Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Ode to the gifts of the horrible year that was

January 11, 2018

From the backseat, on the way to kindergarten, my five-year-old son asked, “Mom, why do scientists make bombs to kill people?” I paused at the profundity of his question, one I too have wondered, then answered humbly, “I don’t know.”

Almost as unfathomable to me is the intentional destruction of American democracy by those elected to uphold it, and their cruelty toward the vulnerable. Daily I ask, how can this be happening? I was told recently that if I could accept that it IS happening and that people like that exist, I would be better able to live my own values and help to create something different.

In 2017, I rode regular waves of existential fear for my son’s future. Will he live in a free country? Will he be able to vote for his leaders? Will his young life be cut short by nuclear war?

By the time the Las Vegas massacre happened, I thought I had become numb. I didn’t feel anything when first reading news of nearly 500 people shot and 58 killed at a country music festival, but then I watched a video that captured the sound of weapons of war mowing down mothers, fathers, teenage daughters and veteran sons. I saw country star Jason Aldean run off the stage in fear, and I cried all day while trying to work.

Over the course of the year, as my Facebook friends posted about their lives, but increasingly not about politics, and my Twitter feed was full of intelligent people discussing the daily state of our government, but not much about their personal lives, I yearned to read someone who would speak to both. I didn’t want advice; I just wanted to hear how they were taking care of themselves and their children within this national context. So that’s what this is, my story about how I’ve gotten by during the most challenging and clarifying year of my life as a citizen, mother and human being.

I woke up on December 31st grateful that we had made it. We are still alive and our country still has a fighting chance. I now know that I’m ok – even while I am sensitive to the suffering of others, and disgusted almost every day by what I learn in the news.

Early on, a teacher said to me, “Don’t let a tyrant steal your light.” These are the people and unexpected gifts that helped me keep my light.

My husband

P1050024He’s kind, smart and sexy. He stays calm when I am not. I love that in his work he serves children from low-income families. It wasn’t until this year though, seven years into our marriage, that I knew for sure he was meant for the deepest part of me. The part I’ve learned to hide. The part that shakes with grief about what is happening to our country and fears we’ll see things we cannot yet imagine and may not survive, at least with our souls intact.

He never shames me for how much I feel or how often I need to talk about what is happening. He doesn’t roll his eyes when I ask how we’ll spend the last 10 minutes of our family’s life if we receive an alert that nuclear war has begun.

When I call our red-state Senators, and wonder if it matters, he says, “Thank you for doing that.”

Most importantly, we talk about how to parent our son now. How do we shield his innocence, engage wholeheartedly in his joy, and prepare him for his future life in our country? What choices do we make that serve both our son and our communal duty to other people’s children? We feel responsible for the country and the earth we leave him and generations of others.

Speaking of… this guy, our son

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Thank God that our five-year-old’s endlessly rejuvenating joie de vivre commands my attention. I know that I will never again have this exact moment with my precious child and I’d be wise to fully participate. With him and for him, I laugh easily, I chase, I cannonball, I wrestle, I build, and I hold on tight for 20-second hugs.

My best friend

As my panic rose on election night, a feeling I recognized from the days before my Dad died, I texted my best friend in Virginia as she hosted a champagne party anticipating a vastly different outcome. She is the only one I could write mid-year during some awful legislative week, “I don’t think I’m very good at being happy” and be assured that to be having a hard time was normal. She sent me flowers with the note: “These days we need reminders that there are still beautiful things in the world. Your friendship is one of the most beautiful things in mine.” And because I know she pays attention, I love that she took a respite from the news to revel in the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It gives me permission to do the same.

The Great American Eclipse

Being with my family in an open field amongst celebratory community was as much a part of this phenomenal experience as the tear-inducing moment of totality. It felt to me like the Bicentennial when I was seven years old riding my decpexels-photo-580679orated bike while neighbors stood on their front porches and rang silver bells. As the eclipse progressed, it was quite moving to sense that all across the country, my fellow Americans were looking into the heavens for something to heal our brokenness. I wondered if this cosmic happening was of the same stuff as Christ.

