Feb 172012
 

 “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy it. This makes it difficult to plan the day.”

 – E.B. White – taken from Leaving Church, by Barbara Brown Taylor

 

 

Momastery is booming.  It’s funny, because we are teaching absolutely nothing new here. We are just offering people a soft place to land and to remember what they already know. That we were put down here to take care of each other. To listen to and learn from each other. To keep our hearts and minds open and allow others in. We have offered people a safe place to put down their guns and peel off their armor with the assurance that no one will shoot. People can breathe here, so they come back.

 

Because of our growth – beautiful and wonderful ideas are coming at us left and right. Groups of “Monkee Cells” are sprouting up all over the country. These small groups are meeting to tell each other the truth and to practice, in real life, loving each other and their communities. Joy.

 

Companies are all up in our Monkee business. People are begging to advertise. I’ve received several emails asking me if I’m insane. Folks have informed me that since Momastery ranks within the top six thousand websites in the country, we could be making tens of thousands of dollars a month through advertising. When I consider the good that money could do for my immediate family and my Monkee family, everything becomes a bit confusing.  So stop sending those emails, people.

 

And Monkees want THINGS to remind themselves of the Reloveution throughout their day.  Jewelry, more clothes, stickers, bags etc, etc. That will all happen. Not right now, but it will happen.  As Lou reminded me yesterday- Love Is Patient.

 

Since the Croyle Love Flash Mob, I receive fifty heartbreaking stories per day from lovely folks trying to get help for their hurting friends.  I sit at my computer and cry, knowing that we’ll never be able to help all of them, or even most of them. It’s okay – the crying. Staying broken hearted is very, very important to our work. People try so hard to keep their hearts intact, but that is a big mistake. Broken hearts are the most effective tools on Earth. Can’t change the world without a broken heart – just can’t.

 

But yesterday I had a bit of a breakdown, to tell you the truth.

 

You see, I started to feel like I was serving the world before myself and my family, and that is decidedly NEVER what I wanted. Because it doesn’t work that way, of course. If you put the world in front of yourself, you will end up serving no one at all.

 

Love your neighbor as yourself. This implies that you’re taking pretty darn good care of your own self, no? I mean  – unless God meant that we should ignore our neighbors needs and run them ragged.  Probably not.

 

I need a good amount of time to myself. When I say time to myself, I usually mean quiet time, which I consider time with God. I need time to listen. Time with no other input than that still, silent voice. “Go to your cell- your cell will teach you everything.”  The desert fathers used to say that when the novices came to them with questions. It was their way of saying that there is nothing new to learn that isn’t already inside of you. You have all the answers, you just need the discipline necessary to stay quiet long enough for them to emerge. The kingdom of God is within. And so not enough time in my cell leaves me empty and lost and a little confused about what to do next. Stressed, panicky = cell time, please.

 

Sometimes my God/self/cell time is in the sauna, sometimes it’s with my Bible, usually it’s with another book,  and often it’s heading out for a mani/pedi.  Beauty salons make me happy and God wants me to be happy. But I haven’t been doing ANY of this lately. I’ve been waking up and living and breathing Momastery and Monkee Business and that is putting the cart before the horse.

 

In order to be a decent writer and lover of folks, I have to spend time alone, and ALSO get out there and live occasionally. Not too often, because- scary. But sometimes. Sometimes I have to turn away from the computer, so that I can experience life and then come back and write about what I noticed. With my face to the screen all day, I’m missing a lot of the brutiful happening behind me.

 

In a few hours I’m heading to a conference in Richmond called Womankind. I think the conference is about God and women and…kindness? I don’t know. I didn’t even read the description. A couple precious Monkees invited me and I saw that it included a night away from home and I just signed the hell up. I’m excited. I can’t wait to just sit and listen to other women talk about their lives and their faith and their lack of faith and how we can all take better care of each other. Just take it all in. Fill up instead of emptying.  I hope that I’ll have a lot to share with you when I get back.

 

In the meantime, you should know that I am making NO decisions to change Momastery in any way. I have said no to the advertisers, we have not started merchandising, we have decided to SLOW DOWN, STEP BACK, and FOCUS UP. Or however our tagline goes. Something like that.

 

We are not against growth, but we are not going to be pressured into it in any form.  We will grow slow and steady. We will spend time in our cells, listening and thinking things through. Sloooooow and steady.

 

For now, I will just think and write and remember that all is well and has always been well and will continue to be well. Love is patient.

