Happy Wednesday, friend!
I hope this email finds you well.
Sweet Caroline and I have been down for a few days with an upper respiratory infection, which means antibiotics, lots of snuggles, movies, and my favorite? Naps.
But TOMORROW, I chat with my friend Jonathan Puddle via Zoom, about his new book, You are Enough.
We’ve been reading it all month in the Faith + Mental Health Book Club, and tomorrow night, members get to join us and ask Jonathan literally anything.
Below, I’m attaching a beautiful experience my friend Marilyn shared with me yesterday, and I asked her to write it down. It includes a bit about Jonathan’s book, plus our Pathway to Peace Group Coaching. (Marilyn’s in both.)
I hope you enjoy this. And follow Mar on Instagram @mnewgee.
The Sharing Sanctuary
by Marilyn Faith Nugent
After two months of therapy, in Steve Austin’s Pathway to Peace course, and spending the month of April in Jonathan Puddle’s You are Enough meditations, I took time on Sunday afternoon for a time of silence. My spirit had been busy, and it was tired. I choose to go physically to my safe place which is 4.5 km away from my home. I usually see it at sunrise in the middle of my 10km run route.
However, I haven’t seen it for a while. I’ve been going through a lot of inner transformation and I have let running go, so even if I am up for a run, it’s not a 10km.
So, I decided I’d walk the route and just take my time in getting there. I put my phone on silent shutting off all the guided meditations, podcasts, and music. I just let my mind wander. To understand what happened next, I need to give you a quick synopsis of my journey of emotional restoration.
In therapy, I learned that playing with play dough was calming and helped open the door to inviting trauma to show itself so it could be dealt with. Movement would bring healing – even if it was just my hands. So, I began. I have play dough on my desk, kitchen table, bedside table and in my purse. If I am feeling anxious, depressed, or stressed, I pull it out and allow it to help me tune in to what is going on.
With You are Enough, I learned that in being created in God’s image, there is more than one part to my psyche. My psyche is best described as being made up of 4 parts:
The Guardian (amygdala),
the adult me (the part that gets things done and uses logic to get there),
my inner child (my emotional self),
and my original self (the part of me that sees the other parts doing what they have to in order to protect me and keep it alive – the part that takes a step back and allows one of the others to lead the way even if it alters the original in some way).
So, there I was taking an extended time of silence. I consciously asked Jesus to do whatever he wanted to do in me during my walk. Then I waited.
I was surprised that I had didn’t have to wait long. I saw a picture forming in my mind.
I didn’t have my play dough to help me cope with what was coming, so I used my therapist’s advice to tune into my feet and feel the earth push back towards me with each step. The grounding, mindful movement allowed my heart to calm enough to receive whatever Jesus had for me.
He gave me the image of an ancient church. The church was formed with stone and wood stained in golden hues. At the front of the church there was a massive stained-glass window. I couldn’t see the image but the mosaic of colour seemed to glow. At the top, a stream of light shone onto an ornate chair. On either side of the chair there were two smaller ornate chairs. For some reason even in their ornateness, they seemed comfortable, and they called for me to sit.
As I walked down the aisle towards the chairs, I realized that the middle chair was inhabited by a dark man. His eyes were so gentle as they watched me walk towards him. This was Jesus returning the invitation asking me to join him in what he was about to do. The closer I got, the more I realized I was in the form of my Guardian (named Marilyn). Jesus was inviting me to open my mind’s gate and let him in.
So, I did. Out walked my adult me (named Mom), my inner child (named Mar [sounds like Mare]), and my original self (named Faith). I sat down.
Faith sat at Jesus’ right hand with Mom on her right.
Marilyn sat on Jesus’ left with Mar at her left.
For some reason, we just knew this was where we belonged. We felt at home and at peace. As our gaze turned from Jesus’ gentle face, we looked out over the pews. That’s when I realized this ancient sanctuary was ME.
The pews were filled and overflowing with parts of me – my emotions and personality traits. There was Joy! I recognized her immediately. There was Positivity. She has taken a hit lately being told she’s toxic. She looked tired. I wanted to give her a hug. Yet the others called to me to notice them too. There was Fun and Silliness sitting on Mar’s side. Organization, Leadership, and Administration waved at Mom. Mom’s a bit of a rockstar on that side of the sanctuary!
What drew me was the fact that there was agitated movement coming from the back pews.
Marilyn spoke up and asked Joy and Positivity if they minded shifting back a few pews to let some others take the forefront for a bit. Positivity spoke up, “Finally! I am authentic and I love being here, but,
Marilyn, sometimes I get tired of being your spokesperson. Sometimes I need a break. I promise, I am ok with someone else sitting here for a bit.” Joy nodded her head as Peace, the usher, guided them along a pathway to a pew further back and then brought up a few different characters.
