Imperfection

I awoke last night in a dream where I had “blood on my hands." It was a goofy dream about a spaceship that had been grounded by some outside force and it was up to me to set it and everyone on board free. And what did I have to do?

I had to speak out loud all of the instances that I could remember where I hurt someone. I was not to give excuses or explain circumstances. I was just to name all the times I could remember hurting someone. It was a long list.

By this time I was awake-ish, but I was still doing the required task. I was remembering and saying I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Dozing again, the next task was to recall all the times someone hurt me and to forgive them. This was also a long list. I did as instructed. I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you.

Half awake, half asleep.

The last task was to forgive myself.

Fully awake now.

I could forgive myself, but not all the way. I was 100% in on the sorry part. I was 100% in on the forgiving others part. But I only reached about 72.5% on forgiving myself. It wasn’t so much an issue of worth or undeserving. It was more that I truly felt sorry and I truly felt forgiveness, and what does it mean to forgive yourself anyway?

Kurt woke up and wanted to hear about what I was dreaming and thinking. I told him I was sorry for all the times I hurt him. I told him I could only forgive myself 72.5%. He curled into my legs and went back to sweet sleep.

We are all imperfect.

And we all hurt others, and are hurt by others.

In the mix of it, we must find a way to be ok with ourselves. Because we’re human. Because being human is messy. Because life is imperfect.

Then I fell back to sleep with no dreams.

I’m sorry.

I forgive you.

I’m forgiving myself.

Peace,

Amy

Dressing for Halloween

What are your favorite costumes from Halloween past? The kitty, the witch, the bumblebee? When our boys were small, I always told them I was dressing up as a Mom. They thought that was lame. I simply don’t like disguises.

When I was in middle school and at the local fair, I found myself purchasing 3 sodas for myself and a couple of pals. Unbeknownst to me, a drunken clown was standing inches away from me, hovering in wait for the moment I would turn. A crowd formed. No one alerted me. I turned and his disguised face loomed into mine and the crowd laughed. I dropped all three cups of soda. The clown backed off, miming hilarity at me. No one offered to buy me three new drinks. I stalked off mad as hell. And shaken.

Since then, I do not allow disguised persons in costumes to come near me. I do not go to places where I might have to interact. And if there appears suddenly a clown or some other character, I breathe deeply and tell myself they have no power over me.

Disguise. Costumes. Hiding. Being someone else.

Halloween costumes, I suppose, originated in tandem with a spirit filled notion of the thin veil of heaven and the underworld opening. We disguise ourselves as ghosts and witches and monsters so that the real ghosts and witches and monsters won’t recognize us as human. Once capitalism and an entertainment economy took hold, we began to dress up as anything. I’ve seen some great costumes, for sure. And people have fun. We now must give care that we are not perpetuating stereotypes when we dress up. I agree with that, in this entertainment culture.

Yet I want to ponder and wonder in the realm of the human psyche for a moment. For we all wish to disguise ourselves to a degree. We all wish to put on a costume that allows us to be in the reality of another person, if but for a night. Our own skin and being can be too much for us to handle, or the chasm between our outward characterization and our inward true self may be painfully and monstrously wide.

So, we cloak ourselves. Mark Zuckerberg cloaks himself with the illusion of simplicity in his matching Tshirts and hoodies. Simple. Yes. But a cloak, a veneer that he’s just a computer programmer with good intentions. When I worked my (beloved) office job, I bought scores of clothes that would cover and disguise a body that did not do well with office clothes. Once I left to enter my own realm of self employment I put a bag at the ready for when I put a piece of clothing on and do not feel like myself. I chuck it, and keep looking.

What if Halloween was an opportunity for us to freely explore other sides of ourselves? The sexy side, the frightening side, the side that honors another culture (rather than exploits), the rich side, the hillbilly side, the male or female side? What if we allowed ourselves the illusion of being Ruth Bader Ginsberg? What if we allowed the terror we fight within, to be on display as a monster?

What if our chants of trick or treat are dares to see ourselves differently? Or to free ourselves to be different because the disguise warrants it? Introverts become the life of the party, extroverts can relax in a corner, we believe we scare people and so we can dress like it to see if that self perception is real.

Our costuming is for ourselves. There are times I want to hover behind a notion of myself, in order to shock it into feeling/change/alarm. I want to guffaw at a part of me that is asleep or not paying attention, not looking up to see the crowd of life all around me.

