Is This Normal? Some Thoughts on Love. Also, Dogs. Also, Bodies.

February 23, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

I took my rings off the other night.

My wedding ring. My engagement ring. The two stackable rings I wear with them that I bought in a fit of extravagance for $12 at a fancy strip mall with immaculate sidewalks and enormous, Christmas-tree-lit palm trees in Southern California after an hour of agonizing over which to pick.

I took off the twisting ivy ring I bought to remind me that I grow fast and strong and have the power to break down huge barriers, at least eventually.

And I took off the filigreed silver ring with a riot of flowers and leaves; the one I bought in Mexico and wear on the middle finger of my right hand. I call it my flip-off ring, even though I’ve only ever flipped off Greg’s back with it, and, much more often, myself, usually in reproach for saying something Self decided was stupid. Self is all, “Stupid, stupid, stupid. JEEZ, Beth. WHY DO YOU SAY WORDS OUT LOUD? TO PEOPLE?” Then Self pulls out the flip-off ring, points it at me, and waves it around. In other words, Self can be a real asshole. Self and I are working on this.

I took my rings off the other night, but not because I didn’t want to wear them. I did. It’s just that my fingers felt jittery. Scritchy. Like they buzzed with constant, tiny electric currents. Bees under the skin. Restless Finger Syndrome? I don’t know. I just know the rings had to go away for my fingers to survive; strange sensory attacks that subsided when the rings came off. I took them off again just now, triggered, I suppose, by frantic finger memories.

Is this normal? Is this a thing the average person experiences? Or is this a symptom of mental illness? That’s a question to which I never know the answer. Not ever. About rings and other things. Does it make a difference that I also had to put on a tank top because my forearms turned scritchy, too? That the buzzing traveled through wrists and up my arms like something both alien and organic? Foreign and ingrained? Like the buzzing is the Borg and like resistance is futile? Does that make it more likely to be an illness issue? Or is this just part of having a body? I’ve never been particularly good at this part of being human — the How to Have a Body part. Why do some people seem to know how to have a body? And how to work a brain? Or are those myths, and it’s all a mystery to everyone? How is it possible to be past 40 and not know?

I took my rings off the other night.

I took the rings off, and then my shirt, and I wore a tank top and naked fingers and somewhat ugly panties which were lacy but worn, and I pulled my knees to my chin in my chair and stared at my computer screen and didn’t know what to say.

I didn’t have Writers’ Block. The opposite, maybe? Too many scritches and jitters and too many words pushing against the dam.

Too many thoughts about the state of the church and what it looks like to leave.

Too many thoughts about the state of our country and what it means to be both fierce and kind in the world right now.

Too many thoughts on why I can’t be silent these days, even though people tell me I’m complaining, or I am not respecting authority, or I should just “let it all sort itself out” and “see what happens” which appears to be something only privileged people say to each other because their lives aren’t on the line.

Too many thoughts about which wins when the choice must be made — ferocity or kindness — and which is the way of Love. Both, I bet; it’s just a matter of when to flip over the temple tables in a righteous rage because politics has married religion to make profits of gold, versus when to eschew the Sabbath rules to heal the sick, and give sight to the blind, and harvest food for the hungry, and to lift our neighbors’ oxen out of the ditch where they’ve fallen.

It’s rule breaking, either way — ferocity or kindness — to choose the side of the vulnerable. So often the way of Love, though. Over and over, the way of Love.

I stared at the screen the other night with too many words in my head, and no rings on my fingers, and I gave up quickly because I’m working these days on being gentle to Self even when Self isn’t gentle back.

Instead of writing, I put my computer to sleep, and I got in the bathtub and turned the water to hot.

I read a novel that was unedifying and captivating and perfect.

I listened to squabbling children whose arguments were repetitive and endless.

And I let the dog lick my toes and gaze at me with consuming adoration. I thought my dog should give Self lessons in Love, and lessons to the world, too, though the world will accuse her of being too affectionate, and too in-your-face, and too unable to understand the bigger issues at hand.

I took my rings off the other night. I don’t know if I did it because I’m ill or because I’m human. Probably both, though. Probably both.

