I didn’t know what freedom was
But I sure loved the feeling
I didn’t realize it then, but I had found my escape
Let goodness lure you in, you can trust it
Listen to your body and you will be free
Those who can make you feel flawed have the power
Suddenly you need them
To fix you and tell you how to be
Journey alone and your voice gets louder
The cacophony fades away
I’m not finding myself, but finding my worth
I’m not lost, just unseen so frequently – by even my own soul
They gave me blinders – “wear these to fit in”
Now I couldn’t see where I ended, and they began
What would feel real if truth could speak for itself?
Hundreds of little shards of glass
Broken bits of me
Arranging them together as a sparkling mosaic
Each one reflecting my spirit
I’m joining the resistance by not hiding
Sharp and bright – this art is dangerous
Drawing attention is a threat to the weak
They protect themselves by rattling the strong
They cower at authenticity
Celebrating myself is my chosen act of rebellion
Courage and Privilege
It takes courage to be who you really are;
Just you and nothing and nobody else.
Unveiled for the world to see.
No masks. No apologies.
But it’s not always as simple as having guts;
Not always as easy as being fierce.
Owning yourself takes dedication and grit, but also fortune and fate.
Breaking away requires strength and commitment, courage and … privilege.
Freedom requires hard work and firm boundaries and lots of good luck,
Because courage won’t get you very far swimming with sharks.
Not everyone is safe leaving the shadows, stepping out into the light.
Not everyone will be loved and supported if they come out of the closet.
Not everyone has the privilege of ruffling feathers or the safety net to rock the boat;
Fallout isn’t distributed equally.
Sometimes the brave thing is to keep hidden until it’s the right time or place.
Sometimes it’s the strong thing to keep up an act when you so badly want to quit.
Not everyone is timid who waits,
Not all are scared who test the water or linger just inside the mouth of the cave.
It’s wise to recognize “these people don’t deserve my authenticity”.
It’s prudent to spend your change wisely, to weigh the necessity of being a sacrificed lamb.
When the time is right, you will know
Deep down if the only obstacle is fear or pride.
Protecting yourself is valiant; a calculated escape, equally bold.
In the meantime don’t lose heart, stay the course; strategizing, planning and waiting, choosing moves carefully.
Some warriors battle the front lines, publicly heroes.
Others fight in secret, never celebrated, undercover agents.
Spies hide, and guard their secret identities.
Soldiers carry weapons, wear their armor. Neither are cowards.
To those still in disguise, I see you.
To those playing the long game for the best chance of success – I’m proud of you.
Your time will come, your secret is your sword.
You will know when to use it.
The Hero’s Journey
Hundreds of voices, none the same
Each one yelling “The truth is plain!”
Thousands of beliefs, each one unique
A cacophony so loud I can’t even think
“You are welcome here” I’m told “If you obey every decree”
I try my best but it would help if they could at least agree
I play by the rules, give right answers, but soon I find they’re all trick questions
A house of horrors, crazy mirrors, trap doors, learn my lessons
I follow one voice, ten shout all the more
I turn toward another, but fifteen bang down the door
Running down the hallways, twenty closing in
No matter who I listen to, I never can win
Faithful, I follow until the dead end – they said this was the right way
“We must obey God rather than men” they say, quoting verses every Sunday
What they really mean is “choose my ideas over the other guy’s”
Every church, every sect, claiming the other lies
One church teaches God is a strict punisher to fear
Another assures me God is good but you still can’t be queer
I’m accosted with “check everything against scripture!”
When I do, my studies reveal a good God wouldn’t torture
Not like that!” They say “you need to submit to authority”
So I take seminary classes and get a pastor’s degree
Some react “you can’t do that – that’s not how God designed a woman’s mind”
Others say “great job! Now stay within these preset lines”
Running in circles, dodging bullets, a constant guessing game
Approval of others my cross to bear – slowly going insane
Walking the aisle, already on edge – listening for cues
Shallow breath, try to fit in, eyes narrowing from pews
My heart is pure, led by God-given conviction
But to survive the system, I must obey man’s benediction
My ministry flourishes – if you dare, judge me by my fruit
Community, healing, love – still determined to give me the boot?
