Relationship Building

September 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

I’ve confirmed plans without almost every church on our list. After several delightful conversations today, it’s all settling into place. Only two of our original list turned us down.

My first conversation with Lauri from the Cathedral Church of Saint Paul in Springfield, Illinois was an exciting one. She really responded to our project, and to my enthusiasm. Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd married in that parish. I so wanted to add them to this project because of their rich history. They were the only cathedral on the list, as well. In the end, there was no open to open the Cathedral to us on the day we’d be in Springfield, so Reverend Brodie declined our visit.

Still, this is the Holy Spirit’s trip. There must be a reason the we were instead steered towards Saint Paul’s in Carlinville, Illinois. The church itself has a long history, over 150 years of it, and some unique architectural features. Father Bettman also told me about his other church, which only three people attend! I can’t wait to see these churches. Really, it is churches like these are the foundation of this trip. I’m excited to add two more.

Another refusal came from Saint Luke’s in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I so wanted to visit there. Their wood frame church is a Christmas card classic. I would love to have shot it at twilight beneath a quilt of snow. Unfortunately, Saint Luke’s has a heavy schedule around the time we would be arriving, so things are too hectic for them to participate. Father Bell instead referred us to a church in Wallace Idaho, Holy Trinity.

The answering machine for Holy Trinity directed me to a woman named Mary Kay. I can’t get enough of these conversations with Episcopalians! Every passionate word I speak about inclusion, love, compassion and peace, meets a mirror reflection of my own ardor. When I share my feelings about the uniqueness of the Episcopal Church, how they cut through the barriers and serve up food for the soul, Episcopalians leap to agree. It’s awesome. Mary Kay added her voice to this heaven-on-earthly chorus, giving me a whiff of the deep peace that comes from this kind of communion.

We are making contacts and friendships from coast to coast, sisters and brothers who share our passion and commitment, who understand our fervor. And I do mean “our”. When I told my son that he could have his first ever root beer float at Father Goeke’s soda fountain, he got very excited; but not as excited as he got when I told him that Father Goeke would be giving us communion. That kid is Episcopalian, through and through.

When one door closes, another one opens. I am open to the possibility that Saint Paul’s and Holy Trinity hold something for us not to be missed. After all, this whole project has flown just beyond the reach of my fingertips. I’m chasing it like a lilting butterfly across the landscape of this new dream. I think sometimes we don’t even know what we want until we’re in the middle of it. Let the spirit lead you, and see what happens.

my sweet son and his friend



God Brings Forth Prisoners Into Freedom

September 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

God gives the solitary a home and brings forth prisoners into freedom  ~Psalms 68:6

The second half of that verse is, “but the rebels shall live in dry places.” I’m not focused on where the rebels will live, but the first part of that really speaks to me. We are looking for a home, looking for freedom.

The way the trauma shaped my behavior and responses continues to weigh me down. I’m not free. A shadow hangs over my shoulder. A few minutes ago, a friend here at Baristas walked by the back of my chair and knocked on it twice on his way past. I didn’t see who it was, and he disappeared quickly behind a closed door. While he was out of sight, I was in a panic. Wasn’t the man’s height and hair like my abuser’s? Had he come to unleash his demons in this safe place? I know that is irrational; but I can’t completely silence the fear, or the feeling.

My heart has swelled to fill my chest. I asked my friend, Bobby, who had gone in the restroom. He didn’t know. My panic continued to rise as my memory’s eyes scraped every fragment of my recollections. Was he the same height? Hair texture? Build? I once saw someone who looked so remarkably like him that I was on the verge of vomiting. My whole body buzzed with whispers of terror. When I finally realized who it was, the feeling drained like taking a plug from an electrical outlet.

This fear is practiced. It’s a part of my brain’s structure, now. I fall back on “Fake It Till You Make It” and “Act As If”. Another favorite is “Just Do the Next Right Thing.” I shake these out and put them on just about every day. They give simplicity to the things I complicate. They bring it back to a small, doable thing which allows me to step out of the worst of the fear. How long do you have to practice confidence and security to replace panic, helplessness and fear?

