Category Archives: Friendship

Seeking Shalom

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Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength. -Ralph W. Sockman

So here I am, the day after the election results. There’s a lot of feels. And yet last night I read a few books to a five year old, I made dinner and homemade bread and muffins. I fed my people. I listened to my housemate’s grief and tears over how torn she is over the elections. She works in one of the inner city schools. The students are scared. I went to receive a medicinal injection for an injury yesterday. The doctor said he hasn’t felt a day this dark since post Sept. 11th. Maybe that’s a gross overstatement to some, but it feel legitimate where I live. He was very sad. His family was grieved. He apologized to me and hoped that I could continue to get the care I need to live semi-pain free. I’m not sure what will happen. I don’t have much confidence in the nation or the church. I cried a lot before bed last night.

Tender, she said again. Tender is kind and gentle. It’s also sore, like the skin around an injury.-Brenna Yovanoff

Today I had double physical therapy (two therapists, two locations). Both my therapists were hurting. One is gay and has a baby who is adorable. The other is Asian, married to a white man, and they have one bio daughter and a Haitian daughter. My physical therapy assistant told me today about what her holidays are like. She’s from another country. One that doesn’t value women. She discussed with me very detailed pains from her childhood that led her down alcoholism and that on the day she decided to wish her father a Happy Father’s day, he emailed her right back to say “Thanks, I’m going to shoot myself today. Bye.” She shared with me what it’s been like for her in this country. That one of the few people who have loved her died in August and that the holidays will be exceptionally difficult. The election has brought up a lot, for many people.

I flat out told one of my therapists who’s gay, “I know you know I am a christian. I know you have shown great care for me. I want you to know I care about you, your rights, and your child. And I am so sorry for the way Christians have spoken about your sexual orientation. I am so sorry”. She’s a lovely woman. She’s terrified because the soon to be vice president believes in therapy to re-orient someones gender identity and sexual orientation. This form of therapy has been proven to be DANGEROUS. Nearly all centers like it have been sued because so many individuals have committed suicide while in it. Her assistant is terrified because even though she’s a legal immigrant, she regularly faces discrimination.

My other physical therapist was angry. Very angry about the election. She can handle the discrimination she faces daily as a minority, but her 7 year old can’t and shouldn’t have to. She’s afraid of the day someone says something to her husband about either his wife or children and he reacts angrily. She’s had a lifetime of learning to be gracious with discrimination and racism. He’s never had to. He’s a white man, who now deeply loves women who are not white.

Oh that gentleness! How far more potent it is than force! -Jane Eyre

So last night I read books to a 5 year old. She played her very first game of “Go fish” with me. We yelled GROAN in the parts of the Mo Willems book there those letters are very big (Waiting is Not Easy by Mo Willems is a favorite of mine!). It felt so good to groan loudly, to let it go so big that I needed a drink of water to cleanse my throat.

I said goodbye to a friend and her family as she left today for a big move out of the country. I snuggled the most squishy baby I’ve ever met. I soaked in his giant smile. She has asked me several times to move out of the country with her family. Because outside of America, family means something very different. I prayed for her and I thanked God for her and I fed her and I wept with her and she held me.

I made muffins to give to a friend who was up all election night sick from the news. I did everything slow, by hand. The muffins, the bread. No mixers, nothing. I needed to slow down life. Slow down the world. Focus on caring for those around me. To listen, to give, to sacrifice, to grieve.

I choose gentleness. Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only  of myself. -Max Lucado

And as I cried in bed late into the night, I thought about the things that terrify me about this world, this country. And let myself soak in the soothing parts of that day.. GROANING, feeding, mixing, praying, togetherness, stories I didn’t know. And I thought that’s just it. That’s what it means to be a minister of reconciliation. To bear witness to one another’s pain, to sit in it with them. And to let it soak so deep into your bones that it compels you to love others more fully, to seek Jesus more passionately, and to live more gentley. Life is hard. People are fragile. And I want to focus on restoring, even when the world feels bent on breaking me apart. Shalom.