Peace sat down next to them and offered moral support as Anger, Frustration, Confusion, and Sadness got used to their new seats. Faith stood up and spoke to Marilyn. “Do you think it would be ok to have an open mic time?”
Mom quickly stated, “At church it’s called Testimony Time.” Mar jumped in “In Sunday School it’s called Open Session.” Marilyn put her hand up to calm the bunch as Jesus just smiled at her. “I don’t think we need to get hung up on what it’s called. Having an open time of sharing is fine with me as long as everyone takes their turn and stays calm.”
Peace nodded her head, took Frustration by the hand and lead him to the front of the floor. He said, “I’m itchy. Why am I never enough? Why don’t people ‘get’ me? I just want to be included. I don’t want you to fix me. Just let me be here and leave me be...”
Mom knew this one was for her. “I’m sorry, Frustration. Thank you for sharing. I am sorry that I try to fix you when you’re just trying to show me something is off. You’ve done a great job in trying to communicate and I’ve added to your itchiness by forcing you to wear a sweater that isn’t fitting you quite right. I will do better to listen to you and not shove you aside next time. Thank you for being here. There is space for you.”
Anger stood up to take Frustration’s place. Marilyn motioned for him to go ahead and chat. “I don’t have anything to say today, but I just want to sit here and be a welcome part of the group. I don’t want to be shoved to the back anymore. Thanks.”
With a nod, Marilyn sent Anger back to sit on the front pew allowing him to simply rest there while Confusion stood up. “Hi, I’m confusion. I often get called ‘Anger’ as I look a lot like him. I don’t know how to say what’s on my mind, but thanks for just letting me sit here. I don’t really know what’s going on, but I feel safer now than I have for a long time. My buddy Doubt and I were chatting the other day that life doesn’t feel quite as dark as it used to. Thanks.”
Mar jumped up with a cheer. “I totally get you, Confusion! You’re on my team for sure. Thanks for being here. I feel your presence every time I dance! You are welcome here and your voice matters.”
With a tired smile, Marilyn opened the floor for Sadness. “I think you have something to share, don’t you?” Shoulders slumped and tears in his eyes, Sadness nodded. He didn’t have the energy to stand, so he spoke from his place in the front pew. Peace held his hand as he took a deep breath and began.
“Last year, you were loved. You thought you had something really special, and you felt embraced for the first time in a long time. Your potential new life partner and you connected on a spiritual level and he accepted and loved you and your kids just the way you were. Then, out of the blue, he rejected you. He had a journey that had no place for you. He released you as too much and not enough all at the same time. He didn’t let you in and he didn’t talk with you about it. He just let you go. You still don’t really know what the problem was...”
At the front, Mom started to cry, “I was too much for him. He told me that.” “Yes, but he didn’t explain why” replied Sadness. “He used your skills as an excuse to not work on things with you. You had a right to want communication. You were right to insist that he explain cancelled plans. You deserved to be treated better.”
Marilyn asked, “So what do you want us to learn today, Sadness?” her resolve and energy waning. Jesus reached out with a hand to steady her.
“Well, Marilyn, you took over from Mom because she and Confusion were talking a lot. That disturbed you. You were afraid of Depression, so you shut the gate. You did such a great job protecting us during that time. You turned us towards Jesus, and you processed so much with all of us during that time. You taught us that we are not disposable. Marilyn, YOU are not disposable.”
“That is really important. We’ve been rejected a lot. I just want you to know that Mom is not disposable either.”
Turning to look beyond Jesus, beyond Faith, Marilyn whispered, “I’m sorry, Mom. I wasn’t trying to stop you from feeling. I was trying to protect you.” “I know, Marilyn, it’s just...”
“What? It’s ok. It’s just what? Go ahead, Mom. You’re safe here. You are not alone.” “Well,” said mom with a sigh, “It’s just that I miss him. For a few short months I didn’t feel alone. I didn’t feel like the ‘single’ in single mom was going to swallow me whole. I felt like I was a part of something special. I miss how he made me feel. I miss the tight embrace of a grown-up human hug. I just plain miss him.”
Mom turned to Sadness and with a faint whisper uttered “Thank you”.
Sadness sat down having completed everything needed for the day. Marilyn turned to herself and asked, “Are you three ok if we take a break from this for a while? Everything we’re doing these days is about your mental health and dealing with Trauma. I think Trauma is important and she makes up a lot of our story, but she doesn’t have to take up every second of our time. I’d love to head home for a nap.”
A restored Faith stood up and stated gently, “Yes, Marilyn. You’ve done a great job. Thank you so much for keeping us safe. Thank you for guarding us so well. I am proud of you. You deserve a rest. Mar, it’s nap time. Mom, you can rest a while too. I’ll walk us home.”