Dance class!

By the time summer came, I knew I needed a regular influx of joy in order to turn up my light for my family, my work in the world, and myself. So I thought, “When am I happiest, just for me?” and decided to start dancing again. The DanceFix class I take every Saturday morning is the most fun hour of my week. It is amazing what shaking your booty can do for your spirit.

These Books

Each of these healed and shaped me this year.

  • Paradise in Plain Sight, Lessons from a Zen Garden, by Karen Maezen Miller – Written by a Zen priest who is also a mother, I learned that this life, my life, this very year, this that seems so horrible, this is the Way.
  • Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid – Many times, I had to stop reading to breathe and absorb the sheer beauty of Hamid’s writing. This story of refugees reminded me of how lucky I am. Would that Americans could imagine how easily it may be us needing someone else to take us in.
  • Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates – When Houston Texans owner Robert McNair said about NFL players, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison,” I thought of this book and the way Black bodies are regarded as commodities with willing, extreme denial that within these bodies are human beings.
  • Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times, edited by Carolina De Robertis – I found parents here. While most of them are people of color or from immigrant families, having it thus much harder than I, I relished their letters to their children and ancestors, and their unwillingness to give up on our country’s promise, even if it takes a long, long time to realize.
  • Trump and a Post-Truth World, by Ken Wilber – This short, dense book helped me see how our society mirrors individual human development. I could then read about fellow Americans posessing what seems to be an astounding lack of compassion for others, including children, and understand that they cannot yet comprehend that they even should care about those outside their immediate circles of identification. I am the same way at times. It helped me recognize my own judgments, and what kind of leadership we all need to move civilization forward.
  • Pantsuit Nation, edited by Libby Chamberlin – I asked my husband for this for my birthday in December so that I could remember how it felt to read the heart-filling stories of all the different people who make America America.
  • The Rules Do Not Apply, by Ariel Levy – I read this in the last week of the year, during my son’s 20-day winter break from kindergarten. In it Levy tells of losing her premature baby boy after only 10 minutes of having him alive and on her chest. I would put my son to bed after playing all day, and rather than bemoan my exhaustion, I felt grateful for my luck that I get to be his mother.

My growing ability to see people of integrity “across the aisle”

Along with truth-telling journalists and deeply knowledgeable historians, I so appreciate those across the partisan spectrum who are fighting mightily to save our country from corruption, personal greed and foreign interference. Though I am a lifelong Democrat, I’ve come to respect the integrity of some conservatives whom I may never have read otherwise. Without democracy, our policy differences won’t matter and no one, not even those who seem to benefit, will have a real chance at “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The Virginia Election

One of the best days of 2017 was the election of Ralph Northam to the Governorship of Virginia, along with a slew of diverse women and men to the state legislature. My family had already made the decision to move home to the Commonwealth this summer and the thought of having a decent and intelligent leader is quite heartening. I also look forward to being in a bipartisan state as it seems the strongest way forward, even if difficult.

And the little things, like…

  • Breathing into my belly to ground my over-active heart.
  • Yin yoga to calm my body and clear my mind.earrings
  • My Gloria Steinem/Ruth Bader Ginsburg earrings. I wear these (as do my sisters and my mom) when I need bad-asses as spirit guides.
  • Naming three things I’m grateful for upon waking and another three before I close my eyes at night. I hope when I get to the end of my time, I will be able to follow John McCain’s example and “celebrate, with gratitude, a life well lived.”
  • White Sun’s “Ik Ardas Wahe Guru” – listening to this makes me exhale.
  • The Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean – No explanation needed. May we protect them.IMG_6135

 

Lastly, these words of wisdom from a nightingale

When I wonder how to talk with my young son about the world he lives in and how to navigate our path in a time of such tumult, I think about this passage I read to him from The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip Stead, with the most beautiful illustrations by Erin Stead (pages 90-91):

Prince Oleomargarine

“When dinner was nearly done, the nightingale excused herself. She shook the crumbs from her feathers and flew up to a high branch. From there, she sang a sweet song. It had no words, but still, everyone present knew its meaning, which was:

The world is beautiful and dangerous,

and joyful and sad,

and ungrateful and giving,

and full of so, so many things.

