Sunday, April 6, 2014

Seeking Co-Author

Decided to write my own love story.  Serves two purposes: 1) fulfills a life-long desire: to have, albeit imaginary, a romantic, long-term, successful relationship and 2) to write again - something I haven't been done since........can't remember.  Check the date of my last blog entry.  I may or may not keep going.  I just happened to be desperate to creatively express myself today, and longing for lasting partnership/love was the only emotion powerful enough to keep me still and focused so I could write (yes, I know, it's only a single page.)  I may not find time in the near future to do anything with this, but it's a start.


It is raining again, covering Oregon's green the misleading hint of fresh sorrel that turns to soggy spinach by mid-afternoon. A Gary Jules "Mad World" kind of day. "It will be a clam chowder night," she determines, making her list for the trip to the grocery store "...which I need to get to before 4:00 or I'll run into traffic and be late to pick up the kids."

Planning her day is the one thing she looks forward to NOT doing when she retires - that and apologizing for past mistakes. Twenty years from now, poor decisions will look like gained wisdom. She'll be lucky to retire at 63. Her Ivy League master's degree in Africana studies is not turning out to be very profitable, despite what her educational debt implies. But she loves her job. She is making a difference, even if she doesn't see results of her efforts every day. Human growth is slow, progress arduous, never promised. In her field, hope in the promise is a barely visible fishing line that can either catch the 40 pound spring Chinook that will feed your family for a month, or snap fast and leave you eating ferns until another job bites; in her line of work it could be next fishing season.

She's had her coffee, minus the sugar. Sacrificing sweets is her latest attempt to subtract what might be the cause of her "pleasantly plump figure," a self-identified description of her figure on her peacock pride days, or "bubble butted heifer" on her drowned mermaid days. She's had the same 20 pound weight loss goal that would have been easily reached in her twenties, taken a few months in her thirties, but now seems to be an inverted and double number in her forties, gaining instead of losing, no matter what she cuts out of her diet.

"It might help if you stop drinking," she scolded herself. "But it's just wine," she whined. "You really need to stop talking to yourself." Holding random debates with herself is surely a DSM IV condition, but she holds her head high, despite. Everybody talks to themselves in their own mind, she insists. She is wise enough to keep her diversified thoughts in her head, each voice conveniently organized for easy identification, simplifying the process of discerning who to obey and locking the rest away in their separate rooms: Mom, the billie goat gruff naysayer; Birdie the five-year-old dramatic, imaginative pretender; Hippie-child the nature loving, Spirit dancer who sings, and paints, and writes the pain away; Heaven, the exotic enticer at 20, the MILF at 30, the plus size retired ho' at 40+; Mrs. Right, the Baptist, Unitarian, Pentacostal, Non-denominational believer, full of faith, shaken, spilled, and running over with hopes and dreams and failures and pitfalls and "I wish I coulda, woulda, shoulda," and " least I tried" testimonies that will never be shared. "Why should I? Nobody cares anyway. My life is shit." That would be EZ-E, the suicidal teenager. If there were a visual representation of the others mentioned, they would all express a collective sigh and shake their heads every time she speaks.

And then there is Ms. E, the chameleon with a professional title who can alter her presence to fit her environment. The woman who marches with merengue in her hips, the taste of Native resistance on her lips, the somber scowl of the silenced squaw. She has her nails done bi-weekly to hide the earth embedded beneath the tips that reveal her country commonness. And 'dat ass - the tell-all sign of blackness - she can't hide, she never tries, resigned with pride.

Ms. E is the "other" who sings with Billie Holiday in the summertime, Rickie Lee Jones at night, and makes up her own songs to get her through winters that are often unseasonably long, cold and quiet. With unconsented conception cradling her spirit, she determined - when she was young enough to not know any better - that her life would have meaning, and so she committed to survival, hardly the fittest, but full of passion to fight for the underdog, trumpeting the charge of all her other personalities as the situation requires.

The dominant personality, Ms. E is competent, intelligent, and well traveled - Mexico, Cuba, Canada, South Korea, China, Costa Rica, Jamaica. Her map of "where next" includes unassuming places like Suriname, Madagascar, Morocco. And countries either at war or nations that would be diametrically opposed to her liberated nature: Turkey, Israel, Palestine, Egypt. She wants to go because of the extremes, the spirit of resistance, and because she thinks it will be a pleasant respite to cover herself completely so men are only able to ogle her eyes, focusing on her soul instead of sexual wiles.

Ms. E claims many titles: mother, wife, divorced single parent, educator, a writer with no time to write, nature lover living in the 'hood cuz it's the only place she can find work to pay for life. Adaptable, a settler's spirit and a pioneer's drive, she's lived in multiple states and crossed country thrice. Yet, as she gets older, she feels tired. The hinges that hold the doors to her rooms are loosening. The locks insecure. She longs for home, to come to herself, to be whole; to look in one mirror rather than the circus playhouse of distorted illusions. No longer surviving to exist, but to live a thriving existence. To be known.

