This is what I do, don't try to understand how I do it; I don't really know either

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26 years

She was just here yesterday. I swear she was.

It feels like she was, but I know that’s only in my mind. The calendar says it’s been 26 years but I’m sure it was just yesterday. I can see her. I see her smile and her laugh, I see her frustration and her tears. She had them all. We’re in the living room while she changes diapers. One baby first and then she wrestles the second to the floor and changes him too. She’s in the kitchen cooking diner while I sit at the table and we talk. Shes folding laundry, while we talk. She’s outside on the top stoop of the stairs to the house having a cigarette and picking at the bumps on her arm while we talk. We talked a lot.

We talked about the boy I was dating, our families, her life struggles, my life struggles, and we talked about being abused. She was doing her best to work through the journey that is healing. She had a book beside her bed. The one he lit on fire. I have that book now. It stays beside my bed. It is slightly burned. She got half way through. She underlined and wrote notes in it. They are her words that I have now. The closest I can come to having a conversation with her again. When life is hard I need her the most and when she was alive that’s when she would consistently show up.

Yesterday I came to this in the book:

July 18, 1994 her work was complete.

I am sure when she wrote those words she had no idea how soon that would happen.

So now I work on my journey without her and that’s become part of my journey. Living with grief and loss, fighting for justice, and knowing that she’s with me, but it’s not the same way.

Your Platform

Everyone has a platform. Some are small and some are gigantic. Some have been earned and some have been bequeathed. Your platform may encompass your children, friends, and family or, if you are the CEO of a large company, your platform may reach millions. What are we to do with our platforms?

in 2016, Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem. His intent was not to start a movement but to demonstrate what was in his heart. It took weeks for anyone to even notice, but being noticed wasn’t his goal. When it was noticed, there was serious blowback. There is no question that his actions have hindered his career and millions of dollars in contracts. He chose to honor himself and his values and it came at a cost.

I remember discussing this with a family member. He completely disagreed with Kaepernick and felt that he was doing this action at the wrong time and place, to which I asked what IS the right time and place? Even though Kaepernick didn’t intend to start the movement that he did, which added to ongoing movements in the US and now around the world, he used the platform he had to bring attention to human rights issues in his country.

This movement has exploded all over the world and people are demanding change. It is not creating dividing lines, these were already there, but it is exposing them.  The voices of the people who are tired of systemic racial discrimination of minorities are reaching those with large platforms and they are taking action. Platforms make a difference. People have been campaigning and lobbying for years for the Washington Redskins to change their name. They have now agreed to do so but, as my incredibly smart son pointed out, it is because sponsors (with large platforms and dollars) threatened to pull their contracts if they did not make the change.

The people used their platforms of various sizes to fight for change. The people with larger platforms are using theirs to leverage change. Strongholds are breaking down. I believe this is scripture being lived out: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms,” (1 Peter 4:10). Your platform is a gift, use it to serve others. Use it to fight for those who are suffering under injustice. Use it to elevate others from poverty. Use whatever you have in whatever ways you can, it makes a difference.

This morning I read that Kenny Stills, a wide receiver for the NFL’s Houston Texans was arrested along with other protestors who are demanding justice. The shirt he is wearing in his mug shot says it all:

stills

I am very curious to see what will happen from here. There are large implications. If his charges get dismissed will the 87 other people who were arrested also have their charges dismissed? Will his arrest increase the pressure on the judiciaries and finally bring action in this case? How much blowback will Still’s get, because you know there will be.

Using your platform will cost you. It is worth the price.

I will leave you with a photo of Michael Collins on his platform. He’s there in the middle. His platform cost him his life but won Ireland the freedom she has now.  Erin go Bragh!

michael collins

Grace for her

Every day is a new day. Some are harder and some are better.

Even if my book were not to be published (which it will be) this is such an important process. I wrote in my last post about how helpful it is to get things from the inside out and that is so true. I can imagine my story in the skin of someone else and I can have empathy for her.

I hold myself to such a high standard that I have very little grace when I make mistakes or am struggling. I see all the ways I don’t measure up and unfurl them on banners in my mind. They cast doubt on my big dreams and ambitions. They threaten to undermine the truths I have worked so hard to uncover who I am.

When I look at people who have not experienced trauma I have no problem feeling compassion for them, and so much more for those who have lived events that shattered their security. I am one of those people. I have experienced multiple trauma but I find the grace jar empty when it comes time to pour it out for myself. Writing my story has put together a skeleton, muscle, tissue and tendon on a beautiful young girl. I can see why she would make all the mistakes she did and why some things are harder for her. I can see that the measurement I use for others is a balance unfairly tipped when it comes to myself.

