A Poem From Driving Home

Crimson and azure are
dull in the place of
shifting
shadows.
A dimly lit room
Frustrates the palette –
Naple yellow on bristles, like the
Murky turpentine: Payne’s gray.
She took two steps back
to see what
she could not see.
And the picture of her heart
must
be
released – and she called
Someone.
The demolition of the walls
The wrecking ball
Came
And at once, a flood
of light.
And the painting.

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A Meditation

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Father: Son, I am giving her to you. It’s my will for you to bring her into the family.
Son: I know. I obey you, and I am going to show her my desire for her. I will lay my life down for her. I will die, for that is the purchase price. She belonged to another when she ran away. Now she belongs to me. She will come to live with us.
Father: Son, you are my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.
Betrothed: Thank you, you love me! The one before you did not love me. I was deceived. Now, I know. I saw what you did for me! I am beloved!
Son: My betrothed, He gave you to me. I am beloved! Now I must go to prepare a place!
Betrothed: Where are you going? Can I come?
Son: Beloved, I will come. I must go. The place! The feast! I will send you the Holy Spirit. He is the deposit, the proof that I will return.
Betrothed: Will I see you?
Son: Your counselor, the Holy Spirit, He will show you.
Betrothed: When will you return?
Son: Your comforter, the Holy Spirit, He will comfort you.
Betrothed: What do I do in the meantime?
Son: Until now, you have not asked for anything. Ask, and you shall receive, and your joy will be complete. Use my name. Ask for anything. All authority in Heaven and on Earth is mine.
Betrothed: And the wedding?
Son: Be ready. Be dressed. I will come.
Betrothed: Be ready? Be Dressed?
Son: Be holy. Be beauty.
Betrothed: I will come. You are the way.
Son: I will come.

Advent Is About Waiting

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Life is wrong on so many levels. I spent a good bit of the last few days lamenting and grieving that even my small acts to insert beauty and goodness into this world are not powerful enough to overcome what is broken around me. Sometimes, we suck it up. These last few days, I decided to feel the pain of it.

I always double-take when people ask me, “What is wrong?” What, you don’t see it? Do you not spend time really processing what is going on in life? Are you not suffering? I don’t do well with other people’s pity of me or attempt to “rescue,” because I cannot feel that we are peers in weakness when that happens.

What about Christmas? It has something to do with my own longing and my own humility, that in and of myself, I cannot produce something completely and utterly beautiful, although I find myself constantly chasing the shadows of what I believe to be good. Christmas actually has something to do with my tremendous dissatisfaction mingled with stubborn hope. I have SUCH longing. Advent is about waiting. I often feel how small my body is to contain such determination. That feeling is called “helplessness.”

It was said by Isaiah:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.

I want that.

I don’t need science to prove a hope that never goes away and a longing to be utterly possessed by what is entirely good. No marriage nor friendship, no parent nor neighbor has been able to let me see, fully, what it means to have “great joy.”

For this reason, I love Christmas. It is a bizarre story of the coming of a child that ends up on a wooden cross. It turns me upside down and rejects my apathy. I will let that story stir up my imagination some more. But when it comes down to it, I do not need what is imagination. I do not need just a fantastic story. I can only abide by what is true.

Faith is believing in what is invisible. It is tricky business but the very source of my power. I don’t know what I am doing with this rambling. But I want to work out my faith, and I am not afraid to be known by everyone this way.

 

 

Don’t Feel Bad

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This morning, my son hit me with a Nerf Gun.  My anger flared up right away, because that sucker hurt!! He felt really bad and apologized immediately. About ten minutes later, he came back and said, “Mom, I feel bad about just now. I am so sorry.”  I told him not to feel bad, I was not mad at all, and that I wanted him to know the bullet hurt me and to not aim within range of people.

Immediately, I realized I had a moment of “shitty parenting.” Why the heck would I tell him not to feel bad? I corrected myself, “Actually, you need to feel what you feel. I am sorry I tried to shut down your feelings.”

The healthiest thing for him to do, when he hurt me, was to feel bad.  To tell him otherwise was to raise an apathetic human being, but my first (and erroneous) response was to “protect” him from feeling.

Lately, there has been a lot of lashing-out against my son’s middle school, Basis DC. Some parents appear very agitated by the high standards and expectations of the school, especially parents of children with special needs. They desire a school that provides equal outcome for kids with special needs and kids with no such needs. Many believe that with adequate funding and channeling of resources, all things will be made equal.

Standing from the POV of a parent, I understand. If I do not want my child to feel bad and be left out of opportunities and a great future, I would fight to provide the best possible care for him or her. That must be the desire of any healthy parent.

