When Life Gives You Deconstruction: Some Thoughts on God, Music, and Hurt

When Life Gives You Deconstruction: Some Thoughts on God, Music, and Hurt

*TW: Spiritual Abuse

It’s 4am and I’ve been awake for a little over an hour. Maybe an hour and a half. While 5 hours of sleep isn’t historically enough for me, my brain is awake. My head is full of all the things but clear. Does that make sense? Probably not.

I’m not sure what woke me up this morning, but I was very quickly in deep thought around the deconstruction of my faith. I have many thoughts on it and lots of stories. Christians have said some really horrible things to me/around me while invoking the name of Christ. Looking back, I’m appalled. How is that okay? How is that justified? I don’t know. Humans can justify anything, I guess. It pains me to think about who I’ve alienated over the years because their faith, or absence of, didn’t align with mine. All for what? The sake of being right? There are some dear people in my life who I’ve been able to talk to regarding comments or ideologies from my past. What about those people who I didn’t know well and who felt that separation or exclusion in passing? I hate to think about it, honestly.

They say it’s all to save people. God doesn’t need us to save people. He wants us to love people. He wants us to love them for exactly who they are and exactly where they’re at. And we shouldn’t need God to do that – and many, many people don’t. What He truly desires is to know us and be known by us. Did I just write a worship song? Probably.

Oh, worship music. I used to love it so much. There’s plenty I didn’t like and definitely made fun of – I’m looking at you Matthew West. “Modest is Hottest”? What the fuck dude? Even as a supposed “parody”, it’s horribly unfunny. Anyway, I digress. There’s so much worship music that I truly loved, though. I’ll probably listen to it again at some point. It will have to be good, though. It has to be vetted to weed out the misogyny, guilt, and shame. Eh, maybe I won’t go back to it. That’s a lot of work. I could just spend that time on my own music. But, see, I’m a musician’s musician. I love other people’s work – their music, art, poetry, writing, etc. I guess that’s part of deconstructing. You tear it all down, examine it, and reconstruct it with what feels right and true to you.

My tie to God has always felt true. I’ve always felt drawn to something bigger – a Creator. Some being made of love and compassion. Someone who knew me, understood me, and stood by me. That part hasn’t changed. Surely His ways are mysterious because our universe is mysterious.

Something that really struck me when I left my church was their performative “love”. When I left, I remained friends with 2 people from the entire congregation. These are women who I can see at any given time and pick up right where we left off.

The two pastors who I looked up to so much and, then, who had that “intervention” with me? They never reached out a single time after I left. Not once. And neither did their wives. One of their wives was in the meeting where they confronted me and I bawled my eyes out. That was nearly 5 years ago. I worked closely with them every single week for nearly 7 years. I had been in their homes and eaten meals with their families. That part used to be very painful. It still is a bit.

Now, maybe they were embarrassed by their behavior or felt bad, but were too proud to reach out. Or maybe it was mostly bullshit. I really don’t know. Either way, it was wrong. I know that now. But, even now, when I let myself think about how much I let them into who I was and know some extremely personal parts of my life, I get angry and sad. I realize now how manipulative that was, but it still makes me angry at times.

If I really think about it, though, had they reached out or pretended like they cared, I may not have been able to see the church as clearly as I do today. Looking back, there were so many signs or things that never really sat right with me. It’s good to see the truth.

I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but sometimes, when we take a second to look at the big picture, we realize that the hard experience, while painful, also healed other parts of our broken hearts. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but sometimes it is.

When Life Gives You Deconstruction: Thoughts Around Christmas

When Life Gives You Deconstruction: Thoughts Around Christmas

*TW: Spiritual abuse

*Note: Only respectful comments will be allowed and responded to. Telling someone who is deconstructing that “not all Christians/Churches” are like that, is invalidating to that person’s experience. It is not helpful or respectful.

Here’s the truth: the holidays are hard for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. We struggle because of loss, Seasonal Affective Disorder, this Goddam Pandemic™ (going on two years strong), loneliness, estrangement (either by choice or not), and a million other reasons.

In the week leading up to Christmas, I’ve known 2 people to die from COVID-19. One person close to my family and her death will have a lasting impact on people whom I love very much. Another was someone my age, whom I’ve known most of my life. My heart aches over these people and their families. Wear your mask. Get vaccinated if you can. These losses have made Christmas extra hard this year.