I had a great talk with a sister in Iowa we are visiting. We’ll be seeing St. John’s there, a church more than 125 years old. I’ve seen a picture. It is the gingerbread house of Episcopal Churches, a small treasure placed in a grove of trees (it seems from the photo, anyway!). I knew the instant I saw it that I wanted for us to go there. After today’s conversation, I’m even more excited. She shared a special project that the church does with me, tonight. I can’t wait to see and hear more so that I can share it with all of you. I won’t give it away, but it is an incredible project with great depth and feeling.

Today’s reading in the Forward Day by Day emphasized the under-recognized role of women in spreading the good news about Jesus’ ways of love, equality, justice and peace. They told of a woman named Lydia whose influential position in the community encouraged many people to open their hearts to the message. It also pointed out the disciples’ habit of seeking out the places where women congregated to talk about Jesus.

The reading makes me think about my sister in Iowa and her significant contribution to Christ’s mission. I am proud to join her in serving the Episcopal Church. The more I talk to people, the more lifted eyebrows I see when I describe the cut of the Episcopalian jib, the more I see a path taking shape in front of me and the potential that could be realized, the more my focus increases. In that context, there is less room for panic and fear. As the Holy Spirit reveals our purpose, bit by bit, my passion grows.

I am not the kind of rebel that lives in a dry place. According to the world, I’m a rebel; but as far as God is concerned, I’m on the team. I want a part of it. I want to shout the rallying cry for love and peace, for a new way of living with one another. In a world with more love and respect, fewer people would be abused. How can I better share that ideal, and how can I better represent it? I think this is the path that leads to freedom.

Growing and Growing

September 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

Support for Through the Red Doors has been incredible. Church after church has enthusiastically signed on to our project. We’re entering the Episcopalian Wonkaland, days immersed in one rich fellowship opportunity after the other, one dizzying historic church after the other, from hills to plains to mountains to volcanos, one set of wide open doors after the other offers us the warmth of the Episcopal Church through a kaleidoscope of dazzling stained glass. It’s delicious!

Our Rosebud and Pine Ridge Mission is on fire! We have a growing pile of lovingly donated items to take with us to our sisters and brothers there. I opened several boxes today that brought tears to my eyes. A dozen pairs of brand-new, cold weather work gloves, a brand-new cordless drill, new pliers, all kinds of wonderful tools and toiletries were inside. I met the man who donated them here at Baristas. I shared my project with him one evening and, today, he turned up with boxes full of much-needed items. His actions were pure love. This is what it’s all about.

New friends across the country join our sisters and brothers here at home in their energetic support of this project. They are excitedly awaiting our arrival and have so much to show and to share. When we talk about Through the Red Doors, others reflect our passion. This project is going to make an incredible book. Maybe it will necessitate a return trip to see all of our new friends. What a joy that would be!

We are going to visit a local historic church before we get on the road. Saint Paul’s in Sistersville is going to allow us the chance to photograph and learn about their church, which was built in 1885. I can’t wait to share the pictures and history with you. It’s a beautiful little church perched right on the edge of town. I have always wanted to explore the interior of that tiny church.

It takes my breath away to think of getting behind the wheel of that truck next week. Next week! We are still short on gas money, but I have complete confidence that God will not strand us halfway across the country. From the beginning, there has been no way to know what was around the corner. Each day reveals more and leads us deeper into this journey. We will be in good company on the road. From the friends who embrace us at each stop to the team of people praying for us, we are rich with companions. I am so grateful for being given this mission. Thank you, Holy Spirit. I know you will hold our hands through every mile.

Some of the stained glass from our own Saint Ann’s


More Packing and Unpacking

September 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

As I tore though my old closet, I came across some very small clothes. Size small, size six, size 3, even one girls’ sized sweater. I threw them, without hesitation, in the “no” pile. I am never going to wear those clothes, again. It was extreme conditions that got me into those smaller sizes. I went from regular dinners and drinks to one very controlled meal and about five pots of coffee, a day. I didn’t choose that for myself; but it was what I was allowed.

Abusers lay a wicked trap. They have a way of getting inside of your dreams, and your nightmares. Just as you begin to believe your dream is coming true the nightmare begins. It’s hard to let go when you are so deeply ensnared. I used to weep at the implied promises in his tales of bucolic country living. I wanted it with all my heart.

The first time I saw him, my rabbit’s instinct told me to run. There was a flash in his eye the second he saw me. I read it as nerves, or a touch of shyness. He told me quite a story of fall and recovery. He had the right answer to every question, the right remedy for every need. It had nursed a deep longing in me. It was my nervousness telling me he was evil, not anything really present in the man, surely.

