Jan 302015
 

I believe that life starts when we stop running from pain and instead surrender to it. We can’t remain on the lam from pain forever. The running and deflecting and numbing always cause more trouble than the pain would have. Healing begins when we stop running and turn ourselves in. We say: here I am, pain. I give up. Have your way with me. All that stuff really happened. I’ll let myself feel it now. Then I’ll tell the story and let other people feel it, too.

This holy self surrender happened to my friend, Laura recently. And so when she sent me this essay  – about turning in her grandfather for sexually abusing her and the beautiful policeman’s reaction – I read it without breathing. I posted it and your responses, as always, were real and brutal and true and holy and I read every single one and sat and cried my way through the pain and beauty of you. While I was reading, Amy texted me and said, “What can I do? How can I help you through the trauma?” She knew what I was doing and how I was feeling because she was in her house reading and feeling, too. I called her and we sat on the phone quietly for a while. And then I said – “You know, what strikes me is how desperately we all need to know that we are seen and heard. We don’t need our lives to be different, or easier, we just need someone to see the pain. To know what we’ve faced and overcome.  To say: Yes. I see this. This is real. We don’t need a magician to take it all away – we just need a witness.” Tweet: We don’t need life to be different or easier, we just need someone to see the pain. We just need a witness @momastery http://ctt.ec/d9XdR+

And Amy said, “I think that’s right. That’s what you’ve always needed, too. They are your witnesses. They read your stories and they say: yes, we see you, Glennon. And we not only see you but we see us in you. And that means that we are not alone. We might hurt, but we are not alone.”

The next day I had to leave to speak at some wonderful events. One was called C21 and it was magical. When my turn to speak came, I just told a love story about this place, about you, like I always do. I am a traveling lovestoryteller. It’s a good gig.

Not kidding

*Long Lovestory. Tell ya soon, promise. Hint: this is what God says to me most often.

My friend Colby Martin spoke at C21 too. He was fantastic. Colby and his wife, Kate are holy rascals from San Diego. They kept getting kicked out of churches for loving the wrong (right) people, so they finally just started their own church. Now they’re free to love whomever they want to love, which is everybody. They lead Sojourn Grace Collective and it’s a beautiful place. Every Sunday they get in a circle and hold hands and chant: “Be brave because you’re a child of God, be kind because everyone else is, too.” I’m taking my kids to their church next month because I really want to stand in that circle.

After the first day at the conference I got back to the hotel, changed into my jammies and then went to the lobby to get a candy bar (which is healthier than a real bar so: yay me). Colby and his friend Mathew were there. They told me that the Sunday before, they’d used our “Whatever, I’m Fabulous” post as a springboard for a special church project at Sojourners. They read the essay and then asked their folks to write letters to people who’d hurt them so they could be witnesses for themselves. So they could pull out their pain and bring it out into the light- where it’s always less scary. Colby and Matthew and Kate wanted the Sojourners to write their pain and name it and face it. We are all afraid to do that. We want to pretend we’re not hurt- but admitting we actually are is our only hope. Colby said people wrote and wrote and wrote and stayed and stayed and curled up into balls and some cried and Colby curled up with them and cried too because that’s Colby. Colby and Kate are really, really good witnesses. Loving witnesses. They listen closely.

Loving Witnesses

Colby said, “It was awesome, G. Amazing. Thanks for writing that. So now I’ve got this trunk-load full of letters and I’ve got to figure out something special to do with them.”

And I said, “You have them with you now? Well, let’s go in the parking lot and burn them.”

Colby said: “Burn them? Now?”

And I said, “Yeah, Why not?  Let’s go burn all that pain into ashes.”

Okay, let’s go. Colby said.

This is us. We did not get burned or arrested and the only explanation for that is that Jesus loves us both very much.

Burning 1

I think since Colby is a preacher and a husband who should not be objectified we should probably not notice or mention how ridiculously good looking he is.

Actually, let’s just spend a moment not noticing or mentioning that.

 

 

Well done, Very mature guys. We are growing up, I think.

