a nation under god

authentic christians are anti-racist

My fingers have been tightly wound around the narrative I wrote for my own life, and God has been patiently uncurling my fingers, one by one. Dream bigger, He seems to say. Dream bigger, then bigger, then bigger. Now go.

I go, with sparkles in my eyes, and imagine myself stepping out into the wide world as a Joan of Arc. I want to be unafraid. I want to face those looking down on me, telling me I’m too young or inexperienced, too naive or out-of-touch, then surprise them with my wisdom. I want to stand my ground, confident in who I am and what I’m about, not shaken when the questioning starts or gaslighting makes my knees weak. I want to pick up my sword, my words, my voice, and fight for justice. I want to fight like God is behind me, working to save a nation, even when the sparkles are gone and all I’ve got left is a mess.

That being said, while Joan of Arc might not have had a Facebook account, I certainly do. And lately I’ve found myself doing what I’ve avoided for ages- engaging in the dreaded Facebook debate. Because somebody has to speak up, and sometimes that somebody is me.

In the process, I’ve discovered a handful of things that are starting to- for lack of a better phrase- piss me off. 

Firstly, primarily, mostly, I am sick of people who call themselves Christian spending more time arguing about protecting police than listening to or caring about people who have been marginalized. I’m frustrated, even dumbfounded, that the need to become anti-racist has become less important than the need to maintain neat politically conservative borders. Digging those heels in over whether or not Black people deserve to be heard is NOT the place your feet should be planted. 

I am sure, entirely sure, that Black people are more tired of this bizarre behavior than me. I offer my voice for those too weary to speak. 

Here it is, most clearly: Your ‘blue lives matter’ flag waves proudly in false righteousness- you might think you are innocently supporting the force, but I’m here to tell you that your timing is off. You think it means nothing, the blue stickers and posts, but right now it sends the message that your priority is more for the police than for the people who the police have harmed. That support right now is inherently political and has the capacity to be significantly damaging. Sure, shifting the focus to blue lives might be appropriate on some days, but today is not that day.

Beyond that, if we keep spending our time debating and trying to disprove racism instead of actually demonstrating real, active care for the Black community, it will only serve to further ostracize that community from our Christian spaces. They are going to feel more unwelcome in a church they should comfortably call home because we were too busy fighting to hear their stories.

We don’t listen, and we harm them further. On top of the years wasted where they were unable to join orders, take vows, or attend seminary. 

On top of the years they were, and continue to be, enslaved, taken advantage of, and neglected, while people of the Church look away.

On top of generations of artwork in cathedrals, museums, and homes that fail to depict the beauty of God reflected in dark-skinned faces.

On top of a disproportionately white canon of saints- not because saints of color didn’t exist, but because our Church has been complicit in a world of white supremacy. 

All of this pain should be ringing in our ears, calling us to action, but black voices still cannot be heard because we have hidden in our prayer groups and Bible studies to complain about the “secret liberal agenda” and anti-racist “propaganda.” We’ve wasted time instead of listening and believing, acknowledging our failings and trying to do better. Defensiveness has become the last flag waving- it’s a big one, and it’s red. 

At the very least, I will stand up. You will hear my voice- the voice of a Catholic. A Christian. A woman. White, weak, and flawed, but here. I am here and I will say, then say again, that Black lives matter. If you want to call yourself a Christian, a real one, it’s best you start acting like they do too, and start fighting like God is behind you. 

St. Joan of Arc, pray for us.

unbiased loving

an aspiration

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” Thank you, C.S. Lewis.

I’ve been thinking about these words lately, especially in the quest to untangle the biases woven into my heart and surroundings. There’s a lot that needs to be uprooted; this has become a season for removal and replanting. A season of making space for those who have been pushed aside. They are real people, those voices crying out from the books and podcasts and blogs. They are flesh and blood, with hearts exposed. How brave, to be so open, especially after so much pain.

That vulnerability deserves to be met with something even greater than dismantled bias. That is the minimum, and we must go beyond it- we must actively support and embrace a future where those most marginalized are free to lead beautiful, messy, wonderful lives. 


In the meantime, I’ve noticed that I hold a little bit more bias than I thought, in a lot more places than I thought. It’s at work, with patients who I assume will irritate me before I’ve spoken to them. It’s on dating apps, as I swipe by men with certain careers before I’ve seen their profiles. It’s in social situations, when I wander closer to the girls who look like me. I’ve done it at home, at church, in stores, online. It’s everywhere.

I’m beginning to wonder if the ideal, someday, would be for us operate with no bias at all. Is it possible to encounter each new person, each new situation, without considering the experiences behind us? Without letting the negative lessons we’ve learned about one person influence our interaction with the next person? Harder still- is it possible to untangle those predispositions when we meet the same person, but in a new moment? To perpetually offer the benefit of the doubt and maintain a disposition of charity, a complexion of peace?