She deserves just as much grace as given to others.

She deserves the same encouragement given to others.

She deserves the respect given to others.

She deserves as much love as given to others.

She deserves all those things from me first and then from others as well. And whether it feels like it or not, that’s the standard I am going to live by because she is worth it.

girl silhouette

 

Writing the Good and the Bad

Some say the hardest part of writing is the writing. Many coaches advise to just put pen to paper and write – even if it’s just one word. That’s where you start. It’s why I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a book until I had written over half of it. Sitting for hours with my laptop and tears was cathartic. I have poured my heart into these pages. It’s probably why journaling is such a good idea. I do not like to write in a journal because I can not be consistent. I write what I write when I write it – check the dates on my blog for verification haha. I also prefer to write in stories or to someone.

The important part of writing is to get things that are stored inside of you onto the outside. This brings some freedom. You can then take the next step of holding them in your hands and evaluate. Was this really what I thought it was? Did I make more of it than I should have? How bad did this hurt me? What part is my fault? What can I learn from this?

When I started writing I felt these stories had to get out. It felt painful and good to get them out. It was part of the healing process itself. I started with the pain. I wrote about all the bad things. It was good in that it gave a reality to things that sometimes are easier to pretend are memories from a movie or book but not really my life. Getting them out validated me and my experiences that yes, these things really did happen. Some people made some really poor choices and I carry scars.

The next step is to write the happy things and this is more of a challenge than I thought. Writing the happy things does not invalidate the painful ones. It shows that people are human. I was in the bath 20 years ago when it occurred to me that people are not either good and bad, they are a mix of both. We grow up with stories of good guys and bad guys. You need to fit into one of those categories. Someone can be good but act poorly. This includes me! That evening soak in the tub found me wrestling in my head with a difficult relationship I had with a family member and trying to reconcile how she could be nice to others and even sometimes nice to me but other times a complete jerk. This multi-dimentional thinking changed my world.

Characters in stories are good or bad but a memoir is a real story with real people who are more than one dimensional. Writing happy memories about someone doesn’t mean they didn’t do the bad things, it means they are human. It’s still ok for me to write about my pain and its even more ok to write about the positive memories. So as I continue to write any happy memory that I can think of, I do so to honor the people that were in my life as being human. I don’t need to villainize people from my past. They are people who made mistakes. Rory’s Feek’s memoir also reminded me that hurt people hurt people. It is often out of woundedness that people make poor decisions.

What if we looked at people as being wounded instead of being villains? Can we be more compassionate? Can we help each other with our own areas of woundedness and together find healing?

writing

Lump Me In

What an incredible time to be alive. There are so many challenges, tension, conflict, and issues that have simmered beneath the surface and have reached a boiling point. That may not seem like a positive thing but I see it as opportunities. When conflict is hidden or left unaddressed then nothing changes. The desperate reality that many people face is being brought into the light. This reality is hard to accept or understand for those who have not experienced it. It makes us uncomfortable and that’s exactly how we should feel. If we see suffering and are comfortable with it then there is something wrong with us.

Some different groups and movements are rising to demand change. These movements stand for many things. I am watching the reaction of the evangelical Christian community. I am watching them upset about the human rights violations but afraid to take a stand or position themselves too near a movement because they don’t fully align with every value of the movement. They are concerned that people may confuse them as someone that they are not or holding values that they don’t. They are more worried about how others perceive them, than they are about demanding justice. I know a guy who didn’t care about that, and it was significant.

Jesus talked with sinners. He associated, ate with, spent time with, and built relationships with people who were looked down on by the religious community of His day. We often forget the cultural context that Jesus lived in and the way He lived his life. He was not afraid to be painted with the same brush as the outcasts, so why are we? Also in the New Testament, God told Peter to have a sleepover with Gentiles – this was not done! God had a huge calling for Peter and he had to get over his cultural bias and lose the image management that often comes with religion.

I have had pictures taken and publicly posted of myself and the Prime Minister of Canada, the President of Kenya, and the king of porn Ron Jeremy. I want to get to know people because they are people. We are likely going to have things we agree on and disagree on (Ron Jeremy likes worship music so I partly agree with him on that). Christians need to worry less about being misunderstood and put that effort into justice. People are going to misunderstand you no matter how much image management you do so, to quote a Disney movie I still have never seen, let it go.

Is it more important that people completely understand you or that other people stop dying? You can view me any way you want to as long as my actions are making a positive difference in the lives of other people. I am in progress, but I find myself less afraid of being misunderstood the more confident I am in myself and who I am in Christ. So lump me in with any group you choose and you are probably partly right but regardless, I will take my stand with the hurting, suffering, and vulnerable because I am more worried about them than your perception of me.

