some form of something…

As a classic self-doubter with added combo bonus of overthinking, when I set out to learn about liturgies, last month, I was unprepared. Initially, writing a liturgy was a bit of a challenge that came about in my Mastermind group. While the other women talked about the books they’d read and their own experience with liturgies, I sat scribbling mental notes that looked a bit like Learn how to write a liturgy.

And so, I googled “how to write a liturgy.”

Then I scoured pinterest in search of the best, most straight forward liturgy how-to.

I kept my eyes peeled for some mystery webinar on the subject, which would inevitably pop up in my internet ads, as literally all things I search for do.

I had misconceived that I had to create some formal/fancy form or religious, old-fashioned poetry.

When I found no guidance, I began reaching out (subtly at first, and later full-on-begging) for ANYONE to tell me how this was to be done. I needed help…

But really, I didn’t.

I believed that I needed line by line instruction, and could list out a dozen (plus) reasons why I was not capable of such a task. (things like my lack of education, my disregard for traditional writing strategy and rules. Good grief, I hadn’t even known what a liturgy was before last month.)

My lovely friend sent me the book Every Moment Holy and, as I poured over the pages of beautifully crafted captures of often ordinary moments, I began to see myself in them.

In the cups of coffee.

In the moments of mundane uncertainty.

In vibrant sunsets as well as the eighth miserable day of Pennsylvania drizzle. Slowly, I began to understand this need that I have to operate on a level deeper than merely existing. I began to realize that this notion of liturgy could be my how.

I could chop vegetables for a stew, while being overwhelmed with the volume of pain I felt with each movement, because this body of mine lives in a constant state of such hardship… OR… I could choose to work through this place of intentional gratitude for my ability to make dinner at all, preparing the meal with love. I could choose to soak in the stillness of routine, coupled with the natural engaging of my senses, as I did the tasks before me. Suddenly, the basic chore of folding my husband’s t-shirts had become something so much deeper, and satisfying.

The truth is, I’m just me. Some super brilliant theologian could stumble upon these words and tell me I’ve got it all wrong. To this I may respond two ways… First, I may urge them to move along because everything here is not meant for them, and I feel complete peace in that. Second, while many may feel that my acts of doing the mundane in intentional and connected ways cannot be an act of worship, I kindly disagree.

Here’s what I know:

When my feet sink deep, into collapsing sand as the sea kisses its shore, I am my most authentic me. As the sound of waves crashing thunders throughout my very core, I am my most connected me. While the aroma of salt and life take over my senses, working together to form this entire experience, I am directly plugged into the very thing that fills me up. I believe this is God, and I begin operating on a wavelength so different than everyday life. For me, this is my truest form of worship. It does not need “praise hands” lifted high, or Chris Tomlin written lyrics sung from my lips.

When I am in a still, mossy wooded space, deep in the mountains, I am my most authentic me. With the morning, patches of fog littering the air, I am my most connected me. The gentle gurgle of a creek breathing life, somewhere nearby, can carry me straight into that same wavelength of centered connection.

The collection of these moments keep me going in the harder times, as I believe they are the moments when I was tapped into my Creator… In those times, I am made up up gratitude, love and serenity…

My reality, however, is that I cannot always take to the coastline or the mountaintop. What if I could choose some form of something in my daily moments along the way?

My life is not a liturgy. I am WAY too messed up for that. I am learning that my days however, can contain them…

(In the most synchronistic turn of events, I stumbled upon a 30 day instagram challenge, for the month of November, utilizing the hashtag #liturgyofthelittlethings. Already, just a few days in, this has been a centering practice during these days of anxiety and election overwhelm.)

brink…

It was the September of my 20th year when the combination of feel and scent in the air took me back, ala’ movie montage moment, to so many Septembers past. High school Septembers, Jr. High autumn evenings. Flooding, internally, from one to the next.

When I was thirteen, I declared I would one day have a daughter and name her September. It turns out that I neither had a daughter, nor named a child (or pet) that. I do not regret this, just so we’re clear.

All in all, if we were keeping score, September probably shouldn’t be a favorably definitive month for me. It was when school years began, and growing up I was not a lover of school. September marked my first full month as a group home kid, when I was 12.

It carried me into my two definitive adolescent romances, which led, in different ways, to deeply broken hearts…

It also, in fairness, introduced me to my husband, when I was seventeen. That September nearly killed me, as I dealt with a health crisis of extreme proportions, which may (or may not- we will never know) have led to my inability to carry a pregnancy to term. Pretty much nothing, at all, was going remotely ok that September, but in walked Chw and I knew that the two of us would be married, so for that I will declare September 1993 a victory.

A year later, September would bring us full circle, to a horrific miscarriage.