Choose with care how you cloak yourselves this Halloween. Do not take on the real life visage of someone who is oppressed knowing you are free from their stigma and danger. Do pay attention to what you are wanting to tell the world or just your own self, about you.

For really, there are no disguises. We see one another pretty plainly, when we look up.

Amy

Holiday Cheer

What do the holiday’s bring up for you?

Blue Christmas?

Family politics?

Childhood baggage that Mom loves the youngest better than the oldest and I always have to do the dishes while others play board games?

Gift pressure?

Religious meh?

It is real, and it is stressful. We want to love our families, but honestly, some are best loved from a distance. FriendsGiving gatherings are on the rise, which is worth celebrating. And some families actually get along.

The most important question is: how do YOU want to engage the holiday season? Do you see a Norman Rockwell traditional image of feasting around your table, or glasses raised with friends at a local pub? What do you want to pass on to your kids? How will you make each gift dollar count and still have money to pay the bills.

Whatever your stress, let’s talk. You can engage with Spiritual Direction which will give you the space to hear yourself and discover your own desires, hurts, wounds, challenges….or you can engage with a holiday coaching session because you already know what you need to do but the how and the courage to do it needs some invigoration.

Let’s talk soon, before it all starts. We can talk again in the midst of the fray.

Craft a different season this year.

Cheers,

Amy

White Duck

The other day in my meditations, I asked myself to bring forth an image of what I need to know about my way and work and being in the world for right now.

What came was this image of a goofy white duck with a flirty tale, standing on the shore. It quacked. This duck looked around awkwardly.

And then it took to flight.

In the air the wings were wide and multilayered, soaring in the blue…..

As the soaring turned to landing, the lake prepared to meet the white duck.

She created a wet arrival and glided among her concentric circles with ease and comfort and happiness. Those little duck feet were paddling away deep in that lakescape.

Jennifer Gremillion writes, “Duck is associated with water (emotions) and emotional strength. Her energy emits keen awareness and strong intuition. She is symbolic of knowing. A duck is graceful on water, navigating life experiences gracefully. She expresses clearly. A duck is a spirit helper and offers a timely message… Be in the moment. She comes on your path to provide emotional protection and comfort.”

I’ll take that.

There is a maternal aspect to a duck. A maternal energy that will lead her ducklings right out of the nest right off the bridge, and will never leave them if they are stuck in a drainage hole along the road (you’ve seen the youtube videos of all of this, I’m sure). The duck’s maternal work is to empower her ducklings so they could leave her, so they could live in the wild with strength and animal purpose.

I will own this whole sacred maternal emotional comfort energy. This animal-image, this metaphoric companion of the imaginal spaces…that is awkward in some places, quacking to get some attention, then taking off to soar and land and glide is with me now for a time. Welcome, little duck.

Thanks, self, for this rich and wonderful image of a way to be in the world.

Yours with ease,

Amy

Photo by bazilfoto/iStock / Getty Images,

Unworthy

I have been astounded at how much unworthiness I have encountered in the recent weeks. This is coming from people that I experience as able, strong, talented, enjoyable.

Most often, this comes out in the form of comments. The person will be able to give a clear and wise viewpoint onto a situation, and then I’ll watch them accept something less than worthy of their full hope. They’ll say….

  • “Oh, that’s ok, it’s fine.” and accept a mediocre meal

  • “I don’t need that.”

  • “It isn’t important to me.”

  • “I know I’m giving up my time, but this other person needs something more than I do.”

It isn’t just the words. Its the body language that accompanies the words. Often there is a slump to the shoulders, a rocking back and forth of the head that dismisses what they need, eyes that look at the floor or look away, hands that clench into fists. Sometimes tears show up in the corner of the eyes and are laughed off.

You are worthy.

You

are

worthy

What on earth makes you or me or anyone else think that they should be second best? What messages are running your brain, that tell you that you can’t do this thing you’re dreaming about or that you can’t buy that house you love, that tell you that you do not deserve to be happy because someone else has had it harder?

These messages need to be crumpled and thrown in the bin.

First, we need to know who wrote those messages. Whose handwriting are they in?

Whose voice do you hear when you are paying attention to them?

And what does that have to do with you?

Here is a silly thing about me. I believed that I had a terrible smile. My whole life and I’m just turning 55. In my youth, it was true that I had teeth that were uneven, spaced, or even missing (who knows what was going on with all of that?). My senior year in college I had the dentist do a couple of bondings that solved most of the issues. But my mind had 22 years of bad teeth stories that I could not shake.

