As I lay awake
The Goddess strokes my hair.

“There there,” She says,
Singing me a lullaby of lightening bugs,
A symphony of stars.

She gathers up
The past that haunts me
In Her calloused hands,
Weaves it into
A meadow of wildflowers
And gifts it to the Universe.

“Thank you,” I murmur,
My eyes finally growing heavy,
Tear-stained cheek
Sinking into Her forgiving love.

She hands my gratitude back to me,
Stardust pressed into my palm.

“It’s just what mothers do.”

“The Church Has Left the Building”

I like to joke that I moved to Florida to get out of serving on the Board of Trustees at my home congregation in Tennessee.

It isn’t entirely true. What is true is that I had just been elected to the Board when I got an opportunity to move to Florida to serve a congregation here as DRE. What is true is that it wasn’t quite official and I didn’t plan to talk about it at the Board dinner party I attended last June, but that went promptly out the window when one of my friends leaned over as we made our plates and whispered, “I heard you have quiet good news.”

I couldn’t help but share my no-longer-quiet good news, and in minutes the fact that my child and I would soon be moving nearly 500 miles away hung in the air like a bittersweet perfume.

What is also true is that night I heard my minister do a truly hilarious valley girl impression, that I didn’t have to be on guard about being a non-drinker, that I won a round of a teambuilding game where we had to avoid eye contact; I’m still learning to hold someone’s gaze without fear of them really seeing me. And around the time we were getting ready to go, my child told me they wanted to stay at church. I started to correct them, to say that this was not church, this was the clubhouse in somebody’s neighborhood and that the church is across town – but I stopped. Because that night was church, because we were with our church people.

At the time that I moved last summer, my offer to serve my term remotely – attending meetings and voting via Zoom – seemed outlandish. Somehow, it seems so much less so now. That is definitely not to say I resent that my offer was shot down – I had no idea what I was in for moving here to take on solo parenting, college courses, and a new career without an established support system. I owe a great deal of my sanity to those gentle souls upon my path who help me step away when I am in danger of tripping over my own ambition.

However, as we enter our third month of online worship, online religious education, and online board meetings, connecting at such a distance seems anything but outlandish. It seems lifegiving, and so necessary.

Before I moved, I couldn’t fathom a time that I wouldn’t attend worship with my home congregation regularly. After, I planned my visits home specifically around Sunday mornings so that I could be with them. I have been known to solicit friends to Facetime me during the service on my rare Sundays off, and in ‘normal’ times, I count the days until I can be back home. It is home to me, in so many critical ways.

And I do not want it to reopen anytime soon, which was a shockingly simple position for me to take.

In this strange time, I struggle with the day-to-day. I struggle to wrap my mind around what doing my job online for a year might look like, what my first year of seminary will bring if I am simultaneously working from home and homeschooling my child. The next year or so seems very fuzzy and uncertain, but if I look a little further, the picture becomes more clear.

In a few years, or maybe more than a few, I will be ordained at my home church. I am estranged from my parents, so they will not be there. Due to the estrangement, I have only been able to maintain a relationship with one of my three brothers. Very few of my friendships survived my becoming the first parent in my friend group and then my move to Florida. My home congregation lost two founding members early this year, before COVID-19 even reached the US – two members of my church family who will not be at my ordination. To put it simply, while I know that to grieve loss is the price of loving, I cannot fathom anyone else missing that day because we rushed and chose to reopen too soon.

It feels selfish to put into words. This crisis isn’t remotely about me – and yet it is, because it is about all of us. It is about the profound and inescapable impact we have on one another, the interdependent web of existence that binds us to one another in the holy obligation to love our neighbors as ourselves.

I am not unique. We all have things we look forward to celebrating and sharing with our families and communities. We all have things that we are itching to do, a list of hugs to give and not-quite-essential errands to run as soon as it is safe to do so. The weight of loneliness and isolation can be soul-crushing, even if we are not technically alone.

And technically, we are never alone. My search for truth and meaning has brought me to the conclusion that we are all manifestations of the Divine, the Universe experiencing Herself through Human life. We are players on a cosmic stage and all of our roles intertwine. What impacts one of us impacts all of us – that is just especially apparent now.

