Jamie Wright Bagley

Creative Presence in a Wild Existence

I believe a well-rounded approach to writing and the arts is probably the only way to save a world. Even just the small one I get to live in.

Of Magic And Miracles (Bring What You Have, Day #6)


Dear friends, I haven't blogged nearly as much as I thought I would- it's true! I HAVE blogged, though, and being present to the writing is always an uplifting experience.

There are so many challenges in the everyday, I'm focusing on getting through the basics. It's my own weird kind of breakthrough that not trying so hard at every single thing I do is good medicine for me. I vacuumed yesterday. It felt like magic! Because I didn't feel I HAD to do it. I just responded to an invitation in the moment. It was five minutes before time to walk to the elementary school to pick up my sons. Then, magically, I tidied the bathroom at the last minute before walking out the door. If I had gotten up with a checklist that morning, the pressure to perform these tasks would have driven me to mild despair.

So yes, magically, I had the energy, because I wasn't dragging the weight of any expectations with me. Has someone made a million on this concept yet? ;)

My kids these days aren't immune to the magic. I rather think they either have sensors for it or they are magnets of all things magical. Perhaps we all have the affinity but were taught too well to cloak and smother it? Whatever the case, there is nothing quite like the sparkle in my 8 year old's eye when he invites me to go outside after dark because Daddy saw a firefly and he wants to see it, too, but not without me. So I throw on my soft blue jacket with the thumb holes and huddle out into the cool night air.

There are children running around playing, screeching in delight, darting through the dusk becoming night. It's an everyday spark of joy to hear childish voices, unconcerned with budget, living spaces, report cards. (Ok, some of us were not immune to that last anxiety as children, though often it's an unconsciously learned trait.) One of them called out to my boy by name, inviting him to play. He stood shyly on the patio, waving. After two more invitations and some nudging from me, he ran off to join the chase.

Did you hear that? He RAN off to play. My son, with Becker's muscular dystrophy is running around playing and having an everyday childhood experience. My son, the previously anti-social, is expanding out of his shyness and bringing his own brand of humor, joy, and vision to his peers. Public school agrees with him. He is being rallied around and he is thriving. Hold on, because that's the magic. Here's the miracle, at least from my mommy-heart perspective:

I don't know what you my readers know about muscular dystrophy, but it is made distinctive often by swollen calf muscles and the inability to jump. When Kevin was just a toddler I was already bringing this up with doctors- that jumping was not something he could do yet. It's not been a both-feet-off-the-floor kind of deal for him ever. It's been one foot, then quickly the other until last night. He was so excited about being included, having fun with kids outdoors, and finally spotting the fireflies up by the outdoor light, he saw the chalk-drawn hopscotch on our patio and he just went for it. Not once, either. No, he moved across that thing enough times for me to get a really good look and believe my eyes that he was actually hopping across the cement! I don't cry at these things (I cry at much weirder things at much more awkward occasions.) I did get a little shouty for a quick second, though. (My voice goes high and sharp when I'm taken by surprise.) "Kevin, you're jumping!" He gave me that "well of course I am, Mom" look.

Of course he was. My heart flooded with mysterious excitement. These moments are priceless to me.

Happiness is like that. It makes you jump for joy, or shed two thousand pounds of worry you've been hauling and hording for your special needs child's future. A hop, skip, and a jump isn't exactly a miraculous healing, but it is a miraculous event. A huge, hallowed hope. And hope is the lifeline that keeps this tired mom going when I'm worn to shreds and wondering if I'm doing it right, or doing enough,or if all my doing is making a difference. It didn't matter yesterday, because it was all grace. And that's the kind of magic for which we all have an affinity.

Grace to you friends, in lots of magical moments and ways.



Bring What You Have #5: Hot Tea and Cold Cereal


The first task of my day is to put on the kettle. I love the rumbling sound of water in the pot on the verge of boiling. I live for the sound of the whistle saying it's almost teatime. I breathe easier when the steam rises from the cup as I pour the water through a coffee filter (we have HARD water, so I filter out the deposits after boiling- it makes a difference!) I like my tea strong, sweet, and creamy. It's the best part of waking up. (Sorry Folgers.) Tea is my routine, and helps me start the day well.

I'm not great at eating breakfast. If it was up to my wishes, I'd skip it entirely. I do sometimes by accident, but I always pay for it with the jitters that take a long time to go away even after feeding myself. This is how my brain works: the ordinary is so ordinary it seems unimportant- a waste of time- until I am feeling poorly! So I have to be smart and take steps to ensure I don't skip the things that are good for me because I've gone and decided they aren't worth stopping for. Cold cereal may not be the most nourishing choice, but it is a better option than fasting.

This post isn't really about food. It's about how to view life. Maybe it's a life hack I've realized and want to share: The ordinary can feel like a waste, but it is an absolute necessity for a healthy existence. Don't skip it in search of something "better" or "more important."

I might have guessed, since I've been able to observe for many years now the power of routine in the lives of my little ones. Yes, it interrupts their creativity, plans, games, exciting events of life, and even dreams, but without it they would quickly become sick, hungry, tired, and grouchy. They need the holy boring ordinary to ultimately thrive. Why would I think it would be different for me? (Yes, I still need the creativity, daydreams, excitement, too! But not exclusively, which is what I tend to think I want/need.)