Burning 3

Burning 2

Anyway. This is what I want to do. I want to be your witness. I love you and I want to fix your pain but I can’t do that and I shouldn’t do that because like joy, pain is holy and it should not be snatched away from people. I won’t do that to you. I won’t be a pain snatcher. But I will witness for you. This is what I do. This is my work. I make space in my heart for other people’s stories: I let my heart break open for you – that is the greatest honor of my work. It’s not the writing, it’s the reading. It’s not the speaking, it’s the listening. Did you know that every single day I wrap up in this prayer shawl some Cincinnati Monkees weaved for me and read your stories?

Your letters

This is what’s changing me. If I am getting kinder and wider and more forgiving and closer to being love- it’s because of your stories. It’s because to really know humanity is to deeply and fiercely love humanity.

And so here is what Amy and I would like to offer you. If you would like to write down your story, your hurt, your pain, your past – if you would like to get it all out and put it on paper and send it to us- we would love to read it. I know it’s scary. Remember: scared and sacred are sisters.

Write it down. If you are like me, that will be the start of your healing. Put it in an envelope. Send it to: Momastery, PO Box 7294, Naples, FL 34101 and on the back write: Can I get a witness? Amy and I will collect these letters for a month. Then we will take them to the beach and we will read them carefully and prayerfully and we will open our hearts wide and let your story in and we will SEE you and say YES. I see you. I believe you. This happened to you. You survived this. You did. And we will sign your story. We will make ourselves your official witnesses. And then we will burn your story. We will turn it into ashes which is to say that we will not destroy it- nothing can ever be destroyed- but we will use fire to transform it into something else. Something different. Something new. If it takes us ten nights to read and sign the letters, that’s fine- but we’ll wait to burn them all at once, so that all our pain and triumph will be mixed together into one pile of fire –  then smoke  – then hot ashes -

then cool ashes.

Cool ashes can’t burn us.

 

That’s what I can do. I can be your witness, as you have been for me.

I love you. I love us.

Amy and I will be waiting for your letter with broken-wide-open hearts.

 



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


Jan 292015
 

Originally published February 13, 2010

Speaking of TishMothers always whisper to their babies how special, how beautiful, how brilliant they are, how there has never been another baby in the history of the world as perfect as they are. I certainly whispered all these same things to my babies. Chase took them with a grain of salt, like most babies do. I’m sure he thought “Aw. So cute. Mom’s in love.” Tish, on the other hand, believed every word I said. When Tish heard me whisper these things into her teeny ear, her reaction was: “ YES. Exactly as I suspected. It seems I am some sort of GODDESS. Fan.damn.TASTIC.” And no one has been able to convince her otherwise since.

I’d like to offer an example. Several months ago my preschoolers were doing a project involving mounds of glitter, or “sprinkles,” as Tish calls them. Glitter, as every preschool teacher knows, is absolutely essential and absolutely impossible to clean up. It sticks to everything. So after this particular project, I decided to shake all the excess glitter into the toilet. That seemed to work, so we finished cleaning up and called it a day.

Later that evening, Sister came over for dinner and she was in the middle of a story at the table. Tishy interrupted her and said the following:

“Scuse me. I have to tell you guys something important. Today, I was pooing, and sprinkles came out of my bottom.”

We all stared, quietly.

Tish looked around at us, one at a time, and realized we were lost.

So she clarified. She said, “YOU GUYS. I POO SPRINKLES.”

None of us had any damn idea what she was talking about. That night in bed I burst out laughing when I figured it out.

When I told Bubba and Tisha the story, they had these mugs made.

Sprinkles mugs

My wish for you today is that you will regard yourself so highly that you too, start believing that sprinkles come out of your bottom. Tweet: My wish for you is to regard yourself so highly that you, too, believe sprinkles come out of your bottom. http://ctt.ec/qHeCU+ ‎@momastery

That is all.



