Tastes change

I’m trying to do what my spiritual director said and invite Jesus into this feeling.  I’m trying to let him be the gold that glues the pieces back together. 

Sometimes I don’t even want the old pieces anymore.  Sometimes I want it all to crumble away and have it all be filled again, new – a new pot or plate, or bowl.  To burn it all away in a refinery fire.  To have the good separated from the bad by the refining fire of God.  I want to be harvested and reaped and burn away and reborn and not be broken.  To not build on my past and my emptiness. 

I know God made me the way he made me because he needs me this way but now I feel that it is time to start anew.  (But it isn’t about what I feel)  I want to have a fire in my soul.  Start fresh, with new-to-me dishes and towels.  I’d probably buy new sheets.  But otherwise I’m OK with Goodwill.  I think there is a lot of God to be found in Goodwill.  But I digress. 

I am reshaping myself.  Or, I am allowing myself to be reshaped.  I am feeling my way into this new life and trying to see it as a child – that everything is new and worthy of testing.  Try it, you might like it.  I’m open to trying all the things that I tried in the past to see if I’ve changed.  Kale?  I like it.  Anything more than half a bar of chocolate – I’m a PMS monster.  What a surprise!

Tastes change and that isn’t just about your tongue.  This is for and against.  It is good to be open.  Don’t go with what has always been just because it has always been.  It might be holding you back.  It might be a crutch.  You might be allergic.  Treat every experience as a new thing.  Lean into it.  Feel it out.  Touch it, smell, it taste with new senses.  And be thankful.  It is good to be thankful for what you are about to receive, rather than what you just got. 

Everything is a gift. 

This is backwards and yet it is the Way.

I haven’t heard God in a while but I also haven’t been journaling or reading the Bible or any other religious book.  It is hard to hear when you are talking so much. 

(started 3/3/2013, updated 5/11/20)

Poem – middle

I hate the middle bits
the in-between
the waiting.

I like starting school
and graduation
but not all the days
of work
in between.

I like getting a tattoo
and having one
but not the middle bit,
the healing time.

I hate this waiting
for her to die
from her cancer.
Each phone call, each text
could be the one
to say
she’s passed.

Life on pause,
in the middle,
isn’t a life
at all.

But it is the middle that
gets to the end.

It is the middle that is
the reason
for the beginning.

It is the waiting that
seasons the sauce.

Babies take
nine months,
not just for them
but also for us
to get ready
in body, mind, and soul.
If nothing else to make a room

We need these transitions,
these spaces between,
these middle bits.

They aren’t in the way.

They are the way.

Happiness is a front

A Volkswagen bug is a car that brings smiles to people. People smile when they see it. I notice this every time I go for a drive. I think it brings back good memories from their childhood. I also think there’s something special about the shape – all curves and no angles – that is soothing to see.

But the new Volkswagen bug is very difficult to repair. It isn’t as easy as the original ones were. Apparently you have to take almost the entire engine apart in order to fix anything. The designers who created it didn’t think that it would ever break down, so they didn’t make it easy to repair. This means it costs hundreds of dollars in labor every time I have to take this thing in.

So behind the smile there’s a lot of pain for me. The bystanders don’t know this.

This is very true for a lot of happy people. They aren’t happy because nothing bad has happened to them. They’re happy because bad things have happened to them and they’ve grown through them and because of them. The bad things made them stronger. Other people see their happiness and it spreads to them. Meanwhile, they don’t know how much work was required to get to that point.

Little seed

Little seed, reach up.
Reach up to the light.
What light, you say? What light?
All I see here is darkness.
I’m surrounded by dirt and dark and worms.
It is wet. It is sad.
I am sad.

Reach up, I say. Feel that tug. Feel the warmth pulling you up.
Feel the pull of the earth pulling you down.
Soon you will burst forth, break from your shell,
break forth with a shoot going up
and roots going down.

Soon your shell will soften
and the old curiosity will grab hold of you
and make you stretch stretch stretch
like a cat, like a yogi
away from where you are
to where you need to be.

Soon you’ll see what all the fuss is about.
Soon you’ll see why I’m cheering you on.

Sunlight! The warmth of the day tickles your tiny
tender shoots.

Rain! The water, like honey, bathes you, feeds you, blesses you.

You are blessed and baptized in this rain, this gift, this beauty.

You never knew the blessing that was sun,
you’d never know the bounty that was rain,
if you’d stayed hidden away in the dirt.
If you’d stayed there, you’d never know
this other life,
this life on the other side
of here
and now.

On salamanders – part one. (The heat is on.)

