The Myth Of God, Good And Good Enough.

All through my teens and twenties, I was so desperate to prove I was good, and good enough.

Barely a teenager when I became a Christian and gave my heart to Jesus, I was so very desperate to have the deep, horrible feeling of not good enough washed away from me. I hoped to find peace in obedience and surrender, but in the years that followed peace was just as often mimicked in the numbness of substances, or drowned in the shallow desires of others, as it was revealed on my knees at the altar. Continue reading “The Myth Of God, Good And Good Enough.”

How To Move Forward In Your Life Without Blame.

Sometimes in life, when things are difficult or uncomfortable, or someone is being unkind or a dick, it’s necessary for us to choose our way through the situation and out the other side. We need to take stock and personal responsibility, and move forward to bring about change. And that’s fine. In fact, sometimes the only way a positive change will happen is if we facilitate it for ourselves.

But sometimes, everything seems fine and nobody is being a dick, but still we have a feeling it’s time to change. And no matter what we do, we can’t shake the feeling, though we try and pinpoint what’s wrong or who might be doing something to make us feel like we need to go or leave or change things up, we can’t. It can make no sense sometimes, the deep, unsettled feeling we want things to be different.
Continue reading “How To Move Forward In Your Life Without Blame.”

My True Face.

Is it even possible to take an honest photo of ourselves?

A few days ago, I published here a chapter from my upcoming book Do Awesome Broken on inspiration. My favourite part of that piece is this –

“Don’t seek greatness, expertise or uniqueness in the hopes it will inspire others. Your knowledge is useless if they don’t feel you’re accessible. Don’t bother trying to know more on your topic than anyone else, simply seek to grow your capacity to be honest and authentic and your willingness to be vulnerable. Nobody was ever encouraged by a lie, or a liar. When people feel they have connected with your true spirit, it will bring them to life in ways both you and they cannot even imagine.”

Over the past year, I have experienced more pain in my relationships than in the forty six or so years prior. Oh, I’ve had my share of marriage and family problems in the past, don’t you worry, I’ve not been wrapped up in cotton wool, but those conflicts and misunderstandings are kind of to be expected, right? But this is different.

In the past year, there has been pain I didn’t even think was possible to feel related to people I’m not related to. Over and over. And it still hasn’t stopped. I’m in it right now. It just keeps coming. And I am in pain.

When we’re in pain, well, when I’m in pain, my instinct isn’t to want to put myself anywhere where I can be hurt again. In fact, being in emotional pain makes a person want to hide from the world and other people. Thing is, I’m a writer. And I want my writing to be read. In a way, I want to be seen. I believe my work is to put my writing where people will read it. I believe deeply in the principles of inspiration, and it’s a process I wish to participate in as both a spiritual discipline, and a personal and professional vocation.

But to be honest, all my guts are telling me right now what I need to do is HIDE. When we are in pain, and that pain has not made us beautiful or transformed us into something better, we want to remain UNSEEN.

I don’t want to show you me, I don’t want you to see my face. I don’t want you to see my pain, or my ways of dealing with that pain, or how ugly I can be when I’m processing it. I don’t want to tell you the things people have said about me, or show you the ways they claim to have been failed by me, because I don’t want to be seen as a victim. That’s not my story. I want you to hear the story of my truth, truthfully told.

And the truth is this. I am not a victim of anyone, or anything. I am the facilitator of my experience. Things happen through me, not to me.

But this doesn’t mean some of those things don’t hurt like hell and make me want to….well, I don’t want to tell you all the things I’ve thought of in the dark, my friends.

I know you feel pain too, and you want to hide, and you don’t want people to see you, because pain feels ugly and shameful and tells us we are the only one, and nobody is as less-than or broken as we are. I know you, like me, sometimes feel everyone is way more fixed-up and together than you, and others have the answers and you do not.

I have a victim story, and it’s all I can do not to judge that story as less-than and wrong and shameful too.

Oh, I can’t even tell you how much I want to hide right now.