The world is new and it is old.

It is big and it is small.

The world is fierce and it is kind,

and we, every one of us, are in it.”

 

That’s it. That’s what I’ve learned this year. Now onward, with heart…

 

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Church

January 23, 2017

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Moral Courage

December 2, 2016

As I sit through a dark night of my soul and that of our country, and sort out what I need to say, I want to share this sermon by Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR in Los Angeles. She is my heroine when it comes to a spiritual leader’s use of her pulpit. Rabbi Brous gives perfect voice to what I want my son, when he is old enough, to know and act upon as well.

from IKAR’s website:

“November 19 – Shabbat Vayera
This. Is. Not. Normal.
To my daughter, who becomes bat mitzvah in a time of moral crisis for our nation: Practice resistance. Step up. Speak out. Don’t cozy up to power; don’t forget that your inheritance is willful opposition. Honor your moral intuition and remember that this is not normal.

A Teacher and a Preacher

November 21, 2013

I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One.”

– The meaning of the Sanskrit salutation Namaste

If Christ is in me and Christ is in you, we have something in common. We are no longer separate. We are no longer separated by so many miles—or by race or class or disease. We have something of our essence in common.”

– Br. Mark Brown, Society of Saint John the Evangelist

These quotations reveal a poignant similarity between the two paths of spirituality I walk – yoga and a private relationship with Christ. I’ve only just begun to explore the depth and breadth of either path. This interweaving of the two expands my capacity to know God within myself and to recognize God in others, my life and the world.

I believe it was the goodness and strategy of God that brought me into the spheres of two mentors, one for each path, who continue to have great influence on me and what I hope to offer the world.

Meaghan de Roos is a deeply inspired yoga teacher and co-founder, with her husband Gil Elhart, of Breathe Yoga Center in Norfolk, Va. Her classes are structured, informative and powerful. Too many times to count, I have felt awakened by her clearly stated, profound words coupled with thoughtfully led movement. Once, just before I participated in a difficult work meeting, I heard her say in a morning class, “Rest in your own center with your own Source.” I repeated this mantra silently to myself during the meeting and came through with my dignity and integrity intact.

Whitney Zimmerman Edwards is a humbly-brilliant, Episcopalian priest. She was recently named rector of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Westport, Ct. Years ago in a women’s Bible study in Richmond, Va., she said, “We each write our own gospel with our lives.” This seemed revolutionary to me: that the story of God continues to be written through me, and that my story matters. Last fall, in response to my questioning how God could allow incredible evil to be perpetrated against children, she wrote, “God is not a thing as much as the cosmic well from which is born any of the goodness, grace, peace and healing you and I have ever known.” I’ve been pondering that sentence for a year.

In the foreword to Eknath Eswaran’s translation of the Hindu scripture The Bhagavad Gita, he describes adventurers dedicated to “knowing the knower”:

Yet there are always a few who are not content to spend their lives indoors. Simply knowing there is something unknown beyond their reach makes them acutely restless… This is true of adventurers of every kind, but especially of those who seek to explore not just mountains or jungles, but consciousness itself: whose real drive, we might say, is not so much to know the unknown but to know the knower… every now and then, like friends who have run off to some exotic land, they send back breathless messages… ‘Look at this view! Isn’t it breathtaking?’” (pp. 7-8)

At young ages, both Meaghan and Whitney were led to seek the Divine and testify to the deeper meaning of our existence. Each practices and, in her own authentic way, builds upon an ancient tradition. They send back “breathless messages” and lay paths and lend guiding hands for others to make their own journey.