So recently, I was making a mature and self aware statement about my smile to a couple of male friends. They looked confused as I spoke of my teeth issues. They looked at each other, confirming my odd and untrue perspective. And then one said, “I have never, not once, noticed anything amiss with your smile or with your teeth. Your smile is a light.” Something in me thought “that is impossible” “he is lying” “what does he know”.

You know what I did? I went home and began smiling in the mirror. You know what I saw? straight teeth with a lovely little gap in the front. I then did an even more astonishing thing. I smiled my normal smile….the one I do to hide my teeth. I hate that smile. And then I smiled as if my teeth were fine. OMG, I love that smile. My freakin’ teeth are just fine. I didn’t even know it.

False Messages do not equal truth.

False Messages totally mess with our self perception.

You are worthy. Even if your teeth are uneven.

Even if you’ve had 13 boyfriends and they all leave you, you are worthy of a strong, healthy relationship.

Even if you’ve been unkind on a regular basis, you are worthy of kindness.

Even if your parent has told you that their plans and identity for you come first, you are worthy of a good life of your own design.

Even if you were told to be this thing but you chose to be another, you are worthy of validation.

Even if Even if Even if

You are worthy.

Period.

Let’s bash the messages, and lean in to a real truth. See how far you’ll go.

A

Political Landscape

Let’s be honest. When a group of “conservative” or “liberal” folks get together, they make disparaging remarks about the other group that isn’t them. Oddly, if you are eavesdropping, you’ll note that we are all saying the same thing.

We are being played.

YOU are creative, resourceful and whole and you have a MIND HEART SOUL and BODY that inform you without the need to be handed your talking points from any social or news media source.

Truly.

We have been trained to use only our heads. Because the body is powerful. Our instincts are powerful. The heart is powerful. Powers That Be….whatever side or issue…know that if they inundated our public space with data, information, opinion ALL THE TIME …that is all meant to sway us their way, that the mind has no time to say “WAIT! Let me breath and check out my partners in knowing.”

Mind Heart Soul Body

A little goofy but I and you…WE are all a system that is cohesive. If our minds take all the knowing space, we miss out on determining our own truths. Powers That Be do not want us thinking for ourselves.

When a hot topic that is divisive comes up, check in with yourself:

  • are you scrunching your eyes up as you look around

  • are you leaning in, in a conspiratorial posture

  • are you aware of where you received the information you’re about to speak

Then do this:

  • pause

  • breathe for 3 big, full breathes

  • check in with your body on how you really feel, ask yourself “How do I really feel about this?” Your body will feel alive, bright, achy, disturbed, off kilter, right on….or any number of ways that give you information

  • ask yourself, “if the outcome of this belief/decision affected me or those I love the most directly, what would I think about this?”

  • ask yourself, “What if the other side is right?” What do you gain and what do you lose

This is enough of a start to be in a grown up space for knowledge rather than in a place of being used as a pawn, in hopes that we are not thinking but just repeating.

Thinking like a mature person

Not repeating like a parrot

No one wants to be the parrot, however cute they are. They are not thinking their answers. They are parroting their training.

But even parrots have the animal instinct to care for another organic being: human or animal.

Do we?

Take good care, provide good care,,

Out of Date

In a recent coaching class I’m in, the instructor invited us to consider negative cognitions (EMDR speak for stories, tapes, narratives). She suggested we bring up our most persistent stories and sit in them. Let them sink in to see if they are out of date.

I loved this concept.

What do we tell ourselves so often, usually to a nod to what we were told way back when, that is now so out of date that even the origin of that story is stale, like Wonder bread left in the fridge all summer (hint: it does not mold, even squirrels won’t eat it).

Our tightly held negative phrases and painful wounds can dissapate like fog or heal like a paper cut without our even knowing it. We go along using the same words and conjuring up the same hurts, even though they are out of date.

Generally, a ton of work or distance has been experienced for this to be true, but we can move forward unaware of the fundamental changes to our very beings.

I use to see this in seminary students, when I worked in higher ed. These were graduate students studying the very substance of faith and being. Their noses so close to the learning that some never looked up and around and within to see that they were no longer who they once were. But I would see it. Not only is student development part of admissions but is part of the exit interview process. So many times I would sit across the low table and tell the one about to graduate just how far they’ve come. For some, in that moment, the back straightens, the eyes go inward then grow big, and almost always a smile of recognition creeps across the face.

