Present.

It took me 8 months, to even think about Rina’s death.

And another 4 to bring me to this moment. A year later. Willing to soften, and feel, and remember. Last night I felt an old familiar pull, tugging away at the cusp of my mind…raspy and coercive, trying to betray my softened heart…the only way to feel safe it to be strong, wall up, shut down, it said…and I almost listened…

Perhaps, sometimes we have to be strong for those around us, sometimes logistics like funeral planning, and calling family, and arranging death certificates have to be done. Sometimes mourning must be postponed. And sometimes, we need to fall apart.

Sometimes, we need to be present in the feelings that we have. And I, I do not do that so well. I have preferred protection over presence.  But last night, i journeyed down the path of life alongside Rina, sweet memories flooding my mind, as the tears in my eyes. And i realized….there is no rule that says we have to be strong. For ourselves, or others.

We mostly, just have to be present…in joy, in pain, in suffering, death, and newness. Feel what we feel, don’t hide… be. present.  For even above strength, perhaps presence in the greatest testimony to Love.

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Today we mark the one year anniversary of Rina’s Freedom from suffering. Our community will mourn and rejoice…but not as those without hope…

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Steps towards home.

Dolly. Her name’s rolling like marbles around my brain, bumping into sadness and joy.  It settles on the memory of our interaction. Remember me? she wonders.

I remember.

For a second her face cracks a smile that lights up darkened rooms.  She is glorious.

And I too will remember, why it is I’ve come to be in this area.

Dolly.

As I wondered back to our office I passed a street lined with women. Young girls painted to pre-maturity. Shining, radiant girls, deserving of all depths of respect and opportunity.  Draped on steps and cars and crumbling walls, the landscaping of a well worn garden.

And my brain sorts through feelings. I recognize and wonder. Eye contact offers such windows. What got her to this place? Who remembers her? What will convincer her that there’s more?

Sari Bari stands in such stark difference to the alleys right outside our door.

Full of light, laughter, reminders of value and love. A safe place to fall apart. A well worn track of footsteps to different a way.  We walk around our office barefoot. We leave our shoes at the door. That is what I hope for the women I passed today, may the feet that have carried them through suffering, lead them further.  I hope for shoes left at the door, and steps towards what it feels like to be at home…

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December Newsletter.

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The last six months.

One step at a time slowly turned into my journey.

I was worn thin. Bent low with the heaviness of depression and anxiety. Burned out and ashamed.  Afraid of being exposed.  Afraid that the God I followed to India would leave me alone to battle who I had become.

But He does not leave us alone.

Our Darkness. Our Light. He leans into both. Emmanuel, a God with us, all twisted, chaotic, and selfish…we are not alone.

Two weeks ago, I received devastating news from my other home. One of my Sari Bari sisters lost her husband. Theirs is not an easy story, and my heart has been a harbor for anger and resentment miles deep against this man…A woman, left a widow in India, is a woman left alone.

My God! I cried, why do our women have to be so strong! Why do any of us have to be so strong…

Are you only the God of rich white people, bringing comfort and ease?

No, you were the God of slaves.

Enduring suffering. Awaiting exodus. Left alone.

And that is our promise.

Even for widows.  Even for us.

Presence, in darkness and in light…

I prepare for my return to Kolkata on January 13th. And I am incredibly thankful.  My Kolkata community has taken on a heavy added responsibly in allowing me the last six months to rest in the US. I am humbled and grateful. My friends, my family, my church have loved me and reminded me of grace.  That it is not just something we extend…

The past few months I have spent in Jacksonville, Florida with a dear friend of mine.  She opened her home, her heart, and her listening ear to me.  I received counseling by a generous and wise couple who gave freely of their time and compassion.  They embodied the voice of Love. I painted and cooked. I learned to breathe and cry.  I took a class in abnormal psychology, and began to dream again.  In essence, this very broken, angry, cynical and fearful girl, is again coming alive.  I went to India in 2004 with the prayer that God would send me to the people who had the hardest time believing He was good, but the tragedy and trauma we experience in Kolkata teaches even the softest of hearts to retreat, protect, grow solid…

But I refuse to shake the dust off my heels and shut the door.  And this Christmas season, I am incredibly thankful for a God who refused to do the same for me…He loved, that we might love.  A God among us, the depressed, the widows, the lonely, the afraid, the self-sufficient…

May we celebrate together the promise of Presence in darkness and light this season.  Wherever you are on your journey, may you remember, that it starts as slow unsteady steps. One foot in front of another, until we turn around to see how far we’ve come.

Merry Christmas, and thank you all for your love and support and prayers for me these last few months as I have learned to be restored.