But I look into the eyes of my truest essence, my original, authentic self, my Small and Pure, and because I know her, because she is me, I see her pain and I know how much she wants to hide. And for the most part, I help her. I hold her and allow her to bury her little face in my breast, lay her head in my lap, and I say, hide here, with me, my love. You are safe, and you are loved. I will always love and protect my Small and Pure, because whether it is true or not, there are times when she feels all she has is me, and I will not challenge that belief while ever shame has her cornered in the dark. My work when she is swathed in shame is to bathe her in my love and acceptance and believe her, whatever she says to me, whether or not it is real, or just a reflection of her pain.

You are enough, I tell her, and you are good. You are safe, and everything is going to be all right.

But like all big people who comfort small, pure people, I do not know for sure it will be all right, but I know I am all right, and so it is true, even if I feel uncertain about what will happen next to both my Small and Pure, and me.

And I hold her face in my hands and I say, look at me, sweetheart.

Look at me. Show me your face. I want to see you.

To take the face and look into the eyes of a person in pain is to say, trust me, I see you, and I choose to see whoever you show me now, even if that face is uncertain, ashamed and afraid. It is a burgeoning trust. It is faith.

And it is in this way I lift my face from my shame and my pain, and I show you my face.

It isn’t what my self wants to do. I want to hide and show you what I’m good at, give you more clever writing and show you more pretty pictures. But that would not be the truth. And nobody was ever encouraged by a liar, or a lie.

This is my true face. This is the face of process. This is my actual life. This is an act of faith.

I have vowed in my work to tell the truth. I found a pretty photo of myself to share with you, but that is not the face of this day. So I decided to show you the face of this day.

This may be the end of my Facebook page. Lol.

Selah, my friends.
Jo xxxx

Tattoo Chronicles #3 – Never Forgotten

This is my third major tattoo. My strawberry vine.

I told you yesterday about my two totems being strawberries and dragonflies; strawberries because a tiny strawberry was my very first tattoo and a secret between Ben and I, and a dragonfly, because it symbolises new beginnings.

After Ben came home from rehab and we set about our new beginning, I decided it was time for some more ink.

Anyone who’s had more than one tattoo will tell you they’re highly addictive.

I drew up this design for my inner right forearm to symbolise our family coming back together.

A strawberry each for Ben and I.strawberry vine tattoo

And a blossom for each of our children. Four living, one no longer with us.

Our first boy was born in 1988, then another in 1992. Our girl baby came to us in 1994, after which we decided three was enough. Dorothy was conceived in 2001 and would’ve been our second child after Bens vasectomy reversal in 1999. Gabriel was conceived less than a year after that procedure and was still very young when I fell pregnant again.

But I was older, in my early thirties, and I remember I was not feeling completely well when I found out a new baby was coming. Still, we wanted more children and I was excited about the prospect of perhaps another girl, a sister for Daisy.

But she was not to be. I miscarried in my first trimester. I named her Dorothy. Dot for short, because she only ever was a little dot of a thing.

One strawberry each for Ben and I. And one blossom for each of our children, four living, and one never forgotten.

Tattoo Chronicles #1 – Survivor

My first tattoo. Got it in 2008, five years after surviving cancer.

I drew this design up myself, and the tattoo artist commented it was obvious I wasn’t a tattoo artist – too many fiddly little scrolls.survivor tattoo

I wanted this tattoo more than anything. I needed a permanent reminder to never take my body for granted, and always listen to it when it speaks to me. The non-hodgkins lymphoma was stage 3B by the time it was found, undiagnosed for seven months despite my repeatedly visiting a doctor asking for tests. I knew I was sick. He told me I was just tired and working too hard. I walked into my local hospital emergency department on July 17th 2003 and told them if I was going to die, I wanted to do it in their waiting room, not in my kitchen in front of my kids. They found the saucer sized tumour in my chest within an hour of my arrival. Rushed to a bigger hospital in an ambulance, then airlifted two days later to Sydney. Three months of chemotherapy and two of radiotherapy. I learned a lot about myself in that time.

First thing I learned is my body knows what sometimes my mind and will refuses to admit. I thought I was living a good life, but it was a cacophony of compromises. My body said, fine, go there if you like, but I’m not coming with you.

