Tend-and-befriender

It is odd to tell a story as if it was a thing that happened and it has an end and tra la la. This story is a chapter, it is a leaf only recently flipped over, and I am not sure which parts of its’ green vines to write, and which to leave for later.

Yet today, here, now, all I have is cute little me and my inhospitable life story and path. Here, friends, is a part.

August 2015 I am in a restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama with my best friend Emily. She is chewing red and yellow tortilla chips in the magical way only she can, and I gaze at the shiny bottles of alcohol propped on and around the bar caddy-corner to us.

“I’m just afraid that I will marry him and go to be with him and then hate it and not want to be there,” I say. Emily and I do not talk about everything but we talk about most things and all the deep things, yet somehow there is a unique heaviness to the fear I share in this moment. Emily nods like the sane, level-headed being she is, and validates my concern with restraint.

Sadly, utter heaviness was no stranger to my experience of life then, and still maintains a fairly reliable presence (always forward, always healing, always hopeful). At that point I was back from an emotionally stressful overseas trip, and had returned with a new tend-and-befriender. What is that, you ask? Using language from Teresa B. Pasquale’s book Sacred Wounds, tend-and-befriend is a defense mechanism used by someone in survival mode or trauma response. It is associated with the bonding hormone, oxytocin, that serves humans by helping us feel connected to others. It becomes nefarious, however, when a person is stuck in a trauma response and feels dependent emotionally on (often potentially hurtful) people or communities.

At the age of 21, I had spent the majority of my life (read: every second) moving from a stress response. The emotional and religious trauma of my developmental years left me stuck in frozen distress (things can get reeeeeally hairy there is distress-arctica, let me tell ya), and there I was, about two months after the difficult trip, feeling a deep obligation to return to be with someone in a foreign country who had helped me through a VERY rough 13 days. I felt that I owed him something, and that to return and live the life I assumed he wanted from or with me was the undeniable right thing to do.

I felt it not on a spiritual level, nor on a level of dutifulness, nor on an intellectual level. It was deeper than those parts of me, and now I know that when I feel that deep, guttural obligation it is coming from my very evolution. Those stress responses are a part of me because I am a part of an evolving body of humanity; sounds beautiful, sure, but in that moment, I was very stuck. Living in this kind of stress response is like trying to breath with air that is only 0.09% oxygen. It is having your insides in the fetal position when you need them to open and flourish and say things and be responsive to people. It is a jack-hammer in your mind that leaves you vulnerable to re-experiencing the abuse combined with a sense of badness that stings and prods like horse flies on the beach. It is no sleep and avoidance of every love-light ray that comes near your personal darkness.

The religious trauma compounded with this process has continually led me to my knees, trying to bargain with push-and-pull gods off in the cosmos who made me, so must want me, but also must not want me since here I am in this turmoil again.

Thankfully, the kind man who helped me when I was overseas, lived, yes, overseas. After 5+ months in contact with him, I suddenly cut all conversation–text, calls, video. He offered advice and was kind and looking back I think he must have sensed the turmoil I was in though he did not understand it either, and I said goodbye.

January 2016 I am at my part-time cleaning job the day after cutting off the relationship and the air is back to 20% oxygen. Sweet, sweet clear oxygen filling my shriveled lungs. I lift my Pledge-covered rag over my head and dance; I feel elated, happy, for the first time in months. I am happy because I see that I am mine. As the jack-hammer lifts off my mind, I am thinking over and over: this is my life. I clean this house. This is my heart. I feel these things. The fetus my insides had become is suddenly a seed of new life, rather than a posture of protection. I am mine again, independent, and my muchness is slipping back into the ghost of myself that has been living misguided and drained for the past months.

I still wonder if people without an over-active stress response system feel that elated all the time. I wonder how many times I will have to survive a response like that again until my Holy Trinity (body, mind, soul) can look a stressful situation in the face and know that I am enough, and that it is going to be okay and I am going to make it regardless of what goes down.

I never should have accessed this place of stress and trauma. I certainly never should have gotten stuck in it for so long. But this is my life. MY super unique and immense life, people. I am grateful that I get to live it, know it, figure it out. This life is path and path is where my insides and outsides come together and I experience joy and love and laughter. Here, on path, I take the hands of my loved-ones with my own, even when I feel that my hands are not worthy to be inside of someone else’s.

Last week someone I love very much was angry and I could see the anger that she was trying to protect me from as I stroked her black hair.

