open hearts? no. open minds? no. open doors? no. open wounds? yes!

friends, it’s happening again. love is on trial. you know, when people get together and begin to decide who is right and who is wrong. who gets to love whom. who gets to get married and to whom. and, in this case, who gets to do the marrying.

if you don’t know this already, here is a little background info on me:

  • i grew up in the united methodist church, and am still a member. though, not so active now.
  • the methodist church has always been a church that focuses on grace, love, and social issues, leading civil rights issues in the 60s. i felt at home here.
  • my granddad was a methodist minister, and i wanted to be just like him. he has always been my inspiration.
  • so, i decide to pursue this calling and was offered a job in a church a long time ago.
  • as of today, i have worked as a minister in a united methodist church (umc) for a total of 10 years.
  • during that time i studied theology and ministry at an african methodist seminary – an amazing, life-changing, world-opening, theology-busting experience.
  • i planned on being ordained in the umc – like an ordained minister, pastor, preacher, minister kinda person.
  • so to recap: i worked as a minister (unordained) for 8 years. i had a master’s of divinity degree. i jumped through all the hoops over all the years to become an ordained minister. i felt called to this, from deep within my soul. i was ready.
  • i met an amazing woman & fell in love.
  • soon, we got married and i was happier than i’d ever been. yes. woman + woman = love.
  • when i got married i was in my last step of ordination = i had completed the 4 year process of seminary, plus all of the paperwork and approvals by various groups & committees.
  • at a final committee meeting to approve to send me to the last committee before ordination (provisional is the fancy term), i mentioned that i was moving to sweden.
  • no problem, they all said. the umc is in sweden so i could still complete my process.
  • the problem came when i said that i was married. and used the words “wife” and “lina”, indicating that i was married to a woman.
  • the meeting abruptly stopped and i was asked to leave the room due to the fact that i violated a rule in the book of discipline (the rule book for the umc).
  • the rule, you ask? the umc will not ordain anyone who professes that they love and/or are living with someone of the same sex because it is “incompatible with christian teaching.”
  • after some time, someone came to get me and the committee gave me 2 options:
  • 1. since i had said that i was married to a woman out loud, and that is against the rules = no lgbt person can be ordained in the methodist church who says they are in any lgbt relationship, then i could pull my candidacy and quit the process myself. OR
  • 2. i could continue to say that i want to be ordained, follow my calling and what i feel is right for my life, and leave my fate up to the committee to decide = make them de-certify me as a candidate for ministry and say that i am no longer fit or worthy to be ordained.
  • guess what i chose? yep. 2. there was no way in hell i was giving up and quitting. they would have to force me out and deny my the right to be ordained.
  • and they did just that.
  • all because of who i loved. and because i said that i loved her.
  • never mind all the years of work in a church, all the years of studies, and endorsements from others (including some in that room).
  • never mind that i was exactly the same person that i had always been, even the same person as 1 minute before i said that i was married to lina. i did not change. i have not changed. i am still me, with all my gifts and passions and ways to help the world & the church. i still have all of the same things to offer. but, never fucking mind.
  • that was that. the end. candidacy over.
  • ordination was no impossible.
  • i was crushed.
  • and then i was pissed.

today the methodist church was at it again. only this time is was not against a person who was married to/in a relationship with the same sex. this time, it was a man, a methodist minister, who performed a wedding ceremony for his son and his son’s, now, husband.

Frank Schaefer

yep. the umc does not only discriminate against those who want to be ministers and are in same-sex relationships, like me, but they will not allow any of their current ordained ministers to perform any same-sex marriages. another rule in the book. but, this minister, this dad, broke that rule, saying that he was ministering out of love – and that the love overrides, overrules the ban on same-sex marriage. good for him!

how can a church say that people in same-sex relationships can not get ordained and can not get married, but are still “welcome” to be in the church and are worthy, just like everyone else? it’s a mixed message. and it’s just freaking wrong. it’s exclusionary. and, i do believe that jesus, who the church follows (not a rule book!), always INCLUDED everyone. exclusion was not in his vocabulary. so, why is the umc so exclusive?

well, the minister that performed the wedding for his son was put on trial yesterday. yes, the methodist church has a judicial system, to make it more democratic – which is a good thing. potentially. yesterday the court ruled that the minister was guilty of violating the law of the book. again – the book, not jesus. where are the freaking priorities here?!

