Dec 232014

It'll go, if you let it come

So – it’s D-day for us over-eaters and over-drinkers and over-everything-ers.

Listen. You know why we do those things right? Why we hurt ourselves like that, especially during the holidays? It’s because we’re used to staying very, very busy and loud during the year so we never have to deal with our messy humanness.

We like to stay UP UP UP – but the holidays are when we’re forced to quiet down and slow down. And when we slow down, the truth rises up like a spring. And the truth is that we’re a little sad and lonely and angry and anxious and afraid.  Yikes. What? Huh? Where did all that ickiness come from? We were doing JUST FINE ALL YEAR, thank you very much!! (Yep, this is exactly why  I can be JUST FINE all day but when 8 pm rolls around it’s all me and my face suddenly shoved inside a box of cereal. Same/same. Slow Down, Truth Arises. The answer: Destroy the truth with CARBS!)  Either way, we use all the  sugar and booze to stuff down our discomfort  because our unease and sadness and fear aren’t supposed to show up on Christmas, right? If they do, if these feelings arise- we must be doing something wrong, right? Because everyone else is HAPPY today, right? Because everything’s supposed to be shiny and perfect and happy and bright, right?

Ha! That is hilarious! No. No, NO! None of that is true. God never suggests that holy days will be easy and shiny and bright. Commercials tell us that.  The folks who sell the shiny and bright stuff tell us that. If the original Christmas story taught us anything, it’s that holy days can be brutal indeed, complete with rude innkeepers and tired donkeys and nothing to put your baby in but rags. In fact and forever and ever amen – Holydays have been marked not by SHINY but  by HARD.

Fear not, said the angel to Mary, We Can Do Hard Things. For Nothing Is Impossible With God.

Listen- when you feel tired and sad and small because you’re perhaps being sucked  into old family dynamics today — because the ICK is arising — find a quiet place in your home to remember. Did you know that the two most repeated phrases in the Bible are Fear Not, and Remember? In order to FEAR NOT, we have to remember. So take a moment to remember that you’ve made it this far. Remember that it’s OKAY to be human. It’s okay to have all the feelings today. It’s okay if your people SEE your real, true feelings. It’s okay to be a little human and uncomfortable and icky.  As a matter of fact — that’s what Christmas is ABOUT. INCARNATION. It’s about GOD deciding to become fully human. If God decided that being human was okay —  certainly you can decide the same. Don’t stuff it down. Let it come and go. It’ll go, if you let it come. Feeling uncomfortable is not a problem — it’s the numbing and the running and the rejecting of the discomfort that starts all the trouble. Let it come. Make like Mary when she responded to that angel – raise your arms in the air and say to all the feelings: “HERE AM I! LET IT BE!” Holy stuff happens after that level of surrender.

When I feel scared and uncomfortable in my skin during the holidays, when I find myself frantically inhaling my fourth brownie like it’s air that will help me survive (which I did last night) I invite myself to sit on my special pillow and close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. I check back in with God. I ask God to remind me how wildly and completely loved I am, in all my beautiful, messy humanness. Is it a little weird? Yeah, maybe. Tish asked me what I was doing there recently and I said “I’m just here remembering how much God loves me.” She looked surprised and said, “Mom! How could you FORGET that?” And I smiled and said, “Well, sister – my prayer for you is that you never, ever forget that- not even for a second. But if you ever do, you can use my pillow, okay?” The next day, after a fight with her brother, I found Tish on my corner pillow, closing her eyes and smiling.

Nobody’s life or family is perfect. Every family is brutiful. And so what we are celebrating today is not how things should be — but how they ARE. Messy and beautiful and human. If messy and human and poor and a little broken and totally unconventional and even scandalous is good enough for GOD’s little family — it’s good enough for yours, too. Let yourself and your people be messy and beautiful and human today. Don’t try to fix them, just love them. Don’t try to fix yourself, just love yourself. Let it all be.

Take extra good care of yourself. Be TENDER to yourself. Carry your hot tea. Arrange your pillow. When the feelings come, let  them – because letting them come is the only way they GO. Please, remember that God loves you just as you love your people. God loves YOU. Just as you are. You are like a perfect little baby wrapped in rags to God. Let that be. It’s true.

Merry Christmas, Beloveds.

Here I go. Off to feel all the feelings. HERE AM I, GOD! LET IT BE!


Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Dec 222014

Dear Body

Wendy’s heading into surgery for breast cancer this morning. She is having a mastectomy and she is having her ovary removed.

Wendy’s friend sent me this, a letter that Wendy wrote from her mind to her body, in preparation for this day. Wendy’s friend told me that it would be a dream come true to Wendy to have it published here- which worked out nicely since the honor of publishing something so true and fierce and wise and perfect is a dream come true for me.

