Renouncing the "Should's"

This writing process for me has been the unpacking of a suitcase. It's about sifting, right? Sifting through my childhood, my faith experiences, my family of origin and of late, my trauma, my politics, my theology...my life, right? That's what I want to do. I want to learn. And it has been such an ironic process because IT'S SO MESSY. It's laughable for a perfectionist to learn in public. That was always something I was terrified of growing up. I didn't want to screw up or even struggle in front of other people. I considered it embarrassing or something to be ashamed of. So writing about the things I'm learning is really kind of a funny way to continue to confront that base nature which is to be an expert or not engage at all. (As a side note, how unproductive is perfectionism?!?! It's absolutely BONKERS to only engage in things you're good at or to publicly claim things only after they're settled and tidy. It's like living life as a social media feed. Too pretty.)

I was helping someone process something tonight and we got onto the topic of "should's." Growing up in the church, and especially aspiring to be a "good girl," there was a lot of life lived out of the "should's" for me. In my childhood theology, everything was black and white and because of that, there was only one right way to be. IN EVERYTHING. This came up a bit in my recent post about self-care, that we're really uncomfortable with diversity. There isn't space in our culture for more than one reality. And the only correct reality is, of course, the one you hold. Right? It's silly but it's real.

And so we behave, especially if we are "in trouble", according to other people's expectations. And those expectations are usually crystal clear. The "in trouble" dynamic is straight from childhood. And so if someone else is upset, we're supposed to do whatever they think we SHOULD do to "fix" it. Or if we have feelings, we're supposed to couch them because we don't want to upset others. And of course, we don't want to upset others on purpose. But your very existence and your feelings don't exist to upset others. They're yours to hold and experience and to be honest, have nothing to do with others. You get to hold your space, your ground, your truth even if there is a list of "should's" presented to you. 

But we have to make space for that. And that begins with renouncing "should's". My first step in this process was to not re-act. So if I feel a "should" being placed on me, I mull. I don't just react. I hold my feelings, I make space for whatever that "should" is. I run it through the filter of my experiences, my truth. I don't throw it on someone else like a hot potato. That perpetuates "should's". I get to decide what I want to do and I choose not to "should" others as best as I can (it's really hard to do so that's a practice not a perfect). After I hold it, I do what my girl Glennon Doyle says to do. I take 5 minutes to tune out all the should's and am just quiet with myself. I ask myself what the next right thing is. And IT PRESENTS ITSELF. I think about who I want to be in the situation (because even when people give you their "should's" you get to decide how you respond) and what decision or response I can stand behind and be proud of. I choose to be brave. I choose to do hard things. And sometimes, that is resisting the "should's."

It can be incredibly painful, even triggering to a "good girl" who wants the approval of others, to resist the "should's". And many of us don't know who we are when we strip away the "should's." Suddenly, we have to start making decisions for ourselves and that can be incredibly disorienting when you're not used to it. But I can tell you, there is incredible peace that comes from tuning out the "should's" and tuning into yourself. Because no matter what happens, how your actions are taken and processed by others, you get to leave it all on the field. You did what you thought was best and you risked rejection to be true to what you felt was right. And that discernment and courage is a BEAUTIFUL THING. Even great advice from a trusted friend might not be what you need to do. And you won't know until you get into that quiet space and ask yourself. But you get to untangle your choices from the perception of your choices and you get to validate your intent and your heart no matter what. 

Disengaging from people pleasing patterns looks like this. Setting boundaries in dynamics that taught you that setting boundaries is disobedience or rebellion or just wrong looks like this. It's messy. And sometimes people get really mad. But what's cool is YOU KEEP YOUR DIGNITY. You experience peace. You hold the reality that there is so much in life beyond your control. That even if you ran around making everyone else happy, they still might reject you. You can't earn the things you really need: safety, love, acceptance. Those are given freely or they're not real. 

