Lent Day 26: A Prayer for When I Want to Quit Writing

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God of the infinite who abides in the finite,
You ask me to keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.

But does it really matter?

Does anyone really read my material?
Does it make a difference in anyone’s life?
Does anyone want to forward it?

Is my ego in the way?

The words flow freely at times
And other times, they are immobile as in clogged pipe.
So why do I bother to write when I feel like the words aren’t there
And they matter little?

Set my sometimes-too-large and sometimes-too-small ego to the side.
Help me realize that I’m a vessel for holy words and not a blogging prima donna,
And that there will be times when my work creates change in the world,
There will be times when they make no difference,
And there are times when it causes controversy.

Ignite the spiritual fire within my being to live into my call
With creativity and courage.

God of all spaces and times,
Pursue me if it looks as if I will quit,
If writings are rejected,
And I feel like my calling makes no difference.

Remind me each day that I use these gifts to glorify you,
To create a justice-filled world,
And to take the droplets of love and fill them into the gaps of our fractured world.  Amen.

April, Fiona, and the People We Are Missing

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pexels-photo-83901This article was originally published at the SONKA UCC blog.

Like much of the greater Cincinnati area, I’ve been following the progress of the young hippopotamus Fiona. It’s amazing and inspirational to see her improvement each week. Likewise, I pop in to see how the gestational period of April the giraffe is progressing. It’s a nice distraction from the tough stories we read about in the news or the difficulties in our own lives.

But as we focus our attention on April and Fiona, what is going on with the stories we don’t hear much about?

The other day, I saw a story on how 14 young women of color went missing in the Washington D.C. area in one day. The information was not correct. However, as solid facts became more visible, we still see a pattern of young people (especially women) of color disappearing in the area. While the numbers have been decreasing in the past couple of years, there is still concern for the number of women of color who are missing.

Assumptions are made on their disappearance, believing that they ran away instead of considering that something more sinister is happening, like kidnapping and human trafficking. If the young women did run away, some have not been investigating why they left as there could be abuse in the home. Little media attention has been given to the issue – especially if the missing person is a person of color.

While the false claims of the initial post drew me into the conversation, as I did more investigating online, I still noticed that young women of color were still not given the media attention they deserved.

And while I love to see hippo Fiona making progress and giraffe April waiting to have her calf, our call is to make certain that news stories about marginalized human beings have just as much media attention.

Do we pay more attention to animals and some human beings of privilege than other human beings in our society? Do people who are marginalized feel like the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7, just wanting the equivalent of attention to their well-being as we give Fiona the hippo or April the giraffe?

What can we do to be an active part of making people aware of critical issues? First and foremost, we work to ensure that we are following and reposting information that is factual.  Secondly, we post information that can raise awareness of issues of groups of people who have been largely ignored by news stories. We talk about these issues in our worship services and in other faith formation opportunities in our congregations. Third, we work to remove our own biases to see that humans very different than us are experiencing real challenges in their lives that we cannot understand. We avoid assuming that their behaviors are done out of defiance and rebelliousness and, instead, ask for investigations into why they are missing or leaving home.

It’s a wonderful break from the ugliness in our world to see Fiona growing and April about to give birth. But through social media and our networks, we are given the opportunity to discover what is going on with our sisters and brothers on this earth and work to guarantee that they are treated as we would want to be treated. Young women of color’s lives matter, they are children of God and made in God’s image.

Lent Day 20: A Prayer in Listening for God’s Call

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Divine Paver of Paths,

As we continue in the wilderness journey of Lent
Our hearts are open as we listen for your call.

This is the time when we focus on where you intend for us to go.
This is the season for us to listen… and listen more.

Whether we have come across a fork in the road
Or we have a large stone blocking our next steps
This is the time we look to you, God.

We are called to serve you… but how?
Where are you calling us?
What gifts will we use?
We continue to be open and wish we could hear you more clearly.

So we will trust that your voice will come through when it’s time for us to move.
We believe that all will come together.
We step in faith even when fog covers our passage
And we know you are with us in every step.  Amen.

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Lent Prayer Day 13 – A Prayer for Our Trauma Triggers

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God of the connections between yesterday and today…

The past lingers behind us closely like shadows- a sinister presence that we are never able to completely leave behind.

One word. One smell. One song, and we are ushered back into the cobweb-filled corners of our souls.

One conversation on the television. One article online, and we are transported to a place we never thought we would relive.

The words that beat her up reminds us of the words that pummeled our souls. The sharpness of images are razors to our minds.

Now that we are stuck in a yesterday place, God, drive us back to today.

Grasp our hands as we work together to close the doors that have remained opened for decades. Be like cool waters and wash over our bruised souls to renew us.