As we come to grips with our own selfishness and stupidity, we make friends with the imposter and accept that we are impoverished and broken and realize that, if we were not, we would be God. The art of gentleness toward ourselves leads to being gentle with others-and it is a natural prerequisite for our presence to God in prayer.-Brennan Manning

The Frailty of life

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The Frailty of life

It’s been a strange, beautiful, nostalgic New England weekend. It’s our first real cold weather. The trees are changing colors. Apple picking is in full swing. You can find pumpkin everything in nearly every store. It’s the time of season where you sort of get sick of apple pie and apple crisp that others bring to events to get rid of their apples.

Fall is strange. It’s the season that ushers in winter; the hard season. It’s as if God beautifully paints our foliage before the harshness comes. Fall is beautiful, but it leaves me anxious this year. The last few falls have been very difficult.  And I’m rolling with it, because I can’t do anything else. But anxiousness is hard. I’m not sure what to expect.

Today on the drive home from a weekend trip I just cried. Tears for people I love who are struggling. Tears for people I just want to make things right for, but can’t. So often I wish I could take their suffering, their hurt away, even if it cost me. Empathy is a gift, but it’s costly.

I see so much Jesus in you, not because you’re perfect, but because you’re not.

I came in my house and found a dear friend sitting there. SURPRISE. I literally leaped onto her on as she lounged on the couch, a full body embrace. We chatted and drank tea. We talked about the ups and downs of our week. I laid on her lap and wept. And she just rubbed my hair and proceeded to encourage me in ways my soul had been parched of for many seasons.

Often we are quick to point out others flaws. We continually remind others of them, things they need to work on. Not often enough do we tell people the things we see that are GOOD in them, the positive things, the things that are Jesus like. My dear friend said she remembered when I was near “perfect”. I did nothing wrong. I was semi stoic and had all the “right” doctrine for every issue. Now I am sort of this messy blob, trying to find my way half blinded, half hoping. She said she sees more Jesus in me than anyone she’s ever met, not because I’m perfect, but because I am not anymore, because I am so honest with my faults and failings and shortcomings, that Jesus is all the more real in me. That I still am able to do and be all that I am AND be a mess is a testimony of the power of God and the gifts he’s given me. WOW.

I talk to my counselors about you. I mean, who would send me an empathy card after I broke up with my boyfriend? Maybe people would send a card if they thought I was sick and dying, MAYBE, but for a break up? No one but you. You live as if you recognize the frailty of life and that grief comes from all sorts of places.

I don’t feel very hopeful often. But my dear friend pointed out that, though I may not feel hopeful, I LIVE with much hope, and that is much much greater. That’s real courage. Real integrity. I am involved in many things, pursue others, care well. I have every reason to have given up. But I have not. Friend said she has never met another person who loves people so personally by recognizing the frailty of life that each dear person has.

How encouraging to know that though I battle and fight many days and feel like a failure, my life is still lived with much hope and expectation and joy in God.

The world needs more people to embrace that which is GOOD in others and SPEAK it alive to them. No one will ever die saying they had too much encouragement. God can tear the things in our hearts down well enough. We don’t need one another doing it as well. Let’s be a people known for our exhortations, praise and gratitude, and affection for one another. A people that looks at the image of God in each person and declares it GOOD.

31 Days of Writing: Embrace

I didn’t choose this, dear friend.

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Dear friends,

I know you know this, but I love you dearly. I know you love me too, but I forget often. I’m filled with thoughts of how unloveable I am, how much of a mess I am, how unkempt and unpretty my life can seem. Many days I feel worthless, so I don’t always believe you love me. Somedays I believe depression.

Do not confuse my bad days as a sign of weakness, those are actually the days I am fighting my hardest

Depression has a nasty snarl around my life. I know you prefer the sunny days, the brighter ones, free from anxiety, free from worry, filled with wonder and exploration. I know you prefer these for me, and for us. Oh friend, how I prefer those days too. I wish I could have these days every day because depression terrifies me. It literally prevents me from life, from the brightness and joy I know Jesus has created me to be. Oh but friend, I try. I try, and I try, and I have not given up. I hope you see the fight in me, that on my hardest of days, I have not given up, in fact, I am holding on with more strength than I knew possible. Please see how strong I am.

