mid-day musings

I’m listening to the new Bon Iver album for what is, honestly, probably the hundredth time this week.

Today’s weather is perfect. The sun is out but without threats to burn or cause a sweat. The breeze is faint but cool, and from upstairs I can hear the blinds being sucked into the open screen every so often. I’m content here, sipping hot tea and nibbling a leftover slice of homemade cake. 

As the days continue, I am getting more and more comfortable with my time at home, and rarely feel without purpose. Things are getting done, relationships are being tended to, and life is being designed.

The strangest part, really, is how different one week is from the next. I have a planner that I use daily and love love LOVE, but as much as I try to anticipate what next Thursday will be, the picture is rarely complete.

Lunch dates come up. Or opportunities for new experiences. Or the shelves above the dining room table *need* rearranging, and also, the two things I couldn’t cross off my to-do list on Monday are still there on Thursday and are mocking me and I’m over them so I’m procrastinating.

Stuff like that.

None of it is bad, but again, it's different. I’m a woman of routine and expectations and plans, and my biggest lesson in the last few months has been remembering that just because this Wednesday didn’t look anything like last Wednesday doesn’t mean I have done something wrong or off-script or unproductive.

My days are simply more elastic now. They are moldable and adaptable and won’t always resemble each other, and that’s okay. The beauty is that time is my friend, and I can choose how to organize those minutes and hours into moments that give life and bring joy. This is a privilege; it is freeing but brimming with responsibility, and I hope to remember that.

This morning I re-joined the yoga studio I was apart of when I first moved to Pasadena, and I am SO excited. Yoga is the only fitness-related-activity that I have ever claimed loving, and have ever done consistently, and being back on that mat is a homecoming I couldn’t have dreamed of. When I bend to touch my toes, my hamstrings feel the effects of their earlier reawakening, a welcome reminder of the work they did.

I’m also starting a small, book-editing project, and am elated. It can be overwhelming at first, and many doubts say hiiiiiiiiiii, I’m heeeeeere tooooooooo, but really, I know I’m going to do a good job with the knowledge and experience I do have, and I am eternally grateful to be given a chance at all. Writing is my jam, but editing is my jam too.

Bon Iver has sung his 10 songs twice through now, and I’m ready for the next thing. I'm happy to have been here, and hope it won’t be as long until I’m back again.

As We Mourn

I admit that I have fallen, like so many others, into silence’s trap.

As the clock ticked closer to 6:30pm yesterday, I found myself resigning to staying home, confirming what I had known all along: I wouldn’t actually show up.

There was a community prayer vigil at City Hall last night, to condemn not only the violence and hatred spewing themselves across our country, but to also offer a response—to come together in a tangible way and say no, this is not right, and we grieve; we pause. we pray.

And I didn’t go. I was nervous. I thought I’d be alone with Mack out of town, even though I knew our church community would be represented. I was afraid of violence revealing itself at yes, even a prayer gathering. I was anxious that the emotions it would ignite in me would make it impossible to go back to an empty apartment.

This is the thing, too; this fear and paralyzing grief have prevented me from showing up, from responding in a way that would offer the hope I so desperately desire. I am not proud of this. I am not proud of this at all.

As social media has been exploding, I’ve been consuming (obsessively, unhelpfully) the stories, reactions, and responses of those in and outside my networks. I want to say that most of the time, I encounter sensitivity and a willingness to mourn alongside those who mourn. Instead, though, I’m blasted by debates between strangers, comments of profound distrusts, and moments of outright carelessness.

It is debilitating, and tightens the rope around my ankle, which has me swinging upside down and side to side, wondering if I will ever be free; wondering if silence has once again got me, and got me good.

I become so unsure of how to respond, how to stomach yet another story that reveals the worst parts of this life. Each time violence like this happens, I absorb its weight so fully. I’m a sponge that has gone from sitting on the counter, unused and shrunk, dried out and porous, into a heavy, sopping mess of reawakened senses. And although I would love for that reawakening to remind me the job is not done. there is still work to do. keep scrubbing. it reminds me instead of how tired I am, how expected this has become, how incapable I feel of knowing not just how to respond, but how to respond well.

But it’s at the point, I know, where remaining silent is part of the problem. Continuing on without pause, without lament, and without engagement, is an inappropriate response. If I am digesting as much information as I have been, and only holding that grief to myself, not participating in the redemptive acts that I am called to, I am responding inappropriately. I am allowing the paralysis to continue by refusing to join those who are actively running towards hope, reconciliation, and peace. I am choosing to remain barricaded in my apartment, believing the lie that staying inside is safer than walking out.

