Christian Living, Finding Peace, Grieving, Healing Season, Surrender, Uncategorized

You’re Not That Strong (and why that’s good)

“You’re gonna be so strong after this thing, honey,” her eyes were locked on mine. Her heavy hands giving my shoulder an affirming shake.

“How strong does someone need to be?” I asked. I don’t think I want…sob…I don’t think I want to be…sob…that…sob…strong.

I was young.

I was wise!

You should not be as strong as I am.

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I’m not talking about gains in the gym, I’m talking about lifting the crushing weight of hopelessness.

20 years ago today my parents, Lee and Jacque Cook were killed by an F7 tornado in Montgomery, Ohio.

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I know. Ouch. So ouch.

At the time I received a LOT of help, so help people with their “ouches” now.

My friend was right, I became “so strong through this” but I’m still no convinced that is a good thing. It’s been suggested that my strength is often detrimental and creates imbalances in life. I bet that’s true.

Guess why?

It’s fake news.

I’m not strong. I am carried by the King and He strengthens me.

If all of a sudden you’re like…ope…I’m out.

Peace.

And speaking of peace…Jesus…He gets a crummy wrap sometimes, but He is actually known as the Prince of Peace. 20 years ago today, I became a witness. I know that heaven fell on me like honey from a comb and once I get a taste, I was like freaking Pooh Bear.

20 years ago, I was walking around the wreckage where my family and house used to be.

And I was looking to two things a)treasures-anything that proved we existed and b)answers-like why?

At the time, I believed in reincarnation. I thought that in each life we had a lesson to learn in order to progress forward and eventually attain Nirvana. I don’t really know what combination the “all you can eat buffet of faith”, I’d stacked on my plate to think that way. But…there it is. I wandered the ground asking “why, God” and “what are you trying to teach me” as my born-again brother was on the t.v. news saying stuff like “God is so faithful. He’s so good. He took them together. They would not have wanted it any other way.”

I was entirely carried by friends, civic and church people who I didn’t know. You can read the whole story in my book The Healing Season: How a Deadly Tornado Wrecked and Reshaped My Faith. It’s everywhere books are sold (and there’s a small group DVD and audio book, too)

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I was not strong. I was carried. I was weak. The community was strong and carried me.

I “have  some “strength”. I may even be strong.Or, maybe I’m weak and trying to keep you at arms length by flexing mine. I’m in therapy for my “strong ” because like I said, it’s fake news. I am needy. I need my friends, family, church, counselor. I need my workouts (but to burn off the crazy as much as build muscle).

For at least 20 years I wore I black pleather jacket. It was bad to the bone and looked killer on me.

But but God is doing a new thing. Think about it: do the words “bad to the bone and killer” best describe who I am and who I want to be?

I threw the jacket away. It does not make anyone think I’m tough. It’s not going to stop someone from mugging me (or worse).

I am covered by the King and clothed in His mercy and grace.

I know…so much Christianeese.

But, dude, it’s Him. He’s my strength. He carried me then and now and always. And that’s enough for me. My God strength is my good strength. Not my real strength. Not my black pleather jacket. My Jesus.

So, 20 years now.

20-years with a yucky title, I didn’t pick “orphan”or want “tornado girl.”

We all have those, right? “Divorced guy” “Cancer mom” “Unemployed boy”.

Is there anyone in your life saying, “this is going to make you so strong”…sure.

It is.

But I really hope it also makes you weak. Weak enough that you need someone and reach out and feel them clutch your hand.

We can’t do it alone.

We are not made to.

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Plus those titles, “orphan” “looser” “failure” are also lies. I’m calling them out.

You are not those names. You are a God-breathed and divinely inspired movement of heaven on earth. Put that on your next job application! Right next to “emergency contact: Christ”.  Like the t-shirt says, we need a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus. But we also need people. Not just our tribes either.

Part of my “so strong problem” is this lie: I don’t need anyone. I can do it myself.

Again, so much fake news.

We need each other and we are needed.

Taken to it’s natural extreme for this tornado girl looks like isolation that is justified by introversion, which is probably instigated by a scary freaking world where tornadoes kill parents and kids get shot at schools, and planes fly into buildings sometimes. Not always. Not usually. But sometimes. At the mall. Or movies. So maybe I’ll stay home.

But there’s a problem there.

It was not ME who held me up back then, it was YOU. It was them.

It was God (of course) and the community. I worry about the unity in commUNITY.

