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Morgan - podcast

Podcast: Embracing Feminine Wholeness & Sexuality – An Interview with Morgan Day Cecil

Morgan - podcast

September is my month of talking about Bodily Healing. This is part of my Year of Healing, in which I tackle different topics of healing each month. During September, I will touch on physical and sexual healing, accepting ourselves no matter who we are.

This podcast is an interview with Morgan Day Cecil, a feminine wholeness coach who helps both single and married women think through the sexual wounds they’ve encountered over life and how to embrace themselves, their sexuality, and live more fully embodied lives within the context of their unique feminine sexuality in committed relationships.

In this podcast, Morgan shares a bit of her own personal journey of overcoming traumatic sexual wounds, her healing relationship with her husband Ron, and how she helps empower women to heal from past sexual wounds and abuse and find more courage in their own marriages and committed relationships. She also talks about her and her husband’s search for relational healing, as well as launching their coaching business for couples and singles. Morgan and Ron are a special, committed couple who are encouraging others to have lives of true, deep romance and adventure–whether they are single or married.

Morgan has been an influential woman in my life as I’ve unpacked my own self hatred and shame when it came to my female sexuality, as well as learning to heal in many ways and embrace my own feminine wholeness. I’m really excited to share this podcast with you, and I hope that you can use it to think through your own sexual past and learn to embrace more wholeness in your own lives.

Women have unique struggles in this area, and if you struggle with shame and self hatred when it comes to your female sexuality, you are not alone. So many woman do. And the good news is: it can be overcome! You can find wholeness and healing as a woman. 

You can check out Morgan’s work at www.morgandaycecil.com.

*Tigger warning: This podcast talks about sexual abuse and rape.*

Podcast: Embracing Feminine Wholeness & Sexuality – An Interview with Morgan Day Cecil

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Hating My Body: A Poem + Story on Body Image, Chronic Illness, and Self Acceptance (Part 2)

do what is rightnot what is easy

September is my month of talking about Bodily Healing. This is part of my Year of Healing, in which I tackle different topics of healing each month. During September, I will touch on physical and sexual healing, accepting ourselves no matter who we are. I began by writing a post last week on my personal story on body image, health, and everything it’s connected to. Today I follow up with a part two to that blog post, where I share a poem and more on my healing journey.

A Love Poem (About Body Image/Self Image)

We grew up together,
You and I,
Intricately connected
Through a trillion cells
Loved and lovely childhood
Blooming together into
Awkward ugly ducklinghood
Then radiant swan
Blind to our inherent glory
Found in the etchings
of our DNA

Yet I separated myself from you
You were you in glorious birthright
And I shrunk at the sight
Seeing only imperfections
I wanted to unbind
To sever our alliance
And so I hated you
I beat you, starved you, destroyed you
But I wasn’t rid of you,
You and I

And as you began crying out in pain,
I began crying out, too
Day in, day out
An unendurable life
Because life would always
Link the two of us
Fatefully bound in matrimony
It was a holy marriage
A divine binding together
Sacredness could not be hated
You and I must be loved

I listened, I headed your pain
And suddenly the pain
Became lesser
We lived in closer bonds,
You and I,
And love came into the temple
And we danced and moved
With an intimate connection
Until death do us part
For you, my body,
Are the sanctuary of my being

***

In Part One of this series, I talked about how I hated my body, got diagnosed with Lyme Disease, and struggled with body image and accepting myself for many years.

It wasn’t until after college, after I’d gotten a real job and moved to Colorado, that I began truly reconciling myself to my body. After my dear friend died in an abusive cult, I began realizing that unhealthiness in body, mind, and spirit could truly destroy people. My Kindred Spirit’s death triggered a deep realization in me that healing needed to come for me, too, because I saw a lot of my deep self hatred reflected in the cult and their treatment of themselves and each other.

My first step in the right direction (among many other things) was taking up ballet. I’ve already written in length about my story with dance both here and here, so I’m not going to write in length about it. It was hard–I’m honestly not a natural ballerina by ANY stretch of the imagination–but it was so rewarding all at the same time.

Dance was part of the puzzle pieces that lead me towards the healing. For the first time in life, I began thinking about my body—not just as an object of desire, not as a sick nuisance, not as an ashamed female, but as a body that could move and express and be something beyond my narrow-minded background.

Rumi says it best: 

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”

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But due to health issues and financial reasons, after about 2 years, I couldn’t continue dance. My health tanked again–exasperated, I believe, by the deep emotional and spiritual trauma of having to process and grieve my friend’s death in the cult. As my body slowly fell apart, it became clear to me that I would not be able to continue working full time. My health slowly plummeted, and I began planning my exit from my dream job (a.k.a. working in publishing).

As my health got worse, so did my mental state. I began having having panic attacks at night, along with an increasing feeling of depression and despair. The more and more tired I got as I forced myself to work 40 hours a week and plaster a grin on my face while feeling like dying inside, the more my brain began freaking out (see how it’s all connected?). In fact, 3 months before I quit my full time job in 2015, I went through a very deep period of depression that was so bad my mother insisted I take depression meds. (For thoughts on depression, check out my writing in March about the topic).

And it was around this time that I found yoga.

***

Yoga has not been a journey I’ve ever written about on this blog, really. At first, I was just so sick and tired and wordless about most of my health woes over the last two years because, well–I was so sick and tired and wordless.

But I began taking yoga from a friend who had opened up a small studio, and I remember the deep effects of even the first couple practices. Suddenly, all that dance preparation made sense. I felt like my body had finally found it’s natural movement–one of the things it had been created to do.

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Along with the beauty of expression I found in yoga, I also found the focus on the mental component and meditation extremely beneficial. At 27 years old at the time, I had never even once thought to stop and truly listen to my body or focus my mind so extensively. My body had nothing of value to offer, after all! I had nothing to offer. But with yoga and meditation, I found that my body was constantly talking, that my mind was always playing tricks on me, and that I had to really star thinking about all tension that existed within. That there was pain there, and that until I heeded the pain, I couldn’t’ move forward with my fight against chronic illness. 

You see, the body holds trauma inside it. Trauma and the body are intricately linked, and if you don’t listen and take heed to the messages in your body, you will never heal. As I began taking the time to really sit, meditate, do yoga, and listen to my body on the mat, I began to make deep revelations about how much I had always hated myself, about past pain, about my battle with Lyme–about how it was all connected! Because guess what? Up until that moment, I had no idea really! I talked extensively about my body during the last post–but I had never really thought about it much until after yoga. I had never known my body could have a story. That it actually held trauma and pain and emotional baggage probably more deeply than my mind, and that all of that trauma and pain had caused my immune system to shut down to the point of malfunction with Lyme Disease.

