When I was a very young girl a movie came out called Ten. I never saw it but have a vivid image of the woman, Bo Derek, running on the beach with a small swim suit, large boobs and corn row braids in her hair. I asked my older sister why it was called Ten and she responded sort of exasperatedly, “Because Jayne, she is a perfect Ten”. She looked like the happiest woman I had ever seen and clearly by my Dad’s response when he saw this image, she was a very important person. I didn’t know what she had done to become so happy and important but essentially if my Dad valued her and noticed her I wanted to be the exact same way...or as close to it as I could get.
Several years later I saw her again. Mom and Dad had gotten us a VCR for Christmas and we were so excited to go to the movie rental store and pick out our first movie. She was running on the cover of Ten, perfect. Exotic, important and inviting me to follow her. I did. It wasn’t a conscious thought. But in the years to follow I would spend hours exercising, looking in the mirror, waiting and hoping to become a "Ten" so maybe I could make my Dad proud and be sure he loved me and saw me and valued me.
Yesterday I sat at the swimming pool with three beautiful women. All four of us have kids and careers and are working hard to raise intelligent competent boys. As our gaggle of young boys splashed and played in the pool we sat on chaise lounges and caught up on life and what our plans were now that summer has arrived. Quickly the conversation turned to those parts of our bodies we despise. Our legs, our stomachs and our breasts. Too fat, too dimply, too big, too small. And then to notice the other women around, to make the judgments of who is “making it” and who isn’t. Seeing what lengths we will go to to become a ten, undergoing knives and surgeries and pain to be beautiful. How many dollars, hours and mutilation have we gone through to be valued?
What if we could teach this generation of boys and girls that there is so much more to us? That our value is beyond words and that these bodies are incredible and serve such a higher purpose? What if we could say to ourselves, “You are enough. You are more valuable than you could ever know?” Would we thank our legs that carry us where we need to go, bless our stomachs that stretched to carry those children, honor our breasts that have nursed those strong healthy boys. Could we believe it ourselves? Could we learn that there is this richness to life that is all around us to see? And if our focus can change to the beauty of this created world would we begin to see ourselves as a part of that beauty and submit to something bigger than ourselves?
I was talking with one of those women several days ago as we sat out on my deck and I lamented over losing my cool with my kids. I was mentioning how I wished I could have been more calm and loving when my friend said, “Well, guess what Jayne, you’re not perfect.” She couldn’t have known how profound those words were to me or what they would stir up for me in the days to follow. Those three words “You’re not perfect” freed something inside of me. Not because I didn’t know that already but because she stayed. I am not perfect and she still loves me. She’s not going anywhere.
This is a recurring message in my life in the last decade as I have met more and more gorgeous passionate women who are learning to love themselves in every facet of their being. As they accept and honor themselves and stop judging themselves, they offer that same gift to me. I can be honest about my fears and bad behavior and desperation. In the next breath I can be great and amazing and fabulous. Most of them are seeking perfection, but are beginning to understand that it is not our perfection we ultimately need. It is God’s. My human Dad is a good Dad but isn’t perfect and couldn’t fully give me what I needed to understand my value and worth. Maybe because he doesn’t fully understand his own value and worth, or maybe just because he isn’t perfect. God is the only True Perfect Being and He desperately loves me and sees every hidden part of me, even the places I am not ready to see. In His light, I can fully emerge out of my darkness covered in His perfection.
Thank you to all of the imperfect women in my life. And thank you Barb for reminding me “I am not perfect” and staying.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Journal Entry #4
You spit in people’s eyes???!!
Bonelli. I cannot possibly begin to tell the story of Bonelli, the man whose vision was stolen by diabetes, until I first speak of Biemba, his wife. She was our “cook” for the week while we were in the Dominican Republic. By the world’s standards she is unspectacular; one wouldn’t look twice if passing her on the street. However, to a more spiritually attuned soul, it takes only moments to realize that with Biemba, you are in the presence of greatness. She has become a dear friend to the women who have lived and traveled down to La Victoria and a spiritual leader to the women out in La Canita who depend on her to lead their Bible study each week. A no-nonsense woman in her late thirties, if she spoke, I wanted to hear what she had to say, if she corrected, I worked to do it right. I watched the people as they filled up the bags with rice and garlic follow her meticulous instructions. As she examined the onion, they waited…they wanted her approval as well. There is a…regal quality to Biemba. As if royalty has been displaced and was dropped into a dusty Caribbean town to cook in a tiny kitchen in front of a hot stove.