Behind my smile is a hurting heart, behind my laugh I’m falling apart, look closely at me and you will see, the girl I am… it isn’t me.

I wish I could have more days where I am more free, more present with you, more able to engage you. But I can’t. I can sense the heaviness come over me, clouding my eyes, heavying my chest, weighing on me from top to bottom. I try to push out of it, to throw it off, but friend the only way out is through.

Often the people with the strongest hearts carry the heaviest ones.

The journey through terrifies me. It feels like I’m losing control and losing my mind. Please, if you notice it happening before I am able to say it, please grab my hand and say you’re with me and you love me. If you ask me if I am ok, I will likely say yes. If you ask me how I am, I will likely say good/fine/okay. Please notice my pain and I am not able to articulate it. Please meet me there. Please help me to understand you are not scared of me or these feelings of mine.

I’m so broken that I can feel it. I mean, physically feel it. This is so much more than being sad now. This is affecting my whole body.

I know I seem to overreact at times. I know it’s confusing. I know sometimes you feel like your trying is never good enough or what I need. I know you sometimes receive anger from me when it’s not justified. I know you understand why it happens. And I know it’s hard for you nonetheless. Depression makes me angry and I can’t think well when I am angry. I am so sorry for this. It’s not an emotion I’ve felt often enough or seen handled well enough to know what to do with, so I feel more distant and disconnected.

Friend, when you notice I seem disconnected, please reach a hand out and connect with me. Tell me you love me and you are FOR me. Rub my back, hug me, sit with me. Remind me you are for me, not against me. Remind me you are on my side, that you know I will make it through, that you aren’t leaving me. Remind me that you can see how hard I try. Believe things alive, right into my very heart.

People think depression is sadness.People think depression is crying. People think depression is dressing in black. But people are wrong. Depression is the constant feeling of being numb. Being numb to emotions, being numb to lie. You wake up in the morning just to go back to bed again. Days aren’t really days; they are just annoying obstacles that need to be faced. And how do you face them? Through medication, through drinking, through smoking, through drugs, through cutting. When you’re depressed, you grasp on to anything that can get through the day. That’s what depression is, not sadness or tears, it’s the overwhelming sense of numbness and the desire for anything that can help you make it from one day to the next.

It can be hard to understand depression when you have not experienced it. I get that. I was like that too. Please always know that I respect you most when you ask me questions, because too often I am not able to just say what I would like to.

There’s many times when I feel like you are better off without me, that I have ruined you, ruined me, ruined others. I feel like you deserve better than me and I can’t ever be enough, no matter how much I try, I will always struggle, and sometimes I wonder if you are better off without me. I rarely will tell you. I fear you’re already too tired to hear from me. Sometimes I may not think it for weeks, other times I fight those thoughts every moment for months. Please watch out for me. Please tell me you see me. Please tell me I am worth it, worth this fight, to you and know that I won’t believe it on the dark days, ever. But don’t hesitate to tell me. I need it. Those are never wasted words, ever. I do remember. And they do fill me. Please hold hope for me.

Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad

I feel like there’s a silence that I keep, one that has me balancing feeling “too” much for you and also not enough for you, one that teeters on wanting to look normal, but feeling so isolated and crazy. Depression is ugly. Most days it takes so much courage for me to get out of bed. No one knows. No one sees that. I force myself to eat sometimes, because I know it’s good for me. I shower and wish I didn’t have to. I make it through. There’s a silence I have to keep. Help me to break the silence. Please know I try, am trying, to find healing in Jesus.

There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds

Please know I am being healed. I want you to be a part of this, dear friend. A part of the healing. Please stay with me and fight this alongside me. You know who I am. You’ve seen me love fiercely, give lavishly, extend mercifully. You know many of the parts of who I am in Jesus that are fighting for healing, for greater strength. Don’t hesitate to remind me of those things, to remind me of who I am, of how good I am, of how good God has made me.

Please be with me. And know I am trying and I am fighting, for me, for us, for healing, for the Kingdom. But mostly, know I don’t want to be here and I didn’t choose this. And know I love you, deeply.

