Inside

Off like a rocket it went

A brother dodging danger

A brief relief with a birthday and the beach

But when spring began it’s usual bloom

The warning signs began to blare

A virus, novel and like no other

From one corner of the world to the next

//

“Stay inside” reverberated some

While a so-called president twiddled his thumbs

Playing it off like a failed casino bet

Omission of truth, for who’s sake?

Declared a pandemic, despite the questioning and ignoring of common sense

Daily news briefs were almost too much to bear

Anxiety, chest pains, and lack of appetite by day

Depression descended as evening fell

//

“Routine, Productivity, Positivity!”

My body responding differently

I didn’t want comfort as much as I wanted personal connection

To physically feel common threads

My extroverted self a little lost in the hubbub

Afraid of losing the confidence I’d gained in the last year

//

So I stayed inside

Detesting “new normal”

Preferring currently reality

Though the unknowns loomed larger 

Than dormancy

A reprieve through walks and sunshine

Access to the water

Mom started a new chapter

The city came alive again

//

Behind closed doors

The desire to walk through fire

To support those who were struggling

To keep living, keep going

They needed me, and I needed them

Late nights

Deep conversations

Protective, patient, and learning how to hold space

Finding different ways

To carry them however I could

Capped by a reunion

A long time coming

//

And then the second wave

Predictable at one point

But could have been avoided

By collective responsibility and respect

The plea to stay inside again

Saved by the grace of changing colors and important milestones

I relished the tv specials

The snuggling up to read, watch, and just be

Real rest, without fear of missing out

My work in progress for as long as I can remember

//

But the fatigue is real

Body aches with unknown origins

Colder weather?

Lack of usual activity?

A response to stress?

//

Yet the most challenging aspect

Was not the confinement of four walls

But the confinement of thoughts inside my mind

Swirling around like storms

To reach out or give space?

To tell the truth, or pretend I’m ok?

Are you ok? Are we ok?

To ask for what I want/need

Or hold it in for as long as possible

//

Distraction could only do so much

When the healthy distractions weren’t always available

Overthinking, deeply feeling

Jealousy, more questions than answers

My prayers feeling dry and without heart

Sitting in the tension

I’m still learning

//

And as the calendar turns again

Cautiously Optimistic comes to mind

With new leadership

New possibilities

Changing seasons

A new year

//

I dream of music and dancing again

Lots of people

Opportunities for living

Being in nature

Assertive

Growing Confidence

Expression

Thriving

Roaring

Take Me To The Water

When the new dawn broke

So did I

A movement

A leaning in

Beyond books and quiet morning prayers

Becoming a face of what I had once avoided

Perhaps even feared

Quenched in me what I didn’t know I needed

 

Connection

Conversation

And Community

 

But something popped up

Which has me at a loss of description

A cloud? A fence of thorns? Surreality? 

Unprecedented circumstances keeping human contact at bay

Unable to open doors, exchange greetings, or even touch

 

Technology, having been soured by old-fashioned rhetoric

Has now become a lifeline to our loved ones

And to the outside world

But so many

Already weary

Stuck between “new normal” and “temporary reality”

 

More recently, on a walk

The rain came down

And I felt it seep to my bones

But I wasn’t cold, or discouraged

I welcomed it

A washing of current anxieties, grief, and fears

 

And I began to envision again

The new dawn of a new season

Not by a calendar year, but one of hope

Where distance is not bound by six feet 

Gathering freely

Dancing, singing, and embracing

Lingering for a little longer

Not rushing from point A to point B

 

Until then

Lead me to the water

Where peace lives, in my mind and in my spirit

Cascading on my like the falls

Sprinkling like rain

Filling my soul

Again and again

And regardless of what happens, or when

May the well within me

Not dry up

Thank An Artist

No one told me to go to business school
But they raised their eyes all the same
Sitting down, telling stories of a far away place
Holding onto ideas like precious gems
//
Writing and playing
Dancing and painting
Picture an uneven life
Without the promise of money or being known
Exposing your soul
Sometimes more than once
Speaking in a tongue only some can understand
//
Art
In all it’s mediums and interpretations
A second voice
An outlet for intense emotion
A puzzle for that which we can only try to grasp
Expression of experience
And desire
//
It teaches you how to feel
To fall in love
To fight for what matters
And find your way back
When you hit the bottom
Talk about it
Weep for it
Celebrating all that life is
The good, bad, and incredibly ugly
//
Chords, colors, words alike
No one is niave to their power and movement
Yet some of us run and rage against it
While others savor the sweetness
//
Like it or not, we need it
So before you tease, or complain, or point fingers
Remember all that is that has moved you
That keeps your sanity
That fosters connection and builds bridges
That saves and sustains
That heals
//
Thank an artist
For what you don’t have the guts to do
For bleeding when they can hide
For giving their time to their heart and mind
Expecting little to nothing in return
//
Except to show and be who they are
Colorful, breathtaking, and always evolving

