Where do you belong?

Who do you belong to?

What belongs to you?

I wrestle with these words. As I ponder and wonder about true belonging, some thoughts come to mind that I believe have significance in sharing today.

I don’t belong to anyone. I do belong to someone.

I don’t belong there. I do belong there.

This doesn’t belong to me. This does belong to me.

The pattern here is that I feel like I don’t belong, yet know that I do. To think I don’t belong as a valued contributor to a person or community, is a false perception; yet sometimes I err and fall into this belief. To assume something doesn’t belong to me — yet to eventually and graciously acknowledge that it does, is common for me. Self-deprecating has been my go-to for too long (I’m working on it). Such is the conundrum of this term — and I know I am not alone in this paradox of belonging. Not quite fitting in, feeling degrees of awkwardness, second guessing a kind gesture, etc. This confusion of belonging can hit a tender heart hard; while habitually choosing to play it safe — means more seclusion, more isolation, less companionship and the dreaded FOMO.

At epic levels of isolation for many people during these dragged-out months of social distancing, being alone (or with few personal contacts) can be a positive, productive time of strategic networking, expanding your worldview and renewing your mind (see Romans 12:2). Or cleaning your house, your car or the hundreds thousands of emails in your inbox you didn’t get around to reading. But for people who were already struggling with abandonment, loneliness or discouragement, the tendency is to disappear a little deeper into the hole of faux acceptance, fearing being seen and continually making excuses. Hiding behind screens is “safer”, but what cost to your current emotional well-being and future? What happens when it’s time to rejoin society in public outings, assuming you don’t belong? There is a problem in feeling “accepted” by what is actually harmful, where the false sense of security isn’t obvious, but can be dangerously enveloping.

Since I decided to increase my visibility earlier this year, I’ve had many conversations with people who have been appreciating my expressed vulnerability. Yet, it has been mostly controlled openness. I think self control is a powerful, important virtue that should be understood better. In the Greek, it is egkrateia, which means temperance. Voluntary self-restraint. Typically, self control refers to keeping lust under control; temptations that are harmful to many facets of your life, including lust for excess, popularity and influence. Of course, many people find no fault with wanting and accumulating more. When it turns into an obsessive or unhealthy lack of temperance, a line has been crossed. Not ironic to this discussion is the related word “temper” and how quickly inflamed the temper can become, when the discipline of self control is nonexistent. The “fruit of the spirit” is literally food/fuel for each individual; imagine a world in which we all partake of that daily soul nutrition. Throw in the daily virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness to balance your soul’s diet. When any of these virtues are missing, you will be spiritually sluggish (sorry for the too-many cheesy Sunday school-esque phrases).

The fruit of the spirit reference of self control, is in Galatians 5:23. In Micah 6:8, there is an OT counterpart to the term. As I expound on the scripture a bit, the Hebrew tzniut is the discipline of mastering self control (usually in terms of modesty). As I have been thinking about self control a lot in recent days and how to better line up my attitude and behaviour with my intentions, I keep coming back to realizing how I’ve failed to model self control. Because of this, many things in my life are not as they should be …. which then adds to insecurities, doubts and worries. If I had really good habits of self control over the years, I’d feel more structure, more stability, more …. belonging.

Back to belonging! You belong. I belong. I know this because you and I are forces for good in this world. We can be empathetic helpers, kindness ambassadors, earth caregivers and humanity problem-solvers. We can breathe, love, serve, bleed, dream, dance, create, fix, share, cry, etc. The whole human experience is right here, in you and me. Don’t keep all of this powerful, life-giving essence to yourself — or just people who look like you and talk like you. Labels, tribes, ill-suited categories, conspiracists and preferred population demographics need to go. All people belong and need to feel like they do — including me. This is why I started to write today, not knowing the direction the words would take me. There is deep relief and invigoration in my spirit from how God has been gently guiding me, putting these words on my heart today about belonging …. and I praise and thank Him for the opportunity to share them.