FMF: TRY

 

Saving Space for Others

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Somedays, some moments, some weeks I just don’t have a lot of hope. My mood can feel low. I lose the ability to communicate effectively and all I want to do is cry and be told it’s okay-it’s okay to unravel, it’s okay to fall apart, you’re still good, you’re still valued, you’re still wanted, and your grief makes sense. I can’t recall many who hold space for me like that-a safe place to enter into when I am able and ready; a place that’s available and willing to wait for me and to be a part of the process of this grief.

“I can see that you’re having a really difficult day and I just want you to know that I am holding this space for you. I’m here for you in whatever capacity you need me.”

I have learned a lot the last couple of years, about joy, and hope, and family, about loss, grief, suffering, and pain. The nature of being human means that we will make mistakes, we will hurt one another, even scar the same people we love. We are going to disagree with others, probably shame them at some points, judge and critique them in ways that steal their joy, their hope. I have done it. I’ve had it done to me. We will see and experience all heights and depths of joy and suffering.

  It’s hard work to get along. It’s harder work to bear with one another. It’s the greatest work in learning how to love one another. 

I’ve spent many months this last year waking up in the morning in tears, my stomach turned in knots, feeling sick from being unable to bring about peace and restoration in some relationships that I would like to. It’s a terrible, terrible, terrible feeling of loss and grief. Most people have their ideas of what you “should” do or what you “should” say in those situations. But I haven’t done much. Because I don’t know what to do. And I haven’t said much. Because I’ve been learning to listen. Listening to others puts out a fire. Defending myself causes the fire to rage. 

So I do what I think I need to. I send letters and emails. I say, “hey I was thinking of you and wanted to let you know.” I remind them that I haven’t forgotten them, that I still see them, and I still care. I find little ways to say, “I haven’t given up hope”. And I’ve found some peace. 

I have been called naive at times. I’ve been told that I should just let go and move on, but I can’t. There’s a stirring inside me that just keeps telling me to hold tight and to hold space for others. To have hope. To believe in God to bring about restoration and until then, to hold space for others, to give others a place to unravel and be a mess, as they are working out what God has for them, and to be available when they are ready, when we are ready. 

I have a friend who has a “screw you” mindset. She’s lovely. Really she is. She’s kind and a giver. But if she feels slighted and hurt, it is not easy for her to address it. She doesn’t often openly say it, but in her mind she’s written people off, and in doing so, has hardened a bit of her heart. She knows she does it. And somedays I have wished I could be more like that, less tender, more angry. I have wished I could just say “screw you” and move on. But I can’t. I have too great a capacity for hope. 

Hope is hard. I don’t always feel hopeful. I have a deep pit inside me that feels like my world is being pulled out from under me and shaken up. Not much feels normal or known. But my hope, this hope that Jesus put inside me, sees things not as they are, but how they can be. 

And it’s to that end I save space for other people. It’s to that end that I am learning to live in the angst of unsettled relationship struggles because I believe it can really be something beautiful eventually. And that kind of hope is a hope worth fighting for, even if naive. Five Minute Friday: HOPE

Clean Eating and why we need cheerleaders

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Roommate and I, we have these little competitions… usually I am the only one interested in the competition part, but in the end, there’s a goal and a prize, and it’s always some sort of treat. And roommate likes special treats. Each month we’ve been choosing an area when it comes to nutrition and physical health to work on, together. We aren’t into dieting, it’s not practical for our everyday lives. We’re not super into rigid exercise schedules, because we both like to not feel burdened by the “have to’s” more than we already are. We enjoy food. We enjoy social connection. We like doing things together. She get’s me. She’s rare. She’s a gem.

She doesn’t need to exercise for weight loss. She’s thin as a rod. She loves pepsi and hot dogs and chips and dip. She’s the kind of friend that will go out with me at 9:30 PM after a particularly heart wrenching day, and pick up chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and Dr. Pepper and enjoy them together, as we process the day. She’s a lover of chocolate and anything salty, of ice cream, and cheesy nachos with a side of quesadilla. She runs occasionally, to justify eating more.