Why it stands out to me that Septembers marked more loss than gain, I’ll never know. Sometimes my biggest gifts (I met each of the kids I loved like a mother loves, in Septembers. First, 2000 and then 2003.) Beautiful gifts, further falling in love and inevitable heartbreak.

Shattering.

Destroyed irreparably.

September…

Two of my three beloved dog besties were laid to rest in Septembers.

My husband left me for another woman in September. Though we reconciled two years later, that first September had us glued to the tv as planes hit the towers and we gained perspective unlike we’d ever had before.

SO MANY milestones of trauma mark the ninth calendar month, of the year.

And still… still, I find myself to be a lover of September. The autumn air ushers in this crisp scented magic, and I am here for it.

This year’s janky calendar had hoards of people unable to wait for summer, because summer would fix the world.

Then it didn’t.

And now, now people are chasing after pumpkins, and spice and new sweaters earlier than ever, with a misplaced faith in this next season bringing the reset needed to right the world.

I don’t know… Maybe it will. September has proven to be a magical and tricky beast. These Sept’s of past have been known to bring about some incredibly unexpected gifts- I’ll just caution us all to be weary.

Whatever these days actually hold, (and let’s be honest- it’s 2020, September could bring us ANYTHING!) I’m pretty certain we will arrive at the first of October scathed in someway.

For all of us, I hope it is a beautiful healing way… A restorative way.

I’m cautious, but also here for it. Despite the track record, I’m a September girl through and through…

four…

Growing up a little white girl, among a see of hispanic children was both hard, and it wasn’t. I mean, it WAS hard because I always felt like I didn’t fit in. Adding to that the fact that my mother was a smoker and the kids at school always made it a point to acknowledge that I was a Gringo, and stank. It also wasn’t hard though, because it was what I knew. I had no alternative to compare it to.

Childhood leaves us with the funnest memories, doesn’t it?

When I was a teenager I was living in a fundamentalist group home in (then) rural Idaho. Life was the sheltered sort, with the exception being church and youth group at a local “city” church. A mojority of the normal kids at church, living in their normal homes, going to normal schools and eating normal foods thought us group home kids were freaks. To be honest, their parents also saw us as dangers. It was an isolating and pretty scarring existence.

With this package deal attached to my early life development, there was also the personal feelings (SO MANY FEELINGS) that I had about NOT fitting in. Not feeling a part of things, sure. I had essentially been abandoned by my family and lived a daily life of rejection, so those feelings made a lot of sense.

I also didn’t WANT to fit in.

While everyone was listening to what was hot and trendy, following the current of what they believed kids our age were supposed to do, I teetered there, unsure.

Did I follow along, accept and finally achieve belonging?

Did I go with my gut and follow the less worn path of obscure movie tastes and worn out sneakers?

The struggle was real.

I believed the struggle would eventually subside as I matured into a woman, beyond the angsty years of teenagehood. I was wrong.

That eternal quest to belong equated itself with my sense of personal worth so deeply. Knit by (what I believed, at the time) the rejections, abuses and abandonment thematically designing my life, a melancholy hopelessness settled into everything I did.

I went into group home care in 1988.

I walked through that gate and into the real world in 1993.

I became a wife in 1994.

In 2017 I learned that, on the enneagram chart, I am a four.

Fours have big feelings. Fours are creative and artistic. Fours ache to fit in, but also want to dance to their own rhythm. (and their own, non-trend decided tunes) Fours are (likely) the 90’s emo kids. They are the ones not regularly depicted on screen, in film and television because they happen to (probably) be the real life people writing those characters and creating that art.

I embraced my four.

I connected with other fours.

Knowing these things, having these explanations, it’s like the comfort of filling the gaps I’ve lived with, unwhole, for my entire life. It also forces me to see where my flaws lie. The how’s and the why’s.

I am able to know “ok, these are things I’ll do when I’m at my emotional healthiest”, and “these are indications that I need to work some stuff out, because I’m struggling.”

So many times we’ve humorously mumbled about life not having an instruction manual, or people not coming with a guide.

Guess what? We do.

That is literally what the enneagram does for us.

Plainly put, it is EMPOWERING.

Owning our truths helps us with one another too. For instance, I know that if someone on my team is an enneagram two, they will be prone to saying “yes” and people pleasing. Knowing that, and asking a lot of them anyway would be exploitive and selfish. Additionally, being married to an enneagram nine has helped me realize he isn’t passive or apathetic, he is simply prone to not cause ripples. At his unhealthiest, this can be dark and explosive. Knowing these things helps me love and respect him the way he deserves. It helps me see all of him, and love him.

If you don’t know where you’re at, or want to learn more, I strongly recommend the Road Back to You, by Ian Cohn. Also, in this week’s episode of the Collective Podcast, Abbey Howe is hanging out and chatting random ennea-info with us. Her youtube channel Enneagram with Abbey is super fun and informative. (As is Ian Cohn’s podcast!)

