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Are You Burned Out on Religion?

Since our son Noah died in 2007, I’ve been on a journey reassessing pretty much E V E R Y T H I N G.

People, things, involvement, passions, even thoughts or beliefs at times have met a death grip in my hands. Some days only purging keeps me grounded. Recently I attempted to strip down to few possessions, selling our home, even shaving my head, in search of the essentials. It was my outward reaction to an internal battle. I decided to apply this perspective to my relationship with God.

"Hope is where the door is, when the church is where the war is..." Lyrics by U2 from the song, Sleep Like a Baby Tonight, Songs of Innocence album

“Hope is where the door is, when the church is where the war is…” Lyrics by U2 from the song, Sleep Like a Baby Tonight, Songs of Innocence album

 

My experience in American Christianity had become a compass for measuring God’s pulse, as well as my morality, and truthfully, the morality of everyone else. I justified, “I’m part of ‘non-denominations,’ so at least I’m not religious, but I’m definitely more dialed into God’s Spirit than so and so.” [Read more…]

“How Do You Like Nashville?”

People ask me how I like Nashville. Here’s the scoop: I’m not sold yet.

I haven’t been here enough to know. We moved here last August to a 2-bedroom Airb*nb we planned to stay in until the first of November of 2016. During that 3 month time the plan was to get the kids settled into a school rhythm and then I’d work with our realtor to find a house to live in more permanently. Our things have been in storage at my dad’s house for 2.5 years now since I ran away from home after my mom died we sold our house in Colorado. [Read more…]

I Had a Dream

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Right before waking up this morning, I dreamt a friend and I were standing in the middle of a four-lane road with cars flying by in either direction. We were discussing the vital importance of practicing the act of writing for 20 minutes everyday, no matter what…

And then I woke up

Prior to waking up and prior to standing in the middle of the road, where I was, incidentally, holding a vintage typewriter under one arm, I had been at a beautiful gathering of writers and journalists who were sitting at tables together, sharing and listening. [Read more…]

Speak: Contemplation

Speak love. Speak it with, and without, words.

Speak love. Speak it with, and without, words.

I’ve been contemplating many things for quite some time and the more I keep it in, I feel I may implode.

Why have I held these things in rather than go with my usual mode of verbally processing my thoughts to whomever may be in the room or on the other end of the phone? To be fair, my husband would attest to me processing these with him over the years, and each time he reminds me, “Adrienne, THIS is the content of your book. Write it. Write it down. People need to hear.” I love him and need him to say this to me, especially since writing it down is part of the equation: In order NOT to implode I must write these things down and get on with living.

So, again, why have I shared these thoughts I ponder day in and day out with only a few?

Open confession: I’ve feared segments of Christendom. [Read more…]

Hospice: An Interview, Part 3

Thoughts on marriage and cancer…

As we’ve emailed back and forth, Mandy and Jay and I have talked about how “cancer” is definitely something woven throughout their love story and how it’s affected choices they have made as it relates to their marriage, friendship, and commitment to one another. Today’s interview is a glimpse into the part where “in sickness and in health” has been put to the test. How do marriages survive hardship, disappointment and tragedy? Can they make it through?! The wisdom and insight Mandy and Jay share is priceless advice whether a terminal illness is part of the recipe or not! We’d all be the wiser for putting into practice some of the examples of unconditional love these guys display. [Read more…]

Hospice: An Interview, Part 2

On Tuesday, my sweet doctor made the call we didn’t want to make – she called hospice. Within a few hours of returning home, hospice was calling us. We scheduled the admission for Thursday. My case nurse and an administrator arrived at our home with sweet smiles and soft spirits. At the kitchen tablewhere all important discussions are required to take place – we talked about the ins and outs of all things hospice.” – Mandy Smith, from her blog post on August 19th, 2016

This is what true love looks like on some days.

This is what true love looks like on some days.

