Modesty, Meaning, and Me

By: Jenni Taylor, Author in Chief

I would not say modesty is my strong point. In fact, I spent the better part of an afternoon creating non-modest memes of myself.

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Then I sent said memes to friends so they could share in my wit and glory… modesty… about that…

I spent quite a bit of energy and time fighting against the idea of modesty while growing up. In a religious sense, modesty, specifically clothing modesty, was seen as a virtuous trait for women- and women only. My beautiful, confident, feminist warrior princess side of me had a difficult time with this message, and proceeded to throw the baby out with the bath water.

But then our writing intern, Nermine, wrote a beautiful piece including her definition of modesty, and it is the exact definition I’ve been looking for all these years. So here I am, aware of my faults, but slowly beginning to come around again.

So, modesty, it’s time you and I had a talk. I recognize that what some may see as confidence in me is sometimes insecurity (not all the time! But yes, okay, sometimes). I recognize my need for bluster and bravado, and that you, dear modesty, may be a better option. I’ve seen you before, you know. That quiet confidence, complete security in oneself. You and I have had some good moments but have never become fast friends.

Modesty, you are directly linked to security, and security is linked to self-love and acceptance. I know when my spirit is in its happy place, fully loved and accepted by the universe, you will come quietly and build your nest in my heart. I want to be a wise old woman someday, and I need you there with me.

So, here I am. Deflate my pufferfish-like ego, and help me to get back to the truth. And the truth is, I still look pretty good even when I am deflated.

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Writing On A New Page

By: Jenni Taylor

If you want to engage in a vibrant conversation with the wisdom that dwells just a hair below your conscious awareness, write. –Janet Conner, Writing Down Your Soul

My journals are packed away in a cardboard box in my parents’ garage, a million and one miles away from where I am now. There are more than 10, less than 15, 3 subject notebooks filled with pieces of my life. Upon my death these notebooks will go to my brother, who will understand.

Since the notebooks, and when life got harder, I scribbled on scraps of paper, nameless, illegible, hard words that I wanted written down but also thrown away as insurance the memory would fade faster. I would type and delete, still omitting the names and places that made my writing too real, the memory too solidified, the feelings of guilt too tangible.

I then entered a time of rest in my life, a time of change and a peaceful uncertainty about the future. The chaos came seldom and far between. I stopped writing. I didn’t know what to say. I thought maybe I could hide from this new person I was becoming until I understood her and liked her, then I would consider her worthy of documentation. I stopped trusting myself, thought my small daily life frivolous and not good enough for ink, even private ink meant for myself and no one else.

Next thing I know, years had gone by with my adventures undocumented, untold, unsung. Moments were lost, moments of growth and wisdom, pain and excitement. Christmas came, with New Years on its heels, and I realized I had nothing to show for my recent life.

I took a yellow notebook, clean and empty. I found a place, one with pillows and a window and a warm light instead of a cold one, and I began to write.

I often pray for wisdom, and it wasn’t until my pen hit paper did I remember wisdom can come from my fingertips. The more I wrote, the less I consciously thought, the more questions spilled onto the page and seconds later some sort of answer from the depth of my being would be in the next paragraph of scribbles. My writing became a flowing prayer, a thank you for the things that had happened that day, that month, that undocumented year, and a searching for a responsive voice to my questions of “why” and “how” and “what comes next?” I discovered wisdom in starting over this holy ritual of listening to myself, considering myself worthy enough to be heard and then slowly discovering I wasn’t just talking to myself, but connecting.

The Back and Forth of Starting Over

By: Autumn Elizabeth

By some ways of looking at my life, I have spent the majority of the last few years starting over. Starting to reclaim a new spiritual path after my church refused to marry me and my partner, starting over with a new life in Europe after that unsanctioned marriage ended. But the truth is, I am not sure starting over is even possible.

Starting over spiritually has not meant giving up my lifetime of faith and starting fresh. On the contrary, starting over has led me both forward and backwards. I have rediscovered some of the beauty and radical justice buried in my Catholic heritage, and I have found deep wells of solace and a place to pray in my yoga practice. I have also kept a deep admiration for my church as they struggle to more radically embody the love of Jesus and move to embrace all types of love.

I think starting over is always about moving both backwards and forwards simultaneously. No matter how much someone hurts us, no matter how broken our hearts, none of us really forget, we keep tiny pieces of all the people we love in our hearts forever. For me, in times of heartache, starting over often looks a lot like going back to the people who knew me before my heartache, and it also often involves finding new relationships of love and support. So it seems, for me at least, that starting over is more a process of growing in wisdom and love than a process of erasing our past.

