Tag Archives: family

Silencing Voice

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I’ve felt different for some time.. the freedom I’ve found, my small voice, suffocating, being shoved down, shoved back. Clawing to survive, being forced inside, blanketed, weighted. Held down from all angles. Crying for oxygen, for some ounce of gentleness.

And then I am stuck. Inside the lies, inside the time of what was and what should have been, could have been. Replaying the words, spoken to me and over me. Might as well have been written in me, one me. It shaped me, made me, built me and broke me. Sharpie.

It burns in my stomach, pounds in my head, rips my defenses. Not this again.

The numbing spread wide, covering my inside. Just when I think I might break, rest.

The illusion of safety, was just that. Illusion. No weeping for now, no tissues needed. Too gone for that in this season.

I ask and I ask but I know, ” I’m too much”. Caught in the twist, no one to take responsibility for this. Left in the mess. Alone. Forgotten. Cries with no sound fall on deaf ears abound.

Quiet. The stillness. It lurks. Fear at each turn. They tell you to mourn. You want to do good, can’t seem to make it right.

You think and you think. Because there must be a link, that makes me different from them. How’d you turn out so far gone in the end?

This little girl trapped in a body much to old for her.

She looks around at her peers, her friends known as family. Most with spouses and kids on their way to owning houses. They got 9 to 5 while she sits alone dying inside. quiet inside not yearning one bit.

For she, she just wants to belong.

She holds a small candle, deep in her heart. No one sees it there. Sometimes she’s afraid it’s gone out. The black is so dark.

Ridicule she’ll receive, if they even know or see. So fragile. So small. Because she’s much to old to hold onto hope that long. So she can never admit her deepest sadness exists.

“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

 

 

It’s hard to look at others who have directly caused suffering and affliction through their actions and find a reason to honor them.

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It’s hard to look at others who have directly caused suffering and affliction through their actions and find a reason to honor them.

As a young teenager, I was on my own. I lived mostly normal-went to high school, work, sports, after school activities-only I wasn’t “normal” at all. My life was chaotic and often uncertain. The 8AM to 3PM block of time was the only consistent schedule I had. My “home” life was a wreck and then it got to the point where there wasn’t a physical home for a while. And then I became a social orphan having to navigate money, shelter, and food.. and everything in between.

Life had not always been that challenging. There’s a very brief time when I was very young, before parental mental illness surfaced. Things were calm. I remember a few traditions. A tiny bit of warmth still comes over me when I think of it, the faintest feelings of nostalgia I think. A time when I not only loved the people who then called themselves my parents, but I respected them.

My mother was fair, honest. My father was hardworking, sacrificial. They were respected in our community, courteous. There was much integrity in their actions and the ways they cared for others. I suppose I received some of those qualities from them. And to be fair, they still have some of these qualities, but perhaps not in the same ways.

The idea of honoring my mother and father has not been clear to me. I’ve wrestled with how to honor someone I don’t agree with, someone I don’t always respect, someone I can not always support. How do I honor others when I am hurt? When I am hurting? When I’ve been hurt by the same people whom I am asked to honor?

And I have come to realize that though I do not always respect or support their choices, though I may struggle with hurt, honoring someone is less about what they are to another, less about what they’ve done and more about who they can be at their very best. We all want people to believe the best in us, to see the best in us even when we are at our ugliest.

Those early glimpses of  my parents before the hardness and suffering of mental illness and grief and generational sin struck and took root, that’s who they are at their core, their  best selves. It’s the image of God they hold and it’s that image I can honor. I can honor who I see they can be in Christ and hold that hope until they can see it for themselves.

It’s hard to honor those who have hurt and offended, belittled and slighted us. It’s hard to look at others who have directly caused suffering and affliction through their actions and find a reason to honor them. But maybe honoring a parent is less about their role in “parenting” and more about seeing them as humans, fellow bearers of sin and suffering, but also Image bearers of God, wholly and dearly loved in the same way I am. And the ground is level, for all of us to commune with God and one another.

31 Days: HONOR

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

 

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.

Because Life is pretty mixed

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I always notice when the kids around me turn 10. I notice how different my life was than theirs and I remember what it felt like for me. Too often I wonder what it could have been like, what it could have felt like if God had rescued me, if He would have protected me more viscerally. No birthday is more pungent than my 10th.

