On Praying for Change – Me Too

As I sat in my new flat in Cambridge, scrolling through Facebook, I was struck by the overwhelming amount of “Me Too’s” from my friends. If you’re not familiar with the movement women across the world have been posting “Me Too” as their status if they have experienced sexual assault or harassment. It is a movement of solidarity – an effort to not only show women they are not alone in their experiences but to raise awareness on a global level of the immense impact this problem has. I see sisters and friends sharing and it is heartbreaking. And what is there to do? It seems there are innumerable blogs, articles, studies, courses, or sermons on sexual assault & harassment, its causes and its perpetrators. Yet we, as women, are still swimming through an epidemic of fear and vulnerability.

I did not realize how specific this fear was to women until a few days ago. I walked home at night from the town centre, when I was back inside our flat I told my husband “I made it through the dark part just fine, I wasn’t even too scared.” He looked at me blankly, “What dark part?”

“The dark part… in the park… where they only have those little lights on the pavement and you can’t really see where you’re going? There’s always a food truck near by…?” I replied, a little taken aback.

“ Oh, yeah. Why would you be scared? It’s a safe town.”

It was in that moment that I realized how different we were – not because of background or experience or religious beliefs – but simply because my husband is a man and I am a woman. He grew up in a safe town, a safe school, a safe church, because he was a boy. He went to a safe university, to a safe job, and continues to cycle around a safe town, because he is a man. He could not understand the fear women know all too well. He could not understand that I walk with my hand around my keys in my purse because someone from some seminar told me if I didn’t I would be raped and I would have no excuse. He could not understand the fear I felt walking home in the dark – because he has never been painted as a victim in this world, no he has never been told he will be attacked, pursued, abused, and it will be his fault for walking home at night. In that moment I also realized I was ashamed to explain all of this to him. I was actually ashamed to tell my husband that I was afraid of men and what they might do to me, my friends, my sisters, my mother, and someday my daughters.

Now, my husband is a patient, understanding, and safe man. Of course he listened to my fears without condemning me. But why was I ashamed of being afraid in the first place? I can easily answer that – from the time I was a child people in authority around me have said if anything happens it is my fault. People have told us, women, if we are afraid it is because we put ourselves in a bad situation and we should have known better. I have never heard from anyone in authority, outside of my own parents, that men are culpable for their actions against women. I have never heard someone claim that there is a dire issue with the hearts of men in this world, and it is women who are victims of their sin.

An article my sister shared explains this phenomenon expertly. It was written in response to the Weinstein investigations. The author explores the causes of abuse in the workplace while exposing that this is not a new problem at all. This is an issue women have been dealing with long before Weinstein was ever born.

All women know this. Early lessons about the abuse of male power are stitched on our minds like aphorisms on a Victorian sampler. If, by our early 20s, we haven’t personally experienced it, then we have held the hand of someone who has. So many shared confidences: of eyes on cleavages, hands up skirts and tongues down throats; of being forced into corners or trapped in lifts; of the shame and the fear and the not-knowing- what-to-do. And the laughing it off too. After all, it happens to so many of us, it must be the norm: an inconvenience of biology, like menstruation; not something to get het up about.  – Garavelli, Dani

When I was in high school we had to take a Sunday school class each semester. Sophomore year all the girls took a class on being godly women while the guys learned how to be godly men. They went camping, they played games, they pulled broken down cars to test their strength and were allowed to come to church in dirty t shirts. The girls sat in the library, we were taught to not date, to not kiss, to not wear short skirts. We were taught that men are the rulers of relationships and if a man is tempted to have sex with us, we are to blame. It is our fault, it is our body that led that man into sin and we should be ashamed for letting our shoulders ever see the sunlight. You might laugh at the absurdity of these lessons but I’ve learned it’s not so uncommon. The church has a massive lack of instruction and love when it comes to teaching women to value their bodies rather than fear them. Evangelical Christians need to stop telling high school boys to see girls as their weaker sisters and needs to teach them to see girls as individuals made in the image of Christ – people to be respected, valued, and loved – not diminished, objectified, or abused.

Of course, these Sunday school classes were not useless. Girls do need to learn how to carry themselves in a godly manner. However, there are other ways to instill these lessons.

