When I Forgot That I Was Fire

Fire. 

Three months old. That's how old I was when my Dad came home from work to find my Mom tightly clenching a book about how to raise strong willed children. She was frantic, maybe desperate, the story goes. Because I was fire. This child in her care was fire. I was a fiery baby. I was a fiery toddler. A kid with passion. I remember the burning. Inside I felt this fire that can only be described as an eagerness so strong I ached. It was like I had something inside of me that had to get out or it would eat me alive. I was loud. I was wild. I had something to say. I had so much to say. I was a girl with a mission. Limits were simply challenges. I didn't need anyone to listen in order to speak. I didn't need to please, only to be free. I didn't need anyone to tell me that the way the world treated me was wrong. No one told me that. But I knew. I knew with the knowing of ancient wisdom born in my soul and flowing free in my spirit, swirling around in a mind not yet subdued. 

But childhood is fleeting and by 11 my fire was suffocating. Inside was a voice but the world had a voice too. I was passion. Dial it back. I was sure. Question. My blood boiled. Calm down. My spirit wandered. Lasso that baby back to Earth, darling girl, you don't belong out there. I was capable. Sit back and feel useless. I was strong. Hold back. I was independent. Woah there, child, know your place. I had a message, a voice, a conscience, a fight, but the world said, "shut up and listen." 

What kind of a world does it take to extinguish the fire of a girl like me? A girl who was told the rules and had no reason to think anything else existed yet she did. She did think there was something else out there. She knew in her bones that life could be more so she raged. How does a fire like that go out so young? Eleven. Believing that voice constantly whispering inside of her to cross the lines they drew around her was a devil inside of her. The voice would whisper, "you've got so far to go," and she'd snap, "hush, you devil, you'll get me in trouble." 

The boys started calling when I was eight. By ten they were aggressive. By eleven I was undone. This fiery girl didn't even know how to say no anymore. The boys were trained to be aggressive and to come after me like a possession they were owed. I was trained to submit, to be their possession. I told boys yes when I meant no. I was quiet when I meant to yell. I was passive when I meant to fight back. I was ruined when I meant to be fierce. I went along with their ideas as to not make waves. I sought peace with them to the detriment of peace for myself. I disappeared, that's what girls do. 

By age 13 there were people saying of me, "she goes through boys like water" yet I still had no desire to even be with a boy. Oh, our world. Nothing in me even wanted to go out with boys yet I had a reputation for being with "too many."  I was tortured because I was born with fire inside of me but it was doused in age old misogyny till all that was left was a pile of hot coals of bitter resentment and self loathing. These coals still burned but never lit with the life giving power fire is meant to give. 

By 15 years old I spent every second of my time with my abusive boyfriend. At the end of my rope, confused and buried in manipulation, I'd snap at him in front of others and they'd ask of me, "why are you so mean to him?" He slammed me against the lockers in the halls of our school and I was called to the school counselor's office to talk about it but he was never approached. I disappeared, that's what girls do. I forgot that I was fire. 

I remember now. I know my fire like an infant recognizes the sound of her Mother's voice. When the voice of the world tells me that I'm extreme when all I really am is tired of the bullshit, I burn on. When the voice of the world tells me to calm down I turn and scream, "calm? What the hell has calm ever accomplished?" When the voice of the world tells me to sit down I stand taller and push my feet into the earth knowing my place exactly. When the voice of the world says that I should just put it all behind me, I tell the story again and louder. When I'm tempted to shrink again I get quiet and listen for the sounds of simmering inside. There she is. Fire. Let her burn. Let her rage. I tend to her, add kindling, reignite her flames and rage on and on with the fire of sisters before me and sisters all across this weary world. 

How did I remember? Women. The women rising up. The women healing. The women working. The women birthing. The women nursing. The women owning their stories. The women preaching. Oh god, the women preaching. The women who stood up in their churches that taught, "a woman is to be quiet, I do not permit her to teach" and they taught anyway, with ferocity and wisdom. The women being who they are, every ounce of who they are. The women unabashedly telling their truth. The women lifting each other off the ground where they were left to die and tending to each other's wounds and bringing each other back to life. The women waking up and moving mountains. Sisters rising. That's how I remembered that I am fire. A whisper from another woman who also remembered that she is fire. We took each other's hands and we burned bright and steadfast and we warmed the cold, dark places of hearts abandoned by this world. 

I am fire. I'll never forget it again. 

 

For the Love of Things: About the Kingdom of God on Earth

They say, "Things can't make you happy" and I get it, I really really do. I know so well what it is to fight for joy in your soul. I know so completely that joy and peace are a choice and that if I don’t make that choice, no thing can get me there. I know that joy and peace are completely attainable for those with absolutely zero THINGS to their name. I know that things even sometimes hold the power to rob us of joy when we cling to them too tightly. So I really do get the whole, “stuff can’t make you happy." 

