wedding, 18 years ago to my best friend and confidante, Dennis.

Added to this month was the grief of saying good-bye as my dear, dear friend and maid of honor packed her house to move back to her hometown of Sacramento.  I’m not sure I even know how to process that one.  Luckily, I have two more weeks with her at the end of July when she returns from vacation.

It’s like this, June requires an emotional flexibility I’m not sure I possess.  On some level, I’d rather pull the covers over my head or put my head in the sand or walk straight through it without passing Go, without allowing anything to stop my forward progress until July 1st arrives.  However, to do so, to escape, would remove me from touching good.  Escaping doesn’t just eliminate the hard or negative feelings, it also removes the good and the joyful.  When we escape, we don’t have the luxury of choosing what we’re escaping from.  Instead, we numb it all.

So, I make it through June with friend gatherings of remembrances, with prayers from myself and others, with journaling, with celebrating dinners, with confessions…to God, to others, and with sharing — entering into my emotions knowing that whatever they are – hard or easy, I’m not alone.  And I know that when I’m not alone, I can face whatever this life brings my way — in celebration or in pain.  I’m deeply grateful for my friends.  And for how deeply I feel my gratitude, I’m grateful for June.  “She” reminds me every year that my life would be severely lacking without them.

Photo Review:

The month started off with a trip to Julian with our friends, The Ekeys.  Here Eden, lil e, Zinnie and Mek remind us to stay cool while hiking through alpine meadows at 80 degrees.

IMG_4440The next weekend was spent in Laguna Beach — rough I know!  Eden found the perfect reading spot for the afternoon. IMG_4469 We happened to be at the beach when 1,000 of Tuna Crabs migrated up from Mexico.  I read in the news these wouldn’t die; they merely needed to wait until the tide came in to catch a ride once more.  IMG_4481While visiting my parents in Washington during the last part of June, we met this adorable puppy and her 10 siblings.IMG_4622 I honed my shooting skills.  Hoping to bring me home some venison this fall.  IMG_4634Also while in Washington, we hiked and fished one of our favorite lakes, Tiffany.  We made out with our next day’s lunch, Eastern Brooke trout. IMG_4652Quotes Worth Chewing On:

“What deadens us most to God’s presence within, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are engaged in within ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought.  I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort than being able from time to time to stop that chatter, including the chatter of spoken prayer.”  Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

“Silence helps us drop beneath the superficiality of our mental constructs to that place of the heart that is deeper in its reality than anything the mind can capture or express in words.  It is a place of longing and desire and reaching for that which we do not yet have.  In this wordless place the whole of our person turns itself toward God and waits to be addressed by God.  This kind of prayer is standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart; that is, at the point of our being where there are no divisions or distinctions and where we are totally one.  There God’s spirit dwells and there the great encounter takes place.  There heart speaks to heart, because there we stand before the face of the Lord, all-seeing within us.”  — Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence

“Jesus dismantled our notion of identity as solely tied to a group, social status, or role.  When He commanded us to love our enemy, He invited us into serious self-reflection about how we perceive our meaning and purpose in this world.  The Incarnation represents the ultimate example of crossing and collapsing boundaries.  Jesus crossed over into the natural world to form a bridge between Creator and created.  He calls us to do the same with those we might consider strangers or enemies, because we were once strangers ourselves.  This is not just to a call to those who identify themselves as Christian activists — it is a call to all who call themselves Christ followers…..The Gospel is offensive.  Not just because it calls people to a higher moral standard or challenges a secular worldview.  The Gospel offends because it confronts fortified structures of power and privilege.  It threatens those who receive societal benefit for belonging to a particular group and trims the cultural hedges of a domesticated suburban life.  The Gospel contests national, religious, and social identity.  It demands that we cross over the dividing wall of hostility to reconcile with those who might threaten our way of life and to call the stranger a “native among us.” — Robert Welsh in an untitled article written for Azusa Pacific University’s Alumni magazine adapted from Welsh, R. & Alexander, P. (2012). Exemplars of Godly Justice.  Peacemaking and justice-seeking in dangerous contexts.  PentecoStudies: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Research on the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, 11, 67-86.

“There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.” — Steven Wright in The Best Joke Book (period): Hundreds of the Funniest, Silliest, Most Ridiculous Jokes Ever by William Donohue

IMG_4700The following three poems are from What Love Comes to: New and Selected Poems by Ruth Stone —

XVIII

I must be serious, the widow thinks,
I must face reality.
This isn’t a temporary separation.
(Perhaps the widow’s must is expectation.)
Actually the widow thinks he may be
in another country in disguise –
that one day he will come back.
He was only fooling.
That was someone else that they buried.

