Tag Archives: belong

“My Bursting Heart must find vent at my Pen” Part: 1

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If I know what love is, it’s mostly because of her.

Several times the last few months I’ve reached for my phone to call her, only to remember I can’t. She’s dead. On the way home from a particularly devastating doctor appointment a couple months ago, I actually pulled out my phone and typed in her name, as if I could still reach her.  But it’s no longer her number. I looked at the phone and just placed it on the passenger seat next to me and proceeded to talk to her, as if she was still alive and on the other end of the line, because I needed someone to talk to, someone who knows me and loves me and was willing to listen. It felt so good to see her name on my phone, even if it wasn’t real. And a few minutes later when the ache of the emptiness of essentially talking to myself stung more than the reality of her being gone, I pulled over and deleted her name from my phone. It was time. I cried.

So this is what it means to be an adult. To have to keep going even when the world feels cold and lonely. Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” — Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sometimes, when one person is absent, the whole world seems depopulated.—Allphonse de Lamartine

Losing someone you love really affects you. It won’t magically go away. Sometimes there’s pressure on mourning, so you stop (or maybe never had the opportunity to, because realistically, mourning has privilege attached to it, and not everyone is privileged to be able to). But it stays buried deep down and becomes a deep hole of ache.

That’s the thing when someone you love, really love, dies. Instead of going into every fight with back up (whether it be an academic, illness, or some other feat that requires a strong sense of support), you have to go in alone. Often without a soul even knowing you’re in the battle.

I miss her in all the places and things we did together. I miss her in the movie theater, with my can of off brand soda and two candy bars she’d let me pick out at CVS. I miss her at the grocery store when I see the Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal and Oreos she bought for our sleepovers.

There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.—Aeschylus

I miss her at Christmas, when she’d make the two of us lasagna and she always made me a stocking, filled with candy and little treats. I miss her at my old church, where we’d go to senior luncheons together (I could never pass up getting to hang out with all the older ladies.. and free lunch!). I miss Christmas shopping with her. She could out-shop me any day. I miss the smell of holidays in her house and the bright red lipstick that always left a little stain on my cheek when she kissed me (I sort of just miss being touched in general). I miss her on the roads she’d drive, our breakfast spot, her favorite restaurant, the pond she’d take me to.

Even places she’s never been, have memories of her. When I was in college, she was one of two people I ever received mail from. She sent me a package every semester. On each of the mission trips I went on, it caused her much worry that I would be leaving the country yet again, but I’d hear from all her friends how proud of me she was. It’s easier to miss someone at their cemetery because you’ve never been there together, but to miss someone at all the places and situations you were in together feels gut wrenching.

“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.”— Morrie Schwartz

She always told me she loved me. She knew how to love, practically and in her words. She knew how to love ME… how I would feel loved, before I was even aware how I feel love, probably because we both felt love in the same ways. Now I have a hard time remembering the last time I audibly heard it. And maybe that’s another hard reality of being an adult now, that you don’t get to hear you’re loved very often. But I know how to give it and say it, and I will continue to, even when it’s hard. Even when I don’t hear it towards me. She taught me that.

She loved mightily.

“The only thing we never get enough of is love; and the only thing we never give enough of is love.”— Henry Miller

No one has ever become poor by giving.
– Anne Frank

The anniversary of my grandmother’s death recently passed by. It was a quick day for me. I was pretty sick. I slept much of the day. I thought about her and still went about my remembrance celebration. This year, it was a peanut butter cupcake. I wrote my letter to her, because words mattered to her and I. I spent weeks trudging through the cards in various stores, trying to find the perfect one… because even though I have my own card business now, I wanted the perfect one, with the perfect meaning. It’s the only time in my life I can justify spending $6 on a card. And I sit at the bakery on the anniversary of her death, and I write her a note, part update, part longing, part grief. And I eat my cupcake, and I thank God that I had someone for a little while, and that He gave me it, her: stability, and warmth, and touch, and grace.

