Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bare Ash. Finally, and Again.

I haven’t written in a long time. You know, the name of this blog is “Bare Ash”, but I don’t think I’ve been very Bare. I think I’ve covered myself up with many things. Most of what I’ve written here has been about some concept outside of myself. Fertility charting, political issues, religious issues. All of those things are good things to be talking about, sure. But if I’m being really honest with myself, writing about things OUTSIDE is easier than writing about what’s going on INSIDE. And writing about things OUTSIDE is not why I started writing in the first place.

Outside is easy. I can point my finger so easily at you. And you. And you. I can look out and see all of you hypocrites messing up. I can look out and criticize racism and bad religion.

But this past week, my insides came pouring out. And I want to tell you about it. I want to be bare.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that so much happened in my insides during Holy Week, the week leading up to Resurrection Sunday. Last week, Palm Sunday, I was refreshed by a really great church service where the pastor talked about spring cleaning. It’s a tradition during Holy Week to deep clean your house, in an act of preparing a way for New Life to enter. The act is meant to help us open our hearts to God’s spring cleaning. The pastor explained that we all have racism and bad religion and hypocrisy inside of us. He pointed out, gently (that’s crucial in a pastor), a fact we’ve all known – it’s easier to throw stones than to notice our own sin. But that’s what Jesus asks us to do. I thought, yeah, I want that. Let’s do some spring cleaning.

Wednesday, Eric & I had a fight about who knows what. It was just a normal marriage communication breakdown, but it sent me reeling. I couldn’t go sleep next to him. So, I stayed up and journaled. The only words that came out onto the page were dark, horrible things that I felt about myself. Bad wife. Absent friend. Spiritually blah. Addicted to TV and my phone. Busy. Unkind. Closed off. Isolated. I was so broken inside. So full of death. Worthlessness. Hopelessness. My insides were showing, and they stunk.

I went to my counselor the next day. Maundy Thursday. The day Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. I told her about the journaling. And I cried for the full hour session, unable to really explain how horrible I felt. She explained that the death inside of me has a name: depression. She strongly suggested that my struggle can be helped with a physical change. That while the cognitive therapy we’ve done, trying to change some of the thought patterns & beliefs inside of me, will continue to be crucial, the depression may not ever be fully treated without a biological change. She had me call my doctor to set up an appointment to be prescribed with some kind of antidepressant. Making that call seriously took a full year of therapy. I’m the type of person that doesn’t go to the doctor for medicine until I’ve spent 4 sleepless nights coughing up a lung. I’m the type of person that does everything in my own power to fix whatever’s wrong with me, because I caused the problem somehow. If I’m sick, it’s because I didn’t wash my hands enough. If I’m depressed, it’s because I haven’t been exercising, I haven’t been reading good books, I haven’t been healthy enough… I believe I don’t deserve help if I caused the problem. I should fix it myself. I should be able to fix it myself. My counselor says most of the things I believe are actually things that depression has convinced me of. I haven’t had the doctor’s appointment yet. I have about a million apprehensions about being “prescribed”. Maybe I’ll write on that another time. It’s notable to explain, for the purpose of this blog, that the really yucky nasty stuff inside of me is a holistic nastiness. I’m about to tell you about some of the resurrection I experienced this Easter, but it’s important to note (for myself and for those of us struggling with depression) that this disorder is not just an issue that can be solved spiritually. Depression can be treated holistically, with medicine, cognitive therapy & maybe spirituality, whatever that means for each of us. I’m still working on embracing all of those components of treatment. But, for now, I’m going to tell you about the good stuff that happened spiritually, aware that my depression hasn’t been fully treated… yet.

Good Friday, I had a bunch of work to do. So, I felt fine. Busy. Distracted. On Saturday, I had another breakdown. I couldn’t function without crying. Eric & I sat down to make some videos for a client, and he noted that I looked miserable. I screamed and cried and finally calmed down enough to explain that I FEEL MISERABLE. I feel like a bad wife… a bad musician… I felt like everything I do is bad. I told him to tell me it wasn’t true. To remind me who he fell in love with. Because I’ve forgotten. In the course of this breakdown, and him telling me more about who I am and why he loves me, I realized something really important… I REALLY don’t remember the good parts of who I am. I could only think of terrible things to write in my journal and terrible things to think about myself because that’s all I’ve really noticed for a while. Depression does that. But life circumstances do that, too. The choices I’ve made in response to hurt has done that. And I started to ask, “Why are my walls so high? Why is my heart so hard?

