Dormant, not dead

Although this blog has remained without post for awhile, it is not dead.  Life’s circumstances have crept in the way of consistent writing.  The good news is that I have a job; the bad news, of course, is that said job has been busy enough to keep me from writing in this place.

Nevertheless, I am brimming with ideas, and I hope to post about at least one or two of them.  For this job I’ve done a considerable amount of travel in a short amount of time, thus renewing my interest in writing about travel as a form of discernment.

I don’t know when that post will be published.  Sometimes I question whether I should continue with this blog, and I always come back to the desire to write and not care if anyone reads these words.  I do know I still receive many hits for a two and a half year old post containing a poem from Hafiz on loneliness (by far the most popular piece).

That, too, is worth blogging about again.  Loneliness.  Right now I’m in a season of being on my own, and working hard.  Loneliness does accompany me on my work related travel, but I am most grateful for friends and family, though sometimes they are far off.  The loneliness I sometimes feel now is good, because behind it, I feel loved.  This lonelieness is a longing for those I hold dear and whose company I miss.

That post from 2008 highlights a time in my life when loneliness was an emptiness—and yet, as the Hafiz poem suggests, I let it cut me more deep; it fermented and seasoned me.  After that post, I descended even further into a lonely and depressed place, but eventually I emerged.  And here I am, full of life, and yes, still lonely and ever so aware of my need for God.

No,  this blog is not dead.  Even if my posts still are months from each other, and may at times be dormant, it is not dead.  So long as people continue to search and read the Hafiz poem, it will be alive…

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Spiritual Struggles with Disease

“You are beautiful” they chorused.  “You are sexy.”  My lip was quivering, and I could scarcely respond.  The group looked at me intently and lovingly while tears rolled down my face.  I wanted to repeat those words for myself, but my body wouldn’t let the words pass my lips.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.  A smile formed.  I had just been told I’m beautiful and sexy by the three males in my group—a married man in his 40’s, a Dominican brother wearing a habit, and a 20-something young man.  And it was safe and comfortable for all to do so. This moment, one of the last times my chaplaincy group met, was one of the most intimate I experienced during the 11 week unit.

The issue I had brought before the group provides some context for this intimate moment:  As many young women do, I have struggled with my appearance.  In my situation, my physical appearance and body have been painful–physically and emotionally.  I was born with a genetic disease called Neurofibromatosis, which among other manifestations, causes tumors and birthmarks.  The tumors are presetly unpredictable, unstoppable , and can grow anywhere on the body where there are nerves.  The gene is dominant, thus each carrier has a 50% chance of passing it on to his/her children.

I have 30+ tumors on my body, mostly small and underneath the skin.  The problem area has been the right side of my face and neck and my right ear.  The tumor and brithmark that define my face cause me the most grief, yet I despise all of them.  How can I call this body beautiful?

Having this disease has forced me to reflect deeply on a regular basis about myself, my faith in God, and perceptions of others.  I’ve had three surgeries and I know the pain of being in intensive care after 9 hours in the operating room.  This disease gives my mind a reason to destroy my self-confidence and self-love.  This is why it is so hard for me to say, “I am beautiful,” and mean it.

Long ago I rejected the God of the Purpose Driven life, who as author Rick Warren states, makes us right down to our DNA.  That’s bullshit, I say.  I don’t want to believe in a God that would create a genetic mutation and intentionally give it to me…so what, if it’s a gift so others can admire and receive strength?  Well, they do.  But courage, strength, and hope are often all I have when facing something without a cure, that probably won’t kill me but has potential to cause more discomfort…maybe even a brain or spinal tumor.  I’d give the extra courage and admiration away if it meant I could live without the presence of these tumors.

So today I visited a genetics clinic in Seattle and will begin the process with doctors and surgeons about what is going on with my tumors and if surgery can be done.  This has been on my mind for months now (and added to my emotional swing this week), and today the process has officially begun.  May I find a job soon with good benefits!

