Monday, December 5, 2016

Money, Fish, & Saints

Dear V,
    Thanks for sending me a text on Sunday. It got me up and out of the house. I just kept repeating it to myself over and over as I went about my day. My girl sits with me in church now because she's too old for kids church. It's so nice to sit with someone. It about breaks my heart these last few years-- I just hate sitting alone. 
I went to visit my cousin in Kansas a week ago. Sweet K told me to sit with them, "We are back row Baptists," she joked. I wanted to say, I'm a front row Pentecostal, but I didn't. Cause even though I like to sit in front this past 4 weeks I just have a hard time being in any seat at all. My family is so good to me, my other cousin bought me a Bible. It's teal. It's beautiful.  She found out that the Bible I have now is navy blue, my least favorite color for something like that. It was the only color choice the day I bought it at a Target. I remember the house had burned down, we were in a hotel. I might have been away to school as well. And I needed that Bible all of a sudden. The hotel or where-ever I stayed didn't have one. So I went to Target and they had one! I wrote in the front, To Polly from State Farm and Target.  My insurance of course had to reimburse everything I bought in those four months for things I needed to live on. I got 5 calligraphy markers and a Bible, some crayons and a journal. That's what I needed to live on I guess. Those were my staples.

     Funny to think of it now when it seems so long ago it happened to someone else. But when I open my Bible there are those words in the front. Maybe that was a cruel message to write to myself because it pushes in that bit of loneliness. Today on the radio I heard that some people believe that loneliness is genetic. I've also heard it's a disease. I've heard that it's learned. But probably if I admitted it, it's why I write letters. I'm looking to connect to someone else. Someone who might care or understand. That's what letters do in a way. But they are inherently selfish. They are time to talk about oneself but the the other person can't interrupt, they have to wait their turn. A polite selfishness they might be called. Or the best way to reach out and be selfish at the same time :)

     I remember my first pen pal. I had just learned to write. I found another five year old. And either my mom or I had the idea that we would be great pen pals. I remember it as my idea-- of course.  Crystal D. agreed. We wrote back and forth for about 13 years or so. Until we graduated from high school. I found her on FB a few years ago and she still remembered me. And what did the letters contain of importance? Nothing really. Always a greeting and a closing. Always a school picture.  Something seasonal. A questions about the other person. Something about grades or 4H, something simple. Maybe it was the handwriting, the paper, but another person broke through into my world every time I opened a letter. They were always magical to me. I used to sit and wait for the mail man and open and close the little golden slide for the mail when I was really tiny. 
    I had many pen pals over the years: friends, cousins, acquaintances, teachers, professors, I saved all your letters of course, they are so beautiful. Full of swirls and verses and calligraphy and designs. They just held that palpable sense of presence.

I wonder if loneliness may not even be loneliness at all. What if that feeling in the gut were actually the need to share, the need to create, the need to connect. I haven't had much time in the art studio since I started teaching. I took on too many commissions at once then took on teaching and it's been rough. Oh and I let my kids take on two instruments, a sport, choir, chess, boyscouts and now youth group. Oh and I started volunteering with two non profits. I can't keep up. I can't understand the emails. I can't figure out which group they are from. How I know them. Which of 8 teachers and three jobs is contacting me. Which of 7 clubs? It's like a card game I'm playing in my sleep. I'm never caught up. What I may be really is sleepy. I meant to go to bed early an hour ago. But every night I think maybe I'll just throw out one more line.

    Maybe I'll apply for one more job, try for one more poetry contest, write one more blog, submit one more story, upload one more image, have one more idea. Each day at the end of the day I just feel the need to connect. College was perfect for me. Always people, always a millions hellos and goodbyes and how are you's, always a dozen comments about grades and small things. Just like a letter. Maybe it's like my liturgy. I like endings and beginnings and middles. I like waiting at the door or walking up the path for a word. I'm always looking for a word. I'm always in mid letter to someone, even if I don't write it down.

  Honestly, today was rough. And I use that word honest in its true sense, meaning I'm not always honest. I love to make everything lovely, everything right, everything tall tale. But honestly today was hard. I tried breathing, yoga, psalm 103, praying in the spirit, walking, and praying again. Today was hard. I don't know why. It could be public radio, the news, the lack of sleep. It could be working so hard to make things beautiful and have some kind of order. I made black eyed peas this week among other things. We put up a beautiful tree. Today, I found out I can only work so many credit hours as a professor 10 max. So that was a blow. Because the maximum is almost enough to live on. I was hoping I could just keep adding credits until I had finally achieved that 20 year dream I've had to be in the black. That was hard news. Some days, I think wouldn't it be nice to teach and never have to do ... again. Other days, wouldn't it be nice to just write and never teach again.... It goes on. But each day I have to do different work. Tomorrow is illustration. Today was teaching.

    I wanted to bring some joy to the end of the students' semester. The students had worked hard. They have enough life trials among them to write a hundred novels, or to to cry a hundred pools of tears. I wanted some joy. So we had a talent show. That's a nod to my writing program at Hamline. We always ended with the talent show. At the end of the semester I'd always feel like a failure. My critique always went long and felt really harsh on my work. The lectures went on and I felt inadequate. But then the talent show would come and I'd feel all was right again. We are all talented. We are all full of so many gifts. I wanted that for my students and it worked. The talent show was awesome. The class was buzzing before I got there. So much energy. There was singing on an old guitar with a busted case. There was dancing, drawing, lyrics, poems, recitation, how to tie a tie. Original music sung without back up. It was incredible. I hope everyone went home feeling not any loneliness but like a winner like they did have a voice.

   I don't know with a day like that how I could be discouraged. I've felt too discouraged to write any letters actually. Not that I didn't have anything to say but I just didn't know how to focus and connect. I got a rejection this week from a poetry contest, but I really felt rejected about the art thing more. I made so much of it and I wonder what was the point. The portfolio review I paid for, the editor told me to experiment but I feel many times a day that what he really said was give up. I don't want to give up but I sure feel down sometimes. I get talked out of that down and out feeling about art and its inability to pay bills or have movemnt then I'm right back there. I always have this fight with something outside of myself that says my need to make art and the crazy idea that making art is pointless. I know it's not. I really really know. I mean I am buying a painting this week that I put in my house. I thought about it after I saw it-- for a year. It sums up my whole life and my hope for the future. It gives me hope. So I know art is important.  So why do I go there...