So, for now, even though my eyes are strained from looking at screens, though I lie awake at night fighting every demon and trauma this plague has brought up for me, though some days I’m just not sure how I’ll get through another day of isolation without losing my goddamn mind – I would rather face this hardship now than face the loss of one more vital player on this stage because we couldn’t wait.

So, for now, church has left the building.

For now, church is my child imparting wisdom upon me a year before I was ready to receive it.

Church is Zoom. Church is Facebook posts, phone tag, and try again, you were on mute.

Church is baked goods made with love and stealthily placed in mailboxes and on front porches, it is sweary coloring books and no good reason to put on pants. It is the photos on my refrigerator and the rose quartz in my window, the photo from Pride last year that is still my desktop background, the chalice I light on screen for my RE class every week that was a see-you-later gift. It is the promise that the good things are coming, even when we cannot see them, don’t quite believe it, and aren’t quite sure if we want to.

Church is the people, caring for one another the best ways we know how and figuring it out together, at a distance, so that when we can be together in the flesh again, we are all there to celebrate it.

May it be so.

Meditation on Faith

I know the Universe hears me
She has never forsaken me before
And I have no reason to believe
She will now

I know my prayers are always answered,
My intentions always heard
I have every reason to believe
She will match my vibration now

I already have Her favor
My highest good
Is always being served
Even when the winds of change are still

Even when the fire needs tending,
When hopelessness is
A reasonable temptation
I know the Universe hears me

I know my prayers are Hers
And all of creation is moving
In grace and synchronicity
To their answering.

May it be so.

Manifestations of the Pandemic

Manifestations of the Pandemic
Helen Rose
Sunday, May 3, 2020

So, apparently there’s a pandemic going on. It’s a scary time. From what I can tell from a safe distance, everyone is handling it differently. I have friends who are living their best lives, friends who are struggling but adapting, friends who are suicidal, and everything in between. Every single one of those responses are equally valid. This experience is bringing out past traumas that maybe we thought we were past, it is honing in on our deepest fears and insecurities, it is perpetuating the illusion of separation that divides and depresses us.

If you’re not interested in exploring silver linings, this post isn’t for you – and that is ok. Sometimes things are just awful and no amount of silver linings or positivity can make it better, and you want to punch anyone who suggests anything different squarely in the jaw. That is also an incredibly valid response. (Except maybe don’t punch anybody because there’s definitely no way to maintain social distancing during that, and also because it’s mean.)

That said, this is something that is helping me get through this weird phase of life, though I don’t expect it will work for everyone. I’ve been trying to focus on gratitude where I can. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I’m just depressed and mad and uninterested in exploring the deeper philosophical implications of an objectively shitty situation.

I was so pissed off a few months ago when my therapist suggested I start a gratitude journal. I’ve been in therapy for nine years. This seemed like such a basic and boring practice, and I was mad that she even suggested it. Between the office that looked like the beach section of a Bed, Bath, and Beyond, the fake crystal gemstones from Pier One, and the fact that she never actually listened to a word I said, it turned out that therapist and I just weren’t a good fit. (I still miss my no-bullshit therapist from Knoxville who once told me, “Really? You’re going to kill yourself over a shitty Thursday? Come on.”)

However, begrudgingly, I admit that developing a gratitude practice has helped.

Negativity bias is “our tendency not only to register negative stimuli more readily but also to dwell on these events. Also known as positive-negative asymmetry, this negativity bias means that we feel the sting of a rebuke more powerfully than we feel the joy of praise.” 

This is why we often have trouble focusing on ten things that went right when one thing went wrong. This is why I know exactly where the two errors are in my two-semester research project about religion and the patriarchy are and the facts that I got a perfect score and high praise from my instructor are an afterthought. It is so easy to dwell on what isn’t working, and it makes sense – if we know what isn’t working, we can try to fix it, and most of us are constantly striving to do better. But things don’t have to be perfect to be enough. This is a lesson I’m still learning.

Developing a practice of gratitude and acknowledging what is going right helps us counteract negativity bias and experience life in a more balanced way. It helps us focus our intentions on our highest good and raise our vibration to match those intentions. And it really does help.