How We Love

The world we live in

So dark and gray

Unlike what I was used to growing up

Neighbors looking at each other

With judgement and disdain

Families divided, separated

Who they are is not enough

 

Whether it’s the skin you’re in

Or the way you pray

Language and heritage

Walking or wheelchair bound

Recovering or running around

 

Can we pause for a minute?

Strip away the signs and speakers

Deep down we’re afraid of change 

What we can’t control

“This is the way it’s always been”

Excusing without seeking to understand what it means to be human

On this side of heaven

 

But what does love look like in such a divisive time?

Love includes

Building kingdoms over castles

Discomfort, not distraction

Grace on the ground level

Freedom over inconvenience

 

To be love is to be a light

A light that shines not just for one community, but for all

Lighting the way for building bridges instead of walls

Not relying on power, but promise

Promise of hope, joy, and contentment

A foundation that can be trusted

 

Without pain, there is no fuel to produce light

The purpose of the hard seasons

Where love is rooted, and growth can occur

To give

To broaden perspective

And deepen

 

A lack of love is a lust for power

And power benefits from poverty

But such does not make one a real man or woman

It just makes you blind

Stunting in body and heart

And without a growing heart

One cannot love at all

Inspired by this recent but timeless message.

Perfectly Enough

Celebrating a year in recovery.

Vacations to several of my favorite places.

A job loss that led to something better.

Meeting awesome people.

Relationships growing and changing.

Welcoming a new baby into the family (for the first time in twenty years!)

Waking up the morning after an election, and experiencing hope instead of despair.

A reigniting of fire; to grow in my faith, and to grow closer to God.

And for the first time since I graduated college, actually wanting to celebrate the holidays.

2018 has been a plethora of things. An eclectic mix of joy and heartbreak. A mix that I struggle with summing up in a singular word. The magic wasn’t necessarily in the circumstances, but in the moments. As my sister said recently: It wasn’t perfect, but it was perfectly enough.

Oh, how perfectly enough.

I’ve noticed that reflecting often comes with the tendency to take it to the extreme; it was either amazing and we want to hold onto it for as long as we can, or it was awful and the end cannot come soon enough. But why do we always have to label anything as good or bad? Why can’t it just be reality, the kind where there are good things and there are hard things, but we can still say, “It is well”?

Yes, it is well, with or without the warm fuzzies to go with it.

I still have intentions for 2019; intentions in general aren’t filled with unrealistic expectations and leave room for grace and flexibility. They’re not centered on physical appearance or require validation, relying more on self-care, along with emotional and spiritual growth.

I would like to be as financially stable as I can be, and then move into my own place.

I want to write and read a little each day, whether it’s merely in my journal or a chapter in a book.

I intend to continue building my personal brand, and not get caught up in the numbers game.

I would like to join a small group again, and to focus on building relationships in person.

And I would like to get back into cooking, along with learning how to meal prep and plan ahead of time.

But most of all, I don’t want someone’s understanding or perception of me to determine whether or not I feel at peace with myself.

Let it be so, and may you have a joyful and prosperous New Year!

Intent and Content

 

 

 

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Always a dreamer

Mildly ambitious

But a quiet one

Knowing that what sat in the depths and crevices

Was sacred

 

Surrounded by cautious skeptics

Reminded of her limitations

And not to wear her heart where it could be shattered

So she learned to speak

Only when and where encouragement flowed

 

From a girl with an impressionable sponge of a mind

To a woman with a soft heart and a tough attitude

Only bound by what she allows

But when asked about her plans

She goes quiet again

Trying to balance between wants and blessings

Already bestowed

Afraid of destroying possibilities

 

Two dreams

May her words flow from pen to paper

So that others may hear and be impacted

Perhaps even changed

May her perspective make them think

And move the world towards greater things

May love grow

Between her and another man

Deep with roots so strong

A love of acceptance and grace

But also motivation, courage, support, and strength

May this love be a partnership

A partner with whom she can build a future

Not just to bridge the disconnect and pass the time

But to hold, cherish, and keep

 

Before her Creator

Now audaciously in prayer

Let it be so and be blessed

Lead me and give me the courage to follow

For you have the final word

And your will be done

Going Back To Church (Or Trying To)

 

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I go to church, but I have not gone regularly since I was seventeen years old.