The last couple of years have been a little tricky. After graduating college 3 years ago, I decided to stay in Worcester and dedicate myself to a church community that I really, really loved. It turned out (as it always does) that the community was much more broken than I thought (as they always are, THEY ARE PEOPLE!!!). After all of my college friends moved to different places, many people in the church community started moving and leaving, too. In the course of 6 months, the closest friends I had all lived in 5 different corners of the world. Some people got really mad at me for dating Eric. Some people got really mad at the church for a million different things. Everyone was pretty upset and broken and hurting, and a lot changed. I walked in with an open and bare heart, and REALLY quickly covered up. Hardened up. Began protecting myself. Building walls. Those years culminated with us leaving the church and the community 6 months ago. In those 6 months, my walls haven’t gotten STRONG and IMPENETRABLE. I have successfully and somewhat purposefully isolated myself, in the hopes that being alone means I’ll never be left, never be disappointed, never be so broken by broken people again.

During this year’s Lent, I think I heard 5 different sermons or talks about forgiveness and soft-heartedness. That was annoying.

Spring cleaning is annoying. I mean, who really wants to get down on their hands and knees and scrape the dirt from the corners of the house? I certainly don’t.

Like I said, the voices inside of me speaking death are the voices of depression. However, I have to admit, I’ve certainly not starved them. I’ve fed them with my isolation. I’ve fed them in their safe, dark place and encouraged them to believe that other people are bad and painful and mean and don’t trust them and stay way and stay alone and stay hurt… I’ve learned that depression gets louder when we are all alone. Depression really likes when we have no other voices getting in. I gave it the stage. I gave it a megaphone and silenced everyone else trying to get in.

This Saturday, I was overwhelmed with death. I stayed up late the night before Easter watching The History Channel’s The Bible miniseries. Right around midnight, a (very white) Jesus was nailed to the cross and screamed at God. I screamed at God. I felt that bloody, deathly cross inside of my own heart. I felt the nails piercing through me, with each horrible belief I’ve held about myself. Bad wife. Horrible friend. Worthless. Hopeless. Jesus was nailed to the cross. He felt it. He knew. He knows what it is to be human in this deathly, violent world. And he screamed at God. Why have you forsaken me? Why have you let death win? WHERE ARE YOU?

And then he rose from the dead.

He rose from the dead.

The story wasn’t over.

All day Sunday, I heard again and again that HE IS ALIVE. I felt again and again this LIVING JESUS, full of love and hope and knowing, alive in my heart where the death was overtaking me. Fighting for me. Dwelling deep inside this soft heart that still lies somewhere beneath the walls I’ve built. Reminding me that it was never destroyed, it’s only been covered up. He was inviting me to uncover it. To cry and cry and cry, and bleed and let it hurt and let it be revealed. Showing me that I was made in His image. Generous and open and funny and kind and honest and GOOD. He said, “That’s who you are. That’s who I love. That’s who Eric loves. And YOU are not lost. YOU are just covered up. Come out, come out, come out… Arise, my darling…”

I don’t know why my depression can’t die. I don’t know why there is still pain in the world when Jesus claimed to defeat death. I don’t really get that. I keep believing that if I just believe harder, that he will take it all away. But it doesn’t seem to work that way. At least not for me. And not for 99.9% of people who struggle with depression. So, don’t ever tell someone struggling with depression that they should just pray harder. Believe me, they have. I don’t know why there is a Friday. But somehow, I got to Sunday this weekend.

I felt resurrected this particular Sunday. And I believe in that power. I see that there is death inside of me, but I also believe there is LIFE living in me. I can FEEL it. I can feel the shades being ripped open, and the dust being swept out of this bitter winter. I can feel my heart coming out of its dark hiding, bleeding and beating and wanting to be more honest and open.

Bareness is terribly scary. But there’s this blog, and I called it bare ash. So, I’d like it to be a place where I can be actually bare. I’d like to let my heart bleed and beat here. I think maybe writing about depression and pain and resurrection and the brutiful (as Glennon Doyle Melton, my favorite blogger, calls it) will help me deal with it. I think that’s a really big part of who I am. An honest, open writer and artist. And I think I have to keep remembering that. Writing helps me remember where my soft heart is located, even if it seems and feels so tightly locked away. And I wonder if it will help other people deal with the same things, too. I hope so.

Here I am. Bare Ash. Finally, and again. Thanks be to God.