So a few weeks ago, I started keeping a list of things that the pandemic has made possible. Let me be clear that none of them are worth it. None of them are more important or valuable than the lives that have been lost and impacted. And none of them needed a global emergency to come about – they were all already possible.

One of the greatest intentions I am setting for myself right now is to live life more gently and less dramatically, to embrace what comes naturally and navigate things that create chaos or tension gracefully. There is nothing gentle or graceful about how this pandemic has impacted the world. The best any of us can do is do our part to keep each other safe and make the most of what we can.

These are just a few of the things that have been manifested for me during this time.

  1. Time to pauseI have been begging the Universe for a break since my rapid awakening journey began in late 2018. Recently, a reiki practitioner referred to me as a “master manifester” – I told her that’s a really kind way to say, “I let the Universe fuck my shit up.” I mentioned earlier that I’m focusing my intentions on gentleness and grace right now. That’s because when I set my sights on something, I make it happen – often in ways that are somewhat reckless and energetically draining. This moment to pause is offering me opportunities that were not possible to reconcile with my obligations in fully-functioning society. I’m getting valuable quality time with my child. I am being supported in approaching my work manageably. I have precious time to rest, focus on healing and introspection, and be intentional with my thoughts and actions. It is a gift, even though the circumstances surrounding it are scary and overwhelming.
  2. Online church
    The week before schools and churches around the country shifted to online programming, I had an unexpected Sunday morning off because Henry was sick. While they were napping on the couch, I watched the service from my home church via FaceTime with one of my friends there, which had become a sort of infrequent tradition of ours since I moved 500 miles away last summer. While the Church of the Larger Fellowship has long offered regular online worship, there is just no substitute for worship with my beloved home community. Now, eight weeks later, I get to participate in virtual worship and coffee hour weekly, which is nourishing for my spirit in ways that are always essential, and now more than ever.
  3. $1200
    This one is one of those things that is so oddly specific that I have no choice but to stop believing in coincidences. Recently, I learned that an abusive family member destroyed $1200 in savings bonds purchased for me by my late great-grandmother. I wanted to be furious, and I was for a moment. And then I decided that if $1200 was the price I had to pay for them to leave me alone, it was worth it. Instead of succumbing to a justifiable rage, I decided that if I was meant to have that money, it would find its way to me. And it did. I received a $1200 gift from my great-grandmother in the form of a stimulus payment from the government. Of course, there’s no way she ever thought that I would receive it that way, but her intention was for me to have a monetary gift from her, and the Universe responded to her intention – more than a decade after she passed.
  4. Time in Knoxville
    I was determined to be in Knoxville for my best friend’s birthday in late March this year. However, between work and Henry’s school, the best I thought I could manage was coming in the week before – which was the week that things began getting very serious and remote work and school started to become our new normal. We ended up staying for nearly eight weeks, which meant that I got to be in my hometown for my birthday too, which I wanted but hadn’t even named because I didn’t think it would be possible. I also got time to connect with my Knoxville community in creative socially-distanced ways, like dropping off treats in mailboxes and sewing masks for some friends who are essential workers. It was about three weeks between the time I committed to moving to Tallahassee last summer and the day we left. The move has been challenging and empowering in countless ways, and I’m so glad we came – and I’m also thankful for a little extended time to appreciate my beautiful hometown, her quirky and wonderful inhabitants, and take in breathtaking mountain views at every turn (even just during a Target run.)

There are a dozen other little things as well. My seminary orientation has been moved online, which takes the huge burden of travelling and arranging childcare off me, at least for one semester. Running errands with my child has become so much easier with expanded curbside pickup options. I have an ongoing legitimate reason to shower loved ones with little “thinking of you” gifts and surprises. I got the chance to try out a haircut that I’ve been wanting but was too afraid to commit to.

The truth is, Spirit will always provide for us – we just have to trust it, even when it seems impossible. The manifestations of our needs rarely, if ever, look exactly the way we think they will or should. Even so, we can always trust that we are exactly where we are supposed to be, and the good things are coming. Often, the good things have already arrived. We just have to be willing to see them, and to be thankful for them no matter what form they take. It’s not always easy. I’m certainly not perfect in my own practice of radical gratitude, but it brings me so much peace to try and focus on what is good when I can.

