locked [rooms.]

18 Sep
“be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. and the point is, to live everything. live the questions now. perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it, and live along some distant day into the answer.” -rainer maria rilke

patient, kind, [not easy.]

17 Sep

If you asked me a few years ago what I thought my brother’s heroin addiction would teach me, I never would have answered, “love.”

You could probably say that he was always the problem child. In fact I bet my parents would say that. My mom says he was the only one of three kids who did not sleep through the night as a baby. I can remember fits of rage early on; by the time he reached middle school he could easily be described as angry. He would stomp and groan and sometimes hold his breath until he passed out, just to spite my parents for their chosen punishment.

And he would flip so quickly that sometimes I would do a double take. One minute he would be laughing or telling a joke, and then all of a sudden he was angry, yelling, cursing at anyone in the room. His vivacious personality was a curse like that; when he was good, we were all good. When he wasn’t, well, the world didn’t feel right.

I think it started out as bipolar disease. How weird is it when someone you know and love becomes symptoms on a page? Like the situation is as simple as the black ink on the white paper. His mood swings were volatile. Even before he reached high school we all knew it was going to be very hard taming his fire.

I was too involved in my high school drama to spend any spare time investing in being his older sister. We fought a lot and he knew how to pierce my soul in the tender spots; the fat jokes or the threats to tell my parents about my boyfriend were enough to make me vomit bricks of resentment.

And oh, how quickly that wall builds.

I didn’t spend a whole lot of time with him, and I didn’t really ever ask how he was doing. There is no way to say for certain what could have been prevented by my efforts, but the question remains – what more could I have done as a big sister? That thought alone is enough to tear walls inside of my heart.

I remember he stole some items from a nearby pharmacy. They didn’t press charges, but they trespassed him from their property. That was the first interaction we had with the police. Soon they came to know my parents by name because of how frequently they visited our light blue house on the corner.

He became depressed a some point in that cloud of time. He would just cry because of his fears or worries or anxiety. He saw therapists, swallowed pills, and progressively got worse. I think it was the slow progression of his downfall that eroded my family’s spirit. And they drew lines, to keep him in check. But I watched those lines fall shamelessly. They wanted to help him but they didn’t know how.

It got really bad once I left for college in a different state. I almost never kept in contact with him; I heard about his whereabouts from my parents. Slowly the news from them became laced with stories of marijuana usage and the inability to hold a part-time job. By the beginning of my sophomore year he got expelled from high school for drug possession and behavior issues. It felt earth shattering and I remember falling on the floor in my apartment and telling my roommate that my family was falling apart. I had no idea it was about to get a lot worse.

They say marijuana is a gateway drug. I don’t like the word gateway because it sounds welcoming and warm. Marijuana paved way for my brother to try anything and everything else. It’s unclear when the heroin took over; I’m sure he has no recollection either. This part happened quickly and fiercely with the inexorability of a freight train. And it does everything the experts say it does. And the addicts behave every way the experts say they will. Denial, secrets, lies, bouts of anger. Then comes the money-stealing, the mixed stories, the scars on the wrists and elbows. The pale skin, the sunken eyes, the unbelievably thin frame. It’s all true. It’s the most painful thing in the world to watch someone so precious to you slowly deteriorate in front of your eyes.

My parents’ love never faltered. They gave of themselves in a way that amazes me: steadily and consistently. They allowed him to live in their house with certain restrictions. They set up rules in order to restrict what he could and could not be exposed to, in order to protect him. They answered when he called; they helped him when he needed it.

They were always there. They never interrogated him when he messed up; simply offered their sound wisdom and compassionate help. They desperately tried to get him involved in something he could be passionate about. They bought him a guitar in hopes of its music resounding louder than the cry of his veins for heroin. They never gave up, even when he pawned the expensive gifts for drug money. They disciplined him when he disobeyed, no matter the size of fit he threw. At its worse, they did not allow him into their house. It felt cold to me to try and grapple with understanding how a parent could deny their child space to stay.

But love looks different sometimes.

And grace wears different hats.

Their love sought to correct his path, not always soften the blow. Their aim was to be patient and kind, but firm and guiding. And their grace made it possible to believe that there would be good to come from all of this. But it was so, so hard.