When my chaplaincy group supported me, my heart was touched.  I need that kind of love and support.  Three years later, I still struggle…and it’s so hard when there aren’t many honest moments for another to say to me, “you are beautiful, you are sexy.”   The strength and courage I posses are qualities that many people admire about me.  This disease, while constantly challenging my faith, has also strengthened it.  I have experienced a deep love of God through the faith, doubt, surgeries, and recurrence of tumors.

However, God’s love cannot completely satisfy the longings of my heart.  Some of the loneliness I express in these posts have surfaced when I see good friends dating.  So lovely together.  And I go to bed at night alone and weep, while my hands rub over my tumors.   Is anyone ever going to stare at me with love to say, “you are beautiful!”  The only stares I get are people curious about what’s on my face.  Will anyone actually want to touch my face, my arms, and all the other places where there are tumors?  I don’t know, but I can hope…

This is long and deeply personal.  But one reason for others’ admiration of me is that I am able to share such struggles with candor.  I’ll end by professing this disease has given me courage to boldly proclaim the Resurrection.  By believing in the resurrection, I know there is more than this, and that I don’t suffer alone.

Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

This is for all the lonely people…

Curious about my blog stats, I am looking at how people find me and what they are looking at.  The top two posts of mine are both about loneliness and darkness.  This isn’t surprising as loneliness comes up often in my writing. The late night post with a poem by Hafiz is number 1 by far.  Apparently, many people search for Hafiz, as “don’t surrender your loneliness” shows up often in various forms on my search terms list.  This is followed closely by, “Light Within My Darkness,” which is close to the most often searched phrase, “light in the darkness.”  Both are from the winter, when was dark and gray outside, and what I felt inside, too.

I find this interesting and poignant to this week.  It hasn’t gone very well, but today was an emergence into light from a dark three days.  And as I read the two posts again, I remember the thoughts rolling through my head as I wrote.  So confused.  It has been an intense spiritual battle with the distorted part of me; I still fight with those voices tonight—the ones that eat away at my self-confidence, that tell me lies about relationships, and try to connect dots from past to present.

Life five months later is different than I was imagining.  For I’m not moving away, and although my intuition was right about some things coming to pass, I have not lost what those fears would have me believe. Vague, I know.  But hear this:  Reflection on one’s life is a beautiful thing; over-thinking can be destructive.  Still trying to figure out the balance.

I’ll repeat what I wrote back in February, because I think it’s important:

Sigh. such is life. There are beginnings an there are endings; there are sweet partings, and painful partings. The only thing I know for sure is that I love God and I am God’s beloved. This love is so deep within me that it overflows in compassion. The growth here is in being able to write this: I love myself. I am beautiful.

It’s really hard to be content with God’s love alone, when it seems as though everyone around me is getting married or finding someone to hold them at night while I am alone and untouched.  And I’d like to think repeating the words, “I am beautiful” would be easy, but it’s not.  More on that spiritual struggle with my body (and disease) later.

Anyway, I hope this space has invited reflection among those who stumble upon it…

Running as Spiritual Purgation

Thoughts constantly streaming through my already over-crowded mind have threatened to overcome me.  Yesterday I honored brokenness and beauty, feeling both inside me, acknowledging their presence.  After I wrote the previous entry, I stretched my legs and embarked on a 13-mile run to purge the rising emotions welling up within.  Stamping out the irrational fears and obsessions onto the pavement, I cleared a path for some genuine emotion.  The more room I give these fears, the less room for what is most important in my life; and the less room there is in my heart to be a genuine and compassionate person.  With the motion of running I literally stamped fear, loneliness, anger, confusion, jealousy, and alienation into the pavement; I made room for grief, self-love, and healing.

The 13-mile run was not the smartest thing to do.  Already evening, I had not eaten a proper lunch and a week had already passed since the last time I had run.  Nevertheless, my endurance and strong will carried me through.  Recovery, however, took longer than usual, as my body was weakening and in need of immediate sustenance.   That physical and mental emptying broke open a floodgate that needed to be opened…and today I begin to sort through and write about the rush of water swiftly passing around me.

I hope to engage with them all in the coming days and weeks, some I hope to write about.

