Dreams unwished

I pressed my nose against your fluff
careful not to breathe in or disturb
the thousand points of white
a dream for each one

Six years old in a field of wishes
hopes and dreams
thinking someday
they'd all come true

So I blew and blew
cascade of joy in tiny spears
whirling in a child's breath
toward a new life
and a thousand
new yellow babies

And now I leave the spears in place
the seeds unsown
because dreams rarely come true
it's a waste of breath to blow
and you're beautiful
just the way you are
and I am trying
to be beautiful too
just where I've been planted.

Upside down and backwards

Do you ever look down and see the stars beneath your feet? Do you ever look up and see your feet? Does your world ever get that confused?

Sometimes I think I look for alien landscapes through my camera lens because they seem the most familiar. Living the charmed life in a first world country, with husband, house, and (okay a few more than the requisite 1.5 kids and a dog) children and pets. How could I possibly be confused about who I am and where I'm supposed to be?

Life does not follow the charted line like a map. It's a poem in the midst of it's writing, a novel without an ending, a movie whose whole plot will be forever defined by the happily ever after or bittersweet that comes in the final scene. I suspect most people live happily with that ambiguity. Otherwise I wouldn't feel so alone.

Worst of all, sometimes I'm afraid I'm confusing everyone else just because I'm confused. My daughter comes into my room this afternoon with her punk rocker haircut, her flannel lumberjack shirt (her favorite) and skinny jeans. She's sad, her eyes say it all. They never want to play my game, she laments. And as I look at her pout and wonder what to say, I realize I am less alone than I think. "Do you ever feel like no one understands you?" I ask her, gathering her beanpole frame into a hug. She nods into my shoulder. "I feel that way today, too. How about if we cuddle and see if that makes us both feel better?" And so, in the midst of the mess and the schedules and the work to be done, I took a nap with my youngest daughter. The one whose brain infection has made her an entirely different - and wonderful - child.

I wish I could tell her it will be okay. That it's okay to feel like you don't belong. That you'll be a great person anyway. I could tell her all those things - but they're aren't whole truths. In reality, it hurts to feel alone. There are times you would sell all you have to be able to look into someone's eyes and be known all the way down to the last particle. Known - and loved.

As I undress memories I've hidden in the darkest corners, so sure no one could understand, so sure no one would love me if they knew...it is a confusing time. I am back in touch with all the ways my life hasn't fit in, hasn't been accepted, hasn't been loved. I feel it tinging my days, that old familiar sensation that what is and what could be are so vastly different.

A living memory

The tragedy of life is not death but what we let die inside us while we live. (Norman Cousins)

Do you remember those hazy humid dreams of childhood summers? Have you forgotten the schemes and dreams you plotted along life's timeline when you were 7? Do you remember pinky promises and cross your heart and hope to die, all those pacts we made with other little people to become something, do something, before we got old.

My childhood dreams come alive with the smell of horse hair and the huff of a mare's breath on a hot summer day; the prickle of hay on skin and how it smelled like warm sunshine bottled up. My dreams at night were bareback riding and flying through murky skies and falling out of flaming buildings. My dreams by day were all about love: I was desperate to have it, to keep it, to always remember the important things. My knuckles went white with the gripping of love as hard and as tight to my chest as possible.

Life does not feel permanent when you're a child. Everything flits by and is gone on the wind before you've hardly consumed it, long before you can commit it to memory. Each new experience brushes against your skin like the allure of tall grass wet with dew, hands winding through the wheat tops shaking drops onto the brown tumbled up earth below. We don't know how to make connections yet, as children, and so life flies by free-form. It just is. We aren't hunters of explanations and we aren't gatherers of puzzles yet. We are hunters of daylight - craving it down to it's last black shadow on summer nights on damp cut grass of Olly Olly Oxen Free and Annie Annie I Over. We are gatherers of pretty rocks and feathers, beads and old cans from the woods.