and today, just a few minutes ago, to be exact, the minister’s fate was decided. the jury decided that the minister is suspended for 30 days and that at the end of his 30 days, he must repent (say he is sorry and he did wrong), or else he must turn in his ministerial orders = be stripped of his ordination. no longer a minister in the methodist church. all because of a wedding.

you see, the jury did a cowardly thing today. the jury decided not to take a stand on this divisive issue and make a real ruling. they didn’t want him to continue to be a minister, but they didn’t want to defrock him and strip away his orders either. so they took the easy ass way out. gave him a suspension and then said HE had to decide what to do. that’s just bs and exactly what the umc seems to be all about – let’s take the middle road and not offend. let’s see if we can navigate in the middle and make everyone happy, or better yet, just not make any strong statement for or against anything. gaaahh. infuriating!

hmm… reminds me of my “choice”. that committee who was dealing with me did not want to de-certify me as a candidate for ministry. there were many amazing people on that committee, who i know loved me, and were very sad to see the situation come up. but, i was not about to let the umc off too easy. it was not me that had changed my mind – i still wanted to be ordained. i was determined to force the book of discipline force me out. i was determined to make the committee deal with the issue. and they did. they chose to follow the book.

on the one hand, i understand. but i also understand that there are many who, like me, disagree with certain rules in the book, but still uphold it. and here’s where i am with that now: nothing will change unless we stand up and make it change. if we keep disagreeing and, yet, still keep following the things we disagree with, then we will remain a church that is divided and focused on excluding people because of our need to follow the rules. i pretty sure jesus wasn’t too concerned about rules that seemed to be unjust. or, rather, he was concerned with them. he blew right past them, ignored them, and taught others that there is a more just way. he stood for something and made a difference, risking even his life for things that no one around him understood. when will you, umc, follow in the footsteps of jesus?

what does warm my heart ever-so-slightly in the midst of all of this, is reading twitter and seeing the resolve of so many ordained ministers who are saying that they, too, will refuse to follow the entire book of discipline. that they will stand up and take that chance. maybe, just maybe. one day there will be a change, if enough people get up enough courage. i’m sorry, brothers & sisters in ministry, i would join you, if i was ordained. i’d stand up.

so, i am pissed again today. and disappointed. and glad that i have stepped away somewhat from the church. i know that it is all about making change and staying in so that change can come from within, but you know what? they wouldn’t let me in. and i am/was not called to be a lay person in the umc. i am/was called to be an ordained minister. so, for now, i have no place there. i’ve been kicked out. and that’s fine. i’ll keep sending letters and pleading my case. but, i can’t do it from the inside, because they won’t let me in.

being stripped of my candidacy happened almost 4 years ago. and the wounds are still fresh. and every time something like this trial comes up again in the life of the umc, i am hopeful. i hope that there will be a change, that more people will say screw the book and let’s love the people. but, it doesn’t happen. there are plenty of people who are saying it, but it’s not happening. so, every time there is a new trial or a new part of this old controversy, my wounds gape even wider. it hurts. it stings. and i move further and further away from the church that i knew and loved.

i just can’t do it. there are too many other places where i am wanted and needed and able to make my mark. so, that’s what i am doing.

but, my heart still aches. i miss my church. and i am so. very. disappointed. the church seems to have no idea how this affects people. i keep dragging these feelings and emotions of unworthiness and confusion around with me, like heavy chains. most of the time i can forget about them, or i have grown used to them, but every now and then, on days like today, i am reminded that i am not welcome as i am. i am reminded that, though i did everything right, i fell in love with the “wrong” person (according to the church) and “broke” a “rule”.

and then i get pissed again. because, i am not in the wrong. love is never, ever wrong. listen to me: love is never, ever wrong.

but, tonight. i am done. it hurts too much. the pain will never heal. it will keep getting easier, but there will always be a hole in my heart. all i ever wanted was to give my life to the umc, but they wouldn’t have me.

still, i must move on and forward. and leave this all behind. it’s done. and i will never ever, not for one second, regret being true to who i am, for having the integrity and courage to say that just because i love a woman, does NOT mean that i am not worthy of ministering.

i guess the umc will just miss out on my ministry. but, god will not. and the world will not. because faith, love, hope, and service are bigger than the methodist church.

peace. justice, and love for all.

/

a little reminder from an old friend.