I could see. I have lived. It has hurt. I can see.

Live free, live inside of the Big Love.

Namaste, nomads.

 

LN

 

 

 

 

Grace & Gravity

I believe that I was put on this earth to chase my destiny.

I believe that you were put on this earth for a great purpose.

I believe that there is grace unleashed around us when we let someone change their mind (without missing a beat).

I believe there is power in acceptance & unconditional love.

I believe that from our darkest pain comes our deepest passions.

I accept my favorite parts of my story as well as the parts that wreck me.

I believe in an eternal force of goodness that is changing my stars & will never stop setting me free.

I accept the heavy care in my heart for the dozens of people who I claim as eternal family (love that pierces thread through me & ties my figure-eight soul to this planet).

I believe that I won’t regret giving myself time & space to transcend the daily “grind” & to nurture the soul I’ve been given.

I won’t regret taking the time to hear my heartbeat & to think long & hard about the human experience.

I won’t regret begging the dark & mysterious universe for space within me to adopt the unforced rhythms of grace & to weather waves of light & truth, the ones keeping sun & moon drawing circles around earth.

I won’t wish I had forgiven less, dreamed less, hoped less, smiled less, cried less, laughed less, fought for my neighbors & family less, believed less.

By grace I see, I dare to think: this life is a sacred gift & I want to live each extraordinary moment.

May the child within you be set free.

May you greet every growing experience with grit.

May love be gravity tethering you to the present moment.

May you fight for another.

May you confront the darkness within.

May you fly, my friend.

Kwagala

Sometimes I get it so wrong. I think that in order for me to love people they need to be as easy to love as God is. I think that MY love is the love that keeps things going. I think that love on my terms is real love. Then I wind up running out of love. Because, well, my love has an end. True LOVE doesn’t. In reality, God’s love is the game changer. Not mine. Hey, check it out, the Bible is right again: Real love isn’t our love for God, but His love for us. (1 John 4:10)
So it’s His Never-Changing, Never-Wavering, Constant, Forgiving Love that should shape my life. My paltry mimicry of this love is not the standard. The standard gets down in the dirt with us. It sees our ugliness. It sees blisters oozing puss on our hearts. It sees wounds that wound others. It gets snapped at & accused & still.loves.on. We turn our back on Love & love still covers us.

Finally I visited Africa. 8 years since God brought the first memoir of a child soldier into my hands. 8 years of pinning maps to my wall & clipping Nat Geo articles about “the motherland”. I thought I would visit South Sudan, but God took my hands & walked with me into Uganda. Into dust clouds. Into papyrus marshes. Into tiny stores selling only eggs (unrefrigerated!), coca cola, & motor bike tires. Into shouts of “Mzungu! Mzungu!” Into wide Ugandan smiles. Into culture stress & outrage at male-dominate culture. Into deeper love, but not as I expected.

Having read piles of blog posts about the experiences of other “Mzungus” (white people/Westerners) in this country, I expected to fall in love. I expected a fresh awakening that left me hungry to stay & do MORE. I expected to look into Ugandan eyes & experience a kind of love I had never known before. By day 4 I realized that wasn’t going to happen. I was disappointed until I realized: you can’t be awakened to something for the first time…twice! I’m awake! Since 2009 I’ve been living a love story (His love moving us forward, remember, not mine) that started in the hills of Jamaica (“Little Africa”–go figure!) where the Holy Spirit hands clasped both my shoulders & shook me alive. Alive to love. Alive to poverty & pain. Alive to everywhere that is not comfy, plush, white middle class America. Alive to REAL life. Life that risks everything, that scurries down a dark shaft in search of one lost miner, that searches the couch cushions for one coin some might call worthless.
I expected Africa to be a first chapter in my life. But that’s not the order of my story (guess what? Lydia’s not writing it…). Uganda is not the first or last chapter, it’s simply a sweet & difficult plot twist.
It’s another deep gash in my heart bleeding the same blood that poured from the side of Christ as He gasped his last breath. The wounds with no Neosporin. The women whose necks are graced with 50 pound loads instead of pearl necklaces. White-collared corruption that kills as many as the HIV stigma & condom-less sex. Those with homosexual tendencies thrown gracelessly into prison & labeled MISFIT.