      My friend from  high school called this week and we had so much fun talking. I used to make comics in high school for the paper. I go to that same place when I draw now. I have to forget all the formal training to do any drawing at all and think like a child again or at least a high school girl. That's what I've been focusing on in my art. Trying to find that muscle memory of a child. Maybe it will go somewhere. But the personal signature of touch of someone's handwork-- you can read it in someone's handwriting and in their art. It's as recognizable as a voice.You can recognize it as theirs. Why is that?

   I'm so hard on myself. I hate that I'm the type of person to hold on to things for so long. Why did I persist in writing penpals for so long. Why do I hold onto past hurts, past people, past dreams I don't even want anymore? Why did I persist in so many tasks (or the idea of the perfect laundry room and linen closet? Who cares?) Why do I keep making art? I had the thought today that art is one of my friends. No matter what I lose. Even when I lost all my things in fire, I still had my art. People got busy, I still have art. How hard it is for someone who doesn't have that creative side of themselves as their own friend. This weekend, on the phone, my high school friend said I'm the most creative friend she's ever had. I find that impossible to believe. For I feel it's my lack of creativity that makes it impossible for me to succeed in my art and my writing. Just when I was feeling that why-do-I-make-art-for-no-reason-pain, I opened an email. It wasn't a rejection. It was an acceptance! This painting below will be in my favorite magazine that I read in college. The one that kept me making art. I make few specific wishes but I really wished to be in that magazine some day. Now I am going to be! This image will appear in the 2nd issue next year. The one about social justice. How this little fish is about social justice is hard to say. I tried to explain below and I guess they took the bait. Hah. Bad pun intended. This little fish is about my making art and my writing and my poetry. Every day I go out there and insist that throw out another line. I insist that if I'm called to be an artist something should come in. It really should. It's not my job to bring anything in, only to throw out my line. Surely I should have given up by now, but I continue. I made this painting about that faith I wish I had more of. It's about that story-- you know the one--- where Peter goes fishing and there is money inside. Oh my favorite story really. I hate to say it. But it's a beauty. When I need to pay my taxes I sometimes wish I were a fisherman, because surely it can't be any harder. Here's what I wrote:

Fish Sense
12 x 12 inches
Acrylic on Canvas

The Biblical image of a man too poor to pay for his toll to cross the water has always stood out in my mind. As an artist, every time I am faced with a need, I remember Jesus words to Peter. Faithfulness to do the daily work we are called to do streams from the words of Jesus. He plans ahead before we ask, and there is always enough.  This painting speaks to my calling to be a Christian artist and illustrator; to have faith like a child, and trust that each piece will come in time. If I have the sense of that small fish, I will be ready with some to share in time of need.  Part of a series of art, I created this in the style of stamps commemorating first loves. I love the play between words and images. Sometimes I want my art to be signed, sealed. I want a higher authority to stamp approval. Sometimes I feel torn away from a book of squares just like me. Most days I feel stamped flat … waiting to be delivered. More and more, I feel I’m being sent with long story folded neatly inside.

No I don't know what the 60 stands for. I can't remember. It just seemed right. Later I'll look back and find a perfectly logical reason possibly written down. And here when I feel inadequate and faithless and dissappointed, here in my own hand is that I still want to be a Christian, and I still want to be an Artist and that I plan to continue not giving up. Well and it's going to be in print. That's a big deal. It's like the old me just popped up and preached a sermon to myself. So funny, but good. 

How are you doing? I hope Christmas is easy this year and light. I hope you are doing well. I'm impressed with the art you are doing and the running and the momming. Even when you do not do anything, you are beautiful and wonderful to me. You are a gift to me and I'm so glad we grew up together and for our words to each other.   

Love you,

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Yoga, Hate & Rice

Dear P,
I'm writing you from my little blue office at my favorite writing time of one in the morning, I can hear snoring and it's chilly in here now that November has decided to get real. So after a mildly successful night of cooking ginger rice and steamed veggies, I have a second to write to you. No, my kids ate jelly and noodles, not together but you get the picture. You said something the other day when we were at one of the best cafe's in town. Something about how yoga was something you'd never tried because, what if it were somehow not spiritually "okay" for Christians to try. This is something I'd heard quite a bit of when I was younger, and still thought about a bit as the exercise of yoga seemed to become the new norm. There was a lingering doubt that something from another religion might be improper or unsafe. I couldn't decide either way, so I just put it off.

Back when my daughter was just one. I was asked to help build one of those environmentally green houses. I'm not a builder. But a friend had salvaged lumber from a barn rebuilt into a wonderful earth friendly homestead. I simply helped paint tin ceiling tiles. But others stained and nailed on the beautiful cedar siding. On the second day everyone was really sore (except me). They all did some yoga stretches.  I never seen or heard anyone do yoga at that point. So when someone called out barking dog or something like that and they all bent over to stretch, I was suddenly filled with a fit of giggles.  I had to leave the circle and let everyone finish stretching in peace. Since that time the thought gnawed on me that stretches imitating nature, animals, and something as silly and wise as my dog-- couldn't be dangerous if done with a sincere heart.

It's taken me a decade, but I've finally gotten around to taking my first yoga class. I took dance growing up and all through college. But in the last two decades I'd say I'd fallen off the exercise wagon, and even rolled down the hill. There's no way at this point I could jump back into a dance class. I've lost every muscle, all my stamina and probably would be better at rolling that standing. So when I had the chance to sample some yoga classes I couldn't pass it up. The first class I tried was a roller class.  These foam rollers are fun to sit on, balance on, and when used properly it's like you are giving yourself a really great back or leg massage. Sure it was hard, and I probably looked ridiculous, but no one was looking-- everyone was trying to stay on their roller without falling off. There were quite a few jokes and some pretty big laughs.

What I appreciate about that class is what happened three weeks later. I went three weeks in a row. By the third week I could stand up without pain. I wore high heels on Sunday and I haven't been able to wear any since a foot injury in college. I walked around the shopping center. I raked leaves. Today when my brother stopped by the house. I turned around while sitting in the kitchen chair. I could turn around and look behind me. Until that moment I hadn't realized that I hadn't been able to turn around in a very  long time. Those muscles are finally becoming unlocked.  With all that energy I can think more clearly. And I can consider the possibility of getting back to exercise and some day dance. Okay I do dance around when no one is looking, but you know.