Working on my mat through yoga was like working through the grief of heartbreak over the years, of losing my Kindred Spirit all over again, of all the questions I had been asking. Moving through yoga was like facing the self hatred and anger I’d always held about my sick, Lyme Disease-ridden corpse. And yes, in some ways I viewed my body as a corpse. But yoga and meditation were profound ways of facing myself, of facing the trauma, of releasing it, and of finding a way to breathe life into my body once more.

***

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Then, too, yoga was also this beautiful, worshipful experience. For a lot of Christians, yoga is seen as bad. I have been asked multiple times why I think yoga is okay from Christians I know, and this is the best response I’ve come up with (it was an email I sent someone, and pardon the grammatical errors):

“When I used to worship, say at Bible college or at church, I always loved singing because it was a way to release all the passion I felt. But I felt like my entire body was aching to join into expression of worship. Like my body wanted to move, too. I also felt like my mind was part of worship, too–thinking very deeply and focusing and deeply on God, but I wasn’t sure how that all really played out in conventional worship or prayer practices that I learned in the circles I grew up in (where worship was usually exclusively about singing and praying was simply giving requests to God or reading Scripture). It was always so hard for me to know what to do with these deep impulses I had that body and mind were important parts of worship. When I moved to Colorado Springs, I started taking ballet classes for almost two years, and that was my first taste of true movement and what worship could look like. However, dance was hard on my body (because of Lyme Disease) and also pretty expensive, so I couldn’t continue pursuing it. Right when I quit dance, I found yoga–and I felt like it was finally the answer I had been seeking for YEARS.

It is the fullest expression of worship I have found for me personally. Every single movement is worship. Every single movement I do is prayer and surrender to God in a profound, beautiful way. I also have incorporated meditation/contemplative prayer into my yoga practice, which delves into rooting and focusing the mind on the depths of God’s love. So truly, yoga connects mind, body, and spirit into a beautiful, worshipful union with God. Yoga means “union,” and it was originally created to help people find union with God or the Greater Source, etc. While it is rooted in India, it has always been something that has invited all religions to learn and practice according to their religion.

In its essence, it is a practice to help unify the mind, body, and spirit to find God no matter what religion you come from. There’s a lot Christianity can learn from yoga, I believe–it links to Christianity in beautiful ways. We are called to present our bodies as a temple to the Living God, and yoga is a powerful way to worship God in a beautiful way—fully incarnation and full of the Spirit. It’s also has enormous health benefits—for both the mind and body. As you link mind, body, and spirit, you learn to heal from past trauma in deep and profound ways . Yoga at its root is a tool to train the mind, body, and spirit to be deeply connected to God. Connecting our deepest person with the Divine will. The more you learn to listen and love your own body, listen to the deepest parts of who God has made you to be, the more you learn to live fully in your own distinct calling from God. The more you learn to walk in this exquisite Love that God has for you and for all people. You learn to listen deeply, and you learn to start aligning your life in deeper ways than ever before to what God has called you to be and do. This can mean so many different things to so many different people–which is really cool. God made our bodies, our minds, our hearts in unique ways, and yoga helps us learn to love our uniqueness and tap into God’s callings for each one of us.”

(Note: I added this into the post for my Christian readers who might be curious. I understand a lot of people come to my blog who aren’t Christians and will not have the same reservations nor the same beliefs. And that is okay.)

With yoga and meditation–and 2 long years of learning to truly listen to my body and understand how to take care of it–my Lyme Disease began to calm down. I began to learn how to deal with stress better, how to eat well and live healthily for my body, and how to navigate a life that is far from perfect but still beautiful–MY LIFE, MY BODY. And I learned to embrace my body as the temple that it is: a temple for divinity and the Spirit of God that should be treated with care and respect. It is a body broken in many ways, but it is still sacred ground.

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In short, I no longer hate my body. I love my body. I’ve learned to accept myself, flaws and illness and all. I began to see that who I am as a woman is beautiful and divine and full of strength and wisdom. That I can be okay with just being me–even when no man sees me and loves me. And while I’m not perfect by any means in the journey towards self love and acceptance, the journey has progressed in many beautiful ways.

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What are ways you could start listening to your body in deeper ways?

 

What is holding you back from taking steps toward better heath both physically and mentally?

Photos by Free Spirit Colorado

Cover Photo © Maryia Bahutskaya on Adobe Stock

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Hating My Body: A Story on Body Image, Chronic Illness, and Self Acceptance (Part 1)

do what is rightnot what is easy

September is my month of talking about Bodily Healing. This is part of my Year of Healing, in which I tackle different topics of healing each month. During September, I will touch on physical and sexual healing, accepting ourselves no matter who we are. I’ll begin this post by diving into a little of my personal story on body image, health, and everything it’s connected to…

I had always sort of had an impassive view of my own body growing up. When I hit puberty, I began actively hating my body. I was so ashamed of it, even as it took on all the beauty of womanhood and others admired it. But I was never comfortable in my own skin, taking an active disdain for the physical presence of my flesh and opting for an emphasis on cerebral and spiritual pursuits.

In fact, in the spiritual circles I grew up on—especially as a female—the messages I received were often tainted with the belief that the body was fallen. That somehow, the body had to be something gross to deal with, to overcome, to actively fight. That sure, God made it—but it had fallen completely into darkness after the fall of Adam and Eve.

As a female, this idea was even deeper. We were the ones who made Adam fall, right? Our bodies were these horrible mechanisms of temptation for the male. So in church we got lecture after lecture about purity and modesty aimed mainly at the girls (because men were, after all, powerless against our wayward charms), which I internalized as a shameful thing. The whole point—at least the way I internalized it—was that the body was in its essence sinful, awful, corrupt, dirty. Especially my body as a female.

Growing up, I actively hid my body out of a sense of self-hatred and shame about the fact that it was a woman’s body. There were even many times I wished I had been born a male—because males seemed to have it so much easier. They were better in every way, and I had somehow been cursed to be a female. (I truly believed this deep down. It’s heartbreaking to look back on this now.)

And then, of course, there were the messages coming from outside my very conservative spiritual setting. The messages of the magazines and ads, portraying women and girls as objects of lust. The messages of porn, which blatantly left the woman out of any true sexual conversation being had. The messages that ALL THAT MATTERED was the body, the outward appearance. That woman’s value stopped at her face, her curves. Intellect, curiosity, etc.—nah. Those things didn’t ultimately matter. It was all about being a skinny yet curvy shape of perfection so that men would notice you, thus giving you value.