It is a quantum leap in the forward movement department.

What stories are you telling yourself? Do you need a place that is safe and believing to tell your negative phrases and to share your deepest wounds? Be prepared, for one day you may throw them all out in the compost heap. Be prepared, one day they will no longer serve as they once did. Be prepared, your sense of self will explode out of those tight fitting clothes of shame, guilt, trauma, because you’ve grown. Be prepared.

With Love,

Amy

Bliss....finally

I set a meditation intention at the new year for daily meditation. 20 minutes has been the norm. It has been good. I've mixed it up with a bit of Quaker waiting worship (listening for the word of God or Alfie, apparently), centering prayer, mantras, and just my own brand of a mix.

Meditation is not easy. Imagine, sitting and and and.....but then the mind goes ZOOM and thoughts collide with intention, like painting over wallpaper...covering the wait, a cheap fix.

I've not complained. Well, once I did. Once, back in March I looked up to the object of my meditation and said, "Really? Is this all ya got?"It was not what I was expecting. To be fair, along the way I've had insights and ahas and a good deal of joy. But I was searching for something and I didn't even know what it would be til it showed up. 

It showed up.

Back in college, I had an intense daily spiritual discipline of reading from scripture for 20 minutes, prayers of 20 minutes...including praying in tongues...then a quiet time that inevitably was a time of praise. I also had taken on the discipline of fasting once a week. It took from September to March until the fast finally felt like a link, a connection, a goodness instead of deprivation for some elusive goal. That held true through the end of the summer. That feeling of it still resides in the memory systems of my body.

Today, I was awake at 2:45am. After the obligatory game of 3 (30?) of solitaire and a quick browse of facebook, my little inner guidance voice said: "meditate". When I hear and act on that voice, I am never sorry. So, I propped myself up there in my room at 3:30 am and began. I went through my own ritual of settling and centering. and then BAM I was there. 

Bliss. I've been there before. It is a state of pure flowing equilibrium. Balance. Harmony. And what I was aware of was that in that space I was in my truest self. A truer reality than when I'm awake. I was without wound, story, narrative, defense, ego. It was everything. Not zingy or mystical or anything one might be expecting. It was real. 

equilibrium

balance

harmony

It has stayed with me today. I am seeing people, myself, live issues, from within a different vantage point.

I think we can all get to this place. It does take a heck of a lot of work. And not particularly head work. Heart work. I'm talking about the kind of work that transforms and releases. It is not for the head alone, but heart and body. The soul part is trusting in something transcendent and beyond our material self.

Thanks for being with me on this day.

In Harmony,

Amy

Beyond the gathering

This is a little bit about me, Amy, and the spirituality that I bring to spiritual direction and my life.

I am ordained in a small protestant sect in the Christian tradition. My life has been one where service to neighbor, simplicity, and peacemaking were the central focus of worship and my church education. And it was good. The love of God and Jesus were sort of assumed, in order to get to the message of the gospels. A flip to most evangelical experiences where Jesus is exalted above his teachings. I'm glad for my upbringing. 

12 years in my first professional position had me in the role of pastor. I teamed with my husband and we split the work of a single pastorate into the two of us, sharing parenting at the same time. A perfect equation of life and vocation for us. 12 beautiful years of growing into my gifts and identity.

For the next 13 years, my family attended a church that had other pastors, because we had moved cities and I had begun work in a seminary. During those 13 years, I was the board chair 3 times, a deacon, worship leader, occasional preacher, sunday school teacher.

When the pastor left, and the congregation proclaimed that they'll carry on without a pastor (the numbers had diminished to about 12...but that is an entirely different story)...the writing on the wall was that I would have my hands full of church function and leadership. The voices saying "we'll do it ourselves" also were saying "But don't ask me for regular leadership because I have other things going on." I needed to leave this beloved gathering because it was not my call to be the de facto pastor.

When the congregation finally reached the painful point of laying the congregation down (closing the doors) in the fall of 2017, I had to do something with my ordination credential or lose it. I moved it to a progressive, open and affirming, creation caring, interfaith engaging congregatoin in Fort Wayne. I preach there twice a year. I attend only when I preach. But it is my church. My faith gathering.

Some folks view my lack of regular attendance at church as a loss. A point of shame or giving in to cultural trends. 

But really, the churches I have been a part of have simply done their job well. If the job of the church is to connect people with God/Source/the Sacred.....then I'm a graduate.