Today, 20 years later that worry is wasted energy.

I was not worried a tornado would come. And most of the “tornado” we worry about only swirl in our minds. But there is one who calms the storm and in our weakness, He is very strong.

Plus…biggest bonus prize ever, because of Him I know I for sure get to see Mom and Dad again. It’s a done deal and it’s makes me so bold in the soul I could trash talk a tornado: what you got windbag? It only LOOKS like you won.

But there I go, being strong again. Today, I’m being gentle with myself.

I’ll sit with a coffee, and blanket and dog. I choose the little way to remember: plant a flower, read devotions.

Maybe I’ll bake a cake (angel food, of course.) and share it with someone.

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Shannyn Caldwell is a Traditional Naturopathic Doctor and Founder of The Healing Season: Holistic Wellness Community.

 

 

 

Christian Living, Family, Finding Peace, Forgiveness, Grieving, Marriage, Syria, Uncategorized

My Big Fat Catholic Annulment

My new book, Raised Catholic was scheduled to come out this Christmas, but the Lord said, “Wait.” I waited and edited until I felt like the book was ready for other editors and polish it up for an Easter release, but the Lord said, “Not yet. It isn’t time.”

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 I was waiting further instruction from my Big Daddy in Heaven and getting nothing. I was cool with that thinking, maybe this one was just for me. For my family. Who knows? When in a single day I received messages from three separate people asking me, when Raised Catholic was coming out. That they had been praying and the Lord asked them to ask me. So, I took that to mean that the Lord does in fact desire for the book to be released to a wider audience. “Thanks for relaying the question and please let me know if the Father tells YOU because I have no idea and I’m waiting on Him.”

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I opened up the book and pressed in again. This time, rather than reading as author, I read as a reader and I honestly, wholeheartedly love…this…book…so…much. I also had one big question, “If this author cares so much about taking Holy Communion in the Catholic Church then why doesn’t she do what she needs to do?” The means Annulment of both my previous marriages. I prayed about that and I am certain beyond a shadow of a doubt the it’s the Lord’s desire that I at least step out onto that path and see what He has to teach and show me there. I think He wants me to have even a deeper healing. So, cover me, I’m going in!

And I mean that, please lift up a covering of prayer. I have no idea why the Lord has me doing this and am pursuing this out of obedience.

I will probably want to include some of this experience in Raised Catholic and so again, I have no idea when the book will be released. They say the Annulment process is between 6-9 Months. Maybe less. “Like” Facebook.com/RaisedCatholic if you want to see it all pray/play out. Release info will surely be posted there, or just follow this blog, or (my favorite option..BOTH!)

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I’m excited. I’m scared. To me…that’s a good place to be. I trust that the Lord is behind this and so even though I’m afraid, I also know I don’t need to be because if God is good all the time. If this is Him (and it is) whom shall I fear?

I’ll be blogging my way through this, so if you have friends who could benefit, please feel free to share. This is what I know so far: This process is meant for grace. It’s meant for healing.

That will come of this, one way or another and so, I rejoice.

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http://www.shannyncaldwell.com

http://www.thehealingseason.com

 

 

Christian Living, Grieving, Social Justice, Syria

In the Sob. On the Inhale.

 

“Put your right hand on your heart and your left hand on your belly and feel your breath.”

The class room in the community center was filled with little children, shoes off and lined up on yoga mats. They were refugee children from the crisis in Syria. They ranged in age from 4-12. They were the kids group. I got to teach them yoga yesterday and I think I’ll never be the same.

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“I’m going to teach you two words in English today,” I say as a translator shares…”Inhale and exhale. Inhale,” I say, taking a giant breath and filling all the corners of my lungs, motioning the balloon like nature of my belly and kidneys and ribs.”Can you tell them to breathe into their backs and feel their ribs draw apart?” and she does. And they do.

A little girl, braid over her shoulder and down to her belly button. The tassle like end of braid rises and falls with her breath. She closes her eyes.  A little boy in blue jeans and blue and green flannel hops on one foot and blows out air like he’s before a birthday cake. An older boy, maybe 10 who clearly wishes the kids could settle so he could find his breath tunes out the room-noise and finds it none the less. They have run for their lives. They have hidden at night. They’ve been sprayed with gunfire and bombs and chemical weapons. They have all lost everything, their homes, their homeland and their people. They have slept at refugee camps for over a year. And now, they are here.

 

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“Inhale and exhale.”

