Sunday, November 29, 2015

the candle of hope

In the past few years, I've grown wildly in love with advent. I love the tradition of lighting the candles, of breath held in anticipation as we wait, of the "It may look bleak now but just wait until you see what's coming."
I'm in a phase where I need to look and see what's coming. I need hope, something solid to curl my fingers around, something to ignite a tiny flame within me that will burn bright and carry me through the depths of this dark winter.
Every year on my birthday, I pick a new word for the year. It's how I usher in a new year: with music and words and rituals and traditions. Last year my word was "Shalom." It meant peace, wholeness, and I craved it deeply. The year, in surprising ways, brought me shalom.
This year I felt a tiny tug at my heart, and through the whisperings of friends and my own thoughts, I landed on a prayer, an intention, for this next year.
Pray for a year of jubilee.
A year of restoration, of rest, of joy, of reclaiming sacred ground.
But in the days since claiming my word, a year of jubilee seems nearly impossible. A year of rejoicing and restoring and resting seems so far away when I feel heavy, full of self loathing, desperate and broken.
I am the one in need of the hope candle this Sunday.
I sit in this space, uncomfortable and humbly broken. When there's too much to be done, when the body fails, when I see so much pain and hurt surrounding our community this Christmas season, when quarrels rise up and rest seems like a dream, when the tears come without warning and the losses feel bigger than the gains, there is the tiny, flickering candle of hope.
I draw near to advent because I need to be a part of something bigger than myself. I need the hope, the peace and the joy and the love, offered because I can't create it on my own.
I am opening up space for Jesus becoming human. I need the hope of the birth of Jesus, the hope of His becoming fully man and fully God and living inside a human body so that I can make peace living in mine. I need His suffering on the cross as a nod to my suffering, a "Me too."
I am waiting, still with an aching deep inside me. Something isn't whole yet. I know this. I can feel it and I see it and I look around me and am so aware of our (my) depravity.
It's why I light the hope candle, why I am praying for a year of jubilee even when from where I'm standing it seems nearly impossible.
Because just you wait until you see what's coming

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Beautiful - Part 2

Somewhere along the line, through the rough blows of trauma and grief and heartache, we gave up on our beauty. Even though the grievance went directly against the grain of what our souls were longing for, we decided beauty wasn't for us. We were too broken, too fragmented, too incomplete to ever hope for a beauty that could breathe energy and life back into our hearts and into the people around us.

 This evening, after a long day of homework and a long week of heartache, I pulled out my paint set. I got it when I was in my early teen years with the inspiration to become a painter, and ever since then it has sat on my shelf. I pull it out every now and again, when I feel like reconnecting with my inner child. Tonight, though, I wasn't going to paint a picture on canvas or a piece of paper.
Standing before the full length mirror, I mixed the paint and began painting shapes on my stomach. Red circles, purple lines, green fingerprints, I was painting my scars.
When I had finished painting the scars, when all the pain on the inside was now splashed across my outsides, I looked in the mirror. All the lines, all the circles, all the fingerprints, they spoke volumes. But that's not the story I want to tell. And so, dipping my fingers in the green ink, I scrawled something else on my body.
followed by words like brave and love and strong. Because my body is all of those things too.
And as I looked in the mirror, what I saw wasn't a mess of paint and tears. It was beautiful.
I grew up with an intense hatred for my body. My body was the enemy. It failed me when I needed it to work properly. It attracted trauma and pain. It was easier to deprive it of nourishment and make myself sick, or to cut away skin and try to allow the pain to breathe than to deal with what was underneath. Because underneath, the lies I was told and picked up on were strong enough to shake me to the core: that I am not loved, that I am not beautiful, that I am not worthy.
Of all the things I lost, of all the things that I had to now struggle to regain, I ended up losing the idea that I could be beautiful. When people would say it to me, I would reject it. There was nothing beautiful about my body because I believed there was nothing beautiful about my heart. I was a shell, the living dead.
Part of being free means making peace with my story, and one thing I'm learning to make peace with is the word beautiful.
I still struggle a lot with not feeling like enough. I still have days where I try to punish my body, to make it fit into how I think it should be. If we are composed of mind, body and soul, part of being free means being realizing and living from a place of this is a good body.
This body, that was abused and criticized and pulled apart and analyzed, it is a good body.

The world around us doesn't know what to do with this beauty. So we criticize it, bottle it up and reduce it to a one size fits all souls. But the truth is we can't be packaged. We can't be held in. Beauty is busting at the seams ready to spill energy and hope and compassion and love.
So, my friend, let your beauty spill. Let it spill everywhere, on everyone, and get messy.
Write the words that change hearts. Champion those who are disadvantaged, who cannot speak for themselves. Make art that colors the world around you. Speak words that change the trajectory of a generation. Wake up with so much passion that those that rub up against you are infused with light. Be the beauty in your heart that is aching and longing to wake up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Courage - part 1

My fingers shook as I curled them around my spiral bound notebook.
Moments before I was going to give my talk, I considered rewriting the whole thing, making it up and presenting something less brutally honest and more flowery, elegant, something that fit in the nice 'churchy girl' box, that fit with the paper smile I give.
I say I'll do whatever, that I'm open to nudges from the Holy Spirit, until I am asked to do something that is right up there with being naked in public.
It is a part of my story I've sheltered for a long while. I say I have good reasons for it too: that there's no reason to bring up the past, that I don't want to rock the family boat, that my story doesn't really matter anyway.
There's so many advocates for sexual abuse out there, why does the world need another one? Why my voice?
So in the moments before I was going to begin speaking, with my hands shaking and my heart racing, I reached over to grab the hand of my friend sitting beside me, hoping her calm would rub off on me. And she began to pray, whispering in her sweet voice for courage and strength and wisdom.
I wanted to disappear into the chair, to be back in bed curled up under the blankets faking sick like a little kid who didn't want to go to school. That's what it feels like when you are asked to do something so scary, to share something so real and honest and personal.
When I began to speak, I was shocked by the calm, strong clarity in my voice. I felt like the cowardly lion, the one who was supposed to be strong and brave but instead jumped at the sight of her own shadow.
I lost my voice a long time ago, as a little girl who cried for help with no answer. This summer, I learned how to use my voice again. Over and over I was affirmed by those around me, "You have a beautiful voice."
I clung to those affirmations this morning. I curled my fingers around the courage I found in the words and actions others had left behind. I stepped from shame into courage.
What happened to me was not the end of my story. It doesn't define my worthiness. It doesn't get to take away my voice.
And with the words I spoke to this room full of girls aching for words of grace and truth and love, as I spoke about my own pain and healing journey, I could feel my voice vibrating strong. I heard the most beautiful sound: a soft but still present roar coming from within.
To you: I see you. I'm standing with you. Come to the table. Jesus had a thing for outcasts