Grant that today is reserved for today only- with just bits of room set aside for happy snapshots of the past and tomorrow’s dreams. Amen.

Today, I Persisted

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img_7961About a month ago, in the midst of my horrific pain, I wrote most of this blog post.

Today, bits of the pain still linger, but I feel much better already. Yet reading this which I wrote when I felt so much less hopeless makes me realize how far I’ve come and reminds me of my persistence and resilience.

And so, on this International Women’s Day, I share with you.

At this point of my life, I needed to hear he word “persist” over and over and over again.

Thanks to the resilience of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, words written by Corretta Scott King were brought alive again in order to protect our Union.

Of course, like most women even in the twenty-first century, we are shushed, told our opinion does not matter, or ignored altogether.

I try to acknowledge this over and over. But sometimes, I’m not privileged. Sometimes, I’m muddling through life with a belly full of ache and a energy system that is zapped. My skin color is privileged, but my insides ache and hold me back.

Once again, I’m struggling with endometriosis.

I’ve learned well how to push through the pain to achieve what I need to. But sometimes it’s just not enough to barely make it through to survive. I work, but I’m not fully living.

When I read all of the sexism and misogyny that’s happening in our country and world, and I see what friends have and do experience, it’s time to claim that we deserve more than the crumbs under the table. We deserve to have health and food and equality. We deserve for our voices to be heard.

And at a time when my pelvis aches and my aggravation increases daily with the dismissal and silencing of women, hearing the word “persistence” and the stories to go along with the word is refreshing.

We need to hear the stories of our sisters who worked for suffrage. We need not only to listen to the stories of our sisters of color, transgender sisters, and lesbian sister, but acknowledge the additional hurdles they have overcome. We need to tell each other our tales and not dismiss what another woman says because we haven’t experienced the same.

I needed the tenacity of Elizabeth Warren today. I need the enduring words of Corretta Scott King. I need to see Malala Yousafzai rising from her injuries and advocating for women all over the world. I still need to see the presence of Hillary in public and private because- even after all of the criticisms and losses, she still continues on. I need the stories of the women in Scripture who persisted: the Syrophoenician woman, the woman with the hemorrhage, Tamar, Vashti, Esther, and more. And I need to hear the stories of my endosisters who continue on one procedure to the next but never giving up.

The more we see women pushing and pushing beyond the boundaries of “no” and “maybe later” to “yes” and rising from the ashes of pain and failure and sexism, the faster we will heal in body, mind, and soul.

 

Lent Day 7: A Prayer for Completing Reports

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God of all spaces-
Including the ones that need to be filled on paper-
May your Spirit bring together symbols and letters and numbers
As I complete this report.

With the work almost as loathsome as taxes,
I approach the paper or online form
With trepidation and exhaustion.

If ever there is a time I would think that you roll your eyes at me,
Divine Parent,
It’s when a report is due.

Psalm 139 says that you know me and have searched me
So you know that my perfectionist ways
Weigh my soul as I finish this project.

May I stop overanalyzing and overthinking,
May I stop getting distracted
And picking up my phone to Facebook or online news
And finish the darn thing.

And when I complete this dreadful assignment, God,
Help me find a way to celebrate this ghastly simple task
With a nap.

Amen.

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Lent Day 2: A Prayer for Cabin Fever

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pexels-boredomGod of the details and big pictures,
Of each cell in our brains and beat of our hearts,
We come to you in our blasé state.

When counting cracks in the wall
Or watching the second hand on the clock,
Cabin fever has officially exceeded its maximum tolerated time.

Winter needs to leave.
The snow has stayed too late.
The chills have overtaken every corner of our habitat.
And spring yearns to exhibit her blossoms.

The aches in our bodies have lingered
There is only so many game shows to watch
Or hours of Netflix to binge
Before our insides feel worse than our outsides.

Cabin fever-
When life situations hold us hostage
While adventures call to us for a rendezvous once again.

God of wellness and warmth,
Refresh our spirit in this season of stillness.
Change our situation so that we can resume our daily living.
Grant us the strength to find excitement again.

And as we wait for what we can’t alter to change
Convert our hearts to find joy in this moment-
Spotting the colors above us
Seeking the music surrounding us
And embracing the beauty of each ceiling crack and tick of the clock.

Amen.

 

Ash Wednesday and Human Fragility

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imageToday, I was reminded of my fragility.

It didn’t happen at an Ash Wednesday service.  I wish I could have led one today, immersing my thumb in oil and ashes, looking into the eyes of fellow humans, and reminding them that we come from dust and we will head back there again later in our lives.