I’m sure when they decided to be parents, they had no idea that this could be a possibility. I’m sure they thought it would be hard at times, but overall it would be easy.

Love is not easy; it is relentless. My parents have taught me that.

Sometimes I think about the internet, and how forgiving it is. It’s like the perfect parent. You can ask any question, type in anything, and it finds you the answer. It doesn’t demand a good reason for your question but rather allows you to explore the questions, easy and hard. It doesn’t interrogate you about the answer you choose. And it doesn’t ask you to prove what you do with your findings. It simply asks how else it can help. And it’s always there. It gives you helpful tools to find answers to life’s hard questions. It allows restrictions on what you can and cannot be exposed to, in order to protect you.

I think love is a little bit like that. Always accepting, always searching, always trying tirelessly to find answers. Placing restrictions when we are too weak to know what we should and should not be exposed to. Always forgiving, and always protecting.

I wish this ended with a sunrise. I’m sure there will be one day. Or maybe it’s already warming our cheeks and we are too distracted to see it. But I guess that’s the beauty of a sunrise: you get another chance to see it every day.

confession: sometimes i don’t trust [God.]

10 Sep

i’m participating in a blog series hosted by ally spotts — a very talented writer and a fellow 20 something believer in life’s adventures and God’s love.

 

confession: sometimes i don’t trust God.

it’s not that i don’t know how. i’ve heard it explained several times. the problem is that i’m pretty good at tasks, and trusting God isn’t really a task. it s a belief, a lifestyle, a way of letting go of something. it is the unclenching of the hand and the calmness of breath. it doesn’t come very natural for me. i fight against it constantly because i’m a doer. and trusting doesn’t seem like you do much. someone else does the doing, and you just sit there and believe that it’s all going to be okay.

i guess it’s not so much that i actively don’t trust God to make things okay, but that i trust myself more.

what kind of crazyness is that?

i think it started like most control-issue stories do: i lost control of a few key relationships in my life over a short period of time, thus sending me into an overcorrecting nightmare where i steered myself into believing that if i control situations, people, emotions, outcomes, then i’d always end up happy and fancy-free.

i have learned over and over that when i make plans, i don’t always end up happy and fancy-free.

it’s happened in dating relationships. i used to see, from a distance, someone who i thought i would like to be romantically involved with. so i manipulated situations. i constantly started conversations based on half-real facts that i believed would make us instantly linked by our common ground, thus catapulting us into love.

truth: it never worked out. i never really heard from them again. rejection hurts anyways, but it hurts worse when you thought you had stirred everything together perfectly and wouldn’t end up feeling like crap. and instead of seeing it as an inevitable consequence to my type-A planning, i told God that i couldn’t believe He would make me feel this rejected, again and again.

it’s also happened in friendships. i once held onto a friend’s deep dark secret for so long that i felt like it was seeping out of my pores.  i knew God wanted me to be a different voice in her life, a voice of truth in love; but that sounded like i would lose her as a friend. so i controlled the circumstance because i wanted to salvage my friendship with her. and as it usually does, God’s plan finally came to fruition. and as it usually ends up once i finally let go, my world fell apart. it was painful and rotten feeling. and instead of thanking God for bringing both of us out of the miry pit of lies and secrecy, i yelled at Him for taking away my friend — something i felt like i deserved.

and that’s the root of it all. i feel like i deserve a controlled, predictable life.

i feel like i deserve to know what’s going to happen, and i feel like i deserve for those happenings to be in complete alignment with what i want my life to look like.

as if i have any clue what that should be.

so i try and try to take the wheel into my own hands and i tell God what i want, when i want it. it is hard for me to trust, because i think i see the entire picture. i think i know what’s best for me.

the Bible says “trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understandings; in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” [proverbs 3:5-6]

sometimes i need to stop and just read that slowly, like a nap. i flip it around, and i acknowledge what He’s already done. i thank Him for the coffee in this cup which reminds me i’ve been given a job that pays enough to sustain me. i thank Him for the hours of paperwork that are required when students are being charged with harassment, because it reminds me that He’s given me a job with purpose, a job in line with my passions. i thank Him for an over-filled email inbox because it reminds me that the power of story is endless, and we are all learning from each other one word at a time — and i get to hear about all of those stories.

trust isn’t easy. it’s hard almost all of the time. but beauty comes from letting go and remembering that He is the only One who is looking out for our best interest all of the time. we whine and scream and cry about how desperately we feel like something’s gotta give. we need our wish to be granted. right. now. and then when God steps in and breathes the warm whisper of provision, all we can say back is, “no better timing, Lord.” and we acknowledge His understanding. and we trust Him with more and more of our hearts.

dear me [at 17.]

