I struggle against myself. Can’t shake this feeling that I should be something more, do something more…The things that I love are not enough.
Bagels with sundried tomato and caramelized onion.
The smell of lavender.
Reading the Psalms out loud.
Holding hands while taking a walk. No where particular. Just being together.
Sun-warmed skin. Freckled.
Watching the birds through the kitchen window while slowly sipping morning coffee.
Pesto. I love pesto.
The smell of roasting garlic and baking bread.
Trips to the bookstore.
Driving with the windows down.
Long, slow kisses from the one I love that go nowhere but deeper and deeper.
A story that makes me cry. And laugh. A good story. Fact or fiction.
A free day to write. Looking out the window and seeing the ocean. Or mountains. Trees and sky.
A long run before dawn and watching the sun rise through it.
But do I love myself?
She asks it in the back—in the discussion or reflection questions. It’s number 2:
Do you think you love yourself? If not or if so, how might this affect your relationship to God and others? (L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard).
Sometimes, he says—his thick Nigerian accent giving song to the words. Sometimes I think we need to tune up our spirits the way we tune up our cars.
His smile. It dazzles.
He nods to my friend. She knows.
That’s when the singing starts.
I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you, oh, my soul rejoice…
Other voices join hers and we sing it together, over and over until the words begin to take form…embodied.
When we waver, his voice booms louder, until we feel the words too…believe.
Take joy, my King, in what you hear…may it be a sweet sweet sound in your ears.
The Bible on his lap becomes a drum and he throws his head back and closes his eyes. I can see that his legs want to move. When our voices trail off again he urges us on…
Keep singing, keep singing, he says. And then he says, In Africa…in Africa when we sing…We rock!
We all laugh, and it is his joy that is contagious.
And then he speaks to us about what it means to be a child of God.
Have you ever seen the president walk? He asks, lilting voice.
He demonstrates a little…preens, walks cocky.
He knows who he is.
He leans forward—closer into our eyes.
We should know who we are.
I sit up straighter. But really, I am stunned.
I’ve heard this line of talk before.
I am a daughter of the King.
Yes, this I know. But does my heart?
I hear this from a middle-aged Nigerian man who must fight for his faith in ways I will never never face and I am stunned.
He knows the joy.
The joy of being a child of God.
It is written all over him. He knows that he is loved. He knows that he is special.
And he is free to love himself.
Why am I not?
Middle child. Quiet one. Well-behaved and overlooked. Loving self was considered selfishness.
But she gives these words and my palms start to sweat:
Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on the earth to offer others. (Parker Palmer quoted by L.L. Barkat in God in the Yard).
If I am the bridge that everyone walks over, how will I ever get to the other side?
This morning as I run I feel the footprints all over me. My fingers itch to let go…toes curl under the strain of the holding.
How does one stop this bit of craziness? This bridging between, making everything okay for everyone else?
I know all the answers. But I like hers better:
…I also recommend a year outdoors, dangerous poetry, and Psalm 139. (L.L. Barkat, God in the Yard).
is more than
shriveled skin soothed
by oil. it is a ripple
from that womb-
knitting, that unhidden
knows. love is the
long kiss and the sun-
glow clasped gently
in the guiding hand;
the hand that pries
loose fingers and
hand that slides
gently around the
curves of body
and heart. searching
me. searching me.
This was written in response to week ten of L.L. Barkat’s God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us. Join me?
Photo of Bridge painting, water color and gauche, by Laura