I dreamed of falling in love. It seemed uncomplicated and wonderful in an Anne of Green Gables sort of way, as though I would be so magnetically drawn to that one person and he to me and we would be happy once we discovered the love we cloaked under sarcasm and friendship. I didn't know there would be stops and starts along the way. I didn't know I really would dislike my lover as much as Anne ever disliked Gilbert. And I had no idea how compelling and awesome the magnetism of true love is.

I dreamed of seeing things - amazing things, wild things, beautiful things - as many as I could possibly see before I die. To be born creative is also to be born with this inexplicable and undeniable draw toward the creativity of others, the beauty they create. I devoured an entire art history library looking for beauty, and developed my favorites - the spareness of Wyeth and the raw power of Michelangelo's sketches.  I listened to all kinds of music: to this day, my playlist includes songs from my grandparents and parents' generations, as well as songs from almost every genre of modern music.

Life tumbles on, and with every moment it becomes more complicated. Yet, too, as the earth spins, parts and people fly off into history and you travel on into the future down-sized. And there are places and smells and sounds that will always connect us to our core, where we can remember who we truly are, bask in the naked beauty of the soul.

For me, it is hay, and grass cut in summer, and the smell of sun on barn boards and animal flesh. It is the harumphs of happy horses and the whinny on the wind. It is the countryside on a sunny day, lying on your back picking out shapes from the clouds in the azure sky. It is friend's voices and each of their own special laughs.

Where do you go to remember who you are? Are you familiar with that core place within you that holds your essence and your dreams? How do you access it?

An untrained pastor is NOT a therapist

The very first time I ever sliced through flesh, I was sure that I would die. I was sure I would carry it out. I was sure I wanted to. I was 19, a nursing student, struggling to develop my own morals and beliefs, in a crisis, at a crossroads. After I slashed with the only available sharp object, ineffectually, I limped to the emergency room, where a physician examined my wounds and said, "I won't stitch these. So you wanted attention, now you're going to get it. Because what you chose is big red scars." I still carry the scars, finally flesh-toned after a decade of red, like slippery obstacles I've traversed.

I went to church camp. Finally feeling rebellious enough to need church camp, like I needed a dressing down old fashioned hellfire and brimstone manner even if the man throwing the first stone was a hypocrite? I showed up with my gauze wrapped wrists and arms, dripping sweat in a long-sleeved shirt of my father's that hung from my guilt-eaten-spare frame. I remember the drive there, my father met us and insisted that I ride with him back to camp, my friend following behind. My father asked why I did it, I said I didn't know, and then we were silent for the rest of the drive, his pulse palpable in the heavy summer air. I've always wondered what he was thinking, my father, there that day with me in bandages and a stoic frown.

I was quickly ushered into a sweaty lamp lit cabin. I sat in the corner, where the logs met and there was a lovely view of some impressive spiderwebs. My parents on either side. The pastor and his wife, conspiratorially drawing us into a circle, bent forward in their chairs. I remember my mom saying, low, "Well, why don't you tell it, Genevieve?" There was a long, charged pause. Then I began to spill, just bare bones, of what I was suffering and why and how much that made me want to die. 

Another long pause. All I remember is the pastor's wife, patting me gently on the arm over the cuts bandaged there, smiling the sickly sweet smile that dripped like corn syrup from her lips, insincere, saying that "it wasn't really a suicide attempt, it was more about getting attention." I quit nodding. I sat stock still. I waited to see what my parents would do, if they would be able to see the little game being played. 

And then.......
Nothing. That sentence from the pastor's wife the last benediction of the vignette now echoing in my mind. And every time since it's been deeper, wider, more dangerous, more risk. As if the only way to beat that whole dreaded segment of my life would be to prove her wrong. To tell her I was serious - I meant to do it! To commit suicide as some plaintive cry that I did try, I just wasn't very good at it, and thank God! because look at all that has been accomplished since then. Suicide as the punctuation note to that sentence? It blasts backward into the past and contorts memories and dreams. It's dust cloud thunders on into the future to eat up legend, and all that might have been, all those who might have mattered, all that wouldn't have happened if I was there.

