Day 37

Day 37 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.

I’m sitting watching Pitch Perfect for perhaps the 100th time. I love that flick as much as I love cheerleader movies and beauty pageants. For a  woman who has tried hard to not be seen as a girl for the entirety of my adult life I sure do a pretty good impersonation. 

I work in an industry that is male dominated. I have always worked with men. Since I was little I had thought that God made a mistake by making me a girl. I have always been strong, independent, ambitious, focused and goal oriented.  The more I got to know myself and my dreams the more convinced I was of God’s mistake. Somehow it has been subtly dripped into me that girls weren’t supposed to be those things. Those were masculine characteristics. If I was going to“fit in”  in the woman’s world I would have to camouflage those traits with lipstick and dresses.
I want to fit in with the girls and with the guys too. I long to be able to hang comfortably with people my age and 20 years on either side of it. My Asian self enjoys the company of the Koreans but I always feel “white” even though I don’t look it. It’s a challenge. The truth is, it is a rare person who is able to embrace themselves fully without trying to change to adapt to their surroundings. I have nailed the art of being a chameleon and to the outside observer it appears to work swimmingly. 
I wasn’t built to blend in but I sure as shooting do not want to have to change in order to fit in. The older I have gotten the less apt I am to try because I know the futility of it. Fitting in, the norm, the status quo are all shifting mirages. You can’t ever capture, let alone live within them. However, while a wide and diverse circle of friends tell me I belong my insecurities tell me I don’t. I am slowly shedding the skin of the chameleon and discovering exactly what “color” I am under the camo.



Day 36

Day 36 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.
Zoot and Janice

I wanted to play the sax. I imagined myself a hip, cool, wild and free saxophonist, Zoot and Janice style! Not floaty and romantic Kenny G. style.  Although, to be fair, Janice was floaty too but more in a “molly” kind of way. Sadly, I was a disgruntled pianist who, in addition to playing sax, wanted to be a brave, soaring solo vocalist.  I tried. I remember singing in a trio in high school but when I went off key, from the audience my mother put her finger up to her lips to shush me. I was mortified and swore off spotlight singing from then on. I was just a boring pianist. Sure, I successfully played for 13 years. Yes, I won competitions. Yes, the neighbors said they opened their windows when I was practicing. Yes, I had my own students when I was 13 years old. But still, it wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to play that big, unwieldy formal instrument. I was Zoot in spirit.

I fell asleep the other night crying. The last thing I remember sobbing about was “but I don’t want to be a writer!”  It isn’t that I don’t love writing or appreciate the impact of well placed words on lives. It is just that I imagined my life to be totally different right now. “I’m a teacher. A pastor. A preacher. A leader. I’m supposed to be at the microphone not sequestered to my desk writing word puzzles in anonymity that nobody will ever read.”  
If this sounds like a temper tantrum, it is. If it sounds like ingratitude, its because it is.
Twenty years ago when I moved into this small town a dear friend, retired pastor and brilliant writer used to say to me EVERY TIME I visited their house to fix their computer “Jill! You need to write. You can reach so many more people if you write. Start writing. You can do it!” He had no idea that inside my heart there were many books already started and so many stories “banked” for just the right moment. He sensed something that God was already speaking. The truth is, I may never have taken the time to discover whether writing “fit” me or not if I weren’t forced to be still, be silent and be alone. But I have and I truly love it.  “I’m listening Brother Brandt. Thank you.”

Today I thank God for the things I am, without diminishing myself or the gifts I have by wanting something else.  So with gratitude in one hand and my pen in the other the only thing I can say now is . . . how am I supposed to hold my coffee?!
6/62/208 (214)

Day 23

Day 23 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.

Not having a church to call my own is, I imagine, a lot like a phantom limb. I can still feel its presence even though it is gone. Sometimes the only way I know it was there is because my heart hurts and it reminds me of when it was attached.

Day 5

Day 5 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.

Things that others may take for granted are not constants for me.  Take parents for instance. Most people have a single set of parents, like ’em or not. Not me. I had birth parents. Then I had adoptive parents. Then adoptive parents. (Yes. Another set.) Then step parents. Then  guardianparentsfosterparentsguardianparents. Then I had parents in law. Yup that’s 6+ sets.

However ever since the third set of parents took charge there has been one constant in my life.  I have been in church every week of the last forty-ish years, except in cases of long illness or travel.  It has been a place of comfort, familiarity, tradition, relationship, fun, laughter, tears, work, play, and learning.

I love the church so much I became part of leading it because I thought, with proper leadership, it had the power to change the world! To date I have worked at seven church, three of which I helped start from scratch, plus countless other churches as a guest speaker or consultant. Perhaps this is is my non-spandex/capewearing/superhero way of being a part of changing the world? I love it and it has been a steady pillar in my crazy life.  

Until last year.
Last August, at the direction of loving, astute supervisors and with very little warning, I walked out of a church I birthed and never returned.  I had to walk away to save myself. For months I cried deep, wrenching sobs every sunday. I was white hot angry at pastors who whined about their jobs and was booger green jealous at those churches that seemed to thrive even under weak, careless or (what was that Pence word?) oh, “feckless” leadership. I still tear up when I think of those people and duck around corners when I see them because I don’t feel I can talk without tearing up and making us all feel uncomfortable.
But it isn’t just my church I got cut off on. It seems to be every church. When I try and visit church I shake, break into cold sweats, am over the top anxious and due to naseau feel ready to toss my communion wafers and grape juice. I have tried arriving late so I don’t have to interact, earplugs and several other calming techniques, to no avail. “Why does this happen?”, people ask me. I don’t fecking (pence word) know, anymore than I know how to fix it. I hate it and feel like I am being unjustly kept from oxygen. 
Without the life raft and ritual of church I am still adrift but finding patience to wait for my health to catch up with my hope. I have had to remind myself that going to church doesn’t equal faith; that’s just ritual. It has re-prioritized my relationship with God to be what it always should have been, focused on Christ not on the gathering of people. I can now focus on what I have and not what I’ve lost, the beautiful collective expression of faith.   
So, relax people. My not going to church doesn’t mean I’m going straight to hell, just to starbucks. Judge that coffee snobs, not my faith.