48d9c6a1af585a82a0fb61d971c91132

i opened up my facebook feed a few minutes ago, and saw an amazing status update by a person that i admire greatly. jason was my theology professor and mentor when i was in seminary… challenging me, listening to me, and teaching me every day. i remember sitting in his classes and feeling as if all of these thoughts and beliefs that had always been inside me, finally had words to describe them. theology became my passion while i was studying, and i think it’s safe to say that practical theology is still a passion in my life. in seminary, under the theological influence and inspiration of jason, i came to understand myself as a contemplative theologian, drawn also to the mysticism of eastern christianity (and other religions as well).

now, years later, jason is my friend; and yet, still a mentor, even though we are the same age. he has been a very influential person who has been a real truth speaker in my life, never letting me settle for second best for myself. he has pushed me, believed in me, and been someone that i simply enjoy being around. he is an amazing theologian and author, and i have soaked up anything he has written that i have read. sadly, we have lived very far apart from each other, so we have not been able to keep in contact that much over the past few years.

when i read this update from him this morning, i was inspired as usual. but, even more than that, once again (as he did so many years before) his words seemed to express deeply my thoughts and feelings. i sent him a message and told him this (and let him know how much i missed chatting with him), only to end up finding out that he’d be in town next week. so, now, we have planned to catch up over a coffee or a beer.

i share his words with you now… because, while they speak to me directly, but that are applicable to us all. the message is so timely and perfect for me as i seek to accept my own path in life right now. jason, describes that search beautifully. so, read. and soak up this wisdom and beauty.

“About six months ago, I began a journey that I am still on. For years I had been walking a certain professional path. I knew what my goals were, where I was headed, how many miles I needed to make each day. Most of all, I had singleness of mind and purpose. I was intensely focused and therefore highly productive, that is, until the destination toward which I had been moving suddenly and dramatically lost its appeal. And so I left the path I had been on for so long and ventured out into the woods. Suddenly, there was no path and no destination. And for months, this was incredibly disorienting. Where was I going? What was I doing? For what purpose? The loss of a sense of control was at times difficult. And then I came into a sunlit clearing in the middle of the woods. There were no well worn paths anywhere in sight, only trees and mountains in every direction. And for the first time, I understood that it is a good and beautiful thing to have no particular path, no particular destination. It frees one to explore, to take one’s time, to enjoy, to care deeply and to not give a damn. And so my journey continues. But I am no longer without purpose. Once my purpose had been to arrive at a particular destination. Now, my purpose is simply to remain lost in the woods.” ~ Jason Vickers

IMG_3209

sometimes, i need to remember to slow down and trust the process.

sending you thoughts of peace and love today.

“a mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

hi friends! can you believe that may is halfway over?! azy-cra! and now i’ve made it halfway through the may photo journey of self-discovery. and you know what i have discovered about myself so far? that i am a multi-dimensional person. yep. last week’s focus was all about the heart. how i use my heart, how i live from my heart, what is close to my heart. i realized a lot about how much my heart leads me in my journey. but, i rely not only on my heart…

the theme for this week’s part of the journey was all about the mind. and you know what? my mind is fully engaged in my journey as well. in fact, i use my mind, my thoughts, my brain as inspiration. not that i am inspired by my own brain… but i am inspired by others words, thoughts, ideas. and then i use my mind in order to analyze, explore, discover new ways of thinking, new ideas, new information. this is one important part of my journey in life. the part that keeps me growing and changing and learning. no, i’m not afraid of new information or new ways of thinking. in fact, i crave it. i thrive on it.

when i was in seminary, i remember how my fellow colleagues and i reacted to different professors. they say that one of the processes and purposes of a theological education is to break down everything you have learned/believed in the past so that you can reorient yourself and build your own theological beliefs. you know, basically strip away the beliefs that you may have been “taught” and just accepted in order to find your own, true beliefs. by all accounts, i experienced this to be true. and it was a transforming process.

for me, acquiring new information, or new ways to think about things i had always wondered about, was freeing. i completely soaked up the days that my professors blew my mind. of course, i had to go and ponder things before i could reconcile or understand what i was learning, but it made me a better person. it took me out of the box i was in, expanded my world. and now, there’s no stopping me. hehe.

in fact, the teacher in me loves to pass on the torch from my professors and challenge the people i now work with. i love to rock the boat. or blow someone’s mind. i’m not one for being stuck in a box. but, it’s all with good intentions. it’s all because i hope that people will grow to be their own unique person, proud of who they are, with their own beliefs, thoughts, and dreams.