Both sides—the “ultra spiritual” side and the “horrible worldly” side did not leave room for a woman to truly respected, loved, and cherished for simply being herself—both her body and her sexuality. The woman was an Object of Lust on both sides—to be exploited, shunned, or blamed. She had no advocacy for herself, no autonomy, no freedom. She was trapped in cages of society’s making.

This led to all kinds of messed up-ness in my head.

***

As a senior in high school, I fell in love for the first time—and he did not love me back. It was a devastating blow on my sensitive artist’s heart, as I was also a huge people pleaser. Rejection was not something I had the strength to deal with at that point, especially when the love felt so deep, so true on my side. That’s when the real darkness between me and my body started, although I think the roots of it were lingering there for years beforehand. It just needed something to trigger it.

As I wrestled with the pain of a deep heartbreak, I began truly despising my body. Because after all, wasn’t there something wrong with me, if that boy didn’t love me? My physical appearance as not enough, my sexuality was lacking, my femaleness was tainted. I started falling into my first bout with true depression. The darkness inside began manifesting in deeply self-defeating thoughts, as I bashed myself constantly for not being good enough, sexy enough, beautiful enough for the guy I had fallen for.

At the same time, I started getting strange symptoms. Aches all over my body, a weird burning sensation on the left side of my body, huge headaches, chronic fatigue. I didn’t want to get out of bed for most of my senior year, and I slept from 8pm-11am almost every day. I lost 20 lbs in 2 weeks when symptoms first came on, which was the only outward sign of whatever was going on.

My parents were worried, needless to say. We started going to doctor after doctor trying to sort things out, but no one could give us any answers. “She’s just stressed,” they would. “It’s all in her head.” I took test after test, and everything came back normal.

With the weight loss over some mysterious illness, I began to dabble with anorexic tendencies. I had already lost the weight, so why not? As my health began to crumble, I was still dealing with the deep heartbreak—and the only thing I could think to do was punish myself. After all, it was all my fault, right? I had somehow failed, and I should be punished in some way. My body, my sexuality, myself did not add up. It as it was had been rejected—by society, by spirituality, by the boy who gave me worth—so now I had to reject it, too.

Health problems only exasperated this self-hatred, because as I began not being able to get out of bed and having intense pain everywhere, it led to more loathing and depression. I was ugly, horrible, disgusting—AND sick!

It would be another 5 more years before I was diagnosed with the actual problem: Lyme Disease, caused by a bacteria called borrelia that attacks your body in a myriad of caustic, eroding ways.

***

Why do I tell some of this story? Because too often over the past 10 or so years, I hear echoes of my own struggles in others—especially women.

“I don’t want to have sex with my husband.”

“Women aren’t supposed to feel those kinds of things.”

“I feel ashamed when I’m naked in front of my husband.”

“I wish I would get sick just so I lose weight, too.”

“I struggle with bulimia/anorexia.”

“I hate myself in photos. I look so gross.”

“I was sexually abused, and now I hate my body. I feel like it’s all my fault. If I didn’t have this body, it wouldn’t have happened.”

“Does the church hate women? Because I don’t feel safe as a woman.”

“I was molested/raped by my friend/pastor/boyfriend/father.”

These are all conversations I’ve had with countless women I’ve met and known over the past 10 years. These aren’t uncommon conversations, which is what’s so scary and troubling.

The reality is that many people live in total disgust of their physical beings. According to stats I was looking at, 78% of women will be unhappy with their bodies by the age of 17. That’s crazy talk.

I tell my story because I’m not alone, and for anyone reading this—I want you to know you’re not alone, either. I tell this story because maybe you need to look back into your past and piece together your own bodily story. The roots of why you hate yourself. Maybe it’s similar to mine, maybe it’s very, very different.

The point is this: we all have a story attached to our bodies. And the majority of us have a lot of negativity in that story, whether it’s downright hatred or not.

And what’s so scary is that the body is so intricately connected with our stories, our emotions, our spirits. When you negate the body, it directly correlates with something you’re negating about your past, your story, your mind…YOU.

For example, because my heart was broken, I crumbled into depression, which lead to my system getting compromised enough that my body was a prime target for the borrelia of Lyme that was lurking in my system. My broken heart led to the weakening of my body. I began struggling with more depression after borrelia began taking my body over because the bacteria loves the brain, and so it attacked with ferocity the center of my mind, which lead to intense fatigue and depression. Because I was heartbroken, though, I just didn’t feel like fighting. Instead, I starved myself and added more stress to my body than ever before…leading to more depression and furthering my decline in health.

Looking back, I can truly say that at that point in my life I hated myself. It was a vicious cycle. And that’s really disheartening to realize. Maybe I was an extreme case, in some ways, but because of the conversations I have had and continue to have with women from all backgrounds and ages, I don’t think this is the case.

Our relationship with our body is so connected to everything else we do, think, or believe.

What do you believe about your body?

Where do those message come from?

Note: I want to clarify that the impressions I internalized from church and media are my own and do not represent everyone’s experience. But they were MY experience, and I share my story only to help people make connections of their own. We all have stories to share.

READ PART TWO HERE

Photo © Maryia Bahutskaya on Adobe Stock

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Body – A Poem on Body Image/Self Image

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September begins my month of talking about Bodily Healing. This is part of my Year of Healing, in which I tackle different topics of healing each month. During September, I will touch on physical and sexual healing, accepting ourselves no matter who we are. As usual, I wanted to kick off the month with a poem. This one is related to the body.

Body – A Poem on Body Image/Self Image

A four-letter curse
Treated like a hearse

Hated and excluded
No wonder we’re wounded

Scorned by humanity
Temple of divinity

Vessel of glory
An intricate story

Beautiful and mysterious
Inside, the whole universe

***

I wanted to kick off the topic of the body and physical healing with a poem, because the body is a work of art in and of itself. And yet, it’s probably the most misused, exploited, and abused work of art in the entire world.

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The topic of the body is complex and controversial. And no wonder. It’s the vessel of glory. It holds our minds and souls in a divine temple. Not matter what your religion, every one teaches that the body is made by God. If you have no religion, you still grow up with an intrinsic knowledge that this body—well, it’s pretty important. This body gives you life, and without this body, you’d cease to be on this earth. (At least in the current way we exist now).

To have no body is to meet death. So it’s pretty sacred, important.