It was my first sunrise, the first time I watched it that is. At this point in my life, my 10th birthday, I had seen many dawns (you know that point where the darkness breaks into the light). But I had never seen the sun actually rise.

It wasn’t glamorous. But it was beautiful, meaningful. Meaning is one of the most beautiful things to me. It leaves purpose, reminders, a marker as a way of processing and reframing difficulty with joy. That sun rise has stayed imprinted to my memory my entire life. I have not seen another since that day, that really difficult day.

I don’t recall my birthdays being special or well celebrated, but my mother tried. If anything, she tried hard with what she had and I am grateful to her for that. Each birthday she’d take me to get a cappuccino from the local gas station. She loved coffee, and of course, I admired her.

As a kid, it felt special to drink this sugary caffeinated beverage. IT. WAS. THE. BEST. And my mom would sit and drink it with me, just the two of us, on my birthday. Perhaps it was only 10 minutes, but for a shy, quiet, chronically sick child who felt like the center of every financial and marital problem, 10 minutes of time focused on me was a luxury. And I looked forward to it. It was the best gift.

It had been a hard night that eve of my 10th birthday. Our house became unsafe again. My mother gathered myself and one of my younger sisters into the car frantically. It was the dead of winter in New England, a snow storm. We didn’t have shoes on, not even pants. And our car had been the undesired benefactor of my mother’s husband’s anger: another smashed windshield and caved in roof.

But she drove us in that car anyways, frantic to get us somewhere safe. We slept on the side of the road. My mom, too afraid to draw attention to where we were, needed to keep the car off, and therefore the heat off. My little sister, 6 yrs old at the time whimpered in pain from the cold. We interlocked arms and I held her, trying to keep one another warm. I pulled her in under my big night shirt and we stayed like that, both unable to sleep in our pant-less, shoeless, painfully cold skins.

And as the light broke into the darkness that morning, I watched the sun rise from our smashed in car roof above my head, the bright pink and purple bursting through a light snow fall. I watched the dawn of my 10th birthday. And I made a mental note to never forget it. To never forget what it felt like. The bitterness and the beauty. The mixed.

As I sat up, I breathed in the terribly cold air as it stung my lungs, felt the snow that had slowly accumulated around us, the tender pain of freezing limbs, and I thought, “this is God’s gift to me. This is so beautiful.”

You see, I didn’t grow up being taught much about God or Jesus. Mostly they were only cuss words. But I hoped that there was a God and that He would save me, and help me, and cry for me.

And when my mother woke and brought us somewhere safe and warm, I could see it in her eyes that she forgot it was my birthday or perhaps it was too painful for her to acknowledge. There was a coldness in her, too, as if the winter night had seeped through her soul.

There were no cappuccinos that day, no gifts, no cake. No birthday.

My 10th year of life was one of the most challenging I can recall. But all these years I’ve held onto that sunrise, the only one I’ve ever seen, as one of the most beautiful pictures in my head. I felt as if it was God’s gift to me, a reminder to hold tight, He was coming. He would rescue me. The people around me hardly knew I existed, but God did.

As my ten year old self sat watching this sunrise, I had never been so excited for light in my life, so excited to see another day. warmth. hope. All of it. And I decided then that I refused to inflict the same pain I received on others. I wanted to be like the sunrise, not the cold, bitter, winter night.

My tenth birthday was a day I won’t forget. And I hope that someday I can watch the sunrise again and experience that hope and beauty once more, with someone in solidarity to share the meaningfulness of it with me.

We don’t always get the things we want and need in this life. We make it. We survive. We learn to thrive and get by at times. But then there are moments amidst the pain, shock, confusion, betrayal, whatever at may be, that God sends us reminders that He’s coming, that there’s hope, and that joy really will come in the morning. Sometimes we just have to hold tight and wait through the winter for it. Unfairly, unjustly so. Because life is pretty mixed. It’s both bitter and beautiful, empty and full, painful and passion filled. And I wanted to hold the meaning, this gift of imperfect beauty, in my mind forever.

FMF:TEN