For me starting over has been a process of going back and moving forward. I am blessed to have found solace in both places. 2015 stands to be a big year for me in both directions. Looking to the future I will graduate from my master’s program, and I will celebrate entering a new decade of wisdom. Looking back, this site will turn two and my oldest friendship with turn 21. To me, this is what starting over looks like—it is the growing of new branches while my roots grow deeper too. This January, may your new year be rooted in all the blessing of your past, and all the possibilities of the future. Here’s to staring over, and to keeping all the wisdom we’ve already gained.

When Rituals End

We are pleased to share a guest post from Esraa Mohamed. Esraa is an Egyptian Muslim, studying Physical Therapy at Cairo University. Esraa describes herself as “just another soul being passionate about the universe”. Today she is sharing with us her insights about rituals; family rituals, how rituals become “remember whens” and how rituals change over time.

Too many scenes floated into my mind the instant the word “rituals” crossed my sight. I was brought up in a family of four. I was constantly daydreaming back then for a bigger family, a family of six or something. But the bitterness of the small family didn’t weigh much, as our cozy rituals compensated that issue. Friday mornings were on top of all. We, the four, squeezing in the kitchen going back and fro preparing breakfast together. With that homely ambiance, we sat on a small woody table enjoying breakfast together, talking about everything in life. My father, mother and little brother are all I have for a family and those Friday mornings were all that we got.

Winter time. The air is filled with chilling, but warm breeze. 10 pm and I prepared my bag for school. Heading toward my daddy’s bed, I squeeze under the warm sheath, finding my way to his hug. “Hey daddy” I used to say and then I would end up telling him how angry I was about that friend who passed away last week without giving me a chance to say goodbye, and how much I liked physics and hated sociology. We used to make fun of my mum, making jokes about her just to drive her crazy. Daddy used to listen and then, kissing him on the cheek, I wished him sweet dream and headed to my bed.

It shook me to the core to realize that many of these rituals had become only “Remember whens”. I don’t know when we precisely ended up having nothing to say on Friday mornings or when we ceased practicing the other rituals? I always thought that I missed those days but I do not. I feel quite shocked to hear myself say that, but the moment I said it, I knew it was true. I used to love those rituals but now they are gone.

As I grew older, I began to understand rituals differently. Rituals are those deeds you would go on doing when everyone else has given up on them. They could be those murmuring hums before you sleep. Those solo hangouts when you are down. The rituals we come up with are what help us endure pain, so I try to come up with as many of those types of rituals as possible.

I See Hunger Everywhere

Today’s post comes from Adam Pracht, who talks about the various forms of hunger he has seen, and what it can teach us about love. Adam currently works as a chef and lives in Chicago. He also wrote our first ever guest post, Tiny Love

I see hunger everywhere. On the south side of Chicago I see people going hungry, without food, money or homes. I see kids hungry for drugs, for power, where killing is a game, and a fun one too. I see hunger for violence, or money, a willingness to hack your way to the top regardless of who gets trampled underneath. It’s an insatiable hunger that sometimes makes it too difficult to get through the news. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed.

If you look really close, though, you can see a different kind of hunger. I see love and passion coming from places, and people, where I didn’t think I’d ever find it. I’ve grown to love and respect many men who could have continued their lives as gang members, but instead decided to put the guns down and made a life for themselves out of nothing but hard work. I’ve been given mad love from whole groups of people I was meeting for the first time, for no reason. Then I can start to see a different kind of hunger, which is just a hunger for love, to be able to give and receive freely and happily.

Many days it seems like it’s a losing battle. Most days, if we’re honest; but the good thing about hunger is that it’s not a desire, it’s a need. The hungry will always be pushing back, using our desire for peace to drive us to love with abandon, using whatever skills available to give. I find the more I give, the more of myself I still have left over. There are always people in need, always more we can be doing if we keep our eyes open to the people around us. I hope someday it will be easy to find love, anywhere, and we’ll have to look hard to find the misery and violence that dominated the headlines today.

 

A Prayer for Times of Change

This month we have been looking for the wisdom of change, the wisdom in change, and the ways we can change the world for the better. Sometimes though, we need help to deal with changes; sometimes life gives us more change than we feel we can handle. This is a prayer for those times.

Dear God,

Change is hard. It is not easy to give up my previous plans.
Help me let go of the things that are not longer on my path.

These new things, people, ways of life are scary. They are different and unfamiliar.
Help me find comfort in the beauty of these new aspects of my life.

Sometimes, I want things to change, but they remain the same. Sometimes I do not want change, but it arrives anyway.
Help me see the love of the universe in every situation.

These changes in my life make me feel unstable, like I am on shifting sands.
Help me to find stability in my relationships with those who love me, and in my relationship with you.

