A Word on Names

I was infatuated with falling in love when I was younger. I was more than a bit boy crazy and I could imagine the beginning, middle and happily ever after of every relationship. It was intense. When I decided that a boy would fall in love with me, they had very little chance of outsmarting my plan. I chased them down and became irresistible.

I would see a guy before the bell for first period would ring. Once my target was identified, the infatuation would start with daydreaming. I could lose time thinking about their cuteness. I would barely pay attention in class because I would try to figure out how to catch his eye or slip him a note, unbeknownst to the teacher.

I would open my notebook and pretend to take notes. Instead I would be doodling my name and my crush’s name. The adrenaline that would pump through me as I considered if their last name “matched” my first was electric! It had to sound right to be a good fit.

Mrs. Rozella X

Mrs. X

Mr. and Mrs. X

Dr. and Mrs. X

After making sure our names matched and sounded perfect together, my imagination would take me off into the future. The perfect wedding, with the princess dress. The large wedding party with all of my best girlfriends perfectly in the most AMAZING bridesmaid’s dresses. I would make sure that my friends met his friends and that they looked heavenly together as they glided down the aisle during the ceremony. There may even be a love match or two. I was a benevolent friend in my dreams. After the wedding, we would have a reception that would go into the wee hours of the morning followed by a honeymoon filled with breathtaking sex and adventures. We would return home deeper in love and ready to conquer the world! See Exhibit A: Continue reading

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A Word on Falling in Love

Below is a picture of me in Cape Town, South Africa last week. You may not know it, but the smile that’s on my face is for the person behind the camera, for the man that has infiltrated my heart.

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I’m falling in love and it sucks. How can something simultaneously be so beautiful and so brutal? Glennon Doyle Melton coined the perfect phrase for this reality – brutiful.

I’ve been divorced for six years. I’ve engaged a few different men over the course of this time but if I’m honest (which I’m learning is non-negotiable), I haven’t been in love with any of them. I’ve loved some of them but I’ve not been IN love. I’m glad that over the course of my 35 years I’ve learned the difference. I love everyone. I truly do. I love anyone who shares a piece of themselves with me; with anyone who is vulnerable, raw and authentic. It’s the way that I’m wired. I can’t help it. Continue reading

Stop and Stare

One of my favorite and most helpful therapists is a woman named Dr. Meg*. Dr. Meg was one of the first people to tell me to look at my marriage and other things in my life that weren’t life-giving. She was the first therapist to work with me in overcoming childhood trauma using Thought Field Therapy. She is a woman who can only be described as full of life, spiritual, intuitive and truly kind hearted.

One of the things I loved about Dr. Meg is that she was Jewish but had such an open orientation towards the Divine. She could definitely be described as spiritual and not religious; but she respected my viewpoints and my way of thinking about God, faith and life. I worked with Dr. Meg for about three years and really miss her and our time together. She was such a gift to my life and, though it would be another 2 years before I actually embraced what she said, she was a fundamental piece of my ongoing healing.

Dr. Meg probably would have been a hippie back in the day. She had strong feelings about justice and equality and was very much in touch with the physical. She pushed me to love myself fully, keeping in mind that I was created in physical form. My work with her got me thinking about pleasure and joy in ways that I hadn’t imagined before. One session in particular stands out to me and now, four years later, I am finally at the point of understanding what she said.

I was sitting on her couch (yes, she had a couch in her home office) crying my eyes out as is common in my therapy sessions. I don’t know about you, but I probably loose 3-4 pounds of water after every therapy appointment due to the tears that run freely. Dr. Meg was waxing poetic about something and truth be told, I wasn’t in the mood to hear anything positive or well meaning. I think I actually stopped listening at one point but when I came back to the session, she was talking about fucking corn fields. Yes, corn fields.

I patted my eyes dry with the tissue that is always placed strategically within arms length and tuned back into our session. I could tell that Dr. Meg was really feeling what she was talking about so I began to listen. This session was a time that we were working on my disconnection from noticing and appreciating the normal, everyday beauty of life. I had the tendency to take myself and my surroundings way too seriously. For some reason I never let myself just be – just be a kid, just be a girl, just be whatever. It would take pole dancing to reinvigorate a sense of joy and wonder. You can read about that journey here.

So back to this session with Dr. Meg. She was talking about beholding the wonder of God’s creation and an experience she had in corn fields in Iowa. She painted a picture that was devastatingly beautiful as she described rows of corn and light reflecting off of the fields and the smell and the air that surrounded her. She actually was moved to tears in her description.