Yesterday I had a moment of awakening, because I realized my writing is cold cereal right now. I want every piece I write to dazzle and inspire or why bother?- might as well skip it. But I've gotten mixed up about the purpose: Writing is all about the holy ordinary. If I write to impress instead of writing to be present, it's no wonder I'm burning out. Stellar writing all the time would defeat the purpose of writing which is to walk out the experience of the present moment and share it with others. Not to be a sensation. (Don't get me wrong, I'd love for that to happen. Its a very human thing, you know?)

I'm pursuing meaning which means prioritizing and searching motives. What motivates me to lay words on a page? Writing is about communication and connection if it is about anything at all. It's part of a healthy, holistic routine far more than it's about performing to make a good impression. It doesn't have to dazzle everyday; I am allowed to keep it in the realm of simple but effective. Like cold cereal.

I don't know about you, but I've just made myself hungry. Time to put the kettle on and be my boring, ordinary human self for a quick minute. Trader Joe's has some simple vanilla granola calling my name. Happy Friday!




Bring What You Have #4: The Shapes Love Takes


My favorite memories of young adult years are from the summer family camps hosted by Joni and Friends Ministries. From age 16 until 20-odd-something (tired brain/fuzzy timeline), I would volunteer for a family: we'd sit together at meals and I'd hang out as a helper and friend for their special needs child/teen while they got some rest, adult interaction, ministry of love in action. Meanwhile the kids had a ton of fun and got to do things that normally wouldn't be possible. The worship at the end of each day was an incredible, joyful celebration. In the best way, it wore me out body and soul and it's an experience I've treasured throughout the years. Love WAS a verb, and everyone knew it.

Indeed it was wonderful, though not everything was perfect. Far from it. That is not a criticism of anyone or anything, just an observation that we bring our humanness wherever we go. And one summer, I brought my very human, very real depression along with me. I could hide it under smiles and loud singing; I could hide it on costume night and through clowning around on the stage for the talent show. I could cloak it in the way I treated others, making them smile, laugh, and enjoy the moment. And all those things were me being who I was anyway without the depression, but lacking the courage to be vulnerable.

Until one evening when the hubbub died down, the kids and their families all headed back to their rooms, and we young adults who liked to hang out after hours were just about to disperse. I was so miserable with my depression I thought I'd explode, so on impulse I asked a youth leader to pray for me. His words startled and shocked me in the best way, and I will never forget them. With his hand on my shoulder, he petitioned these words: "And please, Lord, help Jamie to learn to love herself." It was a timeless moment where I felt suspended in the light of a new awareness: that I did not love myself and did not really know how. The moment passed, and life sort of went right back to normal after that. Everyone headed back to their rooms for the shortest night of sleep ever, (yay camp!) and another activity filled day awaited. But I was a slightly different person, with some new information about myself I didn't really want because I didn't know exactly what to do with it.

That prayer has followed me for years, though. The sound reverberating through the decades. I don't know why it was, (and still is), a challenge for me to love myself. I've had plenty of time to practice, but I'm still not great at it. Self-criticism, self-judgment, should-haves and ought-tos, and the worst kind of name calling I'd never do to anyone else. Pushing my body hard because I have to do a little bit more to deserve being here. This is a constant struggle. My therapist even has me repeating a come-what-may mantra of "__________, but I will love and accept myself no matter what."

Easier said than done! The first thing I have learned is I can't refer to love as a feeling regarding myself. It has to be an action. It has to be a real life choice that benefits me wholly. I may not be able to sit around praising myself for being a wonderful person, but I can make intentional choices that treat my whole self with dignity, grace, and kindness. I can CARE for myself, and that is where the love begins: Getting extra sleep when I should be writing. Reading books from the library when I should be cleaning one more thing in the house. Buying a new long sleeve shirt from Target when I should be a) saving money by doing without or b) buying something environmentally and socially responsible (thrifting) or c) wearing the hand-me-downs someone gave me even though I hate them and they don't fit right and make me feel dumpy. Fixing myself a cup of chai tea and putting up my feet when I'm dragging and struggling to make something useful of myself today. Not worrying so much about whether I'm being useful or worthy or presentable.

There are so many ways to love myself. They are deliberate and they are CHALLENGING! This is work!!! It's important and necessary and foundational work. I'm not going to say I should have known how to do this already, and it should come naturally by now, because should is essentially a four letter word in sheep's clothing. But I will say I am realizing and acting upon it now, because it's never too late to turn a new page and begin again (and again and again and again- the intersection where simple and easy part ways!) Now, this present moment, is always the right time for the hard work of loving, in whatever shape it needs to take, (and this will be very individualized for sure!)

Do you struggle with loving your self? What action steps do you need to take to make sure you are caring for YOU whether you feel benevolence toward yourself or not? What shape does love need to take on to be wholly realized by and for you? I know this is personal and you don't have to answer here, but do spend some time today thinking about how you can be good to yourself- how you can befriend yourself and show genuine care and concern for the beautiful person you are. And if you'd like to share some tips on authentic self-care here, I'm all ears!

Much love,


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