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. 

the in-between

It's quiet, and I'm home.

My apartment is squeezing as much light as it can get, but the shadows are sharp and the clouds aren't leaving. And I'm okay with this. I'm okay with the lingering rain, and today, I'm okay resting in the shadows.

Breakfast has been slow; eggs and toast done, yogurt and blueberries to go. My coffee is keeping me warm, and its slow descent into my bloodstream is propelling me forward.

The last few months have been a whirlwind. I've had insane highs and unexpected lows, but not a lot in-between. And that's exhausting, because I crave the in-between. I crave its expectations and its structure, I crave its consistency and its early bedtimes.

I'm wondering, though, if the in-between is due for a closer look. I'm wondering if the in-between has become a crutch, and this crutch is actually doing more harm than help, because the goal isn't to live with the crutch, the goal is to live without it.

Not that I want to get rid of the in-between, because it's still necessary, but I want to do better when I am, in fact, without it. 

I want the in-between to be the place where gratitude and normalcy meet day-in and day-out, where life is lived and noticed and grafted into whatever else is going on, even if it's utter chaos. I want it to be adventure within my normal context. I don't want it to be what I need before I can do anything else. Because when that happens, I'm just left crippled.

I'm watching Ayden and Avery grow in mountainous proportions everyday, and ironically enough, spending time with this 2-year-old and (almost) 7-month-old has been the most consistent part of this season.

Ayden is potty-training, and is successfully going pee-pee, but is still unsure about the whole poo-poo-on-the-big-girl-potty thing. 

Yesterday, I was upstairs putting Avery to sleep, and when I came back down, Ayden was waiting for me at the bottom of the steps. This is pretty normal---I'll tell her that I'm putting baby nigh-night, that I'll be right back, and she either plays on her own or waits patiently at the stairs. 

As I'm walking down, she exclaims, "SA! PEE PEE!"

"Alright! You have to go pee pee? Let's go!"

"No..no! I deeeed eeet!"

"Um, what? You already did it?"

[Ayden's typical sheepish laughter] "Heheh YAAA!"

Now, usually we do the whole potty-process together. She struggles to get her pants back up after, and you know, she's learning still...so it's predominantly a you-go, I-go kind of thing. But when she was telling me how she already deeeed eeeet, her pants were up, she was waiting at the stairs like she never left, and when we walked into the bathroom, the light was already off.

So Ayden marches ahead, turns the light on, excitedly points to her froggy-potty, and says, "SA! SEE! PEE PEE PEE PEE!!" [more giggly toddler laughter]

And sure enough, there was pee in the potty and homegirl had gone through that whole process on her own, while I was upstairs, and then waited to show me what she did. 

If that doesn't just make your heart swell, I don't know what will. ;)

These moments are more and more and more every single day. She's talking a TON, her inflections are hilarious, and she is one the most intentional and caring little humans I know. I see her with Avery, and with her lion, Leo, and it's evident how much she loves them. Leo may or may not be an inanimate object, but...he's really not. He's does everything we do, and I'm grateful she had a buddy of her own to take care of when Avery first entered the picture. Because when Mama or Dada or Sa were helping Baby, she got to help Leo. 

And speaking of Avery, she is fascinated and enamored by her big sister. We were eating lunch at the counter on Wednesday, and Ayden did something ridiculous, and out of nowhere Avery just started laaaaaughing. I haven't really heard her laugh yet, but Ayden did it again and again, and again and again Avery would let out this belly laugh unlike anything else. 

Avery is rolling all over the place, trying to eat everything, and really really loves hot milk, hot food, hot anything, and she'll let you know if it's not to her taste. She's particular, but also the sweetest baby. Smiley and babbly and cooey and I'm going to stop making up words now. 

Sometimes I'm so busy existing in the world that Ayden, Avery, and I are occupying now, today, as a toddler and baby, that I forget I've known Ayden since 5 and a half months. That I've been with her for so long, that I've seen her grow so much. It's weird even thinking of her as that baby anymore. And I remember that I've been with Avery since she was born, that I watched her grow inside Ashley...that this baby is still a baby, but is only getting bigger and in a way, only getting closer to Ayden everyday. IT'S SO WEIRD. 

I've said it a million times and I'll say it a million more: I LOVE these girls and I love this family.

This kind of feeling--- this kind of gratitude and awe in the midst of normal days, this is what I want my in-between to be. As Mack and I plan more and more for our wedding, my biggest fear is that it'll become one more thing we have to check off a list...one more thing to take care of before this date, one more thing to DO.

But I want to settle into our engagement, I want to fully exist in this stage of our relationship, because it's the only time I'm gonna do it. Yes, we'll be checking lots of things off lists, and yes we have to do it by certain dates, but it seems so counterproductive to let myself get worked up over that. Let it be an adventure to keep organizing and dreaming and executing what this beautiful, wonderful, imperfect day will be. 

I'm already on this journey with my favorite person, my best friend, my home-base, and I can't wait to keep journeying forever. Even in the hardships. Even in the highs. And especially in the in-betweens.