To think that I would still give someone that power, someone I haven't seen for 15 years, and I've no idea what's happened to her since. Let her have power over me? Let her steal my joy? No way, José. That pastor's wife has no say in my life now and no power over it. Because truth sets people free. So go snake your arms into someone else's future, Satan, cuz I'm takin' mine.

Five Minute Friday


She is older than I was when the darkness dragged me down. She is so much wiser. Sweeter, more adventurous. Were those things stolen from me, too?

The questions I would ask are drowned in the twilight ringing with laughter from the pool. I feel it - 7 years old - and I act it, splashing, diving, doing headstands underwater. Showing Amy how to breaststroke and kick turn.

If you are one, like me, with the hyperactive thoughts, if your thoughts cascade over your head as full and powerful and rushing as a waterfall...drown them. Find something that shuts them out. Find something that makes you SO happy, you are literally soaking up every moment of it.

When you are sad, won't you remember that you were happy and you will be happy again? I dunk down until only my nose and eyes are above water. I look and I breathe and I save these images and the sensation of the water on my skin and the muffled sounds of tinny laughter. I save them for later. I save them for now.

The camaraderie of sisters. That's what I was promised that fateful year of seven. And still that wish hasn't come true. I hold my sisters-in-law as close as I can, trying to be a sister, feel like a sister.

The laughter winds down as the crickets drone louder and the frogs belch their love songs in a chirpy chorus from the wetland. The long grass is alive with the crickets hopping, the air filled with bats dipping and drifting, trolling for their mosquito meal. And we are midnight silhouettes against the pink of the sun's goodbye sky. A moment cherished and savored is a moment I couldn't feel pain or torment or torture.

When you can't stop thinking, what's your "hard stop"? Do you have an activity you can do to take a break from thinking?

Next to me

You and me, baby, we're stuck like glue. We learned from the best: now married 40 years, held in better times and worse, through fat years and lean ones, in illness and health, pledged as long as they both shall live. And walking down the aisle at their baby's wedding? That same open smile between your mom's dimples, and the same look of contentment on your dad. Can we make do that? 'Til death do us part?

You're as loyal a person as I've ever met. You stick things through - and not with resignation, as if bearing me up is a task, but with ethic and love. The extra housework, the extra time spent alone with your kids, the conversations and companionship of many hours over these many months. You do not waver and you do not avoid. Every heartache of mine is one of yours, and for that I'm sorry. Sorry is a good friend of mine.

Sometimes I doubt myself. I doubt I can live up to you. I doubt that I won't ever hurt you again. My commitment always seems smaller, slower, less than yours. You are a 100% kind of guy: you love it or despise it, you trust or distrust it with no in-between. You give your all to everyone - at work, at home, with me. This rests over all those doubts like a light blanket in summer, shivering under the breeze through the window. Small reassurance, but better than none.

Oh, that I might love you as you love me! To be able to dive into each challenge and disappointment without hesitating! To love loving, to never feel used, to give it all each and every day. I hope I'm learning these things from you. I hope, if you keep me safe long enough, I learn to trust the world again.

Liebe dich,
deine Fraü

When the money’s spent and all my friends have vanished
And I can’t seem to find no help or love for free
I know there’s no need for me to panic
Cause I’ll find him, I’ll find him next to me

When the skies are grey and all the doors are closing
And the rising pressure makes it hard to breathe
When all I need's a hand to stop the tears from falling
I will find him, I’ll find him next to me
~Next to Me, Emeli Sandé~

Leaving on a jet plane

My brother and his little family are moving to Montana. It's the furthest from home any of my siblings have ever gone permanently. My parents are also moving...although only a short walk from the house they built when I was 16.

Change is difficult for me. Especially if it involves my family. I was too frightened, as a child, to tell even my parents what had happened to me. All because my abuser threatened my family. Since that time I have been, understandably, very protective and almost over-attached to each member of my family - and, by extension, their families. Although I can rationally say it is fine for my brother to move, fine for my parents to build a new house, emotionally, I am a mess about it. The way we think and feel - how convuluted it is! And how much of it is determined when we are just kids?