Carolyn

Beautiful Awakening

Last night, I was looking at some of my old writings I’d kept deeply hidden in cloud files (assuming ‘clouds’ are private). Sometimes only a paragraph. Sometimes a full page. Sometimes I wrote and stopped in mid-sentence …. I can’t remember all those moments, per se, but I have memories of tearfully getting out phrases, laments, tumultuous ramblings and a few choice swear words — we all do it, no shame here. A quick mention re: strong language. Philippians 3:8 speaks of rubbish and in that context, it was acceptable enough to be included in the Canon.

As this unprecedented social distancing season(s) keeps on sputtering along, there’s been an awakening in me — truly an enriching sense of wonder, yet a dread remains; the fear of continued loss, failure, heartache, angst, etc. But, back to the *beautiful awakening* — like a breath of fresh air, this blissful renewing of my mind, heart, spirit, and the desire to love and care for my physical body, is providing the electrical current I have needed for so long. I was running on empty. The switch has been activated, yet the demons (perhaps not the proper terminology, but we probably all have them, to some degree) poke at me and want me to feel like my life entirely sucks. A complicated mess of a human. “A shell of my former self” (I’ve heard that one before). A loser (another memory I’d like to forget — *sigh).

During the moments when I’ve been sensing formidable emotional healing and restoration, I usually have tears of joy amidst crying out words of gratitude to God. This happens when I feel like things are going to be okay, all things considered. Only the Omniscient One knows the worst of my offenses, yet the grace being poured out on me feels rejuvenating. I love those moments of connecting with the ultimate, comforting force in the universe. Who can harm me, when God is for me? What can the enemy of my soul do, to crush me? The *beautiful awakening* is a real thing happening in my spirit, while so many mysteries remain and disheartening challenges are beyond my control.

The following, is something I wrote in November of last year, which I posted to Instagram. (A childhood friend saw the post and told me to “keep writing”.) The day before, I unexpectedly lost my job at a company I enjoyed working for. Discarded. No longer valued or wanted. It felt like a relationship breakup, death and impending financial ruin all rolled into one word: terminated. The despair came back with a vengeance ….

When the dark night of the soul comes back to throw rubbish at me and accuse me (the accuser is always doing this, by the way), I can either give in to the despair or fight back with resilience. When my supply of confidence and strength are low, I lack the ability to brush off the discouragement. The walls close in on me and I feel like hiding again (as has been my pattern). I’ve been taking many steps forward but a few back. Such is recovery.

The following, is something I wrote in November of last year, which I posted to Instagram. (A childhood friend saw the post and told me to “keep writing”.) The day before, I unexpectedly lost my job at a company I enjoyed working for. Discarded. No longer valued or wanted. It felt like a relationship breakup, death and impending financial ruin all rolled into one word: terminated. The despair came back with a vengeance ….

Another action I took, as I was grieving the loss of that job, was something I couldn’t fathom doing on that Friday; yet a few days later, I took each name of everyone in the close-knit company and offered a parting remark. It was painful and the tears flowed …. the faces, voices, memories of each one; I felt God infusing me with the courage to do this, even though I initially wrestled with it. Yet, I did it for my wellness and to demonstrate the character of the person I intend to be, who was just let go, with no hard feelings. Bitterness doesn’t serve anyone, anytime. It felt like an enormous burden was lifted from my body and I no longer felt sorry for myself. I will share my parting words, without providing any names — then the kind response from one of my managers. It immediately warmed my heart and gave me the closure I needed.

xxxxxx — I appreciate so many things about you.

xxx — The tunes! You have great taste in music.

xxxxx — You taught me so many things, thank you.

xxxxx — Your brain in quickly figuring out things!

xxxxx — Your advice and thoughtfulness everyday.

xxxxxx — Your experience in complex situations.

xxxxxx — You are the kindest salesperson and coworker.