I had the privilege of accompanying Biemba back to her home one morning. We had been out purchasing food for the day and she needed help carrying the dripping bags of beans that the toothless man with the overturned milk crate had ladled out for us from his tin pot. She gently scolded me as I took the flimsy baggie from the bottom and part of the contents spilled out dripping black liquid down my arms. A woman watched from her doorway and feeling sorry for the very inexperienced American, she rushed out with an extra bag for me to catch the rest of the overflowing contents. Though I was all thumbs, Biemba acted grateful for the “help”, as uncoordinated as it was. It struck me as strange that this woman would be cooking and serving us all week. It felt backward, like we should be serving her. Several times over the course of the week, I had the strange sense that I knew what the disciples must have felt like as Jesus, their King, knelt down to wash their feet.
As I followed her down a little pathway to her home, I noticed a small child bathing in a basin outside the door and a few chickens scattered out of our way. Her tiny home was dark, with a few motes of dust dancing in the sun beams that shone through the slats in the roof. Several “rooms” were partitioned off by clean unmatched sheets and I could see that the kitchen was at the back of the room. This is when I first met Bonelli. To say “met” feels like an inaccurate account. As if you can meet a corpse, or have a conversation with a dead person. More accurately, I saw a man sitting lifelessly in a chair. He sits all day long, unmoving. Sort of staring off into nothing. He doesn’t speak or show emotion. Yet, as I shook his hand, there was softness to him, vulnerability. Bonelli had a gentle soul. Or maybe just a broken spirit. In sharp contrast to Biemba’s rich commanding demeanor, Bonelli’s is small and poor. However, his presence is very penetrating…like a vacuum sucking the air out of the room. Even, during our mealtimes when he was on the other side of the curtain, staying out of our way, his presence was felt. We knew Bonelli was there. He was always there. He never left.
Though I never had a conversation with her about this, the women who knew her better had shared that Biemba has grown very weary of Bonelli’s state of being. I quickly understood how taxing it was to have his lifeless presence around constantly. But even deeper for Biemba, she knew this man before he had lost his vision. He used to work and engage in life. This was the father of her children, her provider, and her companion. I had learned that on a previous trip, the women from our group had prayed over him to have his sight restored and she had asked that we do this again. Since then, one of those praying women had a dream that we prayed for him again and his vision was restored. So the intention had been set before the trip that one of our tasks while in the DR was to pray for Bonelli to receive his sight.
So here is the part of the story where I begin to squirm. I say I serve the Almighty God who is who capable of doing ALL things, yet I am acutely aware that most of the time, I don’t see this kind of healing happening. My scars have just begun to heal from watching my mom’s life get ripped away by ovarian cancer. I prayed constantly for God to heal Mom’s cancer and restore her health and I didn’t it see it happen. This kind of faith, this kind of praying rips the scabs off of my fresh wounds.
Additionally, I really don’t want to make God look bad. I mean, if we come in here and start praying for the blind to see, what are we going to look like to the rest of the world? To Bonelli and Biemba? Maybe they will see that I really don‘t have great faith. Maybe they will see that I often question if God is really interested in our physical comfort or health. I see so much suffering around me…everywhere…so much death, so many tragedies, miscarriages, cancer, and unexplained death of children. I see overwhelming evidence that seems to point out the terrifying proposition that God doesn’t heal the sick. Those are great stories in the Bible. Good Sunday school lessons. But to move out in faith and ask for that kind of thing to happen today? People might find out that He doesn’t answer my prayers. I might find out again.
It is much easier for me to go down to the DR to help women start businesses and meet practical life needs. I imagine myself telling my friends and family, “I am going on a mission trip to help women become more self-sustaining and to be able to buy food to feed their families.” This is all true. Not a stretch, not misleading…I could stick with that. It is acceptable even to non-Christians to do that kind of humanitarian work. But to tell people we are praying for blind people to see? This is a whole other level. People aren’t prepared for this. I am not prepared for this.