Trips like this don’t come with closure. There’s no tidy bow to put on the end of something so confusing, so beyond me. There’s just a tiny faith plant in the garden of my heart that is weather beaten by the tragedies. Weather beaten, but somehow stronger. Somehow more green, somehow growing bigger & more vivacious against the odds. Because there’s this paradox. This belief that’s sometimes a rainbow over my soul & sometimes just a tender whisper in the dead of night {Housefires, Good Good Father}. That the worse things get, the more good God is. That His goodness is His identity, & not at all relative to what I see or feel, eat or don’t eat. Whether I accumulate cancerous cells, or millions of dollars, goodness is of God. The deeper the badness goes, the better the goodness gets. I’m a mango & somehow tragedies are scoops taken out of yellow flesh, making room for love & hope. Do I understand it? HA! No. But that little faith tree in my heart reacts to what is beyond me. It feeds on a food that I can’t articulate.

For the past 6 years my playground & battle ground has been the uncultivated love of God. Traveling, I expected to see something new, big, wide. I saw new things, but no new rest for my soul. There is only one green pasture where my soul-feet can stumble to for real rejuvenation. The world is big & wide but never bigger or wider than His love. Seeing more places may show me more physical reflections of who He is but nothing is so sweet & expansive as the wilderness of His love.

May we fall in love every time we open up our eyes. ~Sleeping At Last

Telling Jesus stories through a Ugandan translator!

Telling Jesus stories through a Ugandan translator!

Holy Broken

My dark heart, on blast in my actions, drives me to glimpse God’s heart in fasting. He reveals much in Isaiah 58, Behold you fast only to quarrel and to fight….Is such the fast that I choose?….Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to the Lord? It pleases Him when we commit to restraining our flesh that His Spirit may grow stronger within us, but never at the cost of peace. Never at the cost of justice. Never to turn our eyes inward, but to turn them Upward.

So I know, that in seeking Him, I have been a Pharisee (that nemesis of Jesus we all pretend not to be). For the family member who intrudes on what has become “my” time receives a snippy retort. And suddenly I have not loved God, but myself; for every human who walks on this planet, and in the halls of my home, bears God’s image on earth ((for good or for evil)). It is revealed that my seeking is now motivated by what I can get instead of Who He Is. How I yearn to be available to His call. How often I miss the mark by the log in my eye (Matt. 7:5).

Anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.~1 John 4:8

Oh, that my days may be acceptable to Him.

It is imperative that I live broken because of the paradox of Christian existence. This paradox is that though my days on earth will never be flawless & sweet aromas to Him, yet, in Christ, they always will be (even in my legacy of sin & hypocrisy?!). How can it be so?

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.~Psalm 139:6

What mad contradiction it is as I cry out with the saints: I BELIEVE; oh, help my unbelief (Mark 9:24)! Like roots & weeds, the good & bad exist alongside each other within us. In our Lord, the weeds can be strangled, and the plant can grow strong, sending off seeds on the wind in every direction, until He gathers us all, in holiness, to His rest. But we must acknowledge our imperfection. We must live with two realities before us: 1) my sin, 2) His glory. The sin to make us broken, the Glory to lift up our heads, to be a gentle palm beneath the chin saying, “smile, HIS is the victory, ain’t no grave gonna hold you down[Crowder].”

But He Himself [Jesus] will be refreshed from brooks along the way. He will be victorious.~Psalm 110:7

I can measure His love as tidy as a tablespoon of turmeric: Jesus came, He lived covered in woodchips & sinlessness, He set into motion a movement of followers that would bring every nation to Him in worship & then…He died as a criminal.

For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross. ~Colossians 1:19&20

Teach me to feed my body with food & my soul with Your word. Free from trying to nourish my soul with the temporary food of this life. Only sometimes overlapping the two when my body is sustained by the strength of Your Word (may it be so!) in a fast that pleases You.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. ~Galations 5:24

For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.~Psalm 138:6

10 Lessons of Hope

I have accumulated some great nuggets of knowledge over the past year and I want to share them! Not because I know it all, or even half of it all, but because I know different things than you do, and sharing our lessons is a good way to practice loving each other and living wise.

Here we go…

  • Wherever you are, be there. Community is built by people who invest in the lives of those around them rather than spend time searching for the group to be in. I realized this last summer when I noticed that the “favorites” list on my phone was over a page long, and full of people I did not talk to on a weekly basis. I had accumulated a list of the people I thought I needed to be with, and that had only served to damage the community God had placed me in. I trimmed the list down to seven people: it is far more user-friendly now, and I do not so often feel stretched out and stressed by the demands myriads of friends used to place on me.