Love to you, friends,

To Tomicka Who Works the Night Shift at the Crowne Plaza

February 8, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

 

Dear Tomicka Who Works the Night Shift at the Crowne Plaza at the Seattle Airport,

I don’t know how many frantic phone calls you field every night. I don’t know how many of those come from mommies who are too far away from their kids to help them. I don’t know how many times you have to calm them the heck down and tell them not to worry because you’ve got this. I don’t know if this was old hat to you or a first. All I know is, you handled it like a rock star.

My kid was stranded the other night at the airport with a flight cancelled due to snow, which you already know because we talked about it on the phone while we became best friends. She’d flown to Seattle from Oregon on her way back to college in Hawaii, but, after waiting inside the airport 6 hours and another 3 hours sitting on the plane, the flight was cancelled, the passengers returned to the gate, and she was stuck. Tired from a long day of travel and delays, and stuck.

Now, yes. My kid is 18 and a half, so technically an adult. But she’s a BRAND NEW adult — a baby adult — and, perhaps more importantly, her mommy is new to having an adult, so we’re just learning the ropes around here. She could have handled herself. She would have done fine. But she was traveling alone for the first time, and it was snowing buckets outside, and the next flight wasn’t leaving ’til morning, so MOMMY TO THE RESCUE, right?? Except I couldn’t really rescue her. I could only try to find a place for her to sleep while she navigated the rest on her own.

I booked her a room at the Crowne Plaza.

We usually stay at a different hotel at the Seattle airport. One with crumbling asphalt in the parking lot and a very long, bent chain link fence. They serve horrible coffee with powdered creamer, and the carpets are stained, but the rooms are clean and cheap, and, frankly, that’s all we usually look for in a hotel.

But I booked her a room at the Crowne Plaza. The price was $50 more than we usually spend, but I wanted a place that made her feel safe. I wanted a place that made me feel safe. A clean room, not as cheap, but safe. I assume this is what people talk about when they say they have “standards.” Ours are usually lower than other people’s, but this time, no. Crowne Plaza it was.

I called you after I made the booking because I know hotels don’t usually allow 18-year-olds to book rooms, and I needed to make sure you’d let her check in. It was 11:00pm, dark with flurries furiously falling, and Abby was making her way to the hotel shuttles. She was texting me every minute to ask if she was in the right place. To ask if I was sure.

“This is the Crowne Plaza, Tomicka speaking. How may I help you?”

“Tomicka? My name is Beth. My daughter, Abby, just had her flight canceled so I booked her a room with you. She’s 18.”

“Well… our policy doesn’t allow 18-year-olds to stay alone here…”

I interrupted you. I was maybe a tiny bit frantic. “But my kid is STRANDED AT THE AIRPORT, Tomicka, and she’s ALONE, so WE NEED A SOLUTION. What is our solution here??”

“It’s OK,” you said. And “DO NOT PANIC.” Which sometimes I need to hear, even if I say back, “I AM NOT PANICKING, TOMICKA. I AM VERY CALM.”

“Let me finish,” you said, and I took a deep breath which was really just me preparing TO FIGHT YOU TO THE DEATH for a room for my child, but then you said these words to me, “Beth. Listen. I am a mommy. I will take care of your daughter. Although our policy doesn’t allow 18-year-olds to check in alone, I will call my manager right now to get an exception approved. I am on this. We can make this happen. I’ll call you back in 10 minutes.”

Listen, Tomicka. When my kid was tiny, we had one rule if she got lost. I drilled it into her over and over.

“If you get lost, what do you do?” I’d ask. “FIND A MOMMY,” she’d reply.

Find a mommy. That was our rule. Because I knew, if my little lost one wandered up to a mommy with a stroller, or a mommy handing out goldfish crackers at a park, or a mommy pushing a kid on a swing, and said “I am lost,” the mommy would protect her. The mommy would help her find her way back to me. Oh sure, the mommy’s reaction after that could go either way — she might be amazingly sympathetic and pat me on the back and say “there, there” while I cried out the adrenaline of losing my kid, or she might be mean and ask me what kind of a mother I am, anyway to lose my child like this? — but I knew she would keep my kids safe before that reaction. And that’s all I needed to know. One rule: Find a Mommy.

You called me back 10 minutes later, just like you said. And also like you said, you’d fixed everything. My kid could check in with the caveat that she couldn’t order room service because they serve alcohol, so delivery would be restricted on her account. “Don’t worry, though,” you said again, “Here’s a number to call if you want to order her a pizza or something. She’s probably hungry.” She was. She hadn’t eaten for 12 hours. She was tired and she was hungry. “BUT IF YOU ORDER,” you clarified, “make sure you have them deliver it here to the front desk. It’s probably fine to have them deliver to her room, but she’s 18 and traveling alone, so let’s just have them meet here where I am.”