So I guess I just wanted to share that after being brought up in a really restricted view of the world, I think getting out and trying new things is humbling but good. And staying home just writing and painting gets so stale when I can't think, or my  muscles are cramped like I'm stuck in an shell. Yoga reminds me of ballet only it's much slower. I like the part where we are asked to breathe and stretch at the same time. I imagine the air getting into the muscles that have been so stuck for so long. And it seems to be working. Being able to move and think more clearly surely makes me happier and ready to do what needs to be done-- and maybe a few more new things on the side. This morning the little guy pulled out his morning verse after breakfast and read from Mark. It said that Jesus said that those that aren't against us are for us-- giving a cold cup of water to someone is being close to God. I liked that. Those yoga stretches are like a cup of cold water to me. I haven't been able to move in a long time. When we were asked to breathe deep and let out the ohm sound, I realized I couldn't breathe deep and I had lost my voice, I was all crackles and whispers. I don't think that's God's best for me.  Having a voice surely must be important to faith. So I guess finally getting around to trying this new thing-- it has helped me put into words and experience my hopes. Yes it's true. Spending time focusing--- in a group of people-- on stretching and breathing, felt really healing to me. I could focus on whatever life giving word I needed, or just on the movement, or the fact that my muscles were slowly coming back to life.

I've been like a petrified rock, literally. Being a person who can turn around and say hello, who can walk around better, stand longer-- How great that it. It makes me think that all those times in my life especially when I was really young, when I thought that keeping people inside or outside my wall of personal beliefs was the only way I could go about things. I continue to find small ways where I still have let myself follow that ideology and each time, I try to find a way to break that down. Yoga was another way, I could take down another wall. Pushing away people that might believe differently than me only makes me the loser. I learn so much from everyone I meet. Sure I want to be a person of faith, but I can't do that by myself. I need to get to know other people and I need to receive it if they have a cold cup of water for me. That gift for me can only help my faith; turns my faith from something that I hold tightly in my fist until it dies, to a new journey that builds and grows with each person I meet. That's what builds me up and takes the walls down. And I think that must be a harder, stretching way of living, but if it means I'm not locked up anymore I think it's a good first step. I'm just so thankful.

Last week was so tough and I'm glad it wasn't only me. The election hit hard. You told me you cried three hours. I cried off and on for two days probably about the same. A lot of women I know cried for hours. Not that we wanted a woman to win. We wanted women to win. We wanted abusive language, and the permissiveness given to abuse to be put down. Instead it was raised up and placed over us like a terrible cage. To me there has never been a more horrible feeling than to wake up knowing that now it was acceptable even preferred for me as a woman to be thought of or treated as nothing. I suddenly realized a lot of people feel that way every day and I'm just new to the game.  I've been fighting that feeling for two weeks I guess now (I suddenly like black and not wearing earrings both really odd for me). The thought that anyone who is Christian would condone that idea made me want to give up on being a Christian. I couldn't go to church last week. I couldn't call my friends, what if they had supported ideas about walling out the world in a hateful way? I didn't know who to trust.

I'm sorry I didn't check in with you. I think hearing hate talk must make us less trusting. What a surreal feeling. As these two weeks wore on. I found myself feeling more hopeful and strong. I did some work that helped me go back and remember who I really am. What do I love? What am I here on this earth to do? Those are great questions. One thing I am sure of, I want to live life differently than before. I've been living on adrenalin. Everything is flight or fight. I'd like to stand up this time and move instead from a sense of strength and peace. Building up walls against people in my life won't help. Changing my label from Christian to something else won't help. But humbly taking a breath to reconnect from being mind-over-body. That is super helpful. For I am not just a brain in a vat. I'm a person. I'm a woman. I have faith, but not alone in a box. I am on the journey with everyone else in this life. My favorite line from one of my favorite poems goes, "For I am woman. All things began in me." A humble bending, and a deep breath to regain my voice. Those can only be for me.

I loved coming to paint with you this summer. You are wowing me with all those art shows. All my art is back home and hanging in the new family room. It fits pretty good. Thanks for helping me figure out how to lead a class discussion. You're the best.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Fires, New Names & Old Men

Dear R,
Thanks for asking about my new pen name. I'd be happy to tell you how I chose it. It's funny because I keep thinking back to our Freshmen orientation class, a bit like the English 101 class I'm teaching for the first time this semester. I ask the students to get into groups to do peer reviews. Every time I think of our group-- you and I and Sally and Rachel I think wasn't it?--- and how we discussed our papers for class and how little we probably knew about writing back then.

Being a woman is hard. And one of the those hardships is that our names change. I, like many, found this romantic. However when I found my husband was going to leave our family, I had just purchased a website Finding myself broke, homeless, and with little prospect due to my job experience as a student and stay at home mother, I figured I'd need my website to bring in some funds. I felt the irony. But I also had a fierce determination that no one should meet my children and wonder how they were related to me. I'd keep my children's name.

I've been truly fine with this until I went to an illustration meeting a few weeks ago. I had my fine art studio name on my portfolio of children's book illustrations. The group consensus was my fine art studio (New Thing Art Studio) really wasn't the same as my illustration work. For that I'd simply be, Polly McCann-- Author Illustrator. They even commented on how lovely and memorable my name would be in that profession.

I agreed. I like my name, always have. I even figured that if I some day make it in that field, I wouldn't mind where my name came from. I'd take advantage of it's present and future, not it's past.
And I say again-- being a woman is hard. People told me to be careful how I signed my paintings because women's names change. Being a woman artist is hard enough without the confusion of a name change. What if your husband dies, someone argued, and you marry again? So with that thought in mind I always signed my paintings with my first name, reasoning Polly was rare enough to be a good consistent choice. I always sign my name in the way I did in elementary school. There is something in me that says, I am-- and have always been-- the same artist on the inside, no matter my age, so I will sign my name the same as always. My hands remember the way. And I always run out of room. But that is consistent, and something inside me says that is important to me. Childlike-ness is something important to my work.

Back to the pen name. I was going to keep my real name. Then I needed to finish my portfolio to show a sample of my art. My post card and website needed to match. After a nightmare I had the other night, I felt I needed a pen name. The nightmare wasn't too frightening, just enough-- a little clue, a little hint that something inside me needed a fresh start and a fresh name. Consciously I was resistant. I like my name, I wanted to keep it. But with my work on dreams and the subconscious, I knew better. I have to honor my subconscious, it's where my imagination comes from, my dreams and my imagination are connected. I knew if I could find a pen name, I could possibly prevent, or most rightly cure any creative blocks I face. If I listen and am true to myself, no matter how deeply I've buried that true self. My creative work will be easier.