The first time he attacked me, he leaped at my throat. I had said I wanted to buy a new power cord for my laptop. He was far too powerful to stop by any available means. After he finally let go, I rose to pack my bag. He tackled me mid-step, driving me to the floor in another strangling grip. He didn’t let me leave.

His eyes went black during those times. Black thumbs pressed right into my own eye-sockets when they fell on me. His limitless fury and absence of humanity swiped at me again and again, removing, erasing. I wasted away, inside and out. Every breath I took was in fear. He promised to torture me to death, and I waited for it. I thought I’d come to the end.

When I got away, I was empty. He had scraped me bare. The world was muted, far away. My own voice was a smothered cry from the edge of the great void. When I was still physically trapped, I used to fantasize about getting away. I would get a job in a local chicken processing plant. I would stand all day or night in the wet slop of carnage ensconced in a cold rubber suit, come home to my tiny apartment, and then cook and eat a simple meal in peace. It was a deep fantasy.

There has been many layers to the healing I’ve nurtured, these past few years. Our friends here, the Episcopal Church, there have been many blessings. Still, some things changed forever. You can’t un-ring a bell; you can’t un-know what you know. I remember. Even without the tiny sweaters and pants, things inside of me are still not the same. It’s like I have my own personal boogeyman. It lurks in shadows, comes through darkened doors. Sometimes, I even see flashes of it in the corners of my vision. Anxiety and uncertainty are persistent hangers-on from the experiences of yesterday.

Can I do this, still broken as I am? Whose voice is that calling me a failure before I’ve even begun? I recognize that old voice. I don’t really have the answers for it. I am excited, but I am also afraid. When I was prisoner, the only thing I could believe in was the imminent end. I sat in my place on the sofa, all day. I drank coffee. I didn’t move without permission. He punched, kicked, and battered away everything I valued about myself. Even as I became a mother, first one of my babies and then the other vanished in my arms. Who I am to believe? Who I am to stand up and walk?

One thing keeps me on my feet, besides my deep love for my youngest son. I don’t know how I dare to even have it, but I am following a sensation from within. I think it’s faith. It’s physical. It vibrates when I pray. Because of what it’s telling me, I am following a trail of bread crumbs across the great, big United States with my sweet babe in my arms.

Something tells me that it’s going to be awesome. From what Richard said in answer to my questions a few weeks ago, I think that is the Holy Spirit. It is telling us to keep our eyes wide with wonder and our hearts full of love. We’ll walk with God, and our sisters and brothers across the nation, as we follow this voice from within. Maybe some of my missing pieces await me on the trail.


Packing and Unpacking

September 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

My throat hurts from breathing dust and my mind hurts from remembering. With the help of my friend and sister of the heart, Jamie, I sorted, packed and discarded all the baggage of the past five years. A swell of pain rose with the dust.

There are some things I try not to see. In the closet sat a sizable green tote that I have learned to block out. Everything that belonged to my son, Erik, is in there. I set my hands upon it and dragged it into the light, setting off a splatter shot of memories and heartbreak. With Jamie at my side there was a temptation to open it. She would care about the contents of that box in a way that most could not. Our eyes met when I said, “These are Erik’s things.”

Jamie is a sister in grief. Her oldest son, Isaac, passed away about a year before Arthur and Erik. There are many brokenhearted things we express without words. There is a peace in that, just being with another grieving mother. The death of a child transforms you into something so foreign that it can make a challenge to fit in. As someone who has never fit in, it’s pushed me further into isolation. Jamie’s friendship has been a soft place to rest my aching heart.

Among the things I sorted for sale was the Medela breast pump given to me when my two oldest boys were born. I was never able to use it as the hospital required I rent one of their hospital grade pumps. Every three hours, I hooked myself up to the machine. I sat through the insistent sensations for only one reason: if I did this, I could one day nurse my babies. Every session with the pump drained me, but the bottles of milk let me cling to the hope that I’d one day nurse my babes.

My son, Erik, learned to nurse exclusively from the breast at only four pounds. It was remarkable to see him nurse. His tiny face and mouth working passionately, his little body snuggling mine. I’d waited so long for that feeling. It made my grief for Arthur sharper, but I fought to stay in the now. The tiny, warm, wiggling thing was mine. His eyes were merry, as if he knew a joke no one else did. We grew closer as he nursed. The day I put down that pump, I could have wept with relief.