 

Take care of yourselves this weekend, please. Put the horse before the cart. Take care of your baby’s parent. Your friend’s friend. Your mama’s child. Yourself.

 

I love you Cheeky Monkees.

 

G

 

 

 

PS. If you are at the conference and you see me, please come say hi and try to ignore the fact that my face is a tomato. I used a face mask last night that my friend warned me NOT TO LEAVE ON FOR LONGER THAN FIVE MINUTES, but obviously, I left it on for twenty. Because if five minutes will make me look good, how much better will TWENTY??? Not better. Not better at all. Thank you God, for the myriad ways you keep me humble.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Feb 192012
 

 

 

I arrived home from Womankind last night, although the whole weekend felt like a homecoming.

I’ve got some perspective now. And I know, for now, where we are going with Momastery.

My friend Cindy recently sent me a book called “Leaving Church” by Barbara Brown Taylor. It’s exactly the book I needed to read right now, right here, this week. Strange how that happens. Grace.

Barbara Taylor was a priest, but she decided to leave the church because in her efforts to serve God’s world, she lost her relationship with God. She lost her awe. Service wore her down and rubbed all the shininess off of life. Service can do that to a girl. Service is not God, so it leaves us exhausted, empty and wanting after a while.

When Taylor was ordained, a wise friend told her this:

 “Being ordained is not about serving God perfectly but about serving God visibly, allowing other people to learn whatever they can from watching you rise and fall. You probably won’t be much worse than other people, and you certainly won’t be any better, but you will have to let a lot of people look at you. You will have to let them see you as you are.”

I am not a minister. . . but when I read that paragraph it struck me that THIS was the deal I made with God when I decided to become a writer. I agreed to let people see me as I am, to watch me live and take from my life what they will. In order to do that, I must have time to live. Momastery is not my life, nor is writing. Both are reflections about the life I am living when I am not at my desk.  During the past few weeks I have forgotten this distinction, and that’s okay. We are all learning. We rise and fall. And rise again. That’s the great thing.

This weekend I learned from so many soulful, brilliant women that I just want to sit and think in a quiet room for six days. But we know that ain’t gonna happen. So I’ll unpack it all here, with you during the next few weeks. For now I will tell you that one woman spoke about the importance of creating sacred spaces . . . in our homes and our lives and our days. I will also tell you that this place, Momastery, is a sacred space to me.

There is a story in the Bible during which Jesus walks into the church and instead of seeing worship, he sees vendors and traders using the sacred space as a market- as a place to make money instead of peace and relationships.  And Jesus turns all Jackie Chan on them. It’s one of the only times in the Bible when he gets REALLY PISSED. He starts flipping tables and yelling and maybe even doing some karate kicks. I can imagine that- even in the sandals and robe. Jesus was angry because the people forgot that there needs to be a sacred space SOMEWHERE. A place where people aren’t trying to make money from each other. Where people are not seen as possible sources of income. Where people are seen only as invitations further into the heart of God. We are going to keep Momastery sacred.

When my dad was a soldier in Germany, he met a group of nuns building a tiny church out in the middle of nowhere. Just the nuns – with their habits and shovels and bricks. And so my dad and some other soldiers came to help them each day.  After a while the soldiers noticed that there was no architecture plan for this church and very little money for completion. No money, actually. NONE.  Each time my dad raised this concern to one of the Sisters, she would say softly but certainly. “Richard, do not worry. God will provide.” And every day my dad would go back and there will be more bricks, more supplies piled up- exactly what they needed for the day’s work. God did provide, one day at a time, and the church was built, without sponsorship from Target or Nike.  And He will provide for us, and show us the way each day, one day at a time.

My job is to keep showing up here, to continue to allow myself and my life to be seen.  Believe me, that’s hard enough for me some days.

I have one more job, which I have always known God wanted from me, and was confirmed this weekend.

I want my writing to help bridge the gaps between Christians and Jews and Muslims and atheists and agnostics and Hindus. I want my writing to help us become less suspicious of each other. I want to develop a common language that will help us communicate with each other better. I want us to practice knowing that I can believe what I believe, and also acknowledge the mystery that you can believe what you believe just as strongly. And maybe, we can both say aloud that chances are we’re all a little right and a little wrong. And we can also admit, out loud, that it’s okay if I secretly believe that you’re a little wronger than I am. We don’t have to keep that a secret. We can have strong convictions and LEAVE SPACE for the convictions of others. And we can still love each other and listen and learn from each other and maybe even maintain a sense of humor.  We can become family that way. As one of the speakers said this weekend…isn’t this exactly what we do with family? We accept differences that we know will never change and embrace each other anyway? Love just finds a way for this? Love is gonna fiiiiiiind a waaaaay……Who said that? Tesla, I think.