“There isn’t anything on earth like relationships to make you holy.” ~Stasi Eldredge, Becoming Myself, 146

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” ~Acts 9:11, ESV

  • Be refreshed by the things you like to do. If you tend to overwork yourself (like me), you may find no space in your life for activities you enjoy. Change that. You need to do frequent, inexpensive things that you find refreshing. God gives us these pleasures as blessings; they help us through the ache of everyday life. For me it is yoga, and writing in my journal. Other people go on walks, cook, or build bonfires outdoors. (**Beware of idolatry: don’t turn these blessings into curses by giving them the heart that only belongs to God.**)

“But a heart alive is a heart that is awake and curious and pressing in to more.” ~ Stasi Eldredge, Becoming Myself, 115

  • Be (extra) kind to minorities. Not because they are any more desperate or less important than the ethnic majority, but because, odds are, things in their family tree haven’t gone so smoothly. Why else would they be far from their biological roots? Just subtly offer to pay for dinner when you’re out with a friend who is a minority member, or get plugged in to a mentoring program for at-risk youth. America has a situation on her hands. What are you gonna do about it?

“We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” ~Matthew 7:12, ESV

  • Own what you’re good at. I’ve wasted too many compliments, shrugging them away, saying, “Oh, it’s nothing, I’m not that good.” Take the compliment! Don’t be puffed up with unrighteous pride, but don’t apologize for being good at something either. I struggle with math and science but I’ve wowed some college instructors with essays and short stories. God has made me this way so I can serve HIS amazing purposes!

“God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are.”  ~Ephesians 2:10, CEV

  • Learn to say “no” to demands people place on you. Practice it if you have to; I did. This is especially difficult and of key importance if you have an enabling personality. Ask God, not men, what he would have you do with your time.

“Made in the image of God, we were created to take responsibility for certain tasks. Part of taking responsibility, or ownership, is knowing what is our job and what isn’t. Workers who continually take on duties that aren’t theirs will eventually burn out.” ~Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend, 27

  • Be OKAY with not knowing. No one knows it all. Don’t drive yourself mad searching for the answer to every question that flies through your head in a day. *You don’t have to win the arguments.* Doing research, learning, and seeking council is good, but no amount of historical data or advice or analysis can set your heart to rest. Only God offers real rest. Trust him as you spend a lifetime learning the truth.

God, show me the truth and show me the lies.

      “We are not uncertain about God, but uncertain of what He will do next. If we are only certain in our beliefs we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.” ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, 120

  • Beware of people who do know. Again, no one knows it all. The president, scientists, your parents, your mentors, your pastor, your therapist, they may have pieces of truth that cultivate discernment within you but they do not know it all. Our not-knowing is what makes us human, and spurs us forward to humble reliance on God. His ways are **not** our ways. Look out for people who have the answers to all your questions. Imagine a librarian who, when asked for books about World War II, starts reciting her personal knowledge of the war. You’d probably walk away slowly and Google it later. Surround yourself with people who don’t have all the answers, but are quick to point you in the right direction.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”~1 John 4:1, ESV

“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” ~Hebrews 5:14, ESV

  • Grieve. It’s OKAY to cry when you leave a job you have only had for two years. It is OKAY to spend an entire afternoon writing down memories of a loved one who passed away. If you need to weep, weep. If you need to take time thinking and wading through your emotions, set aside that time. You can experience the pain now or let it snowball for the rest of your life. God wants to bring healing to the pain in your heart, it’s part of your restoration.

“There is hope for your future, declares the Lord.” ~Jeremiah 30:17, ESV

“Jesus wept.” ~John 11:35, ESV

“Smooth sailing does not make a good sailor.” ~Louis Zamperini, Devil at My Heels

((for more on grief check out Prayer as a Place, by Charles Bello))

  • Ask God what his special love language is for you. Heather Nelson (http://sunshinedreams2u.blogspot.com/) told me this at a retreat a few weeks ago, and little did I know, God would reveal our special language to me less than an hour later. I stood next to a window and the sun slowly peeked around a thick tree. The white rays pierced glass and kissed my forehead. Sunlight. Sunshine. That is one of the way God speaks to me, letting me know he is near. Today I basked in that same glow, feeling alive and rejuvenated by this tangible taste of everlasting love. Perhaps he speaks to you in dreams, or via shapes or sounds. Just ask!