 

“And listen,” you said, “ANYTHING she needs tonight — anything at all — you have her come find Tomicka, OK? I’m a mommy, too. That’s what we do.”

That’s when I said I love you and that you’re my best friend forever.

People ask me all the time, with all the terrible things happening around the world, why I stubbornly think people are good. Why I think there’s still hope. Why I insist that people I haven’t met in real life are, too, my very real friends and not virtual at all. You, Tomicka, proved my point. I keep thinking that way because people like you exist. People who look out for others. People who find common ground. A community of mommies. A community of momrades. Which is why, even if we never meet face-to-face, I still will always be,

Your best friend forever,

 

 

 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misspelled Tomicka’s name as Tanika (as can still be seen in text photos).

On Being Mindful. Or on Putting on Clothes. Whichever Comes First.

February 6, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

It’s Greg’s birthday today so I’m seriously considering changing out of the pajamas I’ve worn for 10 days while caring for sick kids (and a sick me), and changing into regular clothes. I mean, it’s mid-afternoon, and I haven’t actually taken anything resembling action to Put on Regular Clothes, but it’s a possibility, is what I’m saying. Also, by “regular clothes,” I mean leggings and a t-shirt. Possibly a bra. If he’s really lucky, I’ll wear my fancy bra; the one that’s not stretched out in the back, and doesn’t have the fine pieces of elastic erratically fraying like they’ve been fried in a horrible electrical accident, and whose underwire isn’t about to snap, making one boob significantly saggier than the other. It is, after all, important in any marriage to keep romance alive! Also, birthdays are special around here.

I texted Greg to see if he wanted to pick up a few boxes of scalloped potatoes, which are his favorite, so I can make those for dinner along with ham from a locally-raised pig because we believe in Both/And around here; both delicious, preservative-laden, dye-infused, freeze-dried, simple-carbohydrate potato products from a box which we will rehydrate with yummy, yummy saturated fat (read: All the Butter), AND hand-fed, gently-raised, locally-produced, happy, organic ham. Maybe I’ll find some freezer-burned green beans to microwave so my kids will have a green vegetable to refuse to eat, too. That sounds fun. Happy Birthday, Greg!

We’re hanging in there, friends, during this weird, weird season. But we’re doing it by taking one thing at a time, deciding what’s actually critical right now, letting everything else go, and being gentle with ourselves when we drop balls and mess things up and live in the muck and mire, muddy and mangled. We are tired. Donald Trump has been president for 17 days, and we have been sick for 10 of those. Our Christmas tree is still up, and we have no plans to change that anytime soon. We are working our usual 3-4 jobs. Our kids’ book reports and science assignments are late. My son just spilled Gatorade all over the living room floor, which WAS NOT PUKE, so HOORAY! And we spent the night on the phone with our college kid who was stranded in Seattle trying to fly back to college in the midst of a snow storm.

Yes, we’re tired — like All of America, I suspect — but we are trying to be kind to each other because changing the world starts at home with tiny acts of kindness and choosing to lay the infinite opportunities for bitterness aside. Some days, all we have the energy and wherewithal to do is put on clothes. Or make scalloped potatoes. Or just breathe; one breath in, one breath out, in and out, over and over. This, too, though, is an act of love. This breathing in madness. This remaining in the midst. It’s a choice to find magic in the mess. An insight into grace in the grime.

So, friends, if you are here, too, in this messy space where the only thing you’re doing right now is taking one breath at a time, welcome. We are not alone.

With love,

 

 

 

P.S. I tend to be more of a doer than someone who knows how to rest and take respite. I react more than I respond. But I am attempting to learn to be more attentive. To take in what the world sends me and to let it flow back out; in, through, and out. A conduit for Love. A conductor for Grace. A reflector of Light. I am better at it some days than others.