Around the 2008 election, I began to hear the hissing whispers of what now seems to define the Evangelical Christian movement on the cultural landscape: You have to be a Conservative Republican. Pro-life and Anti-Abortion. Do not support marriage that does not involve a man and a woman. And having sex before that means you will not have anything to give to your future spouse (especially if you are a woman). The Bible is clear on X, Y, and Z. If you don’t fully believe in any of these things, you must not truly love Jesus.

Uh, what?

That led to an even bigger question: should I believe these things because I feel that they truly right? Or have I just been spoon-fed every Sunday to do/say what a pastor tells me to?

I froze, spiritually, as if merely speaking that out loud turned me into an outsider. I was terrified to bring it up with anyone, given the friendships I’d cultivated since that first summer at a youth group camp were beginning to fade and I feared being brushed off and simply told to “check the Bible.” It seemed much easier to just sleep in, rather than try to sing words that sounded hallow or nod along to a message aimed at the absolutes rather than those who dare question and investigate.

God and church. Church and God. Such an intertwine was all I had known back then, and needed to take time to untangle.

College made me both curious and apprehensive to see what faith looked on campus, attending various groups and giving each one a genuine try. There was an emphasis on being different, and I already was fighting a separate battle with unintentionally standing out in the face of ignorance. There was always something off about the atmosphere, a superior us versus them mentality. I was only a freshman, and didn’t want to get pitted against a place I was just beginning to love and would be at for the next four years. I would attend Sunday services every so often, but continued to keep lingering doubts to myself. I wanted belonging, but not enough to risk rejection.

I was far from the pews, but not from the foundation; I still prayed regularly, kept a journal, and read the Bible. I knew that I needed God, but I also needed to see what that looked like between Sundays. I had lived a shelter life as a young girl, and didn’t want to be confined by four walls while on my own. I still had many a spiritual conversation in bars, coffee shops, and even after a weekly summertime tradition of The Bachelorette.  I’m grateful for the friends that reassured me this season was normal and human and nothing to be ashamed of.

A transitional nudging led me to one of the most popular megachurches in my local area, yet real connections were sparse, and I kept wondering if I would ever find a gathering place to call home, especially as I was evolving into adulthood.

Writing this, home seems to look like a hodgepodge of different cultures and ethnicities, neighborhoods that have their own distinct vibe and flavor. Whenever the fundamentalist/progressive divide becomes apparent, I remember how important it is to be aware, but not afraid (at least to the point of running away from real community). I don’t see the point in debating, because ultimately we can have the same beliefs but different convictions on how to live out those beliefs. I’ve learned that it’s okay to disagree with those you admire, and still gain knowledge and wisdom from them. But yet I cannot deny what has been tugging at the core of my soul for a long time:

There are some things that are just between a person and God, whether it has to do with their body or their sexuality. Sometimes, “speaking the truth in love” means simply listening, and remembering that we humans have a limited perspective in comparison to the One who created us.

Leaving church (for however long) does not equate to abandoning God. Yes, we are called to gather together, but that is no reason to invalidate wounds, pain, and abuse caused by it. There will be seasons where Jesus Calling and online podcasts feel safer than walking through sanctuary doors.

Anxiety, depression, and a host of other mental health struggles have absolutely NOTHING to do with a lack of faith. Pastors are not the same as doctors or psychiatrists, and be wary of those who act like they are. It is wise to seek counseling, and it is just as wise to take medication if you feel moved to do so.

If you don’t want to be lumped in with those that feel they need to hate certain groups of people in order to be “good Christians”, then stand up and live out who you say you are.

I am still wrestling with a lot, especially when it comes to gray, or even flat out bad theology. I don’t like the term “broken” because of how it was used against me as a young girl by those that bullied and ultimately misunderstood me. Phrases like “hungry” or “thirsty” often make me want to draw closer to God than the former; reminding me that I still desperately need Him without feeling less than human.

I could never be an atheist; I have been through too much and experienced enough miracles to know that we didn’t just get here by simply appearing out of nowhere. There is something much bigger than you and I, although I cannot pretend to understand or comprehend all of it. That is why faith is often referred to as a mystery.