“And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” ~Ephesians 2:17&18, ESV, emphasis mine

  • If you are not a slave to God, you are a slave to death. In a way, slavery is our only option. But the slavery of God leads to fruit, to life! With God as our master, we find true freedom and the ability to rest in his grace and do good things. The other option is default mode: remaining in bondage to our own fickle, wounded hearts. None of our decisions are for good when we live by the flesh, but though the war rages on when we live by the Spirit, we are able to surrender to God’s excellent plan for the redemption of our souls and this planet.

“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” ~Romans 6:16-18, NIV

“Give your life away in exchange for many lives, give away your blessings to multiply blessings, give away so that many might increase, and do it all for the love of God.” ~AnnVoskamp, One Thousand Gifts, page 197 (http://www.aholyexperience.com/)

Have a new year filled with hope, friends. Happy 2015!

Rope Route to Rest

Don’t clean up to come. Even in the heated sin-moment turn we can, upwards. Soul lifted high when eyes are too heavy with remorseful tears. The refuse we find ourselves wrecked in is not bigger than redemption: sanguine drops of Jesus etched into human heart history ages ago. In the hating, the lying, the cussing, the spitting, the yelling, the venting at computer or dog or self or other, look up and find the rope strong enough to lift. Don’t hesitate because of the nasty you haven’t got clean of: you can’t clean you anyway, trying only makes you more dirty. Unclean is the only way we can come, out of our soil, into his Son.

Amazing grace the sweetest thing, this I know.~Crowder

Let there be less focus on the beautiful big words we’ve bivouacked next to steps God guides us through and more preoccupation with the transcendent power of living in God’s love right this minute. This solitary moment is a speck on eternity’s sandy shore yet in it we have access to the great God our Maker. Don’t neglect to latch your soul onto this moment, let it come alive, climbing the rope to heavens peace like a muscly gymnast using only upper body power. Let us climb not by the strength of our forearms nor the gnarled stout of abdomens but by the divine rope within us tied tight by Jesus’ outstretched arms.

In trust let him tear down the tower that you stand on, built by wounded ego, trampled on child hidden behind. Put away pithy apologies to the Prince of Peace and put in their place war by God almighty strength, bowing no longer to Satanic bonds. Throw vices off your chained neck. Let wretchedness no longer rub shoulders raw. Flex spirit muscles and use prayerful pleas from the heart to overcome belittling whispers claiming that the rope God offers isn’t really there, that what you hold onto isn’t made to carry such weight, that the unreliable rope will snap (because, as the lie goes, your nasty is heavier than everyone else’s). Wrong. You know it won’t snap because you know the Vine from which it grows. You’ve tasted his power and felt his kiss on the sweaty skin of your soul.

Four letter words are allowed in his presence because he knows once your soul desert experiences the eternal oasis you’ll spit them out for the fire on your tongue. Fire that crackles fervent fury for injustice inflicted on family members who don’t look remotely like you.

When your boss makes you feel like a thumb tack stuck in Titan toe…

When your hair is not pretty,

Your muscles not strong…

When your career has chewed you up and spit you back out…

Or your marriage has done the same,

When you are tired and pulled on from every direction…

When no one seems to notice how much or how little you do…

Then they will know that I love you. ~Revelation 3:9

Up, up, up. Point that soul in the higher direction, ask for the good way, and walk in it, that you may find rest for your tired, tired soul (Jeremiah 6:16).

Jordan River Poem

The Jordan River

stretches out wide
and yet the far bank
so close I may reach
arm out, try
and slip pink
fingers into Mamaw’s
bony hand, blue vein beelines.

The closeness a mirage,
tossing waves driven
to death dance
upon small dark boulders
dotting shore.
People necromance,

they call God unfair
for He took her away.
I hear His gentle whisper,
Jordan River breeze rustles
ribbons of hair against my chin,

It is not yet
your place or time:
wait. Attend to your soul,
attend to the still-living.

You shall not fear them for it is the Lord your God who fights for you.~Deuteronomy 3:22

O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or earth who can do such works & mighty acts as yours?~Deuteronomy 3:24

All of Us Down Here

I bury my face in his Word, overwhelmed by a handful of unhappy people who I love with genuine, concerned heart. Face buried in familiar pages, I receive the phone book smell of Hosea chapter two. Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her~Hosea 2:14.

