Thursday, March 12, 2015

Last night was acoustic night at SheBrews. It was a chaotic mess of trying to run the coffee maker between songs, getting everything ready so the moment the music ended and the applause started we could flip on all the machines.
It was almost like a dance, but the kind full of awkward, clumsy movements. I spilled the milk and dumped the coffee beans, and this one drink was remade three times.
The routine movements that usually bring me some degree of comfort that night felt frustrating and foreign.
But the moment when one of my talented fellow students would pick up a guitar or step behind the piano everything fell silent.
It was like the whole room was just holding its breath for this beautiful creation to be birthed into existence.
I was reading last night over some old blog posts. The large latte I'd made in an effort to make myself feel better was keeping me awake, and my mind was running restless.
I was reading something I wrote nearly a year ago, and somehow those words I wrote then, in an entirely different phase of my life, spoke to the person I am now.
I imagined myself like those musicians. I don't curve my spine over a guitar, moving my fingers over strings. But I do hunch over my paper with a pen and write the world into order.
I know it hurts to become, to create, to birth this dream.
I feel the weight of it in my hands and they shake.
After the coffee shop had cleared, the drinks had been made, she told me to go sit. I felt a bit like a child entering into a room marked with a no entrance sign as I pulled up a chair and sat down beside the remaining musicians: the boy with the guitar and the girls who sang.
He began to play and they began to sing and I hesitantly added my voice to the song, my heart echoing every word.
I feel like I'm not allowed to say life is hard.
Because it is so good, so sweet, so beautiful.
But it's hard. And my heart is hurting for reasons I don't fully understand and my hands shake so violently I am frequently wrapping them around his to remain steady and I'm poking at the people I care about just to ask them to notice me here and it's the little things that set me off.
Life, in all its sweetness, carries a flavor of bitterness I desperately wish wasn't there.
As I sat before the music that night, letting it unfold before me, I felt a small bit like Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus.
I was here, sitting before that which was feeding my soul. Before friends and creativity and the sound of the guitar I was spread open.
I've been kind of a weakling recently.
My sweet friends keep telling me how strong I am, but I still have to squint to see it.
When I stand in front of the mirror my reflection is strange and uncomfortable because all this stretching, it's changed me.
I want romance and sunshine, laughter and a good night's sleep and an afternoon to spend cooking and dancing in the kitchen and writing.
Even more than that, I want Him.
I want Him to know I'm willing to be made weak.
I want this weakness, this delicate season of becoming, to bring me closer still to the God who calls me enough.
The song we sing, it's more of my heart's plea. In this crazy, unpredictable time when I'm not even sure if I can trust myself, I sing it and I feel every word.
I need you, oh I need you
Every hour I need you
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God how I need you

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Poetry of Pain

Most of the magic in my life has happened when my heart is shattered
Yesterday I was bracing myself for impact.
The exhaustion and weakness and subtle sadness were there, but I had this idea that if I could just keep pushing, just keep moving forward, I could narrowly escape their grasp.
After all, it's not supposed to hurt anymore, right? Or maybe it's supposed to hurt but only for them, not me.
It is in these moments I deny myself honesty. I put on the brave face of "I'm ok" and keep walking. Or I smile and say "It's a rough day" but don't actually allow myself to be cared for.
In the moments after supper, I snuck away to an upstairs room. It was the only place I found that was quiet, the smell of coffee beans still in the air. I curled up on the couch, looking out over the setting sun, and began to write.
I'd been in hiding for a while before he found me. All curled up there, I felt smaller than usual. He kept asking me what I was thinking and I didn't know. So many thoughts were inside my head, some loud and pressing others quiet and aching.
Randomly I would laugh, about something dark or something random. I think it's the body's way of coping, when you produce an excess amount of one emotion the body produces a great amount of the opposite emotion to counteract it.
In all of it I was feeling less and less like myself, but unable to fully understand where myself had gone.
He sat with me, and she came and brought with her Kraft Dinner, which we ate on the couch straight from the pot with two spoons while listening to really bad pop songs.
And something about this made it all ok.
In this moment I wasn't trying to justify what I felt, or hide it, but instead I was sitting directly in the middle of it.
I had written earlier that I felt like I was trying to hold both the light and the dark, but these two conflicting emotions cannot sit with each other and so I am forced to pick one, but even though I pick one it doesn't mean the other doesn't exist.
Just because I choose to focus on the positive story doesn't mean my heart doesn't break over the darkness. And just because from time to time I must sit in the darkness and allow it room to exist it doesn't mean the light is not just over there.
My friends make me honest. They sit with me in my darkness, and feed me and laugh with me until I'm ok again, until the shadow has passed. They make me brave, brave enough to sit in this moment and not try to change it, or shelter myself or anyone else from it.
And I don't know if they will ever know how grateful I am for that tiny moment.