In celebration of Wendy’s Mind, Spirit, and Body – let’s allow her letter to cement our Perspectacles to our faces and help us embrace our messy, beautiful bodies this holiday week. At least for this week- let’s call a Christmas truce. Let’s stop treating our body like our enemy. It works so hard for us and deserves our respect and love. Let there be peace and let it begin within us.

We are WITH you, Wendy. THANK YOU.


A letter from Wendy Donner, to Wendy Donner.

Dear Body,

As we march together toward the big day, I thought it might be helpful to huddle up. We’ve been joined as one for a little over 42 years and, I’d say, have been a pretty phenomenal team. I realize, however, that I haven’t often spoken directly to you with intention, while you talk to me pretty much all the time through sensations of pleasure, pain, fatigue, hunger, thirst and desire. So here goes, my first formal letter to you.

I want to start with some appreciations. Thank you for healing the scrapes and cuts of our childhood and for tolerating the soccer goalie dives that left your hipbones raw and bloody each August through December. Thank you, body, for being so very strong, for climbing mountains, swimming seas, and running one damp D.C. marathon. You must have been relieved when I entered my 20s and took up yoga; we became really close then and you got to sweat, purge, stretch and strengthen without pummeling your joints and connective parts. Most recently, you rode up mountains on our bike, pumping like a machine, rarely complaining and almost always ready to push harder.

Thank you for making our babies; for serving up two perfect eggs and growing those delicious children inside of you. Thank you for knowing just what to do during the long nine-month stretches, for opening up to let those babies out, and for making more milk than any one infant would ever need. I’m so grateful that you didn’t become diseased until after those wonderful babies were born, and until they grew old enough to manage this journey with resilience and compassion. I imagine you had to fight pretty hard to do so. Thanks, body.

And, some apologies. I’m sorry, skin, for that tanning booth chapter in high school. I’m sorry, feet, for each time I forced you into narrow high heels. To a body who needs a good nine hours of sleep per night, I apologize for the years 1998 – 2003. I’m sorry, body, for the times I wished parts of you were smaller, leaner, higher, smoother, tighter, or otherwise different. And poor, sweet hair, I’m sorry for all the chemicals. It’s no wonder you bailed on me.

It has been six months now since we sat in that small, windowless room to hear that the thickened area on your right breast was not actually an infection; rather, it was stage two breast cancer. Since that surreal moment, I’ve learned so much about how you function and the millions of miracles that happen within you every day. I’m in awe of the complexity that allows us to thrive, the delicate balance that is essential for health, and the power of science to fight disease. I find myself craving a deeper understanding of the intricacies of your inner-workings and of the various phases of treatment. I wish I could somehow be the one to care for you, that I was twenty years younger and could go to medical school and be your doctor.

I want you to know how sorry I am that you had to endure liters of toxic chemotherapy pouring through your veins, but body, let’s be straight with each other: you kinda turned on me. It’s not your fault – the DNA we inherited was mutated, leaving your breast and ovarian cells primed to become carcinoma. You handled the chemical onslaught as best you could, often speaking to me with unquestionable clarity and commanding, “Get in bed and stay there. Get up only to pee.” I listened, dear body, and we made it through.

So now we head into the next battle, one where parts of you will be removed. There’s too much risk that your mutated breast and ovary cells will yet again become cancer, so surgery we must face. I hope that together we can let go of these parts, grateful for the miracles they performed, mournful for the loss of them, at peace with the reality that they must go.

I’m sorry that three surgeons will cut into you, marking your beautiful skin with scars and scooping out pounds (yes, pounds) of tissue. I ask that you’ll graciously accept our implants, working to fend off infection and heal smoothly. I know your back will appreciate the lighter load, and your shoulders will love riding around bra-strap free.

It’s you and me, body, heading into the next unknown. I promise to honor your strength and beauty and to nourish and care for you as you heal. Here’s to us.



Dear Mind,

Thanks for the letter. You’re over-thinking things. Our new boobs are gonna be awesome.




Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Dec 192014

*Originally posted in 2009.


Come, they told me… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,Our Newborn King to see… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

Our finest gifts we bring… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

Today before the King… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum, Rum Pum Pum Pum, Rum Pum Pum Pum,

So to honor Him… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

When we come.


Baby Jesus, Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

I am a poor boy too… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

I have no gift to bring, Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum, Rum Pum Pum Pum, Rum Pum Pum Pum,

Shall I play for you… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

On my drum.