Instead, I got my own Ash Wednesday lesson in the form of pain, shots, and a nod to my human frailness from a nurse practitioner.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog a few times recently, I had surgery for my endometriosis.  While I was expecting the recover to go much like it did last time (SWIFT!), unfortunately, the amount of endometriosis and adhesions were greater so more tissue needed to be removed.  That usually means that recovery will reflect the heightened intensity of my endometriosis and what needed to be done during the surgery.

I didn’t return to work on Tuesday.  The pain was bad.  I had a low-grade fever.  And because of all of the discomfort, I met with the nurse practitioner in at the doctor’s office.  Tarodol shot #1 happend on Tuesday, but it didn’t help much.

Sleep was restless, but I was going to be a delusional hero and push through.  Even as late as Wednesday morning, I was intending to go to the Ash Wednesday service.  Earlier in the day, I was still in pain, having problems sleeping and then needing to sleep.  I called back into the doctor for a third day in a row.  They urged me to come back in for my second Tarodol shot in two days for the pain.

While in the office, I saw the nurse practitioner.  Reflecting on our conversation from Tuesday, she noted that I needed to take the extra time to rest.  “For the first surgery, taking one week off to recover makes sense.  For your twenty-fifth surgery (she meant third), you need a couple of weeks.”

Noooooooooooooo!

Laparoscopic surgeries for endometriosis aren’t like knee or shoulder surgeries.  You don’t have wraps or slings or crutches.  Under my shirts and comfy stretch drawstring pants are three fresh scars.  That’s all I see, and others don’t see any of that.  So I don’t look that bad.  And I still don’t know what my insides looked like during the surgery.  I’ll see pictures next week.  In the meantime, I just see three healing scars.  And what I forget is that I may have healed well on the outside, but my internal cells, tissue, and organs are trying to achieve full restoration. .

I look back at my previous laparoscopic experiences.  After my first laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis at the age of 30, I had a long weekend to recover.  Thursday was the surgery, and I was back to work on Monday.  Frankly, I wasn’t ready to return to work, but I mastered the art of pushing myself even when I was sick.

For the second surgery at 39, I took a week – maybe a week and a day.  Like the first surgery, I was still stage 2 endometriosis.

This surgery at the age of 43 – We are going on one week and two days.  I’m not 30 anymore, and based on the report of many adhesions, I’m probably beyond stage 2 endometriosis (the stage diagnosed during the first two surgeries).

Thankfully, my wonderful ecumenical colleagues in ministry were able to lead the service tonight without my presence.  This came in the form of a group email giving me grace and the permission to rest.

Ash Wednesday in pain.  And so I thought to myself out loud in a Tweet:

My pain and my inability to live fully on Ash Wednesday were more symbolic than any ash could give me.  I’m limited.  I’m mortal.  I’m fragile.  I can’t keep going the way I normally do right now because my human body is healing.  I need help.  God knows this.  Other humans know this.

Why can’t I accept this?

Sigh.

Into the Wilderness Once Again

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18304958986_4d0dd2e448_k-2In recent weeks, I had an endometriosis flare-up.

Those of us who have struggled with this particular illness find ourselves in great pain. I’m the type of person who thinks I know fairly well how to deal with this particular type pain and work through it.  With Advil and ice packs as my best friends, I continued to place work as a top priority and kept moving forward the best I could.

But just like the rest of humans on this earth, I am given finite energy.  Unfortunately, all of the friend-time outside of work as well extracurricular activities in which I would like to participate take a back seat as I only had energy to give to work and healing while tending to my flare.

While sometimes ice and Advil are enough to get over flares, this time it wasn’t sufficient.  The pain increased to pretty much all day, every day.

Growing disappointment filled my heart with shadows, and I realized I was back in the wilderness that I had experienced a couple of times before.

I resigned myself to the next steps of what was necessary to remedy the issue.  After weeks of intense pain and having a minimal life outside of work, I escalated the matter and scheduled another surgery.  Thinking about an upcoming surgery distracted my mind.  Will I get sick after the procedure?  Will there be any complications?  Will I have similar challenges as my other two laparoscopic procedures (which I had in 2003 and 2013)?

Once I had the operation, I was required to rest for at least a week.  Granted, the first couple of days I slept quite a bit and didn’t feel once ounce of guilt.  Then the third and fourth and fifth days hit. My spirit yearned to get up and go but my flesh was still weak and healing.  The contradictory nature of my body and soul made me feel guilty.  I should be doing more, I would think to myself.  But my body is human, and patience and grace is something of which I needed to remind myself as I healed.

My recent time in exile reminded me how much I hate hate hate the wilderness – the time in which all of us must face and even admit our fragility and weaknesses.  Lying on the couch and in bed stirred me to wish even more that I was perfect in body, mind, and soul.  Knowing that friends were able to live full lives while I rested in bed frustrated my extroverted spirit.