Their respective ministries – one delivered in a studio, the other in a church – have led me to believe that both traditions can be mine and that I can delve into their synergies. It is going to require a commitment to deep study of the teachings of Jesus and an embodied investigation of the spiritual realm of yoga revealed through intense physical, meditative and breathing practices.

Day after day, Meaghan and Whitney give of their real and evolving selves to the healing of others and, as a result, the healing of the world. It takes great courage and a deep-rooted sense of purpose to be a seer who tells what she’s seen and admits she yearned to seek it in the first place.

I’m honored that both agreed to let me share with you a small glimpse into who they are and why I find them so inspiring. They both responded separately to the following set of emailed questions.

What in your life experience has most shaped your spiritual journey and what you believe to be true?

Meaghan: When I was 20 years old and a sophomore in college I developed an eating disorder that started as bulimia and progressed to full blown anorexia. I was at a cross roads where I had to decide if I wanted to live or die. I truly believe that my eating disorder was actually a deep longing for a fulfilled life, a searching for a connection to God, to something bigger than myself. Existing in the silence I was creating between my body and mind was a longing connected to my soul’s desire for healing and wholeness. That longing could be expressed in two ways: that of disconnect, cruelty, inward violence, and separation, or that of growth, connection to spirit, and a putting back together of fragmentation, therefore the possibility of wholeness. What I believe to be true from this experience is that there is shadow and there is light in all of us and that both are born of the desire to be at peace and to be happy, whole and free. In order to truly live in the light we have to be equally willing to be in the vulnerability of the shadow, of what we fear, and what causes us pain. We can’t selectively have one and numb the other. This is the fullness of life. And to me, it is what makes life worth breathing.

Whitney: Not long after my brother’s incarceration, our father drank until he died, and our mother did the same, only a little more slowly. I was left to my own devices at such a young age that I shudder to think what could have happened after leaving home with few possessions and a load of pain. But what did happen, instead, was grace, in the form of a grandmother who needed me almost as much as I needed her.

I was never allowed to visit my brother in a prison deep in the south. But a short ways down the river that ran beneath my bedroom window, there was a jail. So, I began my search there, which as best I could tell was the closest I could get to him and the events which had laid waste to our family and my innocence.

I didn’t go to jail looking for my life’s purpose: I went to find fellowship with the broken, the burdened and the blamed. I sought kinship in those who had suffered evils not spoken of in polite company and among them I came to know beauty beyond all evidence to the contrary and forgiveness for that which I cannot understand. And, most unexpectedly, in between the bars and gates and rolls of razored wire I kept meeting this character Jesus, who, it seems, had long awaited me. Jesus, who stretched out his arms upon the hard wood of the cross so that everyone might come within the reach of his saving embrace, was there living among men who had known and caused suffering beyond measure.

I went to prison looking for what had broken in me and by the grace of God I found Jesus and returned home every evening to tell my grandmother about him.  And somewhere, on that short stretch of river between the two, I was saved.

What is God to you? What kind of trust do you place in that God? How do you believe God works in your life?

Meaghan:  I have always felt a sense of connection to something bigger than myself. Early in life that was an experience of God in the way that people told me, as a man with a white beard and staff that lived in heaven and determined one’s goodness based on how one behaved. Over time my image of God became freer and more personal. It was later in life, in a class with my teacher Seane Corn, that I heard her describe God as the manifestation of truth and love. That really resonated with me and is most in alignment with how I experience God. God is the manifestation of truth and love in all things, a blade of grass, the ocean, an animal’s sweet face, a baby, a spider, the greatest joys in life, the deepest sorrow. There is no limit or separation in this manifestation of truth and love, and it is recognition of the goodness innately in all. I place enormous trust in my belief that everything in my life is happening to bring me to a greater understanding of truth and love. That means the easy moments in my life and, most definitely, the challenging ones. The stickier it gets, the more I squirm, the more I know God is all over it.