You and I think a lot a like. You like me know what it's like to think so intuitively and so unconsciously-- we are always going back after the fact to trace reasoning other people walk through at a constructive, orderly pace. Well that's what I had to do.

Naming yourself is not a process that I recommend. It's not fun or easy. It's heart-wrenching. It's painful and it's something I hope to never do again. It helped to be on deadline, or I might have put it off indefinitely. Over the dinner table, a few nights before the naming ceremony of myself-- my family had joined in. We pulled together names of old relations, new conglomerations, and scores of famous people, including George Washington Carver-- one of my all time favorites. I had wanted to name my son George Washington Carver McCann but wasn't allowed to. So I named his middle name Gardner as a compromise. I wanted to convey that sense of changing the world through seeing a need, and filling a need-- by being close to the earth and creation, by loving and caring for people with compassion.

Naming myself was quite a challenge. I tried every word and symbol I ever loved. There was a song on the radio last week that said something about a new name and I knew I needed one to be true to myself. My first published poem in an international journal was this poem that has come back to me many times this year "Searching for a place/ I have a name/ thats not a curse—/a softer rock, a dream."

 Finally late at night, in agony, I looked around for important American names in history. Polly is a very American name, and despite my own surprise, I've come to think of myself as an artist who does Americana, and a writer very concerned with America and who we are as a people. I came across of course, Dolley Madison. Dolley and Polly rhyme. But I've always remembered this woman in our history. Why? I remember standing in the White House, one of the last years this was allowed. I stood in line for hours, at Christmas time. When we finally made it in, the house was so small. The rooms so --- uninteresting. Just a house. Just an old house. The red room. Not even interesting names to the rooms. Of course, I was sixteen, and everything was uninteresting.

What I do remember was the painting of George Washington. It hung on a white wall. The guide told us how the painting was rescued by Dolley Madison from a fire. My sixteen-year-old self was not impressed. The painting was not that beautiful or extraordinary. It was a large size. Almost ordinary in that I'd seen the painting before in history books. I'd heard of Dolley before. And I went on with my life.

Over twenty years later, I needed a name.I decided to look up Dolley Madison. I read a letter written by her, to her sister. Dolley packed up what she could, waited by the window and escaped an attack by the British who did burn down that first White House. The story did not seem ordinary to me now. I'd lived through a house fire, and there were some things I had saved. All of my paintings had been hanging at a short show at my church. Only one was lost, the painting I did for my daughter.

Being someone who has been through a house fire; someone who has lost a house to a spouse who valued independence above all else; and rummaging through this election season with a burnt and broken heart, I have felt mostly above all else-- traumatized. Reading and watching words from a certain candidate that abuse woman and perpetuate the abuse of woman, has not made my blood boil. It has made it run cold. I've lived under abuse. I've lived a life where I was not allowed always to have my own opinion, or my own choices. Where I wasn't always allowed compromise or receivevcompassion or even grace. If I didn't chose that kind oppresive of life for myself and my kids, how could I allow that for my country. For all women, for all children? And for all the women and children in other countries, watching-- emulating-- taking from our model. It's like... I don't know what it's like. It's like someone has said, you might have to go back and live in that abusive neglected way again. Only it won't be your choice, it won't be up to you and it will be everyone you know, with unknown casualties, even the loss of your country itself.

I guess it's hard to see how personal trauma could affect my politics, but maybe you can see it. I even signed up for trauma counseling for abused women. It starts in two days. It's been hard to wait. This season and my own journey, it also convinced me not to overlook Dolley Madison. What did she do? She saved something. Not an old man, in a very ordinary portrait. Not someone who represented oppression by rich, white, men. No, she saved a story. I think when America was still in its birth period, it was hard not to see it as a figment of people's imagination. To me, Dolley saving a painting of George Washington, is a picture of Dolley saying-- our story is real, our story is important. Our beginning is worth saving, because we have a future and people will look back on this.  And of course I have. I've stood in front of art that Dolley saved, in a White House rebuilt, in a strong capitol of an America that wasn't imaginary. A real place. A real time. A real future built on that story, on that dream. And Dolley saved art to tell that story. She thought art was important. That what artist see is worth saving. Something to build a dream on, story on, something to build a people on, something to build a nation on.

So there, around two in the morning. I quickly typed out Polly Madison. It sounds nice. Looks nice. and inside that name is a woman who decided to save two things: our story, and the painting of it.
That is what my art is all about. I want to tell the good stories. The stories I hear, the places I go, the people I meet. I want to tell my own American story. I want to save the beginning and build on that dream until it's not imaginary anymore. I don't care if it starts with an old, dead, white president. It starts with a smart woman, and some paint. That is what I escaped from in my fire. And that is how I keep going-- that and the sheer love from faith, family, and friends like you. Hearing the sound of a new name, pronounced aloud by others-- priceless. I felt the name was light, clean and free.

Kiss those kids for me, and tell E his art has inspired me.
Much Love,

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Nothing to say that is readable

Dear A,

Thanks for taking me for my first manicure. I loved it. I felt so respectable for the entire week afterwards. Amazing. It made me realize that taking care of myself is not something I should put off because it's an extra.  Taking care of myself sure does make the rest of everything else go more easily. So I created this blog so I could be totally honest about who I really am by writing in public to my dear friends about all the things I never have a chance to say in public. However as the weeks have worn on I feel like I have nothing I can say that is readable to anyone.

It's been tough. But I realized just how much help I really need in getting a move on and a leg up from all that time in an abusive relationship that made me think I was crazy, stupid and not good at anything. I know that's not true. But sometimes I forget and go back into that mindset. I think it's mostly a mental game that keeps me from pursuing the things I need to do, like getting published or finishing my portfolio.

But I also forget to take care of myself. Working too hard without breaks is how I've made it to the moment today, with a pulled back, and a lot of other gunk that needs worked through. I remember, April so long ago. 2007. I came to KC to visit and we hugged for the first time in what felt like a decade, and we knew that I had to come home. And when I did you met me at the airport. I think those tears we both had, were some sort of hope that we could both make a better life for ourselves if we just had someone to remind us who we are really were. Someone who'd been there when we were our most authentic selves.

Honestly there is no one on earth who makes me feel like the real me than being with you. I just can't decide who the real me is and how I fit into this place called the midwest. We had a few moments those first years I really love to remember. Dying Easter Eggs, going to that one breastfeeding group for moms a couple of times. Every time we were together I felt like the world was finally right again. Cousins maybe are like that because I've seen my kid act the same way with their cousins.