you know, people who favor using their mind often are also logical, organized, traditional, and prepared. i can’t say that i am all of those things (at all), but i most definitely love learning and teaching. and this week’s part of the photo journey has gotten me thinking about being a student again. when i graduated with my master’s, a couple of professors suggested that i study further and get my PhD or Doctorate. that has always sounded amazing to me, but it has not been the right time. i wonder, though, as i make another move in my life and begin again a new chapter, is it time now for me to consider studying again? perhaps not as early as this fall, but within the next year… i know that studying more is something that i will feel that i will regret not doing when i am older if i don’t try. but, i trust the process, i trust the universe, and i trust myself. when it is time, i will know. and just the fact that i am beginning to ponder this again let’s me know that it is time to consider it a possibility…

well, enough of all of that. here are the photos i snapped this week as i thought about what i think about…

day 9 | i am thinking about… moving to asheville and beginning to make a list of all the practical & fun things i need to do!

thinking

day 10 | organized. what would i do if my love (my hero) wasn’t all motivated & detail-oriented?! i’ve learned so much from her… and i’ve got more to learn!

organized

day 11 | tradition. i love a saturday morning with breakfast in bed.

breakfast

day 12 | words. sitting by the river in the sunshine. soaking up rays, wisdom, and inspiration.

norrkoping

day 13 | study. looking over my lines for the children’s musical on sunday. gonna be great! and, yes, my work is fun!

musical

day 14 | motto. nothing more to say.

jack kerouac

day 16 | wisdom. on a visit back home to north carolina about 2 years ago, i had the chance to see a dear, amazing friend. she is the wisest woman i have ever known. together, our favorite mantra will always be a quote by Julian of Norwich… “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

linda and me

 the journey of self-discovery is an ever-changing, never ending one (thank goodness!). and now, the week i have been waiting for is coming up… the week were we focus on the soul. i have imagined that this is the week that i will connect with the most, but if i know myself and if i trust the process of transformation, i am fully aware that it may not turn out to be that way at all. this journey of life is full of surprises!

join me, if you want!  you can click here to get the word prompts for this week. we begin today with #16. let’s get snapping!! enjoy spending sometime with your soul this week. listen, feel, and dig deep. get to the core of who you are. happy photo journey-ing!

sending you thoughts of peace and love.

the next chapter from my memoir: 33 changed everything.

canton home

the view from my front porch.

my husband closed the door behind him and i was standing in our, in my, home… alone.

it was the beginning of august in 2007, and it was as if the slate had been wiped completely clean. i was almost 33 years old and i felt brand new. perhaps i felt a little bit of fear, but mostly, i felt free. not free because my marriage was now over, but free because of what that symbolized.

i was me. only me. and all the dreams that i had dreamed, whatever they were, now seemed more possible than ever.

what had happened to me was that i had gotten to know myself. i had allowed myself to listen to my inner voice, to feel my own soul, to put away all of the thoughts and pressures of others’ expectations and just listen. i felt more me than i had ever felt before. ever.

now, what was i to do with my life? how was i going to go about making dreams come true? i most definitely would move from the small town in the mountains in north carolina where i had been living. and, if i could make it happen, i would move to denmark. after 12 years, perhaps my chance had come. i suppose i could have felt overwhelmed and confused, but i felt more calm than ever before.

on my first night alone, and for many nights thereafter for the next 4 months, i poured myself a glass of red wine, sat on my little front porch, stared into the starry night sky, and just let myself be me.

the next morning, i woke early, make a pot of coffee and snuggled into a big, round chair on my back porch to read, write, meditate, and pray. i repeated this morning ritual faithfully for the next year. almost every single day. i used these mornings to fill myself with inspiration and then to reflect on what i had read, what i had done, and where i was headed.  i wrote and wrote and wrote. i dreamed. i planned. i processed everything. my soul was my counselor. my guide.

max patch

i also headed back to work after the summer of 2007 with all it’s adventures and transformations.

i worked full time as a minister in a united methodist church. it was my seventh year there, surrounded by inspiring, amazing, mountain people from all walks of life. i loved my job. i loved my co-worker. i loved the youth. i had built strong, important relationships with some wonderful, inspiring people. i had created a position that allowed me to use my gifts & passions at the time.

