Archive | June, 2015

Family

25 Jun

This week has been the longest, hardest, and deepest week of my life. At this time last Thursday my friend Ogun summoned me to come see his wife and my dear friend Jennifer. I was blessed to be able to talk with her and speak words of love and share a hug. She was entering hospice then and today was her first celebration on life service.

I was one of the lucky ones, since Jennifer received many of her treatments here, I got to spend lots of time with her over the last several months. When I moved to Lee’s Summit 9 years ago Jen, Ogun, and their daughter Joy adopted me into their lives. Even though they moved away to follow their calling, we were never that far away in our hearts.

I understand that some people are close with their blood relatives. Since I grew up half a country or more away from my parents siblings, I never have had a consistent ‘I really know you’ kind of relationship with most of the extended family. Of course we loved them and had fun on trips, but a year or two is a long time between visits especially for a kid. We did however have some great family friends who were my ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ and of course the church grandma brigade.

I moved far away from the place I grew up and began the process of finding my ‘people’ all over again. It is a beautiful thing to be willing to love and be loved by the friends who do become your family. Family can sometimes have something to do with shared DNA, but it can also be about shared experience, understanding one another, acceptance, and positive regard.

This last week I’ve spent a good portion of my time with the family and close friends of Jennifer. Together we laughed and cried, shared stories, had golf cart adventures, and held vigil. Jen’s sister and Ogun’s sister tended to Jen’s needs in a beautiful dance of service, love, and tenderness in the weeks leading up to her return to Unity Village which they continued along with others when they were here. My role was in service to them and the family: airport runs, where can we find a such and such, a shoulder to laugh or cry on, and supplying cinnamon rolls. There are not really words to pull together the fullness of our experience, but I will never forget it.

Today when I made some remarks at the service, I thanked Ogun and Joy for allowing me to be a part of their family. I included all of the family, Jen’s parents, Ogun’s mom, and the sisters, in that sentiment. I feel like as a last gift (that I know of at this moment) Jennifer gave us each other. For that, I am truly grateful.

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Positive (all the time?)

19 Jun

The other day I was chatting with someone I hadn’t seen in a while who I know casually. We were catching up and I was telling her about the interesting possibilities I’m nurturing. She looked at me quizzically:

“Are you always this positive?”

Hmmm. Good question. My first response, “I have practiced” my second response, “I have a good friend who is very sick and other things like that on my mind, but it cannot be the story I’m always telling.”

I have heard criticism of Unity for being a happy feel-good religion. Which I think is a laugh, as I feel it’s far far from it, though I have heard the feel-good sermons cover-it-over affirmations. Unity to me is about personal responsibility. About acknowledging the shadowy parts, taking them out and making friends with the hidden depths. Honestly seeing your part in your world and life and taking action to heal, improve, reconcile, and make amends.

This kind of authenticity is not the norm for our society. Numbing out feelings so fear, unworthiness, sadness etc so they don’t have to be experienced also numbs joy, love, and connection. This according to the research of social researcher Brene Brown and my own observation. She also says that “in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen.” And to do this we must allow ourselves to be venerable.

I was so happy when I came upon her TED talks (see below) because it made so much sense to me and her she had real data!

You see, I live in this world of fullness that she describes. So when someone asks me if I’m always this positive, the answer is usually yes. I can live in the place of sadness about the imminent demise someone I care deeply about and still be very excited about the interesting opportunities unfolding before me. I strive to be present to the people and feelings that are here now. I don’t have a positive spin to place on this loved ones death, except that there is no more pain or suffering.

While it can mean these things, being positive or optimistic doesn’t mean you are faking it, inauthentic, or clueless. Being optimistic means that with the cards I have, I am doing the best I know and also knowing through faith that the cards I need will show up.

It means loving deeply knowing that people and relationships are not permanent. Boldly following dreams when the path is not clear. It means saying yes when your heart says yes even if your head says no. Garth Brooks sings in The Dance:

“Our life, is better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, but I’d a had to miss, the Dance.”

So I will dive in, knowing I’ll get hurt sometimes. I will be stubbornly optimistic, I will love, I will dance, I will follow dreams and cheer you in following yours.

And yes, I will cry. My tears will keep my heart soft, ready to love again.