It’s hard to be here sometimes. The mix of past losses and traumas, present pain and relational strain and future fears can be so daunting to one tiny soul like myself. I was hardwired from the factory to be quite tender, born onto a mud ball and society that seems to cater to people the opposite of that. With the year I’ve had so far it’s easy to adopt the idea that God/the universe/grace/someone isn’t a fan of me and brought me here into the world to tell me so. It can be easy to see my physical and emotional pain as exhibits A-G for this idea and I often get trapped in that mind-screw.
We humans have a knack for reaping what we sow. If I believe God put me here to punish me for being this particular type of human, I’ll start to see evidence of that belief everywhere. I’ve spent way too many years secretly thinking this might be the case, and have wasted so many opportunities to wake up and feel hopeful and free, to do my work here. Being hardwired to be tender doesn’t just mean I feel the pain deeply, it means I have the capacity to experience the joy and passion of life deeper still. And what’s better than hearing the stories of a joy-filled, passionate person?
A defeated soul is a shut down soul, and people who are shut down tend to shut up. But I wasn’t put here to shut up. I was put here to give words to my experience of being me (the only experience I fully know), to see the love and glory in my own small life, to share it however I can. Maybe I’m just too old for this shit but I’m getting fed up with the lie that the universe hates me or that God is a punitive being who wants to punish me for being me. A new regime is rising up in my chest cavity and it involves a vigilant pursuit of beauty, grace, humor, joy, self-friendship, and the belief that I am irrevocably loved and the beloved.
Lately I’ve adopted a new practice. I wake up every day and believe that God, Jesus and The Spirit of Grace are BURSTING at the seams with wild love and insane delight over me. I choose to believe that Grace, the force of love that broke the universe wide open at the beginning, is crazy about me, is after me, is conspiring to do GOOD and beautiful things for me (and everyone else) each and every day. My only job is to wake up, be open, and celebrate when the magic happens! This grace is there daily whether I choose to see it or not, but seeing it gives me a completely new posture and a new perspective on my suffering.
I recently spent a few days with my friend, Ruthie Lindsey. Ruthie was in a catastrophic car accident years ago that broke several vertebrae in her spine. The accident lead to a surgery gone wrong that lead to another surgery followed by intense, daily, chronic pain. Around the same time, in an unexpected turn of events, she lost her father. Despite being dealt a horrific hand in this life game, Ruthie is always looking for ways to say “thank you.” She actively seeks out the chance to share joy, beauty, music, hope, love, and light with others. Barely a week goes by when she doesn’t publicly say “thank you” to “God, Universe, Santa, Jesus..”, as she calls it. As a result, she is a light-filled human. Her pain doesn’t steal from her or define her, but it gives her renewed purpose to find the pearl admits the sludge of life and share it.
I had a migraine a few nights ago that lasted long into the next day. These episodes stretch anywhere from 4-8 hours and can leave me in a pain hangover for 2-4 days. Days are stolen, not just hours, and I lose out on memories with my kids, sometimes big ones. This one hit in time for our oldest son’s drum competition.. the thing he’d been working towards all year and was most nervous about. I laid in bed hurting while he played pieces he’d practiced religiously for judges twenty miles away, without his mom to help calm his nerves or cheer him on. But instead of hating the sludge of life and focusing on it, I made a pact with Grace. I laid there in my bed and told Grace, “I’m going to be looking for you today and I know you will show up because you are conspiring to do good for me.” Just like that, grace started to show. She came in the form of a beautiful conversation with a friend, in the companionship of my six year old to come hug me and bring me a fizzy water, in the form of a good book from the library, in the form of a long restorative nap.
After dinner, after the competition was over and our boy was home, my headache was bearable again, so we decided to take the boys out for ice cream to celebrate. Despite me not being there, Micah had kicked ass. His nerves didn’t take over and he’d earned himself two trophies for outstanding performances – the highest honor. As we sat outside of the ice cream place, celebrating and catching up, Zion pointed out a bright yellow race car that was passing by. The boys all marveled at it, since it’s somehow in their DNA to do so, and I glanced at the license plate as it drove away and just had to laugh, “GRRACE” it read. Grace had done what it does.. it had shown up in my life and in the lives of my beloved ones once again – overtly!
It’s hard to be here sometimes, absofuckinglutely! But I’m looking for the pearl lately more than I’m looking at all the sludge. The sludge is with us, and there’s nothing we can do about it, it’s not going anywhere. It will get us down, it will kill us if we let it, but there is so much beauty and light to be found amidst all that sludge. Grace is the pearl in the middle of it all, and Grace isn’t going anywhere either. It’s relentlessly committed to letting us know we are loved and we are here for good things. All we have to do is start looking for it, start saying “thank you”, and we’ll see it everywhere.