And yet…we so often hate our own bodies. We are in a war within ourselves. We scorn our bodies and neglect them. We eat unhealthily and don’t take care of our bodies, and then we shrivel up in old age because of the misuse. Or we obsess over our bodies, whipping them into shape but never letting them enjoy life or slow down to rest, to love, to simply be.

We can even starve our own bodies. Or damage them. Turn against them, hate them, destroy them….end them.

It’s clear that the relationship we have with our own bodies is crucial to health and healing.

Physical healing. Healing of the body. What does it look like to find peace with one’s own body? To accept it, embrace it—flaws and all? To understand the link it has to every other unseen part of us: our minds, emotions, memories?

That’s a topic I’ll be exploring this month in September on my blog. Stay tuned for more…

Photo © Maryia Bahutskaya on Adobe Stock

Two hands on sunsut.

Giving & Receiving Love: The Path Towards Healing

The following post is part of the Year of Healing I’m doing on my blog, where I will explore monthly themes on different aspects of healing. February is the topic of Relational Healing. Please click here for more info.

Last week we talked about relational wounds and trauma. So maybe you’ve realized that there are unhealthy patterns in your own life or that you’ve been wounded in relationships. So now what?

Healing comes from three things:

1) It’s admitting that those painful things happened to you, realizing the roots of those lies and unhealthy patterns in your life. It’s facing the pain and honestly realizing how those things affected you. This can sometimes be the hardest battle, because we don’t want to honestly have to face pain.

2) Realizing that you are worthy of something different and that you can give something different to the people around you. You are loved, you are valuable, and better things can happen to you in your future. And these better things can be given to those around you. This again, can be HARD. If you don’t believe you are loved (because of wounds from the past), one of the hardest mentalities to change is that you are loved.

3) Then it’s starting to set healthy boundaries and learning to truly take care of yourself so that you begin to make NEW, healthier patterns in your life.

We covered step one in the previous article by giving you some practical questions to think through on relational wounds and trauma.

So what about step two? Learning how to give and receive love? What about accepting love inside one’s heart?

These are much bigger hurdles, and they are something that could be talked about for blog post after blog post. But here are some thoughts on learning to give and accept love (a blog on boundaries will come next week)…

On Giving & Accepting Real Love

Seek & Ask for Love  

I really think at the end of the day, I started this blog to help myself face my own wounds and learn how to love myself and to accept love–both from God and from others. I started this blog after my senior year at college when I truly began realizing how deeply I hated myself. Yep. I’d begun to realize all the wounds festering in my heart, all the lies I believed about myself, and how much I truly despised myself. And I knew  in my head somehow that God loved me, that I was worthy of love, that I was a unique and valuable individual. But I didn’t know how to truly jump that hurdle towards accepting love in the deepest parts of my heart.

So I asked God to show me the way. I pleaded with God and simply said, “I know I need to learn about Love. Show me! I will commit to this journey no matter what. I want to learn how to Love, and I will never give up until I find Love.”

So I started writing this blog–which was, at the time, the only way I knew how to cope. (I also started going to counseling, which was huge in my journey. And it’s a step anyone should take who may want to think through these things and grow.)

I wrote through my own pain for three long years. I wrote a lot about love on this blog–probably because I needed to convince myself that I could be loved. It wasn’t until 2014 that I started truly accepting love into my life. In fact, it was in Thailand on a media trip that I somehow breached that hurdle. I somehow accepted that I was loved, that God–this higher, greater Source–loved me. I tapped into some kind of supernatural love. You can read about some of that experience here, which is what I wrote after coming back from Thailand.

I can honestly say I’m still on the journey towards love, but I have come so far. All because I truly began seeking Love.

A friend of mine who has had deep relational wounds puts it this way:

All Love comes from God. You can’t transmit what you haven’t got. If you have a healthy sense of love, it’s because it was shown to you. If you don’t, it’s because it wasn’t shown to you. If you think it comes from you at all, you’re saying your love is confined by your own five senses – by your own finite limitations. That’s like tossing an anchor on a boat and then trying to win a race. It won’t work. You can’t limit love to what you know or are capable of. Doing so is guaranteeing you’ll never progress; you’re crippling love to what you are and are capable of. Letting something or someone greater than you transmit something greater than you into you is what makes you better.

That’s how all learning is. You have to be open to something you don’t yet know, and willing to change (think/work/exercise/pray/read/whatever) to accommodate that.

All people are always changing. What you are changing into depends on what you are receiving. So choose the greater things.
[Anonymous]

I think that most of us can agree that love is some kind of transcendent, beautiful power. No matter what you believe, human beings all over the world have been celebrating Love that is unexplainable for centuries. Whether you believe in God or not, real Love seems to come from some greater Source. There is something beyond us propelling Love.

So why not ask God–or the Universe, or whatever you feel comfortable calling it at this point–to help you learn to give and receive love?

Maybe God is too abstract for you. And while I do believe God is the Source of Love, I also believe God has given so many beautiful examples of love to the world through people. Start researching the beautiful people who have truly moved this world in positive ways. Jesus was a beautiful example of love, and there are so many examples of others across cultures of great people who exemplified love.

Or if you can think of personal examples of love, start there. Think back to the best, kindest, most giving people in your life. Commit to start learning what it means to give and receive even a fracture of that kind of love in your own life.

Start on the Journey in Some Kind of Tangible Way

Like I said before, I knew I needed to learn how to give and receive love. I knew I needed to heal. So what did I do? I started doing things about it. I went to counseling. I began writing this blog. And I also did a whole bunch of other things to explore my own heart, my body, my self.

  • For example, I started dancing, which I’ve written about here. I knew that because of past wounds, part of me hated my own body. So I decided to take up dance classes to explore my own body. Was I an amazing dancer? Heck no! But I did learn to start embracing this body I was in, to start inhabiting it, to begin loving it in tangible ways. Yoga has now become a huge part of my own journey towards love and acceptance in this physical expression of my humanity.
  • I started reading amazing books on healing and love. There are probably so many amazing books, but Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, and Dr. John Townsend are three of my favorite authors on the subject of healing and love.
  • I volunteered at nonprofits here in Colorado that helped victims of human trafficking and learned how to do horse therapy. I explored art therapy and yoga and lead retreats on how those things help you heal. I gave of myself and tried to carry the pain of others in tangible ways, too.
  • Last year, I started cooking really good, healthy meals for myself. This used to be something I thought was ridiculous. I certainly wasn’t worth cooking for! But I began realizing that good food was an amazing way to help me learn that self care was important.

The main point here? There is an important element of giving love as you’re learning to receive it. Giving love to yourself (even if you don’t necessarily feel it) and giving love to others (even if you don’t necessarily feel it). It’s a give-and-take, a dance between the two. 