Out of Brokenness, Beauty

In my Spirituality Synthesis class, I have been working on a project presentation meant to integrate my spiritual journey of life as well as the journey to my master’s degree.  Sifting through old journals and stirring up memories, I have come to face pieces of me scattered and strewn beneath the surface of day-to-day life.  While I am well aware of my own history (and I often retell the story to various groups and individuals), I am continually surprised when I reflect back at my life.  Hidden among the thorniness and brokenness of my childhood are incredible experiences guided by inner strength and spiritual wisdom.

As a spiritual director, I also have the great privilege of listening to people tell their own stories of faith, doubt, and brokenness–always an experience of holiness and grace, and sometimes sadness, joy, hope, peace, pain, and so on.  Today in class a woman shared her synthesis, a beautiful expression of healing out of brokenness.  It resonated with me, driving me to dig further into my own journey.

Brokenness and loneliness are recurring themes in my life, and yet there is so much good, so much beauty.  Loneliness sets in when I realize a deep desire of mine is to know and be known, to love and be loved.  I have experienced relational love in community, and my heart hungers for more.  I hunger to share what grows within me, and I have reached a point in my life where I am opening up, revealing more and more of what used to be confined to the pages of my journals.  Yet past wounds run deep, and even though years of living in community has built up trust, I have so many doubts.  Why is trusting so hard?  Why is loving myself so hard?

The beauty comes through my writing, my photography, and my ability to share my story–and those who have shared their story with me.  It has been a difficult journey, but it is out of this brokenness that I soar.  And what an amazing flight it has been.   I am grateful for the many blessings in my life and opportunities to travel, meet all sorts of people, and use my gifts.  It is also out of the deep wounds that I have strength that shines for others.

All of this surfaces now for many reasons, and I doubt the flood of emotions and memories is likely to change as my graduation date nears.  I’m being tossed in a sea of change and transition.  I face the waves with courage and excitement, fear and doubt, curiosity and careful attention…and I’ll continue to uncover where I’ve been, who I am and who I am becoming…

Don’t Surrender Your Loneliness…

meditationIt’s 1:45am. I’ve got a lot on my mind. Posting during Epiphany didn’t work out as well as I had intended, so this heartfelt entry might make up for that. Here are my words of pondering, discernment, and soul-searching….

The beautiful and clear weather of early January gave way to gray misty days, much more typical for Seattle in winter. It is winter where my spirit resides…it has been that way for months now. Dead, yet somehow alive on the inside. Something is stirring in me, a deep loneliness…even though I take so much joy in friendship and community, a loneliness has settled into my heart. Tonight I went back and reflected on my experience as a chaplain intern at a local hospital a couple of years ago. Some people have not-so-good group experiences, but mine was one of inner transformation. It has taken a few years, but I am finally finding more wholeness…more growth. I used to be a very guarded person; and although I’m opening up, a part of me wants to run away. I was hurt once and I don’t it to happen again.

In four months I’ll graduate with my master’s. I’ll complete my training as a spiritual director, and enter the post-school world. What’s next? Well, in less than a month some possibilities have arisen for work…none of them would be in Seattle. This means a potential move, perhaps far away from here…here where I’ve called home for over 3 years, here where I have a church community, and where I have people I can call good friends.

In some moments, my love for the city and church touches my heart enough to want to stay. I’m also terrified…scared to leave behind and scared to lose what I have gained. And then, in other moments, I’m ready to go and explore some more. I love my church, and I think they love me. But a small piece of me doubts…and doesn’t want to get hurt again.

Sigh. such is life. There are beginnings an there are endings; there are sweet partings, and painful partings. The only thing I know for sure is that I love God and I am God’s beloved. This love is so deep within me that it overflows in compassion. The growth here is in being able to write this: I love myself. I am beautiful.

And here I rest, now 2am. Earlier today I thought I could end the week happy, but it seems the loneliness has returned for another night.

Below, a poem from Hafiz, that describes where I’m at

Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly.
let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
as few human or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
has made my eyes so soft
my voice so tender
my need of god
absolutely clear.
–Hafiz