but, how long would i remain there? that question rolled around in my mind daily. i began to realize that, as painful as it would be and as ridiculous & careless it may seem to others, it was time for me to move on.

central umc canton

at the same time i was working full-time, i was also beginning my final semester of seminary, my final four months of preparing to receive my master’s degree. the last few months of soaking up the information, knowledge, and spiritual development that was part of the process of becoming me in my professional role. however, throughout my entire seminary journey, i knew that it was not really a preparation for a job, but a preparation of who i am called to be… as an authentic, whole person, living out her dreams and using her gifts. seminary actually never was, for me, a professional endeavor, but a personal, spiritual one.

i recall the last assignment i had that semester. my final project was to write my spiritual autobiography. a look at my past, my present, and my future. what an appropriate assignment for this particular time in my life, i felt, as i began my life anew. i looked forward to getting my journey down on paper, in black and white.

but, we were also told that we would share our autobiographies with each other, and then take a day to discuss each person’s journey as a group. i was nervous. really nervous. i knew exactly who i was, who i felt i needed to be, but i did not know the answer to that age old question, “what are you going to do?” – an integral part of the last part of the assignment… to cast a vision for what we felt called to do after seminary, how and where we would work.

for me, that question was irrelevant. i had cast aside all pressure to answer that question in my life, after i had slowly come to understand that it is not about what i do, but about who i am. and if, and when, i am faithful to who i am, what i do will come directly from that.

nature and me

with that the guiding belief in this new life i was embarking on, i decided to mark myself. literally. i had a vine tattooed onto my right wrist as a reminder and a celebration of the knowledge that all i need to do is simply be. to simply stay connected to my soul, to the divine that is within. my job is to be. and just as a branch bears fruit simply because it connected to a vine, so will i bear fruit in my life, if i am connected to that which is true, light, love, and peace within me. my soul will lead me where i need to be. and what will i do? i will only focus on being me. and in being me, i will become someone who can be used wherever she is.

i wrote my spiritual autobiography for my seminary class. i illustrated with words the journey i had been on thus far, and the dreams i had for the future. and i did not list any plans. i did not say where i wanted to work, how i wanted to live out my ministry, like my classmates did. there were no specifics when it came to my future. there was only a certainly in my present, and the plan to seek to be true to myself, trusting that the details would come.

of course i was terrified at how my classmates and my professor would respond. but, it was a beautiful moment, filled acceptance and support, as they congratulated me on finding a level of peace within myself that some of them had not yet discovered.

me!

oh yes, the fall of 2007 changed me.

i was now legally separated from my husband. i was preparing to leave the church where i had been working for the past 7 years. and i was completing the last leg of my spiritual journey in seminary. it was a peaceful, slow, thoughtful, and inspiring four months. i felt safe. calm. hope. alive. peace.

it was during this time that i died to my old self. the final death came around my 33rd birthday in september. i sat one morning and literally said goodbye to my old way of life, to the old me. and yet, i appreciated all that the old me had given me. without those previous 33 years, would i have never celebrated the beginning of this new journey in life. though i let some things go, i held onto myself, because i had actually discovered that which had been within me all along.

and i was born again. life began again. i breathed deeper. laughed harder. sat in silence longer. wrote more. listened more intensely. communed with nature. lived more fully.

i had no idea what would come. but, come what may, all would be well.

*all photos taken in the fall of 2007

the mountain.

this has the potential to be a very long post, so just hang with me.

or don’t. it doesn’t really matter to me. i’ve got to write this down anyway. i’ve got to put it out there, send it out into the great wide cyberspace – because an amazing, not yet completely understandable gift has been given to me. and writing this post is helping me to understand why i have received this gift and what it means. and i must pay it forward in some way. right now. because i’m overwhelmed. so, here goes…

last night i had a dream.

and when i woke up this morning, i remembered it clearly. i usually know when i’ve been dreaming during the night, but i almost ever remember my dreams. this morning was different. way different.

my eyes popped open about 7am and i lay in bed feeling like i’d been somewhere during the night. i had to reorient myself, because i was a bit confused. i had to realize that i had been asleep, and therefore, obviously dreaming. i had not actually been anywhere. then the details began to come to me… i had been to a mountain in my dreams. but not just any mountain. it was a specific mountain. mt. rainier near seattle, washington.