The other thing that's fun about this (read: healthy) is that if all hell breaks loose after you act out your "next right thing", you don't feel any resentment towards others. Because you're not playing out other people's advice in a high stakes game. You're owning your choices and you're making space for the choices of others. When you stand on your own two feet, you're able to take the hits better than if you're acting on the advice of others. You're solid. You've validated yourself. You've weighed your situation and you followed your intuition. And you didn't degrade yourself in the process. It doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. But there's a quiet dignity to taking hits without passing on the pain.

So I encourage you, any time you find yourself thinking or saying the word "should", that's a great time to take a step back and examine things. Now, there are many annoying adulting type activities that we all do and they may very well come from a place of "should." Doing taxes comes to mind. But even re-framing "I should do my taxes to avoid punishment" you can tell yourself "I choose to do my taxes because I'm responsible for my financial health and well-being." Do you see the difference? We all have so many choices! If your brain likes to only present you with one option and lots of "should's", I encourage you to explore all your options and get quiet with yourself and find your next right thing. Thanks, Glennon.  

Why I Write

There are a few main reasons why I write. It is both personal and communal. The personal part is that writing helps me give words to my experiences, feelings and thoughts. Words are the tools I use to process those things and to engage in the world. There is a life-long love affair being conducted between me and words. It's probably one of the reasons I talk so much! The communal part is that I recognize that not everyone has the words for their experiences but when they read someone else's words, their heart recognizes a friend. And I think that is so incredibly important. Seeing yourself in another person's experience gives you a sense of not being alone and sometimes it helps you feel like you're not crazy, which is something we often tell women when their feelings are big. Sometimes how someone responds to a situation is different than how you tend to respond and that's fascinating and maybe even helpful. The human experience of being isolated is so incredibly damaging to who we are. So, in my vulnerability, if I'm able to give words to another mother, another child, another whomever, I am willing to do that because I think this work deeply matters. Stories are life. And life is best when shared.

I recently shared an old story (if you can call three months ago old) that got a lot of response. I like response! It's kind of a writers nightmare to have no one respond to your work. It makes you feel like maybe your experiences aren't shared and that's sad. Some responses are hard to process, especially because they may hit on things that hadn't occurred to me or make me feel misunderstood or hurt. That's part of this process too. And that's okay. But it doesn't mean it isn't hard. It's really hard for me. And that bad ass in me who puts words to feelings is not always present when words are presented back to me directly. I need to be honest about that. I don't write because I can take a lot of hits. I write in spite of the hits that will come.

If there was any kind of "agenda" (does anyone else hate that word?) in my latest post, it was based in this place. This place that wants to give words and honor experience. This place that wants kids to be safe and adults to be careful with them. I think that's a good place to write from, even when anger pours out of it. Anger can be really, really good and that's something I need to continually affirm as anger was not acceptable for me to display as a child and it's still not okay for me to display as a woman, at least not without suspicion of some kind of intended harm. There was no harmful intent here.

It's funny because after the last writing-related blow up, my husband teased me about being a "pot stirrer." And we laughed, mainly because I stir a lot of pots with a lot of discomfort. I stir pots when I find opportunities to advocate for things more important than my discomfort. And that is true here. I wrote in hopes that other parents would have words for those moments when your heart gives pause and you don't know why. I wrote to inspire conversation with children, to empower others to allow their kids to have a say in what's taught to them and to make space for their process. I wrote to engage on a parenting front. This was a conversation I had between me and my daughter that I chose to make public. Fallout with other adults, teachers, church leaders was not even on my radar and frankly, such a lesser concern to me than what my post was about. I would like to point out that I was intentional about not being specific about who was involved or where we received this teaching. I learned that lesson and it was painful! If it was revealed in response who was part of this, that was not my doing. And I could care-take that I should have anticipated that as a possibility but I'm going to release that. I didn't reveal those things. It's not that I don't care how adults view my writing or my approach to my situation from VBS but it's that it entirely misses the point of my post. Adult feelings take a back seat to how we plant seeds in children's hearts about themselves and about God. That's why I didn't process my feelings about my kid with my kid. I processed my kids feelings with my kid and my feelings with other adults. And I did that when this happened. 