And I reflected about what parts of who I am actually came from her. I have never been like anyone I am biologically related, but this year, I knew I was like her in some ways. And I am so glad that some of her goodness carried over, to live on in me and through me.

She saw the best in me. And by seeing the best in me, she empowered me.

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see in truth that you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
— Kahlil Gibran

 

 

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On healing and normalcy

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On healing and normalcy

“You can’t patch a wounded soul with a Band-Aid.” ― Michael Connelly

Over the summer, my housemates and I took many trips to the coastal New England beaches. New England is not known for many areas of intense waves or dangerous waters, except for the occasional beaches where sharks are known (which we just don’t venture to). There’s something about having a rough week or day and then sitting out on the beach, feeling the sand, smelling the ocean, and seeing the vastness that reminds me about how big the world is, especially when my world feels small and lonely.

One particular weekend, the waves were the biggest I have ever seen in Massachusetts. We grabbed our boogie boards and run right in. After taking hit after hit of waves, I walked out within 5 minutes with a bruised and bleeding leg. I couldn’t withstand the pressure. I wanted so bad to enjoy the waves, knowing this was a rarity in Massachusetts, but I couldn’t.

“PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.” ― Susan Pease Banitt

Our bodies are made so magnificently and intricately. They are not designed to take hits, wave after wave. Eventually our bodies will go numb. That’s the thing about PTSD as well, our bodies are not made to withstand the events of trauma continually nor the heightened affects of it indefinitely.

“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.”

Atrocities refuse to be buried. The desire of the mind to deny the atrocities are just as forceful. In this subconscious war, the body takes wave after wave of blows, suffering in the areas of digestion, autoimmunity, and within the nervous system.

The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma. People who have survived atrocities often tell their stories in a highly emotional, contradictory, and fragmented manner that undermines their credibility and thereby serves the twin imperatives of truth-telling and secrecy. When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery. But far too often secrecy prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom.

Often in my journey to heal from trauma and PTSD I am tempted to plunge in, to take on far more than I am capable of handling and processing alone. There’s been pressure from the outside to move through it quicker, to understand more, to go to more classes, more therapy, more support. There’s pressure from within me, demanding I “get back to” normal life, look like everyone else, find a way to understand the world in order to fit into the world.

Because I don’t feel normal. I don’t understand things typically. I feel lost much of the time. And it’s a lonely walk.

The pressure gets to me often, as if I could only attain “normalcy” and then I would be all set, I’d fit in the social club of life. Only, so often normalcy and healing get confused.

For the sake of “normalcy” I try to find support groups, more therapy, a job. I want to exercise more, lead bible studies, be a pursuer through engaging others relationally. I want to be involved in committees and on non profit boards. I want to have a 9-5 career, a house, a newer car.

“Some people’s lives seem to flow in a narrative; mine had many stops and starts. That’s what trauma does. It interrupts the plot. You can’t process it because it doesn’t fit with what came before or what comes afterwards.”

But for the sake of “healing” I see a therapist. I take a couple of slow walks around the neighborhood a week. I stepped down from a local non-profit board. I go to a bible study and allow myself to be a member. I stay committed to the few people I feel responsible to and for, and I focus on loving them well. I coach a sport team, which allows me to have a tiny pay check, but also is a good use of my giftedness in supporting others to grow in a unique way. For the sake of “healing” I say “no” to a lot.

And for the sake of “healing” I scrapbook. I watch loads of netflix. I make dinner for my housemates. I visit friends out of the city at least monthly. I stay in bed when the physical illnesses I have are too intense. I ride the waves of PTSD and trauma when they arise, but I do not go seeking it. I do not jump in head first and hope to conquer it. I know that type of attitude is not only futile, but dangerous.

Because the waves are strong and are sometimes meant to be understood of their beauty from afar, not from a futile battle within.