LII

The widow is told by a great seer
that fifty-two is a magic number.
She consults the muse.
“We must get into a higher gear,”
the muse whispers. “We must shift
out of this phase.”
“Just one more about shoes,”
the widow begs.
The muse shakes her head.
“No. We must get back to the real thing.
The blood and meat of the world.”
The muse took the widow in her arms.
“Now say it with me,” the muse said.
“Once and for all…he is forever dead.”

 Storage

The human animal has turned a corner.
We no longer recognize one another.
I am the old species
but I must not weep. If I weep for myself
I am twice discarded.
“Don’t week,” says the old brain,
“listen – I have it all on video
at half the price.”

Songs on Repeat Mode:

I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad

Counting on Love by Matt McAndrew

Hot Gates by Mumford and Sons

House Party by Sam Hunt

Break Up in a Small Town by Sam Hunt

Girl Crush by Little Big Town

Round and Round by 3 Doors Down

Books on My Nightstand:

The Best Joke Book (period): Hundreds of the Funniest, Silliest, Most Ridiculous Jokes Ever by William Donohue

Thirsty by Mary Oliver

An Invitation to Silence and Solitude by Ruth Haley Barton

The Best American Short Stores 2013 Edited by Elizabeth Strout

May Reflections

May is considered my bridge to summer where late nights don’t feel so late.  This year it was filled with fun and not-so-fun.  Not-so-fun in that we are all ready for school to be out, yet it’s not.  So we must still do homework, piano, guitar and have early bedtimes.  Fun because we had a socially active calendar.  Highlights were: dancing our feet sore at an 80s Prom hosted by our good friends, The Reams; hosting a TOMORROWLAND party because our good friend, Jeff Jensen, helped write and produce it; and attending one of the last Graces’ meeting with our dear friend, Shannon, who will be moving to Sacramento in two months.  It is a time of grieving as she’s the second member, of our 5 woman group, to leave in two years.  We lost our first member to brain cancer last June 19th.  We’ve been meeting for almost 16 years.

Photo Review:

Lovin’ Spring Flowers

IMG_1704Not quite as enjoyable but nonetheless important — 11 hours at the Hunter’s Safety Course…getting ready for hunting near Jackson Hole this September.IMG_1711 An amazing night — 80s Prom at the ReamsIMG_1720With it staying light later — this month brought with it a number of evening walks IMG_1740 IMG_1752 Watching TOMORROWLAND, co-written by our good friend, Jeff Jensen, with 50 of our friends.  If you haven’t, go!IMG_1755Tomorrowland Party!!! IMG_1767 IMG_1768 IMG_1779 IMG_1780Succulents in Bloom! IMG_1821A love anytime, though doesn’t help with my swimsuit preparation :(. IMG_1835May was a big gymnastics month for us. IMG_4237Quotes Worth Remembering:

“We read because we are looking to see what others are thinking, feeling, seeing; how they are acting out their frustrations, their happiness, their addictions; we see what we can learn.  How do people manage marriage and loss and illness and sex and parenting?  How do they do all this?  Often, the emotions that fill our inner lives are too large to make sense of; chaos and irrationality jump around inside us.  To enter the form of a story is to calm down, or excite ourselves, within a controlled space.”  Elizabeth Strout, The Best American Short Stores 2013

“I think this summer was also the period when I first struck on the idea of ambition, that I could be something in particular, rather than just myself in general.” p. 53, Michael Byers, In The Best American Short Stores 2013

“Love isn’t in the actual grab and heft of body when he comes out of school and runs into my arms, crying with glee.  No.  Love is the moment just as he comes out of the schoolhouse door, standing amid his friends, and searches for my eyes.  Love is in the second he sees me, and I see him, dressed in one of his outrageous outfits, bright startling coats, weird hats, drooping strange pants…” pg. 117 by David Means, The Best American Short Stores 2013

IMG_1652“Many children threaten at times to run away from home — this is the only thing that keeps many parents going.”  — Phyllis Diller, In The Best Joke Book (period)

Ted’s grandmother pulls him aside at his eighth birthday party and hands the boy a five-dollar bill.  “Here, this is a little something extra from Grandma.  But not a word of this to your brothers and sisters.”