Along with some of my most trusted people, I’m trying a new thing next month when it comes to retreats. As you may know, I have hosted writing and spiritual formation retreats in the past; the Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat (next one in May), and the Grace in the Grime Spiritual Formation Retreat. I love both. I’m also asking myself, though, in the midst of what we’re experiencing as a nation and a world; as mothers, mud-dwellers and magic-makers; as humans who want to learn how to listen well and love much, how I can HELP? How can we, collectively, learn to reset so we can SEE each other for who we all are, with curiosity instead of judgement? Out of conversations like this — what does the world need most right now and what do we need in order to not just survive it but build something better and brighter — the Mindfulness Retreat was born.

Simply put, mindfulness is taking care of our nervous system. It is noticing what’s happening right now. It is using curiosity instead of judgment, for others, and, perhaps especially, for ourselves. It is digesting the intensity of being human. Schools throughout the country are learning how valuable it is to teach this practice to kids; I think adults like me need it just as much. On March 9-12, just over a month away, at the Oregon Coast, we are going to offer our first Mindfulness Retreat. Unlike the spiritual formation retreat, this one is secular. Like all of our retreats, it’s open to people of all backgrounds who need rest, respite, and a safe space to learn in a community of friends. Also, we have a shit-ton of fun. I hope to see you there. You can find all the information about the retreat, including how to register, here.

P.P.S. Sorry I didn’t give you more advance notice about the retreat. See the rest of this post for reasons why.

P.P.P.S. Not to brag, but I just put on deodorant. #WINNING #HappyBirthdayGreg

 

What to Do When the Needs Are ENDLESS

February 4, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

The needs of this world are endless, and I cannot meet every one of them, which I hate. I particularly hate it right now while I watch refugees suffer, and our LGBTQ neighbors suffer, and people of color suffer, and women suffer, and my children with disability suffer, and more, and more, and more. Nearly every day, I resent Magical Jesus for failing to issue me the Wand of Solving Everything or make me Benevolent Queen of the Universe with Awesome Cosmic Power, and then I remember that Magical Jesus isn’t real and didn’t come to issue wands, damn it.

Real Jesus and I are working on this tiny bitter attitude I have toward Magical Jesus.

Real Jesus makes more progress on some days than others.

Real Jesus, when I’m willing to listen, reminds me that he came as Love Incarnate and to show us how to love one another in turn. Which means we have to do the hard work of love. And I don’t mean to complain here — really, I don’t — but I feel like Real Jesus could have made this all just a LITTLE easier. (Psst…see: idea above about the magic wand, Jesus.)

It’s just … interesting … these days the way love looks. The way love takes shape. The way love, if we listen very, very hard, unmakes and remakes us, and unmakes and remakes our boundaries, too.

I’ve been in my pajamas for 7 days now. Sick kids + a sick me will do that to a girl. Plus I like my pajamas.

I’m tired right about now. In fact, I look like this this very minute:

No make-up. Wonky hair. Frankly, I feel good about this choice. I plan to change nothing about it in the foreseeable future.

But I have spent the week wondering, as I suspect all of us do, whether I’m doing enough to meet the needs of our hurting world.

Which is when I ran across a blog post by my friend Doreen called “the personal cost of living on high alert: wringing out the sponge that is my self.” Friends, I’m telling you right now, if you, like me, are living on high alert, and, well, also like me, you don’t plan to stop anytime soon, you kind of totally have to read this. I’m going to put the beginning right here, and then you need to click on the link to read the rest, because then she tells us about the sponge… and you need to read about the sponge. Like, if we’re going to live through the days to come, and if we’re going to love each other well, and if we’re going to spend our time defending the vulnerable and creating safe spaces, and if we’re going to be cleaning out our kids’ puke buckets while we do All the Things in our pajamas without a magic wand, we NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE SPONGE.

I have a million things to do. Writing deadlines, research to review, thank you cards to write, parties to plan, news to catch up on, causes to research, and, and, and. It’s all a lot and it’s all things I’ve promised myself I’ll do or things I’ve promised others I’ll do or things I feel as though the-world-and-everyone-in-it NEED me to do. Seriously, there are so many needs right now. Needs that pull at my mind and my heart. Needs to feel and to process and to know and to act. So, a bit ago, I closed my laptop, went into my kitchen and roasted a squash. I went in to get a glass of water but the squash was right there and slicing it brought me close to the earth. While it was cooking I lit my favorite candles and got out old calendars to cut and fashion into valentines. I tossed some nuts and spices and quinoa in with the soft flesh of the roasted gourd and taped and glue sticked and sharpied the most rag-tag valentines ever made. I feel a lot better now.