And be okay with failure. If you’ve been wounded in relational aspects, chances are that you will make a lot of mistakes. You will probably push people away, you will sometimes react in fear, and you will not be loving sometimes. You will not be perfect in this quest. And that’s okay. Just keep picking yourself up every day and ask yourself, “Have I progressed on this journey of love and healing?” If the answer is yes, then that’s what matters.

I love this thought from another friend on the healing path.

Chose the next best thing. Depressed? Suicidal? Hate God, the world, and yourself? Well, right now you need to eat a snack (Snickers!), or have a meal, or go for a walk. Let the future worry about itself. Right this second, do the next best thing–an email, a phone call, a suicide hotline, a business meeting, whatever. The next best thing. Once you are stagnant and apathetic, it’s very difficult to generate momentum. So keep moving–no matter how slow or insignificant.

[Anonymous]

I love this thought from another friend on the healing path. Choose the next best thing for yourself. Keeping yourself moving, no matter what. Don’t get stuck. Don’t get stagnant.

It’s actually kind of exciting, if you think about it.

Why do I say all this? Because it’s no easy formula. Every single person is different. Maybe your journey will be learning how to garden, or volunteering at a nonprofit, or painting out your story without words, or moving overseas and embracing adventure.

The journey has to be about your journey. The important thing is to truly, honestly admit that you are wanting to find healing, to find love. Just simply admitting and asking God to take you on the journey–and then starting the journey through counseling and other tangible ways–is the first HUGE step.

The point is: What are ways you can start experientially exploring Love?

This is the question you will ask yourself and continue to ask yourself as we explore so many different concepts over the course of this Year of Healing.

 

Two hands on sunsut.

Digging Deeper into Relational Wounds & Trauma

The following post is part of the Year of Healing I’m doing on my blog, where I will explore monthly themes on different aspects of healing. February is the topic of Relational Healing. Please click here for more info.

Last week as we began our journey of Relational Healing in the month of February, I talked about how healing begins and ends with what we think about love.

So where do our concepts of love come from? As human beings, we are relationally wired to connect with each other. Relationships form the foundation of how we experience the world. As children, we grow up with parents, we have friends, and we fall in love with people who will shape our ideas and concepts of what love truly is.

A friend of mine who is a counselor has this to say:

“One of the things that as a professional I remember most from trainings is that humanity is relational.We can not be separated from the people who are around us. I would say that so far in my practice counseling others, this concept has only been strengthened…

People from all walks of life always come back to how they are effected by those around them, both positively and negatively…The fact that relationships are central also makes relationship wounds very deep, and often effect multiple areas of life. The more central the relationship to the person, the more effect.”
[Johnmark Mangiameli]

Humanity is relational

This can be fine when everything goes smoothly. If you grew up with loving parents and a more or less safe childhood, then maybe love was modeled in a positive, life-giving manner. Maybe you didn’t, though. Maybe your family and upbringing was fraught with dysfunction.

“My father never hit me, but he was emotionally and psychologically manipulative,” shares a friend of mine about his abusive upbringing. “All through my elementary school years, I prayed for God to make my dad hit me so people would finally have a reason to see him in a bad light, and, just maybe, I’d finally be able to get away from him…

“There was no sense of privacy or personal space. Many times growing up, I found my dad going through my trash, picking through my backpack and schoolwork, reading my diary, and (later, when we had a computer), poking through my files and installing spyware to see everything we were doing. It didn’t matter if I had a bad day and wanted to be alone; when he wanted something from me my feelings didn’t matter. When he wanted to go through my personal items–my pockets of my clothes, the compartments in my backpack, the drawers in my bedroom–when he wanted to go through it, he went through it.

“I was afraid of his anger, so to avoid provoking him by saying or doing something he didn’t want, I tried not to write down my feelings, thoughts, or prayers. I learned to bottle up everything I thought and felt, making my only release the tears I shed as I fell asleep. I also learned to hide. To change where I put things, how I wrote or said things, how I reacted when he was around. My brother learned to simply not care; I learned to evade. “
[Anonymous]

Maybe your parents seemed okay, but you developed a strong attraction to abusive men or women in your life, which shaped your early perceptions of romantic love.

For me personally, I know the the first time I truly fell in love was with a very manipulative, destructive guy—that experience framed the way I’d interpret love for years and years since then. Because he mistreated me and used me emotionally (but wouldn’t commit to me in any real way), I have struggled to be able to ever feel like I am valued and worthy of being truly committed to. I have had countless guys use me emotionally, then throw me aside and never commit. This perpetuates the wounds I feel. So that deepest wound when I was 18 has led to countless other wounds over and over again. This is a pattern I still recognize and notice today, something I’m still trying to fight in my own life.

Relational Trauma & Generational Wounds

Another thing others may not realize is that even if one’s parents were functional, it has been scientifically proven that trauma gets passed down in the DNA of descendants. So intensely damaging things that may have happened to your ancestors actually has a direct impact on how you process the world. For example, even if your parents were decent human beings, if one of your immediate ancestors had trauma, then you will inherit the trauma that is associated with that ancestor. If whole people groups (like Jews in the Holocaust) suffered extreme persecution, that same trauma will affect their children and grandchildren’s own DNA.

In my own personal life, while my parents tried very hard to live decent lives, I come from grandparents on one side that were alcoholics and addicts. I have seen the unhealthy, abusive patterns that are reflected in my extended family play out in my own life as I’ve gravitated towards unhealthy men. (In fact, I’d argue that my own form of “addiction” has been towards men. Addictive patterns are very prominent in my family tree, and while I was always the good Christian girl that never did drugs or drank excessively, my addictive DNA from my generational history manifested in other ways).

And what is trauma, by the way? Some people get scared of that word, so here is a definition:

“My dictionary defines trauma as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Defined like that the events which can be considered traumatic are wide ranging indeed—from what might be considered the stuff of ordinary life such as divorce, illness, accidents and bereavement to extreme experiences of war, torture, rape and genocide.” ~Psychology Today

Chances are, you’ve had a traumatic experience at some point in your life. For example, I know that many people come to my blog because of death and grief, which can be very traumatic experiences. Each person is affected by things differently. What may not seem traumatic to some could actually deeply affect another person. Everyone is an individual.

Hiding and Running from Relational Wounds

Whatever the cause, those hard and painful experiences can leave us in a numbing or “freeze” state when we shut down in a certain area and continue to hide ourselves or repeat the wound in unintentional ways over and over again until we face that trauma and begin resolving it.