I’m not suggesting a boundary-less life or existing blind to the behaviors of those who have hurt us. I’m sure it is appropriate to form opinions and act according to whatever information we are presented with. However, this intentional living, perhaps, does not exclude unbiased loving. Whatever we’ve chosen to move towards or away, we can do with a spirit of love. We can act with generosity and hold a heart for goodwill, whether that is from near or from far. We may have chosen to distance ourselves from someone or something in self-preservation or self-love, but we can still find peace, forgiveness, and hope.

I’m sure it’s the way God meets each of us, in each of our moments. It’s the way He meets me- not as the isolated, flawed piece of me that snapped at my sister an hour ago, or yelled at the guy who cut me off- but each moment, fresh, as if it’s the first most lovely moment He’s encountered me for all that I am at my worst and my best, and in that meeting He has still found me good.

He offers a blank slate, over and over and over again; His love always available, always renewable. Maybe it’s better than a blank slate- instead, it’s love like a fire in the winter, shade in the summer, the warmth of friendship in loneliness. As good, and always as good, as the first leap into a pool on a hot day or the first sip of coffee in the morning. It’s the first page of your favorite book, when somehow you’ve forgotten the plot points, so you relive it, in all it’s goodness, over and over and over. 


This love is lovely, in theory. It works for God. In practice, for humans, it’s harder. 

Hard to become anti-racist, in a world that’s pumped it into our veins.

Hard to do at work, to meet the next patient, who acts like the last patient, with fresh, kind eyes. 

Hard to do with new friends, when you’ve been bullied or burned by old ones.

Hard to do with men, when the ones before insulted, disappointed, cheated, or lied.

Hard to do with yourself, when the world has found that you aren’t quite enough.

It’s all hard. And it’s a surefire way to get hurt, this constant vulnerability. Ask C.S. Lewis. Ask Jesus. Ask your teachers, your nurses, your parents. There’s no guarantee that your openness will be matched; do it anyway. Bring your scraped knees and hearts to the source of the most perfect eternal, renewable love, then pull yourself up and offer love again. It’s the least we can do, when we’ve been given so much. 

This life isn’t for hiding or isolating, but for picking up our tired selves and meeting another moment, another person, or our very selves, with love, again. And then again.

It’s not easy. It’s messy. But it must be done, this unbiased loving. It’s the only way we’ll be free.

in service of justice

a disposition towards peace; righting the wrong of racism

When I was small, the most coveted crayon was the one we called “skin color.” We didn’t ask for it by name as we filled in our princesses; there was no mention of peach or tan, but somehow we still understood that the crayon in question wouldn’t be brown. Maybe because we were young and only thought of “skin color” as “our skin color,” or maybe, already, we thought that the default tone for skin should be white. Perhaps it was bias, already poison in our air, sinking into our hearts and lungs as insidiously as cancer. 

Whenever it started, it remains true that biases, untruths and prejudices snuck into our minds and remained a poisonous undercurrent for years. We grew up, learned in school that the civil war was over ages ago, that segregation was gone. We wondered what the problem still was.

Of course, there were many problems, but we were blind. We were handed down privilege and twisted patriotism; a lethal combination when met with willful ignorance, refusal to face discomfort, laziness, and self centeredness. The cost was high. It still is, as evidenced by the continued injustice and wrongful murders of those in the black community. 

Finally, today, we are late, but we are here. We are coming to terms with the reality that the problems we thought were gone never left- they only changed shape.

To the black community, I am sorry. I have failed you in my willful ignorance. I am sorry for the ways I’ve hurt you by my actions and inaction, the words I’ve spoken and the words I’ve failed to say. I am sorry for my bias. I’m sorry for not showing up sooner. You’ve deserved better. 

To the white community, don’t start in my words. With all humility and all respect, turn to the black community first. Listen to their words. Read their books. See their films. Hear their stories. I’m here, not as a leader, but as a small voice in the background using the tools I’ve been given to point towards truth. Members of the black community know those truths better than anyone; they live it. Open your heart. Believe them. And, seriously, please stop getting lost in debates over whatever conspiracy you think has infected the media, the country, the church. Do not turn this movement into a platform to rail against. This is more than an agenda. This is about human lives. 

Black persons deserve to live and do so abundantly; historically, they have not been afforded that freedom. They have been told, implicitly and explicitly, that they are not good, they are less-than, and they are not safe because of the color of their skin. They have been told this by governments, social structures, workplaces, judicial systems, healthcare providers, neighborhoods and friends. Centuries of these injustices have been inflicted on the black community with no promise of escape; the current system has had held the power to effectively traumatize an entire population, and to do so for generations. It must stop. 

It is time for black individuals to live in the safety that has eluded them for generations. They must be secure in their right to breathe, followed by their right to live abundantly and joyfully. They deserve to become who they were made to be, authentically alive, beautifully whole, untangled from the lies and traumas that have been inflicted upon them. They deserve to be set free, truly free, in every sense of the word.