xxxxxx — Your many attributes make you strong and wise.

xxxxxxxx — You will have great success, so nice meeting you.

xxxxxxx — Thanks for the friendly breakroom chats.

xxxx — I appreciated your quick attention to my emails!

xxxxxxxx — Thank you for always fixing my computer!

xxxxxxx — You have the absolute best laugh!

xxxx — Thanks for offering advice whenever I needed help.

xxxxxx — I wish every company had someone like you!

xxxxxx — Your friendly office helloes!

xxxxxxxx — You are a kind person, such a great example.

xxxxx — You have so many attributes I admire in great leadership.

xxxxxxxx — Thanks for sharing your precious dog at the office.

xxxxxx — Your helpfulness everyday in lots of situations.

xxxxxx — Your hilarious shenanigans and hard work!

xxxxx — Thanks for the chats and always being so helpful.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Carolyn:

I certainly wish you great success in all you endeavour to do.

Keep your spirits high and walk tall.

Thank you for your wonderful email and thoughtfulness.

Warm regards,

xxxxx

That’s all for tonight. Hopefully tomorrow, and all my tomorrows will have a *beautiful awakening*

Carolyn

Posted byCarolyn Joy SimpsonMay 15, 2020Posted inUncategorized2 Commentson Beautiful AwakeningEditBeautiful AwakeningFeatured

Thriving Mothers …and Others

As Mother’s Day 2020 rolls on, I find myself itching to get out complicated expressions — some I don’t know how to properly articulate. So, here is my attempt to speak what is in my heart, through these words.

So many wonderful memories of our mothers, our children; mothers we have known and been inspired by; legendary, selfless “mothers” who were never actual parents — such as Mother Teresa. We all have a mother story.

Some women never became mothers, because they struggled to conceive; experienced the sorrow of pregnancy loss; decided motherhood wasn’t for them; or the direction they took in life didn’t lead to pregnancy and childbirth.

I am processing an emotional ache today, on Mother’s Day and I know I’m not the only one. The maternal bonds are strong for many women, yet there are factors; such as physical distancing and circumstances of misfortune. Despite the situations beyond my own control, I will not feel defeated. The hope for better tomorrows is gently leading me forward.

I feel the need to offer a poetic meditative statement for the women who are feeling less than optimal joy today. They may feel like they are the “others”, marginalized, forgotten, less than ….

So, for the remainder of today, know that you are loved, cherished, revered, appreciated, wanted, desired and respected …. because you are a woman. Reflect the radiance inside you, lovingly, tenderly and completely.

Carolyn

Posted byCarolyn Joy SimpsonMay 10, 2020Posted inUncategorizedTags:Mother’s Day2 Commentson Thriving Mothers …and OthersEditThriving Mothers …and OthersFeatured

Photos and Tears

Heavy heart tonight. These have been the strangest of times for …. everyone? Of course, I can only share from my own experience. I was just looking through some old photos of faces, places, homes, vacations, some dearly departed relatives and pets — I have hundreds of images from the days in which we had to go to a store and buy the photos we ordered (even before knowing how they would turn out).

Every time I see myself in a photo, there’s an instant memory. If I was smiling, I recalled why or who was making me smile. What were my challenges at the time? My frustrations? My successes? My dreams coming true? What was happening all around me, not captured in the shot? Who took the photo? (These were the days before selfies — even the suggestion there would ever be a thing as a “selfie” would have been laughable.)

Why is my heart heavy this evening, allowing myself to “go there”…. where the pain is, the grief over losses represented in some of the images? Why does it sting so much to be confronted by these memories? Why is my heart not letting me stop this damn ache from sabotaging the otherwise, pleasant vibes?