"To be loved," Birdie chimes. She is the dreamer.
"Hush, child. We got work to do," Ms. E interrupts and proceeds to type up e-mails and return phone calls through the last hour of morning.
"What's for lunch?" asks the teenager at 11:45.
"We should leave early and go on a picnic!" suggests Hippie-child.
"You need to call Patrick and ask him to take us out," Heaven tempts.
Ms. E shuts them all down. "I'm going to finish this stack of paperwork, and then eat the Indian food I bought from Trader Joe's. I have a budget and I'm going to stick to it this month!"
Mom and Mrs. Right agree with a curt nod while the rest pout in their respective rooms. The hinge on the door of an unknown room squeaks. Ms. E sighs. "No wonder I'm single. Can't no man handle all of me."

They all agree.

    Thursday, August 30, 2012

    Minding the Thorns

    "...For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do...For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." Romans 7:14-19

    Why did God create man and woman with potent passions and desires, and then call us to control their power?  It seems we have been set up to fail.  “Behold! I give you an appetite you can’t satisfy.”  Why would a loving God torture his beloved so?  Seeking a biblical perspective, I learned that “self-control” is not used often in the bible.  Righteousness, however, is found over 400 times.  Self-control is a requirement for righteousness.  Practicing self-control is like a granddaddy's childhood memory of walking to school, barefoot, day after day, mile by mile, through the snow going uphill both ways.  

    A righteous person is identified by her willingness to control herself.    Assessing my own identity, I find that I am very willing.  Able? Not so much.  If I had a dollar for every time I was willing to control myself, I could have retired years ago.  If I had a dime for every time I was able to control myself, my debt would match what I owe in college loans. 

    In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul talks about a thorn in his flesh against which he must struggle. In my lifetime, I have stepped on my share of thorns.  Alcohol was one of them; drunkenness sharpened the others.  I knew I needed to stop drinking.  More than willing, I was desperate to quit.  I would succeed for a season, but my resistance didn’t last. In time I failed. I hated myself for failing. I hated being a slave to my sin.  On my own, I was powerless to win my freedom.

    Our little independent selves cannot maintain righteousness for long, not by our own strength.  We may do well for months, even years, but eventually we will get tired, we will have bad days, and the enemy is patient.  So why wouldn’t God provide thicker skin to protect our soles from stepping on those wicked thorns?  The answer is found in another question: Why would man need God if he could do everything himself?  

    Through Christ I was able to withdraw my most life-threatening thorn. The hole remains open, sensitive to the irritations of life, but the wound doesn't control me. Still, the devil never sleeps; if it's not one thorn it's another.  Though some thorns are lodged deeper than others, it's those little ones that can be harder to dig out.  Worry and anxiety.  Anger.  Sugar.  

    Self-control may be last on the list of spiritual fruits, but this character attribute is the seed that produces the preceding holy bunch.  We cannot ripen in love, joy, peace and such if we cannot first master self-control.  But we can’t do it alone.  Fortunately, His power is made perfect in our weakness.

    "Lord, you give power to the weak and strength to the powerless.  Forgive me for thinking I can live righteously by my power alone.  Thank you for your grace that covers me when I fail.   Strengthen me when I am weak and continue your work in me." Amen

    Tuesday, August 28, 2012

    Dancing with Trouble

    The word suffering usually brings to mind an extended period of pain or other unpleasant sensation. It’s the feeling associated with a bad situation, some sort of trouble, trial or challenge.  Not many of us would be willing to open the front door of our lives to suffering.  I know if I see trouble walking close by my first instinct is to bolt the door, close the blinds and pray it keeps on walkin’.  I had a pastor once who suggested that his congregation could use a little more trouble in life.   I was already going through it.  Recently divorced and struggling as a single parent, more trouble to be the last thing I needed. 

    It’s not just the external situation that causes suffering but also the internal conversation that talks to the trouble, attacking my self-esteem.  The negative voices in my head play louder than the bass rattling the trunks of some of those cars in the hood. Fear of failure and self-doubt free-style a off-beat rap that pinches the nerves in my shoulders and makes my spirit slouch.  It’s difficult to see the benefit that comes from keeping step with trouble.   

    There are two biblical promises that I’ve come to count on; one helps me deal with the other.  Jesus promises that we will experience trouble in this world.  It’s guaranteed.  But here’s the deal: the promise that covers this guarantee is God’s love for us.  Because of God’s love “all things  [yes, even that ugly “thing” hidden in the closet] work together for good to them that love the Lord.” (Romans 8:28)  Because of God’s love, Peter reckoned that “the suffering of this present moment is not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) 

    When trouble is done with us, we are left stronger, glorious.  We are stiff and sore from the work-out, but the exercise has served its purpose.  Great suffering creates a lean, mean fightin’ machine and if we’re armed with God’s Word, we’re ready and able to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope.” (Romans 5:3)  I’m not saying I’m going to dress up and go looking for a night out on the town with trouble, but with God’s love, I’ll be ready to tango when trouble finds me. 