Me on the other hand. I have long since passed my thinner days. A few years ago I gained a lot of weight and it’s sort of just been around for a while. I’m the healthiest eater in my house. I’m typically the dinner maker, plan initiator, got-to-get-out-of-the-city-and-exploreer in our house. Ice cream hurts my belly. I still have candy from two halloweens ago and three Easter’s ago. I cook 2lbs of brussel sprouts and a head of each cauliflour and broccoli a week. And lentils..we have lentils a lot. I need to exercise, but am not physically able to in the ways I used to; in ways I hoped to. But I do have an extreme love for doughnuts.

We’re sort of anomalies, her and I. But it works. We work. And it’s a privilege to be sharing a home.

We didn’t intend to start this health initiative. It just sort of happened. I’m not into New Year’s resolutions. But I am HUGE into reflecting and trying to remember. Back in December, I was reflecting on the year, on positives and not so positives, on people, on relationships, but mostly, on myself. I prayed for several days in this reflective time and made a list of areas to work on in 2015, a page to come back to over and over again when I felt unsure of whether I should really be investing my resources and capacity on these things.

Five categories: Mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, and relational. I got really clear about what areas in each of these I hoped to grow in and how I was going to give myself the best fighting chance at it. I didn’t share it with anyone. It was for me. I was less interested in all the specifics I hoped for coming to fruition (though I hoped they would), and more interest in being clear on what I was going to invest my best into in order to pursue, regardless of the outcome. I had long ago learned that though people might care and love me, life, in many ways, involves many individual decisions and choices that are for me alone to decide, solo. I don’t always like it. It’s just the cards I was dealt. And I do the best I can.

I have long been correlating how all these areas link together, how one area interacts with and is affected in part by choices made in another area. I didn’t get the best genes. I didn’t have the most calm childhood. I have had more health issues than you have time to hear. You could say I sort of have most things going against me when it comes to these 5 areas. In spite of it all, for some reason, God chose someone like me, who’s very different and not really understood very well, because He’s into creating a kingdom that’s not conformed to the image of this world and he needs some differently minded people (more on that another day). So here I am.

I’m not sure when Roommate and I decided this, but sometime in December we wanted to make a shift in our physical health, together. It’s much easier when you have someone with you, someone on your side, someone for you. People who cheer you on and encourage you are rare finds. But so very needed. She’s with me. I’m with her. We’re in this crazy want-to-give-ourselves-a-fighting-chance place together. And it’s really fun.

I’ve received feedback here and there from friends who have loved what we are doing and wished they had someone who committed to doing it with them too. It’s nearly impossible to go at it alone, at least in a way that’s sustainable. Yea, I am thankful for Roommate often. She goes along with my crazy research and gets on board with trying to live into wholesome living, not just for herself, but for me too. She cares about what I care about and wants to support me in my challenges. Sacrifice. She’s a keeper.

So we’re 11 days into “clean eating”. That means nothing processed, with more than a few easy to understand ingredients, nothing dairy except strained plan greek yogurt, lean meat/fish or organic red meat, no processed or added sugars (local honey is okay), and we took it a step further and eliminated gluten-mostly. We eat rice and lentils and grains often. We eat a ton of veggies and more fruits. I eat more meat than I’m accustomed to, which is good for me. She eats far less salt (I am working on eating more, because I need to). We try new foods and dishes. It’s been fun. We grocery shop/farmer’s market together. We cook together often, and sometimes I cook alone, but we always eat together. I love that piece.

We’ve made mango-cashew chicken curry, lettuce & tuna wraps (from the garden!), roasted veggie assortments, grilled almond and sweet potatoes, lentil & carrot soup, curried lentils, yogurt and dill cucumber salads, asian salads, to name a few. We allow ourselves one whole wheat product a week together, this week will be home made whole wheat tortillas. We get a tiny thumb nail sized square of chocolate a day (I sort of ate my whole bar, that was supposed to last the month, on the second day…).

And we give each other and ourselves grace with it. 

We stick to it, but recognize some situations will require flexibility if we want to sustain it. We were invited to a friend’s for dinner and she made a meal that wasn’t on our clean eating list… but we ate it. I had ketchup the other day. I sort of really wanted it, and it turns out, she had it too! We need some flexibility to live. We went into this to grow, not to be more weighed down by obligation.