Mary nodded… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

The ox and lamb kept time… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum,

I played my best for Him… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum, , Rum Pum Pum Pum, Rum Pum Pum Pum,


Then He smiled at me… Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum

Me and my drum…


Amma and I sat on the kitchen floor last Friday and listened to The Little Drummer Boy again and again together. I cried and Amma snuggled deep into my lap and she kept turning around, cupping my chin in her hands, tilting her little head and saying, “Are okay?” Are okay?” I nodded, held her tight, inhaled her neck and used all of my senses to take her in. I marveled at how she could offer me so little, how she could, in truth, be such an incredible drain, and how I could still adore her so completely. How I cry just thinking of her. How I’ve memorized every roll on her thighs, every red streak in her hair, the cool smoothness of her velvety cheek, and every expression her face has ever made. How there is nothing she could ever do to make me love her any more or any less. How she is already everything she needs to be for me. How she is a reflection of all that is true and good in me, because I made her.

When she started rubbing her eyes, I put her inside her crib and watched her fall asleep. I love her most at the moment she decides to trust me to keep her safe, and so her eyelids close and she falls away and she just breathes. And when she awakens and I walk into her room, she turns her face toward me, throws her arms in the air and says Mama, and it’s enough to drive me to my knees in gratitude and awe and never get back up.

God gave me my little girl so that I might understand how God feels about His little girl.

I know, with my whole body, mind, and soul, that the way I love my baby girl is the same way God loves me. God has memorized every hair on my head and He watches me sleep and wake and when I cry He pets my hair and says “Are okay?” God has never, ever let go of my hand. When I run, He follows, and He never grows tired or weary. God’s plans for me are more beautiful than I can dream and He wants me to come to him like a child because that’s the way He loves me most. Empty handed. Utterly dependent, with no gifts to bring. He looks at my face and my outstretched, empty hands and He sees his little baby girl. The little girl He created. I don’t have to be a grown up with Him. I don’t have to be a wife or a mother or a friend or a teacher or a writer or a woman in his presence. He created me for the same reason I created Amma – because He wanted someone to love. So that’s all I have to be, someone for God to love. He wants me to rest in the truth that there is nothing I can do to make Him love me any more or any less. He already knows about the choices I made yesterday – no need to be ashamed, and he already knows what will happen tomorrow – no need to be afraid. He doesn’t want me or need me to be anything more than the needy bundle of tears and love that I was the day I was born and that I am today, on the kitchen floor. He just wants me to be still and accept His gift, which today is the sensation that my heart might explode as His love and adoration flow from Him through me, His baby girl, and into my baby girl.

This is when Jesus smiles at me, I think. When I offer him my broken, overflowing heart. When I play for him with whatever I have, which is nothing. He doesn’t want me to wait to play for him until I am better or different, or until I have something more worthy to offer. He was a poor boy, too, he understands. He was rejected and afraid and exhausted but he played his song for me anyway. And all he wants is to hear my song in return. He wants my song, the one only I can play, today. Not tomorrow.

And if it seems too good to be true that I’d have a song worthy of Him while I’m still broken and naked and crying, I need only to remember that the most beautiful song the world has ever heard was sung by our Jesus when he was all of those things, hanging on a cross.

That man who died for me, Jesus, my God, wants me to play for Him. And Mary nods her agreement, so I play, without fear of how I might sound. And here’s why I’m not afraid to play my song in the face of God. You have asked how I can share my heart so openly, why am I not afraid to disarm myself and tell you my truth, even when it’s ugly or scary.

It’s because there is no need for weapons or armor when one is already standing inside a mighty fortress.

It’s because while I want you to say that you like me, to tell me I’m okay, to say that we are the same, you and I… I don’t need you to say those things. If no one ever likes or loves me again and I am left with only God, I will still have too much acceptance and love to handle well, or respond to appropriately, or endure gracefully. I can tell you the truth of my heart because when you handle my heart imperfectly, it’s okay, I forgive you already. You don’t have to love me perfectly. I don’t depend on you for that. You can be human, and you can make mistakes with my heart. Because if you hurt me, if you accidentally ignore me, if you love me imperfectly, I still have perfect love to turn to, to remember, to feel. And so I feel safe with you. And you can feel safe with me too, because I will never expect you to be someone you’re not. I understand being human. Perfect love casts out fear.

And when I tell you about Bubba and Sister and Husband and Tisha and you say that you wish you had a perfect family, too, please understand that my family is not perfect. Lord, no. None of us loves each other perfectly. But I don’t need them to love me perfectly because I already have perfect love. We are all wired to need perfect love but none of us is wired to offer it. Because we are meant to find it only in God. So I don’t ask my family for perfection. I forgive them their humanness, and search for their divinity, knowing that we usually find exactly what we we’re looking for. And when I catch glimpses of their divinity, I notice and share it. Just like my family and Jesus do for me.

I’d like to begin this Christmas Week by saying Happy Birthday and Thank You to Our Jesus. He guided these words, and they are meant for you. It’s not an accident that you are reading them. He wants you to know that He loves you like you are the only little girl in the world. You don’t have to be a grown up for Him. You don’t need to bring Him gifts. Just play. He’ll listen and smile. And we’ll dance.

LDG (Little Drummer G)

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

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