This goes back to the differences between myself and my husband. He grew up watching guys harassing girls in school. I grew up listening to my friends cry in the bathroom because of something a guy had said. My husband never feared his teachers being inappropriate. One of my bible teachers told my friend her shirt had been too distracting for him to teach his lesson properly, she should never wear it again unless she wanted to keep tempting men. When a 40 something husband says that to a 15 year old girl (who was wearing a shirt that passed an insane dress code) he walks away feeling no guilt, while my friend sits in our room, ashamed, embarrassed, sobbing. We felt helpless. My husband did not grow up being afraid adults would not believe him. I had five girls convince me to call the dean after a boy in my class made a pornographic comment to me. My husband did not grow up listening to his friends talk about how guys took advantage of them “but it wasn’t sex so it wasn’t that bad…” He didn’t listen to his dorm sisters, best friends, or roommates make excuse after excuse for guys who touched them, hit them, told them they “would be more f**kable if they were skinnier.” But we did. We, women, we’ve listened to it all. We’ve heard all the stories – from “he pulled all her clothes off and raped her”  to “he told everyone I gave him a hand job when we just kissed” and all of the in between. We make sure we give our friends a safe word before going on a date. We’re certain our clothes are not lewd. We sit in our rooms and talk about the things men said that destroyed us and instead of telling someone, we punish ourselves. We have convinced ourselves we deserve this. Why?

I certainly do not believe all men are evil. I don’t believe every woman is innocent. But I do believe the culture surrounding assault and harassment is twisted against the victims. An older brother figure at university gave me pepper spray when he graduated. Though I was grateful for the gift we’ve both talked about how sad it is that he knew, even at a Christian University, I was prey – and I would have to fend for myself because there’s often no one to tell during those situations. And so I want to make a plea with Christians around the globe. We cannot keep the evil from this earth. We cannot eradicate the Evil One, but we can learn to better love and protect one another.

My oldest sister shared another fantastic piece about the patriarchal theology in churches and how it promotes the idea that women cannot be in authority of anything, not even their own bodies. Please, read it here https://www.cbeinternational.org/blogs/breaking-silence-implications-rape-culture-body-christ?platform=hootsuite. As Christians we are held accountable to the Lord of Heaven for our actions, our words, and our silence. We are the ambassadors of His Kingdom and yet we are the ones who fail to love women, fail to protect them, and fail miserably at counting them as equal and valuable beings.

Jesus, Our Lord, explicitly tells us the world will know we are His disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35). These words are a piece of his parting to the twelve apostles, a new and final command we continue to break. Are we loving our men by not addressing the issue of pornography in Christian circles? Are we loving our brothers and sons by not teaching them how to value women as individuals – with opinions, feelings, and worth? Are we loving anyone by judging victims of rape? Are we loving anyone when we hold bitterness and anger against those who have abused us? Are we loving our sisters and daughters when we tell them they are outspoken and brash instead of saying they are strong? Are we really loving each other when we justify a politician’s sexual assault because of his conservative assets? Are we loving our daughters and sisters when we’re too afraid or too proud to call men like Donald Trump what they are?

Or are we showing love when we forgive and repair. Are we showing love when we behold each body and each life as a manifestation of the Lord’s making? Yes, men and women have said hurtful things. Both have made me doubt the worth of my body and my being. Yet, I ask them to see me as the Lord’s creation. And that is how I choose to see them. To hold onto the anger of injustice is too much when I can instead hold onto the hope of the Lord’s healing. The hope that this generation will pray to be different. The hope that we, men and women alike, will not let our sons and daughters experience what we have. The hope that Christians will address this problem head on, fearlessly fighting against this sin and its extensive reaches. I gain nothing from being angry, bitter, or upset at men. Instead I choose to spend my energy praying for change.

Since getting married I have six sisters and one niece, all women I love and respect fiercely. I pray for them, for their daughters, for their friends, for their coworkers. I pray we will no longer let this be the norm, especially in Christian circles. I pray we will have heard the last of these confessions. I pray that any daughter I have never listens to her friends’ stories of assault. And I pray we will continue to persist. I pray we, as women, will never quit loving one another, protecting one another, or believing there is a better future for us and our daughters.

 

Works

Asproth, Rachel. “Breaking the Silence: The Implications of Rape Culture for the Body of Christ.” CBE International. CBE, 07 June 2016. Web.

Garavelli, Dani. “Dani Garavelli: Faux Outrage Adds to Agony of Weinstein Revelations.” The Scotsman – Scottish News. The Scotsman, 14 Oct. 2017. Web.