If you have begun your journey of learning and hoping for this freedom, as I have and continue to do, I’d like to offer my thesis for moving forward in the work for justice for our black sisters and brothers:

We must remain people of peace.

To be clear- peace is not the absence of discomfort or a return to a quiet status quo. Peace, in this context, is a sense of being and operating that is moved by the Spirit and acts with eyes trained towards the hope in a well ordered world. In this world, the kingdom of God come to earth, ills are healed, injustice rectified and people are seen, loved and well. I cannot call myself a Christian, a feminist, or even a person of goodwill if I am not working for a world established in loving harmony. 

In pursuit of this harmony we must first be open to learning, then always open to learning more. In the learning, this spirit listens. It creates a space for taking in and then a time for pondering. Nothing of quality can come from what we see or hear if we don’t personally encounter and internalize what is being shared; peace will weave it together. 

This peace will allow us to incorporate new thought and root out wrong. Where the spirit burrows into our hearts, we will be ready to follow it towards introspection and humility. 

This peace will, at times, fuel anger; it will spark a heart that grows justly enraged at evil. This spark then follows through to movement- it doesn’t sulk, it doesn’t sit. It acts.

This spirit that moves to action is anchored, always, in goodness. It does not allow us to be self centered, working only to soothe our trouble consciences. It won’t allow us to walk away when the burdens are many. It does not tire. 

This spirit of peace is thoughtful. It allows critical reflection and thorough engagement with injustice from a deeply rooted place. It is intentional, as well, with both skills and time. 

This peace allows rest. If we are to prevent burn out, if we are to remain present and able to serve those who have been overloaded and overlooked for centuries, we must continue to restfully connect with the eternal source of our peace in prayer. Then, refreshed, we can show back up for more.

This peace will breed authenticity; when we do show up, we do so as integrated, whole humans, not half-selves participating for performance. It allows space to for mental, physical, spiritual and familial care, so that we may then serve thoroughly with our best selves and efforts. Our closest friends receive that effort, and it is time for our alienated black brothers and sisters to receive the same care.

Let this peace first form your own heart, then breathe life into your home, your workplace, and your world. Let this peace move you to service of God, especially in service of His black children. 

It’s time we were people of His Kingdom. Passed time. 

Let peace sustain the fight. 

the words that dwell among us

good gifts for the new year

This Christmas I was given the gift of words.

Between a New York Times subscription, Kindle Unlimited and a handful of paperbacks I have enough to keep me going happily for all of 2020.

Even the mass readings were a gift: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Very explicit, courtesy of John, followed up with, “What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1, 4-5).”

That last bit I had carried in my heart through this year; light was the word of the season as the darker parts of my heart were illuminated and the dusty corners of my soul cleaned out. A year of open windows, fresh air, therapy, journals, night skies, starlight and the first pinks of dawn. A year of refusing to be overcome, and then, beyond simply defying defeat, a year of resilience that overflowed into life.

What word, of all the words, will speak to the season ahead?


I was out last week with my cousins and we walked by a bar, all cheerfully buzzed on G&Ts and the cold December air. A bouncer stopped us, begged us to come into the hazy-blue bar with it’s empty dance floor. I’m sure we were an impressive bunch; a gaggle of tall, red-lipped, long-haired twenty-somethings. We walked past, intent on our destination (pizza), and continued to ignore the calls of the boy behind us. I trailed behind and heard him plead, one last time, “Come on, come in! You’re pretty too!”

I rolled my eyes, shook my head, and marched on to more important things (pizza). A couple slices and an uber ride later we were safely in our beds, bouncers all but forgotten.

The next morning, though, I found traces of annoyance lingering.

Was this boy used to having girls do his bidding just by calling them pretty?

Why had I even turned around at all?

And, by the way, aren’t I more than just pretty?

Such a small word, but enough to throw intelligent women off their axis at the mercy of smaller boys.


Which is the word I want? If I got to pick something better than pretty, what would be enough to catch my attention and hold it?

Which is the one that I am?

Which is the one God says I am?

Another Christmas Scripture nudges my heart and settles in like the last puzzle piece: “No more shall people call you ‘forsaken,’ or your land ‘desolate’ but you shall be called ‘my delight’ and your land ‘espoused’ (Isaiah 62:4).”

I wouldn’t mind being a delight. I’d definitely like to move away from those old characters Forsaken and Desolate.

I think back to a few weeks ago when I felt Jesus whisper “let me take you to France.” A small, almost silly, thing, but a thing that meant something to me. I went home that day and booked a trip to visit the land of my dearest Saint friends. That day felt like the beginning of this- a journey where I am no longer espoused to the little earthly man who hated travel, but rather to the man who died for me.

Another whisper takes shape: This year is the year I am beloved.


Beloved:

adjective

be•loved /bəˈləvəd/

dearly loved


Thank God the open windows of last year let in the holy breezes of this one.