In our church service yesterday morning, our pastor made space to lament the loss of lives this week. She said each person by name, declaring their humanity and denouncing their violent deaths, as the church corporately pleaded come lord jesus, come. Her message was poignant, empathetic, and specific. She reminded us that as the people of God, we are about peace, we are about healing, and we are about coming alongside the hurting. This is who we are. The recognition she ushered into our building for that hour and a half felt so graciously and tangibly like the kingdom of God breaking into the now, reminding us of our identities and our hope, our responsibilities to be present. And then she invited us to join the city for prayer that night, and I felt so stirred as I envisioned it, so aware this was the participation I was craving. But again—I didn’t go. As the posts filled my Facebook feed, I saw my community and congregation embodying the courage and love I couldn’t muster. I felt sad by this, knowing I had missed it, knowing I had, once again, stayed a silent observer.

More and more, Jesus is working with me through my fears. I know this is true and I know it’s a process, and that patience brings me to tears. It is time to show up. It is time to listen. It is time to embrace our communities and hear their stories. It is time to stand with the powerless and prejudiced. It is time to love with ferocity and fearlessness. Hate cannot win. 

conversations and communities

"Perhaps the best conversationalist in the world is the man who helps others to talk." --Lee from East of Eden

My soul has been so tired recently (gratitude to my friend Destiny for unintentionally giving words to feelings I couldn't compile).

Aside from what I've already written about in this space, there are also these wicked things called hormones that cause all sorts of confusion, without any regard to the timing of life's other atrocities.

It's rude, I know.

Weird moods haven't been and will never be an uncommon occurrence for me, unfortunately, but 2014 has definitely been the most growing and progressive and ultimately hopeful year by far.

As I reflect on where I started this week—a mess of emotions and selfishness and general confusion—and where I sit now—peaceful, resting, and bruised but clarified—I'm realizing the change I've experienced is a direct result of the conversations and community surrounding me.

It shouldn't surprise me as much as it still does, but over and over again I'm reminded how powerful words are, and even more so, how powerful a listening ear is.
My dear friend Michelle (happy birthday!) sent me Stitches by Anne Lamott earlier this week. She told me how comforting it was during her time of grieving, so she put it in the mail with a little note and prayed it would do the same for me.

It's only 96 pages, but I already finished it and soaked up every word. Knowing the intention it was sent with, too, and seeing all the pages Michelle had already doggy-eared, made it so much more than some book I bought at Barnes and Noble—it became a thread, a connection, a stitch if you will, that made something about this human experience a little clearer. A little more cohesive.

The same feeling occurred during a conversation with my roommate, a conversation where me saying 'I'm sorry' was more important than anything else. It was important because sometimes I forget that we are all connected, and that me acting a certain way or saying a certain thing, good or bad, can and will affect those around me.

It happened yet again with a friend/neighbor of the family I nanny for, when she came over with her son to simply hang out and we ended up talking about...everything. God, the world, and our place in it. Christian culture and church culture and do we have a place in it? We talked about differences in relationships and how those can be so difficult, but so beautiful. It was an unexpected morning that led to an unexpected conversation that completely changed the perspective for my day.

To be cared for and understood by someone, to talk open and honestly, to really click with someone...these are some of the greatest joys in life, I'm convinced.

I am beginning to feel peace because I am beginning to see the stitches. The little pieces of life that come together, one at a time, to create something you wouldn't have expected and couldn't have dreamed of.

Two of my favorite paragraphs from the book are these:

"The American way is to not need help, but to help. One of the hardest lessons I had to learn was that I was going to need a LOT of help, and for a long time. (Even this morning). What saved me is that I found gentle, loyal and hilarious companions, which is at the heart of meaning; maybe we don't find a lot of answers to life's tougher questions, but if we find a few true friends, that's even better. They help you see who you truly are, which is not always the loveliest possible version of yourself, but then comes the greatest miracle of all—they still love you. They keep you company as perhaps you become less of a whiny baby, if you accept their help." p.34

"Alone, we are doomed, but by the same token, we've learned people are impossible, even the ones we love most—especially the ones we love most: they're damaged, prickly, and set in their ways. Also, they've gotten old and a little funny, which can be draining. It is most comfortable to be invisible, to observe life from a distance, at one with our own intoxicating superior thoughts. But comfort and isolation are not where the surprises are. They are not where the hope is. Hope tends to appear when we see that all sorts of disparate personalities can come together, no matter how different and jarring they may seem at first." p.55

I hope we all ask for help a little bit more, and I hope we find the courage to have more honest conversations instead of the I'm good how are you? ones. They just don't create as much space for the stitches to be sewn, and if stitches are what hold us together, then I think we owe it to each other to make some more room. I know I do.

a morning prayer

God, all any of us want is to make sense of things. To make sense of the world around us and know that somewhere there's a place for our existence and a place for it to matter.

