The Gift of Suffering.

I truly feel like one of the greatest gifts a person can give is to sit together with another inside of their suffering. With no agenda. No reciprocity, even. Just the silent act of empathy, wrapped in genuine human connection. We all suffer, at one point or another. We all experience grief of various forms and severities. Pain is our great unifier.

Yet, we are so uncomfortable with someone else’s pain. We will fill gaps in conversations with awkward, well-intentioned cliches. Or avoid all together. Others will become hypervigilant from guilt or for appearances sake. Wracked with self-doubt or fear, we are afraid of getting too close to the sufferer.

Maybe we remember how suffering changes you. Snatches you from proximity with our superficial worries; instead focusing our attention on the abstract. The unknown and inexplicable. It is easier to pacify ones self with everyday cares.

Despite that fact that suffering tends to have nearly lethal devastations attached, the glory that can come from it is significant. Can we ponder on how this occurrence multiplies when communities mourn together? Can you imagine it?

What happens when you take your eyes off of your own pain for a moment & join hands with your neighborhood, family, and community concerning a hurt that we all may be able to relate to? And what happens when you lend ears to someone’s story that you have NO connections with, or a superficial awareness of?

Glory happens. Heaven is depicted. We are living out part of our best & purest selves when we join together. Humans are capable of great hatred and malice. But I don’t believe that’s our True Nature. That’s not our Origin. We are most like our Creator when we lay our own lives down.

So, I have a reason to be thankful today. Even for the pain I feel. Because I’m not carrying this weight alone. I have family and loved ones who are shouldering this with me. Let us do that for one another, especially in these days.

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#GIVINGTUESDAY

This isn’t an attempt to make you feel guilty about Black Friday shopping, but since we’re discussing money, it’s good to have a reminder that we actually have options for how we’d like to spend our hard-earned incomes.  It’s refreshing to know that not ALL of my paycheck have to be held hostage by car repairs, credit card debt, and overpriced internet service.

I noticed this year that the #GIVINGTUESDAY efforts are much more streamlined and intentional this year, so I wanted to do my part by compiling a list of my Top 10 (which was SUPER DIFFICULT to do) Favorite Local organizations who are so deserving of contributions this Tuesday.

(Please note that this are based in Central VA, with a photo/quoted blurb from their FB pages along with the applicable link, and the list is in no particular order.)

 

Anne Spencer Memorial Foundation, Inc.

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“The Anne Spencer Memorial Foundation, Inc. supports the Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum, the historic home of Harlem-Renaissance poet, civil rights activist, wife, mother, gardener, librarian and educator, Anne Spencer.

Your tax deductible contribution will help The Anne Spencer Memorial Foundation to fund education, community outreach, and preservation of the 100+ year old historic home, cottage, and garden.”

Make sure and look over their FB page, as well as their website, for more information and direct access to donation opportunities. This foundation also have a #GIVINGTUESDAY FB event, which can be found here!

 

The Listening, Inc.

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“The idea was that people could still get together and create art and memories while also engaging with each other and learning about one another. Throughout that year, a small community began to take form, joining the creative renaissance already taking place within the city of Lynchburg, Virginia. Using the open mic format, they discussed themes like “Confessions” and “Classics”.

After a brief hiatus, The Listening returned in 2014 with the theme “Legacy”. Since then, the concept of creating art with intentionality and performing with passion and purpose has grown. A far cry from what it looked like in a loft-style living room session, the pursuit is still the same: to engage with people, to change people’s perceptions of what performance art can do and look like, and to save lives with our stories.

We’ve officially moved from a big idea to a powerful, community-based movement.”

Please check out the TLI’s website, as well as their FB page for ways to learn more, volunteer, get involved, and donate!

STITCH After-school Tutorial Program

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“The Stitch After-School Program is a non-profit organization sponsored by the Stacia Nicole Anderson Memorial Fund. This program is designed to provide free tutoring services for students in the local community, all in memory of the beautiful daughter of Dr. Keith and Mrs. Renee Anderson.”

Please mail all monetary gifts to the address provided:

Bank of the James

Stacia Anderson Memorial Fund

5204 Fort Avenue

Lynchburg, VA. 24502

 

The Motherhood Collective

19113953_1373382902710029_5101366169759340612_n“Specializing in walking with women from preconception through preschool. With immense value placed on peer-to-peer support we find that offering women a place to belong results in deeper connection to her community and increased opportunities for education. Our programs serve both the dark and sunshiny days of motherhood; recognizing that not all roads to motherhood look the same.”

TMC is actually having an All-Day LIVE STREAMING Party on #GIVINGTUESDAY, which can be found here. If you’d like a bookmark for early/late donations, check out their website!

Lynchburg Beacon of Hope

14732137_543466295859275_676909801217671345_n“What is the purpose of the Beacon of Hope?

To instill in ALL Lynchburg City Public School students the aspiration to pursue AND to provide them with the tools and resources to attain a post-secondary education.