when i remembered it was mt. rainier, i wondered why in the hell i dreamed about that specific mountain. i’ve never been there in real life – i’ve driven by it & seen it from a distance, but that’s about it. in fact, i’ve never given that mountain a second thought, never desired to go there,  never had any connection to it. so why? why did i dream about that specific mountain?

image from pinterest.

in my dream, i talked with someone about the fact that, though the mountain was 14,000 feet high, we wouldn’t hike all 14,000 ft because we were already at 8,000 ft in the parking lot at the base of the mountain. by, the way, i had no idea if those heights were correct, i just made them up in my dream. then, suddenly, in my dream, i was climbing the mountain. walking on a path winding through trees and over rocks, leaves crunching under my feet. and i was following, or walking with, my parents. we turned off the trail at one point and found a sort of outdoor cafe. we stopped, but i was eager to continue, so i headed back to the trail.

and that’s all i remember. i don’t know if i kept dreaming, or sleeping, or if i woke up then.

but, early this morning, as i recalled the dream, i kept asking myself “why?” why a dream about a mountain? why this specific mountain? what did it mean? did it mean anything? in my soul, i knew it had to mean something, but then i second-guessed myself – maybe it was only a random dream. still, something inside knew it was more.

so, being the nerd that i am, i continued to lay in my bed, my love sleeping peacefully beside me, and i grabbed my phone to do some research.

i typed in “mt. ranier” and discovered that it is the highest peak in the US (13,000 ft. – i was close. hehe), and that before it was discovered by us white folk, it was known as Tacoma or Tahoma to the Native Americans, meaning mountain of God and she who gives water/life. i kept wondering what all this meant to my life, fighting with myself about making this more than it was. and then, i wondered to myself what it would be like if my little message from the universe, which appears in my inbox every morning, mentioned something about mountains. then, i would know for sure that there was a deeper meaning to my dream, that there is a message from God, from the universe, to me. i’d know that all of these connections were meant to be… but, there is no way that would happen.

a little background info: depending on how well you know me, you may or may not know that mountains are quite symbolic in my life – another reason why a dream about a mountain meant so much, or that it might possibly have some meaning to it.
first of all, mountains have been part of my life as long as i can remember as a place to get away, to connect, to retreat. the north carolina mountains have given me tons of amazing experiences. they have been a place of transformation, growth, and spirituality throughout my life. when i climb a mountain, i feel like i can breathe, i feel free. i feel as if i am connected to what truly matters. i had the joy of living in the nc mountains for 10ish years, accessing the beautiful nature, hiking, rafting rivers, and just generally soaking up the mountain way of life.
also, when i was in seminary studying theology, i had to take a preaching class. something that terrified the begeezes out of me. i had to write a sermon, deliver it to my class, and then deliver it to the entire school. at that time, preaching freaked the heck out of me. when i received my passage from the bible to use as my theme, guess what it was about? you got it…. a mountain. it was a passage about jesus going up on a mountain and experiencing a transforming moment. i knew in my soul that this would be a really tough assignment for me (which it was), but that there was purpose behind it.
just so you know, my sermon turned out great, but i went 2 minutes over the allotted time and my professor ripped me apart in front of my entire class. he never said one positive thing about my sermon. i was literally devastated. i felt like a failure – something i don’t handle well.
in the end, the whole process of my preaching class was actually like climbing a mountain – painful, a struggle, testing my limits, seemingly never-ending, with some beautiful views along the way; but more than anything, a fight to the top. however, once i reached the summit, everything became clear, the journey was worth it because of the amazing view from the top.
every now & then, the mention of mountains serves as a symbol and a concrete reminder for me to keep going, but more importantly, that transformation, a new understanding lies ahead.

so, why this dream? why now? does it mean anything, or was it just a dream? it was just so hard to dismiss it…

when lina woke up, i mentioned the dream about the mountain to her, telling her the details and expressing my insecurities of whether it means something or not. and then, we went on with our morning. breakfast. the news. discussing our plans. doing practical things.

i decided it was time to get my computer out and follow the advice of a blog reader to do some research on following my dream to do freelance work. as i opened my computer, i noticed outside that the sky was really gray, and it was fairly dark in the apartment. i thought it’d be cozy to light a candle – a random decision – i couldn’t put my finger on it, but something felt sacred about this regular, everyday moment.