In order to make lasting changes in any circumstance, they must both be realistic and sustainable. These changes must not expend all our resources nor take over all our capacity. We need adequate support in our lives and from those around us to maintain these changes or additions into our lives. We need people who are with us and for us, cheerleaders encouraging us along the way. We need people like Roommate, who are willing to give, bend, grow, and struggle alongside us, in the muck of everyday. So we’ve been excited as we process what the changes so far have been like for us, what we’ve learned, and challenges we’ve come up against in it so far.

There’s something special, something that’s so right about having someone near you, by your side, for you. This isn’t just about being physically healthy. This is about learning relational health, and emotional health, about mental health. There’s been a lot of processing of life and creation and how it all intertwines in this clean eating journey so far.

I thought this was to help my body physically, but really, it’s been about healing my body holistically. And I feel fairly confident that God intended it that way.

 

Stability has always had a high cost for them.

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They look like everyone else. They try to watch and learn the careful etiquette of words and phrases, learning how to style their hair, host a dinner. It’s an acquired habit, one necessary for surviving in a world that they don’t fully understand, at least not in the ways others do. They learn the dance. It becomes a routine, trying their very best to learn how to blend in. They don’t try to even fit in anymore. They know that’s not an option. They are not naive enough to believe that anymore.

Something is missing. Something is different. They can’t quite figure out when it happened or pin point with clarity when it all changed. Don’t let on. Say the right things. Go through the right motions. Ask the polite questions. Never say more than the answer. Wear the right clothes. Learn how to apply the right makeup. Watch. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t let on that something is missing. It’s easier to just blend in.

Because you don’t really know what it is that’s missing. All you know is that it’s heavy and hits you hard. This broken family stuff. No one needs to know. They don’t understand, not really. Not in ways that matter. How can anyone else understand what you don’t understand? You can’t figure it out… was it the divorce of your parents, the loss of them at a young age, abuse, memories that won’t leave you no matter how hard you try to work them out or move past them? It’s the weight that holds your heart in your stomach, constantly tugging and tearing, wearily bearing and enduring through the days. You don’t know when it all turned for you. You just know it hurts and it hits you hard every day.

Not everyone from a broken family experiences the same struggles, the same stories, the same kind of pain, but in the deep places there’s something familiar, something hollow, something missing.

You may ask them about their life, about their relatives and their upbringing. They may seem cool and give short answers at first, trying their best not to allude to what it is they have to hide, but trying to be honest as well. They may gloss over the ugly details, and you probably think that’s the whole story. But it’s not. It can’t be. Who wants to hear about the way she stayed up late countless times observing her mom after an over dose, or when she had to sleep in the waiting room wondering if her dad would live, or her addict sibling? How she called 911 and hid the phone in the cushion of a torn up couch while she tried to save the very parents who were hurting her or that her siblings grew up to hate her because she told the “family secret” when she was 13 and that’s why she ex-communicated, familyless. These aren’t dinner conversations. They aren’t things that can come up naturally. No one wants to hear about these things.

They always have felt strange, with no way to communicate these deeper things in ways that don’t make you run from them. They hope you don’t run, but they also know you probably will. It’s just another part of the burden, knowing it’s too much for others. But really, it’s too much for you too. It’s a reality that crushes idealism.

They don’t mean to play a game, letting you in a little, but not too much. It’s nervous caution. They’ve learned how to stifle the turning of their stomach when you talk about your family and your traditions that you’ve had for years and years. They’ve mastered the art of stepping into the bathroom to cry alone. They don’t know what it’s like, being able to expect anything from anyone. What it’s like to go to back to the only home you’ve ever known year after year and re-connect with people who have known you your whole life. The stability. Stability has always had a high cost for them. Their jaw is tight, doing it’s best work to remain clenched so they don’t cry as you talk about your life.

They know they could not call this place home, even though they’ve thought about it. They know it’s for you, not for them. These are not the things that bad people get, home and belonging don’t happen to broken people, to people who come from unconventional families. The recognize what you get and what they get and they have long stifled the hope of more, others before you have stifled that hope.