Whitney:  I long for God in ways that surprise, feed and compel me.  I was first able to articulate that longing as a teenager.  I found myself in the midst of the Rose Test Gardens in Portland, an impossibly beautiful and fragrant spot. Looking at the snowcapped Mt. Hood, with a petal in my fingertips and the fragrance on the hot, dry air I had this perfect and fleeting moment of bliss and at that very moment I heard in my mind “this is what grace is”. I also realized that I have chosen to ignore grace by closing myself off to it countless times. Until that point I don’t ever remember wondering or caring about the nature of grace, but suddenly my senses had proven the means by which I could understand an aspect of God. God is pure gift: delight, beauty, life, hope, wholeness, and God pursues me with much more faithfulness than I have ever pursued God. The more time I spend with God the more any worries, fears, anxieties and wounds of life take their proper place in my consciousness.

What did it take to put yourself out there?

Meaghan: I don’t know if I ever would have pictured myself getting up in front of people day after day giving instruction, offering insight into yoga as I have experienced it through my life, and hopefully creating a container where people can feel truly seen and held. Truth is, I was a painfully shy and introverted child who liked the safety of my own home and the feeling of my own bed. I couldn’t look a stranger in the eyes without a ripple of terror pulsing through my body. My parents pushed me to do it anyway, and although there was a time in my life when I resented them for it, I am extremely grateful now. I am still introverted and it requires a lot of my energy to teach yoga in the way that I do. There have been times along the way that I have questioned if I am cut out to do this work, but every time I sit with that question I am absolutely clear that this is my dharma (purpose). I know because it is where I am asked to learn the most about myself and how I want to show up on this planet. It asks me to grow in ways I couldn’t otherwise. It asks a lot of me because it is through my teaching that I am coming to understand why I am here.

Whitney:  My early story is a sad one, one that I do not tell often, but it deeply informs my care for others.  I have known pain so intimately that others’ pain does not frighten me.  Suffering is inevitable yet dreaded by all.  It is never welcome and yet it refines the soul like fire.  Our silly concerns, wasteful anxieties and selfish pursuits tend to burn off in the fires of pain and whenever that happens real and meaningful healing is possible, in the way that these epic fires burning across the West will prove the forests, making the conditions just right for an even healthier stand than there was before.  I am honored to draw close to people in those terrible moments and remind them of a strength they possess not to endure but to flourish; helping them navigate their fear and discover more of themselves and God in the process.

What do you see in your students or parishioners that you wish they could see?

Meaghan: I see myself in every student that comes to class. I see the vulnerability of what it means to be alive on the planet at this time. I see how connected and alike we all are despite our surface level differences. I see the courage, strength and dedication it takes to make a commitment to practice yoga and develop a willingness to bump up against what is uncomfortable. I see the beauty and the wisdom that is expressed in each individual as I witness a collective moving and breathing together. I see what it means to choose a different path, one that is not ordinary or easy. I see the sacrifices that are made to carve out that bit of time to be on a yoga mat in a life that is busy and filled with responsibility. Most of all I see God…the manifestation of truth and love embodied through the practice both on and off the mat. And it gives me hope.

Whitney: God is in everyone.  I am dedicated to witnessing to that and celebrating it.

Conflicted, but not really

December 7, 2012

In a recent Sunday morning yoga class, my teacher invited “the presence and manifestation of truth and love” into the room. I like her teaching. She speaks cleanly, with conviction, of complex ideas that inform the larger meaning of my practice and how I may take the wisdom of my body into my life.

Lately, yoga is the 90 minutes of the week when I most consciously connect with God, perhaps because I’m able to slow down enough to feel God there. Being a new mother, I believe God is ever present, but I often think my son’s care, safety and happiness are all up to my husband and me. In class, I’m reminded of a larger force for good, available to help us with this monumental task, raising a child.

