Life is not a straight line. It's a downpour of gifts, please – hold out your hand

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Thank you for being here. I'm so glad you're here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cushioned By Faith


"When we descend all the way down to the bottom of a loss, and dwell patiently, with an open heart, in the darkness and pain, we can bring back up with us the sweetness of life and the exhilaration of inner growth.  When there is nothing left to lose, we find the true self--the self that is whole, the self that is enough, the self that no longer looks to others for definition, or completion, or anything but companionship on the journey."  Elizabeth Lesser




There are two books I always turn to when I feel the ground falling away, one is Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser (from which the above words were quoted), the other is When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön.  Whenever my husband sees these two books out from their home on my bookshelf, he knows something has hit the fan—just one lovely perk of living with someone for fourteen years—I love that he just knows these things.  

And now I take a deep breath because I really don't know how to write about any of it—I can’t even quite identify what “it” is.  But I can feel that the longer I go without writing about it, the more condensed the light seems to get.  I know from many years of coming here and writing that there is great release when I share the painful stuff—so, here's my humble attempt...

Things have felt hard lately, like, really hard.  It feels hard to sit myself down with a paintbrush, it feels hard to put all these tangled feelings into writing, it feels hard to take deep breaths, it feels hard to come here and tell you that things are hard.  But I also know that sharing the real of all of it is something I'm committed to doing.  So I'm showing up here today, wondering what might come out…

I know that when we let others see our scared parts, when we're open about our pain and struggles, others see themselves in us and feel less alone.  I know that I don't want to run from the hard stuff, I want to allow the pain to burn away what no longer serves me.  I want to lean in and listen to what it has to say.  It is such a human thing to push away pain, to reach for something that will take the edge off the discomfort.  We think something is wrong with us when we don't feel "good."  So, we resist it, we take a drink or a pill, we speed up rather than slow down, we compare more, we share and create less— we make excuses.

But what if we just let it be here?  What if we let ourselves sob when we feel like sobbing, what if we stopped saying we're fine when really we feel like we're breaking?  What if we could see our pain as a messenger that has something very important to say?  What if we could see our pain as a gift that is trying to nudge us more awake, that is trying to burn away the old? What if we allowed others in rather than pushed them away?  What if we stopped caring so much about what "they" think and decided to simply tell our truth?  What if the pain/discomfort/broken-openness is part of the sweetness that lets the light in and out?

I'm continuously amazed by the effort we humans go through to try to hide our humanness.  I mean, isn't the secret out that we all feel pain, that we all struggle, that we all question our worth--that, at times, we have no idea what the hell we're doing? And aren't we doing ourselves and each other a great disservice by trying to hide/hold in/sugar coat these truths?

A couple of nights ago I had the great honor of attending a dark moon ceremony with nine other women, women who ranged in ages from 16 to about 50, seven of whom I had never before met.  We sat in a candle-lit circle surrounded by red scarves and tapestries and a temporary alter with sacred objects we had all brought to share.  We sang and prayed and hummed, we passed around a talking stick that, when held, meant we were the only one who could talk—which meant all the rest of us had the gift of listening in the deepest of ways.  When it was my turn to talk, I felt seen and heard in a way that felt deeply, beautifully healing and filling.  We held hands, we blessed the directions, we set intentions and planted metaphorical seeds.  We giggled a little, we passed a roll of toilet paper around as the tears began to flow.  There was no attempt to hide joy or gratitude or deep pain.  It was beauty in a way I've rarely experienced and showed me what is possible when there are no worries about getting it wrong, when we see the beauty in all of it--when we feel safe enough to share our un-sugar-coated real.


"The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel."  Steven Furtick


I love the above quote so much.  We all do this—we compare our darkest, most flailing/questioning/doubting/on-our-knees moments with their "highlight reel."  We see the finished product, the completed artwork, the published book, the edited article, the showered-made-up-hair brushed version of each other and feel like we're failing somehow.

I have a lot more I want to say about all of this but since I need to run out the door to pick up my little ones from school, I’ll close this for now with one of my most favorite prayers, my greatest wish for all of us...