I know how this looks to the world. For that matter, I know what it looks like to me! I recently saw a bumper sticker that read, “Don’t pray in my school and I won’t think in your church”. Crap. We are those women. We are the ones who believe in the Bible…that God spoke into existence all of creation in a word. We are the ones who hold our hands up and dance and sing praises to God. We bow down to God, not to science. We have faith. We look so…foolish. Exactly. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. The wisdom of God looks absolutely foolish to this world.
So it was a risk as we sat down to Bonelli’s table the last morning of our trip and laid our hands on him and began to cry out to God for a miracle. Our hearts removed from our chests and laid out on the table, bare, vulnerable and open. And we asked the question. We made our request known to God. We didn’t come in the “back door” with a “If it is your will, would you consider healing him, but if not, we totally understand and know you have a better plan” prayer. We marched in the front door as God’s kids and jumped straight into His lap begging Him for a miracle in that moment. Complete restoration of sight. And then one of the ladies did something weird. Cuz this wasn’t weird enough. She said meekly, “Uh, guys? I feel like maybe I am supposed to rub spit in his eyes.”
And so she did. And so we waited. As I grabbed my heart back off the table and shoved it into my chest, I pleaded in the silence to God, “This could be your chance! You could heal him in this moment and really make a name for yourself here! I mean, wouldn’t everyone then know you care? You are loving? You are the one true God?” Much weeping in the room. Tears being spilled over. Something was happening. We waited. More waiting. Silence. Nothing. “C’mon God, do a miracle! We are really putting ourselves out there, ya know?”
Bonelli didn’t receive his sight that day. The part of me that wants to defend God here will go to the explanation, “Something shifted in the heavens that day and we will one day see it.” But I am not sure of that either. It’s Good Friday and I am reminded that many watching Jesus hanging on a cross that day were probably pleading in their hearts, “C’mon Jesus. Now is your chance! Make a name for yourself. Get down off the cross! Kick those Roman soldiers’ asses!” Much weeping. Waiting. Tears spilling over. Silence. And then what appeared to be defeat. I wish I could tie all of this up with a nice conclusion for those of you reading and waiting. But I am still waiting.
“Those who wait patiently on the Lord will not be put to shame.”
Posted by Jayne Spear MA, LPC at 7:51 PM
Journal Entry 6 (from the trip in February 2011 to catch us up to date.)
The night our little group arrived at the house that was to be our home for the next week the electricity was already out. We had come prepared with flashlights and headlamps, knowing that electricity is inconsistently available in La Victoria. With the help of a little team of Dominican men who were to be our guides and translators we moved our bags and boxes of supplies into the dark compound. We began to light candles, blow up our air mattresses and build mosquito net contraptions with duct tape and whatever else we could cobble together. After a couple of hours of what felt like setting up a campsite inside this home, we were ready for some food and water. It was clear that the toilets were not flushing and when we went to turn on the faucets, they were dry. One of the young men helping us brought a five gallon jug of drinking water to disperse among the thirteen of us.
This seemed sufficient for the first night and all of us seemed content enough to wash off the day of travel with wet wipes. However, the next morning, after breakfast, it was becoming apparent that we were all feeling a bit grimy. We had fruit and power bars for breakfast and there was a definite “stickiness” to the whole group. Not wanting to seem like prototypical high maintenance Americans, no one was complaining, but the topic arose, “How can we wash our hands?” Another immediate concern included, “Do you think the toilets might flush today?” They never did. We were there for a week and had all of the issues one might presume in a third world country. And we had no water. Other than what our little car could carry in trash cans, we had no water. Enough for a bucket over the head and a wash cloth over the body…I never knew one wash cloth could clean so much!
No one seemed to complain much, however, after the fifth day, it was clear we were living in a fairly “unsanitary environment”. We pushed through and decided that it was evident what our next trip would entail: attention to the water issue. We lived this way for one week. Our dear friends have been living with this for a lifetime. We were all feeling a stirring within us to address this issue of water that affects so many of the people of the Dominican Republic. This will be our focus. We will move in this direction. May God show us what He wants to do through us in the DR.