7 Sep

Dear 17,

You were a good year. In fact, you were a great year. You came with new joys and uncharted territories, new friendships and great awakenings. There were hardships and trials, and a fair share of sufferings and pain. (I’ll admit that most of my “sufferings” were just super dramatic text messages, but it was suffering all the same for me.)

But here’s the thing, 17.

You and I have some talking to do.

Because while you were great, you actually were a bit exhausting. You still are exhausting, all these years later.

And I’m finally ready to let you have it. You, me, this keyboard. Because once I get everything off my chest as I finally blame you for the horrible residue in my heart, I can finally move on.

I can finally be free.

And I desperately want to be free from you, 17.

I remember turning 17 and literally thinking, “you will be an amazing 365 days.” I am not young and stupid anymore, no not me. Finally able to see R-rated movies, and no longer seated at the “kid’s table” for Thanksgiving. But not quite an adult where I have to make adult decisions and live with adult consequences. Or so I thought.

Young and free and fearless with the world at my fingertips, that’s what I was.

Until I believed a boy who told me he would love me until forever died.

Until I trusted a boy who said he knew what he was doing as he asked me to take off my clothes.

Until I let a boy penetrate my soul with his empty promises.

You see, 17, it really felt right when we talked the big talk. It really seemed normal for me to promise my life to him. It was easy to say the words “soul mate” and do the things that soul mates do. And that’s what soul mates do, right? Sex? And it really did feel like everyone was doing it.

Oh, 17. Not everyone is doing it.

Dear 17, I hated a large part of you. I hated the guilt and the quiet shame. But mostly I hated how you tricked me into giving away everything, leaving me to only feel like he loved me when we were alone in my bedroom. I hated how big you felt, how largely present you were in every room and at every alarm clock noise. You were so dramatic with your open-ended questions and your unsolicited feelings. Your passion was like a wooden rollercoaster with its ups and downs, none of it comfortable. You were wet with ultimatums and secrets kept. I could have drowned myself in the thick wetness of your vulnerability and emotional nudity.  Hands grasping at every flicker of something that could possibly even resemble love, I waited for any opportunity to feel safe in his arms. I flailed and flopped back and forth into that stupid sexual relationship, because it was something that I could hold onto, even just for the moment. You gave me something to hold onto. I bathed in the vastness of the thick, wet, emotions you were.

And sometimes, 17, you were so dry it was hard to grip anything at all.

So why didn’t you teach me better, 17? Why didn’t you prepare me for the impending betrayal of The Boy Called Love? Why didn’t you remind me that 17 is not the highest number I can count to, and that my big choices in life did not have to be made right now? Why didn’t you tell me beforehand not to make such stupid, adult decisions with real, adult consequences? How could you withhold from me the fact that it was going to feel like no one would ever love me again because of the stupid adult mistakes I made before I was old enough to make them?

I could have been spared so much pain, 17.

I could have avoided so much heartbreak, 17.

I thought I had to know everything, 17.

But the truth is, I didn’t need to. I didn’t need to make adult decisions because I wasn’t adult enough to make them. I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to decide who I could give my body to, my promises to, my life to. I absolutely was not adult enough to handle the depths of those emotions, nor the depth of the void they left once the boy decided to leave. And you know what 17? I think they almost always leave.

 

Dear 17, I don’t know if I want to yell at you, or envelop you in bubble wrap to protect you from all the lies in the world that say you aren’t enough of a woman until you sleep with a man.

And I don’t know if it’s really you that I’m mad at. Or if being mad will fix anything.