Psalm 139 is a cry of frustration by the psalmist who is gearing up to a confession of hating their enemy so much they wanted them dead. We know it as a comforting piece of poetics as it is used in funerals: there is no place we can go where God is not.

But really, there is no place we can go where God is not. To my joy and to my chagrin. Not a single place out there is the cosmos, or the immediacy of my lush backyard, or within the interior sanctum of my soul. God is there.

And this is my church now.

My spirituality is wide and broad and deep...so deep I have no ability to reach the furthest reach. Everyday I explore the nuance of what I thought I knew as a boundary to understand it now as a portal to something more. Everyday I swim in the warm waters, the turbulent waters, the salty tear infused waters of the Sacred. I float, I bob, I sink.

This means that my understanding of spirituality is broader than any lineage or faith heritaage. The Church of the Brethren has done its job so well that I'm in that space beyond its limited boundaries of polity and faith statements...exactly where those things were pointing.

**********

I come back, time to time, to the material world of church and practicality. It is no longer a place for me to stay, but certainly, it is a place for me to dip my toes back here in the waters of the local beach. The four-part singing of hymns that sing of God's love are deep in my marrow. The peace songs sung on grass or around camp fires strum in my blood. The deep care of community in times of trauma, when you put aside all messy human feelings to care for one another is like a breath.

This allows me to be filled with gratitude. I can meet you where you are with whole hearted belief in your path. Becauses there is no place we can go, no place we can be where God is not. 

Peace to you.

Honking our pain into the drive-thru

There is a meme on facebook, a video of a Mom in her car telling a story. She was in a coffee drive through, and at the same time the car ahead of her moved forward, she bent down and reached back to pick up a toy her young daughter had dropped. In that moment of mothering, the car behind her began to honk, and the driver was yelling and gesticulating angrily. Apparently, our storytelling Mom hadn't moved forward in a way that made sense to the car behind.

 

The mother in the video is funny. And real. She goes on to say that she was aware of the anger in the person behind her, and she new going back to talk to the person would be awkward. So instead, she just pulled up to the window and paid for the coffee of the person behind her. A kind act. An act of seeing. She drove off. The two women didn't get out and exchange phone numbers becoming besties. There was no opportunity for the mom to be thanked or recognized. Her message to us watching this video was to be compassionate to those who are acting in alarming ways, because we just don't know the day, the life, the moment they are having.

 

As a lifelong participant in the christian church, I have been conditioned to identify with the woman making the video. To be the one who buys the coffee for the rude person. To be the one who offers compassion or grace or care. I'm glad for that upbringing which is steeped in my bones.

 

But today, I'm feeling with the woman in the rear car. The one who is honking, yelling, making gestures of anger....because someone didn't inch forward soon enough.

 

Are you her? Are you angry? Angry enough to honk and yell?

 

Life piles shit upon us, sometimes at speeds so swift that we cannot catch up. Cannot take a breath. Cannot form the words. We feel the victim, the loser, the wounded. We want to be noticed in our pain.

 

We want to be noticed in our pain.

 

So we honk. Or we over care in hopes that people will give to us the way we are giving to them. Or we yell and angrily raise a fist....with an unspoken hope that someone will put a slowing hand on our shoulder and say "Hey, what is going on?"...because without breath, without words, we can't say it to ourselves.

 

We can get so caught in fear of bills unpaid, or the violence of a relationship, or the pain of being overlooked, or the worry of our bodies falling aparat.....and we don't have the words to say help.

 

Our outburst sound one way.

Our posture and hand gestures look one way.

Our words express something one way.

 

But we really are meaning something another way.

 

We mean to say help.

 

Help me.

 

I think that if you know someone who is honking for help, help them. Connect them to a spiritual director or a counselor or a massage therapist. Do it right there with them. All you have to say is "Here, let's get you connected. I'll do it for you." Whip that phone out and make an appointment for them.

 

Sometimes, just making the appointment is like a balm to the bruise.

 

If you have enough in you that you are not honking in the drive through but are pounding the steering wheel instead...directing your anger at yourself....make the appointment. Pay for someone to listen to you with skill and total attentiveness. Once you've regained a bit of equilibrium, call a friend and let them listen in to your pain too. They'll want to. You're worth it.

 

Spiritual Direction is not counseling, but it is that balm, that relief, that steam valve that needs to be opened for the pent up toxic energy to hiss out from within. It is help.