I do want to clarify something that doesn't seem to have been clear in my original post.

I HAVE NO PERSONAL PROBLEM WITH THE TEACHER IN THIS SITUATION.

I have no relationship with this person. I do not know her. And if anything, I'VE BEEN HER. You guys realize that I taught things like this, right?!?! Mostly to teens, which was at least slightly more developmentally appropriate but still regretful (there is a future post here for sure), but I have been this person time and time again. And my heart twinged but I read the script (she followed the curriculum, which was why I was angry about the curriculum, not the person following it). And I did it with good intent. And I did it because I did what I was told. And I did it because I believed it. I meant what I told my daughter that morning. I told her we could extend her teacher grace and for once, thank God, I wasn't just trying to do the right thing and be a good example to my kid. I was actually able to do the right thing in that moment. I knew then as I know now that I was being triggered by a whole lot of baggage, decades of baggage, that had absolutely nothing to do with her as a person. So writing this story three months later came with absolutely no negative feelings towards her. And if for some reason, this stranger has come upon my writing (that could only really happen if someone deliberately shared it with her), I want to say - we're cool. I have no beef with you. And if my pain hurt you, that was not my intent. 

I do want us to be careful with our curriculum selection. That was the only "to do" I was hoping to see in response. That's all :)

I also learned something about myself before things got really stressful in the response. I learned that I have allowed my perfectionism into the space of my theology and how I teach theology to my children. My anger came from a visceral response to anyone violating that sacred space. And that comes from a deep protectiveness that was not honored in my soul or in my husband's soul when he was fired. And having that first seed of dishonor planted in my child triggered me in a real way. This is trauma, friends. I was hurt. My husband was hurt. So anything that looks remotely like that trauma placed upon my innocent child brought out the mama bear claws. And honestly, I'm okay with that. I can validate those feelings with or without the understanding of my peers. Because trauma is a tapestry. When you pull at that thread, which I've been doing for six years, sometimes things unravel. That's how we get to the root of the problem. That's the personal side. The church of Christ side is that we've created a dynamic where we do what we're told, especially women, and we honestly believe it's okay to teach young children about sin. We think that's important. I don't. And that's not mine to hold. I get to decide what to do with my experience. It might look like not participating in VBS. That seems like a tidy, obvious answer. Except my kid might conclude that she's missing out on something she enjoys with her friends because she opened up to her mom. Right? I'm going to tread lightly in what this looks like for me in the future. And that's okay. Because it's October. I don't have to know what I'm going "to do" in this moment. Is it possible that there is nothing to do? Just to hold pain and acknowledge it? For me, yes. Sometimes that's more than enough to do for the day. So that's where I'll be today. Home. Holding my pain. And giving it the validation it needs. Hugs to you, friends. Whether you get it or not, pain is universal. 

You're Not Perfect. You're Something Better.

I had a friend recently text me in the middle of a very difficult day. I think her text came in response to my post about our family going bowling. What she said really touched me. And at the risk of sounding like a ridiculous braggart, I thought I would share what she said. "You are inspirational. God does a mighty work through you!! I have had friends where I would have thought about how I needed to be more like them. You, my dear friend, make me want to be more like me. It's the best! Thank you!!"

Again, it's kind of silly to publish a compliment. But I thought what she said was so poignant. I know I spent YEARS of my life in the former category, the type of person who was so fed by accolades that I lived in a way so people elevated me as an example of what to be. I wanted that. I wanted to be the best leader, the holiest Christian, the most responsible and caring mother, the untouchable perfect person. Only then would I be safe. And I think that gaping need for perfection came from a place of unworthiness and a need for control. When your filter is low, whatever feedback you get from others might as well be truth. There's no room for someone to assess you and be wrong in their perception. So if I was perceived as less than the best I could be, failing to perform to the highest standard or hinting in any way a lack of integrity or faith, I scrambled to patch the hole in my persona. Because if that was true, I had nothing.  