My brother Scott and his twin girls, Katie and Jess
Scott is 18 months younger then me and we were so close as toddlers that he felt like part of myself. 
We had disagreements sometimes, but for the most part I would do anything - and give up any toy - just to know he loved me. We remained close through junior high and high school. I was the first person he told when he was getting married. We often spent time together even after I had graduated from college and he was living and working 3 hours away from where I lived and worked. He also chose a profession very similar to mine in many ways - I am a nurse, and he is a police chief. We both would put our lives on the line to save a complete stranger's life.

It will be hard to lose the many visits per year we have shared together. I am thankful his move is coming in the era of free internet videocalls, text messaging, and Instagram. I hope all the technology facilitates a close relationship even though we are far away.

What kind of change do you resist? Do you struggle with long-distance relationships within your family, wishing they lived closer to yours?

Small portions of belonging

"You never belong until you believe you do. And it’s only when you believe you belong, that you believe you are beautiful." (Ann Voskamp, guest posting for Lisa-Jo Baker, "The Gypsy Mama")

Sitting on the dugout bench at a baseball game, alone on the far edge, listening to the jokes the boys made of my hairy legs. Not having the bravery to join in my brothers' latest exploit, and that sense of dread mixed with shame like an angry sea roiling inside me. Playing with my dolls all alone, creating a fantasy land where I belonged and others belonged to me.

But worst were the whispers of an abuser who told me I was "different", "weird", "disgusting", that the world would be better off without me. 

When your soul is still a blank slate, those words begin to define you. Deep-seated self-hatred and self-doubt lead to misery even on the best of days. Sing-song of the schoolyard on which I was also a foreigner - homeschooled before the cool kids did it - "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Sing-song of the tormented lobbed back at tormenter as she stitches another plate of armor around her soul. 

Maybe it should be sung, "Stick and stones may break a bone, but words will never leave me."

20 years later, I am waving goodbye to 10 years of friendships that are now in the rearview mirror. If I had difficulty trusting before, it is almost impossible now. Relationships become a constant waiting game, anticipating you leaving me. It is only in pairs that I can relax, breathe, open up the armor and let you in.

It has been said that belonging is our foundational need. Perhaps being grown up is realizing that belonging happens in small slices. It is not a universal experience that occurs in every group, every team, every congegration. The few that have known you and loved you anyway give you enough belonging to float through seasons of isolation.

And there's always the hope, hanging like a juicy carrot, perhaps unrealized until our final breath - for the time when 
...you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility...that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace... And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (exc. Ephesians 2, ESV)

Five Minute Friday

We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words we've both fallen under
Whatever we deny or embrace for worse or for better
We belong, we belong, we belong together

Blue like me

Children's laughter floating on the breeze in the evening; diamond droplets of water cascading from splashing feet; 10,000 gallons of therapy just sitting in the yard waiting for company. We spend long summer days floating and laughing. The children are brown and sleek and sleepy after a day in the water. It calms the soul, distracts the senses, sends memories scurrying like water bugs off the surface. Here I can breathe, even without gills.

“They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming.” ― Hermann Hesse

Love is the only law left

Church camp when I was a kid was a place where everyone ran wild. "Safe" in the circlet of forest, our cabins mapped out in alphabetical groups, dirt paths between, our parents let all the kids run wild. They didn't know where we were or who we were with.

The problem was, I wasn't free there. I was haunted there. One person made the grounds a maze of bad memories and new tragedies. Unlimited access in a place where no one heard a little girl saying no, no one heard a little girl crying silent and flying out of body into thin air to escape.

Church camp for my kids will be different, so I say through gritted teeth and tension and anxiety. I watch them like hawks, send them everywhere with a "buddy", panic if someone is left behind. No one goes unaccounted for in a family already touched by the secret sins of a "safe Christian". Church camp feels about as safe to me as an obstacle course in an Indiana Jones movie. Only the treasure I'm trying to get through whole has 8 arms and 8 legs and it is 4 children who are too heavy for me to carry and too fast for me to keep up with and too excited about everything I'm terrified of.