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On Love and Loneliness

On Love and Loneliness

I am a nurse. Often this means my days are long, busy, and exhausting. I am on my feet running from room to room with cocktail cups of drugs while alarms echo in the fluorescent lit halls for 12 hours. Most days, that is the extent of those twelve hours. I go to work, give medicine, chart, turn people, lift people, talk to doctors, chart again, and leave. Some days, though, are much more trying. Some days, like this past Sunday night, I sit beside a dying man and his family. Two weeks prior this man was up and talking, making jokes with me, and telling me his oxygen cannula was in his way – and that he really didn’t need it. Then, he got worse, and I spent the next five shifts caring for him and his family, along with my other three patients. He had been my friend, his family knew me by name, they made sure I was their nurse when I was working. It’s a strange thing to be wanted by a family experiencing death. During the early morning hours, after a long night shift, this man’s son came out to find me. He was crying. I knew. I knew I would have to go in and listen to a hollow, empty chest. I knew I would have to feel for a pulse that was not there. I knew I would have to page the on call doctor, who did not know this patient, so he could sign a piece of paper saying “Yes, death happens.” As we waited for the doctor the patient’s son said to me, “Thank you for being here. I know you have to deal with this all the time. That must suck. I’m so sorry.” His words broke me a little. He was apologizing to me because I have chosen a profession that handles the whole spectrum of life. He was sorry for me that I was young, watching people die, and crying at work.

I replied, “We see a lot here. We see death and healing and we see a lot of families. Watching your family has been a blessing. I don’t often see families who love each other so well. Families who have been loved and have reason to mourn. Thank you.” I had to leave the room to take care of paperwork, he was left alone in a room of solitude and grief.

Nursing can be a lonely job, but it has been teaching me so much about the power of love. Love observed, love given, love rejected, and love returned. Yet, as I learn about love I am realizing it is a lonely endeavor at times. There is much to glean from being lonely and much more to glean from being loved.

Recently a friend recommended Lysa Terkeurst’s new bestseller “Uninvited.” She walks through the lies of loneliness, rejection, and defeat to bring the reader back to His Truth. Using personal hardships and revelations Lysa teaches the reader the struggle of loneliness, how it is perpetuated by the sin in this world, and how the Truth combats it if we’re willing to seek Him. Halfway through the book Lysa talks about the gift of loneliness. She states,

This [being lonely] will develop in you a deeper sense of compassion for your fellow travelers. But in addition to the blessing of compassion being developed in me, those lonely times also seem to be when Jesus lavishes His most intimate compassion on me. (pg. 111)

How true is it that in our moments of deep loneliness, deep darkness, the Lord brings forth great blessings? One example Lysa brings forth of this compassion is the Samaritan Woman. If she had not been alone, outcast from her town, she would not have been approached by Jesus at the well. They would not have had a private, intimate conversation in which she was blessed, convicted, forgiven and loved. Often, in our loneliness, we have time to build up lies and shame to keep compassion at bay. We can tell ourselves we don’t deserve love, we’re not good enough, we’re too different, too screwed up. We can simultaneously tell ourselves we’re too good, we’ve done too much good to repent, we’re too strong to open up, we’re too solid in our faith to admit our flaws.

We’re too solid in our faith to admit our flaws.

I’ve said that to myself before. I’ve told myself all of those lies, time and time again. I have in the same day said “I’m not worth His time or His grace. He will forget me” and “I’m too good to get down on my knees. I know too much about the bible and theology to admit my own sins to anyone else.” The first lie is easily discounted. The Lord loves. That’s it. He loves and He forgives the repentant heart. He loves to comfort and console. He loves to hold the broken heart and make it whole in Him – because that’s the only place it can be healed. The second lie is pride with a lot of fear. When I tell myself that lie, I’m terrified if I start to admit my sins I’ll suddenly realize I’m not saved at all, my sins are too great. I’m terrified people who listen to my struggles, people to whom I confide, will doubt my faith. They will doubt my knowledge of God and His grace. So I keep my sins to myself, do good works, and keep everything in line.

And the loneliness grows.