And I don’t think I’m finding any freedom from blaming you for the ridiculous path I chose to find love. I think freedom comes from truth.

Please hear me, 17. You don’t have to be who they say you have to be. And you most certainly don’t need to be promising forever to anyone. Not with your words, not with your actions, not with your body.

Dear 17, the truth is, you do not know what you need from a husband.

You do not know what qualifies a man to be entrusted with the tiny corners of your heart, or the places in your soul that bring out the tears that burn your cheeks.

You do not know what traits to look for in a man that make you sure of the kind of father he will be to your children because, my dear 17, you are still a child yourself.

Dear 17, you do not know what you need to be as a wife. You are in no shape emotionally to even grasp what it means to be married forever. No matter how developed you feel, I promise you that you will be different in several years. Life will be different in several years. How can you promise someone your whole life when you are 17? How can you know what the responsibility of that is?

So, 17, let’s put an end to this. Let’s make sure that all girls who are 17 realize the consequences of their actions. Let’s make sure that no more 17 year old girls get lost in the maze of sex without love, without deep commitment. May girls no longer give more away at 17 than they even knew they possessed.

Do not be afraid to be 17: free and young and fearless.

Do not feel like you need to figure anything out that’s beyond 17. You are just the way you are supposed to be. There is no sense in planning for tomorrow if it compromises how you enjoy today.

Do not forget to hurt, to feel, to bleed. Everyone hurts a little too much at times. But making life-altering decisions in the midst of that hurt is silly. It’s “kids table” silly.

If you mess up, don’t be afraid to learn from it and move forward. Some of your best characteristics will be solidified because they were chiseled away at through those mistakes. It’s what you learn from them that matters so look alive out there.

Hold onto the memories that you can, and watch the world spin on. It is a fun ride, and it is worth every drop of sweet and bitter.

Dear 17, you are pretty awesome. But you are not it. The best is yet to come.

one day, i will write a book.

28 Aug

why am i still single? …and some other questions i will literally never have to ask myself..

for these are the [days.]

28 Aug

photo credit: http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wlphoto credit: Google maps

i know a girl who is a good sister, a good woman, and a good friend.

this friend is a champion of brave; traveling across the country for love. she believes in the good, trust in her Creator, and never forgets to stop and smell the roses.

she does life like i hope my kids do; with gusto, enthusiasm, and a truckload of trust in Jesus to pull her through anything and everything.

she confidently approaches each day, relishing the fact that her daily bread is already provided.

this friend reminds me that the tomb is empty, victory is ours, and Love wins. she reminds me to live like those things are true.

this post is for you, my dear friend, because you make me proud.

this post is for you, because you teach me about grace, forgiveness, laughter and spontaneity.

this post is for you, because this week you are embarking on a journey that most women would be far too scared to ever  take.

you are risking so much, taking a leap of faith, and jumping into the arms of Jesus who says you can trust Him.

you are giving all you’ve got to something that’s worth it.

you, my dear sister, are exactly the way you’re supposed to be. He has crafted you beautifully, inside and out, and He is using that beauty to shape the lives of so many people.

your story is a powerful testimony to the fulfilling act of trusting; and it is a story that cannot be told without the grace of God. your story makes much of Jesus. with each step you take in this journey, you pluck at a string within my heart that reminds me of the song God sings to us about being brave, courageous, and firm in our faith.

it encourages me deeply to watch you take each step, not knowing exactly how it’s going to turn out. that’s the beauty of trusting God: you never know how it’s all going to tie together, but you always know Who’s doing the tying.

we are women who like to connect the dots. we like to know how things work.

but sometimes in life, you cannot connect the dots until you are looking back.

it’s like the sewing of a tapestry: if you look underneath, it’s all of those messy strings going back and forth, zig zagged and tripping over themselves. it looks like there are a thousand mistakes, like there is no possible way that this could ever make sense, that it could ever turn into something beautiful.

and then, after some time, you turn it over. and it is a beautiful picture and you breathe in so suddenly that all you can do is exhale just as quickly and say, “no better timing.”

my hope, my prayer, my heart’s desire is that one day you will look back and see the beautiful tapestry God has woven of your life, specifically of this season. that you will be caught off guard as you reflect, and all you can do is exhale, thanking God for His perfect timing.