I have a tattoo of a salamander on my right shoulder. I got it probably five years ago. It is specifically a Yonahlassee salamander. They only are found on Grandfather Mountain, which is in North Carolina. There are bluets surrounding it, and they grow on Grandfather Mountain in May. That is where my husband and I spent our honeymoon, and when we got married. It is a reminder, and a promise. It is a marker of the past and of the future. But there is even more to it.

I’ve loved the idea of salamander for many years. I was in a medieval re-enactment group and used the salamander as the animal on my device. I guess you could say it is my totem. The salamander may not look scary or fierce, but there are hidden strengths to it. The salamander was a medieval Christian symbol of “strength through adversity” because they thought it walked through fire. They would notice that salamanders would come out of a forest that was on fire, and they would often come out very late after the fire started. They wouldn’t come running out at the beginning of the fire like the rest of the animals did. They also would notice salamanders coming out of a log that had been set on fire in a fireplace, so they also thought that salamanders were born from fire.

Now, science wasn’t a strong suit for medieval Christians. In reality, salamanders sleep a lot of time in rotting logs. They love the moisture and the quiet, and how safe they are. They use the logs to hide from enemies because they can’t be seen in there. So when there is a forest fire, they are often the last to know. They are curled up all snug in that log and they get warm when the fire is going full force. They escape the fire late because they are aware of it late. They can’t exactly run because they have really short legs. I’m sure that a lot of salamanders die trying to escape the forest fire. But, they do have really moist skin so they have a small level of protection from heat.

But the symbolism remains.

I like the idea of them because they are very small but they survive. They make it through the storm. They endure. In the midst of something bad, they don’t run away. I’m reminded of the Hindu image of God called Ganesh. Ganesh has the attributes of an elephant. Instead of walking around obstacles, he walks through them.

Somewhere in the middle of last night I was up again because I was too hot. Middle age will do that to you if you are female. The heat wakes me up. I’ve learned to just get up for a little bit and cool down. These days I write during this time. It is a quiet enough activity that doesn’t wake my husband up or get me so engaged that I can’t go back to sleep. Plus, writing helps get the words out of my head.

In the middle of writing last night I realized that the salamander is a good symbol for this time too. It walks through fire. This fire of perimenopause is pretty annoying, but instead of seeing it as a bad thing, I can use it as a chance to transform myself. I can see it as a sign that I am changing, and becoming a wise woman. This time is a time of growth, of shedding my old self and growing into my new self. Or maybe I need to think of it as the self that was always there, just hidden beneath layers of stuff that was put on me. It is an opportunity to strip down and make a leaner, faster, better me.

I’m thinking of it as if I was going on a journey, and I keep finding out that the more I carry, the shorter the distance I can go. The more I get rid of, the faster I am. The stuff to get rid of isn’t just stuff – it is ideas and old ways of thinking. It is relationships that aren’t healthy. It is anything that doesn’t serve, isn’t useful, and doesn’t work anymore.

In fact, some bits never worked in the first place. Some of it is stuff that was given to me – either real, tangible things, or instead they are ways of thinking – that never worked at all but I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know that there were other choices, and that the person giving them to me wasn’t healthy or healing for me. Not all people who say they are teachers or leaders really are. And everything should be tested. Is it true? Is it helpful? Does it work? Does it fit with other things that I know to be true and helpful?

Sometimes the best teacher is to be found in that still small voice, that quiet moment when you have that “ah-ha!” in the middle of the storm, where it all comes together and makes sense.

I’m becoming grateful for the fire inside, the heat that I’m feeling these days. It is waking me up.


The holy spirit is a tricky one. It is flashy and showy.

Sometimes it is depicted with the color red. Red is fire and transformation. It means stop. It is action. It is blood. It is part of why there are prohibitions against eating meat that still has blood in it. Blood is part of the Spirit. A body that has no blood in it is dead. The blood moves. It gives life and sends nutrients to the cells.

But today it is calling to me in blue. It is the bright blue of police lights (thankfully not pulling me over). It is a deep sky blue of the sky, of the ocean. It is catching my eye today, everywhere I look.

Mary wore blue. Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit. Mary allowed the Spirit to get as close as possible, to know her and be known by her. It is that blue, and that purpose.

I am my beloved and my beloved is mine.

Am I willing to let Jesus in that closely, that intimately?

What am I afraid of?

Even if I never jump in that ocean, he is still there. As near as I’ll let him. The closer I let him, the more he can do.

Blue. Blue of depth, of healing, of breath.

Come, Lord Jesus. Look into my eyes and see yourself.