Merriam-Webster defines hospice as:

  • : a place that provides care for people who are dying

  • : a place where travelers can stay; especially : an inn kept by people in a religious organization

  • :  a facility or program designed to provide a caring environment for meeting the physical and emotional needs of the terminally ill

The word “travelers” is truly sacred here as I am reminded we are on a journey, and Earth is one of the stops on the itinerary. Personally, my experience with hospice caregivers is, if they aren’t angels among us, they are indeed miracle workers who somehow breathe life and nurture love into end of life situations. The depth of emotional care hospice caregivers provide is so profound, it’s not just for the patient but for all who are affected by the death of their loved one, too. I wonder why health care in America doesn’t first start out with them (maybe under an alias title without the premise of nearing death), solely for the miraculous nurturing they offer rather than all the scary tests and what if’s most people face in routine medicine? [Read more…]

Hospice: An Interview, Part 1

My dream job, like if I could do ANYTHING on this earth, is to hear the story of every person I come in contact with…no one is a stranger to me and everyone matters. It would be kind of like Brandon Stanton, founder of HONY, except I’d just be myself, obviously, and it would be humans of wherever (HOW?), asking questions and listening, even when, and maybe especially when, it’s hard. We would exchange stories, and in doing so, further make known God’s love, first because of what Jesus did for mankind, second because we defied the darkness and went ahead and shared our stories, all the messes included.

I always say if a smarter thought pops into your head than you could think of, that was God talking. Well, over the last few years that’s been the case with a friend from high school and his wife. I will be driving along and their names or faces will come to mind, so I pray. Some of those times I’ve reached out to his wife to just let her know she was on my heart. So, when I found myself driving around our new city of Nashville recently, coming up with full interview questions for them, I first thought, “Well, maybe Jay and Mandy don’t really want to talk about their journey, or her cancer diagnosis, or the fact that hospice is just around the bend…” Then I remembered my dad’s words, “It never hurts to ask,” and so I reached out to them… [Read more…]

Happy Blog-o-versary to ME!

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WOOOOOHOOOOO!!!!

TEN YEARS! 10 YEARS, guys!

. . .

I started blogging in 2006, first at noahsteven.blogspot.com named after my son who passed away. For a season I blogged about my journey with food, being a latchkey kid, and self-image over at “Confessions of a 2nd Grade Closet Eater,”  Now I mainly write here at www.adriennegraves.com

For my 10 year blog-o-versary I have decided to share some video blog posts of things that have been on my heart for a long, long time. And by “a long time” let’s just say, if I keep them inside any longer I may implode. 

Written words are beautiful, but one thing I’ve learned whether it’s having hard conversations in relationships, media, religion, politics, and education, among others, we can often miss the written intention of the author when we haven’t also gained eye contact, voice inflection, or facial expressions, to name a few. Part of my goal in posting these video blogs is to create a space where readers can learn more about my heart around the words I’ve shared here for 10 years. Also, I’d love to hear how others are also encouraged to start engaging candidly with the people in their own lives, as a result.

. . .

This particular video is my intro. Some of the “vlogs” will be recorded in my car since I spend a good amount of time in it, so just a heads up to please send me feedback on the sound, if you’d be willing?

I started a YouTube channel because I don’t really know any other way to do this (again, feedback on that would be great, too). The channel address is my name. On this channel I’ll be sharing several segments, a lot of my personal story, my journey as a peacemaker and advocate for women of every age, experiences with theology/scripture/church culture, marriage, friendship, relationships, parenting, exposing fears, insights, mentoring and leadership direction, as well as my unique perspective and story coaching.

Sooooo…here you go…

. . .

I’d love to have you join me for this 10th Blog-o-versary party! You can subscribe to the vlogs on YouTube here or for photos and more narrative, I’ll always post the vlogs here on my blog. You can subscribe to my blog on the right side of this blog’s front page under my photo.

. . .

 

photo courtesy: pixabay user/MB-fotografie/carnival

My Mid-Life Crisis, Part 2 of Many…

The title for this post may be a bit dramatic, but I am going to unpack “Mid-Life Crisis” in some posts to come, but this does dabble with some of the topics one may wrestle with when thinking of a mid-life crisis, so I felt it fit.