I am seen. I am known. I will learn to live out of a place where I am anchored, deeply set in who I am and who I belong to. Beyond pretty, but beautiful.

A lot of words packed into one little word.

I’ll take it.

thinking and thanking and dating

questions for the [annulment] questionnaire

If you looked into the windows of our first Thanksgiving you’d see us laughing. 

About the turkey I let rot on the counter for a week. About what No-Shave-November had done to his face. About the fish at the restaurant with eyeballs.

Sweet, at first glance. 

Look closer.

You’d see me panicking in the bathroom thinking I’d tracked my cycle wrong and we were going to be pregnant.

You’d see me praying at mass that I wouldn’t be, that it’d all be okay, that he’d be okay, that he’d still love me.

You’d see me leaving for Kroger, telling my parents I needed Midol, buying First Response. Hiding in the bathroom by the check-out, heart pounding in my ears watching the timer tick down.

A negative test washing the anxiety off.

Back to laughing.


I’m sorting through my life again, turning stories into essays for the never-ending ever-involved annulment questionnaire. 

I put down paragraphs on the tangled mess of my marriage; it’s winding the strand of anxiety back around my heart.

Why was I so stupid

Why couldn’t I see

Why did I stay

I was young

So dumb

In love

Maybe love is just as blind as they say. Maybe it shouldn’t have been.

I read a book on annulment the other day, and as I type along I wonder why the author said I’d get through this process and see how I’d contributed to the divorce. 

I certainly contributed the lawyer, so I guess there’s that. 

I look again, but still, no, it wasn’t my flaws that fueled our demise. My error wasn’t in the end, but in the beginning. I’ll take responsibility for that- I knew what marriage was. I knew what marriage should be. I didn’t know enough about what it would be with him, and maybe I should have.

The rest is on him.

Leaving was the bravest thing I’d ever done, and that is the only part of this story I will take ownership of. Aside from picking poorly- I did not deserve the hell he put me through. I did not deserve the callous cold, the manipulation, the fear, the anxiety, the neglect, the rage. Those were not my mistakes. 

I continue narrating my story, the list of questions stretching on like a bad dream.

I wonder why the process wasn’t this thorough before our wedding day.

I wonder how to explain the bits that need explaining without scandalizing the readers.

I wonder what to call it when you’ve been fighting with your husband because he’d lied about the strippers and later when you’d asked him what to do about the day you’d had sex – should you drink at the wedding in case you’d be pregnant in two weeks – his response was a laughing, “Better drink up!” 

What do you call it when you’re so mad you make him a bed on the couch but he’s drunk and wakes you up from sleeping to have awkward clumsy uncomfortable sex you weren’t interested in and you were angry and it didn’t feel good but you don’t tell him to stop because good wives don’t deny their husbands?

What do I call that?

I’m writing it up for a committee to review and I’m not quite sure what else to say.

This whole thing sucks.


Except, a little bit, it doesn’t.

Begrudgingly, after my fuss about the Church’s encouragement to avoid dating, I find it’s possible the advice might be valid. I feel a bit like a harrumphing teenager, skulking off, too moody to admit she was wrong. 

Eventually, though, I stop worrying about finding new men and start worrying about finding myself.

I suppose if I spent last year heart-broken this is a good a time as any for re-building. 

Makes enough sense, so I reinvest in the things I used to love. Ever-so-gently my heart starts putting itself back together.

Instead of men, I’m dating words. I’m writing. I’m reading. I’m soaking up stories. Book after book, I’m eating them up, finishing the ones that’ve been half-done for years. I’m choosing a life of expansion over life with a man who thought he was good enough, who scoffed at self-improvement. 

I date music. I realize this year alone I’ve been to more concerts than I’d gone to in years. I play classical at dinner, pop in the car, country in the shower; I soak in new albums and genres and pianos breath over me like a balm.

I plan to date the world. He didn’t want to travel. Didn’t like it, didn’t want it, angrily planted in America, uninterested in cultures or places or people or putting his feelings aside to invest time in his wife. To that I say – I’m going to Ireland this winter. To Italy this summer. To France next fall. I will see the world, I will see it’s people, and I will learn. I will explore. I will adventure. I will be a student of all this earth has to offer.

Most importantly, I spend time dating God. Where my husband made me choose between love of God and him, where he yelled when I chose God and put a hole in our bedroom wall, where he told me I was selfish for choosing my faith, I was uncompromising and hateful and made him feel unloved because I wanted a life with children in it- 

Now I pray. And I pray and pray and pray. I go to holy hours without sneaking out of the house. I go to church events and confession and mass. I play Lauren Daigle and Audrey Assad and hymns and podcasts and there is no shame. I read about saints and philosophers and Scripture and faith. I rest. 

There is no more fear. 

I am free.

I am me. 

I am thankful. 

a prayer for frostbite

the annulment process begins and stings

What do we do when the Church feels cold?

