I am moving to Wordpress.
I've consolidated my blog and my website into one artistically wonderful place.
Please visit and follow me there! Here we go: one linky-dinky, two linky-dinky... http://dellisphelps.com
If you're not "from here," then you might think you know something about East Texas from having watched the recent movie "Bernie." Frankly, the movie is spot on at revealing the snippy, elitist, prejudiced thinking prevalent there (and the horrific twang of speech!).
But this author: grew up there. Her memoir of that experience will make you cringe and groan if you are from here and it will make you exclaim in disbelief if you're not. But I can tell you from my own Piney Woods roots that her account of "how it was (is)" is all true.
Ms. Foster-Morrison has a breezy tone that sets the reader at ease right away. She is fiercely honest, a laudable act of courage, given her ancestry. I commend her for this.
Her story, a black comedy with tragic moments, is the story of "every-woman": how marriage, child-rearing, society and family influence and rule our becoming and if we are tenacious to a fault, as this author, having the will to become who she herself determines to be in spite of overwhelming odds against her, how we survive.
Personally, I deeply identified with the main premise: that those who have left their fleshly bodies have not "died," but in fact carry on communicating with us from beyond, especially when our relationships on this plane have unfinished business.
If you are looking to fantasize and be carried away, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a meaty story, full of unexpected turns and raw emotion, one that will make you laugh and cry, and leave you deep in thought, read this book.
This book is about my bone-country: the land where my ancestors have lived, died, and are buried. So I would know if it were not an authentic tale. Believe me. It is.
Ms. Casey's prose sets you directly into landscape, weather, and sky you can see and feel. I think she must have sat a whole year on her porch observing. That's how enjoyable, distinct and palpably different each scene is from the next.
Though this book is set in the late 1800's,I know I have met and rubbed elbows with the gritty characters she creates, Texas men I love and hate, the kind of men whose stock carries on despite this unforgiving land and the working of it.
The heroine, a formidable, passionate woman, faces her inheritance and her fate with graceful power, loving the land and longing for more. Alongside her character the reader experiences intense adventure and faces conflicts and questions of family loyalty; propriety; women's rights; the right to bear arms; discrimination and prejudice; and the ever-present dig of a rancher's heels into the land, insisting, demanding from it, a decent living made from sweat and sheer will.
This author has a sweet and sour taste in her mouth for all that Texas women are and she has told us the truth about how we became so in eloquent prose.
You'll need a porch and a nice long stretch of afternoon to read this delightful story because you won't want to put it down.
(super important hint!: my paintings are only available as 16X20" (or larger) gallery wrapped canvas prints and as greeting cards. So click on "canvas" at the top of the page in Smug Mug. special note about this painting: It'll look best on a square canvas. Thanks!)
I cannot teach you how to pray in words....And I cannot teach you the
prayer of the seas and the forests and the mountains.But you who are born of the mountains and the
forests and the seas can find their prayer in your heart...
The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
Since 2006 and the transition of my in-laws and my parents
from their forms of flesh to their light bodies, I have spent a great deal of
time between the worlds.
These incarnate beings I learned to love and hate and love
again have come to me in the most profound ways, letting me know their presence
beyond the veil is one of large, ongoing aliveness, letting me know their pain, their
need for my offerings of love and forgiveness.
My father-in-law’s scent:spice.My mother-in-law:heavy perfume.My father:cedar.And by arrangement with my
mother (a la Houdini):pine.
My father has visited me in dreams, willing me to do his
bidding on this plane, else he could not rest.My mother has spoken me awake, me certain she stood beside my bed.
What I have understood from these communications is
Who we are on this side, we are on the other.This is why we pray for the dead, so that The
Light knows its own and it is only by Grace (by prayer) that between the
worlds, between lives, we are received and we are known.
How do you communicate between the worlds? Have you experienced the out-of-body presence of someone you have loved or not loved? How do you process the messages you have received?
"The Cloak" 18X18" Mixed Media Collage. Image courtesy of the artist, Brandi Strickland. Used with permission and gratitude. All rights reserved. Please visit Ms. Strickland's website here to view more of her work.
What follows is the transcript from a talk I gave to women gathered for the Diocese of South Texas Episcopal Women's Spring Gathering at Camp Capers in Waring, Texas, April 4, 2014.