Last year I got to travel a bit, with family, with Jason, and all by myself. I. Love. To. Travel.

Exploring the world, people watching, meeting new people and learning their stories, taking in the smells and sights and feeling the feels is breath for my soul. It doesn’t have to be glamorous…I’m not talking 5-star lodging, though there is nothing wrong with that. I’m simply saying, my Spirit loves the soil of the barrio beneath my feet as much as it thrives off the sand on an uninhabited beach. In both places we find God’s divine beauty if we let our eyes see.

So, last fall I was able to tag along to Paris, the romantic city of love, where Jason had meetings, adding a few days on the front end to explore the countryside with my best friend and lover. We drove hundreds of miles, some mapped, others our own detours, tried new wines, ate baguettes and Cuban food, stayed in mom and pop Bed & Breakfasts, listened to new music, and, of course U2, and laughed out loud together at Jim Gaffigan’s comedic genius. The French countryside and our time in Paris was just right.

Well, in the spirit of French romanticism, and trying to keep it real, I wanted to change my profile picture on Facebook…first, why can’t we just change our profile pictures without it being posted to everyone’s walls that we did, in fact, change them? Anyway, see, Ryan wants me to grow my hair back out…maybe he wants to snuggle with it? I obliged even though I really, really, really like my hair less than one inch long. It’s this love, hate thing going on…trying to practice empathy with many incredible friends and women who have lost their hair to disease, feeling what it feels like to grow it in and feel awkward through the stages of growth. Let me tell ya…it sucks! I’ve had the luxury of cutting mine or shaving it again probably 5 or 6 times, but figured if I’m going to grow it out, I should probably stop cutting it. Whoa. It’s been about 7 months and if I dyed it blue, I’d look like your grandma.

Anyway, yada, yada. I changed my profile picture from when I was tan and it was summer and I was probably 5 or 10lbs skinnier and my hair was short and maintenance free, to this one where I have a bit of a frizz head, but the lighting was right and, whatever, it’s just a picture.

But I felt romantical in it. I felt kind of demure, French film-star, pale-skinned, pretty in it, so I thought, “Well, this is about as good as it gets in the hair department for now, so it is what it is and I feel pretty.” Post.

Those words to myself, “I feel pretty,” haven’t been common to me. (Read here for more of that story.) They aren’t first or even second nature. They are words I’ve had to convince myself of in the last 4 years since turning 40, not only on the outside but deep, deep within…in the last 4 years since God said to me, specifically, almost audibly, “Adrienne, I know you love Me. I know you love others. There’s another part to that scriptural command and it’s to love yourself…it’s time you started doing that…”

UGH. Um, what does that even look like?

If I were in so-called mid-life crisis mode, filtering these truths into me, separate from God’s truth over me, it might look like nips and tucks and replacement parts and endless dieting and die-hard, bad-ass working out, striving for something, other than, in spite of any of that, just looking in the mirror and loving myself simply because I exist. Simply because God made me. Simply because when He made US, He said, “It’s oh, so, good!”

So, let’s fast forward to a conversation, one had in light of me being in a healthier place in my head and heart and body than I have been in a while…Jason says, “I really think you are beautiful. That being said, I think you should change your profile picture. It doesn’t really look like you, it doesn’t capture who I see when I look at you.”

Me: You don’t like my profile picture?
Him: No. You know I think you are beautiful. I just don’t think it looks like you.
Me: I like it. I feel French and romantic in it. Plus, you know me, I’m so literal, it’s not how my hair looks right now so I felt it wasn’t current or accurate.
Him: Ok, that’s fine. I just don’t think it looks as beautiful as you are. But keep it.

Then I get a call from my dad. “Hey, Boo, there’s this weird picture of you I saw the other day. It doesn’t look like you. You look kind of distorted…”

Me: Oh, really? Am I wearing a green sweater?
Dad: I’m not sure, I’ll have to look at it again…you look kind of gaunt, almost anorexic.
Me: Dad, not eating enough food has never been my schtick…I’m a huge fan of food. Don’t worry, I’m not anorexic. And, PS, I like that picture…I feel pretty in it.
Dad: Well, I just think you’re so pretty and it doesn’t look like you.