To provide college opportunities for those would not be able to attend college otherwise

To change the culture in the Lynchburg community to a PreK-16 division

To create a stream of qualified/educationally prepared talent for the greater Lynchburg workforce

To ensure that all children who graduate from Lynchburg City Schools are prepared for the next step in life: 4 year college, 2 year college, technical / community/trade school, industry certification

To improve the quality of life in our community by investing in our most precious resource—our children—who are our future

To compile and disseminate data on current and continuing post-secondary education of Lynchburg’s student

What are the components the Beacon of Hope?

FUTURE CENTERS housed in both LCS High Schools (staffed, maintained, and funded by the Beacon of Hope) which provide resources on financial aid and college admissions for ALL LCS students, guidance on local and federal financial aid.

MENTORING PROGRAMS which diligently work to encourage students to apply AND leverage all available resources.

Programs in the Elementary and Middle Schools that plant the seeds of COLLEGE ATTAINABILITY for younger students.

Ultimately, SCHOLARSHIP opportunities above and beyond last dollar earned to level the playing field and get students onto post secondary education.

PARTNERSHIPS with our local businesses to provide funding and internship opportunities, so that the intellectual capital that is created through the Beacon does not “leak away” from Lynchburg after students earn post-secondary degrees.”

What an amazing opportunity to support this effort. Please go to their website to see just where your future donations are going towards.

 

Jubilee Family Development Center

11855626_1143502818997682_6483896979668992849_n“Our Programs provide opportunities for young people that center on educational enrichment and academic assistance, athletic programs and occupational training. Three are described below.
After School Tutorial Program- 90% of students participating demonstrated academic improvement by one letter grade.

Mentoring Program- Improves self-esteem, exposes youth to positive role models, increases social awareness and teaches problem solving skills.

Summer Enrichment Camp- Provides a disciplined and structured environment where children take part in high quality summer programs that blend academics, art, sports and technology which stave off summer learning loss.”

Check out their website to seek more of what they are doing in the community, and also check out their FB page where you can donate to their amazing cause.

 

Kids’ Haven

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“Kids’ Haven was founded as a community outreach project of the Junior League of Lynchburg. In 1998 we were chartered as an independent not-for-profit organization with the sole mission of serving, through the provision of support and educational programming, the unique needs of children grieving the death of a person who was significant in their lives. Kids Haven is a local non profit dedicated to providing peer support to grieving children, ages 3-18, and their families.”
You can visit their website, as well as look for them on Facebook in order to make a donation.

YWCA of Central Virginia

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“The YWCA of Central Virginia is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.”

Please visit the YWCA FB website, as well as their full website, for much more information and direct access to donation opportunities!

Miriam’s House

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“Miriam’s House is designed to end homelessness for women and families by providing them with stability and the skills to succeed in permanent housing.
All of the programs and services offered at Miriam’s House are based on the Housing First model, rooted in the belief that ending a client’s homelessness quickly and providing for her most basic needs will empower her to achieve goals in other areas including mental health, substance use, money management and parenting. Miriam’s House staff provides intensive case management and works in partnership with each client to build upon her strengths and resiliency. Miriam’s House coordinates referrals to therapists, mental health support workers, recovery services, job coaches, and social workers to ensure that ongoing, comprehensive services are available to clients even after they complete their program at Miriam’s House.”
Visit the Miriam’s House website, or their FB page to see more info & hit the “Donate” button!

The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lynchburg

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“The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lynchburg provides a positive, fun and stable environment for youth that produces winners, leaders and role models who make a lasting impact within our community. BE GREAT!”

 

Please visit Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lynchburg & HERE to donate!

38. (A Letter)

You’d be 38 today.

If you were still here, I’d probably call and poke fun at how old you were getting. Make plans to have you come over to have dinner with me, Nick, and the kids. I’m positive my mom would come, too.

…maybe you’d bring your wife and kids too. I’m sure my daughter would be excited to see you. After dinner, you and my husband would most likely argue about New York Hip Hop being better than Southern Rap. I’d smile at how you’re just as overprotective of me like when we were kids.

We’d retell the same jokes. Laugh about the same stories. I can actually hear your laugh in my mind. It never changed.

These images have made me sad before. But not today.

Because today is your birthday. Today is, and will always be, special.

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I miss you, Mike. Happy Birthday.

Love, Your Little Sister

Mommy Brain

Super strange phenomenon.

And it’s only happened to me less than a handful of times. I am sitting with or near one of my kids, they will be gabbing away about something…persistant in getting my attention, of course.

I’m usually super distracted and will try as hard as I can to master the parenting art of Multitasking. Parenting is 99.9% multitasking, mind you. After a few minutes, my annoyance level peaks on about a 3 on the 1 – 5 “Why Did I Have Kids Again?” scale. I break my attention on whatever I was doing and end up looking in my kid’s direction.

My eyes sweep past their tiny frame and I manage to lock eyes with them as they excitedly tell or show me something, seemingly insignificant to me, but they find fascinating. And then I notice it.

The spark of personality. A growing personhood that, in this millisecond, appears complete and whole. And I feel like I didn’t realize that I had a child like them UNTIL THAT VERY MOMENT.