More than any other time that I can personally remember, we are all on high alert. With the world feeling topsy turvy and fear, anger, and grief all around and within us, we stoke the fire of our overwhelm by trying to make sure that we are informed and active. We put ourselves to sleep with the news and wake up with it. We scroll through endless Facebook posts, finding ourselves falling down rabbit holes of discontent and disagreement, even though we’ve promised ourselves we’ll stop. Out of a sense of powerlessness and insecurity we buttress our weary selves by clinging to the few things we feel that we can control or we become hyper vigilant, being sure that our call is to attend to whatever need we see.

Let me remind us: The need is not the call. The call is the call.

What I mean by this is that every one of us has a unique part we are made to play in this world. We are who we are by intention. I choose to believe that came to be by a Creator in whose image ALL OF US are made. Even with radically different how-we-came-to-be stories, however, I believe that we can universally hold to the idea that each of us has specific and special resources that we are to invest in this crazy thing called life where ever we happen to live it. The trouble is, when we are tired, scared, overwhelmed, under-informed, in denial, or rushingrushingrushing from one thing to the next, we have no way of being with our selves intimately enough to hear what our unique call is. We know what we wish we were good or skilled at. We know what seems most important based upon that which is in front of us (or that which we put in front of ourselves). We attend to our surroundings and the news and our friends/family/neighbors in hyper vigilant ways, trying to ascertain what we should be doing or thinking or feeling in order to make change in the world/be liked/get by. So we keep researching, doing, acting but we never really feel we’ve arrived on a meaningful or sustainable path.

When we feel like this, and there is no break on the foreseeable horizon, it is likely time to step away… [READ THE REST HERE]

Go read the rest.

Did you read the rest?

OK.

Here’s the thing: I’m not stopping now, nor am I stopping anytime soon, in doing the things I feel called to do. HELL, NO. But I needed Doreen’s reminders that a) I am NOT called to meet ALL the need by myself, b) I have a unique part I am made to play, so I’d best prepare to play that part very, very well and not get distracted by all the rest, and c) I can better play my part and answer my call when I take the time to step away… for an hour, for two, or for 20 minutes… to wring out my sponge.

Fiercely, lovingly, tirefully yours,

 

 

 

P.S. I’m going to go take a bath and read a trashy novel. The end.

My Parents Gave Me Syphilis for Christmas

February 3, 2017 in Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

My parents gave me one of those automatic vacuum cleaners for Christmas.

My sister-in-law got a membership to a wine club.

My brother got $50,000. (Or $50 plus books. Whatever. Same same.)

Greg got a 3D printer.

I got a cleaning implement.

My brother was jealous. He’s a younger brother. It’s what they do best. “SURE,” he said. “I get a money and books, and BETH gets the COOLEST VACUUM EVER. So what do I have to do to get a gift like that? JUST NOT CLEAN MY HOUSE FOR 12 YEARS, LIKE HER?”

Yes, Jeff.

Yes; that’s exactly what you have to do. Not clean your house for 12 years. And in retrospect? TOTALLY WORTH IT. Look at me, planning ahead!

So we have an automatic vacuum cleaner running around our house these days.

Greg named him Sisyphus, after the Greek mythological King of Corinth. As the tale goes, Sisyphus was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it come back to hit him, on repeat, forever.

We don’t know what our vacuum robot did in a previous life to have to be reincarnated as the object that tries to clean our house, the ultimate act of futility, but it must have been BAD, friends. Very, VERY bad.

Some of our kids, though, can’t remember how to pronounce Sisyphus.

They call him Syphilis.

As in, “Syphilis got stuck under our couch again.” And, “Mom, have you ever noticed Syphilis seems to be EVERYWHERE in this house?” And, “Mom, I like to play with Syphilis and see if I can outrun it.” And, “MOM! Syphilis got me again!”

You know, we try really hard not to have secrets in this house. We’re much more of the Live Life Out Loud Even Though We’re Weird kind of family. And BE BOLDLY US. And LET’S TALK ABOUT ALL THE THINGS. I feel, though, like Syphilis should be the exception that proves the rule.

In conclusion, my children are not allowed — EVER — to talk about our vacuum robot at school. Syphilis just became our family secret. I mean, what could go wrong??

Sincerely,

 

 

 

P.S. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for giving me Syphilis for Christmas. I like it very much.