So, then I tell Jason, who I’ve been lovingly dishing crap to over the course of the day, “Yeah, my dad hates that picture, too…”

Jason: I don’t hate it. You are beautiful. Keep it. I just have other favorite ones of you I love more.
Me: So, the 200+ friends who liked it on Facebook are obviously blind…

(* Snap! Knee to the face! Elbow to the face! (spoken in Nacho accent…))

Thing is, they are both kind of right, these men in my life. Not that it’s not a good picture, because I like it whether it’s “good” or not, whether others “like” it or not…I know how I felt taking it, and it’s just a picture that doesn’t define me. Just as no picture represents the whole of us. But, if a photographer were to take a shoot of me, in true Adrienne style, it’d be full of sass. It’d be snarky and smart ass and I’d be awkward with the camera and saying ridiculous things like cuss words or “sperm whale” just to laugh and not feel so very uncomfortable being seen, being vulnerable.

So, in my true smart ass way that I often function, I headed to the bathroom around 11:15 to get ready for bed. I fluffed out my hair a bit. And then I texted this to Jason, down the hall, with, “Oh yeah! Here’s a profile picture for you!”

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Funny thing is, I like these, too. I like them because my Noah skin discoloration on my cheek shows. I like them because how fun would it be to just fro out your hair and not care?! I like them because Jason and I got a good laugh out of them. I like them because I think we all take ourselves too freaking seriously.

But, my hair is growing more. And it’s sub-zero this winter and I can’t leave my hair wet to dry, so I’ve been blowing it out, but then it’s cuh-razy, so I pretty much just wear a hat anyway. And I’ve almost shaved it 12 times since last week, but I’m sucking it up and just going with the fro, which I can’t rock as awesome as some sisters, but whatever. It’s hair and isn’t what this is really about, I sure hope you’ve caught that?!

Anyway, so, then Ry and I hid behind the curtains where the snowy sunlight made for a decent filter and snapped off some new pictures. Some I like and some I don’t, but the crazy thing is, they are all me and all Ryan. Who we are in the pictures doesn’t change whether one picture captures us well, or not.

 

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He won’t admit it, but he’s lovin’ my smooches…

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I'm in love with this boy!

I’m in love with this boy!

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And, so, I’m encouraging you to give yourself a bit of grace, too. If a picture is worth a 1000 words, then as we scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll, let’s remember there are stories behind every picture, and so much more than meets the eye.

My Mid-Life Crisis, Part 1 of Many

I’ve been wrestling a little lately, though it’s not unfamiliar. To say it was foreign would be false, because drifting, floating, uprootedness, wandering and wondering, going from place to place, and being curious about this and that isn’t new to me. I’ve moved 30 times in my 43 years and 11 months and 3 weeks. That’s included different cities, states, suburbs, churches, states, and dorms, apartments, and houses.

The last year since we sold our house and most of our stuff hasn’t been all I thought it would be, but also has been, on some levels. My dreams was to get rid of it all…I’m an extremist that way. I wanted the four of us to load up one carry-on each and walk out the front door of our previous lives, out into whatever and wherever God was leading. Jesus told the rich young man it would be difficult…I guess He was right...since my dad’s basement is filled with our boxes and some chairs and beds. Looking back, I wanted to run away from the reality of my mom’s absence…

The steps have only come one at a time. This is fine for my free-flow spirit, but it’s dark and discouraging and heavy for my HSP-ness, for my eyes that want to look ahead and plan for the future, to have a thumb on my “passion and pursuit” without all the unknowns. In a split second I can go from being grateful and content for where God has us, to being frustrated and distraught with zero answers to why are we “here” and “where” is next and, mostly, what the heck is my purpose, like, why did God make me?

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(A great chart and article about “Highly Sensitive People”-click here for link for a great quiz and insight into, likely, someone in your life.)

