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Today is Day 20 of My Selfie Challenge. This is my time to look at how I walk in the world and to shake loose from some of the very things that bind my spirit.  And if I am going to be really truthful, it is my hope that as I take each photo, I will learn to be just a little happier with the person that I am. As a seeker, it is my time to find the beauty that is me.

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I think that this Selfie Challenge was actually a little ridiculous. While I wanted to have fun and celebrate me a bit more. What I craved was to unveil myself on a much deeper level. I am sure I did that only marginally on a couple of the days.

In the end, I realized how much I have hated looking at myself and finding the beauty in me in this way. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, I am content with how I look and yet there are absolutely things that I’d like to change. Sigh. I am probably not too unique there.

Day 20Day 20 has proven to me  that I should give up trying to capture my beauty in a selfie. Sure I can do selfies sometimes, but I really don’t want to see my face everyday.

Looking good is important to me, but there is nothing about my face that changes with any regularity. I am too down-to-earth for that. And for the record, I really do prefer wearing black shirts and jeans so that takes away from making each photo different. I tried and I even succeeded some. 🙂

And yet, here is one of the hard truths of this journey. I found some beauty, but I also found a woman that has more work to do and authenticity to live. Finding a selfie I loved each day meant that I took many failures first. I learned to really hate my double-chin and excess weight. And mostly, I learned that it was the writing practice I adored.

Ok. . .so now I know. . . I need to keep writing. This is NOT a newsflash; I have been a writer since first picking up a pen or pencil. I’ve always loved writing!

What I really wanted to do is write about how I am feeling about the world, about some new and painful realizations about myself, about how I struggle to find joy and happiness or exuberance and yet even in my intensity, I really do spend a large part of my life in seeped in contentment.

And I wanted to share my views on guns, my troubled heart, Republicans, Israel, and assholes. I am fairly certain I would shock a few people more than once and not others.

Finally, I have found myself having some really significant ‘Come to Jesus moments.” That must be funny coming from a connected Jewish soul, but it is true.

Life is complicated and full of too many moving parts.

The bottom-line,, I will stick with writing and refrain from ever doing another Selfie Challenge. I will embrace the core of my being: I am a writer who was born to “live out loud”.

Hineini, Here I am!

Sending love, light, hope, and blessings. . . .I think we can all use some.

PS – I have one day left. . . I wonder what will emerge from my fingertips tomorrow.

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BreatheThere are days and weeks when I know that I don’t belong – anywhere. The loneliness seeps in and I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am alone. The sadness settles deep inside my core until I can take a deep breath and navigate the jagged edges of my soul.

I know that I am not alone when I say that certain seasons are a trigger. The good news is that after decades of being reintroduced to the darkness every year, I have learned to ride the waves and trust that these feelings will not last forever.

I have learned to breathe deeply.

This week has been really tough in some ways, but profoundly enlightening in other ways. I have allowed myself to ride the waves of emotions and to take the time to face whatever I am feeling at any given moment.

And yes, I am alone, but that is ok.  I don’t believe most people want to hear about what the winter holidays were like for me growing up. And I don’t think anyone wants to hear what I was doing 28 years ago this week. The stories are part of what was, but not really who I am today. And yet. . .

The memory is a funny thing. Even when you think all is ok, you find out that it isn’t when the watershed opens at the least expected moment.

Earlier this week I had the honor of joining an Episcopal church for Christmas Eve services. From beginning to end, it was a really beautiful service. Except there was this moment that triggered a flood of emotions. The only problem is that I stood paralyzed by my inability to cry, to run, or to scream. As I listened to Hymn 97, I remembered 37 years prior when I was forced to solo sing the chorus of that very hymn in front of a congregation in a Methodist church.

At the time, I was a young Jewish girl living in a foster home somewhere in Arbutus, Maryland. The family made me go to church every Sunday; I don’t know if I realized that I could say ‘no’ or that I could simply refuse to go. I didn’t have the tools and no one would have heard me if I did.

