Tag Archives: life

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.

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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

Somedays you just have to wear your underwear over your pants.

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This is an uncomfortable topic for me. It’s personal. I struggle with embarrassment over it. And STRUGGLE is the key word. I am not embarrassed, but I do struggle with it.

The longing to belong and be known is one I am very familiar with. I want to be completely me-silly, goofy, crazy, crafty, fierce- in every circumstance I want to be me and be loved completely for it. But it doesn’t usually happen that way. I shy away. I feel ashamed. I feel guarded. I feel like I am wrong, like I was made wrong. I don’t feel enough.

Ashamed, embarrassed, shy, reserved, guarded. It’s what we feel when there’s something about us that seems different than others. We have to hide what’s different, protect that inner soft seed of hope and creativity. As if what makes us different, and unique, is shameful. It’s this balancing game of fit in but stand out. Hiding carries shame with it, secrets that wear down your mind and your body.

There’s a need to be open, honest, transparent, integrated. Integrity is when the inside and the outside match. To build intimacy with others, we have to be integrated with ourselves and others. Having integrity is risky business. But it’s the only way to really connect and thrive.

You risk loss. You risk reputation. You risk friendships. Who knew that fitting in meant losing so much of who you are?

I have been sick with Crohn’s/Colitis for exactly 10 years. It’s been a hard battle. Experimental treatments and blood infusions and week long hospital stays became the norm. Infections, injections, food restrictions, and physical limitations became the norm. It interrupted my life. No more sports. No more pizza. No more late nights. No No No. Crohn’s ruled my life. I have so many stories connected to my Crohn’s struggle. Hard and frustrating stories and seriously funny, everyday stories. Life with Crohn’s makes things a bit more chaotic and a bit more colorful.

Recently my roommate brought home a delicious treat… one of my favorite: whoopie pie. I savored every bite. A few hours later when I went to the restroom, I thought I had pooped blood. I nearly passed out: a toilet full of red. Blood doesn’t make me queasy but a full toilet of it makes me panic. You see, I used to fill a toilet like that with blood. I nearly died then. Crohn’s makes you hemorrhage and bleed. I bled every day, nearly every hour, for years. I hardly knew what it felt like to have energy. Somedays it was hard to breath because my blood count was so low.

In that moment, panic shot through my body and I cringed at the thought of calling an ambulance, of the disease making it’s terrible home through my digestive system again. I cringed at the thought of being forced back into that life of cyclical inpatient stays and medications that make you puffy, gain weight, acne, weaken your teeth and bones, sleepy, and lose hair. All of this raced through my head in those very few minutes of panic. Being sick took a lot out of me. Crohn’s took a lot from me.

It wasn’t blood in the toilet. It was red food coloring from the whoopie pie. I couldn’t wait until my roommate came home to debrief about this incident. I just wanted someone to talk about it with. As we laughed, we agreed to not buy foods with red dye in them again. You see, she is one of two people who appreciate my “potty/poop” stories. “Potty/poop” stories are a huge part of my life. Three years ago I had a total colectomy (they took out all of my large intestine and part of my small) and gave me a colostomy/stoma (they take out the really infected intestines and loop whats left of your intestines and pull a bit of it through your abdomen and skin. About an inch or two of the intestine is exposed to the outside world and a “bag” is secured to the skin to catch the poop).

It changed my life. I started to have stamina again. I could walk, run, swim. I didn’t need blood transfusions 2-3 times a year anymore. No more hospital stays. No more seeing those same ER nurses. No more apple juice and rice and tomato soup. I got to have REAL food: steak and cucumbers and salad and fruit. I could semi-regulate my own body temperature. No more infections. No more missing out on life!

Surgery gave me life again. I thought about why I felt the need to wait until my roommate came home to discuss the “blood” incident; why she was one of only two people that felt safe to discuss this with, why I shared my story softly with her so no one else would hear. Why couldn’t I just share this with any friend or even use a normal voice? Why is “potty” talk so taboo? Why do I feel the need to hide this huge piece of my life? A lot of my life has revolved around poop. So what if it comes out into a bag.

When I first had surgery, I was so elated to be in a new season of life that I texted a picture of my stoma (the intestine that sticks out your abdomen and is sutured to your skin) to many of my friends. I thought it was so cool! This was a beautiful reminder that I was still alive.

My roommate mentioned some pictures that circled the internet over the summer about women who went to the beach in bikinis with their colostomy (bag) showing. That is BOLD. I was shocked and encouraged. I have never heard ANYONE talk about their bag publicly, let alone be willing to let the world see in pictures and displayed for other beach goers. Bold. Brave. Courageous! A friend of mine would call that a “wear your underwear over your pants kind of day”. Just be who you are. Integrated. Whole. Real. Human.

It takes courage to be that brave. I am so leery about discussing my bag. I laugh, inwardly. I take care of all my poop “incidents” quietly (there are MANY incidents). But it’s an everyday part of my life, a funny, sometimes awkward, and slightly inconvenient large part of my life; a part I have always wanted to share but have felt too embarrassed to. Something changed after I left the hospital those few days after surgery. This very thing that gave me life, this very thing that made me unique and beautiful and different and ALIVE that I sent PICTURES via text to friends, this very thing attracted some sort of stigma that caused me to feel ashamed and embarrassed and less than. I had to hide what saved my life. I had to find a way to be “normal”.

I’ve heard a lot of comments about my surgery[3 years ago], even this past week: “Don’t you want to have another surgery to reverse it?” “Well, you’ll have to get it [the stoma/colostomy bag] taken care of before you get married.” “You’re only okay with it because you don’t have a husband.” And the best, “Don’t you want to feel normal?”

Sometimes I hear others say “I could never do what you did. I couldn’t live like that.” Sometimes people get grossed or creeped out by me, when they know I have a bag. Yes friends, I have heard many comments about my colostomy bag, none of them pleasant or beautiful. Not one has seen it for the life that it’s revived in me. It hurts not to be heard. My colectomy, my bag is God’s unique blessing in a world drenched in sickness. God has used it to redeem my physical body!

The truth is, if we haven’t talked about my colostomy or a poop/bag story, it’s likely the real me hasn’t felt safe enough to come out. I promise you there will be some VERY laughable moments. It’s okay to ask questions, even the ones above. I’m pretty gracious with bag comments, but please see that it’s not gross. I’m not gross. I’ve been given a gift.

I like to talk about it, but not as if it’s bad. You see, this colostomy bag, this little pink intestine that sticks our of my abdomen, is the reminder of what saved my life! It’s beautiful to me. Wouldn’t you want to talk about the thing that saved your life?

It bears the mark of what’s brought me life and health again. Without it, I’d likely be dead. I don’t wish it gone. I don’t feel like a martyr or like I am missing out on life because of it. I also don’t think it’s something I need to change in order to get married. My husband won’t feel ashamed or embarrassed of me because of it. My colostomy bag is normal. Poop stories are normal to me. They aren’t “potty” talk. They aren’t wrong. It’s not something to be ashamed of. Maybe my stories will even color your day a bit. Maybe it’s time I step a little further out and wear my underwear over my pants when it comes to discussing my colostomy. I wasn’t made wrong. I am different. I am blessed. I am enough.

And just a note: I have laid aside my love for red velvet. If you feel so inclined to bake for me, I love homemade cream cheese frosting on ANY cake or cookie like substance that doesn’t have red food coloring in it.