Write 31 Days

What if… what if we really took the message to love one another seriously?

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What if… what if we really took the message to love one another seriously?

Imagine that. Imagine if the church was known more for reflecting Christ like that instead of reflecting hate or intolerance.

What if… what if we really took the message to love one another seriously? What if we really took the time, the patience, the sacrifices to know others intimately, the people that get looked over? What if we really stopped saying the Church was a family and lived like a family, a family that loved one another, where our needs are actually met, physically and emotionally?

The last few months, I have learned a lot about love. I have learned what it’s not. I have learned some of what it is. I have had a first hand taste at how hard it can be to choose to love when what you want to do is tell another the “truth in love”. But the truth is that love does not harm. Love does not seek it’s own. It does not care to be “right”. Love pursues. Love doesn’t give up. Love seeks what’s best for another. Love helps and holds on and hold hope.

Giving a cliche response in to another in”truth and love” can often be a cop out. Rather than sticking with someone through the hardship/pressure/challenge/suffering, we may choose the more comfortable route of a quick answer or prayer. But often, in the language of love, there is not an easy answer to hardship or suffering or even most sin. The tangles of sin are mixed between our choices and choices that were chosen OVER us. It’s not as easy as “choosing joy” or “stopping” sin. God is less interested in behavior modification as he is in character development. He said in 1 John, to abide in the light. He did not say, this is how you walk in the light. Switch the two and we have dogmatic Christianity.

If  you want to do the work of God, pay attention to people. Notice them. Especially the people nobody else notices. -John Ortberg

This is love:

Isaiah 1:17:

Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.

And this one:

1 Peter 4:8

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

The language of friendship is not words but meanings. – Henry David Thoreau

We give meaning to love. We have one word to convey a whole host of meanings. The language that our friendship speaks is not just through word, but through what those words AND actions AND body language communicate. Love is far more than a word.

“If there is love, there is hope to have real families, real brotherhood, real equanimity, real peace. If the love within your mind is lost, if you continue to see other beings as enemies, then no matter how much knowledge or education you have, no matter how much material progress is made, only suffering and confusion will ensue.” -Dalai lama

You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.- Amy Carmichael

Love your neighbor. Do good to those who harm you. Reconcile. Restore. Build. Create. Dwell. Sacrifice. Offer. Forgive. Sustain. Nourish. Invite. Welcome. Host. Heal. Bind up. Be.

Be.

Be with.

Be near.

Be alongside.

It’s how Jesus loved his neighbors. It’s what he offers to us, Himself. It’s all we have to offer one another.

“Real progress in the Christian life is not gauged by our knowledge of scripture, our church attendance, time in prayer, or even our witnessing (although it isn’t less than these things) Maturity in the Christian life is measured by only one test: how much closer to his character have we become? the result of the Spirit’s work is more not more activity. No, the results of his work are in in our quality of life, they are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”-Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

31 Days of Writing: Love

 

The power of being WITH someone can alter a life.

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The power of being WITH someone can alter a life.

Love is a hurricane in a blue sky
I didn’t see it coming, never knew why
All the laughter and the dreams
All the memories in between
Washed away in a steady stream

I always thought home was just a far dream; some wonderful concept that no one really lived up to. But I dreamed. And dreamed. And dreamed. Most nights, as a youth, I’d lay in bed and wonder what it was like to be cared about. I would imagine someone sitting by my bed at night holding me, hugging me. I would imagine what the words, “I love you” meant coming from someone who loved me. I’d imagine I was warm and cozy and that my blankets smelled of fabric softener. Anything that would allow me to escape my living nightmare for just a few hours of sweet sleep and peace in my dream world. And as I became a young adult, I stopped dreaming. I stopped hoping.