While the memory flooded my spirit on Sunday night, I also had this incredible moment that that hymn was transformed into something beautiful instead of the memory of a young girl who was alone at one of the hardest times of her life.

No child should be forced to practice a faith that isn’t their own. No child should lose their voice to a system that is broken, but the good news is that the story didn’t end there. On Sunday night, I was able to get lost in the memory only to be ignited by the beautiful passion that that same hymn was able to transform a beautiful community into a holy one. In a spiritual moment, I was able to transform a dark memory and create new memories.

So while I sometimes feel alone, what I know today is some beautiful things can evolve from a moment alone. May I be blessed to remember that while I may have moments when I feel alone, I have a village to hold me tight and love me for the person I am.

Breathing deeply – now and always,

Chava

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Honor Yourself

Courtesy of Terri St. Cloud of BoneSighArt.com 

One of the most powerful transformations that I have made since the fall Jewish holidays has been learning Torah twice a week with two groups of passionate woman (by coincidence). Both have become the highlight of my professional and healing journey. I am processing life with others and the Torah is fully becoming my guide to living more fully. Simply put, I have found a new way to honor myself differently than I ever have before now.

Last week in my Thursday afternoon Torah Study, we spoke about Jacob’s devastation over the loss of Joseph, the son who who he loved “best of all”.  While I don’t understand what it means to love one son over another son or to have one of my children die, I do understand that losing a child is perhaps the worst kind of loss that any of us can imagine.  So after Joseph learns that his son was devoured by a beast, his reaction is totally understandable:

Jacob rent his clothes, put sackcloth on his loins, and observed mourning for his son many days. All of his sons and daughters sought to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, saying, “No, I will go down mourning to my son in Sheol.”  (Genesis 37: 34-35)
The conversation that followed our reading of the above verse was heartbreaking and enlightening.  One person understood such a loss and allowed us a window into her experience and I finally understood more clearly why in traditional shiva houses, houses of mourning, we do not supposed to reach out to the mourners until they initiate a conversation.

Going to Sheol after learning of a death of someone you adore makes sense – always. Even if we are surrounded by loved ones, we are also feeling desolate and alone. And with that discussion came an enlightening discussion about mourning practices within the traditional Jewish world. Torah came alive.

Today’s Torah study was a fountain of flowing energy that ignited my soul – it always does. While we explored the difference between being a sage and showing discernment, we grew to understand what it means to have knowledge and the ability to impactfully work with others.  We also spoke about our health journeys and how we need to take care of ourselves. We also spoke about the mourner’s kaddish and the problem with how many progressive congregations do it today. How can we support mourners when we all rise together? We spoke about the options.  Finally, we wrapped up with how we say perhaps the holiest prayer in our tradition. We spoke about how we say and teach the Shema, our communities proclamation that we have One God. (Note: In Progressive Judaism there are many ways to see God and Godliness. What I LOVE about our tradition is that even if some of us see this a little differently, the Shema is a central prayer for all of us.)
Woven through every discussion was a thread of knowledge that came from the way Joseph interpreted dreams and how he, his father and his brother lived their lives. There is so much to learn from the tangents that are all part of Torah.
Each and every time I learn Torah my heart feels broken open differently than it was before we started.  My Monday morning Torah Study has strengthened my connection with five people. I can not imagine this connection ever fading. For one hour women from all corners of the United States talk Torah, education, and life.  Individually we are broken vessels that somehow emerge more whole when we grow/learn together.  Another way that my friend and study partner Iris Koller articulated our experience was that, “We each bring our fragments of lights that shine through”; our time together creates one of the most beautiful rainbows that I have ever seen.
On a side note, it has only been in the last 15 or so years that I have developed close connections with women. Before that time, I was rarely close with more than a couple of women at a time, but now I am so much more balanced because of the many soul sisters that have touched my life. Wow – I feel blessed.  I find myself thinking and opening up different that I ever have and it makes me want to cry.  I love that Torah is coming alive as it is.

There is so much holiness that comes alive when the two groups of women I study with bring our many moving parts together            in order to study together. The learning of life’s lessons through our study of Torah is making me more whole.