At this point, all I could do was stop and stare. I had no clue what this woman was talking about. I never felt like that about anything, let alone fucking corn. The one time I have been in Iowa, the corn fields brought about images from horror movies and did NOT bring to mind the beauty of God’s creation. But I digress…

My challenge that week was to take in the beauty that surrounded me and appreciate things for what they were, connecting them to the Divine. I realize now that I wasn’t ready to understand what she was talking about. However, today, August 20, 2013, I finally began to understand.

Today as I sat by the lake and reflected on my devotional reading for the day, I got what Dr. Meg was trying to tell me. As I looked out over the water and watched the sun rise on the horizon, as I listened to the gentle breaking of the water as it hit the sand and as I took in the birds that were finding sustenance and relief from the water, all I could do was stop and stare. I was overwhelmed by the beauty that is God’s creation. As I thought about how things work in syncopated time, sometimes seemingly chaotic but coming together beautifully, I thought about my life. I thought about where I’ve been, where I am and where I hope to go. I thought about they way that God has consistently spoken life into my heart when all I could hear, see and smell was death and despair. I thought about the beauty that is the sun and how it brings life to dark places. And tears came to my eyes. For I could simply stop and stare.

Stop and stare at the beauty that is all around you.

Stop and stare at the wonder that God has created within you.

Stop and stare at the people in your life who love and support you.

Stop and stare and recognize that even in your darkest place, God is trying to reach out to you and connect with you using the most ordinary of means in the most extraordinary of ways.

Thank you Dr. Meg.

Love,

Me

Sunrise at the Lake

Sunrise at the Lake

*Dr. Meg has been using her influence to make a positive difference in her community in seemingly small ways. She is such an inspiration. Read about what she’s been doing here

My Beloved (albeit Broken) Community…

I’ve mentioned in a Music Mondays post that I am unapologetically Christian. Writing this truth again makes me pause. It’s not because I am ashamed of MY beliefs or have a need to downplay my faith. I am a theologically trained, bonafide church nerd who works as a chaplain and lives out my faith daily though my vocation and my relationships. I have gone to church my whole life. I love the church so much that I answered God’s call to ministry in the church.

Personally, I have struggled with doubt and the meaning of life and the nature of suffering. I seek God daily and ask for guidance to make decisions that are not selfish in nature but follow God’s will for my life. I fall short, am a good Lutheran (simultaneously saint and sinner), am honest, and live a life that reflects my understanding that the main point of this Christian life is to LOVE – love God, love self, love others. My faith informs how I view justice, equality and the dignity of all persons, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexuality or any other designation that is used to divide rather than unite people. So you see, it’s not that I am unable to articulate my belief. What makes me pause in my proclamation that I am unapologetically Christian is the fact that my religion, the one that I hold so near and dear to my heart, has a bad reputation. I told my readers that I would revisit the issue of faith and religion at a later date and today, I was inspired to do so….

I follow the lovely @addyeB on Twitter and am an avid fan of her blog Butterfly Confessions. She is one of the first women of color that I came across who blogs about her mental health journey AND is a person of faith. Today, she responded to a tweet by @writingjoy, a writer whose blog is entitled Joy in this Journey. (On a totally separate note, Twitter is an AMAZING community that has allowed me to network and given me so much support, encouragement and direction. Seriously love it.) Since I value @addyB’s opinion, I checked out @writingjoy’s blog. I loved what I read, but more importantly, I came across her posts about Finding Church and read each one in the series. What I found broke my heart…

The post that @addyB responded to is entitled We’ve Forgotten What Church Really Is. The writer chronicles her journey with looking for a new church. Her series gives background information on how she started this journey, but this post in particular struck a chord with me because I struggle with this reality all the time – what does it mean to BE the church? Much like the writer, I realize that we have come a long way from what I believe Christ wanted this community of faith to be. We fall short of being the beloved community that we are called to be and actually do harm to people. For this and for all the sins that have been committed by Christian folk, I apologize.