It’s really about our joy and peace being an active pursuit, something we relentlessly participate in the creation of and the maintenance of. That pursuit goes by all kinds of names in many different cultures, the joy and peace that comes from just being. The Christian faith tradition often refers to it as "the kingdom of God" and that title is beautiful to me. It’s a place, the place where we can go and dwell there, a place where God's peace reigns supreme, no one rules there but God. A place where love and light and life are so strong that not even death can put a stop to them. Yes. So much yes. 

But also, I love things. I love ice cold champagne and the glass that holds it. I love my rose garden. I love the photo of my grandmother that rests beside a book about the place where my family history began. I love the jar full of seashells right next to it. And I love the water table my three year old splashes in. I love my cowboy boots and my gold dangly earrings. I love make-up. God, I love make-up. I love things. I love stuff. And they do make me happy. On some level. On some divine-God-gave-this-earth-to-me-and-I-shall-love-her level. 

And yes, if I don't do the work, the very real and grueling and gratifying and worth it work of finding organic joy, joy that comes from merely being, then no amount of things will make me happy. But if I do the work AND looooooove things, maybe that is the warrior's way. To love it all and eat it up like cake. To need it even. I need my candles and my essential oils and my plants and my picture frames and paint and paper and dirt and wine and rocks and all the touchable stuff. I struggle through my days to find joy, make joy, be joy, to live inside of God's reigning peace. Yes. But also things. Both. Forever. 

We do not live on bread alone, but we do partially live on bread. Bread and tacos, eggs benedict with arugula and balsamic glaze. Things sustain us and God built us that way. To need. To hunger and to thirst. If tomorrow all the things burn away, then come mysterious joy of being like rain. But as it is, we live on a ball of dirt, a ball of dirt God made and then created us out of pieces of its sky. So to revel in all that we have here is a part of the Kingdom where God reigns. 

You know those people who get really excited about the seemingly smallest things? My eight year old son Tai is and always has been like that. A little purple sticker shaped like a star can make his day THE BEST DAY EVER! Maybe some of that is personality quirk, sure, but also I think that’s the spirit of the living God stirring about inside of him and available to all of us. To delight in a vintage tea cup. To leap with joy over a paint brush. To really be aware of what we hold in our hand or touch with our feet or taste with our tongue. That IS organic joy, that IS organic peace. To be arrested by all that our senses take in. 

When they say, “stuff can’t make you happy” I get that idea, I do but I just think maybe a bigger idea would be to erase the false dichotomy of physical vs spiritual because we’re all here on the dirt, in the stuff, needing, hungry, thirsty, noticing beauty, being drawn to beauty. So it’s all spiritual.

Our Marriage Mantra

"I love us," a mantra so entirely simple and yet it's moved us through the darkest hours of our relationship and moved us into the most beautiful wholeness that we could have ever imagined for ourselves. We often don't FEEL it but we always always speak it because when we say what we need to say to move ourselves forward, even when we don't believe it, especially when we don't believe it, it's the most powerful prayer. A prayer that will get you through anything. "I love us." I feel that today but I say it every day.

Hungry

Hungry, we wake up that way. At least I know I do. The first thought that welcomes me to a new day is…mmmm…pancakes….with fruit on top and real maple syrup. Maybe we had a sufficient dinner the night before, maybe even a surplus of dinner the night before, but still we wake hungry. I dream through the night of eggs benedict and sour dough toast.

Once I've devoured breakfast I immediately begin dreaming of second breakfast and planning for lunch and dinner. We fill up and then we hunger and I think our human need to literally eat food to stay alive, the way our hunger alerts us to that need is a perfect picture of the ebb and flow of the life of our soul. We’re hungry and we fill up, we’re hungry and we fill up.

Maybe one of the reasons we do things like show up to church every week is because we’re hungry. We go to this place called church in part to fill up; we show up as a response to the pang of hunger. To say together, spirit of God fall on us like manna from heaven, how we hunger. Fill us up. Like a perfect chicken tortilla soup, warm us from the insides. Like a blue cheese and bacon topped steak, delight our senses. Like chips and salsa at a mexican restaurant keep us coming back for more. Thrill us, motivate us, nourish us, comfort us, feed us, Spirit God. Like a plate of waffles and bacon we crave new mercies every morning. We’re hungry.

We pray. 

The most beautiful thing about hungering for you God is that you never run out. Your mercies are new every morning, your love abundant. There’s no such thing as scarcity with you. I pray that when we come hungry that we would fill up, that we would be satisfied. I pray that in everything we do we would seek be filled by your love, your grace, your strength, your joy, that we would stuff our faces with it. Your loves abounds and we are hungry for it.