There are so many problems with this. Primarily, this makes people feel like shit. By living your life to an impossible standard and promoting that in others, you make people feel like shit. Every day. Whenever they interact with you, see your perfect posts on social media or have a moment where their humanity takes center stage in their life you are heaping shame on them for not measuring up. I guarantee you, if you have someone like this in your life, it's actually because they feel like shit about themselves. They may not know it (I didn't). But they are projecting their un-fillable hole onto you to make you feel bad. If everyone doesn't play this game, the perpetrator is losing in a different way. She doesn't feel she can opt out, so neither can you.

Sometimes this comes out in church (my hotbed for performance and shame). We act like everyone should be a leader and being a leader means providing a good example. It's why shame-based "sins" like pornography thrive in evangelicalism. No one can keep up with the perfection so they choose something super-shameful (which fuels the addiction because it creates a shame spiral) and keep it hidden as best they can. Because it's not based on actually being a good person. It's based on appearing to be a good person. 

So the problem isn't the shameful behavior. The problem is someone discovering the shameful behavior. This is why we punish girls for getting pregnant but have no words for the boy who impregnated her. She's the one who appears sinful. So she's the problem. Though if she "solves" the problem with an abortion, then she's a way worse person. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Jesus responded to this repeatedly, having mercy. This is why men like Josh Duggar get a pass and his wife gets to share the responsibility for his pornography addiction, molestation of under-aged girls (including his own flesh and blood) and repeated infidelities. He'd been doing this for YEARS and his family knew about it, at least the early stuff. The problem became a real problem when it became public. Nevermind that he came home to his pure, modestly dressed wife of five children in as many years having spent himself on another woman. You are unable to take personal responsibility for your choices when you're living in the land of appearances. The shame is up for grabs and can be conveniently placed on another person. If someone in your life never owns their shit and is always blaming others, this dynamic is probably at play. Because owning your shit means you're a piece of shit. It's a lie.

And you may hear ideology at church about how we're all pieces of shit but for the grace of God. So there's this self-hating, God-loving premise that fuels a lack of self-care, grace for self and others, and a genuine self-hatred as a form of worship. DO NOT BELIEVE THIS. Why would God call us his masterpiece, send his Son to die a painful death to save us, make us in his image because he thinks we're pieces of shit and are so lucky to be here at all? HE LOVES US. Not because he's so great and we're so unlovable. Yes he's great. But we're his. Which means we're great too. He created us because he wants relationship WITH US. Not in spite of us. Not because we screwed it up and he had to scramble for a Plan B. I believe God made us human ON PURPOSE. That means that he's not surprised by our frailty, our humanity. He. Made. It. He finds beauty in us, a reflection of his creator self. And again, not because he has super God goggles and we're really just pieces of shit. What if we're actually great? Have you ever thought about that? Yes, we are happier and healthier humans when we embrace each other and forsake greed, violence and hatred. Yes. But those moments when we don't measure up? He knew that was going to happen. And IT'S O.K. 