Posted by Jayne Spear MA, LPC at 7:42 PM
In La Victoria the electrical wires dangle from above, tangled, like a bird’s nest that got whipped and shredded by years of hurricane force winds. Everywhere in this town I look, bundles of them are attached to nothing I can decipher but wound so tightly and randomly that to untangle them would be a daunting, if impossible task. Where are they supposed to go? Where did they begin? If I touch a low hanging one, will I get shocked? It seems as if no plan has been made here, but as a whim arises or a need presents itself, another is added. From my very American sensibilities where order and process reign, I cannot tell, I can only see that somehow these wires have power and supply electricity, be it ever so sporadically to this town.
Out in the campo, just 10 minutes further, there are not as many wires, maybe one or two running into a tin roof, the occasional light shines out in the dark barrio. Electricity has not made it this far it seems. Here is where the women are, the ones we have come to love as sisters. So many of them. A mess actually of personalities and opinions and needs and baggage. White, toothy smiles in a sea of dark black espresso faces. Round mounds of mother flesh. Chairs in tight circles with opinions and voices. Arguments that go so far back, they have etched grooves and lines into faces. Alliances and agreements. Live wires. Bound tightly.
Occasionally, we will ask about a woman who lives a little further out, with the brood of children, in the cinder block house without the roof, why doesn’t she come around? Or the lady without the teeth who walks with the mule out in the back roads on the way into town? Maybe she could come to one of our meetings with plastic chairs in the circle, dust getting kicked up by a naked baby running around. A look or a scowl will tell us that she is not welcome, maybe she’s done something unpopular or offensive. This we understand, it doesn’t need to be explained to us, this crosses our cultural barriers.
But we come for everyone, the young Haitian refugee, pregnant again, who can’t speak the same language and has been beaten so badly by her old man caretaker that she has lost her hearing. We come for the proud matriarch who sits and judges the others in the circle and her neighbor who is promiscuous with a bad reputation. We come for the hardworking mom, babies on each hip, who wants to bring order to this little band of women, knowing they need each other for survival. We come for the drunken old man who clicks his tongue at us as we walk by and brings us bottles of coca cola while his own children go hungry. We come for his children, to see them and tell them they matter.
We keep coming back, we, this bundle of American women who have fallen in love with the people of the Dominican Republic. Bound tightly together, needing each other for support. We bring our own poverty, our messes, even if we have tried to leave them at home. We, who know what it is like to be the one who is not welcome in the circle and we who have been the women not welcoming others into the circle. We wind around each others hearts and stories and brokenness and beauty. We bring our extravagance to this impoverished country. We leave richer than when we came. We’ve become tangled into the web of the beautiful story that is being written over years with these people.
Posted by Jayne Spear at 9:31 PM
Posted by Jayne Spear MA, LPC at 7:39 PM
Thursday, September 15, 2011
"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear”. CS Lewis
I sit in my overstuffed chair bundled up with my dog, steaming coffee in my mug, old blanket from my mom wrapped tightly around me. I started using half n half several years ago because coffee felt more like a treat with it… a small thing to round off sharp edges that poke and tear at me as I walk through this life. I am grieving in this season losses that have and have not yet happened. It seems the deep ones that have stolen something from my life edge in to the now to steal things I still have. To add to my sorrow, my naivete has slipped from me and I realize with a deep understanding that at any moment what I hold dear can be swept away.
This realization can make me cynical, valuing everything a little less in order to dilute the intensity of my feelings and hopefully alleviate future pain. Or on the contrary, I become inclined to cling to how precious these moments are, to not miss the minutia that makes up life. This is the path I am I walking today. My oldest and dearest friend is in the hospital with her baby who is battling for his life against a sudden and horrible disease. I am helpless, it seems, to do anything to help her. I sit by the phone waiting for updates, send out countless e-mails to ask people to pray, and have nearly worn a figure eight in my kitchen floor from pacing. I made oatmeal for my kids today and sent them off on the bus to picture day at school, with their shirts freshly pressed and hair combed more nicely than usual. After they left, I wondered, did I kiss them each good-bye? Did I cherish this moment? What if something would happen and I wouldn’t have that chance again to tell them how proud I am of them or how much I love them?
It occurs to me that in deep suffering, I am able to love with a place in my heart that is not activated during the day to day practice of living. When I am brought to this threshold of grief, I am moving in a capacity unlike any other experience. I am freer to love wholly. This concept was punctuated for me when I sat with one of my clients this week. Her husband is coming home next week after being deployed for a year in Iraq. She said, “In one moment I am praying so hard that he would get home safely and in the next moment I am hoping he isn’t going to leave his underwear on the floor when he does get home”. We do not stay in the tender places too long. They are reserved for those sacred times where we are more aware of the thin veneer between this world and the next .