my prayer is that as you tell your story, you would turn others to the Story of Jesus. that as you encounter new friends and a new community, they would meet you and feel that they are reminded of Jesus, that they would nearly recognize you because of your resemblance to Jesus. that when they spend time with you, they feel closer to Jesus because He is so intertwined with your words and laughter and actions.

you are a brilliant beacon of faith, hope, and love. you represent a woman who is unafraid, a proverbs 31 woman who can “laugh at the days to come,” and you are a pioneer for all of us as we question what we would be willing to risk for love.

you, my dear sister, are an inspiration. thank you for being brave with me, for these are the days.

#thatssoessy.

to write or not to write. [indie ink]

25 Aug

this is my first attempt at fiction in awhile, but indie ink has challenged me again. if you want to get in on the fun, follow it here and sign up here. this week my challenge was from kat who blogs over here. my challenge was “popular burger shop uses tainted beef patties.”

someone told me a long time ago that to write well, you must write what you know. well, i know that there are wars in far-off lands that devastate thousands of people on a daily basis. i know that there are natural disasters occurring far too often that are leaving far too many people displaced and injured. i know that there are politics to be argued, hungry children to be advocated for, and world peace to be found. when i decided to study journalism, i had all of these things in mind to write on. i was going to sit at a desk in a big, tall building in the middle of a bustling city and write about things that mattered.

but as i sit at the intern’s cubicle inside of the big, tall building in the middle of a bustling city, where i spend many hours a week as a 28 year old intern, i am not writing about things that matter. in fact, i am not writing at all. i am thinking about what to write. because my editor has given me an assignment that i can’t quite grasp. in fact, it’s the only chance he’s given me in months. and it’s about food. more specifically, a particular neighborhood favorite burger place that has recently been accused of serving low-grade meat in their burgers. he wants me to expose them entirely, to rat them out to the public and outrage the customers, causing uproar, intrigue, and a high amount in newspaper sales. he told me that if i write this piece, i will finally show him that i’m ready to write about current affairs, politics, or relief efforts in other countries. i will finally get opportunities i’ve been waiting for since journalism 1001. the door will finally be open and i can soar through it with the dignity i’ve been scratching at for nearly a decade.

so what’s the problem with taking a family-owned-and-operated delicious burger restaurant and throwing them completely under the bus? well for one thing, they’ll be out of business in a heartbeat. that will put a lot of college kids in a panic when they realize their favorite late-night-food source is now gone. but that’s not the problem. it will probably give the city a bad name for not regulating the health code more carefully, which will reflect poorly on other restaurants in the area as well. but that’s not the problem either. i would have to write an eloquently compelling article that captivates an audience and paints a picture for weeks to come so that i impress my editor and finally gain some respect in this prison i call work. but even that’s not the problem.

the problem is that the burger place is owned and operated by my dad and step-mom.

martin luther king, jr once said, “the hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”

mark twain was quoted as saying “it is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”

and ernest hemingway said, “what is moral is what you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.”

i guess you get the picture. and yes, i’m considering it.

i’m sitting in this big, tall building, thinking about ruining my dad’s dream just for the sake of achieving mine. i’m faced with a moral dilemma, a conflict of the soul. if i refuse the assignment, i may as well pack up my desk (and by desk i mean a two foot counter space in a cubicle shared by four interns) and say my farewells (no one really knows me. i’ve been here four years and the receptionist still calls me by the wrong name) and kiss my career as a journalist goodbye, because i won’t be getting any more assignments. if i go through with the piece, my dad would be crushed. after my mom died, he used his life’s savings to open this place and when the economy took a downfall, he had to downgrade his meat selection. he knew it, i knew it, we all knew it. but no one said a thing because we figured no one would find out, plus he loved this restaurant! and then some dumb girl decided to work (intern) in a newspaper office for way too long and get assignments that were way too infantile and never stand up for herself against her mean boss, and now the entire restaurant’s reputation is at stake.

so i sit. and i think.

and then it hits me like a brick wall, and i know exactly what i’m going to do.

don’t you?