Then Erik went back to the hospital. After only two weeks and two days at home, the exhausting bliss of nursing a newborn around the clock came to an end. Erik’s tiny body was once again a hub for wires, tubes, beeps, and technology of every kind. It replaced my arms, my breasts, my kisses and I back in the role of spectator at the bedside of my own child. It was back to the pump.

I sat down in the comfortable arm-chair of the pumping room and began to assemble my gear. With each connected tube, my body shuddered. I closed my eyes, tried to let my mind fly away. I touched the switch and the mechanical mouths awoke. My hands clawed my chair as my head went back. The sound of an animal rose out of my throat and grew into a guttural howl. I screamed again and again, grief without end. Arthur! Arthur! My heart cried out for my child. To the Lord I cried, “Please, don’t let this happen, again!”

I didn’t open that box. I don’t know when I will ever open it, again. I hate that pump with my whole heart. It wasn’t even the pump that violated me, but the sight of it brings it all alive. My sweet boys. I can’t believe I can even take a breath. Just writing this froze the air in my throat. I have to finish typing in this public place and go somewhere quickly where I can let my howl rise, again. My children. This grief is impossible.

This pain slammed the door shut on God, not so long ago. My pain has not gotten any better. No grieving mother I’ve known has ever experienced a lessening of their grief. We learn how to live parallel lives, one is in perpetual grief and the other engages the world. I engage God with both of these grieving people, but I’ve stopped looking for answers. The search for answer nearly drove me insane. I have to be with the love I know was born inside me, the kiss of the Lord on my soul. One day I will have my answers, but not on this earthly plane.

I can’t believe I have been here five years. It seemed like yesterday that I promised myself it would be no more than 2, and that I’d try to forgive past hurts and make the most of it. With my sweet babe’s help, I have made the most of it. I am stunned by the dear friends who surround us here. God takes many forms.


Long-haired Radical

September 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

People get nervous when you talk about Jesus. There is a common misconception that Jesus is for straight-laced conservatives and to have a part of Jesus you have to become one. This is another reason I love the Episcopal Church. Just this past Sunday, Lisa was talking about the radical named Jesus. Every time she or Richard do that, I prick up my ears.

When you put the bible into cultural and historical context it can really change the view. We’ve been reminded many times at Saint Ann’s of Jesus’ disregard for the law. For example, Jesus talked to women. In that day, this was unheard of. Women approached Jesus. By doing that, they risked death. Jesus shared space with women, had conversations with women. Imagine someone today flying in the face of every social norm, of every socially acceptable and even legal thing. That’s what Jesus did.

I identify with Jesus. I am a radical who follows my own inner voice and heart. I get a lot of flack for it. I see the radical, humanitarian heart and mind of Christ reflected in my own values. It draws me nearer. It makes me want to take Him into my heart, to help me grow towards the things I love and admire.

I was sitting in the Baristas Café, today, rushing to finish a flyer for the local Ministerial Association meeting. A brother named Rick approached me. He was a stranger, just being friendly, making contact; but we soon discovered that we had the long-haired radical in common. We were both admirers of the message and trying to walk the path.

He told me about a book he was reading called “Beautiful Outlaw”. The book proposes to share the personality of Jesus the Man, the wit, the passion, the generosity, the outrageous boldness with which he walked and lived. This new contact felt like a gift, an affirmation. People like me don’t attend Ministerial Association meetings, or at least that is the common belief.

I have found my place at the table. There is room for radicals like me. There is room for people who love justice, who love peace. Really, the message of Jesus is a simple one. It all comes down to love. Put it through the filter of love. Whatever gets sifted out is not Jesus. The over-used phrase “God is Love” has lost meaning in its over-use; but think about love. What does it look like? What does it act like? What does it require? Think about it in the context of The Radical. Does it make you want to be radical, too?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.
Matthew 16: 24

Walk as if There is a Road Beneath You

September 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

The force of this adventure is more powerful than the derecho. A few months ago I felt trapped and hopeless. It was a constant fight for equilibrium and peace. Saint Ann’s had become a real sanctuary for us. The ways in which I was both enriched and sustained by her soft embrace kept me afloat during the week. I held my breath from Sunday to Sunday.