There are days when they know they don’t deserve you, your love and kindness and tenderness. They know it’s only a matter of time before you see them the way they’ve always known they were, different, screwed up, bad. They’ve seen it in your eyes, when you look at them sometimes, the difference between you and them. They see it. They sense that you see it too. They know you’re realizing you aren’t like them and you can’t handle this, them. Brokenness costs.

But they just need a little space to grow, to thrive. A little space to temper fun with heaviness. A place to bridge new memories, as they struggle to make sense of the deep heaviness inside. Because they are excellent learners and observers. They’ve had to be their whole life and they could probably teach you a thing or two about learning and observing, but what they really need is a little small space in your heart that let’s them just be who they are, broken and healing, without needing to be fixed or have everything about them understood.

They know they are complicated, not easy. That they won’t ever be enough for you. They know you could let them go at any moment and find easier, less complicated relationships. They fear you probably will. But they wish you would hold tight and not leave. Because deep down, they still believe they matter. Still believe they’re worth it, even as people come and go and remind them of all their brokenness. Brokenness they didn’t choose.

Broken families aren’t easy. Why would broken people be?

 

 

And when a season turns unexpectedly into years, you wonder if you will ever accomplish anything, let alone your dreams.

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I recently watched my first college graduation. I felt sad and excited. I knew some of how much it takes to get a college degree. I knew some of how hard this journey had been for her, the ups and downs, the starts and stops of college life, financial pressure, adulthood coming at you too fast, requiring you to take a break in your education for a season. And when a season turns unexpectedly into years, you wonder if you will ever accomplish anything, let alone your dreams.

I watched her, them. All several hundred of them walk in their dark blue cap and gown. Saw families and friends and a whole lot of excited people celebrating.

There were flowers. I overheard people discussing celebratory meals and graduation parties. Blue gown after blue gown that walked up the stairs, across the stage, and down the stairs. College graduates.

I did everything right. I went to college 12 hours away from where I grew up to get out of my comfort zone. I worked hard and had most of my undergraduate education paid for. I received outside scholarships, high school scholarships, federal and college scholarships. I worked in college. I spent my weekends traveling in ministry. I worked summers, I interned, I graduated with a 3.8 GPA. I was sick. I was constantly under pressure to figure out how I would provide for myself. Where would I stay for winter or summer break during those college years? Would I be alone during the holidays? Did I want to be alone? Who’s family photo would I take on Christmas day (because they always ask the “guest”, who’s not in the family, to take the family photo. Please stop that.).

I never got to walk in a cap and gown. Never received that graduation picture or party. I did graduate from college, twice actually. Almost three times now. But I never got to celebrate it. Never had anyone cheer me on.

Recently a relative commented that they had no idea I even graduated, let alone with nearly two master’s. I’m not sure anyone even knew it happened. I was a wallflower. I walked a quiet path.

Looking back it seems like one of the more challenging obstacles I faced wasn’t completing a degree. It wasn’t 20 page papers written during the weeks of hospital stays, blood transfusions, IV treatments. It wasn’t navigating group projects from the confines of my dorm room during flu season when everyone else ran around campus like nothing.

The most challenging obstacle wasn’t my health, even though I was scheduled for major surgery the day after what would have been my 2nd college graduation and health being the reason I had to leave my undergrad studies early and finish from home. The challenge that gripped me, that I never knew I was facing, was realizing that I was worth celebrating. I wasn’t sure if anyone would show up if I walked in the ceremony. And it cost $100. $100 is a lot to pay when you $60,000 in medical debt, jobless, homeless, and just hoping for the generosity of a friend’s spare room to get you through until you can afford your own place again, at 21 years old.

As I sat in this room full of hundreds of soon to be graduates in blue caps and gowns, a part of me felt privileged to celebrate a piece of their history. Part of me wished I had tried harder to get that $100, to know what it felt like to be celebrated like that. Even though there were twinges of grief, it was such a privilege to be a part of this, to celebrate.

Friend to me, “I have been thinking about how I got here. And I realize that a lot of people helped me get to this place through support. I want to celebrate them too. I want to celebrate you.” And she handed me a note. A thank you note. And we celebrated. Together.

 

FMFParty: Blue