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Blogging is what I do.  I love writing and sharing my heart, my mind, and my soul.

Reflection Time Selfie

Reflection Time Selfie

If this is your first time reading this series of my blog, please take a moment and read the introduction Elul Journey: A New Year Is Emerging – 5775  http://t.co/Y6vmXdO6GJ

Today is 17 Elul or 13 days until 5775; it is a time to reflect and to choose ways in which I can best move towards the High Holy Days and the days that follow.  While it is not easy to navigate life’s journeys, I always get to decide how to approach my life.  In this moment, I am choosing to walk gently and embrace each step with openness.  As I say this, I also realize that this would be a good time for a reality check.

During each blog post of my Elul Journeys, I will share a poem, a saying, a teaching that has helped me navigate the world.  Let me know what you think!

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“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
Quote by Dr Seuss

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When I was in my late teens or early 20’s, I worked as a counselor for the Tikvah Program, a fabulous special needs program at Camp Ramah in Palmer, Massachusetts.  While there, I learned important lessons that continue to impact my life to this day.  The most significant one came from the head of the program who enlightened me by sharing that each and every one of us is unique and also has special needs.

If every one is unique and special, that means I should be cognizant of this reality by consciously honoring each person for who they are.  One of  my biggest goals in life is to make people feel good whenever they connect with me.  I am far from perfect, but I try to interact with others in a very conscious way.

The bottom-line is that every being in this world matters.

I am so tired of living in a society where people show disdain for those those that may have limitations or for those that are the wrong color, size, religion, economic background, etc.  All people are human beings.  Showing someone respect or kindness should be a given unless they have done something very tangible to hurt you.

As a child, I was picked by my own mother and the kids at school because of my own limitations.  I was:

  • slow
  • hearing impaired
  • Jewish
  • fat
  • from a dysfunctional family
  • and more. . .

Eventually I grew up and became more self assured, but growing up sucked in every way.  The good news is that a long the way, I did have friends and family that helped me navigate the harsh realities of being who I was.  And I was able to grow up and become comfortable in my own body.  The point here is that it hurts when people are picked on because. . . .

Since we are all part of the same universe (“no matter how small”), may we all act as if everyone counts.

With blessings & light,

Chava

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Mothering Dovi has taught me so much about life.  Mostly he has taught me about the power of silence; speaking should be done when you really have something to say.  He says what he thinks and he rarely does small talk.  When he speaks, he usually has something insightful to share.  Dovi is also one of the kindest people I know.  For the most part he uses his words wisely.

Dovi with a closed mouth. . .no surprise here.

In August 2009, I learned one of  the most empowering lesson of my life.  Silence does not necessarily mean disinterest or lack of caring.  My assumption could have been a costly one to our mother-son connection.  Living in Washington, as we did at the time, we had the opportunity to attend rallys, actively engage in politics, and to be involved in the holy work of Tikun Olam, healing the world.  On this one occasion,  I had planned to take the boys to a rally at Dupont Circle in honor or memory of young adults in the LGBT community in Israel that were killed while seeking a supportive environment of their moadon, community center.  Dovi didn’t want to go; I had assumed he wanted to hang with friends or play on his computer. I was wrong.

The outburst that followed was painful for both of us.  Dovi told me that he feared the consequences of our attending the gathering.  Jews are persecuted for being Jewish; the LGBT community is persecuted for their lifestyle.  He was petrified.  We did end up going and the entire time, Dovi made me hold him tightly.  And while everything did turn out OK, we did experience one crazy man (within 6 feet of us) who yelled obscenities to the crowd before he was escorted away by police.

This experience as well as observing how Dovi walks  through the world has given me many moments to pause.  My beautiful son has taught me to trust the silence without the need to fill in the empty space with words.  He has taught me that making assumptions based on someone’s silence does not always serve us well.  And mostly Dovi has taught me to trust silence a little more than I had in the past.

May we all learn from the lives of those around us.

With love and light . . . .

Found on Facebook – looking to give credit

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