Let me be OK with this. Let me not be afraid. And when I am afraid, fill in the gaps with your love, fill up my brokenness and my fear and my anger. The gaps are how you get in.

Celebrate them.

Blue upon blue upon blue.

The blue beyond, the drowning. Can I swim? Am I strong enough yet? Am I ready? Am I pushing too hard too fast?

That frog and his tail.

The tale of the frog.

There was a time when I was young and we’d caught some tadpoles in a pond. We brought them home in a plastic cup and put them in a big pan on the porch. I watched them grow, and saw their little legs come out. I was so eager for them to become frogs that I decided to help them – to pull on their tails to get them to come off sooner.

This didn’t work. The frogs died.

Now, perhaps they died because they weren’t getting fresh water because they were in a pail on my porch, but that isn’t the point of the story. I remember this as a lesson to be patient, and let things take their course. People don’t transition from swimming to hopping in one quick motion.

But I’m transforming. I can feel it. Maybe this is why I like salamanders so much. They are land and water creatures. Both. Not either-or.

Come, Lord Jesus,

Let it be unto me according to your will.

Even standing in the shallows you overwhelm me.

Love. Don’t resist. Let it happen. I’ve got you. I made you and I know what you can handle.

This is weird. Who is writing these words? Who is speaking with my mouth?


(This was written just after visiting with my spiritual director.)

Get your way (get out of your way)

There was a mom who came in the library recently. She picked out a bunch of books with her young son and then came up to the front desk to get a library card. Then she found out that because she lives in a different county she would have to pay a $50 annual fee to use this library.

She handled it perfectly. Some people get indignant. Some will shout “This is a free public library!” This is illogical. The books have to be paid for somehow. They don’t magically appear. Some think they are being clever and ask if they can use their relative’s address in this county. Or they ask to use the address on their license, which they have already admitted isn’t where they live.

Don’t try to get me to help you lie. It isn’t going to work. I’m not going to get fired for something stupid. I’m ok with bending some rules, but not the ones that I totally agree with. This one I agree with. You get what you pay for. Library funding in this state comes out of property taxes. You have to provide proof of current address to get a library card. It isn’t much to ask for to get to read all the books you want for free.

This lady not only took it in stride, she helped her son with it. He was distraught that he couldn’t get these books. He was sobbing, and his voice was going up in pitch and volume. In his mind, we were stealing from him. Some parents have not known how to deal with this strong emotion from their children and turn it back on the staff. Some have actually spun on us and said “you tell my daughter why she can’t have her books”. This is bad parenting.

We are strongly discouraged at work from saying what we want to say. Sometimes we are provided scripts for tricky situations. This is not one of those that we have a script for. I’m pointing out the ways this interaction has gone wrong in the past to illustrate how surprising this one was.

This mom picked up her son and hugged him. She patted him on the back. She made consoling sounds. And she totally took the blame. She realized that she should have checked about getting a card before she got the books with him. And she let him cry it out. She didn’t distract him. She let him have his emotion.

We are not comfortable with strong feelings. We are so afraid of them in ourselves and in others that we often try to cover them up or run right through them.

Breathe through them. Let them happen. If you push them down or shove them aside they will resurface in uglier ways, with terrible faces. Resentment becomes alcoholism. Being abused becomes incessant pain, stomach upset, or road rage. Feeling left out or ignored produces a bully.

It is ok to not get your way all the time. It is the mark of a well adjusted person who can handle that. It isn’t the feelings that are the problem. It is what you do with them. We’ve either forgotten that, or we never learned it. We want to push through the bad feeling straight to the good feeling. We shortchange our growth when we do this. Our society teaches quick fixes and instant gratification. Nothing good comes of this. There is no abiding sense of satisfaction that comes from this.

I remember once I’d spent the day hiking the dry riverbed at Fall Creek Falls state park with a friend. It was a bear of a hike. What would have been a 6 mile hike was more like 11 because it wasn’t a straight path what with climbing up and down the boulders in the riverbed. We were sore. We were exhausted. We hadn’t quite prepared for this.

When we finally got to the end, we went to the restaurant and had a fine meal. We were surrounded by people who had just driven there. We’d spent the day hiking, and they’d spent the day driving.

I have a strong suspicion that we appreciated our meal more.

The same is true with maturity. It takes the long path, and a lot of hard work. There are no shortcuts. And part of getting there is pain. But pain can be transformative. It can be alchemical. Work with it, and through it, and because of it. You’ll savor life more. Sure it hurts. But as Carl Jung says “There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”