Much love,

Beth

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The journey begins with a step.

friends, it has been a long while. and this morning i emerge, a wee bit…with ben howard as my soundtrack, i put another foot forward to begin this day…

as many of you know, i have been in the US for over 5 months…i have needed rest. i realized i could push through, gritty and steely, no more.  i have been ashamed to show my weakness. i bend and break too often on the fleeting opinion of others. yet here i am, taking a very unexpected break from those i love, to remember that my life too has value…that care for ourselves allows us to care for others.  we can only take others where we have gone ourselves. and in the depths of our darkness, perhaps we discover a newer truer version of us than we ever thought possible.  this morning i am thankful for this journey. oh so different than i had ever expected…

i stumbled across a few writings from the past few months that i’d like to share…

August 1, 2012~

Mourning & dancing.

Weeping & Waiting and Sorrow will fill my spaces still again.

I am sad and smiling. And the sun still beats down. And the wind whispers around me.

And I cry. Healing, relaxing, remembering all take time and patience.

And I ask God not yet to go. And ask, and ask, and ask…where have You been, when I was so alone?

And interspersed among deep wounds…loss…trauma…worry…mourning…and disappointment…

Is my heart beat…

You’re.

Not.

Dead.

Yet.

September 11, 2012~

Today, I tried to walk backwards and could not go.

Where troubles abound…darkness, despair, the great alone.

And then, I remembered, I’ve already lived those days, walked, crawled through.

I do not need to dig up graves today. And so, I let those weary bones lie.

Today, I remembered that I am loved.

I allowed the sunlight to soak through me and heal me.

Darkness and light, both so close.

We breathe and go deeper into both.

Today I was less afraid than I was alive.

Today, was good.

The Branch.

Trust. How can something so fragile be also steadying…grounding…

I think of marriages, friendships, community. Years to build intimacy…the moments in between weaving memories, experiences, strengths that stack upon each other, and create and bond…and yet we are still so vulnerable. A slip up, a series of harsh words, broken promises in disrepair, and strength can turn to a house of cards.

Trust. A paradox of our lives. Fragile yet steadying.

I think of God. And our trusting in the midst of apparent absence. in the midst of suffering and despair. in places of disgust and frustration.

We have promises on a page… of availability and sustenance. We have moments that remind us that Trust is necessary.

I Trust because here, in Kolkata, there is no where else to turn…

As a dear friend described to me last night…if we were free falling off a cliff…pushed clean off our feet, we’d grab for whatever branch we could find to hold on to…it is an adequate descriptor for Faith in God especially in this place…life is unstable, it is difficult to see Goodness. It is difficult to trust in promises that seem distant, but when one is free falling…there is no other choice but to grab on and hold…even if by a branch…even if our faith is fragile…and trust seems futile.  When one is tumbling down a cliff, even a branch is better than the alternative…

I share with you a psalm i wrote Sunday…and a prayer from Walter Brueggemann to end…if you feel offended, please take a look at Pslam 142…we’re not that un-similar, David and us…perhaps the more we can practice being honest…the deeper our trust in the Branch will grow…

A Psalm of Faith

It’s like you get us when our hearts are soft

then let us get stabbed in the back. fucked.

What do we get for putting our Trust in You?

Maybe you’re too busy giving  new iphones and parking places to hear the cries of the poor and the suffering…

We’re trying. Trying to trust. Trying to hope and dream and be.

Longing to allow You to move in and through us.

We fight & submit. Fight & submit.

To Trust.

But our deepest final choice is You.

It always will be.

We’ve got nothing outside of that.

We can control nothing.

We are not safe from heartache, or sickness, death, disappointment, nor pain.

We are not safe from your absence.

But we can still believe. We acknowledge that outside of Faith in You, holding things in tension, making things right by the slow changing of the tide…there is nothing.

And we have made our choice…

Amen.

Against a Closed Sky

God of all our times;

We have known since the day of our birth

that our primal task is to grow to basic trust in you,

to rely on you in every circumstance,

to know that you would return when you are away,

to trust that in your absence you will soon be present,

to be assured that you silence bespeaks attentiveness

and not neglect,

to know that in your abiding faithfulness,

“all will be well, and all will be well”.

We do trust in you:

we are named by your name,

and bonded in your service.

We are among those who sing your praise

and who know of your deep faithfulness.

You, you however, are not easy to trust:

We pray against a close sky;

our hope reduced to auto-suggestion;

our petitions are more habit than hope;

our intercessions are kindly gestures of well-being.

Sometimes more many times not,

because your silence and absence,

your indifference and tardiness are glaring among us.

We are drawn to find lesser gods,

easier loyalties,

many forms of self trust….

that do not even fool us.

On this Friday of remembered pain and echoing deathliness,

We pray for new measures of passion,

for fresh waves of resolve,

for courage, energy, and freedom, to be our true selves…

waiting in confidence,

and while waiting, acting our life towards you

in your ways of forgiving generosity.

We pray in the name of Jesus who trusted fully, and

who is himself fully worthy of our Trust.

Amen.

-Walter Brueggemann