On top of tragic loss and these expectations of magic and memories we put on ourselves, I’ve been deconstructing my faith. This has made Christmas feel very different this year. I know millions of people celebrate Christmas without any tie to faith at all. And that’s fine. Some use it to celebrate the origin of the Yule holiday, honoring the winter solstice and this time of change on earth. For me, I connect Christmas to the birth of Jesus. I know Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25th and I know the traditions we have today around Christmas were based on Yule to help easily convert pagans to Christianity. Nevertheless, here I am, celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25th.

My deconstruction journey started long before this Christmas season. The seeds were probably planted from the beginning, but my decision to really start to examine my faith came from what spurs most people to deconstruct from the church: Church Hurt. This is a story I’ve only told a few people I’m close with because I had so much hurt around it. There was shame for a while too, but that’s gone now. Shame is not an effective way to love thy neighbor, by the way.

I was part of a church and on their worship team for about 7 years. I loved it. I loved the church and many of the people there. I felt like I was part of a family – until I did something that was deemed “against God’s will.” I was moving in with my non-Christian boyfriend before we were married. I was immediately called into an intervention of sorts, where they tried to convince me that I was doing the wrong thing and that if I went through with this decision, then I would be removed from the worship team. They also tried to tell me that my boyfriend and I were “unequally yoked” – a phrase often weaponized in the church to shame an unmarried Christian into leaving their non-Christian partner. I think I attended one more Sunday service after that, and then promptly left. I stepped foot into that church 2 other times since then. Once to see if anything had changed. It hadn’t. And again to watch a friend be married. That was it.

I briefly attended another church, which I enjoyed. They were definitely more welcoming and honoring of their congregation. They loved people where they were and they were more charismatic, but the pandemic happened, which kept me home on Sundays. The 2020 election really fast-tracked my deconstruction for obvious reasons. Through this time, my beliefs were expanding. I realized that inclusive and affirming worship places were pertinent. God loves and honors all – gay, straight, trans, black, brown, white, atheist, agnostic, and everyone in between. He honors the things that make us who we are. I’ve learned that when people say “the Bible is very clear about x”, chances are, the Bible isn’t clear at all about that thing.

So I’ve stopped going to church altogether. I may never go back. I’m not sure. It would have to be a very open, welcoming, and affirming place. Where I live, that isn’t very prevalent. And that’s ok. The thing is, I’m not deconstructing from God. I’m deconstructing from the church. The church isn’t in alignment with God. I’m happy enjoying my life and building meaningful relationships elsewhere. There are people who stop believing in God altogether when they deconstruct. That’s ok, too. I respect that so much. I truly believe we all have a place in eternal goodness.

So where does that leave me this Christmas season? Honestly, I’m still stressed with present-buying and baking and holiday event hosting. I didn’t go to church for a candlelight service. I didn’t guilt myself into remembering the “reason for the season.” It is evident when I am with family and someone asks that I pray over the meal. It’s awkward when a very religious family member wants to “pray for/with me” or discuss theological ideas that I don’t subscribe to, which are many. With this being the second Pandemic Christmas™ in a row, though, it was much of the same. Do we get together with family? How do we stay safe? Is everyone healthy? Maybe it’ll be more evident when the Panorama is more controlled and things are more close to normal. Maybe. I guess we’ll see.

If you happen to be deconstructing and struggled through Christmas, please know that you are not alone. There are many of us out here trying to untangle the trauma we experienced from the church. We are unlearning the misogyny, racism, and patriarchal ideas that we taught with God’s supposed stamp of approval. We are healing from the trauma inflicted by people who we were supposed to be able to trust. We are learning to love ourselves again. You can love yourself again. You are worth it. You are loved.

4 Truths About Creativity

If you’re a breathing human and on the internet, then you have probably heard about this thing called creativity. It seems like highly successful people have a lot of creativity. If you aren’t highly successful, maybe you don’t think you are very creative. You probably believe musicians, artists, writers, and the like are creative. But what if you don’t fall into one of those categories? Does that mean that you aren’t creative? I don’t think so.

In my experience, I’ve learned a lot about creativity. I’ve always identified as a creative person, but I haven’t always used it. In not using my creativity, I’ve caused myself a lot of internal anguish. Here are a few things I’ve learned that might help you on your creative journey.

Everyone is Creative

First and foremost, we are all creative. Every single human is creative. Creativity is innately in us. We’ve been sold this big lie that only certain people are creative or have the “creative gene”. That is a lie straight from the pit of hell.

We’ve been convinced that creativity equals art. There’s nothing wrong with this idea, as long as we are willing to broaden our understanding of what art is. If art means thoughts, ideas, and processes in addition to paintings, drawings, sculptures, music, and writing, then yes. Creativity means art.