The pastor smiles from the campsite across from ours, but all I see is the smile on another pastor's face smiling as he tells me what a hopelessly horrible person I am. I see the smile on another pastor's face when he taught that adultery was wrong while children were being turned into sexual toys under his very nose. I remember sweating under the heat of his thundering voice as he proclaimed homosexuality the most disgusting sin of all.

What if you were made that way by someone else? What if it wasn't your fault? What if you hated it just as much as the rest of the church? It was easy to hate it, and by extension, easy to hate yourself, so much that you thought the world was better off without you. Understanding our sin is easy, understanding the penalty is clear. Living with it is impossible.

But grace? Grace is hard. It doesn't fit into the nicely wrapped little boxes the church makes for it. "Believe, and you will be saved." That's what they tell you in the beginning. What they don't tell you is that they - as an extension of their "God" - will try to save you from every last inch of yourself. And while the process of sanctification through Christ is a lovely and holy and beautiful thing that is always consensual and incremental, the church does things a little differently. They tear your clothes from your body - those old clothes that stink of sin. They dance around your nakedness, celebrating as if you were a newborn baby naked in their midst. Never mind your arms crossed and spine bent to hide your shame. After that, they give you new clothes, clothes you might hate, clothes that probably won't fit you right, clothes that bind and pinch and scratch. Maybe clothes that are for the wrong season of your life. But those clothes are the only ones you're allowed to wear in church, so you wear them. You call it "your burden to bear" and smile just like them as if it's a mantle of honor and not a reminder of how the church raped you in order to admit you.

"Believe and you will be saved" is followed up by "and you must give up [fill in the blank with x, y, z]" and you find yourself rather quickly shepharded from a place of "acceptance" as a sinner to a place of shame if you continue to sin. As if sin were as easy to turn off as a water faucet. As if anyone, ever, anywhere, anytime, has EVER been able to turn off sin, defeat it entirely.

One day you wake up and you realize that God doesn't make bad people. God doesn't make mistakes. And if religion couldn't beat it out of you with all their tricks and sticks, is it ever going to go away? You wonder if maybe people are made this way. You wonder if maybe God is more opposed to hatred and violence than people and their "lifestyles". This God, the one who opposes hatred and violence? This God you could believe in.

It's just a whisper of possibility, but you hear it: maybe all this has been a great big Wizard of Oz smoke and mirrors play for power by the church. Maybe they don't have the answers, so they deflect and defend and demoralize. Maybe there is no one answer.

This new thing I'm learning - the dialectic - says I can hold two opposites true at once. I can believe that sexuality can be sinful while on the other hand believing it isn't always sinful. I can believe that God granted me a heterosexual marriage with children and that perhaps that won't be his plan for everyone. Did my marriage "redeem" my lesbian lifestyle of earlier years? Am I a "converted homosexual"?

I don't want to be called that. I am redeemed and converted to the way of love. I have the chance to join Christ in loving every. single. person. I ever meet. I have the chance to be the reflection of Christ's beautiful face of love, his open arms, his embrace, his protection.

Hear this, my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters: I will never try to tell what path God is calling you to walk. I will not show you the sliver in your eye because there will always be a plank in mine. I will not decide what things you do in private are sin. I will encourage you to love, not hate. I will show you love, not hate. I will sing to you: "Love; it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free!" If you have kids, I'll send mine over to play. If you invite me for coffee, I'll come. And I will come quietly and humbly, because all of us are walking through different storms, and all I know for sure is the way to weather mine. I will come hushed to the sacred meeting of souls, for our souls are all naked and all beautiful and all made in the image of God, and souls don't have sexual orientations or baffled bodies or scars or shame. And here - two souls touching each other gently in the ocean of life - we can be free and lovely and grateful and peaceful together.