A few weeks ago my husband and I went to visit some relatives in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. The setting is always lovely and welcoming, and this visit was particularly gracious. It has been a rough season in our lives. We’re constantly battling our own sin as we try to fight for the other’s good. We find ourselves exhausted, and exhaustion leads to miscommunication which leads to tears (on my part) and frustration on both sides. We needed a space to be vulnerable, to be honest, to be messed up, and to be loved. The Lord provided that for us. We were given such good counsel. The most poignant piece of conversation for me was, of course, a Harry Potter reference. As a friend and I were discussing different lies that cloud my mind and make life nearly unbearable, she brought up the illustration of Ron Weasley stabbing the Horcrux with the sword. When the heavy, evil, toxic locket opens a Horcrux Harry and Hermione appear. Ron’s worst fears and greatest insecurities are laid out for him in dark poison. He lifts Godric’s sword, stabs the locket fiercely, and obliterates those false images. She encouraged me to, in a similar fashion, use the Sword of Truth to stab at the lies that feed my loneliness. The devil’s loneliness says you are not loved, not able to be loved, and not at all good at loving others  – and that statement should be stabbed with the tender, honest truth. To wash yourself in His Word is to bring yourself into His presence each and every day – and in the presence of our Maker, with the promise of eternity, how can our hearts long for more?

With battling loneliness comes generously giving love. I’ve always been a huge proponent of the idea of love – you can ask any of my friends from high school and they’ll tell you I was in favor of love. As I’ve grown older I like to think I’ve grown wiser but I never want to reach a level of cynicism that keeps me from loving others, and loving them well. Unfortunately, I think I have much to learn in the area of loving. My husband loves me well. He loves me well because he refuses to let me turn my dejection and loneliness into bitterness and anger – which I do more often than I really want to admit.  When I’m rejected, hurt, or slighted, I all too often bottle up my victimization. It shows its nasty, putrid self during outbursts of vile anger. When I’m hurt and lonely and all too consumed with my sin I say the most terrible things. My husband doesn’t stand for it. He doesn’t address the issue I say I’m angry about, he asks me what’s really wrong, what’s hurting. And then I fall apart, the loneliness, the scars, the refusal to accept grace all comes tumbling out of my trembling mouth. He holds me close – a reminder of God’s grace never letting me go. He loves well.

We all need that. We all need the space to be a sinner, because that’s what we are. We all need someone firmly reminding us that we are broken but we are also forgiven. We all need a mountain top garden to feel vulnerable and safe. I tell my husband frequently, if I had control of any room at any given moment I would tell people to recognize that we are ALL sinners, we have ALL been hurt and we have ALL hurt someone else (probably in that same room), we are ALL recipients of the same love, same grace, and the same command to give that love freely. No strings. No expectations. No bitterness. Just love. Of course, I don’t think I’ll be brave enough to stand on a chair some day and make people talk about their issues and then make everyone bond over the intimacy and closeness that comes with honesty and a strong pot of tea – but if I do you can bet I’ll write about it.

Love is hardest when it involves the people in the same room. It’s easy to love strangers – or it should be. It should be easy to look at the world of broken people and love them, because we too are broken and loved. It should be easy to love those so vastly different from us – politicians, the ‘other’ side, radicalists, whoever – because they too are people. They aren’t just figures on our screens. They are plagued by Satan’s attacks day in and day out. Some have given up fighting for good and have been taken by the world. Weep for them. Pray. Love.

It is much more difficult to consistently love those closer to you – your friend who’s been hurtful (or even hateful), your spouse when life isn’t too peachy, your fellow church members who don’t know you, or those family members you don’t know how to bond with very well. It’s too easy to say “Of course I love them! They’re family/friend/etc.” It’s even easy to hug people and say “I love you” and walk away with no commitment. It is gut wrenchingly difficult to look at people’s hurt, their sin, their past, their loneliness, their struggles with Satan’s lies and share your love with them. It’s desperately hard when you feel rejected, ignored, or dismissed. But we must keep loving. We were created by a loving God to be a loving people.

Jesus looked on those close friends who would desert him, deny him, betray him – all much worse than anything I’ve ever experienced – and He loved them. He didn’t hug them, give a thin lipped smile and say “Yeah, love you.” He gave His life for the ones throwing rocks in His face. He loved us so that we might love others. He loved perfectly so that we may learn how to love well. He loved in the midst of heartache and loneliness so we might know we are never too hurt, too discouraged, too exhausted, too rejected to love others. He is infinite love. He loves us infinitely, when we seek that Love we have a source that cannot be depleted – it must be shared.

Now, I’m not an expert. I’m not in seminary. The bible classes I took at university were required, and they weren’t very interesting. You might read this and think to yourself that I know nothing of love or life or faith. You may be right. I’m only twenty two, I’ve only been married ten months, I’ve only been a nurse for a year. I have so much to learn about love, forgiveness, and the Lord. But please don’t dismiss all of this because of my age or inexperience. I know loving others does not fix them. Love will not bring back my patient or fill his void. Forgiving your friend doesn’t mean she’ll call you back. Reaching out to family does not mean they want a relationship with you. Being honest does not mean you will be liked. But loving people is obedience to the Lord. Loving people well is a reflection of His great love and mercy.  I write this only as reminder that while there is much to do, much to accomplish and much to say in this world there is nothing greater than love.