When it starts to feel like no, after no, after no?

No sex outside marriage. No birth control. No same-sex relationships. No IVF. No surrogacy. 

Even in the smaller things- no meat on Fridays, no food before mass. No getting high, drinking too much, eating too much, shopping too much.

In some circles, the more ridiculous things- no bikinis, no shorts, no working mothers.

It can all start to feel a little heartless.

I won’t pretend to understand the struggle of those in the world sorting through heavier things, but recently I’ve been faced with my own small ‘no’ and I’m a bit at odds.

See, according to my Church, I’m supposed to avoid new romantic relationships until my annulment has been finalized. 

For those unaware, an annulment is basically the Church’s way of confirming that a marriage was, at the time of the vows, not sacramental- not a free, total, faithful, fruitful, holy union at it’s inception.

In ‘guilty until proven otherwise’ fashion, we are meant to assume the marriage was sacramental until Step One: The divorce is legally finalized and Step Two: An official Church tribunal reviews the case (comprised of documents, testimonies, questionnaires, and supporting accounts from outside observers).

In the in-between state of a marriage dissolved by law and not by faith, involved parties are advised to “remain faithful to the wedding vows” until an annulment is, or is not, granted. 

This process, tacked on top of my already never-ending divorce, promises to be another lengthy, involved, and emotional one. 

In reality, holding off on dating is probably for the best, as I’m not really interested in exploring vulnerability with men. And to be completely honest, I’m enjoying this space for myself.

Even still, it feels rather harsh to encourage me to “stay faithful to my vows” when the male half of this situation was not faithful to any vows on any level. Not in dating, not in marriage, and absolutely not now. 

So what am I staying faithful to? Lies? Deception? Cover ups? A sham of a marriage and a liar of a husband? And why am I the punished party? If anyone needs a little churching here, I think it might be him. 

So I’m annoyed. 

And I’m tired. 

I’d like to feel free to move and make decisions of my own volition, not as a slave to an abusive husband, the inefficiency of the Californian legal system or the intricacy of an annulment process. I’m tired of being manipulated and under control and out of control, financially and emotionally and spiritually and physically.

On top of that, I feel like I’m grieving again. I’m just starting to realize that- surprise!- I’m really, really, single. A mental spiral triggered by the settlement submitted last week for final legal processing.

I’m relieved, but a little more broken than I thought I’d be. 

I feel abandoned. 

I keep thinking, over and over,

but what if he’d loved me?


There’s a voice that follows, whispering is this it

Is it?

Am I going to be alone? Forever?

I suppose I was alone before. Loneliness in a marriage was certainly painful in its own special way, leaving me by myself at church, with family, in prayer, in thought.

One of those last summer nights found me alone in my home, again, calling him over and over at three am, wondering where he was, again. I tossed and turned, coming to terms with a truth I’d been avoiding: I’d rather be alone forever than live like this. 

So what if this really is forever?

I don’t want to hear that God has a plan or it’s all going to be okay. 

This might be the plan. 

Is it ok?


I try to look beyond the rules.

I put it all away, and I try to look to Jesus.

I try to sit in mass, sit in adoration, sit in prayer.

I try to get beyond the sterility of rule-following to the heart of it.

I sit, and sit, and sit, and stare into the face of God until as much as I wrestle, I can’t help but rest.

There’s something undeniable; it’s tangible, concrete peace. It’s grace.

There is a real encounter with a real God, and real love, so maybe- maybe- singleness is not synonymous with loneliness. 

Maybe these rules aren’t the iron-cold bars of a cage, but the warm walls of a home within which I encounter love in the most healthy, human way possible. 

Maybe here, in this home, there is a life of abundance waiting around the corner.

Or maybe that life is right here, waiting for me to live it.

bumbling along

mismatched with god and men

Last week, in a moment of bravery/insanity I downloaded bumble.

These are the things I’ve learned so far: 

I don’t like guys with girls in their pictures. 

I don’t swipe right for gym selfies. 

No thank you, atheists. 

And, really? Shot-gunning a beer in your profile? That’s the best you can do?

Also, why is no one messaging me back?

Am I not thin enough? Not short enough? Not hook-up-y enough?

And why am I waiting for notifications to pop up on my phone? I haven’t done that since my ex!

I thought the days of anxiously waiting for crumbs of pseudo-attention were behind me! I hate watching the phone, reading too much into careless words, squeezing meaning out of nothing, hoping to feel seen for a breath of a moment. 

The moment always ends.

Which brings me here, to my latest, most interesting, least shocking, conclusion:

Men terrify me. 

Actually, physically, I’m having a reaction.

A skin is itching, stomach is sick, can’t sleep through the night kind of reaction. 

Allergic to boys, possibly?

Ha. 

Whatever it is, I’m over here with my itchy-anxious self wondering how the hell I’m supposed to trust them again.