Arabic is a tough language. I’m trying to learn and so I practice “Inhale and exhale” in Arabic. Inhale: Zafar  Exhale: Shhq. I had learned a different word for “inhale”, aistanshaj. But the translators and children agreed. That wasn’t the right word.

That “inhale” meant “to sniff or whiff or inhale, while zafar…it meant to sob or inhale. Yes. Zafar. Sob. Inhale.

 

“Good,” I said as they softened onto gentle twists an searched for their breath again and she translated with near angelic grace with perfect eyebrows and tiger stripped hijab. Each inhale you grow taller. Each exhale you twist a tiny bit more” and the little ones grew taller before my eyes and spun their brave hearts open. “Good, inhale unwind. Bring your hands back to your heart and your belly.” A calm had fallen over the room, a joy, a peace. It was clear to everyone. To the medical students from Wayne and Michigan State who volunteering their time at this wellness outreach to the recent refugee of Metro Detroit. It was clear to the event organizers from Syrian American Rescue Network (sarn-us.org) who brought together nutritionists and grief councilors, an art therapist and me. It was most importantly clear to the children and their parents.

“Feel your feet on your mat. Feel the backs of your legs on your mat. Feel the steady support of the earth beneath you. Inhale that steady support into your heart.” and they closed their eyes inhaled peace and it was beautiful.

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An artist named Jason Gray has an album who’s title I love “Everything Sad in Coming Untrue”…genius, right? But I swear, it is. I am a witness. I saw hope crash in today.

I saw Jesus move. I heard him in the sob…on the inhale.

For more information on the monthly wellness outreaches to the Syrian refugee community through Wayne State and Michigan State Colleges of Medicine contact Dr. Ayesha Fatima, or to make a donation to support the refugee community as they resettled, http://www.sarn.us-org

 

Shannyn Caldwell is author of The Healing Season: How a Deadly Tornado Wrecked and Reshaped My Faith http://www.thehealingseason.com

 

 

Christian Living, Family, Forgiveness, Grieving, Social Justice, Syria

A Syrian Family ReUnion

My daddy was Syrian, with thick dark hair and eyes and skin.

He could sing like a cantor, and he did.

In his family, they spoke Arabic and drank Turkish coffee. The teens dates were chaperoned by aunties and uncles.

They all worked together on Safie Street (my great-grandma’s family name) and worked at the Safie pickle farm.

They were old world immigrants and they were beautiful and proud and hard-working. They loved God. They loved each other. The loved me, and I loved them, too.

But after Daddy died, I lost touch with them all, as sadly most families do. I didn’t have a single Safie (or Gannage, my great-grandpa’s name) in my phone book or on facebook. My brother and I were cut off from the fruitful family tree.

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It was two years ago that the people of Syria began to be hunted and slaughtered by their own government with bombs and chemical weapons.

It was two years ago that I started a #prayforsyria campaign on all my social media.

It was 6 months ago that, in an effort to get more saints to lift up the people of my daddy’s familial homeland, that I posted this picture of my grandma Mary and my grandpa, James with the hashtag #prayforsyria…when a modern miracle happened…

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At the moment I clicked “post” an angel must have been hovering over my keyboard, because a garden of grand-kids and cousins and aunties and uncles began to germinate and sprout before my very eyes and in less than 20 minutes, my brother and I had a Syrian family again and I just want to praise the Lord for that.

Why does blood and history and DNA tie us so tightly? Because that’s how God planned it, I think.

I can look into even the profile pics of these dear ones and see my Grandma eyes smiling back and I has propped me up in a whole new way. My heart crying “I am NOT alone.”

I can only imagine the road that is stretched out before the refugees of the crisis in Syria…as if there is still a Syria left. Syria, with your music, a your architecture or universities and gold and lapis art…you are not alone. Syria, with your olive skin and green eyes…you are not alone.

This weekend…my family will have it’s first reunion that what not at a wedding or a funeral. This weekend (tomorrow in fact) we, the Ganagge’s and Safie’s…the Syrian-Americans will break Syrian bread in a park. We’ll share hummus and tabouli and kibbee and every other good thing. Mostly, we’ll share pictures and stories and hugs and my brother will hear “You look JUST like your FATHER!” a million times or more.

Our kids will play, and we will pray and somehow the “great cloud of witnesses”, our ancestors will look down and say, “That’s my family. They love each other.” or at least I hope that’s what they will say. They will surely say “They love Syria. Syria, you are not forgotten.”

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#PrayForSyria