Dr. John Townsend in his book Hiding From Love (which I highly recommend) writes that once people have been through something traumatic or experienced unsafe relationships, they begin to hide those broken, unloved areas:

“All of us to some extent live two lives: an external life, in which we learn to express the feelings, attitudes, and behaviors that are ‘safe’ to express; and an internal life, in which we closed away our ‘unsafe’ traits, which exist isolated and undeveloped. Our tendency is to keep the ‘unloved’ parts of ourselves forever under wraps, with the hope that in time, they will go away and not cause more pain.”
[Dr. John Townsend]

Hiding can look like all sorts of things. Addictions like alcohol, drugs, etc. Or simply emotional numbness and unavailability towards the people you love. Not being able to commit to anyone romantically or sexual promiscuity can be forms of hiding, as well as perfectionism and having to have everything in order all of the time. Workaholics or being over-the top achievers can often be a way to compensate for deep past wounds. Even spirituality can be a way to run and not face reality (we’ll be talking more in depth on this topic in April during my Spiritual Healing month). There are as many ways to cope and hide from pain as there are humans, because again—we are all individuals who will deal with things in our own way.

The point is, we are all running, running, running from whatever it is that deeply wounded us. And running doesn’t help.

Trauma gets stored inside our bodies. Once something painful occurs, our emotional right side of the brain reacts first, but our rational left side of the brain immediately steps forward and says, “That wasn’t a big deal,” or can easily try to wipe it all away, rationalize it, and move on. But trauma lives in the emotional side our brains and gets trapped inside us if not dealt with, leaving emotional scars inside us that manifest in a number of physical and mental symptoms.

As my counselor friend says,

“Internalized pain also often effects health, and someone’s physical health symptoms are so intimately connected to relationships.…A whole paper could be written on the effect of negative relationships on the mind. Some general examples of effects on the mind range from: anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, mood swings, negative views of self worth, negative views of the world, hopelessness. Mentally, the type of relationship, how close the relationship was to the person, what type of relational trauma happened all depend on the level of effect on a person.”
[Johnmark Mangiameli]

Does any of this sound like you? Any of this vaguely ringing a bell or making you uncomfortable? If it sounds a bit overwhelming, it can be. But the good news is that relational trauma can be released and overcome in your own lifetime, as long as you are truly facing the past and healing.

Dig Deeper:

1. I’d like you to is take 30-45 minutes of time and go back to your childhood, your teenage years, and your adulthood.

Think about the most pivotal relationships in your past. How did they shape you? What did they tell you about love? What were the messages that you internalized? Do you notice any dysfunctional patterns that continue on to this day?

Grandparents:

Parents:

Siblings:

Extended Relatives:

Friendships:

Romantic Relationships:

2. Now think about yourself.

What do you believe about yourself because of relational wounds?

What were the lies you believed about love because of how others treated you?

If you could define “love” from negative experiences in the past, what would “love” look like? Have you seen those negative beliefs play out in your own life?

What are dysfunctional ways you’ve tried to hide from revealing the broken places in your life?

What are unhealthy coping mechanisms you’ve used to run from pain?

And what are you wanting to do differently moving forward?

If love could be redefined for you, what words would you like to use?

After thinking through these things, now may be a good time to do my mediation on God’s love. Stay rooted in God’s love for you no matter what kind of pains you have endured. Healing is possible. Hope is possible. YOU ARE LOVED.

Two hands on sunsut.

God’s Love: A Contemplative Prayer Meditation for Relational Healing

Meditation-

As I said in my previous post, your healing begins and ends with love. The things you believe about it will either hinder or help your healing. And at the core of love is GOD. For God is love.

Ponder these verses and quotes…

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
[1 John 4:8 ESV]

Even Kings and emperors with heaps of wealth and vast dominion cannot compare with an ant filled with the love of God.
[Guru Nanak]

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
[1 John 4:7 ESV]

But the man who is not afraid to admit everything that he sees to be wrong with himself, and yet recognizes that he may be the object of God’s love precisely because of his shortcomings, can begin to be sincere. His sincerity is based on confidence, not in his own illusions about himself, but in the endless, unfailing mercy of God.
[Thomas Merton]

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
[Colossians 3:14-15 ESV]

Riches take wings, comforts vanish, hope withers away,but love stays with us. Love is God.
[Lew Wallace]

I experience religious dread whenever I find myself thinking that I know the limits of God’s grace, since I am utterly certain it exceeds any imagination a human being might have of it. God does, after all, so love the world.
[Marilynne Robinson]

Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.
[Brennan Manning]

The God of the Universe loves you with an unending love. No matter what you’ve been through or what you’ve done, no matter what others have done to you, I want you to remember this truth:

You are LOVED.

Does this shock you? Surprise you? If you were honest with yourself,  do you even believe in love? I’d encourage you to begin exploring this concept of love. The concept that the universe begins and ends in love–and you CAN tap into that love and begin to live in it–is crucial to healing.

When we begin to dwell in love–in the Source of Love, which is God–that’s when we begin to heal. This is the foundation for healing.

As pain comes up, as you face yourself, as wounds from others surface–you must go back to the truth that you are LOVED. God is love. And God’s love is enough to get you through whatever life has thrown your way.

So how can you start living in this truth of God’s love? One of the most amazing ways to begin exploring truth and letting it sink into your soul is through meditation. I dare you to try the following contemplative prayer meditation. Do it several times a week in February. Do it every day. (In fact, it’s recommended that you dwell and meditate on a truth for 30-40 days for it to truly sink into your soul.)

Contemplative Prayer Meditation on the Love of God

In this meditation, we will focus on the phrases below:

God is love.
I am loved. 
God loves me. 

After you do this meditation, please think through the following questions. Write about the things you observed during the meditation. Observe the thoughts or memories or pains that surfaced in your heart. Jot down answers to these…

Do you believe that God is love?

Do you believe you are loved by God?
Do you believe that you are valuable?

Do you believe that you are worthy of love?

Why or why not?
(This question is crucial. Spend some time here. We will be exploring this more in depth in later weeks).

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
[1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV]

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions along the way, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Photo © Masson from Adobe Stock

Two hands on sunsut.

February: An Introduction to the Relational Healing Month (& The Year-Long Series)

February is the month of love. Valentine’s Day shines forth as the one time of year that love gets celebrated through cards and candy. (I don’t buy it.)

Just to be clear, this month on the blog is NOT just about romantic love. It’s about the love of all different types of relationships (parents, friends, dating, marriage) and how that plays out in real life. It’s about the past pain we might’ve experienced in love and how to learn to recognize patterns, let go, and heal.