How am I supposed to find a place I feel supported while wading through these very unsafe, bizarre, murky waters?

It’s been a long time since I’ve muddled through this swamp, and I’m not enjoying the swim.


I was fourteen when I started dating my first boyfriend. Not a bad age until you start thinking… Hey, this girl was in middle school six months ago. Why is that boy older, and why is he telling her she should do him favors to “make her man happy?” Why is he trying to hook up with her in the art room after-hours and telling her what to do with her bikini line? Why is he hearing her say no, thanks, and pushing the envelope anyway? Feels a little creepy, from this point of view. 

Creepy or not, we bop along until, out of no where, he breaks it off. I’m crying on my bedroom floor, crying in the car, crying at school, crying in church, wondering who else will ever tell me I’m beautiful. I’m starving myself and burning myself and finding myself in therapy. Full teenage melt-down.

I dive into religion, finding rest in God, finding a place I felt forgiven for the shame I’d been carrying.

Spring comes around and I make new friends, meet new boys.

The next one was friendly for a while, leading me on like the best of them, and I absolutely pined (*eyeroll* the drama) for him for months. Of course, he’d been spending those same months debating whether or not to keep up with his sexy-cool bff or commit to me: quiet, bookish, good-girl-next-door. Should’ve listened to my gut and moved along, because the week he finally decided for me (dates and kissing and all!) he promptly hooked up with her at a party. 

V awkward.

So. Not hook-up-y enough for him, not cool or badass or fun enough. Not enough boobs. 

The next guy made sense, in comparison. He was just as sweet and quiet as me. He knew he wanted me, he reached out to me, and actually asked me on a date.

So when he turned cold, when he cheated, when he lied, when he pushed, I prayed. And prayed. For almost a decade, almost endlessly. I thought if I tried hard enough it’d get better. If I was consistent and faithful, if I modeled Christian love and generosity and the freaking feminine genius things would turn around. 

God was good, right? He’d fix it. 

Some things that stuck instead: You’re dirty. You’re not enough. You’re forgettable. It’s unfixable.


At this point, it feels like the way I’ve been handled by men is the only way they operate. That pisses me off. 

Also making me angry? God. 

I think He shouldn’t have let me feel so much shame for the first boy. I wish I could’ve avoided the mess with the next boy. I feel like He could have stepped in harder with the last.

So what now?

Here’s what I’ve come to, a glass of wine and a few expired matches later:

A) I’m pissed at God, but I would like to untangle my understanding of Him from my understanding of men.

B) I’m pissed at men, but I would like to untangle my current understanding of men from the possible reality of men.

C) I would like to tackle points A and B without diving into hell-hath-no-fury mode. Because honestly, I do like men, when they’re good. And I do love God; He is good.

Conclusion:

Nothing is unfixable.

Let’s begin.

recovering safety & sight

the slow walk towards trust

Last year, the day I moved home, my mom came to me with a handful of miniature nativities. All small enough to fit in her palm, one was meant for me as a gift from her recent trip to Italy. She was surprised by my choice, the little wooden family, carved as one piece and painted with muted colors. The most rustic, least detailed, least dazzling of the group. 

Where my mother was surprised, I felt it was obvious, almost logical, to choose this little walnut-sized family. Look at baby Jesus! He was sleeping, tucked into the arms of His mother, enveloped by Joseph, their mantles melted into one. How could I not tuck myself into that little nativity? That smallest Jesus was the safest Jesus.

Months later, I began therapy. My journey towards healing began by addressing those underlying currents that had propelled me out of my marriage and, instinctually, towards whatever appeared the safest. 

I found I felt unsafe emotionally, having known a love that withdrew and told me I was a mistake. Unable to trust that a heart promised to protect me would continue to be willing. I had learned I lived in a world where I could give my all, over and over again, and I would not be good enough. I could be rejected, forgotten and unwanted. 

I learned I felt unsafe spiritually, unable to express the truths of my faith without conflict. Unsafe to pray openly at home. Unsafe to talk about what shaped my heart and soul and what I believed at my core. Unsafe to put God first, because that meant my husband would only love me less. 

I realized that, at times, I even felt unsafe physically, having lived with a man who’s rage frightened and shocked. Unsafe in intimacy, unable to trust my body to a partner who pushed boundaries. Leaving me with one eye over my shoulder at all times, in all situations.

Hour after hour was poured into therapy, claiming a new space where I could breathe. It was safe to exist, to take up room, and to trust my environment again. 

Okay. Great.

So I’m safe within myself. Within my heart. My mind. My home.

Where does that leave me and God?

It leaves me angry.

It leaves me feeling like God is dangerous. Because I prayed novena after novena after novena, made sacrifice after sacrifice, and endless, endless, loops on my rosary. Because I journaled and prayed and reflected and talked and asked for prayers and guidance and felt like I was in a good place, I was doing the right things, I wasn’t even having sex! I was even using NFP! 