Pro-ABUNDANT-Life: Weighing in on Abortion

Eric doesn’t do the Facebook thing too much. I, unfortunately, am doing that silly Thing all the time. Oh, yes, I’m one of the millions who click back every 5 seconds to check in with whatever new debate is going on, look at pictures of your babies, read stupid 10-Reasons-Your-Closet-Isn’t-Working listicles, and mostly just fill my brain with mundane mush. More recently, however, I have been proudly NOT partaking in one of my former favorite Facebook pastimes:

ARGUING.

Truthfully, I’m not even reading many posted articles or long status-rants about the Hot Button Issues anymore. You know why? I just realized it’s not really making my life any happier. I think Eric’s onto something good by simply not partaking at all.

So, I told him, “Everyone’s arguing about abortion lately. I’ve stayed out of it.”
“Oh, the abortion argument’s back in? I missed that one.” He joked.
“I’m staying out of it.”
“Really?” He asked, knowingly…

He knows me well! He knew EVENTUALLY, the desire in me to speak up about an issue concerning women, birth and Christianity would eventually well up. He was correct. (Dang). A Facebook post couldn’t completely contain my complex thoughts on the topic, but I’m officially partaking in this one. So, here I am weighing in. Should I? Is it the best idea? I’m not so sure. Here I go anyway.

——————————————————————————————-

I grew up pretty dang liberal. Hold on – that might be an understatement. Listen, I seriously thought Conservative Christianity didn’t actually exist outside of the Bible Belt and Fox News. I remember watching Jon Stewart before I had any clue what he was talking about. I cried MANY happy tears listening to Barack Obama’s first speeches and watching the “Same Love” video. I’ve voted Democrat in local, state and national elections. My mom is a Democratic Selectwoman, my dad grew up in Europe. I went to a liberal arts college in Massachusetts that is famous for its rowdy protests and where Republicans are more of a minority than vegans.

For most of my life, I had been pro-choice for the same reasons I eat Dunkin’ Donuts breakfast sandwiches. I was never really certain it was the best, but… it’s what’s available. It’s on every corner and who am I to say whether or not they’re real eggs…

(I have to say, I’m pretty impressed by that analogy).

When I stepped into a relationship with Jesus, He didn’t seem to ask me to leave my “liberal agenda” behind. No, I didn’t think God would necessarily want me to get an abortion if I got pregnant, and He probably doesn’t love it. But I also wasn’t really experiencing Jesus to be this pushy guy who tells people what to do. So I stayed out of it. A lot of the people around me, especially in college, seemed pretty sure about abortion, and I think that was just the stance I figured I’d take. I didn’t really consider or think about whether or not a fetus (especially before a certain point in pregnancy) was really a life.

My thoughts and views on abortion have grown and changed over time. Now, I’m fully willing to accept that an embryo or a fetus is some form of life, or creative energy at least, and the earliest bit of creation inside of a woman’s body is a really tremendous and remarkable thing. It makes me incredibly sad to hear of miscarriages, even very early in a pregnancy. I wrestle with the thought of an early-term abortion and wonder about the life that was being created. I am certainly sad considering later-term abortions, and feel fearful for the pain that it could cause the fetus. I am so in awe of all the insane stuff that happens from conception to birth that I don’t take that for granted any more.

Do I wish abortion didn’t exist?? Heck yeah.

HOWEVER.

Do I think it’s a good idea to OUTLAW abortion? No. Taking away the regulations from abortion means people are gonna do it anyway, and die of complications and shotty equipment and facilities.

I’m not gonna defend Planned Parenthood here. I never watched the videos that surfaced, and I won’t. I do absolutely believe that doctors or professionals that offer and administer abortions can potentially be callous and cold, or they can even be bad people. Certainly! Just like you and me can be pretty awful to each other too! It’s the worst!

All I’m saying is that outlawing abortion is unsafe for women.

Let’s talk about the bigger issue at hand. Here is my point, and it is what I believe wholeheartedly about this issue, and why I’m here weighing in:

We cannot be simply pro-life and anti-abortion without seeing and caring about the reasons why abortion exists.

Abortion doesn’t come from nowhere. It’s not malicious, callous people killing their babies. Nor is it all  malicious, callous doctors killing babies. This procedure has been birthed out of societies that do not care well enough for their women and children.

Let me say that again.

ABORTION is a PRODUCT of a society in which both men & women are NOT WELL-EDUCATED in the areas of REPRODUCTION, SEX,  BIRTH CONTROL, and PARENTING, and are not being given RESOURCES for FINANCIAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, EMOTIONAL, RELATIONAL or PARENTAL success.