Many of us grew up with a twisted concept of love. Maybe it was a father figure who wasn’t around. Maybe it was an abusive boyfriend or marriage. Maybe it was friends who lied and betrayed trust over the years.

No matter what your background, we all have scars from the past. We’ve all had love tainted. Because it’s easy to use the word “love,” but it’s much, much harder to live it out in every day life.

You see, I’m convinced that healing begins and ends with love and our understanding of it. If we don’t have a solid foundation of what love looks like, we will never function properly. We will continue cycles of dysfunction passed down from generation to generation. Relational healing depends on our healing in our concepts of love.

A Year of Healing

So at the end of the day, it’s all about love. Loving oneself, loving others, loving the world.

That’s what I hope this Year of Healing become for you: a gradual awakening to love. Because all healing comes from love, and love helps us heal.

So here are some preliminary thoughts as we get going on this series on Relational Healing:

  1. I am not here to be the expert. I am not here to give you all the answers. I am simply someone on the same journey who is sharing insights along the way. And believe me–I have a long way to go myself in the healing journey, which is part of the reason I want to explore these things. The answer I come to may be different for you. I respect that. The important thing is that I want you to start asking questions and thinking through things for yourself.
  2. Others will be sharing their own journeys on here, too. I’ve had some amazing people offer to share their insights and stories. I’m excited about this, because I want to glean input from a lot of different people who have embarked on the healing journey. They may come to different conclusions than you do, or that even I do, and that’s okay. Again, it’s all about discussion and having you start thinking through things for yourself.
  3. I believe in God and will be framing my series around this. Even if you don’t believe in God, I hope that you can still find usefulness in the thoughts and tools presented here. No matter your spiritual background, I invite you to be open-minded. Part of healing is trying new things and going new places in the mind and soul in order to release old things that aren’t useful to us.
  4. This is going to be fun, so keep smiling! I’ll be making videos, podcasts, and blog posts over the course of this series that will be meditations/contemplative prayers, yoga practices, interviews with guests, art therapy projects, etc. So embrace it all and have fun with it. You don’t have to be yogi to enjoy some movement. You don’t have to be an artist to enjoy a little creativity. You don’t have to be someone who regularly meditates to try it out.
  5. You can’t do it alone. I’d encourage you to invite a spouse or friend to go along this journey with you. If difficult things arise for you, please go to counseling with a licensed therapist. All the prayer/meditation/journaling/art in the world can help, but there are times we truly need outside input and professional advice. If you feel that is necessary, seek that out. Do not be ashamed.

So strap on your boots. Healing takes courage. Healing is not easy. But it’s the most important work you can do for yourself and for the world.

We’re going to start with a contemplative prayer/meditation on God’s Love that will help you begin the ground work for all you will later do for February and in the coming months. This will be posted in a separate post today.

Photo © Masson from Adobe Stock

Heart shaped christmas tree ball with chain of lights

Love (A Poem About the Fight for Love this Christmas)

My dear friends, thank you for continuing to read this blog. I really do want to thank you. I hope that the holidays are going well so far for you. I know that for me, new grief has been brought up in some hard ways this holiday season. I know for many of us, the holidays can be a hard time, because grief comes up in greater ways. Love can be so painful once love has been crushed or lost. It is hard to feel hope.

For the past few months, I’ve been working on this poem. I wanted to share it with you during this holiday season. Maybe it needs to be read by someone.

You see, I don’t know what any of you think about Jesus. And that’s okay. But when I study his teachings, I just can’t help but see how full of this passionate love Jesus was.  A Love for people that was not constrained by religion or legalism, gender or race. And I know a lot of people seem to forget that Christmas is, in the deepest of ways, a celebration of Love. What Love can do to change the world in life-giving, beautiful ways.

Maybe in a world torn asunder by hatred and politics and demonization and corruption, we need to remember that Love can still change us all.

Never give up on Love, no matter what.

Love

Growing up,
we were taught that love was easy,
A simple formula
Like 2+2 = 4.
Love was just something you did
And people loved–
well, quite easily!
Love was a four letter word
(one of the good kind)
Right up there with other short-yet-profound words
–like hope, faith, joy–
Words that got thrown around Sunday School
haphazardly on felt boards
Or on the flashing lyrics screen…

But the plant of my soul
began to grow,
On rocky soil dried out by misuse
and oversimplification,
And it took a long, long time
before I realized that many play
a game called “Love,”
Because “love” is such an easy concept to throw around
Someone’s neck like a lasso,
Dragging them down
into nothingness.
And this idea of “love”–
What you believe about it
& learn about it–
Actually determines the rest of your life
Because there are so many words
That mask themselves as “love”:

Abuse,
Self-Hatred,
Control,
Hitting,
Hard Words,
Manipulation,
Self-Righteousness,
Demonization,
Lies…

A person can “love”
and treat you like shit
as long as the word they use is “love,”
Because whatever someone says
negates anything they actually do.
And at some point,
One begins to wonder if “love” is even a real word
Because one grew up believing in “love”
(that little 2 +2 = 4 formula)
And now…well, it’s hard to find.

Because what is “love”?
Where the fuck is it?
That’s what I want to know.
Because love isn’t all about fucking.
And it isn’t nice notes,
And it isn’t pretty words,
And it isn’t grand promises,
And it certainly isn’t lies
or lust
or manipulation
or yelling
or power plays
or self-righteousness.

I’ve been searching and searching
For this thing called Love,

So where is it?

I began to finally find it
when I looked within–
To the secret place,
the garden space,
Where God walks in the silence
And we must listen harder than we ever thought possible
To the winds of Spirit.

Love has to be found within oneself before
It can ever be loved outside–
That how we treat ourselves
And take care of ourselves–
How we fight for healing and truth and authenticity
inside ourselves
determines how we will love others.

Love starts from within,
And the roots have to go deep,
Deep, deep down into one’s very soul
Or the world will tear it all away.

Love is a blood-and-sweat fight
not a walk in the park.

Love is climbing Mount Everest
to find the treasure buried within another human being.

Love is sometimes staying and sticking it out.
Love is sometimes leaving and letting go.

Love is forgiving, but not necessarily trusting.

But sometimes Love is letting one’s barriers down
And sharing the deepest wounds of one’s past.

Love is vulnerability to someone safe.
And Love is becoming safe through vulnerability.

Love is standing up for others who aren’t being loved.
Love is putting oneself on the line for others even when society mocks.