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


Jan 222015
 

Caminante

I’ve been asked to travel to see the work of international aid groups more times than I can count. I’ve always said no, for three reasons. First, I have a dear friend who works for a relief group abroad and she often has to stop serving in order to make up work for visiting Americans to do. She needs to accept these visitors because her program needs their sponsorship money, but it’s a real drain on her resources when Americans come. Second, many of these aid groups are faith-based and to tell you the truth, I worry that some faith-based aid organizations use service as a means to further their agendas. That concerns me. I just want people to love each other and serve each other without trying to convert each other. Third, my comfort zone is exactly the size of my cloffice. I don’t much like leaving the house, much less THE COUNTRY. For all these reasons, it seemed right to privately support the international groups I love while publicly working my butt off domestically, through Together Rising.

But trying to keep your circles small instead of allowing them to widen never, ever works in the long run. Enter: Amy. Amy joined the Momastery team years ago and swiftly became a sister to Sister and me. Amy used to work for CWS and knew in her bones that Momastery and CWS would be a perfect match, so over the years she’d send me links to work CWS was doing that she knew would make me swoon.  (Look G! Here’s the CWS president, getting arrested for advocating for refugee children! Look, G—LOOK. CWS staff are putting themselves in harm’s way to protect LGBT people in South Africa from violence and persecution. G, do you see how CWS is supporting food pantries all over the US and doing the long, slow work of recovery in areas hit by disaster? And how, in their work overseas, CWS doesn’t simply go into places with their own program ideas, but, whenever possible, supports people doing great work in their own countries?)

After studying CWS closely, I decided it was time to expand our Momastery family circle to the whole wild world. I trusted the people at CWS to help us do that carefully and right. I gave Amy the go ahead to explore a partnership. And then one day Amy and I found ourselves in a meeting with CWS and they told me about a woman named Denisse Pichardo who is running a program called Caminante in the Dominican Republic that helps get child sex workers off the streets and safe and educated.

And they asked if I’d travel to meet Denisse and see this work and how CWS has come alongside to support her. And I smiled and said: THAT IS AMAZING. ALSO, NO. Nope. That woman is working hard enough without having some American lady come stare at her all day. No. Sorry. No way. I will send her all the love and support in the world but I will not be a drain on that woman.

CWS said: what would it take to get you to visit? And I said, an invitation, probably. From her, not from CWS. I love you- but I’m not going anywhere because you want me to. I’m only going if that badass sister wants me to. And I just can’t imagine why she would.

A month later, I opened my email to see this:

Dear Glennon,

Please receive my greetings of peace, full of God´s grace and life.

I have heard about your great life testimony from my friends at Church World Service, Caminante’s long standing partner, and I would love to hear more directly from you. But I cannot leave my work here with the children to visit you. They need me and they really need all of us working together to support them. They need the world to hear their stories.

I want to invite you to come to the Dominican Republic to visit Caminante Proyecto Educativo (Caminante Educational Project), a nonprofit I started. I work in Boca Chica with children, adolescents, young people and families who are vulnerable to different social problems. Many of these children are survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, drugs, gangs and terrible violence.

I’d love to share with you about my work with these children and also learn from you about the inspirational work you do for thousands of women in your own country. It would be a real honor for me to host you so you can meet the children and hear from them first-hand about their lives. I will do our best to make your days enjoyable and fulfilling at Caminante and in Boca Chica.

Warm greetings,

Denisse Pichardo
Executive Director
Caminante Proyecto Educativo

And I had the reaction any do-gooder would: daaaaaaamnit.

But the bottom line here is that if a badass nun from the Dominican Republic who has devoted her entire life to getting children off the streets and into the lives they deserve beckons you, you just put on your big girl pants and go.

And so, in November, I went. I have been reflecting on this trip since then, deciding how I want to tell you about it—because I have so much to tell. I started to write it all down to tell you all about it one fell swoop, but I realized that there is too much—it is too beautiful and too full to share with you in just one sitting. I want to introduce you to the people we met slowly, like presents for us to open up together and examine.

But first and of course, today I want to introduce you to HER.

Denisse PichardoFriends, meet Denisse Pichardo, Dominican lay nun, founder of Caminante, winner of the 2011 World of Children Award, partner of CWS, Lover of the Light.