Unresolved grief can come in waves, sometimes unexpectedly; even many years after losing someone you loved, something you treasured but lost, missing a friend you’ve grown distant from, sadness from losing the job that gave you fulfilment, the house you lived in, the financial security that is gone, the good health and youthful vitality you enjoyed, etc. Most of these examples of losses are hitting me through the chest tonight, so what else should I do after letting the tears fall and asking God to take my pain and do something with it? Well, I felt a nudge to keep lamenting and to write through it, despite the dread of possibly opening up and spilling out TMI.

I can’t discuss all of my sensitive, complicated, no-good areas of grief in this letter tonight. But they are very real, palpable and valid; just as your pain is to be recognized and accepted. Yes, we need to accept the pain and not push it away. There is a reason for it, despite how much you want to numb it (I could share lots about how I’ve numbed pain over the years, but not tonight).

There are so many reasons to feel less than your optimal self. If you’ve been in reluctant quarantine-mode at home, feeling like the walls are closing in, or the opposite — without an environment of your own that you can thrive in, I feel you. Maybe everyone else seems to be living their best lives and you’re just trying to keep your head up. Perhaps you feel pressure to keep smiling, when instead you feel like screaming, crying, swearing, punching someone something or smashing an object. Many of those things are perfectly acceptable — (it’s up to you which ones are suitable for you and your fellow-dwellers).

Are you hurting tonight, too? Can you tick off any of the following boxes?
Mourning a loved one

Job loss

Relationship ending

Financial strain

Betrayal

Abuse

Loss/confusion about faith

Poor health

Afraid of bad things happening in the world

Loneliness

I’ve been through the soul’s darkest nights and have recovered from the worst of my miserable experiences (at least I hope so), yet now am in the thick of one of the hardest seasons of my life. I made it through all the other anguishing times, so as I’m intentionally taking this evening to lament and visit the uncomfortable parts of my emotions, I am actively participating in healing from these areas. It might sound like gobbledygook (fun fact: spell check didn’t even flag that word …. I think I’ll start using it regularly), but it’s true that to go into the emotional wound, you’ll feel better afterwards. Delicately, of course.

I’m not going to load up this little personal essay with scriptures or clever poetry that came from someone else’s account or imagination. This is all flowing from a tender, aching, sorrowful part of my being, that is barely allowing me to have the words to express anything. I said at the beginning of this paragraph that I am not providing a scripture here (true) and won’t get preachy, but it comforts me that there’s an entire book of the bible that has a theme of sorrow: Lamentations. I think I’ll play the audio of that reading after I end tonight’s commentary about my current doldrums.

Despite the admittance that I’m experiencing emotional struggles tonight, I know it’s okay to feel all the feelings. I have many things in my life to feel grateful for and there is true appreciation for the gifts, pleasures, sunshine, warmth, good food, etc. and the other less-appealing things that also count in the full experience of being human. I’m thankful for my tears — I can’t say I’ve ever said that before, but let me go with it …. they are the physical manifestation of what I am experiencing. When they flow, harmful tension is released, helping me to feel better. It’s my body’s way of getting out some of the toxicity from the buildup of stress. Its good to know that releasing endorphins from crying is actually a natural mood lifter. Never be ashamed or embarrassed if you need to have a good cry.

Update: I’m feeling a lot better now. Thanks for reading.

Carolyn

Posted byCarolyn Joy SimpsonMay 6, 2020Posted inUncategorizedLeave a commenton Photos and TearsEditPhotos and Tears

Just some late October 2020 reflections

12 years ago, I was a Fox News and right wing media consumer. I knew all the shows to watch, the personalities and frequent guests that went along with them. The lead-up to the Obama vs McCain election was riveting and I felt genuinely sad for America when the liberal president won. More left-wing-agenda policies …. more gay rights …. more opportunities for pro-choice proponents …. all resulting in less God-glorifying in the melting pot society and an all-round culture of losing the values I felt were in line with my faith structure.