I’m actually not opposed to this broadened view of art if it means that we believe we are all artists.

Creating Brings Inspiration

Creativity is not something we need to be inspired to do. Inspiration is not what we wait on to be creative. It’s actually quite the opposite. Choosing to create should be a practice, not something you do only when you feel inspired to do it. What if your inspiration never comes? When choose to create, then we are also creating inspiration. At first, what we create probably won’t even be that good, but the more we try, experiment, and learn, the more we will desire to create. Stay the course.

Creativity is an Unlimited Resource

And this leads right into this myth that creativity is a limited resource. As if when we use our creative energy on this thing over here, then we won’t have enough creativity to use on this other thing over there. Or we are one-hit wonders in the creative department. This is simply not true. Again, the opposite is true. The more we create, the more we will want to create. Creativity is an unlimited resource! When you use your creative energy, you breed more creative energy.

Creating for Attention Will Kill Your Creativity

The last point I need to make is one of the most important things about creativity. It’s something I never even considered until I watched this Ted Talk by Joseph Gordan-Levitt. It’s so good and I highly recommend it. It hit me hard, right in the gut. It’s something I realized I struggled with in a big way after watching the Ted Talk. It’s so important, that if we don’t caution ourselves against it, we will negate everything else mentioned above.

If you are creating for attention (accolades, awards, likes, shares), then your creativity will dry up. If your “why” is attention, it won’t get you very far. It’s a slippery slope that will get you wrapped up in other people’s opinions, which will eventually kill your creativity. The recognition you seek may never come.  The truth is, whatever you create may deeply impact someone, and you may never know it. You have to be ok with that reality. Your job is to create the thing. But you might never be recognized on the grand scale – or at all. You need to create it anyway. Someone needs what you have – even if it’s just you.

As a recovering people pleaser and perfectionist, I have fallen in love with the attention my work has gotten me. It has stunted my creativity and caused so much frustration with myself. I am learning to shift my perspective.

These aren’t new ideas and there are tons of resources that dive more into this subject. A few of my favorites are:

*Note – these are not affiliate links and I receive no compensation for sharing these resources.

Thank you for attention. I would have created this piece either way, but I appreciate you.

Stay creative, friends!

Mental Illness Doesn’t Always Look Like Suicide

Mental Illness Doesn’t Always Look Like Suicide

*Trigger warning: This post discusses difficult topics like drugs, alcohol, suicide, and self-harm.*

black-and-white-black-and-white-depressed-568025

Everyone has mental health. Just like we have physical health, like bone health and cardiovascular health, we have mental health.

Poor mental health runs in my family just like cancer, diabetes, or heart disease can run in one’s family. From the outside, that may not seem apparent. No one in my family has ever lost their battle with mental illness by suicide – at least none that we know of in recent generations. But plenty of people in my family have battled mental illness with food, drugs, alcohol, and work. As a result, many have died prematurely from heart attacks, complications from obesity, type 2 diabetes, stress, cancer, and what we like to call “hard living”.

We don’t talk about these things like mental health issues. We don’t say, “Oh, she really really struggled with mental illness, which ultimately took her life.” No, we don’t say that. We say, “Oh, she struggled with obesity her whole life, which led to a life-ending heart attack at age 60.” But what really happened is, she lived a hard life because she was raised feeling unworthy, which caused her mental health to break down. And because we don’t talk about the hard things in our life – the mistakes, broken dreams, the painful things done to us, and our lack of love for ourselves – it grows like a cancer inside of us. And because there’s a stigma around getting real help from therapy or just saying, “I’m not okay”, we medicate.

Food makes us feel better. Alcohol and drugs dull everything around us – the bad stuff and the good stuff. Work helps us ignore it. These medications aren’t initially seen as an issue because they are the things we would do in a healthy life too. No stigma.

We have to eat and work. These are essentials in our lives, so they can’t be that bad. Alcohol is something we use to socialize or unwind on occasion, but it’s not used every day or all day for the average person. They are socially acceptable.

But, the truth is, I come from a long line of people who use these things to feel better when our mental health is suffering. If left unchecked, we use them to the point of addiction – to the point of abuse. And I’m not alone.

Remember, mental illness doesn’t always mean suicide or self-harm. It’s not always that final or that obvious. In fact, it almost never starts there. It starts somewhere much smaller and less defined – in the gray areas.