Denisse is a Dominican nun with the Order of the Altagracia. In 1994, she was sent to the city of Boca Chica with the task of assessing the needs of the city. Denisse knew no one in the city and had no idea what to expect, so, as soon as she arrived, she began walking—walking down streets and through neighborhoods, up and down the beach, walking all day and into the long nights. And what Denisse discovered in Boca Chica broke her heart. She found children sleeping in the streets, without access to basic resources or schooling. She saw extreme poverty. And, at the heart of it, she saw foreign tourists preying on local children, especially young girls, many of whom were being forced into the growing sex tourism trade.

Denisse reported back what she was seeing and she stayed put. She didn’t have any money to rent a meeting space, so she gathered children under trees and on beaches and began to teach. She taught them basic school lessons and began talking to them about their rights. She told these precious ones that even though they were abused, forgotten and abandoned by the world, they were children of God and deserved to be treated as such. She promised them that they were wildly and completely loved.

Denisse also started writing. She wrote down dreams for what she would like to do in the city, grant applications and requests for funding. CWS was the first organization to respond and has been her partner ever since, supporting her over the last 20 years as she gradually turned her school under a tree into a well-run non-profit called Caminante Proyecto Educativo (Caminante Educational Project). Caminante means “We Walk Together,” and from how it all started to what they are doing today, I can’t imagine a more perfect name.

We spent three days visiting Caminante programs and meeting people whose lives have been transformed by Denisse’s work, and I kept wondering—How in the world did she DO all this? How does someone go from walking the beaches and simply talking to kids to building an organization providing education, therapy, health care and protection to an entire region?

Denisse doesn’t stop caminante-ing long enough to take many questions, but she sat with us and told us her story on a long van ride on the way to visit programs outside the city. We finally got to ask—how did she get from there to here?

She told us that while she did not grow up rich in any sort of material way, she was surrounded by a wealth of women—a strong assortment of aunts who challenged her and raised her up towards who she is today. And she had books. She remembers discovering books about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and being captivated by his life and his work. His words advocating for justice in the far away United States unlocked the idea in her that she — a poor, black girl in the Dominican Republic – had rights and worth as well. And she told us that somehow she has always, always known she is loved — loved so radically and completely by God that she wants nothing more than to make sure that everyone she comes in contact with feels love like this as well.

As we were talking to Denisse about her life and her work and her deep Catholic faith, she asked us if we knew about Pope Francis, and how he invited people to step out of their comfortable lives and churches and go out into the streets and into people’s lives and “make a mess.” Then she laughed and said, “Oh! If Francis were walking here with me today we would make such a mess together!” My jaw dropped open and even though we were traveling down a bumpy rural road the moment got real still and holy. Because isn’t that what we are all trying to do? Just walk alongside one another down this messy, beautiful path of life? Maybe it doesn’t matter where we live, what we look like, who or how we serve—once we accept the invitation to love, our lives are turned in one crazy, beautiful mess. 

Denisse was the 2011 recipient of the World of Children Award, which has been called the Nobel Peace prize for people working with children. She is a really big deal. But she doesn’t seem to care much about that–she has much more important things on her mind. At the end of our van ride we arrived at the destination and climbed out to and climbed out to visit a new CWS-supported health program and a community school run by another local partner, SSID. Denisse immediately got to work—gathering the children in the school together and getting them to recite back to her their rights. Telling them that she loved them and that they were worthy of this love. Reminding them to remember who they are, and what they can grow up to be.

Denisse teaching

Denisse

G and Denisse

Thank you, Denisse. Thank you Amy and Don and Luciano and Angie and everyone at CWS for being such good, true FRIENDS to the world. That is what I to be. I don’t want to be a helper – I just want to be a friend. I just want to keep letting my circle ever widen. Thank YOU- Monkees and Together Rising for being my circle, and for always, always making room for a few more.

Actually I think we are more of a horseshoe than a circle. Open. Always open. Always holding space for someone new.

Make a mess, friends.



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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