However, when I stand inside my own mind and see my own limits, I think the healthiest thing for myself is to understand my limits and to not have false expectations of what I can accomplish. Sometimes, feeling the failures of my attempts is great information. It allows me to see that there are some things I cannot keep doing and remain healthy, like spending beyond my means, working more than my body lets me, spending too much time with people when I need to quietly process…etc. Doing things in excess of my ability causes me to FEEL. I feel burnout, I feel the shame of my mistakes, I feel pain, I alienate people. Good to feel, see limits, see consequences, and become healthier.

Do parents who hate Basis DC hate it because they do not want their children, who have limits, to feel their limits? Is it right to demand a school to fix limits that cannot be fixed? I make some assumptions here. I assume these parents are not planning to send their kids to a rigorous school so that they can guide their children to see limits as they fail at meeting certain academic standards. That can be a lesson on its own, but what is driving the anger towards this particular school other than a deep desire to protect a child from feeling bad about themselves?

I personally do not know that setting up a child to operate in a setting that is not appropriate really erases shame. I think it aggravates it. I think many parents will not accept, nor process, the shame they feel to have a child with limits. I liberally assume here that these same parents have not learned to accept their own limits. Rather than modeling self love, they are channeling their energy towards changing the environment to disguise or eliminate any appearance of limits.

I, for one, will not send one of my kids, who cannot sing, to audition for a national choir. I will not demand the choir to make arrangements so that my child can belong to it. But I will encourage my child to sing his heart out in a setting where it is healthy and happy.

Back to the Nerf Gun thing. I really wasn’t telling my son not to feel bad. I was really wanting him not to feel toxic shame… which I define as swimming in self hatred directed at one’s imperfection and limits. My child’s “feeling bad” was healthy, but my projection onto him was about an upbringing and a fantasy that all is well when we do not feel.

Lately, I have been working on accepting and enjoying my feelings. I love feeling pain, anger, modesty, happiness, the whole nine yards. With feelings, I am informed as to where I begin and where I end. I had operated on “don’t feel bad” for as I could remember, and it had stunted my growth. So, seriously, these days, I feel bad all the time. Not to say I am not a feel-good chaser, but at least I am now smart enough to know that feeling the bad helps me to figure out how to feel the good.

I Am Who You Are Not Makes Me Gag

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Recently, I attended a homeschool conference. Attendance was required for those wishing to teach a writing class this upcoming academic year. Honestly, I did not want to teach the class because of the three-day, 18-hour-requirement. However, nobody had stepped up for the position in our particular community, and the director personally called and offered her chauffeuring services if I were to attend. Okay, then. I signed up. Actually, she signed me up and sent me the email confirmation.

The conference was as unpleasant as I had expected.  The worst part of it was suffering through some serious sermonizing on how public education was the devil’s realm. The participating crowd got assigned the pronoun, “we,” and the parents who send kids to public school got the designation, “they.” The speaker pointed out, not without charisma, the faith and victory of those who had made a decision not to send their children to be educated by “the world.” The audience, in turn, applauded. Everyone was having a very feel-good session in there.

All, except me. I felt like gagging (purging, of course, is our body’s natural way of getting rid of stuff that is no good).  I left the pews and went out to the parking lot for a breath of fresh air, cried my eyeballs out (yes, I am the sensitive type), made a decision to be polite to these strangers, and went back in to fulfill my teaching requirement. It was not so painful after my good cry, as I also decided to tune the whole thing out and think on pleasant things instead.

I would have been so supportive if the speaker had spoken only of the loveliness of homeschooling. Why was her good thing “good” only if the alternative was “bad”? Why couldn’t she just have celebrated her decision to homeschool without putting others down?

I was taught at an early age to not focus on the speck on someone’s eye while having a plank in my own eye, so I have been wondering the past few days whether I do that thing of deciding that I am superior by deciding someone else is inferior.  I must shamefully admit that I compare often, and it makes me feel awfully good to compare. I get a lot of worth out of mentally one-upping others.

I am who you are not.

Is that how I define myself? Do I give others way too much power by allowing the meaning of my selfhood be based on the meaninglessness of others? Do I feel like a nobody if someone happens to be better at something than me?  Am I actually powerless when I cannot feel joy all by myself? It is SELF-destructive to need to be better (by comparing?)?

The things we notice… Some people are in a hurry. Some people eat organic food. Some people eat casseroles made with canned cream of mushroom soup.  Some people homeschool. Some people talk loudly. Some people have nine fingers. Some people have a lot of money. Some people do drugs. All of these things can be facts. But I really do not need to sit around being so fearful and threatened that I start forming comparisons in my head to affirm my “me.”

Wrap up: I marvel at God when Moses asked Him for a name, and God answered, “I am who I am.” That, to me, is someone who knows and loves Himself. I think I am going to copy God. I am going to work on going from I am who you are not, to I am who I am. I think in the process, I will also gain a lot of intimate relationships that are completely void of comparing and judging, and I am going to restore a strong sense of myself. As for the people who want to diss others… well. Too bad for them. I can’t change them. But I sure can change me into more me by becoming me, not becoming less them!