This is why self-love is so important. You cannot pour from an empty cup. You must love yourself and take care of yourself. Take time for you. Take a walk, a bubble bath, a nap, a yoga class. Meditate, read, write. Visit a friend, take yourself out for coffee. Take a mental health day or a whole weekend! Tell people no.

And – encourage this behavior in others. Give people permission to tell you no, or to take a day off. Give them permission to have bad days and love them anyway.

fashion-footwear-grass-631986

Let’s be advocates for self-love: for ourselves and for others.

How are you going to practice self-care this week? Let me know in the comments!

 

Wine: The Best Grapes Grow in the Rockiest Soil

Wine: The Best Grapes Grow in the Rockiest Soil

clouds-countryside-daylight-51947

A friend and I were recently talking and he asked me if I liked wine and I just looked at him. Yeah. Hi, my name is Morgan and I love wine. He laughed and asked if I knew that the best grapes for wine are grown in the rockiest soil. No, I did not know that.

He went on to tell me that Riesling grapes grow the best in the rockiest soil. Their roots have to grow very deep to find the nutrients needed to withstand the elements. So the roots of these vines grow deep and strong, and the result is producing the sweetest grape – perfect for wine.

What a beautiful metaphor for life. The sweetest moments in life are often born from the most barren situations or seasons. Those barren areas of our lives cause us to really dig deep for the good stuff – for the sustenance to keep going. We really have to be intentional about finding the good things during those times.

Often times, when we look back at the rocky times in our lives, we are able to see the difficulties in it all but the good parts shine brighter and taste a bit sweeter. Those good moments, like a refreshing sip of water, highlight our journey and give us the strength to keep moving forward.

food-fresh-fruit-51124

Sometimes our best fruit comes out of those rocky seasons. Whether it’s in losing a job so you can pursue what you truly love. Or losing a relationship so you find your true partner in life. Or receiving a blessing you can’t explain or didn’t earn – having a debt paid unexpectedly, or someone buying your dinner, or something beautiful being gifted to you.

Most importantly, though, the rocky soil in our life becomes a breeding ground for growth, truth, and life. We become the best versions of ourselves if we stay resilient and dig deep.

If you’re going through a rocky time in life, or maybe it’s just been a rocky life, and everything seems dead and barren, dig deep and find the good stuff. Dig deep and find gratitude for what is coming. Dig deep and be excited to know that the best grapes grow out of the rockiest soil.

‘Tis the Season … to Plan for Next Year!

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays and the new year just around the corner, now is the perfect time to gear up for 2018.

Okay, maybe now seems like a terrible time to be planning for 2018 because of all the hustle and bustle. But if you haven’t started planning 2018 yet, you’re running out of time. It’ll be here before you know it!

I am one to re-evaluate my goals often – roughly every quarter. So this falls right within with my timeline. I learned a long time ago that nothing happens by accident and what gets tracked gets done. This was not an easy lesson to learn and by no means comes to me easily, either.

The act of looking at my goals, readjusting, and replanning is quite relaxing and, simultaneously, invigorating for me. When I get things on paper, it empties my anxious thoughts out of my crowded brain. I start to really be honest about the things I want to accomplish over the next 3, 6, 9 months, and I start to get really excited. Excited at the thought of trying out new things – or retrying old things with new strategies. It gives me a fresh slate and shows me that I’m no quitter.

nick-morrison-325805

At this particular time of year, I also don’t like waiting until after the New Year to get started on my new objectives. I actually start to form a few new habits right away so I’m not trying to make so many adjustments all at once. It’s also a little mind trick I play on myself so I feel like I have a head start in some imaginary race.

So in the spirit of accountability and giving you all some things to look forward to, here are a few things I am committing to in 2018:

  1. Weekly blog posts – Yay!!
  2. Eating clean and achieving a healthier body fat percentage – there are obvious health and cosmetic benefits that comes with eating healthier but also a potential health issue has come to light. As more information becomes available, I will be sure to share more.
  3. Becoming more organized – I will begin utilizing a weekly/monthly cleaning routine and sharing more about that journey.
    snapcode
    Add me!
  4. Becoming more financially fit – including getting out of debt.
  5. Spending more time on Snapchat – I know. This seems a little indulgent, and maybe it is. I’ve really been able to cultivate some long-lasting relationships on Snapchat and I miss doing that on a more regular basis. So I’m giving myself permission to do it more and love it. Add me – @morganharrell85

While these are just a few, these are some lofty goals and I look forward to sharing my journey with you in the coming weeks and months.