As time went on, I still paid attention to American news outlets — yet, I noticed increasing sarcasm, scorn and at times, hostility from particular republican media sources, towards the man named Barack. It was amplified when super-famous Donald Trump made unwarranted cynical remarks about Barack, suggesting he might not have been born in the USA. There seemed to be a peculiar level of irritation, causing The Apprentice star to angrily target this guy (born in Hawaii) running for the top job. I remember all this stuff really well.

I also recall when the current president was known as The Donald. He came across as a larger-than-life character, always seeking more fame, more money, more power, even more attractive people in his company. Something was “off” with him. I sensed it, but assumed he was basically harmless to society. Nobody’s perfect — certainly not me. Needless to say, I couldn’t have fathomed a Trump presidency.

As well, I couldn’t have imagined him gaining and maintaining evangelical and nationalist supporters, considering the shockingly bad ways he has publicly conducted himself over the years. No exaggeration …. the evidence for this is easy to find. The fact that many people I know and care about, are in the category of being a Trumpism participant & enthusiast — in this agonizing pandemic year, has almost become numbing.

The contrast in Barack and Donald is extreme. When I was watching Barack’s first inauguration, I was tuned into Sean Hannity’s commentary. Nothing positive to report. Criticizing everything. Disgust and distain for the images, the celebrities, the speeches, etc. I felt discouraged for America, because I was watching an influential, bitter media host trash-talk the new democratic leader. Going from “community organizer” to the presidency was outrageous to Hannity and other conservative-opinion personalities.

Almost 6 years ago, non-government official, Mr. Trump, decided to run for president, with the intention of gaining more of everything I mentioned earlier. It wasn’t about accepting a calling or fulfilling destiny. It was always based on ego, branding and showcasing. At this point (with just days remaining until Nov. 3rd), he desperately wants to remain president because he despises people he considers to be losers. The thought of him being voted out is unacceptable to him and his effectively manipulated family members, enablers and other gaslit loyalists. They don’t realize it, but they will go down with him, in defeat. There is always hope for recovery and restored psychological health, though. The history books will tell the stories of how or if America finds her soul again.

I share these words today out of concern and actual love for the USA, as I sit relatively comfortable in my Canadian residence. The concept of the “united states” is far from reality and something I hope and pray will exist again. America needs to heal, but first, acknowledge the problem (and there are many). I no longer watch Fox News, The 700 Club (no more donations), listen to right wing pundits, get Franklin Graham posts in my newsfeed, subscribe to email newsletters from conservative sites, etc. I have wrestled with some of my decisions in letting go of my support to causes that no longer reflect who I am and what I believe. I have a soul that longs for peace, wholeness and the goodness in humanity, modelled by Jesus Christ. I am careful to meditate on scriptures that are contextually difficult to process. As I carry on with taking personal inventory and sometimes picking apart my beliefs, I accept my failures and incompetencies. If I am ridiculed or criticized for expressing these words, it won’t affect what I have learned and how I feel about the significance in what is happening in the USA. Most of the people in the world are paying attention and are hoping Joe Biden will defeat Donald Trump at the ballot box, because the hijacking of the most noble office in Washington must end. I am just another concerned citizen of the world without a vote, but I have a voice.

Posted byCarolyn Joy SimpsonOctober 28, 2020Posted inUncategorizedTags:2020 election, Usa, voteLeave a commenton Just some late October 2020 reflectionsEditJust some late October 2020 reflections

Dr. Francis Collins and Hitch

I don’t know when I first heard of BioLogos, but Dr. Francis Collins was a name I began to recognize over a decade ago. I was very interested in knowing how famed writer Christopher Hitchens, “Hitch”, was doing, since it was public knowledge he was battling cancer. I became curious about the Christian doctor treating Hitch, because I assumed there were two different, impossibly incompatible personalities, focused on one goal. How did this unlikely doctor-patient relationship come to be? It all started with the thoughtfulness of the BioLogos founder, reaching out to Hitchens, a self-described blasphemer of Christianity.