it was 10:17am. i lit the candle. and sat down in front of my computer. beside me on the sofa lay my phone, on mute. (my heart is pounding as i write this now). i just happened to glance at my phone and saw that i got an email at precisely that moment. i only saw the first two lines of the email, but it said this:

From: The Universe Re: A Note from the Universe “If you knew of a spectacular mountain that was very, very tall…”

i freaked out. i was shaking. i called out to lina & frantically, excitedly explained that my daily message from the universe was, in fact, about a mountain.

no words. this. feels. huge. a direct message to me. no doubts. meant. to. be. amazed. breathless. unbelievable.

after catching my breath, i read the entire email:

If you knew of a spectacular mountain that was very, very tall, yet climbable. And if it was well established that from its peak, you could literally see all the love that bathes the world, dance with the angels, and party with the gods. Would you curse or celebrate each step you took as you ascended it?

Right-o! 

Liz, life is that mountain and each day a step. 

Perspectives change everything,
The Universe

i took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes to soak in the moment & thank God, and then grabbed my journal to begin writing this.

i’m still in shock, but i’m gonna reread the message several times, meditate, and let it sink into me. no need to figure out all of the meanings right now. no need to hurry. i don’t think i’d be able to figure it out right now anyway… there are so many questions, symbols, signs, meanings.

i’m working at the church tonight – like every tuesday night. it’s the night of the week that we open the church for anybody who just wants to come in and sit… to just pray, meditate, and just be. at 6:30 i will open the church doors, play meditative music in the sanctuary, light candles, and create an environment of contemplation. then, i will sit there in silence myself, for an hour and a half – reflecting on what all this means, what God is saying to me right now. how i am being inspired and challenged and encouraged.

thank you, universe, for this gift. thank you, holy one, for speaking to my soul. i am in awe.

the hardest words.

here is the next part of my memoir, “from death to peace”…

Luggage in my hands, butterflies in my stomach, and my heart racing, I slowly walked up the stairs onto our tiny front porch, grabbed the shiny gold door knob, and pushed the door open into our home.

“We gotta talk”, I said, on that hot mid-July day, perhaps even before I had even dropped my bags.

Seeing my lovely, bright, open-floor plan home nestled in the mountains of North Carolina should have made me feel peaceful, comfortable, and happy; but I was terrified, insecure, and determined. Seeing my husband for the first time in 5 weeks should have been a moment of joyous reunion, but it wasn’t. Instead I knew what I was facing. I knew what I had to say.

I had spent the last five weeks in Europe, working and reconnecting. I traipsed all over northern Europe as a leader for 5 amazing college-age students who embarked on a pilgrimage through Scandinavia and 2 Baltic countries, visiting Methodist churches and exploring different cultures. The Caravan, an exchange between Methodist congregations in Western North Carolina and Scandinavia/Baltic Countries, as it has been called for the past fifty-seven years, exists to provide a cultural and relational exchange between brothers and sisters who otherwise would never meet. It is an opportunity to realize that we are all family, and that although we live in different places and have different customs, our hearts are the same. The Caravan is also an intense pilgrimage, which has a tendency to leave such an impression that one’s life is changed. Countless tales exist of pilgrims returning home transformed. All this to say, that these 5 weeks were not only transformative for the youth I was leading, but for me as well.

The trip to Europe inspired me and reminded me of dreams, goals, and callings I had 12 years earlier when I was one of those youth on my own Caravan journey. The trip was a culmination of many years, thoughts, feelings, and fears I had been pondering for a while. And the trip came precisely when I needed it.

Let me back up.

*******************************************************************************

It was mid-May, two months earlier, and I walked down the hall at the church where I worked. Nathan was sitting in his office, cup of coffee in hand, when I walked in and helped myself to the coffee pot which sat behind Nathan’s desk. We were like that. Invading each others’ space, teasing each other endlessly, laughing hysterically, and joking constantly. Completely comfortable together. On rare occasions we were serious and intense. This was one of those occasions.

I sat down across from Nathan, holding my coffee cup and sipping on probably 4th cup of the morning. Nathan did the same. We chatted and caught up with each other. I was gone three days out of every week because I was in seminary, so we spent many mornings chatting about professional and personal things. Yes, I worked full-time and studied full-time. It was a crazy balance, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Even though it was Monday and we had worked together the day before, it must have been one of those times where I needed to vent. We don’t get much chatting done on Sundays. So I needed to spill my guts.