And the children who dance erotic, letting go of sexual urges planted by obscene songs and scenes they’ve seen in carpetless homes? Will you allure them too? Will they ever know the joy of God-strong in them? “I have seen his ways but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace to the far and to the near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the tossing sea for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt”~Isaiah 57:18-20

The angry one, Lord, who sees herself only as a victim, never as an overcomer? The one determined to beat odds and blow past highest grades in the class? The one who wants bad to see justice served by men who will only fail him? For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.~Romans 10:12b

And me, Lord, your tired, joy-filled servant, so often wandering in pursuit of lies, so often doubting and tarrying in shame? Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning~Psalm 30:4-5

“If God is on our side, who can be against us?

In this wasteland where I’m livin’

there’s a crack in the door filled with light

and its all that I need to shine.”

~NEEDTOBREATHE

One Thousand Lifetimes

I wish I had one thousand lifetimes

so I could be a painter

a banker, a fisherman,

a seamstress, a whore.

I wish I could be a preacher

and a preacher’s wife

so I could tell stories

of rotten e-mails

and poisonous words thrown

like darts in the face

of imperfect sincerity.

I wish I could be reborn with brown

skin, kinky hair, and again

as the only woman left in China.

 

I wish I had a thousand lives

so I could hunt treasure,

reenact history, understand the tribes

of Oaxaca, Mexico, speak Hindi,

and be a roadie for U2, questioning

the emotional poverty of financial necessity.

I wish I had one thousand lives

so I could be friends with patients

in oncology, victims in juvy,

and carpenters in Appalachia.

I wish I had the time to fall

in love with every Spring time boy

and all the Autumn ones too,

to kiss every shape, size, shade

of lip existent, and somersault

over sand dunes in Northern Indiana.

 

I wish I had time to be a social worker

placing refugees in the land of dreams,

to write a book from soldier’s perspective:

Israeli and Palestinian both.

I wish I had one thousand lives

so that I could be mother to autistic

boy and understand the cellular

exhaustion of women who lay their lives

on altars, like widows in ancient India.

 

I wish I had time to be trafficked

across state lines and receive beatings

to mar permanent my white face

so I could testify with tears to

brothels in back yards, and highways

hiding hell.

I wish I had one thousand lives

to fight tooth and nail, pen and page,

for justice, for fair share, for an end

to the worldwide deficit of grace.

I wish I had time to hug shoulders,

time to look in ugly faces

and say sincere to all:

You’re valuable, I care.

Yet He cares more.

DecaGratitude

There are days when I just need a minute to breathe. These are usually the days when a list of thanks is in order. Emotional fatigue is a sure sign of discontentment. It is too much for one girl to desire what the world says she should have AND the Lord’s will for her days. I am that girl and I cannot do it. I either have to stop and re calibrate, or I will wander exhausted for weeks, months, years.

My history instructor firmly declared last January that human beings are good at 2 things: complaining, and reproducing. Now I can’t say much about the latter, but as for the former, I am human through and through. This is me offering an Ann-Voskamp answer to my own trouble.

1) Nutella covered fingers, dancing to worship music alone in my room with You.

2) Legs that kick strong through water, bubbles that come up from my nose.

3) Hair that does somersaults on blustery days.

4) Neon Steeple Radio (Spotify), words that remind me of the only One who is promised to be present at my dying breath.

5) Scripture: I am hungry, thirsty, deranged in pursuit of Truth. I want to gobble it, consuming even the long organized lists of Leviticus and Numbers. Thank you Jesus for this flawless piece of yourself.

6) Laughs shared with co-workers, hymns to sing when medicine will not let me rest.

7) White tangerine flesh cracking as I bite from pit.

8) Parents bent over to create fronds like shields, halting fiery darts hurled my way.

9) Tears locked behind my eyes, denying death her bounty.

10) Friends who text to tell me I am loved, turning grief tears into sunshine drops.

My Jesus has won.(( Shout it! ))The battle against my other list (the one not worth sharing: it contains the things I cannot do, the gifts I do not have) is already finished. Why should I carry the burdens of warfare already fought for me?

Rejoice; He came back alive!

I am terrified to receive the blessings my God has for me. After the manner of a solemn Muslim addressing Allah, I pray eyes wide, palms open. I flutter like a dry fall leaf.

When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me.~Psalm 138:3

I go to soak in His Word for though I cannot always see His footprints or hear His voice,

I will always remain in His love.

Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.~Psalm 77:19