My best friend got married last weekend, and her wedding was such a good reminder of what the day is about. People aren't going to remember the table decorations, or the colors, or what kind of flowers you had (although it's still fun picking those things out). They will remember celebrating you, and love, and grace, and the miracle of God bringing two lives together and saying hey, I think this is your fit---this is the person I want you to REALLY know and keep knowing, so that you can know me more; this is for you, and this is for me, and this is for us, and let's celebrate that. Michelle and Eric, I love you two so much and congratulations on entering all the beautiful and real and fun and hard layers that marriage exposes. I can't wait to exist in it alongside you. 

Man, I'm thankful for the shadows today. I'm thankful to have sat in them and thought through them and written about them. I'm thankful for life and it's twists and turns, and today, that's (more than) enough. 

growing up

Well, I think it's safe to say I'm ready to grab adult-life by the you-know-what and get on with it.

Growing up is hard. It just is. Budgets are hard and having 3 "jobs" without the ability to pay rent is hard. Feeling like a kid when you are trying to live as an adult is hard.

Wake-up calls are good, though. Parents who tell you that "in love, we're launching you from the nest," are good. Having the resources and opportunities to work towards that goal are good.

Some people have to grow up much quicker than the rest of us. They've been financially independent long before college began, and it's not like they chose it; it was simply reality for them.

I respect my roommate a lot for this reason. She's a hard worker. She gets stuff done. She's paying for school (expensive, private school at that), she's GOING to school (full-time, 18/19 unit semesters), she works every day after school so she can pay rent, and aside from all that...she still has a life.

She probably heard me crying talking with my parents last night, and she was probably thinking, "Girl, get it together. This is life." And she's right. At some point you have to stop being stressed or worried and just make stuff happen.

The thing with me is that I can't make stuff happen until AFTER I have been stressed and worried. But at least I know that about myself.

My dad, the motivational speaker and king of "When was a kid," kept reciting to me: "You know Nike? Just do it. You just gotta do it." Cheesy (love you Dad), but he's right, too. It's time to grow-up. For real grow-up. Not fake grow-up. (I'm really good at being a fake grown-up).

So, I'm making a budget and calculating real numbers rather than guesstimating (English-major over here, you know I avoided the whole number thing for as long as possible), and I'm mentally preparing for the burial of #graduatelife. It's time for #reallife. Yes, I just used two hashtags. I can still do that as an adult, right?! I mean, you gotta live a little somehow. 

Also, I definitely have food-related posts I meant to write before this, but...but then I needed to process. So. Expect a real post very soon.

happy lent

Today is Ash Wednesday. I've never observed Lent, but I'd like to this year. I just don't know what to practice or give up. A lot of people do health-related things, like stopping eating sweets or carbs, and even more people fast from social media, like Facebook and Twitter.

I can't do either of those. Not because I can't live a day without chocolate or Facebook, but because they have selfish undertones (we're only talking about me here; everyone who is giving up these things, you rock). My mind just isn't that pure in intentions. Giving up sweets is accompanied by a tiny thought that says "Oo, I'd probably lose a few pounds and I bet my skin would clear up." Not the right mindset. Not the right focus.

Giving up Facebook would be a cop-out. "Well, I don't know what else to do and everyone gives up Facebook, so I might as well. It wouldn't be a bad thing." Again, not exactly where I want my thoughts to be.

I want to do something that truly puts the focus on Jesus, because I haven't been focusing on Him at all. I'm a person who needs some kind of structure, but not something so formulated that I get stuck in routine. I feel a bit stuck.

Last year I wanted to stop spending extra money (coffee, fro-yo, that cute shirt at Target that's only $9.99), but I didn't commit to it. I also didn't share the information with anyone, so there was zero accountability.

Maybe that's my thing. Maybe I'll try it again. I'm already broke as a joke, but when I'm alone in my apartment for an entire day, nothing sounds better than going to Peet's and getting a coffee so I can at least be around people.

It adds up.

I'll have a list when I grocery shop, but there is always something in the cart I don't actually need. This Lent season would include those items. Foregoing everything extra and scaling back the necessary purchases.

This will be hard for me. When I'm not working, I don't have much else to do. I can only sit around for so long before I start going crazy. This usually results, like I said, in escaping to a coffee shop. If I'm gonna sit around, I might as well sit around with other people! But everyone knows you can't take up precious seating without buying something. I normally get a black coffee—a mere $1.80 subtraction to my bank account—but again: it adds up.

This is where the "focusing on Jesus" part will be genuine. I'm feeling lonely? Unproductive? Lazy? Then instead of filling my time by wasting money (and gas for that matter), I'll be on my knees praying. I'll be taking someone else out for coffee and enjoying their company and thanking Jesus for relationships. I'll be investing in learning how to love Jesus better, and consequently how to love others better too.

I think generosity will be a huge part of this, because if I'm simply not spending money on myself, there is still a small benefit for me— I'm saving money whooo! But I don't want that. The money I would normally spend on things for me will be spent treating other people.

There is so much ridding of myself that I need to do. On a personal level, the second month of graduate-life is much different than the first. But I will spare you all those emotional details.

Happy Lent, everyone.

What will you guys be doing?