Our Storytelling

I used to write a lot. Growing up I wrote poems, short stories, fiction, non-fiction. Writing was this creative outlet. Putting pen to paper was akin to me as a potter sitting at the wheel and molding the clay with each turn. Words are my paint that I use to portray the picture of what’s in my heart. Writing my story has been a cathartic experience of bringing the darkness to light. Telling my truth validates the things that I have experienced. These events really did happen.

My editor has me reading a book called Shimmering Images by Lisa Dale Norton. She has instructed thousands of people on how to write. I love this process of learning how to be a better writer. It’s like watching each piece of pottery get better every time you make a new one. She talks about the ancient stories that were passed down through generations. These stories help us see we are not alone – they connect us. “This is how we create the mysterious bonds that connect us as couples, as lovers, as friends, as family members, and as participants in community or a nation.” When we share our stories with authenticity and invite the readers “into the private world of our experience, the result is intimate and transcendent.”

I have been reading a lot of stories. I feel connected to the people who tell them and it makes me feel less alone. That’s helpful in a time when we have to be socially distant. When people read my story I hope they will feel connected to me. Some people will relate to different aspects of my experiences. Some people may have had similar chapters in their story and others may connect based on the feelings they can relate to.

Many of the stories I have read are difficult journeys of people from Africa who have overcome the most unfathomable life circumstances. Many of them talk about life before their difficulties began and the storytelling that would happen in their communities. I imagine the children and adults gathered together to listen. I believe many indigenous communities also have these traditions. It’s a beautiful thing when we come, not only to learn from each other but about each other.

We need that now more than ever.

Tea Masala

This morning I made tea masala for the first time. Two years ago I traveled through six different countries in Africa for five weeks. I constantly drank tea masala. When I booked that trip I had no idea that it was the beginning of a new journey for me but it was a fitting place to start that journey.

Wanje Latte

 

In some indigenous cultures children are not given a name at birth. Their name is given as their character develops. Though that seems strange to me in many ways because that is not the culture I know, I think it is beautiful. Names mean things.

I was given a Kenyan name and I feel like the past two years have been a process of owning that name. Exploring its heights and depths. What are it’s limits and strengths. The world will give us lots of names. Some we take and put on to see if they fit. We look in the mirror and we keep the garment on, positive or not. Some we can look at on the hanger and know they are not for us.

The more you know who you are, the more you know what doesn’t fit you.

I remember as a teen “liking” everything that my boyfriend liked because I had no idea who I truly was. As you discover who you originally were, by digging under the layers of whats been put on you and you did not know to take off,  you start to explore your place in the world. This is me, so how do I fit with the rest of you?

My journey, from birth through self-discovery, has taken me to this place and I am now in process of putting some of it to print. I am working with an editor for the purpose of publishing a memoir. Our stories are powerful. Our stories can help each other. That includes my story.

I’ll keep you posted…

I Refuse to Be Sorry

Human relationships are fascinating things. There are different kinds of relationships and even different values we ascribe to the relationships or each other. I had plans to work on a few projects during this time and those plans have not changed. I often need help or guidance with projects that I work on. COVID has had different impacts on different people and some people have found themselves having more time and others with less.

A new friend of mine, who is someone I greatly admire, has been giving me guidance on one of my projects. He is also someone whose time has been filled with more things to do since COVID hit and I would not have guessed he had more time in his already full life. These past few weeks I keep feeling the need to apologize for asking more questions and needing more help. This week I took some time to analyze why I felt this strong urge to say sorry.

First I attributed it to being Canadian, and although that’s valid, I knew it was deeper than that. So when I kept digging I discovered that it is because of how I view the relationship and the values I have given that make me want to apologize. I hold him in such high regard and view his time as valuable, which it is. But the problem enters in that there is something inside of me that is not feeling that I am worth the valuable time he takes to help me. I feel like I want to say sorry for taking some time that could be spent on something or someone else that would be more valuable.

Now that I have pulled that out of me, I can look at it and say that that is garbage. Why would I think I am not worth spending time on? I am a valuable person with dreams and ambitions. I work hard to help others and this project will do that. I will not be sorry or feel bad for having others invest in me. I am worth investing in.

So I am making a conscious decision to channel those feelings (whenever I feel them because they will keep coming up) and use them to push me to continue to work hard and make the world better. I chose to also invest in others. People are worth investing in. Things may not always turn out how you had hoped but your efforts are not wasted. People are worthy of love, time, and attention. That includes me.

Please Help Someone

I had started this blog last week but had not finished it. Then the mental health piece of COVID 19 hit my family very close to home and very hard. COVID may take people who were fairly stable and push them to a dark place. People who were already in a dark place may not be able to see any possibility of hope.