Friday nights for the next 10 years are still open. We should spend more together. I'll get over my fear of the old places I used to go. I realized the other night when you were here telling me how it is-- that I don't drive to your neighborhood because I get dizzy-- it's all those old flashbacks trying to come back. Flashbacks from my old life that I'm trying to forget. I think that if I just practice a few more times, it will be easy. If I could move 1,000 miles I can drive 10. It's really not that far.

We got a good thing going...

Friday, October 21, 2016

Oxymoron: Three reasons why I'm anti-abortion, pro-choice and voting for Her

Dear M,
You posted on facebook something that I've overheard many of my friends say, I've even heard kids say it: If I vote for that woman, I'll be voting for a baby killer. I think that statement is the example of the worlds most incorrect ven diagram. I want to share why. I also noticed that you asked how someone who hopes to stop gun violence and someone who says they've dedicated their lives to helping others would condone such an evil act? Why save the environment if we kill all the babies? And how could someone who says they are a Christian do something as unbiblical as murder? Because killing is murder, let's make a law against abortion. It seems a truly helpful and right viewpoint. That's how I used to think too. Let me tell you why I changed my mind.

I have found an answer for myself that might shed some light on how I can hold these seemingly opposing viewpoints as the same time. Is leaving the choice open for life, the same as condoning murder? Can you be pro-choice and anti-abortion? I am. I once saw a Catholic bumper sticker on Main street in a small town in PA. This bumper sticker changed my life. It said: You can't be pro-choice and anti-abortion. I yelled out, "Yes, I can." I was shaken to my core. I could barely drive home. Let me tell you how I arrived at this point of discovery.

I know this oxymoron is draining away the friendliest of political conversations. First let me say that I once thought the same as you. I grew up Baptist. I was taught to vote Republican. And I was taught that the main reason to vote this way was in order to protect innocent unborn children, an entire future generation. I went to rallies. I protested. I looked up every candidate. If they were against abortion I voted for them. I felt it was my duty as a woman to help protect the future kids of America. If felt that was a primal feminine thing to do.  I also believed the rumors I'd heard about the Clintons. I even came to assume that Hillary and her people were really evil people. I remember as a fourteen year old, I cut out a picture of Hillary Clinton helping Mother Teresa up some stairs. I cut it out because I thought it was an oxymoron. I thought that here was pure good and pure evil in the same picture.  Wasn't it Mother Teresa who asked the Clintons to change the pro-choice law, "bring all the of them to me"-- she said about unwanted infants.

I still have this picture. Here is one from the same time period pictured in Catholic News Live. Now I see it as a picture of two woman who want to help as many people as possible-- one through Spirit empowered charity for those who were dying in the gutter from disease; one through the law, trying to prevent people from dying in the street without health care. Both woman relied on faith to do the work they felt called to do. Now Hillary is not a saint, but she is fiercely determined to help woman and children, including infants. I'll tell you what changed my mind. Turning the ven diagram on it's head. The abortion law is not about infants.

So if the law is not about infants and yet it allows infants (fetus) to be killed. What is the law about? The law is about control. Now policy makers love to skip over the reasoning and jump to the short clip: the laws about abortion are about choice. They've skipped a few steps. Those of us who don't agree, need to slow down and look at what is in between those two thoughts. What is between those two ideas of control and choice? A great deal. A very great deal. And I believe that is what makes this law so easy to misjudge. Yes, the result of this law could end in death for more than one infant (fetus) because of a mother's choice. This is the the tragedy. However, the result of no choice is what is rarely discussed in politics... it is worse.

Let's follow it through. Let's go to this future where the law that makes abortion illegal is finally resealed. Imagine the celebration. It is so amazing that we finally can do what is "right" and "good." The law is reformed and no infants of any age (in utero) are allowed to be aborted. Good. The biblical sanctity of life and the sensible practical thing (yes it's practical to save life) are now accomplished. But it's not over. The law has saved many people, and the law will continue to save them. But now the law has power over a woman's bodily functions-- especially her right to bear children and over her sexual organs. Once that law is won, new laws could be made to remove more rights. Yes remove. Because the law is not about infants, it is about women. The law has always been to protect our choice, but what if in this case the law is used to remove choice.. what then?

What if the future government decided America had become overpopulated? Since the precedent for control and the precedent for lack of choice had been made into law... Woman could be forced to only have a certain number of children and be forced to abort children. This has happened in other countries. What if the future government decided that America had too many girls? So for the next three years only boy children would be allowed to come full term. The law had precedent for control, precedent for lack of choice by a woman. What if the government decided that all woman should have as many children as possible in order to raise up a great army and the children would be taken at a young age for training. The law had precedent for control of woman's right and choice to bear children so they could move to make such a motion. What if the government chose then who a woman could marry and who she should bear children with in order to create the best genetically sound child? These aren't science fiction. Governments have tried these tactics before. Slavery is one example. Once the freedom of choice is gone, yes the babies we covet are saved, but our democracy is in danger. When democracy is in danger we lose the government that is there to protect people including these future children. We end up with a government that is free to hurt people. Democracy is about choice. I think we forget that it is not the law's job to save children before birth. It is people's job. The law's job has always been to protect rights, that is its main function. People themselves must then take on the role of protecting the unborn. 

I know you don't agree. I didn't at first. I thought that it was worth the risk to stay a one issue voter. I thought, Let's keep voting on this one issue vote. If we elect good faithful people they are unlikely to make such dastardly decisions for women, aren't they? I mean this is America right? But how do you judge the character of a policy maker? By their actions. The late Mother Teresa (now a saint) and Hilary Clinton, in that case, have the same goal. They both want to save babies and to save children. One offered to do it by taking them all after they are born. One will do it by protecting the rights of woman from being too controlled by the government to encourage a safer future for women. Protecting woman, getting them health care and food stamps-- Helping them get jobs and equal pay may help protect the next generation from the kind of poverty that leads to abortions.

Those ideas are the first reason I decided that I was anti-abortion and pro-choice. The second reason was the environment. When I was a young newlywed, I had a small income. I bought one roll of toilet paper a week because I couldn't afford a whole pack. I never had money for shopping, but I still paid my 10 percent tithe. My only chance to shop and enjoy myself was this donation to charity. I shopped around like looking for a gold dress.  I sometimes chose a charity that gave a free prize. Yes I did. And many of those charities and non profits added me to their mailing lists. Soon I received every green and environmental magazine printed in the US. I was a born again Christian. I loved creation. I loved plants. I lived in a second story apartment with no garden and no flowers and no money. Those pictures of nature were all I had and the hope that someday I might have enough money to go out into Nature. When I read those magazines, and became more familiar over the years with the environmental movement, I came to understand something. No matter what I did my newborn baby was in danger from toxins, cancer, and breathing problems. 