A little backstory about why I was so intrigued by this developing ‘friendship’: I was not a fan of Hitch, yet I liked him very much. Of course, I am contradicting myself. He was a famous atheist, blabbering obscenities about God and dumbed-down evangelical Christians every time he was on TV. His words were viscous, scandalous and sarcastic; yet the sharp wit and raunchy-style of his arguments always kept me coming back. If Hitch was a panelist on a news program, I paid attention. It was a guilty pleasure, to watch his interviews and read his columns. Yet, I wasn’t supposed to like him. He wasn’t saying anything endearing, but I enjoyed the energy of his interviews — and again, the biting, take-no-prisoners wit. I even laughed hard at times, from his piercing remarks. He earned the status of a legend, in journalism and authorship.

When I heard of an American Christian scientist offering revolutionary treatments to Hitch, I needed to find out more. Since knowing this foul-mouthed character had made mocking and denigrating religious people part of his mass (no pun intended) appeal, I was hoping and praying for Hitch’s physical and spiritual healing. Instead of despising the Bible, maybe he’d start reading it. I imagined salvation and restoration for the author of God Is Not Great.

Dr. Collins reflected from that time period in which he was treating Christopher Hitchens:
“Over these last few months, we have not talked directly about faith. He [Hitchens] knows that I am praying for him. But my prayer is not so much for a supernatural intervention — as a physician I have not seen evidence for such medical miracles in my own experience. Instead I pray for myself and for Christopher along the lines of James 1:5 — “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” And I then give thanks for the chance to share in a deepening friendship.”

https://www.djournal.com/opinion/francis-collins-christian-collins-shares-deepening-friendship-with-atheist-hitchens/article_e56f69aa-e314-5e58-ac38-0264fad4ed6b.html

Hitch described himself as a “guinea pig”, as Dr. Collins provided DNA genome treatments for him, with the intention of obliterating the cancer cells. Unfortunately, Christopher Hitchens died in December 2011. I remember crying at the news, feeling the loss of this enigmatic, admired man, hoping his soul had been redeemed. Perhaps an angel escorted him to the great beyond — the mystery will remain.

In a recent interview from Atlantic magazine, Dr. Collins was asked by Peter Wehner about “what it was about the relationship with Hitchens that was special.
‘You know, I think it was the opportunity to see what lies underneath a very hard-edged perspective that you would normally be really put off by. It’s a reminder of the fact that if we really want to understand each other, we can’t be put off by those kind of superficial, admittedly sometimes difficult to listen to, perspectives. There is real humanity in everyone. This was a guy who was intensely curious about everything. It was a guy who cared deeply about his wife and his daughter. It was a guy who was in many ways a little isolated, maybe a little lonely, who cherished the chance to develop a friendship, and especially with somebody who was very different from him.’”
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/interview-francis-collins-nih/608221/

Just the notion that the author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief became a close confidant of the writer of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything is a stunning thing to comprehend. The humble, wise scientist participated in the Vanity Fair memorial service for his friend, playing on the piano his masterfully beautiful “Hitchens Sonata” (you can find it on YouTube). If the two men hadn’t connected personally after the adversarial nature of their first meeting on a debate stage, this would not have been possible. The example of this friendship captivated my heart and imagination — that perhaps our humanity can more strongly reflect the divine spark that is in all of us, whether we choose to see it or not. Now more than ever, we need to appreciate people like Dr. Francis Collins, for demonstrating how to be Christlike, if just for creating a space for a conversation.

Posted byCarolyn Joy SimpsonMay 12, 2020Posted inUncategorizedLeave a commenton Dr. Francis Collins and HitchEditDr. Francis Collins and Hitch

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Carolyn Joy Simpson

Carolyn Joy Simpson

37 Followers

Writer — blog, nonfiction & novel (in progress), audiobook narrator, lifetime student, mother, adapter of challenges, non-credentialed theologian & philosopher.