You likely know that I get pretty frustrated when God is exclusively referred to as “Father” and “He,” even though I recognize it is easier to use a masculine pronoun than none at all. Ironically, when I sense God near me in yoga, a “he” appears. Jesus, in fact. He’s usually sitting in lotus about five feet in front or to the side of me. He’s quiet and waiting, being present and emanating truth and love.

Perhaps this is Jesus’ way, showing up for me even when I repeatedly push aside the possibility that he could be a real and acknowledged part of my faith. I’m shy about even saying his name for fear of being misidentified as someone who uses Jesus as an exclusionary tool to separate the “believers” from the “non.”

Is my faith in Jesus an accident of geography? Was I just trying to fit into a traditional southern city the last few years of attending church and going to a women’s Bible study group (which I loved)? Or was God working on me? Is my imagination just choosing to see Jesus instead of some other image of God because he is such a part of popular American life? Would Mohammed appear during yoga if I lived in Pakistan? Does the fact that the question arises for me at all make me less of a Christian, if indeed I am a Christian?

I don’t know exactly what “Jesus is my Lord and Savior” means. It’s such a big (and often public) statement. Is it just easy to say to fit in with a church? I wonder what depth is behind that statement for others. I’m curious about their personal “being saved” experiences. Are their lives totally devoted to Jesus?

The thing is, I do think he’s real. I just feel I’m out on the intellectual ledge saying it. Though I have a hard time crediting him out loud (especially to my family), I believe this “presence and manifestation of truth and love” filled a long-term hole in my heart and made me ready for a lasting relationship with a kind and caring man. I do think he “saved” me.

I’ve wondered about the purpose of this blog post, of telling you about my Jesus dilemma. Who cares? Shouldn’t I be spending my time thinking about my family or my work? But in this short human life, what I think about and my relationship with God both matter to me. I also feel a need to figure out what I can say with integrity about my belief in Jesus because I would like to baptize our son. I’d like to ask for God’s blessing on him and promise to raise him in a spiritual home even though I believe he is loved and protected by God whether we baptize him or not.

There are a few people whose ideas about Jesus have made me think, “Whoa, this is something I can believe in.” I am not enough of a Bible reader or a theologian to have gotten there myself. What I know on my own is that I like Jesus’ vibe. He seems calm, deep and eminently patient – unless he’s mad about a social injustice. I like and respect that about him too.

And now that we’re headed towards Christmas and I’m listening to John Denver sing about the baby boy king and his own sweet little baby boy, I think, “Why not just let this beautiful, scientifically unproven magic be a lovely and meaningful part of my life?” I’d like to think that my New York Times-reading, Volvo-driving, Starbucks-drinking, liberal self could have an honest, tender and questioning relationship with Jesus.

Maybe he keeps showing up in yoga to remind me I can have that kind of relationship. And he’ll be there whether I can say his name out loud or not.

A New Way Forward

March 14, 2012

I am 37.5 weeks pregnant. As I gradually become a mother to this growing babe and soul within me, my spiritual life has both deepened inwardly and been thrown off track outwardly.

I’ve only been to church a few times in the last nine months. I miss it, yet when I go to regular services, I wish it were different. Since taking part in this new creation, I want now more than ever to hear the feminine honored in church.

When I worship in community, I want to hear “Mother”’ as much as I hear “Father.” (I believe this would make a significant difference in how women are regarded politically, in this country and around the world. But that’s a topic for another day.)

Early in pregnancy and after reading Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon, I had a dream that the Mother Goddess, wearing khakis, came to visit me. In the dream I felt torn, as if I were abandoning the Christian God for the Mother. Doesn’t the all-encompassing entity I believe in include the Mother?