You defend and speak for God? Wish I was so anointed
You condemn my path – interesting – it’s where the Spirit pointed
Apparently Jesus loves tax collectors and sinners
But I’m hellbound for leading interfaith dinners
Pulled in fifty directions – help, I’m breaking apart
Taught to blindly trust people but never my heart
How is there one God but thousands of bosses?
To make it out alive I run and count my losses
It’s been years now, making my own way, going it alone
Distant wagging fingers, shaking heads, slander and gossip drone
But they should be happy now right?
I’m no longer there to endanger their plight
But wait, I round the corner, a few are waiting in ambush
What do they want with me? I’m not part of their church!
“Leave me alone!” “Go away!” I’m not being rude
“Stop chasing me!” Once in church, forever tattooed
Sprinting with wolves at my heels, I see them behind every bush and tree
I’ve already lost everything, what more do I need to do to be free?
Mustering courage, holding my ground, I turn and fight
“I don’t care what you think, it doesn’t make you right”
Go ahead, bare your teeth, shame me
I dare you, spread rumors, defame me
The wolves shrink back, their hunting strategy failed
Falling at my feet are the merits they hailed
I slip away through the brush, safe this time
Sojourning this exile’s endless mountain climb
There will always be predators along this lonely, overgrown path
They’ll sniff out my blood, try to reach me with their wrath
I’m a sought-after prize, they surely won’t forget
But I remember my power – after all, I’m a threat
Admittedly it’s a treacherous way, often travelled wearily
But take heart, the hero’s journey never came easily
The Hill I Chose to Die on
“We are alive only to the degree to which we are willing to be annihilated. Our next life will always cost us this one. If we are truly alive, we are constantly losing who we just were, what we just built, what we just believed, what we just knew to be true… I cannot hold too tightly to any riverbank. I must let go of the shore in order to travel deeper and see farther. Again and again, and then again. Until the final death and rebirth. Right up until then.” – Glennon Doyle
I have died four times in my life thus far. Each time a little less painful than the last. The cost always greater than expected and the reward always better than imagined. Never the death itself the most painful as much as the reason for it: decisions I never should have had to make, behavior I should not have had to take a stand against, people who should have been there to help resurrect me and weren’t, the ones who should have been celebrating with me on the other side but chose to criticize and accuse me instead.
I have died four times and I suspect I might still have to die a little more. Each time a moment of truth; a finale of sorts, the end of trying so hard, the end of cooperating and submitting and negotiating and bargaining. Those moments that come so rarely for peacekeepers, those moments where standing up and speaking out is worth losing everything for, because if you don’t, you will lose your own self.
I have died four times in my life, four big times and lots of little times. Each time my mind getting a little stronger, my voice getting a little louder, and my boundaries getting a little clearer.
I have died four times, each time losing the thing I wanted to keep the most, in order to find the thing that mattered more than the world itself.
I have died four times; losing and regaining my identities and beliefs, leaving harmful relationships, losing several communities and finding new ones, being alone sometimes, drawing lines in the sand.
I have died four times. Each time leaving its own scar, each time healing a little better.
Age 19, bewildered and alone; excommunicated from my family’s church, the only community I had ever known. It’s so easy to fall from grace.
Age 25, quitting my dream job and walking away from the ministry that saved me and believed in me through my darkest days. Years spent there were the best of my life but the community wouldn’t grow with me. I was too progressive. Apparently their love had a limit.
Age 26, trying to appear more confident than I felt entering the divorce attorney’s office. I made my final decision, no turning back now. Leaving the man I had built my life around who had no room for me in his anymore. The man whose arms I had fallen into because he accepted me when the church didn’t.