The boy looks at the bill and responds, “If you want me to stay quiet, it’s going to cost you a lot more.”  — The Best Joke Book (period)

Songs on Repeat Mode:

Counting on Love by Matt McAndrew

Dream by Imagine Dragons

Believe by Mumford and Sons

Chains by Nick Jonas

At the Cross (Love Ran Red) by Chris Tomlin

The Hurt & The Healer by MercyMe

Books on My Nightstand:

The Best Joke Book (period): Hundreds of the Funniest, Silliest, Most Ridiculous Jokes Ever by William Donohue

What Love Comes to: New and Selected Poems by Ruth Stone

An Invitation to Silence and Solitude by Ruth Haley Barton

The Best American Short Stores 2013 Edited by Elizabeth Strout

Until next month…Blessings as you roll into summer!

February Reflections

February was a blessed month with times of meaningful connection and reflection.  I am so blessed by my friends and family.  My life is full, for which I’m extremely grateful.

Photo Review:

IMG_1866I took the plunge and chopped off some locks.

While I realize this is still long hair to some, this is the shortest I’ve had my hair in probably 20 years.  It took a bit to reacquaint myself with my hair, but now I’m enjoying the convenience and look of shorter hair.

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I went to a contemplation retreat at All Saints Church with Dr. Dan Siegel.  I love Pasadena!IMG_1948One thing I’m trying to do this year is look at life through different lens and from different perspectives.  Here’s my attempt to do that through my camera (with the wall).

IMG_1951IMG_1947Lil e lost another top tooth.  This phase goes by so quickly.

IMG_1867I actually kept an orchid alive so it rebloomed!!!  This felt like a miracle (albeit small) to this black thumb.

IMG_1972A Self-Portrait protest to God about the beheading of my Christian brothers by ISIS.  This is much too tame in emotional expression but I took this picture with people near me so I felt unable to do what I wanted, which was scream and yell.

IMG_1885This is a picture of some lovely birthday flowers given to me.

IMG_1985I ended this month with a self-directed solitude retreat, a present to myself.  It was really rough.  Take a look at the scenery.

IMG_2044 IMG_2038 IMG_2032Quotes Worth Remembering:

“No matter how much insight and understanding we develop, the rational brain is basically impotent to talk the emotional brain out of its own reality.”  p. 47  — B. Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps The Score

“Silence is frightening because it strips up as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of our life.  It reminds us of death, which will cut us off from this world and leave only us and God.  And in the quiet, what if there turns out to be very little between us and God?”                                                                                     — Dallas Willard

“Perhaps the deepest and hardest to articulate fear is the fear that this God whom we cannot control will not meet us in the way we want to be met.  Sometimes this expresses itself as a question: “What if I show up and God doesn’t?”….In the vulnerability of love we risk saying, “Here I am.  With my whole heart, soul, mind and body I am here, ready and willing to move more deeply into relationship with you.  I make myself available to you, and I will wait for you.  There is nothing I can do to control the outcomes.  There is nothing I can do to force your response or make your response what I want it to be.  All I can do is put myself out there and wait.”  And that is a fearsome place to be, but oh so necessary….In many of us, the fear of not getting what our heart longs for has led us to develop an unconscious pattern of distancing ourselves from our desire in order to avoid the pain of its lack of fulfillment….your desire for God is the truest and most essential thing about you.  It is truer than your sin, it is truer than your woundedness, it is truer than your net worth, your marital status or any role or responsibility you hold.  Your desire for God and your capacity to connect with God as a human soul is the essence of who you are.”  (pgs. 49-51)  — Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence

“There is a trait I recognize now in the child I was then, a curiosity about my own physical composition, an obsession bordering on fever.  Perhaps that inquisitiveness is common to children of mixed parents.  You till, you dig, you paw, searching for bits, scrabbling at roots, eager to learn to which tribe you belong.  Are you more like one or more like the other?  Are you one way when you’re in one country, but another when you’re not?  You dangle from that precipice, wondering where to drop.”  — Marie Arana, American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood

“Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil.  They aren’t evil at all.  They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new (and, as such, should be seen as valuable; without them, we’d have no originality).  And yet, even as I say that embracing failure is an important part of learning, I also acknowledge that acknowledging this truth is not enough.  That’s because failure is painful, and our feelings about this pain tend to screw up our understanding of its worth.  To disentangle the good and the bad parts of failure, we have to recognize both the reality of the pain and the benefit of the resulting growth.  — Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace, Creativity Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

“The gospel is for everyone and everything.”  — Reframe video, Episode 1

Songs on Repeat Mode in January:

I Don’t Want Your Love by Five for Fighting (How could I miss this song before?!)

Give me a Song by Will Reagan

Set a Fire by Will Reagan

Losing Your Memory by Ryan Star

Where the Island Ends by Ryan Star

Where will your feet direct you this month?

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