It took time for me to relearn my body’s signals and to rebuild the trust between it and me. Now, I ask it first before I do anything where it will be required to bear the weight of the consequences. Sometimes it says, hell yes! Sometimes it says, are you kidding? Sometimes my body says, look at your arm, girlfriend. And when I do, I’m sometimes reminded I am not made of iron and stone. I can break. But sometimes looking at my survivor tattoo reminds me I can do very hard things. It reminds me not to expect so little of my body.

And sometimes, my tattoo reminds me becoming a survivor requires one almost die, and then come back from that…..but there be a day when I will not come back. Is this that day? No. This is not that day. Today, I live. Every day, until that day. I live.

Selah, my friends.
Jo xxx

Art is the ultimate truth telling. Tell it.

Art is the ultimate truth-telling. Creativity is given us so we can speak out the truths laying inside us, unspoken and unrecognised, that we might recognise them. Each word and brushstroke, every step in the dance and note in the song is us tracing over with our body what we see when we look inside our heart.

Art, like all truth, tells us not what it is, but what we are. We know what we know when we see it standing outside of us, looking us back in the face.

The tracings of our heart out in the world are truth, but there is never just one truth. If you close your eyes and listen to a choir singing, you will hear each voice inflected with a unique experience, with divergent timbre, age and accent and emotion. Art shows us the potential for harmony in our difference. It shows us it’s okay to be us, or think what we think and believe what we believe, and possible to be one, all at the same time.

In seeking to tell the truth from our spirit out into the world, we send an irresistible invitation to the unseen realm, from where all making and life and creativity comes. The silent, sublime power who formed us at the beginning will come and join the song with us. This is inspiration.

When the Spirit of truth comes and joins with us in our making, holiness ensues. With inspiration, the Spirit at our side, and a deep knowing of our truth inside, as well as a willingness and will to tell that truth, we can indeed make holy, Holy things.

But even a Holy thing is still just a thing.

Truth is confronting, challenging, even terrifying. The Spirit, always acts from love, but the truth she inspires in the teller can be confronting, challenging, terrifying. Not all prophets are inspired, many are mere fortune-tellers; our fortune and our truth are not the same thing. However, all artists and creatives are prophets, and, unlike fortune tellers, true prophets are seldom very popular.

Artists, creatives, prophets and truth tellers have long been persecuted and assassinated for their truth telling. Their Holy works and art and words have throughout history been dismantled, reinterpreted, appropriated and distorted to validate and defend all manner of things. The makings that come from our truth telling are powerful, but too fragile to be used as foundations, weapons and shields. When we attach our agenda to them, when we refashion them from mirrors into altars, into objects of worship and a foundation for culture or ideology, power crumbles and falls away like sand through the fingers. Truth is not out there. It is in us. Always, always in us.

Art is a mirror. Expression is a reflection. Even we are a merely a canvas upon which inspiration makes her marks. God knows this, and thus, in desiring to show us both who we are, and who God is, gave us the Most Holy Words in a work of art, accepting fully the risk every single word could be misunderstood, distorted and misused. Love is letting go. Besides, God knows when we are able to undo the cipher of who we are, seeing ourselves reflected in the inspired work of truth, we will then see and understand God, the ultimate creator.

And hopefully see and understand ourselves.

Love is a story worth telling, it’s a dance, a prophecy, your words, a song. It is the ultimate truth telling, and the ultimate truth is love.


What it looks like when you’re on a spiritual journey.

People on a spiritual journey are going somewhere. They grow. They shift. They change. They move. They may live physically in the same place their whole lives, but they will not stay the same person. They do not ever arrive. If you have disembarked at some fixed point in your pursuit of recovery, healing and wholeness, then it’s unlikely to be a spiritual journey you were on to begin with. It is fitting to be content with your looks, your home, your belongings, and your relationships, but spiritual self-satisfaction is something to be remedied rather than pursued.