The tree broke our bonds. It was like the story of Peter being set free from prison by an angel. A literal door in the roof opened, and we took flight. We’re walking forward as if there is a road beneath us, but it is pure ether. I still don’t know where all of this is going. You can feel the electricity in generates when I talk about it. It has raised hairs and wet eyes. I’ve known from the start that this was God’s plan. We’re being carried on a current of spirit.

I’ve been on the phone for two days, firming up plans with the Churches I asked to participate. The responses I’ve gotten have put me over the edge with excitement. People respond with such energy, mirroring my passion. I am doing the legwork, but i know there is more going on behind the scenes.

Father Goeke, from Saint Mary’s in Nebraska, was effervescent with enthusiasm and resources. His energy fed my energy, and my energy his as we worked our mutual passion into a fever pitch. He said he was tickled pink to be selected for this project. He called it my ministry! Electrifying!

He has a contact at the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota! Visiting that place may be the apex of this project. It takes this project beyond history, beyond adventure and into the realm of social justice. Justice. Just like we talk about in every Sunday service. The chance to open doors to discussions about these important questions just lights me on fire. I can’t believe I get this chance!

We went to one of our favorite hang-outs, Occasions, so I could make the last calls of the day. Our friends Brian, Kim and Patty were there to spend time with Juice while I made the last two calls on my list. I wanted them all in before Sunday, in case congregations wanted to discuss Through the Red Doors in church.

Another inspirational message from Brian, our friend from Occasions.

Another inspirational message from Brian, our friend from Occasions.

I took off my shoes and paced Brian’s floors as I made my calls. The electricity hummed as my feet squeaked against the painted concrete visible between soft rugs strewn on the floors. Objects of beauty and uplifting phrases occupy every space. The sights, scents and warmth of Occasions, another place at which we fill our cups, has had a place in my healing. They have shown us love, and are holding our hands as weave this fantastic adventure. They are a part of it.

Rev. Harrelson from Saint Michael’s in Yakima was my last call of the day. He embraced me with his comfortable way and inviting voice. “Go to wounded knee,” he told me. “It is incredible to look out over that place and think about what happened.” I had found another brother of the soul. Who knows what could happen on an adventure like this.

Take One. A display from the post office.

Coming Out

September 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

My son and I have moved to another home for our last weeks here. Our dear friends at Barista’s have opened their home to us. We couldn’t be more lucky. Barista’s has become another oasis for us. On the main floor is a coffee shop and café, in the basement is a pub with a spacious garden, upstairs some of the owners of the pub reside. Life bubbles all around us here, from the sounds below to the mingled aroma of food and coffee. It’s like resting on a cloud.

From the time I moved to Arkansas, I was underground. No one heard me, no one saw me. Any terrifying thing could happen at any moment of the day. Every part of me that I valued was systematically stripped away. No help was came. He starved me. I got smaller. When I escaped from that hell I was almost gone. Now, I’m so eaten with anxiety that sometimes I can’t catch my breath. It’s kind of like the temperament of mice, nervous and jumpy. They know they are at the bottom of the food chain. I’ve been trained to feel like prey.

There is an inviting pub just two floors down, here at Barista’s.The jolly clanking of glass and the tumble of voices invite you to take part. Before the abuse, there would have been no question. Now, I feel short of breath at the very thought. I tried to come down last night. I was feverish to set up my camera so I could watch J while I socialized. When my foot hit the bottom step, I panicked. My son’s charms mask my awkwardness. Without him, I was lost. I spent the rest of the night in our room.

Tonight, after my boy went to sleep, I took a shower, put on pretty pink clothes and came downstairs. Kim is working tonight. The requests never stop and she never stops answering them. The room continues to swell with laughter and Kim moves faster and faster. Her still presence in the flurry of her movement is my touchstone. I was so worried that she’d think I was staring, pressuring her for attention and service. My anxiety rose to suffocate me while I coached myself to let go. When I told her I wasn’t trying to pressure her she said, “Oh, I know! I knew you’d be patient! You want some of my pizza?” She likes me! A few of my chains clattered to the ground.

It’s another layer opening, a part of our lives moving into something else. We spent two healing months at the church. Our time there, the peace we felt, allowed me time to gather myself, to think. Now I get to learn how to be with people, again; how to live past my self-doubt and fear. It feels almost weird to say it, but it almost seems like a part of the plan.


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