There's one other way I see this happening. It seems really sweet and "safe" but it's started to really bother me. I'm describing when someone literally has no concept of self outside of God. We've told Christians that they're good BECAUSE God says they're good. They're okay BECAUSE God says they're ok. I get it. When you believe everything begins and ends with what God says, this makes sense. But it's saying that self-love only comes as a response to God saying we're worthy. That implies that if he said we weren't, then we really would be pieces of shit. And I know many people can't go here with me. But what I believe is that even if God changed his mind and decided we were pieces of shit, I don't believe we are. What this has done is affirmed my faith in God but also in myself apart from God. I think it's dangerous to base our entire self-concept on what God says about us because our interpretations of God vary, even if he doesn't change. Is that not just the more spiritual version of what I described above? That I was okay because others were impressed by me. Can we be okay regardless of anyone's opinion, even God's? I know it's a stretch for some. But if we can sever this final cord, what happens is we have a less conditional relationship with God. We can stand on our own feet and interact with him. Obviously not as equals, but as dual participants in relationship. What if we are inherently lovable? Even when we "sin"? Not because God forgives us but because our humanity is not a problem to be solved but intentional? It also frees me from the constant analysis of my behavior and what categorizes as sinful or acceptable. If we're safe forever, can we release the list of do's and don't's and just be loved and loving? I feel like I finally understand that verse "there is no fear in love for perfect love casts out fear." I never, ever could allow that verse to sink into my bones. Maybe this is what it meant? 

What kind of posture would you have in the world when you believed, deep in that un-fillable hole that you are great? As is. Just inherently great. Full stop. How would you treat others? How would you speak to yourself? Would you project your perfect image into the world to reflect your own glory? Or would you feel a quiet confidence, a willingness to be vulnerable, a deliberate embrace of yourself as human, not perfect? I am not an example. I am a human. And I am wonderful. When those things become real to you, you no longer feel the need to convince others of that truth. Or if you do, (in my case right now) it's to free them from themselves not to secure faith in yourself. 

I would like to make one final point about all this self-love and awesomeness. This applies to all mankind, not just people who look like you or believe like you do. I believe that God loves every human, made every human in his image and thinks every human is beautiful. Not every human behavior. Every human. And so please don't take my special words and apply them to special groups. I used to feel threatened by God's lack of special favors. I wanted to be set apart, better, safe, special. I didn't want everyone to be equal. How would I win if everyone gets a participation trophy? There are so many examples of this exceptionalism in the New Testament. I understand it. But let me be clear - that is UGLY SHIT. Do not elevate yourself. God loves Muslims. God loves refugees. God loves poor people, yes even the ones on social programs. God loves Republicans (ouch). God loves Democrats too (yea!) Do not take the beauty inside yourself and draw lines around it. Share the love in your heart indiscriminately. And if you need a reason outside yourself, remember, this is what God does. 

You do you. Love yourself. Believe in your goodness. Give yourself a fucking break. Honor the pain you feel, the journey you're taking, the growth you've experienced. See yourself as someone worthy of compassion, validation and acceptance. As is. Don't set deadlines for your own mercy (I'll like myself when...). Stop pushing yourself now. Accept yourself and figure out who you really want to be. Then pursue it in freedom and love full of grace for the process and for the beautiful person courageous enough to speak her dreams and reach for them. 

Resilience

One of the fun things about being self-employed and having no overhead is that I have many other people in my life who provide various services with whom I can trade. One of those people is the gal who does my hair (and the kids). We've been friends for years and she has a son my age so there's a fun inter-generational, sisterhood vibe between us. She's very spiritual and political and we have a great time talking about everything. We had a moment yesterday that cemented another connection between us in my mind that I hadn't quite pieced together in the past. 

She had just finished coloring my hair and I was in the chair. Penny was on my lap having just fallen and cried. Penny was right up against the hair-washing sink with the big cool hose. Of course, she turned it on, full blast. It was a wildly rainy Northwest spring day and I arrived at Lesli's house damp an hour previously. This did not help. Mind you, we were inside Lesli's actual home and my child turned a hose on! You know what we did? We laughed. We turned off the hose. But we laughed. And I went home a little more damp than when I arrived. 

The impulse to laugh when a "stressful", unexpected moment happens could be tied to many things: having a good sense of humor, being too stifled to feel comfortable showing anger; but in this case, I think it highlighted the resilience that she and I both possess. I don't say this to brag, in fact, my resilience has been a source of resentment for me in the past. When you are resilient, life has a way of creating dependence on you in a way that can be unfair. 