All that, and, guess what, I got hurt anyway. My heart got broken. He didn’t see me or hear me or want me or convert or grow or treat me better. Nothing. I didn’t get kids or stability or healing or holiness. I asked for help and thought God was reassuring me, thought I was having peace, but really it was just moments of relief. No signs, no reassurance, just interludes in the cycle of abuse. 

And now I look into the face of the God I trusted, the God who led me to believe there were great things in store for me.

What great things? 

This?

Why?

I can’t open my hands, I can’t let You in, I’m angry and I’m hurt and I don’t understand. I think I find You untrustworthy. Because I used to trust, and the one meant to love me for forever, the one meant to make Your love tangible, abandoned me. Abused me. Ignored me. Withdrew from me. It feels like You did that.


I pause in my anger, and I see Mary Magdalene in my heart. I’ve always had a soft spot for her, the woman who struggled with sexual sin. I took on some of her shame in my own relationships, sometimes carrying a burden heavier than I was meant to, not realizing that ‘no means no’ still applies when he says he loves you. Not realizing that not everything was my fault. Not realizing that seeing Mary Magdalene as an adulterer was an unfair projection onto a woman who should’ve been known for more.

I think I finally see her now.

God didn’t love her ‘in spite of’ her sin. He loved her before the sin. He loved her for more than the evils we blame on her, before the labels and the embarrassments and the character she took on in the narrative we created. 

When she was called adulterer and stripped in the street and stoned by her neighbors, God did not see what we all saw- a sinner, a prostitute. He saw a woman abused. He saw a woman desperate and abandoned by her people, trying to survive in a culture structured to leave women dependent on men. A community where women were left with very few options or resources of their own. He saw a woman who had been taken advantage of, her weaknesses exploited, her body marked, her soul abused, her heart broken. 

He saw a woman out of options. 

He presented her with a new one.

He saw her on the ground, kissing His feet, and, no He did not begin by asking her for everything. Even less- he asked for nothing. In return, He presented her with love.

I imagine she was overwhelmed and tired. I imagine she had a multitude of reservations, and a heart in need of healing. I imagine she was afraid. 

I imagine she didn’t have a heart ready to abandon to a Savior. I imagine she was guarded. I imagine that was okay. 

All she did, all she needed to do, was look up, and look into the eyes of the One Who loved her. A small movement, but a movement of courage. Not everything, but a place to start.

Jesus, I don’t have much for You right now. I’m guarded. I’m hurt. 

Even still, even here, I’ll try to let you see me. I’ll try to meet Your gaze.

It’s not everything, but it’s a place we can start.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us. 

promises

for abundance

“Will He lead you out? Yes, eventually. But first, there might be a time that He is simply with you there.”

A reflection printed in my Blessed is She journal three years ago, meant to be an encouragement for those of us in a season of waiting as we counted down to Christmas.

How little I knew then about how prophetic those words would be. At that point, all I knew was the conflict heavy in my own home; that month’s journal was page after page of notes on neglect, silence, anger, and anxiety. So much anxiety. My body was in panic mode and my heart was in turmoil. I was waiting. Waiting for something to give, something to change, some hope to enter into the drama of my marriage.

My response to that day’s prompt:

“When the desires of my heart don’t line up with reality or the desires of my husband’s heart or even the timing of Your heart- it’s okay to be sad. You hear my prayers- someday there will be a fulfillment of the prayer for a joyful, holy family and a holy husband who knows You. In the meantime You will wait with me here…When my heart feels separate from my husband, my world, You are there. You see me and You know me… Even in suffering and sadness, You are gentle and patient, waiting for me to see You and love You and let You love me. You are with me.”

Christmas morning came that year without my miracle. Without magic. Not the slightest glimmer of hope or sign God saw my waiting and matched it with grace. I was miserable.

“I feel misunderstood and lonely and hurt and very sad that this is my life. After all this, I’m exhausted and suffering. Why? Why do I feel so alone?”

Instead of rejoicing, I was begging. 

“A savior is born. Save me.”

Another year goes by. Another journal fills up.

I am more confused. 

“I need to step away from the part of my heart that wonders, ‘should I have married him or not?’ I need to let that go and fully embrace this and where I am…I need to trust You- I did when You brought me here, now I have to trust where You lead me.”

I used to think I was bad for questioning the solidity of my marriage. I used to think it was holy and good to trudge along alone, trusting, trusting, trusting. 

I heard the passage from Luke, “Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promise to her” and knew it was for me. I had been promised a life of joy and abundance. I had been promised satisfaction. I had been promised life, and life to the full. God would fix it so I could have it, and He would do it here.

Obviously, He had other plans.

My husband didn’t start going to church. He didn’t start paying better attention to me. We didn’t have a home full of joy. We didn’t start building a family.

However. 

I had asked Him to lead me, and He was faithful to those prayers. He led me – straight out of my marriage.