Problem is: I realize I am often waiting for my circumstance to dictate my action or obedience, when that was the point of most of the stuff Jesus said in the first place, simply, “Follow Me.”

Most days I’m selfish.

I haven’t been obedient.

I could blame not knowing HOW to do something I feel passionately about with not doing anything at all.

But I don’t want to make excuses anymore.

I’m just simply sorry.

I could write a list and check off a long page worth of excuses that carry truth in my own eyes, but the Truth is, I’ve been designed by God for this day and age, regardless of circumstance, in spite of influences and obstacles, and all He designed me to “do” is BE the woman He made me to BE, right here, wherever “here” is, right now, accountable to the one in the mirror and actively loving to the ones I encounter every day…living the Kingdom, sharing the Good News.

We just got back from a 2-week trip to Australia. The jet-lag bites and the postpartum from daylight and sunshine and warmth and sand and salty air and great food, coupled with hormones, has had me in tears off and on for a couple of weeks. Did I mention we came home to a snow storm?

Anyway, when I got back I had some messages to catch up on, a few of which included encouragement from friends to watch a 1/2 hour video clip from Elizabeth Gilbert titled, “Flight of the Hummingbird.” I sat in my office in Caribou bawling, tears streaming, muttering, “Holy cow! This. Is. Me…all of it…thank you, thank you, thank YOU, Lord…bless this woman for her faithfulness in speaking truth in the face of fear, for living without shackles, outside the box…bless Liz for throwing me this life-line, without all the cliches…bless her for doing what I know I’ve been designed to do…” I’m including the video at the bottom for you to come back to when you have a bit of time. It’s not something you’ll want to miss. Share it with friends, male and female, dad’s of daughters, brothers of sisters, too, who come to mind when you listen. Besides the fact that every word spoke to my heart; the Facebook letter from the Australian woman, Liz’s husband’s life of uprootedness, and the whole idea of a hummingbird, the specificity for me was mind-blowing.

Well, one of the squares on my check list of half-assedness living has been momless-ness. I miss my mom. I want my mom. I really could use MY mom in my life. I want to hear her wisdom spoken fresh again. I want to have her in my corner, praying over me. I want to hold her hand and watch her facial expressions, to hear her voice and prophetic heart. A great chasm has been left in me since her departure and there have been days of flailing, still.

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So when Liz referenced a hummingbird, I kind of freaked…my mom’s favorite bird in the world was a hummingbird (a close second being the sweet Gambel’s desert quail of the Southwest)…wherever we lived, she always had the feeder filled for the curious little beauties…and as long as she had food for them, they returned faithfully.

So, Lord, open my eyes to see…
I’ve been self-absorbed, worried about opinions,
wondering if I’m qualified…
questioning Your creativity,
asking, “How can I leave a legacy or step out boldly when I’m not rooted, not planted, not grown-up enough?”
I’ve looked into the mirror, but mostly at my thighs…
measuring my worth in a toxic, twisted way, rather than
greeting myself in the eyes, face to face, in the mirror, Your daughter, Beloved. Holy. Sacred.
I’ve been busy, so “busy,” I’ve allowed the concrete to set up,
and the fears begin to creep in,
and the lies, to bear rotten fruit.
It’s painful.
You don’t need my permission,
though my admission may be part of the unlocking, unleashing,
cage-opening, branch-trimming…
trim my branches, Father…
graft me into Your Tree of Life.
Open my cage, Lord…
free me from the lies I’ve believed, the un-truths I’ve told myself.
Lord, You put that man to sleep after a time in order to hand-craft woman…
that must mean You had something special in mind for Your daughters, as well…
all of us, me, and her, and every other girl, also made in Your likeness.
Illuminate the path, Lord, as You see fit, what You know is best, and and I will walk in it,
everlasting…here I am…I’m stepping out into the unknown…the place where I’m free to be me…a butterfly, a curious soul, like a hummingbird, led by Your Spirit, for Your glory, discovering Your beautiful creativity in the day to day.

Come.

 

hummingbird photo courtesy: pixabay user/omissivart