P.P.S. I’m supposed to write a post about the February book for our Escapist Book Club, but people at my house are still barfing, and it was easier to write about Syphilis. Sorry. Here’s the February book, though, in case you’d like to get started:

More soon, I hope, about January’s book which I thought was RAD.

On Leaving Our Church and Entering the Wilderness of the Unknown

February 1, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

What a weekend. What a week. What a weird, weird world.

Wild.

Weird.

Wonky.

Wonderful, still. Probably. Probably?

But for now, OH MY WORD.

My son has been throwing up since Saturday, and, with the state of the world right now, the state of my country, and the state of my church, that feels wholly appropriate to me. Like his body has offered the only reasonable response to what’s going on. Vomit.

We thought he was getting better by Monday, but NOPE. More puke. Cherry Popsicle just everywhere. Also, he keeps pooping his pants because gauging soft poopies versus farts is VERY, VERY HARD when you’re sick. He keeps laying in bed saying, “Sorry, Mom. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to let my poop out,” which is exactly how I feel. I’m trying, dammit, not to let my political or religious or familial poop out, but I’m not exactly sure when it’s going to slip out anyway.

In a turn of events that has taken us quite by surprise, given years of effort to stay together and stay in conversation, believing there’s room at the table for people who disagree, our broader group of churches — the umbrella organization of 60+ churches in our region called Northwest Yearly Meeting — has let us know those of us who are open and affirming of LGBTQ people must leave.

Because we belong to a church organization that operates based on consensus and not hierarchy, we didn’t see it coming. At all. In a group that purports to believe in consensus — that has the process of discernment over years if necessary written into its doctrinal statements — there was none, and there is no appeal. The decision was mandated, the process was bypassed, a “time sensitive” clause of questionable application was brought to bear, and, as a result, Greg and I and our children will be leaving the church family into which Greg was born and where we’d hoped to raise our children. Not right this minute. Not immediately. In fact, our smaller church — the one we actually attend — may stay with the larger group; it’s far too soon to tell, and they’ve made no decision yet. But within the next year and a half, we Woolseys will be leaving the Northwest Yearly Meeting and leaving behind Greg’s family, who advocated for the separation and who will, I assume, remain with the churches that have no room for us.

There are many things I don’t talk about in this space, though I’m sure, given all I do discuss, it comes as a shock I have any filters at all. Disagreements with extended family are usually one that stay on the down-low, although I assure you we have had plenty of disagreements. Some resolved. Some unresolved. Many that carry significant hurt, as I suspect is true for all families, everywhere. Now, I have a strange choice: to remain silent in an effort not to exacerbate the extended family’s pain and our own, or to speak out with the hope of alleviating the pain of those who have been made even more marginalized and vulnerable with this decision. With this type of theological purging, though, and with it the knowledge that our LGBTQ friends, an enormous number of whom are already at risk of assault and violence in the greater communityspiritual harm by church communities, and who are more likely to cause self-harm or engage suicide as a devastated response to the loss of family and community, I cannot remain silent. I cannot, from my silence, contribute to that loss and cause more harm to a people already so vulnerable. I can’t do it without it costing my soul. I won’t.

So. We will soon be without our broader church home. Our choices: adhere to a statement of human sexuality that categorizes homosexuality with incest, bestiality, pedophilia and rape, and remain with the church Greg was born into, with many people we love very much… or follow our conviction by the God whose other name is Love, and follow our best understanding of Scripture which is to welcome our beautifully and wonderfully made LGBTQ friends, to repent for the ways we’ve belittled and discriminated against them, both explicitly and insidiously, to ask for forgiveness, and to try to do and be better.

Our choice is clear. We will make our way in the wilderness of the unknown. 

It is, as my friend Paula put it, a rending.

This is a week when our country is in chaos with a ban on the world’s most vulnerable.

And a weekend when our church is in chaos with a ban on the church’s most vulnerable.

And in the midst of it, in the midst of the rending, we had one 10-year-old boy puking and his twin brother finishing, finally, after 13 months straight, Harry Potter Book 7.

I spent Saturday rushing between the puke bowl, Popsicles, Gatorade and cold wash cloths… and the child who was riveted by the ending of Harry Potter.

And, because I’m a mother, I hovered. And I worried. And I posted to Facebook, as he stayed up too late reading…

…and read into the next day.