Some have said to me, “What a shame you can’t get past the words.” Yet the words I speak aloud in prayer or proclamation are important to me. Authenticity, especially in my relationship with God, is my lifeblood. It’s made me wonder if most others believe God is male or the words just don’t matter to them. I acknowledge that Jesus of Nazareth was a man. But beyond the span of that individual life, I don’t know. I hope Jesus Christ, the representative of God, is something entirely larger than mere male or female.

For Christmas, my brother-in-law gave me the New Zealand Prayer Book, an Anglican Book of Common Prayer that is intentionally and respectfully gender neutral. In the introduction, R.G. McCullough writes:

“We have gradually been compelled in our pilgrimage to start searching for ways to address God in language which is other than masculine and triumphal… Even new words are only a vehicle for the worship of God, so that we might reach for the things beyond the words in the language of the heart.”

My spiritual unmooring isn’t just about church liturgy. During pregnancy I’ve had to surrender control over my body to the mystery taking place inside me and to look there for God. During the first five and a half months of growing this baby, nausea kept me off my yoga mat, a sacred place that had previously helped me stay grounded and calm in my daily life. Once the nausea went away, I was able to resume a new kind of practice surrounded by 15 other round-bellied women one evening per week. Especially now that my days are quite busy preparing for my maternity leave from work, I’ve needed the permission to go within and connect with myself and with my baby.

I’ve been working on this posting for months, wondering all the while when it would say what I meant to express. I had a sense that I shouldn’t post it until after the recent WomanKind conference – a glorious, deeply meaningful day of 500 women exploring and celebrating their faith and their questions, led by wise female clergy and lay volunteers. Even while worrying about the impact of my changing spiritual places and practices, I’ve consistently felt protected by a power greater than myself and I knew that the day would hold answers for me.

Reverend Lauren Winner, Assistant Professor at Duke Divinity School and author of the beautiful Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, surmised in her closing WomanKind sermon that perhaps God was saying to us through the Exodus story, “You have already done more than enough. Now I simply want you to be with me.” Perhaps I’ve done enough in pregnancy simply by being a vessel for this Divine new creation. Perhaps now I can just be with God for the last weeks of this spiritual, physical and emotional journey.

Thankfully, when I meditate in the morning, God always shows, sits with me, and says to me, “It’s all going to be OK. I love you. I love that baby. I’m right here.”

This journey of pregnancy is almost over. Two more weeks to wait seems very long, though, now that my belly is big, my walk is slow, and my muscles ache. Yet there is still fat to add to my sweet boy’s body, cells still to develop in his brain, and tiny lungs that need more time to practice before they take their first breath of air.

Ten years ago, I took a Zen writing and painting workshop. During class, I drew an ink painting of a mother’s pregnant belly with a round melon-like baby inside. Along the curve of the belly, I inscribed a quotation from the Zen Buddhist teacher Dogen that reads “You should understand the meaning of giving birth to a child.”

I don’t yet, but I believe I’m on my way. When it comes time, I’m excited for my God-designed body to take over and birth not only a son, but a mother, a father, a family and a new way forward.

Because it’s important

June 19, 2011

I was sad to learn about the recent passing of Mr. Beverly W. “Booty” Armstrong, one of the first people I met in Richmond and someone who made a lasting impact on me. During my rounds of informational interviews, a potential employer suggested that I speak with Booty about his work with the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation – at the time, the Foundation was raising capital to renovate and expand a historic downtown theater. I asked what motivated him to become involved with the project. He replied, “Honestly, I would rather be at a football game than watching a performance, but I do this because it is important for Richmond.”

I’ll never forget that straight-shooting and honest statement about why he was doing what he was doing. As I came to know my adopted city, I found Mr. Armstrong to be among a generation of Virginia gentlemen who cared deeply about the community in which they built businesses and raised their children, and who hoped it would continue to be a city in which their grandchildren would want to live and work. (I mention the men because at the time, they were more visible in corporate leadership than equally- involved and -philanthropic women.)