Amen

As always, please feel free to use this prayer, with any modifications you see fit,  in your places of worship or meditation. If you want to submit your own prayer, check out our submissions page

Changing My Story

By: Jenni Taylor

I come from a family of storytellers. I can still hear my uncle’s voice, a baritone rumbling with hints of love hidden deep in the diaphragm, winding a yarn about an owl taking over his truck and making the rest of the family laugh until they couldn’t breathe. I can hear my aunt, who takes my face into her hands and tells me what her kitchen smelled like growing up, and suddenly the room is full of apple pie.

Stories change you. They pick you up, toss you about, tickle your heart and then prick it with pins. A good story is real, more real than real, in the velveteen rabbit way of love being bigger than facts.

Wisdom comes from stories. Scheherazade, the woman who changed the heart of a Persian king with her one thousand and one tales of adventure, love and loss. Samuel the prophet, who brought King David to his knees with the story of a poor man and his sheep. The creation stories, the myths, the legends spread across time existing to give us understanding, entertainment, warnings, hope, knowledge, and more questions.

I am living my own story now. I choose to let it intertwine with a story of a loving being who gives me purpose and adventure and courage to fight dragons. I cross paths with other stories, other beautiful human beings with expositions and rising actions and climaxes and nothing even close to a resolution quite yet. I have this crazy belief that we may be all a part of another story, one much bigger than all of us, that brings meaning and joy and connections and hope. I think if I can let myself be part of that bigger story, it will change me, and it will be absolutely worth it.

Changing Together

By: Autumn Elizabeth

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I am the change. You are the change too. This point was proven yesterday the the People’s Climate March, which took place all around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people came together, ignored their differences, and marched to make change.

In Paris, where I was marching, the vegans weren’t throwing things at the people wearing leather shoes. Greenpeace wasn’t jostling with the World Wildlife Foundation for the best space. Christian groups weren’t bashing the Atheists.  Everyone coexisted to create change.

This coexistence for change is at the core of my faith and my life. I believe that to create a better world, to create the kin-dom of God here on this earth, in this time, we have to work together. I am not suggesting that my belief is to ignore difference, but rather that I believe we must embrace it and work together anyway.

Being the change also means supporting justice for everyone. Reproductive justice organizations like Planned Parenthood attended the People’s Climate March yesterday, because environmental justice affects reproductive justice. In the same way, men must work to end patriarchy, and white people must work to end racism. If we want change, we have to support each other.

I don’t think I would be a very good representative of Jesus, if I only wanted to help Christians nor would I be a very just feminist if I wanted to oppress men. To make change, we all have to be open. We have to be willing to embrace differences, to help one another, and to unite for global justice.

I am the change, you are the change, and together we can make change happen!

 

The Trees are Changing

By: Jenni Taylor

“Oh, what do the trees know,
Oh, letting their leaves go?
Oh, what do the trees see?
Oh, that is beyond me…”–Laleh

I live in a country where the day and time you were born is believed to set your course in the stars. Being born in the Chinese year of the snake, they say I was given bright eyes and the ability to shed my skins, slither out of houses and homes and countries and places and change my scales at will. I look back and I see my layers spread out across the mountains and plains, only as strong as my memories or writings or letters from friends who know what I am despite my many faces.

The sermon on the mount tells me to be meek and merciful, salt and light, a lily of the field and a rock foundation. It’s not shedding skins- it’s putting new ones on, layer by layer, pieces of creation teaching us lessons and molding our spirits like the very air we breathe.

“Good tress bear good fruit,” he says, and I think of the roots deep in the ground and of the fragile leaves that can be plucked by any passing hand. I think of the colors changing and the rings being added like new life veins every year, each one telling a story, each one reminding me the trees might have a better understanding than I do of spirituality and change and strength and weakness wrapped into each other like DNA strands.

I breathe deep and reach into myself to find that strong foundation, the hymns buried in me singing of God’s everlasting love and faithfulness. I look to the times when I was the most child-like in my wonder and belief in good, and I know that is when the bigness and smallness of the sermon on the mount is beginning to touch my insides and mold me into something new.

I embrace the antonyms and realize the human spirit is allowed to be controversial, because it’s simply big enough to be everything at once. So I decide to be a snake, and a tree, and a human being, and learn the lessons set out before me.

Poetry of Change

Today we would like to share a lovely post by a member of our community who has chosen to remain anonymous. This short poem touches on the changes of life and death, and the ways our life changes are reflected in the natural world that surrounds us all.

Logos

Leaves drying, dying
Dancing to eternity
Winter strips them bare
Time: the constant change
Opposite to opposite
From life into death
Where a sun may set
Or a moon may rise, striking
Silence answers all