FACEBOOK:
“Mom! You will never believe what Mrs. Weasley said to Bellatrix!

‘Not my daughter, you bitch!’
Ha! I think Mrs. Weasley is just like you, Mom.”
He has 11 pages to go. Harry Potter, Book 7.
#BeStillMyHeart #HarryPotterForever

……….

FACEBOOK:
“MOM! I love this! THERE ARE, LIKE, 100 GOOD FIGHTERS for every Deatheater!” 

He has 8 pages to go. Harry Potter, Book 7.
#ImportantReminder #InRealLifeToo #HarryPotterForever

……….

And then, he finished.

At the end of Saturday.

When our churches, apparently, finished with each other, too. The end of a long story, full of good and bad, that we’d hoped wouldn’t end.

As his brother puked, he finished Harry Potter Book 7, and I was a wreck.

HE was fine.

*I* was a mess.

I managed to ask him through my blubbering, weary and worn in more ways than one, what he thought, and he said, “It’s such a good story, Mom. SUCH A GOOD STORY. But why are you crying?”

“Oh my gosh!” I said back, “Dobby? Dumbledore? Lupin? Tonks? FRED, kid! FRED DIED. I just can’t. Twin boys, and one’s gone.”

I sat on the couch with tears streaming down my face, looking at my kid, one of my own twin boys, losing EVERY BIT OF COOL I HAD. Cool dribbling down my face.

And you know what he did? He reached out and held my hand and said, “But, Mom. You can’t lose heart during the bad parts. You need to think about the whole story. You need to think about how good wins in the end. Right, Mom? Isn’t that what it’s about?”

Oh my word, friends. Oh my word. Out of the mouths of babes. And out of the pages of Harry Potter.

You can’t lose heart during the bad parts.

You need to think about the whole story.

You need to think about how good wins in the end. And you need to do your part to make it so.

In conclusion, what a weekend. What a week. What a weird, weird world.

Wild.

Weird.

Wonky.

But wonderful, still. If you think about the whole story, anyway. And about how good wins in the end.

Sending love, friends,

 

 

 

P.S. Um… and now let’s talk about privilege. Because have you noticed how I’ve made this entire story so far about me and my family? MY sense of hurt and disenfranchisement? And Greg’s? Yes. I’ve noticed, too. I’m quite good, it turns out, at making things all about me.

My friend Elizabeth spoke my heart earlier this weekend when she wrote: “I am sad to be removed from the conversation and from the invitation to worship. I know you don’t understand this, but I actually think it is important to worship and be in community with people I disagree with. I want the opportunity to learn and grow from you. I want to get to know your kids at camp and I want to hear the Spirit speak through you in worship. I want to be witness to your gifts and challenged by your passions. But I can’t be and that is a slap in the face for this privileged middle class white lady. I suppose that is one good thing coming from this: an understanding that I never had before of what it is like to be rejected from a group of people you want to call your own. I promise I will spend the rest of my life working hard to not recreate this experience for anyone in the future.”

Our LGBTQ friends have suffered far, FAR more than what those of us who are removed from fellowship are experiencing this week. We are, in fact, SO privileged to have even been able to say phrases like “I want to be in community with people I disagree with,” because being in such a group did not come with the price of our sanity, our faith or our lives. Now we get to enter into a new kind of privilege; the privilege of experiencing, in a tiny way, the kind of disenfranchisement and marginalization our LGBTQ brothers and sisters have been experiencing for decades.

I am ashamed it has taken this long to enter your suffering, LGBTQ friends. I am grateful to get to do so now. You, of course, are the very ones who have taught and are teaching me how to be welcoming and gracious. Thank you for being Jesus to me.

 

A Firsthand Look at the Refugee Crisis and Surprising Hope

January 27, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

Two weeks ago, I met a man with a gunshot wound, and a woman with tuberculosis, babies with malaria, and a toddler so malnourished she looked like the photos we saw in the 80’s coming out of the Ethiopia famine. I waited in line with refugees who arrived in Uganda from South Sudan that very day, babies on backs, belongings bundled, future uncertain. And, though we saw tragedy and enormous heartbreak — I sat a while and squeezed the hand of a mama whose baby couldn’t be saved during childbirth the night before — what took me by surprise again and again… what stuck with me and wouldn’t leave me alone in story after story after story after story…

… was hope.

Hope.