He will change your heart of stone into a heart of flesh. That sounds exciting. But instead of saying a heart of flesh you say a vulnerable heart. It sounds less exciting. And if you want to define vulnerability as the capacity of being hurt. so I'll change your heart of stone which is protective into a heart where you will be capable of being hurt, that sounds less exciting

This morning in Sunday School we made blessings. I carefully chose a word, a blessing, for each of my precious girlies. And then, as a last minute addition, I allowed them to pick a word for me. Each of them picked something they saw embodied in me, something they wished for me.

It makes total sense that Jesus would be the Son of God because people would want love to be like unicorns and rainbows. And so then you send Jesus and people go "Oh, love is hard. Love is sacrifice. Love is eating with the sick, it's breaking bread. Love is trouble. Love is rebellious
Love is not a victory march, its a cold and broken hallelujah

Love is found in the moments when people show up. It's blessings spoken over a tired heart by little girls with big eyes and bigger dreams. It's friends who come up just to eat Kraft Dinner and listen to stupid music on YouTube and laugh with you. It's saying yes.
Love is pain too. It's messy. It's the capability for being hurt and when love ends it can feel like the world should stop turning.
Love is a cold and broken hallelujah. It's not always easy.
Entering into another person's brokenness isn't easy. Watching the people you love make bad decisions hurts.
But love, I think, is pretty magical. It's poetry - the only kind I know how to write these days.
It's showing up and saying "How can I help?" and "I'm here."
Love is poetry. Pain is poetry. This week I got to experience both.
And the collision of love and pain in the same instant, let me tell you something, is pretty magical.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Thoughts from Mile 2