Since I sat down to write the sun has peaked through the clouds, my dog has jumped off the couch, and my blanket has become too warm. I will get up and move, aware of the space in my heart that carries my losses, holding the young soldiers who are flying home on a plane next week, carrying my friend whose world is suspended in a hospital hundreds of miles away and saying prayers for my kids on picture day at school. Thankful for the minutia. Thankful for the gift of today.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
We seem to swirl around each other in a furious dance of busyness. Time is a precious commodity of which none of us seem to have enough. Every moment filled with thoughts, plans, and productivity. Many mornings I awake with a “to do” list scrolling through my mind and continue at a steady pace of it until it is time for bed. There are often days I look back on when I realize I have simply responded to all of the demands that were thrown at me, not actually being purposeful to choose how I wanted to live in that given day. This harried way of existence not only seems to suck the Life out of life, it fails to make room for others.
I often walk my dog on a path near my office. Many others walk this same little strip as it is near the new hospital, the new light rail and a few shops and restaurants. It strikes me that I am often quite content to move past another without looking into their eyes or even offering a greeting. Yet, when a rare moment is taken to acknowledge the other, the stranger who is passing by, some small pleasantry, an exchange that says, “I see you”, something shifts internally for me. Something changes. It’s as if I have been let into the experience of another, a small interruption in their day. And that other person has been let into my day in some way.
My husband has a favorite story that he likes to tell. When he was attending CU Boulder as a college student he would often ride his bike to and from campus. One day he happened to ride up behind this burly black man who was‘clipping right along’ on the bike path that runs throughout the Boulder landscape. Something in Aaron's natural competitive spirit took hold and he decided he was going to pass this guy and beat him to the non-existent finish line. So as he was pulling around him, out of the corner of his eye, the guy looked over with a friendly but fierce gleam in his eye and said, “Oh, no you don’t!” And thus began the sprint. And so for the next however far, the two of them pushed their bikes and their bodies to the limit, all the while, catching glances of amusement and unspoken comradry with the other, until they both lost their breath in peals of laughter and the stranger on the bike turned off onto what Aaron supposed was his own street. As my husband often shares the story, I have a touch of nostalgia for this man I have never met, wondering if he tells this same story to his wife and kids around the dinner table. Secretly I even hope that someday we will all share a meal and a laugh telling of the day of the "great race".
It compels me to wonder what would happen if I could stop the running list of “to dos” for a moment and notice the life that is in front of me. Maybe it my child who needs a little attention. Maybe it is a homeless man panhandling for some spare change. Perhaps it is a business executive who looks important and busy. Maybe it is the one staring back at me in the mirror who says, “ I need to be seen. Not what I can do for you or how I check off the list of what it means to matter in this life. I need to be seen. All the cracks, breaks, and messes that I seem to make.” I wonder what I am missing in the eyes, the handshake, the laugh of another when I fail to look, to see, to notice or touch. Because of those five spontaneous minutes over twenty years ago, the guy on the bike and my husband's stories have somehow become linked, rubbed off on each other in some way. Like when you bump into the petal of a lily and the powdery stuff gets knocked off leaving an orange dust on whatever it touches. Is it annoying and now I must rinse it off...or is it beauty...rubbed off onto me?
Thursday, May 19, 2011
The perpetrators were apprehended and after quite an ordeal, finally secured into my back seat. I had been careful of their heads, like I had seen on Cops, to not ram them into the door as I strapped them in. Now barreling down the road, I could see the two of them in my rear view mirror, downcast stares, the acknowledgment that they were busted. The swirl of red and blue lights lit up the contours of their soiled faces as I drove them to the drop spot. Guilt has an odd presence. It seems to seep from pores and stream from exhaled breath. The heaviness of it can engulf you and threaten to extinguish any light it touches. This guilt was no different and as I felt it’s cold familiar strangling sensation, one of the guilty spoke breaking the silence.