Your Holy self is made to seek, not to cling. She does not live in your body any more than smoke could live in the fire. Your body is a temple to her, your heart, an altar for her. She owns no furniture, owes no mortgage, requires no chattels. She outlives the fleshy box you carry her around in, outlives it many times over. She dances always, arms outstretched, in the heavenly spaces between herself and God.

Spiritual sojourners transition, like seasons, like the earth, like the moon, like wind, like water, like a flame, like dust. They understand things of spirit are not static. They are ecstatic – extra-static. They appreciate there is a time for every season. They know when to hold on and when to let go. They know there is a time for birth, and a time for death. A time to sow and a time to reap. A time to dance, and a time for mourning.

Do not fear the sense we all have at times of being spiritually unsettled. Be wary only of spiritual colonialism. Of ownership, occupation and consumption which calls itself a spiritual enterprise. Of taking and not letting go, of gathering without attrition. Be wary of those who claim to be the God-people, who claim to be spiritual, but who do not exercise the principles of seasons, resisting the cycles of birth and death, accumulating, accruing and growing exponentially without allowing natural processes of detachment, death, loss and grief. There is a name for the living cell which forgets how to die in the appropriate season, and remembers only how to live, stay, grow, and consume and colonise. Those cells are called cancer.

Spiritual sojourners need not fear death of the body. We are not merely our physical selves, and to be awake to Spirit is to understand we can never truly die. The journey towards healing and wholeness will encompass many deaths, many lettings-go along the way. Attrition and rebirth are as familiar to the brave-becoming as our own hunger and thirst. Our pangs neither direct nor enslave us. We pay attention to them with friendliness and care, without allowing ourselves to be redirected from our purpose. Moving is our purpose. We are always walking forward on the path.

A brave-becomers work is not arriving, it is becoming.
From The Book Of The Brave
(c) Jo Hilder
Coming soon!

Image credit: bruniewska (stock image)

Come away from your memory into your imagination.

I know you’re facing another day not knowing if you need to hold on or let go. I know the weight of trying to make up your mind whether you have a decision to make, or whether you need to simply allow things to play out, literally keeps you paralysed, and you feel like you can’t move. To throw things in the air and see where they land? Or to go inside yourself and resist change for the sake of change – a tactic that’s gotten you in trouble so many times before?

You know, because you’ve learned, when things are this way, it doesn’t matter where you go, those things will go with you. And who wants to start again, again?

There’s this temptation to believe your indecision about what to do next is as much a sign of your less-than-ness as the damn thing you’re trying to fix.

Darling, just know, you’re going to be okay.

One day you’ll wake up in a different place and realise changing where you are didn’t change who you are.

The work is before you. This work will never go away – the work of brave becoming. Whatever you choose, do not choose to try and achieve some state where you can avoid the work of knowing and loving yourself better. Don’t choose to be numb. Don’t choose to sleep. Don’t choose to be deaf, blind, busy or out of it.
Don’t choose change because it gives you something else to do, something other than being present with yourself, in this moment, opening up wider to accepting and knowing and being.

Choose to be awake. Choose to be present.

Your circumstances will shift, change and transition, as you choose your way ahead. You’re smart, wise and brave. You’ll figure this out. Don’t panic. The pain will pass. The regret will pass. Let the shame go. It’s not a sign of self-awareness, you know, to hold onto shame. Being ashamed isn’t a sign you know what’s really going on and accept your part in it. Shame is forming an imaginary judge in your mind, the most disparaging, vile and accusatory character you can invent, and making choices as if that imaginary person was right in front of you. Shame is assuming that imaginary judge is telling the truth about you, and you have a responsibility to listen to everything they say, and believe it. Fire the judge. You need your imagination back. You have a future to choose yourself into.

Come away, dear one, into the wilderness. Away from your memory, into your imagination.

Take a breath, sweet friend. Close your eyes and listen to your breath. Your body knows what to do to be alive, to thrive, and it doesn’t even need you to think about it. In, out. In out. How much more do you think your vibrant, God-given spirit knows what to do? Trust your heart, your gut, your spirit. Listen to your God-breath. You know. You know.

Selah, dear one,