While meeting with this slightly intimidating yet humor-filled man, he also said to me, “You’re quite comfortable talking with wealthy people, aren’t you?” I was taken aback, and hoped I had not been so informal as to be disrespectful. I had just moved from Aspen, where people of different socioeconomic levels mixed on a daily basis, mostly on a recreational level. Friendly, real interaction with people of wealth who cared about their community as I did had been integral to my eight years of non-profit fundraising in that town. However, there is always deference involved when asking someone to invest their hard-earned money in the common good. Even while I firmly believe that it takes many people playing different roles to create good change in the world – those who ask for funding, those who provide it, and the experts and participants who use it to make change happen – I still find it humbling when donors say yes.

I only spoke with Booty a handful of times after that exceptional first meeting, and I hadn’t seen him for several years. However, he continues to be a role model for me in his commitment to issues he considered critical for the health of this city. I suspect we had different political views, but I’ve been repeatedly surprised by the ways that we in this town can come together to work for what is important.

I do my work primarily because I care about creating equal opportunities for people who do not have them. I also do it because I feel affection for this old, traditional, southern city: a city with injuries so deep they will always be felt, and at the same time a city with promise so great it has yet to be fully realized.

Richmond, along with many other high-poverty urban areas, has problems that are too large for us to solve on our own, either as individuals or as small groups. I think these are problems that require God’s help to solve. But I also believe God wants us to give it our best shot, and at least try before depending on divine intervention to cure our ills.

During my workday, while driving from meeting to meeting, I’ve begun asking for knowledge of God’s will for our community and for God to grant us the power to carry it out. While sitting at a table with colleagues who are working towards a common goal, I sometimes ask the Holy Spirit to come into the room with us. I’m not sure it works, but I sense that my own will relaxes and I become open to our creating something greater than any of us can envision on our own.

I will miss Mr. Armstrong’s presence in this city. Though I didn’t know him well, I believe his big spirit and his example will live on as the rest of us continue to care for this place we love.

Joy!

December 13, 2010

I’ve recently come to trust, without a doubt, that God cares about my immense joy. I believed that God would care for my heart with solace, healing, and happiness. What I didn’t quite get, until now, was that God could and would blow my mind with totally unearned levels of grace.

Last Saturday, my beloved boyfriend bent down on one knee and with tears in his eyes, asked me to marry him. And of course I said YES! To know that the man I adore loves me enough to want to spend his life with me… well, it is a profound feeling. When I look at his sweet, handsome face, I am so hopeful about our life together.

I owe God my humility and a huge dose gratitude for bringing into my life someone who fit my soul. I love being alone, yet he has become an integral part of my life and with him, I feel more joy and more peace than I’ve ever known on my own.

As some of you are well aware, I am almost always late, and at the same time, not terribly patient. I believe that despite my periodic emotional questioning as to when my turn would come, God knew that waiting would be oh so good for me. I’ve grown in my capacity to love. I’ve become more whole, whole enough to now merge with another.

I’m convinced that God orchestrated this waiting for just the right man, just the right me and just the right time. I want to say thank you to the Big Powerful Heart for loving me that much.  

And thank you too for being with me on my journey through this blog, and for being out there in the world, vulnerable in your own way.  

When I look at my ring, I feel our love has been there all along. I believe we are meant for each other and that is why it feels so good and so easy to be with him. He is kind to me, even when I send him seven emails about our wedding after he’s worked a 36-hour shift.

Word has it that marriage is hard and the statistics aren’t good. I hope, though, that ours will be filled with wonder and laughter. Now more than ever before, I understand the yearning of same sex couples to marry. This feeling of saying “yes” to formally and reverently binding my life with that of my beloved… anyone who loves another should be able to take this step.

Twelve months ago on my 41st birthday, I declared it would be the Year of Love. Indeed it was, and with more to come! My sweet man’s proposal proved to me that sometimes good things, the things I want more dearly than anything else, really do happen.