At that point, Jesus stood up. He grabbed Mar and swung her high over his head. “Enjoy your nap little one!” He placed her back into her seat with a kiss on the forehead.
He reached out to a weary Marilyn and gave her a tight big brother hug. “Well done, Sweetie.
I’m proud of you” he said as she flopped back down closing the gate on her way to her rest.
He moved past Faith towards Mom who was staring off into space. “Mom?” he prompted as he put is hands on her shoulders, “Look at me, please.” Mom, who was still standing, turned towards him with shimmering eyes. Jesus wiped the wayward tears away. “It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to miss feeling cherished on a human level. It’s ok to miss human hugs. Just never forget, you may be a single mom, but you are NOT alone. I am here and YOU are here. That is enough.”
Mom nodded and sat down to rest. Jesus made his way back to his chair and there was a flutter from the rafters. Spirit flew down and settled as a dove on his shoulder. Jesus motioned for Faith to sit.
As they settled into their seats, the ray of light shone on them both and they knew that Abba was pleased. Jesus grasped Faith’s hand and softly said, “Let’s go home.”
I turned away from my safe place with a contented sigh and pointed my steps towards home and a Sunday afternoon nap. I thought, “Wow, God! That was kinda cool. Thanks.” I silently connected to the green grass and the chirping birds. Dogs were barking and trees were sprouting their spring buds.
It was really windy and sort of cold. My cheeks were pink and I knew my feet would hurt once I sat down to rest.
I got to the bottom of the hill and felt a tap on my shoulder. It was surreal. While I had been enjoying my walk, back in my sanctuary, there had been movement from the very back pew. Without saying a word, a weary Marilyn reached out and opened the gate.
Peace turned to see who needed to be ushered into the pathway. Up the aisle walked a massive man. He had rich chocolate skin and short hair greying at the temples. He wore a large grey hoodie with the hood up and his hands thrust deep in his pockets. His jeans and black sneakers filled out his ensemble. He trod slowly with suspicious eyes darting back and forth.
Faith calmly said, “It’s ok. Go ahead and walk with her.”
He reached out and tapped me on the shoulder and I almost saw him in physical form. I said silently, “Hi. Enjoying your walk?” “Yup.”
“What’s your name?” “I’m Sadness’ older brother. My name is Sorrow.” Once the words started, out tumbled what he wanted to say.
“So, I’m always relegated to the back pew. I am misunderstood every day. Everyone is afraid of me and that’s only when they acknowledge my existence.”
“Well,” I said, “you are welcome to walk with me and help me understand you. Feel free to take your hood off so I can see you better.”
With that invitation, Sorrow pushed his hood back and stood up a bit straighter. “Well, Faith, I don’t want you to do anything. I just want you to know that I’m here. Sadness gets noticed once in a while, but I get purposefully caged in the back of your sanctuary. We’ve been through a lot, you and me. I think it might help if you just know that I know you. I see you. Knowing and seeing me might help you deal with Trauma. She is the reason I am here. I care about you and want you to know you’re going to be ok, but only if you learn to walk with me a bit.”
I started thinking of the Sorrows I have experienced with Trauma. He was right. He had been with me the entire time. I turned to Sorrow and said, “I’m sorry I haven’t invited you to speak. I am sorry I haven’t tuned in with you. Have you met Jesus, Sorrow? Would you like to invite him to help us learn to communicate?”
“Oh Faith, of course I know Jesus. He is a man of sorrow acquainted with grief. He and I are buds. He sits in the back with me. He doesn’t ignore me. He is the one who prompted me to step forward even though fear tried to hold me back. He’s walking with us right now, Faith. He is giving your original self eyes to see that you can still be you even while you embrace me.”
My left hand slipped into Sorrow’s right as I drew in a deep breath of cold spring air. I smiled as I silently walked home. Everything would be ok as long as I care for Marilyn and kept helping her have the energy she needs to keep that gate opening to anyone needing to speak – inviting them into our sharing sanctuary.
I had no idea what shape that sanctuary would take next time or what my emotions and traits would look like either. I’d have to be sure to simply ask them what their name was and be open to learning from them. I turned on to my street, almost home and I turned to look at Sorrow. I hadn’t even noticed that he wasn’t there anymore. Instead, the one holding my hand and walking me home was Jesus – strengthening me with his righteous right hand.
With a wink he opened my door for me, hung up my coat and whispered, “Enjoy your nap!”
“Mom! I gotta show you this Tiktok I found.”
“Mom! Can we go for a drive after dinner tonight?”
With that, my world was right back to where it should be – normal, but never the same again.