How to squeeze the most out of every day

I watch children because I am a mom. They do one thing at a time, whole-heartedly concentrating and finding bits of joy as they go along. Their inner monologues aren't well developed yet because they are in such a stage of discovery. They finger things carefully, inspect what makes it work, listen to the sounds it makes, feel the textures under their hands.
Pausing to listen to an airplane in the sky, stooping to watch a ladybug on a plant, sitting on a rock to watch the waves crash over the quayside - children have their own agendas and timescales.  As they find out more about their world and their place in it, they work hard not to let adults hurry them.  We need to hear their voices.  ~Cathy Nutbrown
Children are the picture of being present in the moment, and their parents are usually the antithesis. We boast about our ability to multitask but are swarmed with regret for all the moments we did not savor when we lie down in bed at the end of the day. Yet we wake the next morning and repeat the cycle. Is it because we have so much to accomplish in each day? Is it possible to load the dishwasher, cook dinner, clean the counters, mop the kitchen floor, AND attend to the inevitable 20 questions our children will come to us with?

Being mindful - present in the moment - is the art of paying attention fully to one thing at a time. It's difficult when you first start, but it is addictive because it allows us to be free from responsibility for little moments throughout the day, sharing in wonder and joy instead of the anxiety of deadlines and schedules.

When you're in the pre-dinner rush, doing 3 things at once, and you feel the tug of a little hand on your leg, STOP. Just for a moment. Crouch down, touch their shoulders, look into their eyes. Listen to the inflection of their high-pitched voice, notice their expressions. Answer their questions and smile. You may avoid 20 more questions by attending fully to that one. You have also recaptured your own joy - a type of joy cooking dinner does not usually bring.

The present moment is all we're guaranteed. The past is gone and the future uncertain. But in each moment lies the gifts of life, and if we'll only take time to stop and take the world in - it's smells, sounds, colors, sensations, tastes - how much more joy we will squeeze out of each and every day.

Five Minute Friday

Check out some free mindfulness exercises here.

An open letter to the school of hard knocks

I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say. ~Flannery O'Connor

Dear life,

You have put ulcers in my belly but fire in my bones.
You have torn friends away but shown me who my true friends are.
You have made me doubt myself yet become myself.
You have put bumps in the road that turned out to be wonderful surprises.
You have beaten me up, so I'm stronger now.
You have thrown me out but in the dark I discovered the stars.
You have cast me down and on the ground I found rest.
You have torn me apart but the scar tissue where I healed will never tear.
You made me feel alone and I discovered I liked it.
You threatened everything so I appreciate it more.
You shipwrecked me at home with my family and I discovered they really are my favorite people.

You isolated me and I read books.
You rained on me and I jumped in puddles.
Your wind blew me off my feet but it also kissed my cheek.
You laughed in my face and I laughed back.
You made me sad, I found joy in small things.
You exhausted me, and I found out how much I love my bed.
You ravaged my body so my soul grew wings.
You tried to silence me so I found words.

You caused me pain, so I gritted my teeth and limped on.
You took my breath away but God gave it back.
You broke my heart and I discovered the courage to heal it.
You left me speechless and in the silence I heard the whisper of my own soul.

You may break me, but never bind me.
You may hurt me, but never kill my hope.
You may force me to change, and I might like it.

I am afflicted in every way, but not crushed; 
perplexed, but not driven to despair; 
persecuted, but not forsaken;
struck down, but not destroyed;
So I do not lose heart. 
Though my outer self is wasting away, my inner self is being renewed day by day*.

The contest is not over.
You haven't won yet.
You never will,
for even death has been overcome.

*2 Corinthians 4

How I learned to surf

I surfed once, in California in my early 20s. I only managed to get on top of 4 waves, but I will never forget the incredible feeling of falling and flying simultaneously. Since then, I've only been on a bodyboard. A doctor, John Kabat-Zinn, uses surfing as an analogy for emotions: "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf them." A surfer named "Buzzy" characterized surfing in a way that relates to all of life: "Waves are not measured in feet and inches, they are measured in increments of fear."

I am intimately acquainted with fear. It is the monster inside that roars at the slightest provocation, sometimes even convincing my terrorized brain that old threats long gone are nipping at my heels. Life feels not only radical as I step into a new reality, a new person, a new way of seeing - it is terrifying. Change of any kind is not a welcome guest in my life, and to change the very structure of my self is breathtakingly scary and uncertain.