Last week an atheist friend asked me to explain my faith to her simply, because it dumbfounded her. So I wrote up some Jesus Cliff Notes. And a few hours later she wrote this to me:

GIRL.

YOU SO CRAAAAZY!

And I laughed and we talked a little more and discovered that we actually believe a lot of the same ideas, but we use different words to discuss them.

God is not found in right ideas- but in right relationships. Taylor said that, too. Smarty pants, that one.

So anyway, I want to develop a common language that makes the crucial discussion about the mystery and beauty and stunning-ness of life and divinity accessible to all.

No problem, right? Piece of cake. But I truly believe that if anybody can do this- it’s us.

Also – we are going to hold off on the Love Projects for a bit. Another will arise eventually, organically, but right now – in my work life- I am going to concentrate on being seen and building bridges with my words.

And writing a book, I keep forgetting about that. No problem. God will provide.

As Taylor reminded me . . . . life is usually not about choosing between good and evil- but choosing between good, better, and best.

I hope, for now, I’ve chosen what’s best for us.

I love you.
G

Feb 222012
 

Here I am, in a quiet house, with time to write. Aaaah. It’s just Theo and me this morning. This is where he sits while I write. On top of me, basically. It makes typing a little tricky, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. God, I love my dog.

 

 

I have this free time because after three years of writing before six am, we’re finally hiring some help with the kids. We’re hiring a nanny, which seems so fancy and freeing I could die of happiness.  She will come just a few hours a week, but still: Joy. The thing is that it’s been harder than I thought it would be to find a nanny who’s a good fit for us. The kids keep saying they want “someone more like you, mom,” which is shocking to me on many levels. Okay, I said. So I’ve been looking for someone who spends most of her time on Facebook and smiles manically all day until she just loses it and yells. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. YOU’RE KIDDING ME WITH THIS, RIGHT?

But with standards this high, good help has been hard to find. We have a new friend here today. She seems lovely but quite  peaceful and patient, which might be too foreign and scary to my little ones. We’ll see.

Today I’d like to write about something that’s gnawing at me.

Lately, I’ve been receiving comments and emails that go like this…

You’re so heavy lately. Momastery used to be funny. Now you talk about God all the time. I don’t like it. You should go back to funny.

Yes, really and truly. I’ve read this criticism/advice twenty times in the last week. To put that in perspective, that’s less than one percent of the total messages I read last week, but I’d like to address it because it strikes me as important as Momastery moves forward.

This place, Momastery, is where I share my soul. At the risk of sounding grandiose – I consider myself a writer, an artist. And when I receive these comments, they feel a little like someone is walking through my art gallery, putting sticky notes on my artwork saying – “I don’t like this. Can you create something different?” And then maybe writing down my name, finding my address, and sending me a note saying, “I saw your piece today. You should do your art differently. It’s too dramatic. Lighten up. You should be a different kind of artist, a different kind of person.”

I mean, okay. Fair, I guess. But still a little strange. It’s not that I can’t handle criticism. Trust me. I have been discussed in VERY public forums as a bad mother and as someone who is going “straight to hell with a millstone around her neck.” And more and different and worse than that.  I have learned to either take it in and learn from it or try to keep it out and move on. But this particular type of criticism- my own readers telling me they don’t like how I’m feeling that day, they don’t like what I write about, making requests like I’m a DJ, asking for better or different entertainment…it hurts my feelings in a different kind of way –  and I thought you should know.

I named this place Momastery.  Rhymes with monastery.  There will be God talk here. Writing to me and telling me that there is too much God talk and that you don’t like it is a little like calling ESPN and telling them that there is too much sports talk there and you don’t like sports. I don’t watch ESPN, but I don’t feel the need to ask them to broadcast differently. They are what they are, and they put SPORTS right there in their name. They’re not trying to trick me into watching, they’re just being themselves. Luckily for me, there are hundreds of other stations to watch. And you know what, even though I don’t fancy myself a sports fanatic – when I do force myself to sit and watch ESPN with Craig I often catch a particular story about the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat that transcends all categories and makes me think for days. That reminds me that sometimes, in order to grow, I need to step outside of my comfort zone and keep my mind open. More often, I just need Craig to switch back to HGTV.