I began recounting (again) for Nathan the ways I was currently frustrated with my marriage… the lack of communication, the time spent apart, and so much more. Nothing had been the same after one sultry July morning in 2002 when my husband confessed that he had been unfaithful. We stayed married and did our best to make things work, but lately (as in perhaps, years, when I look back now), things had been feeling very disconnected. Unexpectedly, Nathan stopped me in the middle of my griping session and basically ripped into me. It was time for me to make a decision, he said. He was tired of listening to me complain about things, tired of hearing about my roller coaster ride of emotions, tired of watching me suffer internally, and tired of me not doing anything to make anything better. He fiercely challenged me to be honest with myself, to look at my current situation, and to stop putting all my hopes my “one day it will be better”mantra . Today was the day I was going to do something. If I wanted to live the life I wanted, I needed to stop bitching and start accepting (not his words exactly, but you get the idea). With firmness in his voice, he suggested for me to contact a counselor and to confront Jake with all of my feelings and frustrations. I needed to stop venting my frustrations at other people, and start being honest with myself and with Jake.

I was shocked. Hurt. Terrified. Stunned.

Natham scribbled down the name of a counselor/therapist and challenged me to call her. Right then. Looking like a deer caught in headlights, mouth gaping wide open, I shuffled out of Nathan’s office and down the hall to mine as if I was on auto-pilot. Somewhere deep inside I must have known that it was time to take action. A few minutes later I walked back down to Nathan and reported that I had an appointment in a few days. I actually felt a bit of relief. Just taking that step to make the call released some of my anxiety. The moments building up to something unknown are always the scariest, you know. Yes, I was pleased with myself… even a bit proud.

Then my bubble burst. Nathan reminded me that now I needed to go home and tell Jake about the appointment with the marriage counselor. Shit.

Later on that Monday in May, I sat down on my sofa, Jake in the chair nearby. My palms were sweating, I could hardly breathe, and I wasn’t sure that if I opened my mouth to speak, anything would come out. What was I so afraid of? Jake getting angry? No, I think I was most afraid of the fact that nothing would be the same as soon as I spoke the next words which would come out of my mouth…

“Jake, something is not right in our marriage. It just doesn’t feel ok, and I’ve contacted a marriage counselor so that hopefully we can figure out what’s wrong and begin to fix it.”

Silence.

“There’s nothing wrong with us. I don’t think we need a counselor.” He was shocked. My words came out of the blue. I know it sounds drastic that I even contacted a counselor before talking with Jake, but I needed to do it right then… or it would have never been done.

“Perhaps you don’t think something is wrong, but I do. And if one of us in this marriage thinks something is wrong, then something is wrong. Will you go to the marriage counselor with me, Jake?”

“No. I told you before that I don’t like counselor’s, so I’m not going to go. I don’t think there is anything wrong.”

Panic. Anger. Fear. This is not going how I planned. He’s refusing. What do I do?

“Well, I have an appointment already made and I’m going to go. I would love it if you would come too. Please. Just to talk some. Think about it.”

End of conversation.

A few days later I went to that appointment and I continued to go weekly for the next few weeks, before I left for 10 days in Greece (an educational trip). I had another appointment or two in between my Greece trip and my trip to Scandinavia. I knew that I would be going back again and again, even after I returned from all of my trips that summer. Turns out, I met with Mary throughout the whole next year.

But I always went alone.

*******************************************************************************

I dropped my bags, hugged Jake briefly, and could feel the tension. It was thicker than the humid air surrounding us on that summer day. We went through all the rituals, “How was your trip?” “Good, how was your time here?” “Good. I got a new tattoo.” “Oh.”

All the while we could feel it. I am certain that Jake felt it too. Something big was about to happen. Palms sweaty again, breath almost gone, hands shaking. Standing in our office, I said it:

“I think we need to get a divorce. This isn’t working.”

There is no need to go into all the reasons why I knew that we needed to separate and go our own ways, but I knew it… from deep within my soul. While I was terrified beyond belief, there was a sense of peace swirling around inside me, like some beautiful, warm glowing light. We had tried. We had given up. We tried again. And then we created our own lives, even as we were still married. There were good times, great times, and good memories. But, there was hell too. Those are all stories for another day. That is not the story I am telling here.

 A few minutes or hour later, I have no idea exactly because time stood still in those moments, Jake left the house. And just like that, our 9 year marriage was over.

* names have been changed for privacy