Category Archives: Gifts

Counseling.

I have no clue what I’m doing. I just do the motions: sandals on, jacket slung around my spring shoulders, turn the key, drive the highway, walk the steps, pay the co-pay, and purchase my seat next to her on the mini couch, in the room with the jeweled-turquoise walls and the truth flying out of my body and onto her every inch of being.

It’s aggressive and shy at the same time. It’s a binge and a fasting in the same moment. It’s a rocket and blade of grass. It’s high-altitude winds and a sullied stagnant puddle. It’s symphony and a solo. It’s all of it and none of it and everything in between.

Counseling.

I tell her the truth about how it hurts and how it heals. I tell of my youth, I tell of my present. I tell of every moment in between and every moment I anxiously try to see coming. I tell of the words said and unsaid, the touches made and unmade, the forgotten and the too-close. I tell her all that I know, paying close attention to leave little out, because I believe it all counts in the circle of things. The details inside the round-and-round of my story is like a scribbled globe of endless circles, but it’s this way and that way and back to this and back to that. It’s clockwise and counter, quick left, slow right and around and around again. And just as that feels so redundant to read, it is that redundant in life. It’s both too many words and not enough words at the exact same time.

I never knew there was a permission-slip waiting on the inside of that brick building. I never knew there was a person out there who would take such care of things. And by that I do not mean fix things. By that I mean: take their time, take their slow listening, take their gentle revealing and confident correcting of upside-down thought patterns, take their nurture, take their understanding, take their empathy and with-ness, their advocacy and sense, take their aerial view, and gift it to you in care. Spirit with skin on, maybe.

stigma

[stig-muh]

noun, plural stigmata [stig-muh-tuh, stig-mah-tuh, –matuh] (Show IPA), stigmas.

  1. A mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.
  2.  Medicine/Medical. a) a mental or physical mark that is characteristic of a defect or disease: the stigmata of leprosy. b) a place or point on the skin that bleeds during certain mental states, as in hysteria.
  3. Zoology. a) a small mark, spot, or pore on an animal or organ. b) the distinct eyespot of a protozoan. c) an entrance into the respiratory system of insects.

Give me the stigma of therapy. Give me the stain of freedom-work. Give me the surprising goodness of middle places. Give me the hysteria and the healing and the Dear-God-I’m-finally-beginning-to-understand world that this stigma offers me. Mark me with the spots of shoulders lightened and a body alive once again.

Maybe I am that of the insect. Like the one in that final definition. Give me the stigma of therapy, if it means these hours on this couch open up my respiratory system and in enters the light and the oxygen and the breathing again. Give me the door flung open wide to the entrance of my lungs. Give me this hurricane air tossing fear off it’s hinges, filling this body with breath that tastes like movement and grace and room and nearness.

Yes, that. Give me all of that.

Give me the work of paying attention, if it means these eyes can finally see. Give me the work of climbing out of boxes, if it means who I am is, after all, free.

It Grew Anyway

I witnessed a miracle. And it came in the form of a golden tomato.

tomato-1-of-1

Sometimes I’m so ridiculously tired. So over-done. So weighed down that my head ostriches into the sand. I wince an eye barely open to take a peak around and somehow the coarsely darkened grit feels perfectly appropriate. Just bury. And then muddle out a sandy prayer, “Help. Please. Just ……. help.”

The language of it all was poor, tired, little. The prayer. It was slumped over, tight-shouldered, dusty and quiet. Some would say I just couldn’t even. Exactly. So tired, the sentence couldn’t even finish.

I had a life-pivot a few months ago. You know, when something around you completely shifts and changes and moves and you have to move with it. You’re rearranging and learning new skills and trying on new roles and getting tired in new ways. Maybe you’re more tender and lonely than before or maybe you’re more zoom-zoom busy-busy buzz than before. Maybe you’re being transformed. Maybe healing has begun. The circumstances could be brand new, or they could be completely the same, but something has shifted – and you have to shift with it. We find ourselves in constant pivots all throughout life. At the time, mine just happened to look a little bit like motherhood, and a lot a bit like learning true love. A little bit like wrestling with cultural standards, and a lot a bit like learning to love myself. A little bit like grieving something gone, and a lot a bit like embracing open-handed posture, okay with the uncontrolled.

I became destitute in my pivoting season, undone by the demands and afraid of the unknown. My prayer lost energy and found scarce words, complete fatigue.

Here’s the thing: Our incredibly big, generously kind God doesn’t high-brow our tired prayers. He’s not some kind of vending machine that pops out a packet of Mini-Oreos if you punch in C3, answering prayers to your liking if you utter out the right code, a code that fits His demands. The kingdom of heaven doesn’t operate on reward systems like that. Full of gifts, full of Life, He tells us to bring Him our faint and fractionated selves. And that’s it. Nothing else to be done, but to let Him nourish you. You who are wobbly. You who has nothing left to offer.

So you’re at the end of all things, chest tight from the exhaustion, and you pray all that you can. “Help. Please. Just … help.” It’s all chaos around you, but what-the-hell-ever. You throw that prayer up into the atmosphere anyway, barely able to breathe, hoping just a taste of water might drip from the sky and soothe your over-worked, over-scratched, over-done throat.

“He, who keeps you, will not slumber.”
The Psalms, Chapter 121

I woke up some mornings ago and my soul uttered the same tired, small, worn-out prayer. It all looked the same. The house, the wardrobe, the fridge, the car, the job, the friends, the sidewalk, the barista, the sink, the garden. It all looked the same. Except that day – that day there was a single yellow tomato growing on the vine out back that I passed by just a week before. I stopped. I stopped because I realized there was no probable reason for that tomato to have turned yellow. Maybe I watered it last week? And maybe once again a few weeks before that? But the pivot-season was, and is, exhausting … so I had little room to tend to a garden, let alone keep myself and my family alive.

And yet, even still, it grew anyway.

Here it is. Here’s a glimpse into the workings of Heaven: Sometimes He ripens things for us. Sometimes when it’s hard to breath and you throw your tired prayers up into the atmosphere, waiting for a single drip of living water, you end up with color and flavor and the straight up magic of a miracle. Because the wrinkled prayer of destitution was met with compassion, and even more, understood. And the drop came down and landed there on that mound of soil, and with stardust in its chemistry and together with the light, it grew a single tomato. And turned it into gold. He’ll work tirelessly in the night, never resting His head in slumber. He will grow and shape and color some fruit just to show you He sees you, knows you, hears you, loves you.

Sometimes we have nothing left to give. Sometimes we are at the end of our own selves. Sometimes we are angry and burnt out and weepy and confused. Sometimes we grieve and we pray and we beg and we lay ourselves flat, waiting and waiting and waiting for movement. Sometimes we take it on ourselves, wanting so badly to get organized enough to remember to water that one tomato plant outside, for love’s sake. Sometimes we can’t remember to brush our teeth before bed or drink a glass of water in the day or bring a jacket. And then, sometimes, we are barely awake, zombie-dazed in our life, and a tomato turns yellow during a thick and foggy season and you realize there might be a thread of hope after all. Because somehow against all odds, it grew anyway.

Throwing those prayers into the atmosphere for you, friend. Asking for yellow fruit, or red, or blue, or orange, or brown. Whatever hue it comes, I pray it finds you in your hobble, in your worn-out space and encourages you brightly. This isn’t the end. This is a moment. He may be working magic. He may be taking the tired for you and turning it into something you didn’t expect. Something rather beautiful. Something rather good.

Thank you, Emmanuel. You are golden, and so surprising.

img_0305