    Reflection Questions:
    1. How does self-esteem help or hinder your ability to persevere?
    2. Consider the times you have suffered in life.   How did these experiences make you better?  How does the past suffering prepare you for the troubles ahead?

    “Lord, you are the potter and I am the clay. Forgive me for thinking I know what’s best for my life.  You know what is needed to shape me into the image of your Son, Jesus Christ. I surrender my suffering to you to use for your purposes.  You are my hope.” Amen 

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    Top Ten Things for Pre-Teen Girls to Remember

    As a mother, I wanted to ensure that my daughters were issued the proper armor to shield themselves from negative media input that seeks to program their hearts, minds and bodies into believing they are not enough.  This false belief system impregnates their souls with the parasitic notion that they should settle for less than their divine destiny.  Birthed from this illusion is a stunted growth of spirit, manifested in failed relationships, self-destructive behavior, lack of faith and distrust in God as a loving God. 

    Words are a powerful mechanism that can either build up or tear down such programming.  I wrote these affirmations for my daughters, and for the young girls at Metanoia who tell me stories - personal accounts of how they are losing themselves to ill-constructed skeletal frameworks that trap and limit their expansive potential as women.

    1. You are beautiful....

    God don’t make ugly. The devil is a liar - and he is terrified of who you really are. You are most beautiful when you look and act like who God made you to be, not what the TV, magazines, videos and movies say are or you should be. Beauty is as beauty does. Don’t be ugly.

    2. You are intelligent...

    Our minds are for thinking things through, not worrying ourselves into pits of despair. You are able to solve problems, big or small. Asking for help doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself, it means you’re smart enough to know that two sound minds are greater than one. Just make sure the help you ask for is coming from someone who shows s/he has a pattern of successfully managing his/her own problems. Consider the size of your problem: if it’s small, let it fall. If it’s big, give it to Him. You are greater than your circumstance. Your circumstance is temporary. You are eternal.

    3. You have power...

    Don’t give it away. Offering your most precious gifts to the ungodly is like feeding a roach. It won’t appreciate it (it’ll eat anything,) and it won’t ever be satisfied with what you give. It will take, take, take and give nothing in return. Worse, it’ll bring it’s friends.

    4. You have a choice...

    Just because you can’t see your options, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. If you can’t see clearly, change your position for a better perspective. Pray for clarity. Patience. Patience. Patience. Soon you’ll see a new choice materialize.

    5. No matter how bad it feels, it will come together for good...

    Making a choice based on how you feel without thinking things through can create more problems than it solves. Hard edges become softer with time. How much time it takes depends on how hard-headed you are about learning the lesson from whatever is happening. Everything works out for the best in the end, and if not - it's not the end!

    6. You are responsible for your own happiness...

    You can’t control when trouble comes, (and it will come - Jesus promised). The only thing you can control is how you respond to it. Don’t let anyone or any situation steal your joy. Don't kill your own joy by focusing on what's not working in your world. Attend to the things that are working and practice an attitude of gratitude. Things start to change for the better when you do.

    7. Seek God first, everything else is secondary....

    Don’t waste time thinking, worrying, wondering, talking, fussing, arguing about people or things - (boys, movies, a song, a situation, your clothes, your appearance, what you have or don’t have, etc.) If you do this more than you think, pray, meditate, wonder, talk with God, love, you are worshipping that person or thing. God’s commandment states “Thou shall have no other gods before me.” Set your priorities. Keep’em straight.

    8.There is always more to learn...

    God uses our circumstances, both good and bad, to teach us something we need to know for the life ahead of us. If we don’t learn it in the present challenge, He’ll allow another trial to happen to give us another chance to learn. And even after we learn it, He’ll create yet another difficulty to test our remembrance, or to practice what we think we know. In truth, the more we learn, the less we know.

    9. Trust your gut...

    This is different from acting on your feelings. Emotions can be cluttered, contradictory, chaotic and confusing. God is not the author of confusion. God gave us a deeper feeling or “sense,” one that we don’t feel emotionally; it’s called instinct or intuition. Intuition is clear and certain, best heard when we are still, humble and quiet.

    10. Whatever you do, do it with love and for God’s glory...

    Be honest with yourself. Follow clear, pure motives. Doing things to please others, to earn money or status, for your boyfriend or for our own pride and glory can be satisfying, but in time, that pleasure will become less gratifying. It’s like drinking a pepsi when you’re really thirsty. It tastes good at first, and for a moment your thirst is quenched, but it won’t be long before you’re thirsty again. The only thing that will help is clear, pure water. Test each option for clarity and purity. What are you doing and why? The two most common reasons why people don’t reach the wonderfully divine heights God has planned is because of fear and laziness. Acting out of fear feeds fear. Acting with love casts out fear, and when we act with the intention of pleasing God, we work harder, perform better, and create a greater glory than we could ever imagine.