I think some of us might be a little confused about what I mean when I say that everyone is invited to Momastery. Everyone is invited here, but I’m hosting the party – and I can only be who I am. I built this place by being myself every day, by not hiding or playing to the crowd or pretending to be anyone other than who I am. I’m certainly not going to change that now. You must remember- Momastery is not a panel of people discussing each morning how to strike the perfect balance between witty and touching and reverent and irreverent and Jesus and agnostic and mommy and sans kids and etc etc etc. Momastery is ME. In my yoga pants. With a chronic disease and a book to write and a husband and three children. Volunteering six hours a day for the past three years to this place, to you, to us. It’s just me…reflecting on life as it sails by and occasionally smacks me in the face.

And here’s the thing. Yeah, I’m funny. I’ll probably always be funny because I’m not sure how you can run into so many things and fall down constantly and lose your car and mind so often and NOT at least TRY to make it funny. I mean, otherwise, it’d be kind of sad.

But those things are my outer life. All the stuff we usually talk about with friends or read on blogs…the dressing and the schooling and the sports and the housework and the career are all the outer life. But to me, the inner life is just as fascinating and important as the outer life. That’s why I’m obsessed with monks and monasteries, because they dedicate much of their times to the inner life. To the heart and the brain and the soul, and all that happens there. And how the things that happen THERE are what determine what we do in our outer life. In that way- our inner life is what determines what the entire world becomes.  I don’t think we talk about that enough. Or give ourselves quiet time to think about it, even.  I like to take time to think about those things, and here is where I do that.

As a wife and mother I am bombarded every day with one million gazillion ways to become a better mama…it seems like all people talk to me about is being a mama. But I’m a woman too. I’m a human being – a spiritual being – and I have other things to talk about than motherhood, other ways of becoming better and more whole. I want to spend time developing other parts of myself. I want to talk about important things like love and life and death and this “God” we have so much trouble discussing. I want to talk about peace and how to make it. That’s just me.

I found this poem last night in my baby book. I wrote it in fourth grade. It’s a little blurry, sorry.

 

That’s just me.

And here’s what you should know. If this stuff is too heavy for you, I am going to continue to disappoint you. Because I can feel myself being pulled more strongly toward the God stuff- toward the deep stuff. As a matter of fact- I plan to spend the next year asking myself…Why am I a Christian, anyway? I think it’s a good question, and I’m not afraid to ask it, publicly. I think God can handle that question. So right now I am asking some of you to invite me to your faith celebrations. I want to go to mosques and synagogues and ashrams and wherever atheists meet to discuss atheisty things. Starbucks? Poetry readings? See?? I don’t even know. But I want to. I want to learn from different people. I want to learn everything. While serving at my church and spending my evenings in bed with my kiddos teaching them everything I sort of know about Jesus. That’s what I’m going to do.

The day after I decide NO ADS, and said God will provide, I spent the day wondering if that was the stupidest decision ever made in the history of the world.  I wondered how the helI I was going to make a difference and help people in need with no income. The next day, an extremely well respected international aid group invited me to take trip to Tanzania to see the relief work happening there and write to you about it. Kay.

I was scared, since going to Costco is a huge, exhausting journey for me, and I didn’t know where Tanzania was, but I was fairly certain it was way further than Costco. At first I hoped I’d misheard the nice man on the phone and that he was actually asking me to see the relief work being done in Tennessee-ah. But, no. Africa for sure. So I asked God for a sign. Then I started making dinner. Here was the first turkey cutlet I pulled out of the bag.

 

 

So I’ll probably drag my Lymie self to Africa soon and then write about it. (BUBBA AND TISHA- BREATHE IN AND OUT DEEPLY. I’LL CALL YOU SOON TO EXPLAIN) I imagine my trip to Africa won’t all be funny. It’ll probably get heavy. Life gets heavy. Art reflects life.

This place is going to change. It already is changing. Soon – there will be fewer stories about my family here – those stories will be in my books. Books! Plural! Yes! That part is happening! My children are getting older and they deserve their privacy. There is a thin but NEON line there, and I need to walk it carefully. This blog is also one of the five thousand most popular websites in the country now – which for a personal blog- is a ridiculous amount of exposure.  Craig and I have some serious internet safety issues with which to deal, and we’ve been in discussions with wise and concerned police about that. There is more going on over here than whipping up the next funny story.

Momastery will change. Because I’m changing and you’re changing and the world’s changing, thank God.

Serve – but to thine own self be true.

Love You,

GDo