Once I read enough by scientists who study our planet's needs, I understood that I could breastfeed my new baby, I could buy her organic cotton sheets, I could stay home with her, I could plan to homeschool her. I could use only earth friendly non toxic products and toys. I could buy her organic local produce to make my own baby food, I could have her baptized as an infant, I could throw her a huge birthday party with homemade cinnamon raison cake with soft home-churned organic butter icing (from local cows). But I could not protect her from toxins. Why? The toxins were already in my breastmilk, in my building, in our air. And they were getting worse. I had to make a decision. Would I remain a one issue voter? I decided it was too huge. I couldn't chose unborn infants over the whole planet. If we saved every child and somehow found homes for them all, and made sure not to imprison any mothers who had miscarriages, who were ill, dying, or needed a medical abortion then what would all those children breathe? How long would they live in a world where every single policy maker I helped elect promised to clog up the earth's air and water with carcinogens? I couldn't vote yes to that. If we save the next generation and kill the planet, it just seemed like creating an environmental future holocaust. I couldn't sign on to that. I wanted to save both. I decided the law was about protecting rights. It could protect my right to breathe clean air and drink clean water. My second reason to change my view point: The law could protect the earth, but people needed to protect infants. The law, in order to stay democratic, would have to protect the right of choice. 

The third reason I could no longer be anti-choice about abortion was going through my own pregnancies. Would I ever have an abortion in any situation? No. I don't think so. Going through pregnancy taught me something about the rights of women and the suffering. I was so sick I had to quit work. I couldn't continue teaching oil painting and the paint was toxic to children both in the womb and without. We didn't have enough money to support a child. My spouse seemed unstable-- if not emotionally abusive then seriously immature. I lived a long way from family. I was in constant turmoil. My mind, body, and health were stretched to the limit. Finding money for maternity clothes was impossible. My spouse kept a job he hated for the insurance so we could pay for the birth. Even so, the small copay took me over a year to pay off. Both my pregnancies were c-sections despite risking my life to prove I could avoid the procedure. My third pregnancy was a miscarriage. I found out afterwards that 1 in four pregnancies are miscarriages. I wish I had known. (All the woman I knew told me they too had experienced miscarriages. Some of them many times. Much of the environmental news I read suggested this high rate could be do to pollutants.) After my first baby was born, I couldn't find work that would pay enough for me to afford childcare even with my college degree. I remember taking my baby in the car-seat to clean houses. When she started crawling, she helped me clean the kitchen floor with a towel. When she started walking, I was let go.

Once I experienced pregnancy, birth, and motherhood for myself. I knew that I could not ask someone to be forced into motherhood against their will. To be sick for a year. To lose a job. To be frightened and alone. To be poor and desperate. I could never ask another woman to be forced into that position without it being her choice. What if she were a teen or even younger girl? What if she were very sick? What if she had been raped or lived with an abuser. Did I want this girl I imagined to have an abortion? No. Did I think she needed to in those cases? Absolutely not. There were other options. But what I wanted her to have was the power of her own choice. The only reason I made it through those hard times was because I wanted a child so badly. That choice gave me strength. I can't imagine going through that same situation without a choice. With no alternative. I would have despaired of living. Life without choice is no life. Democracy without choice is not democratic.

In this case, yes it is tricky. It looks like no one is allowed to murder in America except mothers. But this is not true. That is not the summary of laws that protect choice. We need to understand the law better and it's purpose. The law does not cause murder. It gives mothers' freedom to choose life. This is one case where the freedom of choice is needed for the health of mothers. Choice gives us strength and hope. Do I want my friends to stop standing by the abortion clinics every week? Stop talking mothers' out of the wrong decision? No! Out there in your peaceful protest something good happens. There on the sidewalk you have built a relationship with a sister. You have made humanity work, democracy work. You have met your neighbor and loved her. Offered her education, offered her help. If you take away woman's choice over her body, then everyone will go inside. We will sit behind closed doors and that pregnant woman will be alone with no where to go, no education on how to find help, no hope and no freedom to get the strength to rise up and be the mother she truly wants to be.

If you do not reconsider for my reasons. You may have some of your own. Being a one issue voter can have serious repercussions. I think if we look to the Bill of Rights and its focus on protecting choices we can better understand the double edged sword of this law. Choice is dangerous, but it the building block to freedom.

I cannot address you here as a politician. I am an artist. I am a mother. I can only address you as a woman. Growing from a girl into a woman changed my opinions. At 16, I wrote a paper about Abigail Adams and thought she might be right about not needing the 19th amendment. I know now that it took over 100 years of lobbying to get the woman's right to vote. I know now how precious that is. I know now that men said the suffragettes were plain ugly, crazy, and too wiltingly weak-- all the same threats thrown at this first woman president-to-be. I've come a long way. I've come to see how important it is for a woman's right to vote. I'm glad I have the choice to vote and that vote is protected. I know many woman will not vote. That is their choice and choice is an amazing thing. When I took a fresh look at Hillary Clinton without that fear and hatred, without the belief that she must be a liar, or some evil villain out to get power -- views I had absorbed growing up in Washington DC in a Republican household-- I changed my mind. I am so glad I have the freedom of choice to change my mind. 

I looked again at Hillary Clinton and saw just a woman. A woman who'd worked through college. Someone moved by her family's stories of poverty. Someone who worked as a poor lawyer and in non profits for a long time. A woman that didn't quit when I would have. I decided that no one would spend over thirty years helping woman and children if they they did not passionately believe that women's and children's lives are worth fighting for. HC had the balls to stand up in the communist country of China and say these words, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.”  This is China-- where decades of the "one-child" policy has lead to continual violation of woman's rights through abortion. They do not have the right to choice in China. 

Think about it. If she stood up and said these words to China 20 years ago. Why is she fighting so hard for choice here? 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ding-a-lings, Curses & Hillary Clinton

Dear D,

Sounds like you've had a tough couple of weeks. Thank you for helping me move some of my things out of the old art studio. I didn't expect that working as a full time artist meant a moving work sites so often. It was so great to meet your friend, A. Seems like we all know what it's like to have someone suddenly back out on serious promises. Suddenly the person we trusted, they are like two different people, night and day. And sometimes we seem that way to other people, but they won't let us explain.