“Mommy? Can we unbuckle yet? I dropped my ambulance on the floor!” It was my four year old who spoke first, the seven year old didn’t dare. He was quicker to grasp when I had had enough and that nothing good could come from any further interaction with Mom at this point. And before I could open my mouth to answer, the four year old had wriggled out of his car seat to fetch his plastic ambulance. These toys usually come from the grandparents or other well-meaning relatives who haven’t had kids in their backseats for at least a couple of decades. Who don’t remember that a constant clattering of noise and flashing lights could, one day, in fact, be the catalyst that finally pushes a mother over the brink she has been teetering on into full-fledged insanity. The ambulance’s lights were still on, the siren had a minor tone to it as the batteries were wearing out. As I turned around to shut the toy off, my older son and I briefly made eye contact. I could discern his thoughts as if they were actually written across his face; “Just get me to the front of the carpool lane so I can get out of this car”.
Just then, as if on cue, the door opened and the teachers scooped the children out of the backseat with a gracious smile that relayed they had had a wonderful child-free weekend of adult activity and mornings to sleep in and were thereby energized and delighted to care for my little beasts for the next 6 and a half hours. I gratefully smiled at this strange breed of human who seemed to actually enjoy the constant swirl of chaos that accompanies caring for little children. The door shut and I drove off into my freedom, briefly glancing back to see their gigantic backpacks walking up the sidewalk. One purple, one gray. The only other body parts to be seen behind the enormous school bags were four, little legs popping out beneath, and two uncombed heads bobbing up and down, as if the backpacks, themselves had sprouted little appendages. I made a mental note to myself: when kids start riding school bus next year, get appropriate sized school bags.
Driving away, I now have the space in my mind to replay the insanity that had transpired over the first three waking hours of my Monday morning. It had begun the moment before my eyes pried themselves open. It was a knocking at my bedroom door by my four year-old. We’ll call him Lucifer for the purposes of this article. Little Luci was distraught because he couldn’t seem to find a silver mixing bowl which had accompanied his kitchen set we had donated to charity over a year ago. Apparently, he desperately needed this very bowl for his Zhu Zhu pet to use as a swimming pool, this very instant, at 6:30 am. The facts: Said bowl was last spotted in the hot tub a week ago and Lucifer had been outside on the patio for the last 20 minutes working the childproof clips to open the hot tub death trap and perform the rescue of the bowl. The rescue operation had failed and now he was making it very clear that this bowl fiasco was now my problem.
This information came to me in streams of broken 4 year old commands, demands and complaints, while I was beginning the first signs of the awakening process. I pulled the blanket up around my head and listened as the volume outside increased. The intensity of the bowl situation at my bedroom door was only to be usurped by his older brother’s louder knocks and poundings to gleefully announce that he had finally decided that he wants to have an “Extreme Challenge” birthday party in 5 and a half months when his birthday will finally arrive! Scuffling, punches and wrestling ensued because of seven year old’s infringement on door space and general lack of concern that Momo the Zhu Zhu pet won’t have a morning swim today. At this point, some may be wondering why the children are still outside the bedroom door…I sleep with it locked. Wouldn’t you?
My husband was nowhere in sight, probably downstairs hiding in the office. (They can’t ask you for things if they can’t find you.) Who could blame him? As I tried to formulate a thought that would hopefully transpire into a word, above named son became irate that I was “id-knowing him” (Just sound it out phonetically…ignoring him for those less familiar with the 4 year old speech) So the pitch and tone of his whining began to rise to high f note, I think. I only remember that this could be an F note on the musical scale as I have distinct memories of the lady at church every Christmas Eve shooting for this exact note at the end of Oh Holy Night. Afterward, my sister would comment, “She almost hit that F note this year!”
But the children are gone now, in a happy place with blocks and easels, paints and markers, kind faces and gentle reminders to use “indoor voices”. They are truly in a better place now. Someone else is meeting their needs and caring for their little minds. So I will drink coffee and clean up the breakfast mess. I will fold laundry and catch up on e-mails. My heart rate has slowed, brain patterns will soon return to normal, my own thoughts can re-enter, not crowded out by irrational demands like, “Mommy, can you make it Easter today please?” By lunchtime I will most likely change their names back to the originals and yes, by 3:00 maybe even be excited to see their little smiling faces when I pick them up at school. But for now, I will cherish the mind space that has been freed up to put toward other things like write about, talk about and think about them!