Love is letting someone weep without condemnation.
Love is letting someone dance without judgment.

Love is helping someone embrace their passions,
But Love is not about letting our passions consume us.

Love is listening hard to another’s history,
and vowing to change the way things have always been.

Love is respect, and respect is love,
for there is no separation of the two in true relationship.

Love is not candy, V-Days, and fancy dinners.
Love is seeing a person and truly wanting the best for them.

Love is not about putting someone in a cage,
But letting them fly freely, their soul on fire.

Love is new places and experiences,
and Love is the little things that become romance and adventure.

Love is warring for someone else’s spirit,
Never letting them wilt and shrivel.

Love is sometimes 3 simple words: “I am sorry,”
and then really being sorry.

Love is not losing one’s self in another,
But becoming oneself in deeper ways because of another.

Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love does not seek its own.
Love is not envious,
Or controlling,
Or dominant.

Love is stronger than Death.

Love is God
And God is Love.

And even while the earth crumbles
And wars wage
And people hate,

Love
never
never
fails.

13357-491609381-1200w-tn

When Your Heart is Breaking: 4 Years of Grief–Old & New

Four years ago, I woke up to frantic texts from my sister that something really bad had happened. Four years ago, I received one of those phone calls you always dread. On November 2nd, 2012, I found out that my dear Kindred Spirit was dead, mysteriously dying on October 30th, 2012. Not only was she dead, but she had died inside an abusive relationship and a cult, which shattered my entire perception of reality and left me wrestling with grief, faith, God, abuse, and so much more ever since.

Four years later, October is always a hard month as old grief and trauma resurface.

BethandI

After Bethany died, I experienced the deepest darkness I have ever known. I would call it the night of the soul. Sometimes, it’s strange to look back on that time of my life and wonder how I ever survived. I was suicidal in many ways. I didn’t want to live or love again. Everything shut down in my heart in profound ways.

My heart was broken, and I wondered if I could ever recover.

***

A year after Bethany died, my roommates at the time surprised me with a Christmas present: a cat. They drove me to the animal shelter, and I picked her out. When I first saw Eilonwy, (her animal shelter name was “Christy,” which didn’t fit her at all), I knew she was the one. I was scared to commit to a pet. I was scared to love and open my heart. But looking at Eilonwy, I knew I had to love her. I fell into Love, and this small little creature touched my hardened heart.

eilonwy17

Eilonwy was with me through the second year of grief over Bethany that I wrote about on my blog. As I struggled through intense anger and grief and despair, she sat by my side. She’d curl up on my lap every day and remind me that life could be beautiful, too. That love was worth it. Her steadfast love over the past few years taught me that opening one’s heart to something is always worth it. My heart was mended in some way through our friendship. (And we did have a true friendship. It was uncanny how we could communicate without words. Anyone who has had a deep connection with an animal knows what I’m talking about.)

Over a week ago, Eilonwy went missing.

She slipped out of the house one evening while I was out of town at a wedding, and I haven’t seen her since. I’ve looked and looked and looked. I’ve handed out fliers and put letters in mailboxes and posted all over social media and talked to neighbors. Still no sign.

eilonwy

My heart is broken all over again.

As I grieved Bethany in October, it began to hit me that I have to grieve this animal now, too. I had to grieve the living thing who taught me how to love after Beth’s death and who shone light into my darkened heart. Maybe Eilonwy is gone forever, missing the very same month my dear Beth died 4 years ago.

***

I’ll admit that 2016 has been a very rough year. I haven’t blogged at all about it, really. But I have faced death again of people I dearly loved, I have grieved deeply again. My health problems continue to cause issues, and I’ve been in multiple unhealthy, abusive situations this year that have drained me of vitality.

And now October. Now this. The one living creature who stuck by my side through everything, who was been a constant, daily source of comfort and joy, who I turned to for such emotional support…she’s gone. I didn’t realized how deeply I leaned on this small, seemingly insignificant creature until she’s now disappeared. Now her little animal absence clouds my entire heart, our entire home.

Life matters. Even the smallest life.

eilonwy5

Sometimes, I just wonder if the world is playing is some cruel trick on us all. If the universe just laughs up there while we try to cope with one awful thing after another. I want to again cave into cynicism and despair and anger and darkness—just as I did 4 years again when my Kindred Spirit died. I want to believe that the world is only horrible, because it would justify me being only horrible and giving up and treating others however I damn well please.

That is, after all, how many live their lives. They become disillusioned and just give up, and Hate enters, slowly and subtlety destroying their hearts and the lives of countless others in their wake.

***

But then there’s Love.

I can’t deny that what Eilonwy and I had was Love. Maybe to some of you this sounds silly. To anyone who has shared a bond with an animal, you know. This pure, unconditional Love between two different species that breaks all boundaries and reminds us that differences don’t have to separate us. That just because something is small and furry and can’t speak with human words doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have things to teach us and show us.

Maybe the bond that can form with an animal shows us that Love can transcend anything. That the Different still have profound meaning. They are still part of creation and worthy of respect and love. They may speak in different ways, but their words are just as loud.

Eilonwy loved me. There have been multiple times this year where I felt so tired, so sad, so alone—and she would always climb into my lap and purr and make sure I knew that no matter what was going on in the world, I was Loved. She was a gift. Our friendship was a gift. She was God’s handprint on my aching heart.

Eilonwy taught me to listen, to hear, to be part of relationship in a whole new way. Because true Love is about listening. It’s learning how to see something from a whole other perspective, to respect a living being, and to find ways to transcend the Different and make a beautiful bond.

Our world needs more of that. We need to be able to see the Different and to embrace it, love it, and learn from it. Instead of seeing ourselves as superior, we must see ourselves as constantly learning from the Different—human and animal alike. How are we ever to find peace if we can’t learn to listen and respect the Different?

And this comes from Love. You can’t deny that no matter how awful the world is, that Love shines through. That it is Love that gets us through. That the greatest stories of peace, redemption, and healing are about Love. Difference. Transcendence.

***

Since Bethany’s death, I have made the long, arduous trek towards Love. I’ve begun to realize that Love is the only reason to keep existing in this world. I’ve realized that the only way to fight the evil and darkness so prevalent in this world is through Love.

Love is a gift. Opening one’s heart is a gift–even when one’s heart is later broken because of it.

Loss will come. This is the inevitable way of life. Anything we love will be lost someday. But Love is more powerful than loss. Love transcends time and space and species and the world. After all, the Different isn’t so different when Love is there.

So when your heart is breaking, please remember this:

Love is worth it. Again and again. No matter what.

Love never fails.

Beth