And yes – I was tempted to get up and do more.  I was tempted to become tough on myself for being in the wilderness again.

But everyone ends up in the wilderness every once in a while, I tried to remind myself.  Even Jesus, the one who was considered sinless or perfect by some, found himself in exile.

I am grateful that every first Sunday in Lent, the Gospel reading is always Jesus heading into the wilderness.  Granted, the story sounds a bit different in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  But hearing about Jesus’ challenges in the wilderness gives us strength.  It helps to know that Jesus was in the wilderness like all of us have been at various times in our lives.  Besides the day of his death, Jesus’ time in the wilderness was some of his most challenging life moments.  And hearing the story over and over and seeing someone come out of the wilderness with a few additional emotional scars but stronger than ever soothes our hurting souls.

So that’s why I write about my times in the wilderness and speak about my endometriosis: our exile stories need to be told and heard.  Even if your life challenges and your wilderness is different than mine, maybe we all won’t feel so alone.  Maybe someone will feel that you can get through the pain.  Maybe someone will schedule the surgery they’ve put off for months now even if you’re afraid.  Maybe someone will leap into a new adventure in life after feeling stuck for months.  Or maybe we will all remind ourselves to embody grace and patience so that our time in exile is more bearable.

I’ll be back to my normal self in a matter of days.  And just like everyone else – I’m sure I haven’t seen the last of my time in the wilderness.  I’ll find myself back there a few more years down the road.  But if we all keep talking about our times in the exile and encourage and comfort one another in our times of trial, then we will find our strength and resilience and move into a future with hope.

 

The Struggle with Grace and Impatience in Healing

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pexels-photo-27335.jpgFive days ago, I had surgery.

It was the third surgery like this one I’ve had: a laparoscopic operation to remove some of the endometriosis from my pelvis.  Three small incisions were made in my lower abdomen in an effort to get to scope and treat my inside pelvic region.

I never look forward to procedures, but by the time I’ve made the decision to have surgery, I’ve been suffering with pain.  While I’m still working, my life beyond work is minimal.  For someone who is an extrovert like I am, this is not living.

So I had the procedure.  All seemed to have gone well.  But each and every surgery brings worries along with it as well as knowledge of post-surgery living.

In the days following surgery, I’ve noticed a pattern.  The first couple of days, I’m extremely exhausted, and my body is in healing mode.  My days are filled with nap upon nap.  Then I’ll move into the next phase in which I know I’m feeling better.  I can’t do much physically as I’m still very sore.  My body yearns to heal but my spirit wishes I could be among the living again.  My extroverted self is being crushed by the mandatory rest period.

So, besides sleeping, here’s what I’ve done in the past few days:

  • Watched television
  • Watched Netflix
  • Watched HBO Go
  • Watched whatever is On Demand
  • Watched YouTube videos
  • Watched a video I rented from Amazon
  • Watched Jeopardy each night
  • Read many, many articles
  • Tweeted
  • Colored in my Lisa Frank coloring book.

I’ve done a little work here and there as well – from designing some social media posts to making a few phone calls.  Yet I’m exhausted both physically and mentally, so my energy comes in small waves.

I’m not the only young-ish person I know trying to recover from illness or injury.  Friends of mine have been placed on bed rest, and I have this notion that it hasn’t been too much fun for them to rest either. We are “jump into life with both feet” people, and this necessary time off is against our nature.

What we must be reminded of is that the healing process isn’t an overnight thing.  In scripture, we see Jesus healing, and all of a sudden his ailing followers are completely well.  Jesus didn’t ask them to spend a week in bed after he heals them.  Lazarus didn’t take additional time to rest after his resurrection.  The woman with the hemorrhage didn’t need a week to gain back her strength after touching the hem of Jesus.  Their healing was instantaneous.

My healing is not.

In real life, the way Jesus healed is not how realistic recovery works.  When God gives us healing, our responsibility is to rest and follow medical advice as part of the recovery process.

Let’s face it: instant gratification is a drug in our world.  We consider the rest time as a luxury and not a mandate.  When we realize that we can not escape a mandatory rest period with an illness, surgery, or injury, then we often feel guilty.  Our work has always taken top priority – why rest when we should be carrying a normal work load only days after a surgical procedure!

This is when the Sabbath commandment is crucial.  Sabbath is not only about building our relationship with God, but caring for the relationship with ourselves.  Our self-care is needed for us to heal properly so that we can follow God’s call for our lives and work diligently down the road.

I’m trying not to feel guilty about all of the naps I’ve taken in the past few days or zoning out as I color in my Lisa Frank coloring book or rewatching old episodes of Parks and Recreation for the billionth time.  God needs me to take this time right now to build my body as God will need me to work hard a few days and weeks down the road.