Funny how when I first started attending church, I sought out a safe place from what I had no control over. Nearly ten years later, I find myself in similar circumstances, though my brain is still a sponge.

I still have questions and am skeptical at times, but the beauty of faith is being able to discuss it all on a deeper level and be able to grow from it. Wherever my journey takes me, I trust that what is hurt will lead to healing, and what needs transforming will lead to grace.

Light From Glass

 

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Unexpected words

A sharp sense of disbelief

Letting Go

Termination

Fast and Unforgiving

No Time

But I was just getting started!

Crack

 

I’ll never touch you like that

You can trust me

He said to keep me from flinching and cringing

You’re so beautiful

They’re crazy not to want you

I was suspicious and skeptical

And rightly so

As the first goodbye was the last

Crack

 

Grief and reflection followed

But so did instinctively grabbing a shield

 “I feel a little bit guarded” permeated every-day language

Unusual for a believer in vulnerability and connection

But it’s natural for a bruise to want to heal

And to seek shelter when the bruising becomes too much

Too many bruises leads to too many cracks

 

Fear is not the central concern, or even avoiding pain

For heartbreak is proof that you’re living life

But you can’t live if your health is in a detrimental state

As I became aware of once before

 

Discouraged and unmotivated

I allowed the familiar urges to rise and regurgitate

Until I felt empty and nothing else could come out

Fuck it, my tired self said

Who cares what happens?

I cried tears of confession

Praying for mercy and compassion

In those moments I felt unlovable

Slip up and backtrack

Crack

Relapse?

 

Brokeness is not a sight to see at first

And a caution to touch

It’s not a burden to bear alone

But not everyone can walk that road

Yet when the light gets in

When connection happens

When truth is spoken over lies

There is an unmistakable beauty

In realizing that humanity still exists

 

It’s like a prism of color

A story

Not a cautionary tale

But one of Grace and redemption

So let the black cloud come

Yet it will not overcome me

Let the voices speak

May that be tender and gentle

Let love be known

The kind of love we all need

And I will stand unashamed

Knowing that I will grow, evolve, and become

Go where the light is

Even if it’s just a little bit

After Midnight

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It’s easy to hope before midnight then it is to have faith afterward.

Ringing in 2018 was calm and low-key, the majority of the celebration spent with family or family friends. We sipped drinks, played games, and I discovered the deliciousness of assorted macaroons on one of the dessert tables. I was in no rush for the current year to be over, savoring time with my loved ones and trying not to fall asleep before the clock struck midnight.

When the years-end rolls around, there’s a massive fixation on goal-setting and trying to do things differently. There’s nothing wrong with that as a whole, but too often they come attached with life-size expectations and are rooted in people-pleasing. I’m a huge advocate for growth and self-improvement, but not to the extreme where I believe that I missed the mark (in most areas) every single year.

2017, despite its hurdles and unexpected challenges, was one of the most transforming years that I’ve experienced since my teens. I got out of head and faced some uncomfortable truths, and once the initial sting wore off, I realized that I’ve become more like myself than ever. I won’t deny that mistakes were made and resulted in taking responsibility for my own crap, yet I’m not going to cower in shame either. I became a better writer, owning my words and beliefs and perspective. I slowly learned about self-compassion, and that being your own best friend doesn’t mean being alone.

It’s why I chose to set intentions, which focuses on one’s mindset as opposed to being dependent on what one can or cannot accomplish. Not a formula for solving problems or a quick fix for happiness, but something I strive to take with me each day; it’s not about where you start, but how you walk through what you go through.

I know I won’t always stick to it, but I intend to:

-Hold myself to a standard of grace instead of perfection.

-Live in the tension and confusion of the unknown instead of seeking immediate answers or a fix.

-Be fully present when in the presence of people I care for (i.e. take a breather from social media, which I need for the sake of my emotional health).

-Choose love, compassion, tenderness, and trust.

Let it be so.

One day at a time, one foot in front of the other.

Getting Wonder Woman All Wrong

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She was motivated by compassion rather than revenge.

Her strengths were not by chance, but by proper training and preparation.

She did not want to hide, nor did she want attention. She was simply fulfilling what she felt called to do.