Now it’s time for you to share – What are some of your objectives for 2018? Do you have a plan of action? Please share in the comments!

 

 

Tonight I Told Myself To Blog

Several months ago when I was being disciplined in something.

Tonight I told myself to blog, yet I don’t feel like I have anything profound to say. This is odd for a couple reasons. First, if you asked my mother (or my boyfriend, for that matter), they would tell you that I have something to say about everything. Second, they are right.

While I have plenty to say about most anything, I’m really bad at blogging. If I’m being honest, and I am, I’m not that good at consistently doing anything — besides eating. I never forget to eat. I like to tell myself that everyone has this problem. Everyone struggles with consistency and being on top of things, which may be true to some extent. But I know there are people out there with so much more discipline than I have.

If I were to ask someone with incredible discipline, I’m 99% sure they would say they learned discipline by being relentless and driven and doing (fill in the blank) even when they didn’t feel like it. Don’t get me wrong. There is a small percentage of the population where discipline was started young and comes much more naturally. For most of us, though, it takes work. It takes day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month work. You have to schedule it. Reschedule it. Break it down into small chunks. Reschedule it again. And give yourself a lot of grace– but not too much grace. We don’t want to get complacent.

So here’s what I know – discipline takes time and repetition. It takes action, big or small. It takes guts. I also know when you do something you’ve committed to, your self-confidence increases and you’re more likely to do it again the next time. And tonight I told myself to blog, and I did.

Hurt People

IMG_20130802_203057_061

I am overwhelmed with emotion in this moment. On my way home tonight from church I felt the pull to write up a blog entry on how we deal with hurt. I haven’t posted a blog in a year – exactly one year. On September 17, 2014, I wrote the blog titled Everyone Needs a Cheerleader. The post is a short entry on being a cheerleader for others because we are all hurt and when we are hurting, we hurt others. I was in a season where I needed a cheerleader. It is no coincidence that one year later I am drawn to writing on almost the exact same topic. It’s been a rough year – full of growth, stumbling, confusion, heartache, falling flat on my face, and understanding. In fact, I’ve gone through all of those motions in a single day.

I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s latest book Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. In the book, she discusses her research on what it takes to rise strong after falling flat on your face. Her research focuses on vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Without going into too much detail (because you should seriously read the book – yes, you), she discusses the ideas around human-ness and how we respond to feeling hurt – founded or not. Recently in my life, I’ve made some poor choices that are completely out of character for me. I hit what I like to describe as a rock-bottom. There was a moment when I looked back on my choices and thought, “What the hell are you doing? And who is this person?”

After listening to most of Brene’s book I came to realize my choices were a result of me being hurt. But wait, I didn’t feel hurt. I was fine. Life was great. Well… not exactly. The closer I looked, the more I realized that I was really hurting. I had been burying my pain in travel, nights out with friends, food, and alcohol. Those actions were not the regrettable ones, but they helped me not feel all the feels I was having. Burying that pain and heartache in fun times and social activities led to making other choices that were regrettable.  I didn’t even know myself – and my heart was broken.

When everything came to a screeching halt, I realized I had hurt so many people unintentionally – all because I was hurting. And when I looked back at why I was hurting, I realized the person who had hurt me was also hurting. What did I draw from this? A couple things:

  1. Hurt people, hurt people. This is not a new concept to me. I know this. I think this is where my capacity for massive amounts of compassion and understanding comes from. I thank my mother for this. She’s always been a benefit-of-the-doubt kind of person.
  2. Understanding how I deal with hurt. Having compassion and knowing that hurt people also hurt others is not, in and of itself, enough for growth. You must see your own patterns and understand how you hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally. What is your go-to comfort? Some examples are food, alcohol, TV, gaming, sex, shopping, drugs or any combination of these. And maybe you’re like me where your go-to comfort depends on the type of hurt you have experienced. Once you understand your patterns, you can then begin healing and choosing healthier patterns for yourself. Those could be writing, reading, exercise, or, what I would first recommend, talking with the person who hurt you.

I will not claim to be an expert on this topic, but I do know what I’ve learned so far in my own life and observed in others’. I would consider myself an expert on falling flat on my face. However, it can take some time for me to truly understand how I got where I am (think: ten years!). If you want more tips on what to do next, I truly recommend Rising Strong. In fact, I also recommend Brown’s two previous books, The Gifts of Imperfections and Daring Greatly.

I am sorry to those I may have hurt in this process. While I have a ton of personal growth to experience, I take comfort in knowing that I am living wholeheartedly and I am in the arena.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

Xoxo