But the world doesn't oblige so easily. It's really hard to make sense of everything going on in Iraq while I'm here, sitting on my couch and typing on my iphone.

It's hard to make sense of cancer and death and suicides, like Robin Williams' yesterday.

It's hard to make sense of people working and dreaming for something only to have it end in a "no."

And I suppose, Lord, that's where we need you. We need you to help us make sense of things. And if making sense of things isn't important, then really we need help knowing you. We need help making sense of you in a world where overwhelmingly bad things happen a LOT. 

I'm praying because I miss you and I want to know you, I want to know that your promise of never leaving us as orphans is true. 

You know the place I'm coming from, and you know it's wound up in fear right now. Fear of NOT knowing you and what that means for my soul. 

How vulnerable it is to admit that, but how important it is to let you change me from my starting point. To let you meet me where I'm at because that's kinda what you do best.

Don't let me block you out Lord. Don't let me fight so hard and analyze so much. Teach me about faith and trust and hope. Show me that it IS possible to know you, and know you well. And give me grace when I stop remembering that I don't have to do this on my own. 

I love you as much as I know you, but I as I know you more I'm confident I will love you more, and I'm confident you'll help me make sense of some things some of the time. And everything else I'll learn to trust You in, learn to trust that those things are not mine to make sense of. 

That will be hardest for me, hands down.

Thanks for your grace and your long-suffering love. I'm grateful for those above all else.

because cancer sucks

There is obviously a huge pain that comes with death. 

I'm not the first to experience it and I won't be the last, but this is the first death in the family that has actually affected me personally.

My uncle battled colon cancer for two years and passed away just a couple of days ago.

Cancer really sucks. It takes a whole life and slowly chips away—chips away until the life no longer resembles itself, until the life adapts to a new normal and this new normal is decay.

It's hard for me to reconcile this, and to reconcile this alongside the battle my uncle also had with schizophrenia. His life was a struggle. It was a puzzle he constantly strived to assemble, but assembly wasn't possible because there were simply too many pieces.

He was only 46 and his parents, both in their 80's, had to say goodbye to their son in the very room he grew up.They had to say goodbye to a son who was so wrecked with the physical consequences of cancer that he didn't even look like himself.

Yellowed-skin and body so thin it would make anyone rethink their definitions of skinny. And yet he was pregnant with tumors—tumors that took residency throughout his stomach and protruded from here and there, causing pain that I can't begin to imagine.

There are pictures of him I can't get out of my mind and images from his last moments that I wish I could. His death wasn't glorified, but there is peace in his ability to say goodbye hours before passing, and knowing he passed in his sleep, even if his sleep was a drug-seduced one.

This post is heavier than any I've written and it's hard to write without words of hope dispersed throughout. But cancer doesn't leave a lot of room for hope, unfortunately. 

I (want to) know God is not absent and I do know Chris isn't suffering now. But last month, and the last few days especially, have been very real and very tangible whereas the former---not so much. Yet, anyway.

Please pray for all the layers death reveals. The layers that consist of planning a memorial service, of elderly parents adapting to a life without their son, of figuring out what it means to claim hope above it all.

Chris had such a giving, genuine, inquisitive, and polite soul. He constantly thought of others before himself, especially those less fortunate than him—which is really beautiful when you consider what he also endured. He played piano more intentionally, emotionally, and purposefully than anyone I know. His heart stayed on those keys way after his fingers left, and it was truly something to behold.

And amidst and above it all, he trusted and loved the God who says he's with us always. He openly asked questions and prayed prayers of great depth. His pastor told us last week that his and Chris' conversations centered more on grace than any other topic, and somewhere in there I find comfort, because grace is what I cling to, too.

Things are still tangled and bruised, though, and we need prayers as we stay tangled and bruised for a little while here.

Thank you in advance and thank you to those who have already been on this journey with us. We love you all.