Chills scattered across my skin as she grabbed her shield and began climbing the ladder out of No Man’s Land.  She rose up and began to run forward in cinematic fashion, deflecting bullets off her wrists in the process. I was so overcome by the power and awe of these singular moments that tears formed in my eyes and poured onto my cheeks. I had come across an article headline where many admitted to crying during this particular scene (and others), but didn’t read any further for fear of coming across spoilers. And while it is wonderful that strong female characters have been brought to the forefront in action-adventure, there’s another reason, a personal reason to celebrate the incredible film and story that is Wonder Woman.

In my teens an early twenties, I proudly called myself Wonder Woman in Real Life, though my only vivid interpretation is the most recent summer blockbuster. I’d seen various references through the old days of Cartoon Network, but never knew her story within the context of any comic books. It was a lot of assuming and creating a definition in my own head based off her title alone. I desperately wanted to be strong, fierce, and independent; not for the sake of being a heroine, or doing what was right, but merely proving people wrong. It was a defense mechanism, a way of communicating that underneath a sweet (and perhaps naive) exterior, there was a badass not to be messed with.

And one could argue that the fictional Diana Prince is similar, but the difference between her and I has been a matter of pride.

She never had to proclaim who she was in order to make a statement or have an impact, nor did anyone have to point her out in dramatic fashion in order to shape her identity. She allowed herself to be helped and advised in adjusting to the outside world (even when the majority of the responses to her requests were “NO!”), leaning on her male comrades for support without total dependence. Her relationship with Steve is not a back and forth of who saves who, but it more so revolves around what they teach one another, about partnership, grace, and the harsh realities of justice and evil. And as I’ve dug deeper and reflected on what this film has meant to me, I realized that perhaps it’s not just social media, loneliness, and ignorance that’s slowly killing us. Rather, it’s also individualism.

The reasons for “every person for themselves,” are plenty, from the fear of coming across as needy/codependent, to the fear of rejection and abandonment. I’ve always been, and still am slightly terrified of being too much, and have assumed that’s why people tend to disappear out of my life every so often. It seems like when it comes to lending a helping hand now a days, there’s a bit of a debtors mentality, where if you do something for someone, then they automatically owe you (or vice versa).

And so we do everything ourselves, or at least we try to in order to avoid pain, disappointment, and betrayal. Whether it comes from society or otherwise, we’re either pressured or expected to dig deep within ourselves and by ourselves for that which is beyond comprehension. We dig and we dig until we’ve become hallow shells, resentful and isolated from what we were created for.

Love. Connection. Community. Building each other up instead of tearing each other down.

I believe that love comes not from within, but from God above. And I believe that we learn to love ourselves through experiencing aspects of God in other people, both women and men.

The first time I heard that God loved me was from a man.

Had it not been for the men I’d met during college, I wouldn’t have begun to understand what loving myself meant until much later. They accepted me and didn’t judge me, even in the midst of bad decisions and mistakes.

And not too long ago, a man whom I very much care for, admire, and respect said to me, “You’re one of the strongest and most resilient women I know.” He then continued, “I wish you could see in yourself what I see in you.”

But I think that’s what relationships are for, whether they’re platonic or romantic; again, to show us what we’ve been blinded to by impossible standards.

///

I’ve had to fight battle after battle since the day I was born. More recently, it has been the battle to overcome stereotypes, establish a career, and live my own life. A battle to let go of anger and allowing my heart to soften toward my family history. And now, a battle with a disease that threatens to land me in the hospital, and perhaps even take my life.

Since coming to terms with it three months ago, many have asked me how they can help or support me. Most days I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that it goes beyond just getting me to eat, or encouraging me to take deep breaths when I feel like going back to an unhealthy physical behavior. It’s a lot of patience, especially as I’m still in the midst of trying to get some kind of professional help. It’s grace when I ask obvious questions or bitch and moan over silly things, portraying myself as self-absorbed.

But mostly, it’s letting me know that it’s OK to not be a superhero. That I’ve got this, and we’ve got this.

There is part of me that will always be a fighter, stubborn and willing to kick down doors if need be. If that wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t have lived past infancy. But I’m practicing and allowing myself to be soft: Instead of “I’ll show you!” it’s, I’ll show you what I have to offer. Rather than getting angry at those who don’t understand, I seek to gain a better understanding of both myself and others. And rather than putting up walls, I choose to set boundaries. It’s still in present progress, and I can’t say whether or not I’ll fully get there.

But the best way to get healthy is to start getting real. No cape. No lasso or tiara. Just an open heart and willingness to see what wasn’t there before. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other.