I think, “Holy crap. I’m actually a mom. This is my daughter! Oh, wow. She is so beautiful. Look at her little face!!”

It’s feels like I’ve been away for awhile or in a coma and I’ve only been a mom for a day, actually. Once my emotions catch up with reality, I do realize that I’ve been active and present for many, many more moments. My heart is flooded with images of their births, first feedings, funny and frustrating moments. I relive it all as if my life is flashing before my eyes…but in a good way.

Love, for Goodness Sakes… (Thoughts on Faith)

I don’t want to be weak & ineffective. And I do not want to be mean-spirited. Most definitely in my faith. But I find myself caught in between two ideologies & it’s a tough line to tow. On my right, the militant & unashamed, wearing theological combat boots & bum rushing through  a person’s wounds & hurtful history in order to dominate the conversation with their own piety. But of this they aren’t aware. On my left, the blended believer whose faith is so contoured into the universe, it’s hard to know where their feet are planted. They unintentionally coax people into embracing their sickness, often giving no true remedy. 

Honestly, I can only share with others the God that I truly know. During my church’s prayer service yesterday, I heard the following, “Don’t be afraid to talk about my Love.” 

Why be fearful talking about God’s Love? And how are we missing it by dwelling in either of the two extremes: militant Christianity or passive Christianity? My guess would be we are defining Love through our own experiences, rather than through God’s explanation. 

The militant believers are afraid of using Love as the center of their evangelism and theology because it appears weak. In their eyes, it waters down the Gospel, taking away the urgency in the call to repentance. 

On the other hand, the well meaning passive Christians oversell the Love aspect as if God is not multifaceted. They take the compassion of God and dumb it down to the fickle level of human experience. And that would be doing the world a great injustice. My feelings change often. But the way God feels about me never will. It isn’t necessary to be overly emotional to help people identify with this Truth: God truly loves me. 

Romans 8:38-39 sums it up immensely:

“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If we have an inaccurate view of God’s Love, then we cannot fully grasp the Gospel in its totality. I can have a head knowledge of how sin entered the world or how I need a Savior, or even the difference between good and evil, but if I do not let His Love affect me, to the point that I am fully convinced of it more than anything else, then I run the risk of dwelling in the extremes of my Faith. Either I conjure a emotional counterfeit that lulls the heart into a slumber or I will push potential believers into a corner of self-righteousness. 

God is Love. And He loves you. There’s more, but it’s that simple.

Ten.

I’ve loved Nick George for 10 years. Give or take. May 18, 2007 was the day I realized it was actual love. There we were, walking across our college campus, mere hours before we were both meant to go home for the summer. I’d spent a week in a sort of funk because I knew that our friendship would end up whittling away to “oh, she’s just that girl I hung out with my sophomore year”. I had come to accept it…until he asked me to take a walk with him.

That Day led to a forever.

Because three months after May 18th, he asked me to be his girlfriend. Another almost 5 years after that, he asked me to be his wife. And a year after that, we would start to have our kids.

Our path has been far from easy. And we have both felt like giving up at one point or another. But the fruit of being loved by Nick is immeasurable. The “18th” will always be significant for us. I’m so glad I agreed to go take that walk.

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Untitled (Thoughts on Marriage).

It’s odd having brief seasons when you desire your spouse but cannot have them in the way you’d like.

I blame myself, really.

Let me explain…

My husband and I are always busy. Two full time jobs. Two small kids. A nonprofit. Board and church responsibilities. Not to mention our families, friends, and other lifestyle pursuits and interests. Despite how ordinary marriage is, it feels like our marriage is not so ordinary. Or at least isn’t meant to be.

I knew the moment I met Nick that he carried around a heart too bright for this world. And that heart carried something meant for the world. I felt, even back then, that I’d be sharing him with the world. Our world, at least… I recognized that sacrifice would become like a regular house guest. And my home-body ways would get pushed into the background. For that, I have both loved and resented his heart.

I do not have to fight or pine for his attention. Our family is his first priority. Do not misunderstand. Just know that I adjust and readjust often in our lives. I want him all to myself. I want to monopolize every spaced expression/daydream. I want every filled page in his poetry notebook to be about me. I want the road to his dreams to all end at the doorway of our bedroom.

I understand that I am sharing space in his head even though I have been given residency in his heart. And it’s always crowded up there…

Found this piece that I wrote forever ago:

Smile. (Mini-Series. Part 6)

December 14, 2009

 look in my direction
linger there for a moment
give me your eyes’ shine.
and slowly perk cheekbones
let your lips part
while their corners
reach for the heavens,

show me you’re delighted…
…love,
smile for me.

Even back then I wanted his full attention. I was an incredibly smitten young woman, hopelessly in love with a very kind poet. On one hand, everything changed: We belong to each other now, unlike we did back then. But on the other hand, not much is different. There are still times (when I’m at my most vulnerable) that I feel like I’m still that young girl: smitten and quietly whispering prayers of gratitude that he picked me.