Love is a hunger, a famine in your soul
I thought I planted beauty but it would never grow
Now I’m on my hands and knees
Trying to gather up my dreams
Trying to hold on to anything

As a young adult, this world, this hollow pain and sadness grew. I mustered all the Christian perseverance in me that I could. I became good at smiling in public and weeping in private. I felt a difference in me, in my life. I looked at the Church and felt something about me was different then most others. I carried a sadness, an ache, a deep need and longing. And I pleaded for years for God to help fill this. Slowly, my ministry, my relationships, the little nook of the world I had created started to unravel. I was grasping for hope and I didn’t know it.

We could shake our fists
In times like this
When we don’t understand
Or we could just hold hands

You and me, me and you
Where you go, I’ll go too
I’m with you, I’m with you
‘Til your heart finds a home
I won’t let you feel alone
I’m with you, I’m with you

I sought help. A dear woman came along side me. For the first time in my life, someone stood near me and wouldn’t leave. She was there to see it through. You see, she’s one of the mightiest people I know. She loves fiercely and often gently. She sees. She hopes. Oh and she prays. On some of the hardest nights of my struggling to find words, to fight the terror that came with memories, the emotional strongholds, the physical flash backs, she sat next to me, she held my hand, she held my heart. She was my Ruth. She was not giving up on me. She wouldn’t let me go.

You do your best to build a higher wall
To keep love safe from every wrecking ball
When the dust is cleared we will
See the house that love rebuilt
Guarding beauty that lives here still

And I fought her at times, I fought her will. I fought her love. I doubted and questioned. I pushed her away, or at least I tried. My walls were high. The cost of letting another in was even higher. But she stayed. She slowly did the work of loving me, of taking bricks down gently, one at a time. She encouraged me in ways I would never have dreamed of, in ways that someone who really KNOWS you is able to. This was not easy for either of us and it was costly. It took sacrifice. It took bravery. It took love. I never knew such a love existed.

Some nights we’d lay in bed and just hold hands because life was painful. She wept for the pain that this life can hold and do to another. She expressed anger. She gave my a right to feel, to feel whatever I did, without a need to keep a wall, no matter how seemingly “ungodly” my feels appeared. She stayed by my side. Dinners, outings, holidays, birthdays, family days, everyday things, church events. She stood near me, often literally. The power of being WITH someone can alter a life. It did mine.

Who can say I’m left with nothing?
When I have all of you, all of you, yeah
In the way you’ve always loved me
I remember He does too

About a year ago, I drove by her old house. She had moved a couple weeks prior out of state. And I missed her terribly. I missed her whole family, a part of my family. It was a place I drew chalk pictures on the sidewalk with her kids. A home I spent countless dinners, lunches, and weekend afternoons at. I discovered new foods in her home. I discovered a new way of life. Her home was small, but it was warm. And I went back that day, just because I missed her.

I crept up the stairs to her old home and looked around her yard, for any reminder that she used to live there, for something to grasp, some memory that it all happened, that it mattered. As if this location held some power.

I looked in the window and saw everything empty. Nothing. I gasped, a little shocked. Shocked that this was just a house. And I learned that day, home isn’t so much about a location, a physical house. Home is a people. A people who get you, who know you and still want you. Home is the place you’re welcomed back into without needing a welcome. Home is a people that hold your heart when you’ve forgotten it somewhere along the pain of life. Home is a people who fill a house.

She gave everything she had to me. What was once used to harm me, doesn’t harm me anymore. Love covered that, revealed it, and is healing it. The love of God through her sacrifices, through her love. I know what it means to have a home. To be loved.

She gave me shelter for my wounds and she stood and held me many times when I was too weak, to shattered to hold my own heart.

Even though Jesus had the 99 sheep, He still would go back to find the one that was struggling. That one is worth much. Each one is worth much. Sometimes the cost of bringing one back is heavy. Oh but people are worth it. So worth it.

Love is rebuilding a home in me. What was once used to hurt, is now being used to heal. She saw beauty in me and called it out. Now I know what a home is.