But laughing in that chair with a friend who has had her resilience tested many times in her life, thinking about how many times I've laughed rather than cried when my back has been to the wall (crying is ok too and definitely an appropriate response), I recognized our kindred spirit-ness a la Anne of Green Gables and it felt like a moment. Like, the sun came out and shone upon us and reminded me that life is about finding the laughter in the panic, that friends are more important than perfection and that having kids provides a regular opportunity to look in the mirror and see what you're made of. 

When Trauma Comes to Visit

Don't you hate it when you've done all you can to process a trauma and it still comes to visit from time to time? I wish there was a way to not be shaped by our traumas. I know that's not possible and probably not even good as terrible things often shape us in somewhat positive ways, if you're in a frame of mind to see it. Though I must admit, that's hard to do in the middle of the night when you wake up from a nightmare sobbing. It's been 5 and a half years since we left professional ministry. We've been through other traumas since that time that were even more severe and yet that one still leaves a mark. I think I must admit to myself that it always will. My ultimate goal is to not let my traumas make me a bitter, hardened person. Unfortunately, sometimes in order to get to that place, you gotta work through a lot of pain and anger.  

I am still connected to our old church through a weekly MOMS group I attend. Most of the women there are unaware of my history and the church has been through a major overhaul in both style and leadership since we left. Yet, I'm still walking those halls, seeing many of the people from our "old life" and everyone acts like nothing ever happened. I guess that's the only way to move forward. It's not like I want to spend my 2 hours of weekly free childcare sussing out old pain with people I don't really trust. And I know I've already had the hard conversations I needed to have way back when. The group has been a great source of fun and friendship for me (I feel I need to justify my attendance since being in that environment is clearly still triggering).  

Perhaps it is the perfectionist in me that wants to check "professional church ministry trauma" off the list and move on. And I have moved on in ways I am really proud of and genuinely grateful for. I know if the trauma had not happened, we would not be the people we are today. And I think we are better people. I am so much more humble, gracious and honest than I was before. I was always a nice person but leaving professional ministry helped me embrace my humanity, give myself grace and become an all-around kinder person. I've found my voice, my values and my own footing having had that formerly precious security blanket ripped from me. And yet, it's still hard. It's still sad. And sometimes, that trauma comes to call. Maybe that's how you know something you lost really meant so much. When that pain knocks, perhaps the healthiest thing to do is open the door, embrace the pain and let the tears flow.

Misplaced Guilt in a New Presidency

I don't really subscribe too much to "mommy guilt." I believe my kids are their own people and it's my job to get them ready for adulthood. I think I'm doing a pretty good job, mostly because I really, really give a shit. So even when people mess up, if they care, that counts for a lot, in my opinion. I read. I listen. I care about my kids. I raise them with intention and I try to do right by them.

And then Penny got her first ear infection. She's 3 and a half, so that's actually really good. But, as I said in my Dirty Little Secret post, I'm in the Health and Wellness business. I've grown up in it and am a big proponent of preventative, natural medicine. Don't worry: I go to the doctor, vaccinate, and still feed my children chicken nuggets. I'm not a robot!!! (Love all my gals who don't do those things too - no judgment here ladies!) But one of the problems with having a natural solution to every problem is that you live in a way where you feel more in control. While that sounds awesome (and it is!) it can be easy to forget that none of us have actual, total control. I don't have control over the cold Penny got a week ago that I just cannot shake. That child has been so dosed with nutrients and essential oils and every possible solution and guess what? She got an ear infection. I'm sad.

And I've done a lot to feel in control of the terrible things happening in the world. I've marched. I've gone to racial justice training and meetings. I've advocated for people. I've read. I'm working on dismantling my blind spots (privilege). But, Donald Trump is still president. And he just cut the EPA's budget by $1 billion. Among A LOT of other HORRIFYING things.