Age 29, my heart, my world, taken from me in an instant with a coroner’s knock. Grieving the love of my life was infinitely worse than any previous trauma – my soul ripped in two. Loving him for even a day was worth the heart-stopping pain of missing him for a lifetime. The risk of love is a hill I’m willing to die on any day. But the death I’m talking about here isn’t my soulmate’s, it is my own. Losing the part of me that died with him was easier to accept than losing him. Losing my grip on the last shreds of a traditional faith expression would have been unexpected at one point but made sense now. Losing more of me was inevitable, I just never could have imagined the catalyst; nor would I have ever wanted to.
I am a new person now. Not all for the better, but ultimately being renewed every time I rise again, each time proving I am alive.
I have died four times, and never have regretted the hill I chose to die on.
“No, you won’t treat me that way.”
“Absolutely not – you will not control me.”
“You will not reduce me, shrink me down, or keep me quiet.”
“I refuse to be shamed. I renounce that narrative.”
“I utterly reject those lies, that watered-down version of reality, the downplaying of what I went through, the narrowing of my future.”
“That is not the God I know. That is not the God I will follow.”
“This belief used to define me, but I’m getting acquainted with the new me now.”
“You will not capitalize on my grief, wielding it against me, attempting to drag me back into what I escaped. I do not give you that power”.
“Grief has turned my life turned upside down, but all you see is vulnerability. All I am to you is a conversion opportunity. Nope. That stops right here.”
“I’m building a boundary line between you and me. I won’t let you touch me with your shallow and offensive theology.”
“The life I’ve made is good. I am good. I know who I am. I know what I believe.”
“These are my decisions and values. These are the things I am willing to die for.”
I have died four times and each time have found it is not until I know what I’m willing to die for that I truly know what I’m made to live for
Chasing Snowflakes in Summer
Seasons – each perfect in its place – cycles of growth, slowing, rest and rebirth
But what if eternal summer takes hostage the earth?
Summer is lovely until it won’t end, wearily dissolving into a desert
Vacation turns to exile, looking for home, always on alert
I barely remember my last winter – I was a child when all was in balance.
Since then only a distant memory; a fleeting moment, a stolen glance
Piecing together fragments, I have a picture now
Snow bright, and deep, it weighs down a tree bough
Blanketing harsh landscape, softening corners, rounding edges
Drawing artful designs on all the cliffs and ledges
Peace takes over, the hustle bustle lays dormant
Jumping the track, everything stops for a moment
Magic overtakes even the most disgruntled old men
Footsteps recorded, journaling where you’ve been
Suddenly everything is different, new, simple, clean
Pause ordinary life, something special is happening!
I long for winter returning again– why am I so long deprived of rest?
Hibernate, take a break – from running and striving, every healing quest
Yearning for freedom to just be, to exist, to feel my skin tingle in the cold
But in this forever dry and barren land, I sense my frame growing old
Chasing snowflakes in summer – eyes wide open, searching for beauty so delicate
Intricate and fragile, here briefly then forever gone, fading, decadent
Around me dull brown, brittle leaves, meager harvest, thick air stifling
Cracked soil, dry creek, withered sprouts, exhausted from surviving
Midsummer’s rush, go, grow, travel, work, climb; using every last minute of daylight
I’m tired. I’ve climbed mountains, traversed long roads, can I turn down the next fight?
Bouncing from one drought to the next, never catching a break
A hundred mirages later, wondering if I’ll even recognize a lake
Begging the weatherman, please I need snow
Painting a canvas, sparkling clean, iridescent glow
A glimpse of relief; frosty morning, sharp inhale, the relief I crave
Not for long though, frozen fractals helpless against another heat wave
A single snowflake lands on my nose, tinge of cold and then melted wet
Frigid water running down my face, savor the moment
Honor that solitary soldier that braved the atmosphere to meet my face
Bronze it’s memory, hold sacred this space
Pioneering snow star, sailing through the skies
Meditate, connect to where it’s origin lies
Inner peace now, snow starts to fall
The running inside my head slows to a crawl
Perhaps, perhaps… No that couldn’t be!
Maybe all this time it’s source was inside of me!