But as I wrote, the writing morphed from a simple account of the
events in my life into a journey itself--through my life’s history and
choices-- and as I wrote, it was much like taking an inventory, bearing witness, explaining,
and grappling with the transformational journey I have been making from the
person I used to be into the person I am.
I finished the book, I realized that I would be speaking to people about the
book. I had to decided what it was I really
wanted to say besides, “Buy my book.”And as I asked for guidance and began to receive it, I had great
resistance to the clear message that surfaced.But it was so clear and so profound and it scared me so much that I knew
this was what I was being called to do.
this is what I have come here today to say:
The woman sitting next to youin church every Sunday, well-dressed,
intelligent, raising a straight-up child, holding a good job could be the very
woman whose husband sitting beside her threatened her life and the life of her
child the night before.
Statistics show that as many as one
in every three of us has experienced some form of abuse by an intimate partner.
We must realize this is happening, maybe even to the woman
sitting next to you right now.
We must talk about it openly.We must hold the door of our hearts wide open
so that disclosure can happen. We
must proactively educate ourselves and our children as to what constitutes a
healthy relationship.We must teach each
other how to practice respect and gentleness.
We must not leave this work solely to organizations outside
the church.We must know what to do and
be prepared to take appropriate action when any woman asks for help.
We musttell the truth. We must heal this abuse. We must stand together, become
formidable, and thrive toward a culture of gentleness.
do I want to speak specifically to this Episcopal group of women? It’s because
my mother was a member of the Episcopal Church for decades and a member of the Episcopal order of the Daughters of the King.It was she who taught me how
to practice Centering and Contemplative Prayer.It was she and her group of Daughters I called with my need for prayer
over many years.In this way I have a
very felt sense of the power of prayer.And I know the power of a group of women united in prayer.
Part II:Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?
an adult, I asked my mother why she didn’t just leave my father.After all, she had a job.This was her answer:“Because he said he’d kill both of us if I
did.”So my mother risked her life and
sacrificed her happiness to save our lives.
it turns out, this threat is a common one made by many perpetrators.Sometimes, in spite of such a threat, women
summon the courage to leave and succeed, finding new lives in other cities or
carrying on where they are, but with restraining orders in place, finding that
their spouse’s bullying behaviors subside once they realize she has finally,
really left and isn’t coming back.Sometimes, the perpetrator hunts them down and carries out the threat.
woman who lived across the street from one of my friends in an affluent San
Antonio neighborhood was being held hostage by her husband, locked inside and
not allowed out alone. None of the neighbors suspected anything was wrong until
her sister called one of them to say there was going to be an intervention
a woman has children and no job and no idea how she would survive and care for
her children, so she tells herself after every beating or insult that he didn’t
really mean it and that he won’t do it again.In fact, that’s what most perpetrators do say.They experience and express real remorse, but
somehow cannot keep their aggression from surfacing again and again.
the woman is well-educated and has an excellent job and could easily care for
herself and her children financially, but she has been brainwashed into
thinking that the whole mess is her fault and if she would only do this or that
differently, he wouldn’t lose his temper the way he does.So the woman jumps through hoops:taking cooking classes; losing weight;
changing her hair; never going out; clinging; not-clinging; and so on and on
other reason women stay is because they love this man and because they would
rather stay and risk a broken arm than endure a broken life with a broken
heart.My mother loved my father until
the day she died and I love my husband despite all of our difficulties.
Part III:You Can’t Get There From Here
why did I choose a man who slapped me to the ground and treated me with such
disrespect and why didn’t I just leave him?
is quoted to have said:“a problem
cannot be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
can speak most authentically to this point by telling my own story.
cannot leave the place I inhabit unless I leave it consciously, by first
identifying the energetic pattern-cause and then by practicing the vigilant
work of choosing again and again a new way of inhabiting my world.In order to move on, I must embodying a new
energetic pattern.Otherwise, I will
simply find myself back in the same circumstance or with the same kind of
partner who may be slightly more or less abusive because that’s the kind of
energetic space my consciousness inhabits, because that’s what’s familiar, because
that’s what I’m attracted to subconsciously.
when I found my husband, what kind of energetic-pattern did I embody?What were my deepest systems of belief?
as early as I can remember, I learned that violence is a way of life.That it is part of loving someone.That it is the way to handle anger,
disappointment, and frustration.