A middle school girl needs to be taught about contraception, thus reducing her chance of getting pregnant DRAMATICALLY.
A middle school boy needs to be taught about contraception, thus reducing HIS chance of getting someone pregnant DRAMATICALLY.
Teens AND adults MUST be given FREE ACCESS to all forms of contraception and PLENTY of sex education, thus reducing their chances greatly of getting pregnant.
Teens AND adults MUST have access to safe environments to discuss sex, its consequences (both physical & emotional) and parenting.
Pregnant women, and their families, MUST be given advice on adoption and the chance to decide NOT to raise children.
We must END RAPE and sexual violence/assault/harrassment.
In order to stop rape (and unwanted pregnancy resulting from rape), we must educate our children on EMPATHY and PERSONAL BOUNDARIES, give them safe home environments, and END rape culture in the media.
We must provide families & women FINANCIAL SUPPORT in the form of: affordable HEALTH CARE and PAID MATERNITY LEAVES and free/inexpensive CHILDCARE.

DON’T YOU SEE HOW MUCH WORK THERE IS LEFT TO DO????????

And do you know what almost makes me cry with rage?

Many people who are “pro-life” are against helping those most likely to turn to abortion. Many people who want these babies to be born are missing the fact that many will be born into dire circumstances. Unsupportive families, financial desperation, abuse, neglect. Some will simply be born to men and women who weren’t at all ready to have children. Many people can share photos of fetuses being aborted on Facebook, but deny that sexual education in teens can greatly reduce their chance at having to deal with pregnancy or abortion at all. I don’t get it!

How can we be “pro-life” and not pro-Abundant Life? The road to Abundant Life is much narrower, we know this. I see so many wonderful Christians in outrage over dying fetuses, but calling those who are nearly starving, supporting children on welfare “leaches of the system”. If we want these babies to be born, we need to work harder at ensuring they’ll be born into better circumstances.

——————————————————————————————-

I always said I’d know what I would do.

But what if I was raped? I wouldn’t know what to do.
What if I was 15 and poor? I wouldn’t know what to do.
What if my parents were abusive and I knew I would be horribly beaten if I told them? I wouldn’t know what to do.
What if I was working 3 jobs to feed my 4 kids and would lose my job if I was out for 2 weeks to give birth? Or even take a day off to tend to my swollen feet and constant nausea. I wouldn’t know what to do.
What if I had no health insurance, and no way to get any? I wouldn’t know what to do.

I’m sad that abortion is an option. I am. I wish it wasn’t. I wish everyone had such amazing access to birth control that NO ONE got pregnant until they were ready. I wish everyone had such incredible job security and maternity leave that it really wouldn’t matter if they got pregnant. I wish there weren’t rapists. I wish Kingdom would just Come already.

But when Jesus was here, He brought the Kingdom to those he encountered. He loved those who he saw in front of Him. So, can’t we take a break from posting about fetuses, and go out and do some good to prevent those babies from dying in the first place?

——————————————————————————————-

I think that may be all the weighing in I have on this one. If you want to weigh in, please do so on the comments below. Disrespectful or unhelpful comments will be deleted.

Merry Christmas Eve!

I wrote a really long blog post for today. It’s muddled, trailing, and I deleted the entire thing. I’m not feeling very inspired, or inspiring for that matter.

The only word I’ve had echoing beneath my self-doubt, and discouragement today is, “Rest.”

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

A funny word for a day full of shopping, wrapping, organizing, driving and visiting. My poor little introverted heart is screaming out, “THIS IS NO TIME TO REST! IT’S TIME TO PANIC!”

I’m sure when I brave the mall in an hour, I’ll notice the same expression on many faces.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset“Rest” has been the word singing deep in my heart this whole Advent. Externally, there has been a typical level of unrest. Church stuff is crazy, I keep coming down with different annoying sicknesses, the band is organizing a tour, I’m starting so many projects, I’m so excited for the year coming up, and I really want to get the perfect gift for Eric.

Internally, though. I don’t know. I can’t explain it. Rest.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetThis sense that God is with us.
That He came into the world as a vulnerable infant in a dirty barn,
So that He could show us how close He wanted to be to us.
Nestled up against us in our dirty lives.
Silent, sleepy, and just glad to be here.

Rest.

Merry, restful Christmas to you and yours.
I’m grateful for you.