Yesterday my friend Lisa said, “we are not all in the same boat but we are all in the same storm.” People who struggle with mental health during non pandemic times were in their own storms. Now everyone is in a storm so, to be honest, it’s not that hard to find people who are struggling. Many people are pushed to the limits of what their physical, financial, emotional, and mental health can take. In this storm there are many people who are drowning. You don’t have to look far. So in light if this, here is the rest of my blog:

This morning I am reflecting on all the offers of help. For the first few weeks of the physical distancing measures I saw posts on social media offering meals to anyone who would send a message and ask for it. There are help lines set up for children and women who are being abused. The covert offerings for women to send a Facebook message asking to buy makeup which would signify that the woman is not safe but she can’t say that directly. But all of these things, though well intended, are missing the target in a big way.

 People who are drowning can not call for help. We need to stop expecting that they can reach out or ask. If you want to help someone – then do it. ANYONE. Just make a call to check in. Drop off a meal – don’t ask if they need it, just do it. Who will be angry with thoughtfully delivered free food? Who would hate that you sent a message to say – hey I’m thinking about you, how are you doing really because this is tough?

We can use this time to reflect on the kind of person we want to be. If you want to be more generous or kind then NOW IS YOUR TIME. Do not wait to think you’ll do it after the pandemic is over. It won’t be over for a long time and if you buy into that line of thinking then you just wish you were a better person but your not actually going to do anything about it.

If you think you don’t know anyone who might be in an abusive situation or who is struggling then bring food to a single parent, or some toys for their kids. Single parenting is hard in normal times let alone in a pandemic. Check in on people. I’ve received a few messages from people to see how I am and they have meant the world to me.

Let’s also not forget this is a Global pandemic. Someone else contacted me about being a child sponsor and that made my month! You can help locally and global, the world needs help.

Stop waiting for an opportunity, opportunities are all around you. Go get them.

Below are numbers you can call if you do need help (please do reach out for help if you need it). If you are concerned about the safety or welfare of someone you can also call these numbers.

*Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 or Text CONNECT to 686868

*Fraser Health Crisis line: 604-951-8855 or 1-877-820-7444 (toll free)- trained volunteers provide emotional crisis support 24 hrs/day, 7 days a week.

*Mental Health Support Line (24/7 all ages):

310-6789

*Emergency Mental Health Crisis: Call 911 – Car 67 Mental Health Police Response

*Suicide Prevention Crisis Line: 1-800-784-2433

*Suicide Prevention Education and Counselling (SPEAC): 604-584- 5811

It’s Time to Color the World

This is a challenging time in many ways and on many levels. It is impossible to process all that is happening, especially because once you begin to get a footing, everything changes and you are upended again. It feels as though we are living in a time where there is no right answer and we just make decisions the best that we can for ourselves, our families, and others. This includes our leaders.

The amount of anger that is being spewed onto social media towards world leaders and organizational leaders is beyond toxic. I stand firmly that leaders need to be held to account, but what I have seen is not a demand for accountability. It seems to be a vile outpouring of hatred towards the people and organizations themselves. I surmise that this comes from a place of fear. Conspiracy theories abound and many of them are attacks against people and organizations that do work to help the most impoverished.

This is heartbreaking to me. At a time when we need to stand together the most, some are using the opportunity to attack based on their agenda. They see the world as black and white with no alternatives. They do not see that organizations and governments are run by people, people who make mistakes and fail. Again, I want to reiterate that I strongly believe that people and groups need to be held accountable for their actions but when a mistake happens why are there some who are wanting to condemn the entirety of the organization?

Life is not black and white. I don’t know if it is a life experience or maturity level that needs to be reached to understand that life has more than two colors. It is a multi-color prism of blue, burgundy, green, violet, tangerine, aquamarine and so much more! This means that life is complicated. It means that people make mistakes but not that they are out to get you and implant microchips in your brain to control you.

This aspect of our world right now saddens me, but greater than this are people who are seeing the opportunities and stepping up to the plate. People are being innovative like never before. They are not going to let social distancing measures stop important work to help others or they are seeing new needs and working to meet them. I am hopeful for these new innovations to make our world better and more improved as we take steps forward. Can technology be used to improve our justice system that grinds so slowly that many people are not seeing justice? Can it be used to reduce emissions as business’ realize how many people can be effective without having to physically be in the office?

Our world as we know it has been taken apart. When we put it back together again I don’t want it to go back to the way it used to be. Let us use this opportunity to improve ourselves and our world. We can only do that together. I’ve got my crayons, will you meet me with yours and lets color the world?