Long ago, as a child, I built four sturdy walls in my soul and put a lid on top. It was my Pandora's box, my underground bunker where I could stuff all the bad things in life, all the tears, all the emotions I was too terrified to feel. I remember going into my room once at 10, clenching every muscle in my body and screaming silently. I was afraid that if I let my emotions out, they would destroy everything. As it turns out, avoiding them has nearly done just that.

Every Monday, in land-locked Wisconsin, I have a surfing lesson for one hour. It takes place in an office, not a beach, and the waves I'm surfing are the huge Mavericks - the biggest waves of all time - that come flooding out of that bunker when I take off the lid. Large waves can literally throw a surfer to the bottom of the ocean, turn him in so many somersaults that he can't tell which way is up, scrape his flesh on the coral, and either send him to Davy Jones' locker or toss him up like a fish gasping on the beach. How do you surf those emotions? The biggest ones of your life?

This is how I learned to surf the big ones:
  1. Don't go it alone. You need a spotter when you're letting a tsunami out of your soul.
  2. Don't rein it in. Realize it's just an emotion, and it will soon be over. Submit to the fact that you can't change the past and you can't change this giant wave of emotion. You can only ride out to safety.
  3. Do be well prepared. If you're letting emotions out, sorting through old memories, often it's intentional. It's our human way of processing the good and the bad that happens to us. Make sure you've had good rest, good food, and a good mood most of the day before you purposefully open your Pandora's box.
  4. Do let yourself be free to express the emotion. You may need to cry, scream, rant, rave, or curl up in a ball. Be somewhere safe for this.
  5. Do rate your emotional pain. Before you start a session of internal or conversational processing of trauma in your life, rate how painful the memory is at the beginning, on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being low intensity and 10 being high intensity. After you've allowed yourself to surf the wave of emotion that comes with the memory, rate it again. You may find the memory is much less intense once you've allowed yourself to experience the emotions that went with it.
  6. Do nothing but surf. A real surfer isn't dropping in on a wave thinking about his grocery list. In fact, surfers report that riding a wave is a blissful, meditative experience that fully captures their mind, body and soul. When you're surfing emotional waves, do so at a time you can concentrate fully on the sensations and feelings. Don't do it at work, or on your drive home, or when you have to do something later in the day. Do it when you have plenty of time and brainspace.
  7. Do remember that emotions never last forever and they generally don't kill you. Emotional waves are always temporary. And they have little power over you once you accept them and let them flow. 
One last thought: when you're new to something, it's always good to have a few lessons. Especially when the stakes are as high as they are out on the ocean of emotion. Surfing isn't learned in a day, and there are many, many wipeouts along the way. A therapist, friend, or lay counselor you can trust may give you some tips on surfing that I cannot. I hope you find that, once you're out there among the waves, it is actually an good experience. And once you've ridden the biggest wave of your life, every other wave will seem tiny and totally rideable.

Surf's up - who's with me?

On our wedding day

We take our place by the window in the evening light. Will it ever start? We've waited so long. Fidgety with excitement now, we will ourselves still as the last of the preparations are done.

The chairs are set for the guests. Lined up pearlescent in rows, velvet and gold for the special occasion.

Right now, it is an echoey empty hall. In a few minutes, there will be the bustle of the ushers seating family and the thrill of the bride walking down the aisle. We wait for her, anticipation thrilling our very bones.

The tables upstairs are set for a feast. Place cards lined up in rows for every guest, from smallest to oldest. You can almost hear the tinkling of glasses and the low thunder of a thousand voices punctuated by laughter.

Casks of wine sit in the cool cellar, tapped and ready to fill glasses. You run hands over the rough oak barrel, and remember a time that Jesus filled the empty casks at just such a wedding as this.

Our time will come. We are the beautiful, the beloved, the redeemed. The Bride of Christ. Every wedding here on earth is a foreshadow of that great day in heaven when we will prepare ourselves to meet our King dressed in the finest and with giant dreams for an eternity of love.
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the Marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19:7-9)

Five Minute Friday