"I pray that each one of us stay awake as we fall.  I pray that we choose to go into the abyss willingly and that our fall is cushioned by faith--faith that at the bottom we will be caught and taught and turned toward the light.  I pray that we don't waste precious energy feeling ashamed of our mistakes, or embarrassed by our flaws.  After years of teaching, I know only a few things for sure.  One is this:  We are chunks of dense matter that need to be cracked open. Our errors and failings are chinks in the heart's armor through which our true color can shine."  Elizabeth Lesser 



21 comments :

  1. Your words touch my heart, once again, Julia.

    Sharing our struggles...there is something very freeing in that. I'm not so sure we do it enough.

    At a very low time in my life I had a conversation with my Dad, confessing to something I was not proud of. He said, in so many words, that a tea cup made of fine China had more value to him if it showed some wear, if it had a crack or two.

    He was telling me that he loved me, no matter what, warts and all. Obviously that lesson has 'stuck' with me. I thought maybe you needed me to pass it on to you.

    Sharing hugs and a tear or two...

    Love ya!

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    1. Dear Deb, your words (as they always do) have touched me deeply. Thank you so much for sharing this sweet, sweet story about you & your dad--that is seriously precious. How beautiful to be adored in such a true way.

      I know that when others show me their scared parts, I feel compassion & an opening that lets the love flood in. Yet it can feel so scary to be the one doing the sharing...

      Such important reminders here.

      I appreciate you so very much, my friend. Thank you for being here.

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  2. chunks of dense matter that need to be cracked open.
    WOW. LOVE.
    + love you, honey, in your hard. XOXBIG

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    1. I can feel your love, Rachel, & it means so much. You are such a shiny one & I feel so lucky to be a receiver of that shine.

      Thank you for being here, precious one.

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  3. Julia, I love how you come here and pour yourself out. Showing your cracks and chips, so that we in turn can be honest too and not feel we have to put on a show.

    When things get hard, like you, I run to writing. It seems if I can put it down on paper I am somehow lightening my load, and once written I can see things plainly. I've found more answers in writing than in communicating with others. It seems as though it allows be to be more objective...to put a bit of space between myself and my neurosis, allowing me some breathing space.

    I still don't appreciate how one day I can feel I have a grip on things and the next I'm screaming, "The sky is falling!". It's confusing and sometimes I feel like the most unstable person on the planet. But then the magic happens...I find an answer, and the clouds part for a season. I need to remember the answers when I'm anxious and blue. I need to label my writings by answers so that when I fall I will be able to get back up more quickly.

    I love your truthful spirit Julia. I love your light and your love. I love your words and paintings. I love your weaknesses and stumblings. I love your insecurities and fears. I love all the things that you bring into this world, for each one carries within itself a seed. When you share your fear seed, courage grows. When you share your insecure seeds, security grows. Isn't it amazing how when we tell our truth it transforms the frailties of others and ourselves. I love you sweet sister.

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    1. Deep breath. Ahh, Leah, I'm just letting myself pause here & breathe all of your words in deep. I feel overwhelmed with an overflowing gratitude, wondering how I got so lucky to know you. You have the sweetest, most precious heart, Leah--I am amazed by the beauty of it/you.

      You know, I'm really learning the value in embracing the painful, the-sky-is-falling feelings (how I can relate to that!)-the deep ache we feel, the anxiety, the creeping doubts-it opens us more, it allow more love & compassion into our hearts. I know this to be true yet I want to run like hell when all the hard stuff comes. But yet--it's so beautiful. It's all so beautiful. When I see you struggling, when you share the hard stuff, I feel nothing but the biggest kind of love.

      I am so thankful for the writing--I agree that it lightens the load and helps clarity to move in. I'm so thankful to have this means of expression & to share this with you.

      Thank you for loving all of me, my friend. I can't possibly express how much that means to me.

      Giant hugs and big smiles to you. Loving you so, beautiful woman.

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  4. Love this post, Julia. And holy crap, that Steven Furtick quote! Yes! I remember one time, corresponding with an online friend, I mentioned having cried that day and he said, "I forget that must have problems too."

    We all do that. So, as we try to stop comparing our imperfect selves with the airbrushed, edited versions of others, we should also remember to be compassionate. Everyone's struggling with their own unique something.