watched my father become enraged with my mother, hit her, knock her down and
bruise her.I watched her cry and mourn
and grieve and then I watched them reconcile and stay together for twenty-eight
years.I heard my mother say repeatedly
that she loved my father, so I learned that this is how you behave when you
learned that violence is funny.I
watched the Wylie Coyote and the Roadrunner do territorial battle on Saturday
morning cartoons.I watched the
Roadrunner drop the big rock or anvil on the Coyote’s head and squash him.And then I watched the Coyote spring back and
do it all again and I watched this week after week along with many other
cartoon characters who did the same things, smacking each other in the face
with skillets and brooms and the like.
in those cartoons was the notion that these kinds of violent actions do not
hurt, after all the Coyote never died.
the same idea was implanted in my experience because though my mother was sad
and I was frightened, no one died.So I became
accustomed to living in tension and because I didn’t know better; I couldn’t know
better, I agreed subconsciously with the idea that violent action, tension, and
pain are all just part of the landscape of love.
psyche studied the roles:the aggressor rules;
the victim submits; and the belief system:when there’s been an attack, pass judgment, figure out who’s to blame,
and punish them by attack.This belief
system implanted itself into every cell of my being, into my psyche, into my
emotional blueprint, and therefore into every future relationship I would have,
especially into the relationship I have with my own self.
decided early on that to survive, I would be perfect.And I vowed that no matter what, when I grew
up, none of this would ever affect me.
graduated high school, President of the Drama Club, Student Council Officer, in
the top ten percent of my class, an outspoken, upstanding, virgin, non-drinking
Christian who attended church beside my parents every Sunday morning, Sunday
afternoon and Wednesday Prayer Meeting. I looked like a young woman who was just fine.
I got to college, I started drinking, having fun, and enjoying freedom--until I wasn’t having fun anymore.Within four years, alcohol had released the
rage within me to the degree that I had already blown through two serious
relationships and I had become spiritually bankrupt, anorexic and suicidal.
I had left home, but I had failed to leave what I learned there behind.
Part IV:The Only Way Out is Up
is a piece of my personal theology:I
believe I came into this life to experience what it is like to come to and
awaken to compassion.I believe I made a
soul-contract in the life between lives to do this work.I believe I wanted to be more compassionate
toward people who suffer with being out of control to the point that results in
violent aggression.I wanted to have
compassion for that kind of weakness.And I needed to experience it and be out of control myself in order
achieve the desired level of compassion.
my family of origin, I lived within the cycle but identified it as outside
myself as “their problem.”Then I took
on each role inside of the two serious romantic relationships I mentioned
earlier, playing the role of victim-dependent in the first and the role of aggressor-dependent in the second and playing out the belief each time that the
“problem” was outside myself, that it was “his problem.” Three months before I was supposed to marry
relationship number two, he broke our engagement and we split up.Four months later, I married my first
husband, and we had a child together, me playing the role of
aggressor-dependent.We divorced after
four years, because, of course, “he was the problem.”
I believe I chose my second husband very carefully, albeit unconsciously, so
that I could begin, in earnest, the work around these issues according to the
contract my soul had made to learn compassion in this way.
is the man, by God’s grace, who confronted my behavior and the reason, on the
physical plane that I began to awaken.
I saw when I began to wake was ugly.I
looked at all of the misbehavior, all of the missteps, all of the mistakes, all
of the times that I knew that what I was doing would bring inevitable, irreparable
consequences and I saw that I was bent on self-destruction.
the help of counselors and mentors and twelve step programs, I looked at my
life and I understood that of myself, I had no idea how to inhabit my life
differently.I had reached the bottom
and the only way out was up.
Part V:How Do We Choose?
needed to see all that I have seen about myself and my habits of thought and
habits of feeling, all that I have seen about my systems of belief and how I misunderstand the
Source of Power and misuse my own personal power.I needed to see how completely and utterly
powerless I was and still am to effect real change in my life in the absence of
spiritual awakening and intervention.
needed to see that my difficulties on the physical plane are a result of the
life going on between my ears. I needed to see my belief that attack has power; my belief that
I need to play either the role of perpetrator or victim; my belief that how I
behave is dependent on situations, circumstances and people outside myself; my
belief that I am to blame or that you are to blame and one of us should be
would like to tell you that I no longer inhabit the space of attack, judgment,
blame, and punishment, and that that system of belief no longer has power over
me.But that is not true.
