The other day, my mom brought us a bag of frozen blueberries, because she knew our boys like to have them as a snack, and we were out of blueberries. While I appreciated the gesture, I hesitated. Why?! Why, you might ask, would you hesitate, when your kids’ nana brings them a HEALTHY snack (as opposed to sending them home hyped up on sugar, like many loving nanas are wont to do)?
Well, I hesitated, because blueberries are one of those things that I try to hold a little bit sacred as a food that we eat in season, or until our local, u-pick batch runs out from the previous summer. If the boys didn’t want to stay in the field long enough to get enough berries to last through the entire year in the freezer, tough luck. No more blueberries until June.
Have you ever tasted a sun-warmed Oregon blueberry, fresh off the blueberry bush? Sweet and tangy, warm and luscious: just the right amount of squish and substance.
Truth be told, my boys generally don’t want to spend any more time in the field because they have eaten so many that they have nearly made themselves sick. We’re working on that. One year at a time.
Today I am God's. Let me be cut down, redistributed, rebuilt from the ground up.
So much of me wants to be good already. To have everything figured out, to never fail. And so I'm constantly lamenting how I mess up; I'm not perfect; I've let my expectations down. Then I'm free to hate myself, because who would love someone who's not perfect? And I feel justified in avoiding other people because (it feels) I don't deserve them.
When I'm the arbiter of my own goodness... it's more than I can take. When I act like I am deeply, fundamentally, irreparably bad... it invites abuse.
Then the hardest thing is to turn all this over to God.
I am torn because the last six months have been really crazy. And I want to write about them. But I don’t know how to do it anymore.
I try to write about the place I find myself in right now, but each time I write a sentence and then delete it. I am so tired. I cannot defend my feelings anymore. I cannot explain all of the situations in the last 10 years or even four years or even four months or even four weeks that have helped me question my sanity. I feel like all I can do is find and hold the broken pieces of what I wanted to be. I can’t even explain what went wrong anymore. I just know that I’m holding broken things – broken pieces of something that used to be whole – and they are pointy and heavy things and my hands are bleeding.
And I am tired of making my bruises and cuts and scars teaching tools. I know it is good, but I am tired. It’s confusing and complicated. This often feels like the only way I know how to make meaning out of the pain – I want to point to the scar and say, “Look. This is real. Let’s not do this to others.” I want to point to my scars and say, “Hey, me too.”
I was alone in my bedroom the night I decided to follow Jesus. I was sixteen years old, and I was done with religion. But I couldn't stop thinking about Jesus.
I’d grown up in the Unification Church, and Jesus was barely a part of the cosmic narrative there. Actually, what I knew about Jesus was that – among our very ecumenical pantheon of sages and saints – he was a failure. But there was something about Jesus. His grace. His forgiveness. His sacrifice. Something about Jesus that spoke to my condition. He was absurd. And beautiful.
Jesus had shaken my faith before that night. In my sophomore year of high school, I attended a Mormon ward for six months, hoping that I might meet Jesus there. But I never received the promised "burning of the bosom,” so I gave up.
Later, as I tried to detox from religion and keep my distance from anything “spiritual,” my desire to know Christ kept coming back. I didn't want to be a Christian. I didn't want to have to listen to shitty Christian rock music or vote Republican or reject evolution. And more than anything, I didn't want to be seen as a nutty born-again. But I wanted Jesus.
A drum circle is fundamentally a listening exercise.
As the drummers play together, a pulse emerges, a pattern that they are all following. Once this pulse has been established, things get interesting. Some drummers will want to build on the pulse, playing around or in answer to what they hear, which eventually shifts the pulse to something new, maybe something exciting. Others prefer to rest in the foundation of the established pulse.
The thing is, an effective drum circle needs both—in fact it thrives off of the dialogue between where we are and where we are going. If everyone stays with the pulse, the drum circle becomes repetitive and stagnant. But if everyone tries to push ahead, the group loses clarity and becomes chaotic. The power of the drum circle's sound is in the common beat that grounds it. It only works if we all enter in with what we have and contribute as we can.
I chatted with the church ushers in the sanctuary while they handed out bulletins before worship. We joked that I’d keep my eyes on them to get the signal for when to stop preaching. A gentleman in his eighties smiled and said, “Please don’t babble on because then we start squirming in our seats.” I promised to keep my message on point.
The main point of my visit was to open conversations about mental illness, based on my first book Blessed are the Crazy. I’ve learned that when I share about how my family is impacted by mental illness, it gives other people permission to share their stories.