But what of my promises? I was convinced! Convicted! Trusting! I believed! 

Instead of getting what I’d dreamed of, I was alone, wondering what does God actually promise me?

His faithfulness.

Had He been faithful? Had I been comforted? Had I been strengthened? Was I bold enough to change my life? Yes.

His love.

Had He shown me that love? Had I been blessed by His presence? Wisdom? The love of some seriously solid friends and a wildly generous family? Yes.

His abundance.

Had I flourished? Found new confidence? Found healing and hope and permission to be myself in a bigger, more beautiful way? Yes.

God Himself walked through the valley of death. Someday there will be life without suffering, but why should my journey on earth look any different than His? In the meantime, there is daily mercy. Daily grace.

I do believe that someday I’ll have what my heart longs for. I’ll have a love where I’m known and thriving and a way to share my heart as a mother. Whatever that looks like, however those desires are answered, I know I am already seen. Already loved. Already full.

A new prayer for today:

Lord, I trust in Your promises. 

I believe You promised life, and I still believe, even here, even when Your answer broke my heart. Thank You for seeing me. Thank You for saving me. 

Today, I hear again “Blessed is she who believed” and respond the way Your mother did:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

You are a keeper of promises. 

My soul rejoices, and I believe.


And blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill his promise to her.

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.

He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.

The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Luke 1:45-55

were you there

seeking presence in the pain

There’s a song that gets pulled out at church around Good Friday every year that used to give me chills. It’s lyrics lead the congregation through Jesus’ Passion in an uncomplicated but profound way, personally asking each of us if we’ve walked the journey with our Christ: Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree? Laid Him in the tomb?

I heard it again last Sunday and it’s lyrics felt more personal than years before. I found myself in the same sort of sadness, but also somewhere new. It felt almost indignant. Don’t ask me where I was, Lord. Where were You? Were You there? Were you there on the nights I cried alone? Were You there for the panic attacks? For the abandonment? For the anger? For the confusion?

Were You there when I was coerced? When no didn’t mean no? When I was ignored? When I was the target of undeserved hatred? Were You there when I was made to feel less than wanted, less than beautiful, less than a woman? When the desires of my heart, the ones I begged You for, went unanswered, year after year?

Were You there when I had to hide my marriage from others, from myself? When I didn’t know how to explain the strange undercurrent of dread, dissatisfaction, loneliness? When I begged You to bring my husband back to me? Bring Your peace into our home?

When I trusted deeply and implicitly that everything would be okay-  were You listening or laughing? When I felt You tell me everything would turn out alright- is this heartbreak what You had in mind? When I prayed for him to know You and see me, did You know that would never come to be?

I think back to that pivotal morning I met with the priest. That day when we walked through the tortured turns of my marriage I was looking for advice, looking for someone to tell me again it would all be okay. Instead of something encouraging I could tuck into my pocket and casually take back home, he reassured me that, yes, it would all be alright, but no, things could not go on as they had. He said You wanted better for me, and I would need to be brave enough to step out into the world and away from my husband. It was the first time I was faced with someone confirming out loud a truth I had been hiding in my heart. I needed to leave.

Something settled over me when I finally faced that truth- a bittersweet mix of acceptance, relief, and dread. I knew what I needed, but, my gosh, the road ahead was going to be long. It was going to be brutal. Excruciating.

In the chapel afterwards all I felt was the Garden. The Garden Jesus wrestled His Heart in, begging God for the cup to pass. He saw what was ahead of Him and knew it would be Good, but oh, how terrible. The pain of a broken body and broken heart, rejection and suffering. It all lay ahead of Him, yet He still saw that the only way to the Glory of Resurrection was through Hell.

I was in my own small corner of that Garden that day. I was already exhausted and couldn’t fathom how I would be able to pull my heart into even more pieces than it had already been broken. A sense of real grief and no, I’m really not looking forward to this, let’s fast forward, let’s just not. It was easier to suffer in the silence and predictability of my life then rip it all apart completely.

When I walked out of the chapel, eyes swollen from tears, I found myself in the lush sweetness of a rose garden. A little slice of paradise. A little bit of beauty bordering my Gethsemane.

So maybe You were there. Maybe You meant it when You said it would all be okay. Maybe You were present and waiting to set me free the whole time. From abuse, from death, from sin, from fear.

It took me an awfully long time to get there, though, and I’m not sure why I found myself leaving a life I had prayed so hard to start. Why did we go this way? Why did we take this road? I wish I knew.

I’m trying to trust Your presence and grace. You’re writing a story for glory, a crown of roses from a crown of thorns. I’m trying to trust again with that same unwavering faith that You are real and You will heal. You will make paths straight and there will be life renewed. Life abundant.

I’d like to think that You are holding vigil while I hide in the darkness, in this small tomb of unknowing, and while I am waiting here You are sowing a garden. When these stones roll away there will be morning, and I will be met with new life.

Alleluia, Alleluia.