I’m learning to trust the journey and that whatever happens is a part of the Divine plan. The specifics aren’t always too important – our journeys are magical and blessed no matter what form they take.

Posts linked in this entry:
Christianity-Informed Patriarchy in the United States as a System of Oppression
A Message to the Children & Youth of UUCT Regarding COVID-19 Closures
Making Dinner During the Pandemic

More Like This:
The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Donald Trump
Comfort Me (A Prayer)
Glory, Hallelujah and the Universal Manager

Comfort Me (A Prayer)

Mother Goddess,
Lay my head
Upon your chest,
Stroke my hair,
Caress my cheek,
Whisper prayers
For my healing
Into every weeping wound.

Hold your faith in me
In the heartbeat
Against my ear,
Rock me to sleep
Singing the cosmos’ lullaby,
Wishing me
The sweetest dreams
And easier battles
To fight

So mote it be.

Affirmations to Our Inner Children

On Sunday, February 16, 2020, I asked the congregation of UUCT to write down a message they wish they had heard when they were younger. These affirmations to our inner children were written on small wooden hearts, which were then assembled into a chain that will be placed in our new Religious Exploration classroom, so we can surround our children with the kinds of messages we needed when we were children.

Sometimes, the massive amount of injustice and pain in this world seems beyond daunting – it seems impossible to even fully comprehend, let alone begin to heal. But I get to see firsthand in my job that we are already healing, that love is already winning, because it is alive and well in the beautiful and brilliant children and youth I get to serve. They are living proof that the Beloved Community is achievable, and they are made so by the love of their families and communities. The generations growing up surrounded by these messages are the ones who will continue to change the world.

We are doing such good work.

  1. Ever lasting love
  2. You are great
  3. Never forget me
  4. Love yourself
  5. What I believe is ok
  6. You are ok just the way you are
  7. It is ok to cry
  8. Your creativity will take you far
  9. Love yourself, see your beauty, you are beautiful
  10. You are lovable
  11. Express what you are feeling
  12. You got this
  13. You can handle this
  14. U R awesome
  15. You can rest
  16. Keep trying
  17. You are light. Love you now.
  18. You will improve the world
  19. Thank you for helping. I love you.
  20. Go where you are celebrated
  21. You are who you are. You are enough.
  22. You are loved and you are worthy of love
  23. Love one another
  24. I am worthy
  25. You are loved
  26. I love your sense of wonder and exploration
  27. Love
  28. You are loved
  29. Acceptance
  30. Listen to inside. Expand your embrace.
  31. Hugs
  32. I ❤ U
  33. I care for you
  34. You are good enough
  35. You are great. Love you.
  36. Understand
  37. It’s ok to not know everything
  38. Jesus loves
  39. I love you
  40. It’s ok not to be perfect
  41. You are loved
  42. You are loved
  43. You can’t love anyone until you love yourself
  44. I love you
  45. It’s ok
  46. I am lovable
  47. I’m glad you are here
  48. You are awesome
  49. Love – “Love!”
  50. You are great
  51. I do love myself
  52. You got this!
  53. You are loved
  54. Everyone is smart in their own way
  55. Speak your heart
  56. I love your hair
  57. You are special to me
  58. What a fine job
  59. You are lovable
  60. You are awesome
  61. How you feel matters
  62. Forgive yourself
  63. UR Loved
  64. You are important to me
  65. You are very special
  66. You are perfect the way you are
  67. Be free
  68. You are NOT “too much”
  69. Loved.
  70. Aspire to love
  71. You are special
  72. Good luck!
  73. Today, I believe in myself
  74. Love!
  75. You are already doing it!
  76. You’re loved.
  77. Don’t hide your light
  78. You are loved
  79. You can do it!
  80. Glorious you!
  81. You are special
  82. I am so proud of you!
  83. What a great job!
  84. You are beautiful.
  85. Be proud of you
  86. The world is better with you in it!
  87. Your inherent worth and dignity are inarguable and unconditional
  88. Ask for help
  89. You are important

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“Love is the Spirit”