I sell green cleaners. It makes the world a better place. I've been doing that for 12 years, helping families lower their carbon footprint, lower their toxic exposure and save money. But in one fell swoop, with one swipe of that pen, I feel like the environment (and all the humans he's targeting specifically in other news) is going to shit anyway. 

There's nothing I can do about that. And I'm grieving. Because I really, really care. I care about the planet. I care about my kids. I care about illegal immigrants. I care about people of color and police brutality. I care. I care. I care. And that pen is killing me. 

Okay. Time to sell some more green cleaners. Who's in?

Maybe Magic is Overrated

It's been a busy last few weeks with hosting my family for Thanksgiving and cramming in as many possible holiday activities in since then. I've written in the past about how my perfectionism comes out during holidays and I'd venture to say I'm not alone in that. It's not that I tell myself "I want everything to be perfect" but I think the massive amount of effort perfectionists put into the holidays has to do with wanting to feel something. I could be wrong. Perfectionism is most definitely about being in control and having things your way. But I think perhaps the obsessive level of activity and wanting everything to be "just so" also relates to our desperate desire for the holidays to make us feel a certain way. For me, I feel a sense of anxiety as the days race towards December 25th because I want to make sure that at some point before it's all over, it actually "feels" like Christmas. If you're too busy, it's not fun. It's stressful and even if the activities seem festive, your heart is hard as a rock. And if you're not busy enough, it doesn't feel magical, like it's any other busy time, but not Christmas. But the streets are crowded and sometimes annual activities are different than last year and suddenly you wake up and just can't do one more thing. And so you stay home and another day passes on the Advent calendar. Tick. Tock.

I want to feel magic. I want my faith to be rekindled in a way that makes everything right and clear and good. I want to be a child again where you could hear a tale woven from fables and it made sense in a way that unicorns and glitter and rainbows just work. I want something to be pure. Compromise is so overrated. I want hope, desperately. I want to believe we are good and can work together and heal this world. I could use some joy. But most of all, I seek peace. The world needs peace in a big way right now. But my adult brain isn't able to get lost from reality, not really. While I was warm in my car this morning with my kids getting our tree, I was thinking about the freezing cold people at Standing Rock. And when I was in a church surrounded by at least a thousand Christians singing about Jesus, I realized there were exactly 3 black people in the room. THREE. Last week my Reverend reminded us that things weren't so tidy in the world when Jesus came either. The Jews were living in occupied territory. Their king was born in a barn to a teenage girl (who is a total bad ass, BTW). There is something glorious about this time of year for sure (the white people Christmas still made me tear up a few times) but there is alongside it a darkness, a reality that refuses to be glossed over. That people are hurting. Some of us are cold and hungry. And a lot of the joy isn't being passed out freely but with strings attached to belief systems and color and class systems. I know that sounds terrible, like I've become a cynic and the magic has died within me. I don't think that's the case. I think the more we become socially aware (and I know I have a long, long road ahead of me - I was still shocked Trump won so that says something for sure), the more we live in the duality of light alongside dark not light against dark. The world is not the binary system we were raised to live in - clear, tidy, with battle lines drawn. The lines are within me and you and everyone around. We are the light and the dark, not just on the outside but on the inside, deep within. Yes there is beauty and glory and life. But there is greed and darkness and pain as well. 

I think my black and white brain has been wrestling with the gray ever since we lost our ministry work 5 years ago. Now I live in the gray all the time. I think I might be better for it. Maybe magic is overrated. I've had magic sneak in the nooks and crannies of heartbreak. I see it in the beautiful music and my crazy children and in a killer conversation I had with my dad last week (more to come). I see it and feel it around me and within me. But if magic seeks to have us sit on our laurels while others aren't given the same level of escape, maybe it's not really the goal. Perhaps the holiday goal isn't to have the perfect table, but to have a full one, a bigger one, with more diversity, fewer rules and a whole lot of grace.