Little birds…

In the quiet silence of aloneness I am left on my own, to reflect. There were years of flowers and clumsy breakfasts, all blooms in what would feel (for a very long time) like a crowning achievement.

After so many years of heartbreak and pregnancy loss, my life suddenly held this bubbly little girl who called me Momma. It truly did feel like everything, for a time.

From fifteen years old, and on, though I had other dreams and other goals, being a mother was the heart & soul of all of it. It was everything I wanted, and the motivation for moving forward. I had only ever really seen this plan work for others, so I had no clue it could simply NOT work for me.

When you are lying in a pool of blood, on cold tile, sobbing to heaven about why your babies all seem to die before they’ve had a chance to breathe, there are thoughts that rise up during broken prayers.

Voices that tell you why…

They tell you it’s because the babies saw what a disgusting person you are, and would rather die.

They whisper about how you can’t do anything right and you would be the worst sort of mother.

When you trust someone you love enough to confide those fears to them, they will kiss your matted forehead and tell you that these are lies, and the amount you ache to have a baby will make you a beautiful mom too.

As time passes, it’s hard to tell which things are truth and which things are lies, because we rationalize a world of either/or. We don’t conceive that it is possible the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

That sweet little girl made me feel like a mom, for the happiest years of my life. After fighting with every ounce of me, for unborn babies, and then fighting with everything I had left, for already born kids, that big-blue-eyed girl let me live there, for awhile.

I’ll always be grateful.

Family didn’t understand the idea of loving kids not from your blood. In hindsight, I think they wanted to. I think in unique ways, they tried. Then again, they couldn’t actually understand the journey of loss we’d known, so I can see the difficulty. So many times, over the years, these people who really did love us, would use the phrase “playing house” when it came to our family. Whether legally adopted, or so heart loved, it made no difference in the legitimacy they perceived.

The frustration and disappointment of this, mostly for the kids, triggered those dark post-miscarriage whispers to rise up. Was I playing house? Was I not a real mom? Was this all just pretend? The truth, somewhere in the middle, is that life is complicated.

I have loved with every inch of my mother-aching heart. I have advocated. I have sacrificed for. I have had my cup so full, down to so empty. I have known the tears, and the worry. I have held crying daughters and put my life on hold to do so, without regret. It wasn’t perfect, because I wasn’t perfect. Early childhood trauma leaves a lasting effect. Sometimes it was hard.

It wasn’t perfect because nothing is perfect. I never expected it to be, or them to be. I did expect me to be… And it seems they did too. While they were younger, I covered the multitude of ways I was proven to never be enough, with so much grace. So many excuses for how they’d endured so much hurt early on, how they were still so young. Well meaning people promised it would be so much better when they were older… when she specifically was older.

It has been years since I’ve spent any real time with that sweet little girl of days past. One of the last gifts I gave her, before she left the nest, was a little key with the word love etched into it. I told her that my biggest wish for her would be that she could learn to love herself and accept the love of others, the love of me. That had been our biggest struggle, really, her inability to accept my love. I would never be the mom she wanted me to be. So close to that truth, I was shattered and haphazardly put back together again and again.

My truth is that part of my motherhood dream involved daughters becoming mothers too. It involved loving their babies and porches filled with things like lemonade, laughter and pie. It involved vacations and photos and smiles for as far as the eye can see.

It involved, plainly put, things that a lot of moms get. It is not a guarantee, it is not a right of passage and it is not a plan set in motion for me.

Once, when asked, I proudly told the world I had two daughters. Anymore I am honest that I never really had any. I was never their mom, but for a few really good, hard, raw and fulfilling years I played the part with everything in me, and then one day the role was simply done.

I am not a victim, and neither are they. They are both beautiful survivors of things no children should have to go through, and the results of that have never been easy for them. I talk a little bit about this in my book, but in the same way that we crave absolutes, we expect them too. Couples are allowed to break up. Unrequited loves happen all of the time. It is unfair to expect adopted/foster children to reciprocate a love for a parent. The hurt, sacrifice and effort a parent makes does NOT mean the child has to return it. This is a truth no one talks about. This a truth that fearful women in the hurt-filled pursuit of motherhood do not want to know.

For five months, last year, I felt like I was losing everything. My worst fears were coming true, all around me, and I could not find my breath. And then, it happened… And my everything became not mine to hold anymore.

I was sad, and I grieved the most brutal of loss.

One daughter indicated, with absolute silence, that she did not want me anymore, while the other proceeded to tell me the cruelest and most hate-filled things she had in her arsenal. Then, I was wounded to my core, because I was so close that I couldn’t see the truth.