    Love you to pieces.

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    1. J. Sometimes I think my heart will explode with all the love...I am one lucky girl to be surrounded by you incredible women. I'm seriously, with the whole of my heart, beyond words thankful.

      Your words prompted me to go hunt down a quote I jotted down a while ago (taken from a book I read to my girls called "The Candymakers." Here it is...

      "Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about."

      I love this. And I love you to pieces too, my amazing J.

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  5. I feel like everyone around me is struggling with very difficult things right now, as if there's been a crack in space and we are all stumbling into it. I like to think that there is a reason for all the heartache and struggle, and I'm sure there is though it's never easy to see it when we are in the mist of our own chaos.
    I'm experiencing it all with you sweet sister, all the pain and confusion, the crying out for answers. I feel it all too well right now. I love you so much.
    Amy xx

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    1. Sweet sister of mine...these words from you made me cry.

      I love how you put this---"as if there's been a crack in space and we are all stumbling into it." Yes, it feels just like that, doesn't it?

      It's such a comfort to know you're right here with me--it really doesn't feel like there's a problem at all as long as we're here together.

      I love you hugely.

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  6. Somehow - and quite unexpectedly - this made me cry. Apparently - your words resonated true-er than I know..and far more deeply. That Steven Furtick quote really says it all - doesn't it??

    And - thank you for being so brave..and so daring as to open up and share your behind-the-scenes. We'll all grow from it...

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    1. Thank you, Marcie, for taking the time to connect--your words have touched me deeply this afternoon. Yes, that Steven Furtick quote really does say it all--what beautiful things words are. And what a difference sharing/connecting makes...

      Many blessings to you, dear person.

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  7. Yes, wonderful Julia, this is so honest and true and touched by grace...and therefore, beautiful. I completely understand this journey you describe, and I struggle continually to remember that there is little more amazing than redemption. But redemption is the fruit of struggle, weakness and failings laid down.

    This section: "I know that when we let others see our scared parts, when we're open about our pain and struggles, others see themselves in us and feel less alone. I know that I don't want to run from the hard stuff, I want to allow the pain to burn away what no longer serves me. I want to lean in and listen to what it has to say."

    Pain as teacher. So wise, my friend.

    By the way, Steven Furtick is my dear friend, Kelly's pastor in NC. Her husband is a pastor (the creative pastor) with Steven at their church -- Elevation, in Charlotte. Fun crossing of paths.

    Julia, I am praying and will continue lifting you up. Love you.

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    1. Thank you for these holding, supportive words, Ashley. So wild that you have a connection with Steven Furtick--his words are so right on.

      Such beautiful connections...

      Love to you, dear one.

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  8. Oh, dear one. Thank you for this post, for that prayer and for reminding me of the other night, when we touched something Real. I think this is the pain for me--that we are experiencing it as Real in so many moments, and it brings about more of the feeling of being homesick. Beautiful joy/sadness of being--that which brings us together to love. I love you, dear friend.

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    1. Brooke--you always bring me to that wonder-filled wordless place.

      I love you.

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  9. I pray that, too, and more. For all of us...

    Love to you, dear Julia.

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    1. Love back to you, dear Christa. I hold you so close, my friend.

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  10. "I'm continuously amazed by the effort we humans go through to try to hide our humanness. I mean, isn't the secret out that we all feel pain, that we all struggle, that we all question our worth--that, at times, we have no idea what the hell we're doing? And aren't we doing ourselves and each other a great disservice by trying to hide/hold in/sugar coat these truths?"

    That is SO profound to me. This is the first post I've read of yours - I found you through Sprout. I'm subscribing because I can't believe that I'm not the only one. :) Hugs!

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  11. Ali, I'm so glad you're here & that you see clearly that you are NOT the only one!

    This is profound to me too--the hiding of what is so clearly, inherently true about all of us. Now is a perfect time to stop doing this, don't you think?

    Sending love to you, new reader friend.

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  12. Beautiful post. I am often amazed at the same thing. Sometimes I wish I could wear a pin that says, "Yeah, I don't know what I'm doing either." :)

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What are you thinking/feeling? I'd really love to know...

♥ Julia