31 Days of Writing: Home

You cannot have that

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To the Thief,

If we were to list what you stole from us, we would write forever.

We’ve heard other survivors say that their childhood was stolen. That’s close to being true for us. What you stole was the child within us. We were ancient ruins before we were 10.

When we look back at pictures of us from that time, they look like us…almost. It’s as though they are very realistic masks of the girls we used to be. But blank. Like a light went out. We turned the corners of our mouths up for the camera, because we were obedient girls and knew that’s what was expected—but there was no joy. We were guessing at normal.

We looked tired. We were tired. All the time. You stole our belief that we were safe in the world. Even in our little worlds. When someone who is supposed to love you, supposed to protect you, violates your trust and desecrates your body, you feel as though danger lurks everywhere. If you aren’t safe in the cocoon of your own family, you understand that you will never be safe anywhere.

You taught us to hate our bodies. We still have not entirely unlearned that lesson, even more than three decades later.

We know that if our focus is on the wounds of the past, we will miss out on the blessings of the future, and we are unwilling to allow that. In order to cast out that darkness, in order to banish that hatred, what we finally realize is that we need to forgive you.

We don’t want to carry these heavy things anymore. Without forgiveness, there is no freedom from this. From you. And we want to travel light.

We are going to do our best to let you go. To have this be one thing that happened, a long time ago. Not the defining thing. Not the totality of who we are. Just a chapter in the book of our lives—perhaps never completely closed, but a section we hope to revisit less and less. There is too much happiness ahead of us, too much goodness and grace in the world, to spend time reliving such pain.

We refuse to continue to be your host. We will not feed you anymore. You own a great deal of our past, but we will give you none of our future.

You cannot have that.

It’s time to sit in the sun.

Goodbye.

BostonMAG

On Family and Fostering: A Category of Other

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Let’s be honest, my FMF posts are never five minutes, but are rather serve as a prompt for me to think and articulate in raw, unfiltered ways. FMF is a way that my voice is heard, because in my world, I don’t have much a voice yet. But I am finding it. And learning and loving and healing in the process. So here’s my FMF:Alone

“I feel different. I don’t fit in any neat group or category. It’s hard to live in a no mans land. It feels invalidating. I feel like an invalid..I feel alone in a world I don’t understand.”

It’s what I wrote on August 18th, 2015 as I lay in bed trying to process more than my little heart knew how to. Processing the feeling of being “other”.

There’s no category for “other”. But I am an “other”. There’s no place for me to check off. I was not a state foster child, but I had many non relatives and a couple of relatives foster me through my child and young adult life, as my biological parents were unable to. I am not legally adopted, but I feel like I’ve been adopted into some sort of family-like situation. But I also feel the difference. And I feel invalid.

I still have my name. I did not get a new inheritance, a legal one, a new name. I am still the same. Still the same identity. I didn’t get to change my name, and sometimes, that’s hard. I don’t want it.

I don’t qualify for much aid that foster and some adoptees do.  In fact, one semester of my college I had my financial aid revoked because I couldn’t come up with the information on my biological relatives that they needed. I didn’t know how to get financial information from someone I hadn’t seen in 4 years, from someone who was unsafe.

I was vulnerable. I didn’t know who to call when my car broke down. I was anxious for months before each holiday wondering where I could live or stay during the colder months, and then, in college, if anyone was going out of town and would allow me to “house sit”. I didn’t dare expect to be welcomed into a holiday. Growing up I learned holidays were for families. And I didn’t belong to one. So holidays weren’t for me.

I didn’t know how to make a doctor’s appointment. I didn’t know how to open a checking account. I didn’t know how to use makeup or even a tampon.