Some days I feel a bit old -- a bit cynical. Yes, even me. And I wonder if there is anything good, any good promises, any thing in this world that is straightforward--- without hidden agendas. Anyone trustworthy and completely true? And maybe the answer is, no not really. This is planet Earth. The place where things fell apart, the place where every single culture remembers a paradise we no longer get to enjoy, and every single heart has an empty place it can't seem to fill.

Sounds pretty sad. But what I wanted to write about was something again about prayer. Something I do, that I learned to do, to fight that feeling. And something that I've seen have amazing results almost every time, and immediate results. It's a kind of prayer. Maybe an unusual one. I learned it in college at a really cool Pentecostal church I went to for a few years. I know I'm not the only one to be on an unusual faith journey. But I began life in a Pentecostal Baptist church, attended Catholic religion classes, Lutheran Confirmation, Methodist Youth Group, Four years of Mennonite-styled Anabaptist college, Episcopal training classes. In college I did some coursework in Judaism, and ended up teaching Sunday School at the local Pentecostal Church when I was 20.

My favorite part was how they taught us to take care of kids who didn't sit well who were acting up in the service. "Just stand behind them and pray." They told us. "But keep your eyes open, don't pray with your eyes closed." I didn't know what I was doing. I forgot and prayed with my eyes closed. When I remembered to open them, the two kids in front of me who hadn't been paying attention were lying on the floor. Too much prayer. Prayed them to the ground. Ahh. That's what they meant, I thought to myself. I learned a lot in that church.

One of the pastors was this amazing confessed ADHD speaker. He talked so fast, even I could stay interested. And the week I remember best out of those two years was a few lessons on how to pray a blessing prayer. How to Bless. They sent us out into our neighborhoods, jobs and schools, and asked us to bless them. There are a lot of scriptures about it. One I remember was "Bless. Bless and do not curse." I looked that up and it's from Romans 12. Most of the verses about Blessing are in the Pentateuch and the rest of the Torah.

I remember when I went to Israel, all the doors in homes and synagogues and even the Kibbutz had a small little box. It looks like a very large, beautiful door bell. Of course it didn't make a sound, it was a Mezuzah. A small scroll of Scripture lay hidden inside. It's an old command in the fifth book: to write it (God's Word) on the door posts so people would remember as they are coming in and out. So they wouldn't forget God. I know the little boxes don't make a sound. But to me, they are just like a bell. I read those verses early enough and often enough they stick in my memory. And when I go through my door at home sometime I feel as if a little doorbell shaped box with God's word were posted there. I don't have a real one, of course. But I can't forget that verse. As a single mom, it comes back to all the time: "You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." I stayed with a Muslim family in Palestine and the mother got out her prayer mat and continued to pray even with guests and her children about. No one paid her any attention or joined her. But she was just like a Mazuzah. A beautiful golden box with God's word inside. Reminding her kids and her friends that it's time to remember who God is, when we sit in our house, when we lie down, when we rise up-- it's always a good time to remember how good God is.

So what is so cool about this prayer of blessing? It's like that little box. You only need one word,--it's a small container-- but you can unpack an entire new attitude; cast a new vision where-ever you go. You can change the world with just this one word prayer. To bless "barak" is to kneel down, to honor or salute. When you ask God to bless someone, he reaches out to them and gets down on their level. He lifts them up to his face. He sees them. Blessing is much better than lazer tag. You can shoot out blessings as you drive by in your car. When you watch TV. When you read the newspaper. When you scroll through a friend's feed. 

I've used this Bless prayer for almost 20 years. Houses in my old neighborhood that were falling down in disrepair have been fixed up. Gardens that looked like a cemetery, spring up full of flowers with benches and little hanging plants. Neighbors who I've never seen, appear in their drive way and smile. Churches that seem to be dying-- have to get new parking lots because they run out of room. Neighborhoods left for ghetto get made over. Empty buildings become a Savers or a Coffee shop. Ruins get rebuilt. Trees that fall, miss the houses next to them. Tornadoes dissipate. Hurricanes change direction. Fires get put out. Draughts end. Lonely friends are blessed with family. Moms without kids suddenly have more kids. People get new jobs. Kids get adopted. People ready to end it all, give it another chance. Youth groups about to die, blossom. Creative people suddenly find a way to reach out again. Junk cars are replaced. Blind people, see better. Sick people, get up and go back to school. Sad people find a new place to reach out. Lost people find a way home. Tired people take a rest. 

I find it the most hard to Bless people who've hurt me. And people that seem like enemies to the common good. But I have finally found a prayer for that. God. Bless them anyway. What does that mean? I guess it's surrender. It's admitting that I don't know everything. That God can deal with that person however he wants. That he can get down face to face with that person and maybe that would do them some good. Maybe they will stop being that thorn in my shoe. Or the person responsible for so much damage in my family, my community, my country, or my world. God, they are all yours. And maybe you can do something with them. Every human heart could use some blessing. And maybe our enemies need it more. The lady who was so rude to me when I called for help, maybe she has it tougher than I do. Maybe she needs to be blessed. Cursing. That doesn't help anyone. We all have enough curses. We are born under them. We collect more like dust. Blessings. They are this amazing beam of light and they can penetrate anything. Absolutely anything. A blessing can knock down an entire wall, no matter how tall. And it can reach into the deepest hole, no matter how black. A blessing is one of the strongest things there ever was. And God for this while, gives them infinitely. 

Sometimes I have found that someone I wanted to curse. Someone I thought I hated. Someone who I dared to call evil-- was simply a person just like me. And when enough time goes by, I find that I was the enemy, and they blessed me anyway. And I will take all the blessing I can get. Sometimes I've looked again at someone everyone said was the problem, and I found out they were just going around blessing others. 

Blessing instead of cursing. It's the cure. An old one. You can keep it in a box on your door. You can tattoo it. Or you can just let it ring. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Klans, Soap & Tough Love

Dear D,
Thanks for going out with me for pizza the other night. I really needed to be out with a friend and I was exhausted from work all week and painting all day friday. I'm still tired and it's a week later. I think I know five single moms and only two in town, you being one of them. Sometimes I worry I won't make it. That my life will go down the path of tired, broke single mom, until I'm living on welfare packages of tuna helper and never take curlers out of my hair or bother to get dressed. (This must be something I saw on TV once and it stuck with me.) Fears are crazy things. My image of the end of the road involves tuna helper hmmm. Funny that the waiter at the restaurant the other night was one of triplets-- and that they all worked at the same pizza place. I felt like we were in some great episode that deserves to be written down.