For the judgement, for the elitism, for the intolerance, for the “holier than thou” attitude, for the misuse of the biblical texts, for the perception that one has to have it all together in order to belong, for the way that we ignore our neighbors in need, for our love of ritual and tradition over community and meeting actual needs, for our need to be in power over instead of being in relationship with, for our tendency to speak and not listen, for our arrogance, for the abuse, for our silence about the things that matter, for the misuse of money, for the lies and promises of prosperity, for the leaders who misrepresent the faith, for all of those things, sayings, people and practices that hurt the soul of a person, I am so very sorry…

You might be wondering why I still consider myself Christian, or better yet, why I am still connected to the church. The first answer is that I am a Christian mainly because of the thought of God choosing to become human and be in relationship with me blows my mind. This thing we call the Incarnation, God becoming human in the form of Jesus, is where my faith begins. For many Christians, the crucifixion is the starting point. For me, it’s all about the incarnation. And here’s the thing, there are some days I wonder if any of it’s true. But I have moved beyond trying to understand that which I may never understand and focus on the meaning. What it comes down to is love. It’s all about the love that is expressed by forging relationships with humanity and teaching a different way to be in these relationships. My second answer is pretty simple – I am still connected to the church because I believe that it has the capacity to be the single greatest proponent of love, authenticity and community and I will not see it overrun or misrepresented. I believe that the best way I can see the beloved community come to pass is to be in the community.

This may seem very simplistic, and I am sure that I could write more about what I believe and why I believe it. I also don’t want to downplay the harm that’s been done to so many, the hurt that you may have experienced or do experience by the church. All I can say to this is that we are broken, sinful people. As much as I’d like to believe that church folks are the most forgiving, loving and honest people, the opposite tends to be true…

I just want to let anyone know who has been hurt, cast aside or disenfranchised by the church that we need you. We need the whole body and me and my colleagues who are like me and who serve as pastors so desperately want a new reality for our church. It’s lonely out here when you think like I think and believe like I believe.

I thank God for my church House of the Rock. I thank God for prophetic leaders like Nadia Bolz Weber, Andrena Ingram and Marlon Hall. I thank God for communities like The Simple Way, the Eat Gallery, Grace Lutheran Church and Awaken Detroit. I thank God for the band Starboarders and others who use their gifts to bring about positive change in the world and show an alternative way to believe and live the Christian story.

I was baptized as a baby. In the church. I was confirmed as a teenager. In the church. I was nurtured and allowed to lead as a young adult. In the church. I was encouraged as a woman in ministry. In the church. I was married. In the church.

I went through my divorce and the church loved me.

I battle depression and the church surrounds me.

I think differently and the church accepts me.

This has been my experience and this is why I continue to stay in my beloved albeit broken community.

My prayer is that you are able to find a community that loves you.

My prayer is that we can be the community that loves you.

My prayer is that we can be gracious towards one another, know that we are not perfect and recognize that things won’t change if we don’t take the steps to change them.

Love,

Me

 

Music Mondays: I Didn’t Know My Own Strength by Whitney Houston

Whitney-Houston-I-Didnt-Know-My-O-503938Have you ever experienced a moment when you realize that you are so much stronger than you ever thought you could be? It’s not just enough for others to tell you that you are strong. Something has to happen to make you believe it. I’m finding that the past couple of years have placed me face-to-face with the reality that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be….

This is my first Christmas post divorce. My ex-husband and I separated on August 19, 2011. Our divorce was finalized on July 12, 2012. I’ve written about how my separation was one of many things that led to my most recent depressive episode, but I haven’t really written about how it affected my identity and my perception of myself. Making the decision to get a divorce was the hardest decision of my life. I felt like a failure. I was embarrassed. I felt like I didn’t have what it took to be a wife. I felt like a disappointment to my family and friends, especially to those who stood and witnessed my wedding.

I Didn’t Know My Own Strength performed by Whitney Houston has been such an inspiration for me. The words, written by Diane Warren, speak to the strength that exist within and comes to the surface in times of suffering.

Lost touch with my soul
I had nowhere to turn, I had nowhere to go
Lost sight of my dream
Thought it would be the end of me

I thought I’d never make it through
I had no hope to hold on to
I thought I would break

I didn’t know my own strength
And I crashed down and I tumbled, but I did not crumble
I got through all the pain
I didn’t know my own strength

Survived my darkest hour, my faith kept me alive
I picked myself back up, hold my head up high
I was not built to break
I didn’t know my own strength

I always wanted to be one of those women who wasn’t defined by a relationship or lack thereof. I always wanted to be a woman who bounced back from hardships with incredible grace. I wanted my identity to be steeped in something much greater than my current circumstance. As hard as it’s been, my divorce has taught me that I am this type of woman. Most of all, it taught me that I didn’t know my own strength…

My prayer is that you are able to believe that you have incredible strength within.

Love,

Me