When my car broke down 6 hours away from my college, I panicked. I knew no one in Pennsylvania. I had orientation for a job that night and was driving to start the school year off with this new job. I was 6 hours from where I grew up and still 6 hours from where I was heading. I NEEDED this job to make it through college. Because when you’re famililess, you have to make it financially on your own. If my car broke down, I’d miss orientation. If I missed orientation, I’d lose my job. If I lost my job, I couldn’t pay for college. If I couldn’t pay for college, I couldn’t live at college. If I couldn’t live at college, I would be homeless, again. 19 years old and homeless. Not to mention figuring out what to do with a broken down car in a state you don’t know.. oh yea and no cell phone, because I couldn’t afford one.

You see, friends, those of us that have been famililess as young people can’t call home and rely on parents to come through in emergency situations. I wanted to leave my state and go to college in another state. I even left full in state college scholarship behind because I felt so unsafe in the state I grew up in. I just wanted to move on in my life, to move past the pain and grief and fear. I wanted to feel safe. I wanted to thrive.

Family is everything

But it doesn’t work that way. Whether it’s a broken down car or a holiday break, I was always reminded I was alone in life. Sure I had some people who cared, but I was always, always at the mercy of others’ “hospitality” and generosity. I did not have the privilege of growing in a safe world where people can be relied on. People always had the opportunity to say “no” to me. I couldn’t expect to have a home for the holidays or that so and so would even answer the phone in an emergency. After all, aren’t we taught, “family first”, even in our churches? And people are full to the brim with their own family dynamics. They needn’t need mine. They didn’t want me.

I come across it daily whether directly or in another indirect way, “family is everything”.

Love does not divide or diminish when it is shared among a family, it increases.

But what about when your family is unsafe? What about when you need a family, but you don’t fit the typical model of family… you’re too old, too sick, too independent, to much work, not pretty, etc. etc. Where does someone who needs family, who needs a constant, stable place to belong, to be cherished and loved, to be encouraged, to mourn, to be taught, to cry, where does someone like that, someone like me belong in a world where “family is everything”?

To this day, when I have to fill out my medical paperwork, work paperwork, any official kind of paperwork, and it asks who my emergency contact is, I don’t know. I scribble down someone that I think loves me and cares about me, but truth be told, I wish I could write down someone that felt proud and confident in being my emergency contact, someone who knows me. My emergency contacts change from season to season. I long for some stability. Long to be known, in a family.

I don’t quite know if I’m allowed to refer to a non biological person as family… But I do, and I’m not sure if it’s okay. I am “other”. There’s not much written about people like me, the others. The ones who the foster system failed, who fell through the cracks. Through the concern of a few people willing to sacrifice a little bit of space in their life, gave me somewhat of a sense of stability and normalcy. But I feel family less in a lot of ways. Traditions, foods, words, heritage, memories are not with my biological relatives, but I have to have an attachment to them.

“What you say to people during death or loss matters. If you don’t know what to say, silence is OK. Hugs are usually great. “I don’t know what to say,” expresses a known truth for a horrible reality, or “I’m sorry for your loss.” Your job is to acknowledge the enormity of the loss to the individual or family, not diminish it. Be sensitive, take your cues from them, be slow to speak. L.O.V.E.”

So I have questions. Lots of questions and so few answers. I have grief. I have sorrow. And I have joy. I yearn for a place to call home. To be able to call someone on the phone and think, “I’m calling home”. I love Jesus. I love the Church. I really, really love people. And many, many good people have been a part of my journey in life. I do not mean to diminish that. I am grateful for the many temporary families I have had over the course of my short life and the ways that I’ve learned much through them and my time with them. I recognize that family doesn’t always mean forever. But my longing for unchanging family is there. And I am waiting, waiting on something I am not sure will be available to me. And I do believe God put it there and has protected it so delicately and purely.

So I am sitting here and I am trusting God to bring about something I am unsure of. I am waiting in the questions I am not sure will get answered. I grieve a loss and hope for joy in the process. And one day, not too long from now, I want to be a foster parent. And I want to be the kind of person who learns to speak LOVE, even when it hurts.