You always make life exciting. Remember when my car wouldn't work and you used soap to grease the belt and get it running again? At the gas station we were there and not looking our best. That lady in a size 5 blue dress with her expensive car and high heels looked over at the two single moms in their old clothes and probably house slippers and had the nerve to say aloud she'd, "trade places with us in a heartbeat." What did that mean. It haunted me. What kind of situation would make someone want to give up beauty, being thin, and having a nice car --to be broke, out of gas with an old junk car, and out in public in house slippers? ..... Now that I think about it, maybe she meant she'd give up everything to have a friend. We were together and she was by herself.

As I've said before, your life should really be written down. You are one of the toughest, kindest, and most street smart people I know. I'm proud to be your friend, your adopted family, and to have had the chance to hire you as body guard for all those late friday night art events when I first started working in the arts distict. Every story you have is priceless whether you scared off a bunch of guys wearing white sheets in your middle school by punching one of them in the jaw, or whether you drove four hours to take your kid to a soccer tournament where they rocked. They are all good stories.

This whole prayer discussion we started has been interesting. It wasn't too long ago that I felt it was high time to be real with people and find a way to be my true self. Finding that impossible, because I just enjoy all my different friends and family so much-- I felt I might be a bit different with each of them. So I started this blog: letters are where I can be totally honest. With each friend I write to, I think I am the truest version of some part of myself, even if that changes a bit with each friend.

It's hard for people who love to think a lot about words, to stop and talk at the same time. Which sounds odd but it's true. I can use the best words when I write. When I talk, my vocabulary decreases to about 2,000 words-- most of those words turn out to be: cool, awesome, and nice. I even bore myself. Writing letters is where I can finally keep up with all those words I want to access. Prayer is where I can finally be my real self too--- if I put my mind to it.

So let's get down to it. You said that it feels selfish to pray for yourself, for something you want. I've never really felt that way. I ask for things all the time ...I think. NO, when I stop to think about that, I realize it is't true. I don't. I'm always forgetting to ask for what I need and want in prayer. It's an odd problem. I mean there is all those verses about "ask, seek, knock..." Jesus was really into reminding people to ask.

Since I had no idea where to begin, I googled it. Do any other people out there feel selfish if they pray for something they need or want? Yep. They do. Lots of blogs address it in Christianese. Christianese is when you mention a Bible verse, use a lot of soft language and insist that things will get better if you just consider some male in the old testament and how they wore goat hair. Or maybe ponder an obscure verse in the King James which actually sounds fairly frightening if you hadn't been studying the context for 20 years. All that to say. I couldn't find much. I did see that Billy Graham had a blog about the topic and he was the one who actually addressed the real issue. He gets right to the point-- I love that.

Graham says we feel selfish when we pray because we are only coming to get something. But he suggests the true problem: praying is a relationship with your Creator-- that's someone who loves you and thinks you are just about the best thing since sliced bread, because he designed you with so many things in mind. God is thrilled when we ask him for what we need. That's how he designed us: for daily upgrades; daily drinking from a well; daily being connected like a flower to a vine-- chose your metaphor. So if we feel selfish, and I do sometimes, I do-- Then it's not because we think God won't answer our prayers; it's because we think he might want something else instead.

When we pray, it's a relationship. We are growing closer to someone-- a real person. That person has a lot of suggestions, ideas, and purposes for each of our lives. And he might, as we get to know him, have a few demands; things he insist we take notice of. I'm not talking about rules. Those are there, and we each are convicted about rules and ways to be holy-- connected to God by how we live. That's not the only thing. The closer you get to God, the more he might suggest that you need to be on a path, the amazing plan he has for you. The one you don't know about. The one you can't see. The one that may start out by your losing things, getting lost, and coming to the end of yourself. That's a scary journey-- not always fun. Frankly we've already been there. And no, not always the path we wanted to take. But maybe it's like the lady in the blue dress. We don't have to be like her: to give anything not to be alone. We are never alone when we are following God --and he's always putting us into families, even ones we least expect.

It's a relationship. God is like your best friend. Sure he puts up with all your faults and loves you for who you are. Everything you say is just about perfectly hilarious and just too cute for words. He can't get enough of you. But when you become roomies with God, some things have to change. You've invited him into your life because you thought it would make things better and easier. But he's not just a roommate. God asks us to follow him, not just live with him and put up with all his weird ideas about holiness and moderation and his weird affinity for praise music; his insistence on remembering him before meals and on holidays. It gets much more personal that that. It's worse than your mother-in-law moving in, or even getting married. When you ask God to be in your life, he gets in charge of your life. That's cool when you remember he's stronger than Thor and richer than JK Rolling. That's frightening a bit when you remember he is all knowing and has this thing about love that can really make you look like a weird mix of Ghandi and the Care Bears when you'd rather just be She-Ra or He-Man and go to town on the bad guys.

So what to do? Ha. That's easy. Pray anyways. Here's what happens. You talk it out. When you start to tell God you've found your soul mate and you want God to make it all work out. You want to live happily ever after. God, he's going to start to suggest things back. He'll nudge you to consider the other person and what's best for them. He'll nudge your to consider how you've been treating that person. He'll nudge you to consider your family and friends. He'll nudge you to consider your needs and his plans for you. Then what happens is that your prayer starts to change. Right as you are praying for the perfect happy ending image you have in your head, you'll start to pray for that other person. That God will work in their life, and that God's best possible plans for them will come to reality. You'll start to pray for your family and what they need, your neighbors, and you'll come full circle. When you get back around the whole loop looking at how much God loves all those people and thinking about what me might want most for them all you'll see yourself in a different way. You see yourself fitting into a beautiful puzzle that God's been putting together for years. And you'll find yourself praying that God does just what would be best for that person you love because you love them so much. And when that happens, you are undone. The strings are cut, and you have peace for the first time. You still have that dream image in your mind. But now you know God has it handled. You've talked it out. You've given it to God and you know he's got your back and he's got your future. He even wants you to be happy and experience all the good he has planned for you. But now that you've prayed about it, you aren't so worried and you don't feel selfish, you feel energized and you just want to share the joy with someone else. Yeah maybe it only lasts for a few minutes or a few hours. But you can always pray again the next day and see what happens then...

Love You,