They each know what is best for them, and as adults that is their responsibility. I did not ever want them texting, calling, gifting or visiting on birthdays and holidays because they felt like they were obligated to. If they did not want me as their mom, they were allowed.

This did not mean my love for them was wasted. It did not mean my love for them died, at all. It just meant that I would have to grow my courage to be brave in different ways, for them. When one daughter had a major car accident, I would stay away. I would send flowers, because it was so soon and I didn’t know how to not… but she didn’t want me in her life, and I could respect her. That was something I could do for her. When birthdays passed, I would ache to see their beautiful faces and shower them with love and gifts, but instead I would make a silent donation to an organization that rescues women and children, in their honor.

It isn’t the same, but what one meant for me was a prison sentence of obligation for them and I love them enough to believe they deserve the freedom they asked for.

I am not a victim, I am not perfect.

I am a woman.

I am a writer, a mentor and a wife.

My heart will forever love two daughters.

I was never really their mom.

That’s ok. I am ok. Five hundred times a day, when my gaze falls on a photograph or a memory comes to mind, I pray that they are ok too.

Ok, and happy, and free.

I never wanted to be a cage.

hoping & coping…

On April fourteenth, three years ago, I launched this tiny little notion of a podcast. The idea behind it was to build a platform for women, where they could safely share their stories. Period. There would be no political or religious filtering, no checklist of qualifications they would need to own. The truth is, women need women. This isn’t to negate that humans need connection, or that men are any less deserving of relationship. Those things are valid, but for THIS show, the heart was women…

I wasn’t sure what would come of it, honestly… Right off the bat there were some issues, not ironically related to the very heart behind why the show met a need. From the very start of its inception, years before, I was firm in stating that I wasn’t after growth or numbers, popularity or riches. While many felt my goal of “financially self supporting” was too small, for something I was so personally invested in- my heart was always for the woman out there who’d need the moment. I knew that whoever should be involved, would be, and have held to that. It turned out that something about the project resonated, and as more women came to the mic and exposed pieces of their journeys, a beautiful community began to grow. Women began to allow the light shed by other’s experiences, to illuminate the lies and shame they’ve allowed to hold them down. Women began to say (and believe) the words “I am not alone”. Beauty grew, in abundance, from the words brave women would speak.

Honestly, three years later, I can’t explain it.

I have had the gift of not only connecting with women from all parts of the world, but watching our community of women rise up to support each other. Nothing within my professional life has ever filled my heart with such warmth, as seeing that happen every day.

On April fourteenth, the third season of this beautiful little show was going to launch. The recording schedule was laid out and confirmed months ago. I am a planner, so it all fell together smoothly. (I also have a pretty great support team that give me life!) Approaching this third season, I was really starting to feel like I might finally know a little of what I was doing. We also, in our “down time”, brought together a beautiful virtual conference of EMPOWERING women. The energy was AMAZING, for all of it. The show is NOT financially self sufficient yet, but the conference would make that a reality. (coupled with our Patreon)

And then, March came and life imploded…

Women began reaching out more, asking for prayer, needing an ear, sharing their daily moments, and I thought about why we are here- and why the Collective Podcast began, in the first place.

Weeks ahead of schedule, today, our third season is launching. Our guest is Samantha Ruckles, who began an amazing kindness initiative in Australia, that is now recognized around the globe. Sam’s story is the PERFECT inspiration we need right now. (You can go here to get her episode)

In the next few weeks we have episodes coming that need to be shared, within this current world we live in. Episodes and guests who were scheduled months before we even knew anything about Covid-19 or could fathom things like self-isolation and worldwide shelter-in-place plans… We are showing up early because someone, even if it is just one person, needs us to.

As for the conference… It is this beautifully empowering day, (ironically already virtual) that has the possibility to leave every woman who attends feeling empowered, capable and more able to navigate this season of life. Is it something I truly believe can help women? Absolutely! However, the current climate of anxieties and emotions has numbed the enthusiastic energy from weeks ago. Where hundreds of women couldn’t wait for the tickets to be available, now many are silent. I get it, you can’t eat or practice hygiene with a virtual conference pass. I also know that, with the financial climate as it is, I may not be able to sustain the show without it.

If you haven’t bought your ticket yet, I’m asking you to take that leap of faith with us. Here’s the information about the Gathering, the brilliant women involved and what to expect. It is a modest price, with a percentage going to two amazing charities. We truly are better together! I know it is scary to spend money right now, but please know that our mental/emotional health is AS IMPORTANT as our physical health. It truly IS an investment, this group of women has the heart FOR YOU. FOR community…

And if it isn’t right for you, that’s ok too. As long as the Collective can be around, it will be. And when it no longer can, well, then I have to trust the divinity in that too…