What a strange thing to find half a world away in Africa where I presumed to find only despair.

Hope.

And do you know why?

Because these people, who are fleeing violence, who are uncertain, who are longing for a better future, who want peace, are not alone.

There is hope because they are not alone.

There are people waiting to receive them.

Do you know, in this age of worldwide isolationism and xenophobia and shutting down borders and building walls — in this era where we choose to fear for our personal security, though it has not been threatened, and deny our neighbors safety, though they are under attack — how the government of Uganda has responded to the 400,000 refugees flooding their country since July alone?

Uganda has responded by throwing their borders WIDE OPEN.

Can you imagine?? Wide open borders for refugees rushing to safety. As though the right things to do are to welcome the stranger, and to look after the widows and orphans in their distress, and to reach out to the poor who cry out for help.

And do you know who has shown up to help their neighbors? The Ugandan people.

I mean, yes; Medical Teams International, the organization I traveled with, is there doing health intake and triage for every single refugee entering the country. Every single one of hundreds of thousands of refugees, more coming all the time. But do you know who makes that work possible?

Ugandan doctors and nurses and administrators and janitors and midwives and surgeons and cooks and data analysts who show up every day to love their neighbors as themselves.

It was hope. Over and over and over again. An infusion of hope in a dark world.

Look, friends; I don’t know about you these days. I don’t know what you’re thinking or feeling while strange things are afoot on our planet. I don’t know whether you, like me, want to hunker down some days and mourn and grieve how we’ve lost our way. I don’t know whether you, like me, are populating your personal Facebook feeds with hashtags like #CallingOutTheLies and #RefuseGaslighting because you’re unwilling to be party to alternative facts. I don’t know whether you, like me, have a stash of pretzels and chocolate and Reese’s peanut butter cups on your nighstand you’re eating late at night to swallow your feelings. I don’t know whether you, like me, vacillate between fight and flight, back and forth in rapid succession — I MUST FIGHT one minute, and Oh Dear God, Let Me FLEE THIS INSANITY the next. But I do know all of that is OK. All of it. Shock, anger, grief. It’s all normal. It’s all OK for a time. But eventually, we need to remember hope.

We need to remember hope, and we need to fight for it.

But in case you, like me, sometimes forget — in case sometimes hope slips your mind or you find it hard to grasp — slippery, slippery hope — we can rest for a tiny bit knowing the people of Uganda are carrying it for us until we can pick it up again. Like kites made of garbage bags and flown with joy, we can pick it up again soon.

With love,

 

 

 

P.S. All photos here were taken by yours truly, but are owned by Medical Teams International and are used with permission. All thoughts/opinions here are my own, however, and should not be held against Medical Teams. 😉

P.P.S. The refugee and displaced people crisis is expected to increase in 2017. But do not despair! There are real things we can do to help refugees around the world. Learn what the UN Refugee Agency, one of Medical Teams’ valued partners, is doing to support refugees, more than 50% of whom are children. Learn what it could mean for refugees and displaced people if the world, including the U.S., continues its policies of isolationism. Designate your donations to organizations like Medical Teams International by specifying “refugee relief.” And remember hope, and that we get to help in building it.

P.P.P.S. I’m terribly sorry I’ve been offline so much lately. After our flights were so dramatically messed up, we ended up extending our trip to Uganda so we could still see ALL the amazing work being done there. I was home only 10 hours before leaving for the Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat I run… which was AMAZING thanks to incredible participants and staff who let me recover from jet lag at the gorgeous Oregon Coast. It’s been a whirlwind, in other words. A GOOD whirlwind, but a whirlwind nonetheless.

P.P.P.P.S. The GOOD NEWS is the writing retreat DID afford me the opportunity to finish the latest draft of my book proposal, which is now back in the hands of my literary agent. I do hope to have more news to report on that soon.

P.P.P.P.P.S. The writing retreat participants, particularly Jen and Heidi, DID spend significant time advocating that I STOP DROPPING THE BALL on updating you on Betty and the kitchen remodel, which is … wait for it … COMPLETE, but about which I’ve failed to tell you. So stay tuned for more.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. I do feel very silly ending a post about refugees with an update about my kitchen. Gross. But I’m also grateful you let me be very Both/And, friends. Both deeply, abidingly concerned about people suffering around the world and what I can do to change that AND excited to cook with Betty.

Sending love, friends.