A Course in Miracles says there is only one
choice really:We either choose love or
we choose attack.It is only by Grace
that I am able to choose differently most days.In most moments, I can choose for the Highest Good.In most moments, I can choose for Love.
have stayed in my marriage for three reasons.The first reason is because of the soul-contract I believe I made
between lives.The second reason is
because of financial and emotional dependency issues I continue to address
daily.And the third reason is because
of the way I define love, a definition I borrowed from writer Gerald Jampolsky:Love is an action, not a
feeling.And though I often do not like
my husband’s behavior at all (or mine), I do want to love him; I do want to
love myself.I do want to choose for
Love in in all of my relationships.
husband and I have inured each other repeatedly over time by our continued
misunderstanding and missteps. We are here to teach and learn from each
other.We have come a long way together
over the past thirty-four years.Ours is
a complex and tumultuous dance between two people learning to choose for love
and I am a formidable woman as a result of this practice.
hope is that my telling you the truth of my experience, will open the door for
you to tell the truth about yours.My
hope is that this will open your heart and increase your understanding of how
insidious and imbedded, complicated and rooted the dis-ease is that causes a
woman to make the choices she makes.
hope is that you and I and others, one by one, will come together into the deep
well of compassion and teach and learn from each other what it is to choose for
Love.My hope is that together we can
re-frame our notion of what it means to love.My hope is that by the Power of this Love and the work of our hands, we
can bathe our world in this Great Gentle River until the time comes when no
—face of god
Part VI:The Work of Our Hands
your hands, but first, stop the bleeding.
a practitioner of energetic healing with clients, my training teaches me to
look for the energetic cause of what may be presenting as pain manifested in
the body.So for example, someone with
chronic back pain may need to resolve some emotional trauma from their past
experience.But, I am cautioned, that should I
come upon a person lying in the road with a severe hemorrhage, do an
energetic intervention, but first I should stop the bleeding.
the purposes of this conversation, the immediate work we have to do is help the
woman in crisis find safe shelter.The
energetic intervention will happen as we change our own minds and open our
hearts, learning to practice gentleness and choose for love ourselves.Only when we love, can we teach love.
January of this year, I met with a few women and together we explored some
aspects of current reactive approaches to violence against women and asked some
questions about how we might become more proactive, offering greater support to
women seeking refuge, renewing sensitivity, and become Women Empowered toward a
culture of gentleness.
I brought to the conversation was this information:In Kendall County, Texas when a woman finally
summons the courage to ask for help, she must first figure out who to
call.Once she does this, she may find
the national hotline or a local shelter number.If she calls the national hotline, they will then give her another
number to call to reach a local shelter.So now she has to make a second call.On either call, the first question they will ask if “Are you safe?”If she answers no, they will tell her to hang
up and call 911.By now this traumatized
woman has had to make three calls.
she calls 911 and the police come to get her, they will take her to the nearest
shelter.If that shelter is full, they
will give her the number for the next nearest shelter that is not full.She may be escorted there by the police and I
quote, “If the police are not busy.”The
woman may also be given hotel accommodations until a shelter space is
available.I don’t know whether police
must stay with the woman at that point or not.
a woman is admitted to a shelter, she has access to counseling and other
services, but, according to one shelter I interviewed, her stay is limited to
sixty days.Sixty days to get your life turned around, heal from serious
psychological and emotional damage, change your habits of thought and habits of
feeling, grieve the loss of the one person you love most in the world,
sometimes find a job, find a place you can afford to live, and maybe find
daycare for your kids.
chop.Time is precious.
In light of this clinical and reactionary
approach absent of poetics, spiritual presence, or true nurture, we explored
the notion of how a system of ecumenical “safe” houses might help women in
crisis and seeking refuge from spousal abuse.Think Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad.
In late February, I was
privileged to hear Rev. Becca Stevens of Tennessee speak to the Episcopal Southwest Texas
Diocesan Council gathering in San Marcos.She has designed and implemented a two-year residential recovery and
rehabilitation opportunity for women who have histories of prostitution, drug abuse,
and other forms of bondage.These
residences are called Magdalene Houses and they operate without federal or
state funding, are absolutely free to the participating women, and are fully
self-supporting through their social enterprise, Thistle Farms.This is an amazing
model that could be used for the safe-houses I envision.
However, for women
seeking refuge from spousal abuse and those who assist them to be safe in such
places, careful security measures would be necessary and this would change the
Magdalene House model in some significant ways.
I believe this can
happen by the work of our hands.