2 years now
I count the days, even if unintentionally. The memory sneaks in, beside to-do lists and busyness. I wordlessly nod to it as I pass.
I woke up early this morning. On a Saturday after a long week when I was counting on some rest and relaxing I awoke early to the sound of showers running and happy chatter and the soft breathing coming from the bed next to me.
I was hot and sticky, tired from a restless night.
It's like that day 2 years ago, when I woke early.
Except this time there are no tears, no animalistic howls coming from a place deep inside of me I didn't know existed.
There is only quiet, soft breathing, the sound of running water.
The trauma has passed but the echo still vibrates.
Last night during the PRBI youth rally, my good friend got the call that her grandmother had passed away.
When I found her in a quiet corner amidst the loudness of the evening, I wrapped her in my arms.
And the tears fell. She wept for her own loss and the changes this would mean for her, because loss never leaves anyone untouched. I cried for her grandma, and my cousin, and the cruel unfairness of this world.
I wrote last night that I'm in the process of being stretched open.
I've spent days trying to figure out how to write this. Everything feels exhausting and it seems the body remembers trauma before the mind does and I've been wondering why things sting so much, feel so personal, when life is good?
Shortly after the funeral, a friend told me to feel what I feel. I understood that advice then. I tell it to other mourners, the people who are limping after me on this trail called grief. They have blisters and bruises, and every step sends shockwaves through the body. I wouldn't call myself a seasoned hiker, but I'm getting there.
I've been hiking for 2 years now. The bruises have healed, the blisters popped and new skin formed. I have callouses on my feet and the brutal conditions don't seem to have the same effect on me.
And perhaps I better understood then the meaning of being gentle with oneself.
In those early stages, where the wound still bled and bled, I understood allowing myself to feel what I felt.
But now I wonder if this rule still applies to me, a seasoned hiker 2 years out.
I just passed the 2 mile marker, shouldn't that make me better equipped than those just starting out? Surely they need this emergency care more than I do.
But even those of us who have just passed the 2 mile marker feel the pinch of how things are when they should have been different. I shouldn't even be wearing these hiking boots in the first place, much less be accustomed to the way they fit my feet.
Sometimes the injustice of it all has the power to render me breathless. I ache with words unspoken, memories dancing around in my skull.
It gets easier, of course, but it doesn't get effortless. The hike of grief, no matter how long you've been on the trail, is still long and exhausting.
Sometimes you wish you could stop.
Sometimes you lay in bed early in the morning and think of that day 2 years ago when you woke up to your worst nightmare.
This week I've been learning I'm not in control.
I know this, and I've learned this lesson before, but somehow it has a way of coming back to me.
With everything chaotic and messy I wanted stillness. Instead I got 80 loud youth interested in checking out our campus.
I was asked to share my life, my space, my friends, my story.
Nothing went as planned, and last night while hundreds of people were laughing I stole a few minutes of solitude.
Life goes on, I realized. As much as I would like to freeze the moment when trauma happens, to still everything until I can deal with what's at hand, I don't always get the opportunity.
This week when I wanted to be filled I was asked to give.
And I wrestled with this, feeling empty and as though I had nothing of value to offer these people who were coming to this place full of expectations.
I'm realizing that pretty amazing things happen when you say yes.
The people who've gathered around me to support me this week have been just what I needed. The way they care for me never ceases to amaze me.
In my effort to welcome and invite I've been welcomed into an even greater effort, and the grace extended to me by those I intended to extend grace to surprised and humbled me.
Last night our drama team did a skit about the feeding of the 5000
I've heard the story over and over, but seeing it acted out made it all real to me. These disciples had nothing, and in their barrenness they questioned how they were going to do what they had been called to do.
Their questioning, their frustration with this seemingly impossible task, their "really Lord?" all hit me in a real way.
I'd just come back in after holding my friend while she cried, after barely making it to my own room before collapsing on the bed and asking "seriously, God?", after finding one of the staff members for a much needed hug because the world felt like too much in this moment.
But the disciples searched for food, finding only 5 loaves and 2 fishes.
I know how the story ends. They blessed it and it fed the people, enough so that there was leftovers.
But this time I saw it. They blessed it, and their not enough became enough.
Their barrenness, their weakness, their defeat became victory and accomplishment and plenty.
I may have cried just a little, at this idea of the lacking becoming the plentiful.
And so in my lack of, in my own inner barren land, in my emptiness and exhaustion when I can barely ask the question of how I'm supposed to keep on going, I give thanks.
Thank you God for 16 years of memories with L, for using him to show me things I never would have learned otherwise, and for the blessings you've brought to me that are only sweeter because of the bitter taste of loss. You've provided in the barren land.
Thank you God for family, and the ones still surrounding me. For sister smiles and holding hands. You've provided in this barren land.
Thank you God for the opportunity to extend and invite, to make room even if it just involves making a bed, to say yes and be richly blessed by all that is falling into place. You've provided in this barren land.
Thank you God for health, and the way you sustain. Yet again you've provided here.
Thank you God for relationships, and for the beautiful people you've placed in my life. Again, provision.
I say thank you, and watch my not enough become enough.
My broken grief becomes slivers of gratitude.
It aches something fierce, but in a way that is preparing me for hard and holy things.
2 years later.
I never thought I'd make it here.
I never thought I'd still be standing, still be smiling, still be alive with a beating heart.
Because when half your heart has been ripped out, when suddenly your world is tilted on it's axis and even getting out of bed seems unthinkable, making it to the 2 mile mark seems impossible.
The dull ache of remembering hurts, and I nod to it as I pass by.
I know you, I whisper, I see you. I've never forgotten, because how can you forget something that caused such a profound physical, emotional, mental and spiritual impact? No, I haven't forgotten. I'm still here, still remembering, still aching. But I'm doing something else too, something I didn't think I'd be doing 2 years ago.
I'm still living. I'm pressing forward. I'm extending a hand and helping others who just started on this hiking trail. It's bloody and messy and hard but it's beautiful.
I'm finding those slivers of gratitude.
Because this, I'm finding, turns my barren nothingness into a rich enough.
L.M.M - 2 years later and I still can't believe you're gone. You've changed my life, in so many ways, and I'm so grateful for all you've taught me. I love you, my cousin. Until I see you again in all perfection where there will be no more tears, no more hurt, no more sadness, and only the fullest love.