I heard this story recently from a
non-Episcopalian pastor:She told me
about a woman she knew in another city who was being abused by her husband and
was ready to leave, but that woman’s church-body insisted she reconcile with
her spouse and thus would not support her leaving.The pastor, who told me this story, took up a
collection from her congregation and sent the woman money so that she could
After I told the then director of the Kendall
County Women’s Shelter this story, she suggested that her organization hold a
round-table discussion among area ministers across denominations, asking them
about their church doctrines on the subject of separation and divorce,
especially in the presence of family violence.
that idea, I have created a list of interview questions I think might be
effective to begin a conversation with Episcopal rectors.In this way, we could engage them and their
parishes in the conversation about the need for more hands-on, proactive
involvement by the church body in calling women toward this culture of
Here are a few
examples.As you listen, discern how you
yourself might answer these questions.
would you council a woman reporting spousal abuse?
2.What is your teaching regarding divorce and
or separation in such cases?
3.What system, if any, do you have in place for
addressing the needs of a woman seeking refuge from spousal abuse?
4.Do you have and do all of your parish members
have ready access to toll-free telephone numbers for both the nearest local
women’s shelter and the national hotline?
7.Would members of your parish be interested in
proactively obtaining training on compassionate conversation and developing
healthy relationships toward a culture of gentleness?
8.Would you or a member of your parish be
willing to be the designated communicant in this continuing conversation?
might be difficult conversations.But we
must have them.We must take a hard look
at what we are doing and what we are not doing.We must open our sacred spaces; we must open our minds, our hearts and
must purposefully nurture loving kindness and let the choice for beauty, gentleness
and harmony dissolve hatred and let the Great River carry all that does not
believe this can happen by the work of our hands.
a social-organizational level in Ann Arbor, Michigan, voluntarily trained
response teams exist.When the police
are called to the scene of domestic violence or when an individual presents at the
hospital admitting they have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner,
this team is called.They come to her at the police station, or hospital.They listen.They comfort.They bring resource
information and they accompany her through the process of getting the help she
needs.These are viable and powerful
models we can follow. And I wonder why this isn’t happening in every city.
further, what if every parish trained its own Teams of Compassionate Response,
teams prepared to guide and assist such a woman, much like a Steven’s Minister
learns how to be present to someone in a life crisis as a spiritual companion, but
more adept at addressing the needs of a woman seeking refuge from a violent
we ready to hold this woman’s hand and help her to safety?Can we listen to her story without judgment?
each of us must do our own personal growth work and change our own realities
from the inside out, can we offer this tourniquet and stop the bleeding?
believe this can happen by the work of our hands.
might say, “There is so much work to do.My life is full and I have no more time.”I understand.
here is one important way we can work together without adding an ounce of extra
outward effort.Let’s shift our
discourse about this topic from the language of violence, for example naming a
month “Domestic Violence Awareness Month,” to the language of gentleness,
calling it “Safe Family” month or “Compassion Awareness” month.
each of us become aware of our own everyday language and whether or not we are
speaking the language of gentleness.For
example, instead of saying I am “fighting for what I believe,” why not say, “I
claim what is rightfully mine and I speak my truth.”
is a bowl of white ribbons on each of your tables.Please take one and one for someone you
love.Let it be a gentle reminder of the
work we have to do.Let it whisper to
you and to those who ask why you wear it, “I am a formidable women choosing for
also on the table, you will find my “Call to Action.” (see Call to Action page on this blog)These are love-in-action steps you can take
to more proactively help women in crisis find safety and thrive toward a
culture of gentleness.
no mistake. Asking these questions;being present to my own and others’ pain;taking inventory of my life, my habits of
thought and habits of feeling; watching what I say; watching what I think, telling
the truth about it all out loud and in public:is not easy.But, for me, it is
an inescapable calling.
is the voice of the Christ speaking to me, saying:“Take up your bed and walk.”
so I have told you my story and shared with you insights born out of my own brokenness.I have told you that it is by Grace alone
that I come before you today a more formidable woman.
And since none of us can really rest until
all of us are saved,until
all of us are safe...
ask you to come with me into this Great Gentle River where none of us are
separate or different or better but where all of us blend together in the murky
mystery of our humanity.
ask you to become a teacher of peace.I
ask you to choose for love.I ask you to
commit to listening with an open heart.I ask you to commit to using the language of gentleness.I ask you to suspend your judgment of “the
other” and nod to the Oneness of All that Is.
of these things I ask because I know--this is how we heal.