I love thee Lord, but with no love of mine,

For I have none to give;

I love Thee, Lord; but all the love is Thine,

For by Thy love I live.

I am as nothing, and rejoice to be

Emptied, and lost and swallowed up in Thee.

-Charles Spurgeon

On Brave Melancholy

melancholy

what the sun does warm,
is only external –
the surface of rocks upon which
i slither –
a falling forwards,
a call hither which i can only
respond to with –
weak movements, half hearted
as what could i commit this hear too?
i find solace,
in closed eye reverie,
and detachment through ink
splashed upon the blank page
a single line of text which
does compensate –
rather than the nauseating
surge of all as a wave ,
constantly crashing upon my mental shore
and above all of this –
an agnostic hope, that there is
something more

– phil krell
@travelinonpoetry

“What word would you use to describe your mood?”
“Melancholy?”
“Really?”
“Yes.”
“Interesting, that’s not what I would think from just glancing at you.”
“I know… which maybe adds to the melancholy – that constant struggle of balancing how I feel inside and how I need to portray myself in order to cope in this world.”
“I get that.”
“Yeah?”
“Yeah – sometimes people read my poems and say ‘hey man, that’s a sweet poem’ and in my head I’m thinking – they have no idea how much i cried over those words, they have no idea how many nights I couldn’t sleep until I was able to write down those deep, sorrowful moments.”
“Exactly! And we’re caught in this struggle of wanting to express ourselves but not knowing exactly how or even what other people will accept.”
“Right, so if you could act how you feel most of the time, what would that look like?”
“mmm, ha, well I would cry a lot more… and I would write a lot… and I wouldn’t talk to as many people.”
“Okay.”
“But I can’t do that because… you know work and stuff.”
“haha right, okay, give me a moment.”

This conversation led to the above poem. On a weekend trip in Asheville, NC I met a traveling poet. He had set his typewriter up on the sidewalk, sat cross legged behind it, with a sign propped up saying “Poet for hire.” When I approached him he was reading Emerson, and then he was engaged in a conversation with another traveler about the philosophy of nihilism and Pablo Neruda’s contribution to his inspiration. I was both entranced and terrified. I was desperate to ask this man to write a poem for me, and I was simultaneously frightened of two possibilities. I was scared he would write words so true they would sting, words I didn’t want to hear about my insecurities or weaknesses, and I was just as afraid his work would be disappointing – some paltry attempt at rhyming on a typewriter with words just long enough to be considered eloquent. Nevertheless, I was determined to be brave and try something new – so I walked a block and a half in a strange city to find an ATM, withdrew a crisp $20, and went back to the poet on the street. Our conversation could not have been farther from what I was expecting. His refreshing honesty, his instantaneous acceptance, his very self was so against what I had preconceived in my head. As I sat on the cold, dirty sidewalk and listened to his typewriter clack away a medley of words, I thought – how brave this man must be. I had just told a man who writes poems on the streets for money that I don’t express myself freely because I have a job. I laughed at the irony, and also silently thanked him for not judging me. He typed, paused, typed some more, then read the above poem. Surprisingly, I didn’t cry, I was in so much awe that he captured the essence of how i feel day to day – without making it sound despairing or overly dramatic. I feel the sun’s warmth along with the overwhelming sensations in our modern world – sound, news, noise, busy – sometimes it is too much. Eyes have to be closed, deep breaths have to be taken, just to carry on.

And there is always hope. Perhaps my favourite word, in his poem and in the spoken tongue, melancholy does not mean void of Hope.

Later that Saturday evening, a friend asked “Are you okay being melancholy?” there was no preface of “Wouldn’t you rather be happy? Cheerful? Sanguine? Choleric?” No, just – are you okay?

My answer was a brief version of this. Yes, I am okay with being melancholy. Was I always okay? No.

Last spring I had renewed my prescription for sertraline, a run of the mill antidepressant. It would have been six years since I had started taking that little blue oval if I had finished that script. I didn’t. Now, I have nothing against sertraline or medical mood stabilizers. If my high school counselor had not been able to prescribe something for me I would have spent my junior and senior year in an insomniac state. If my university did not have a nurse practitioner who was encouraging and supportive of the medicine I doubt I would have made it through nursing school. It helped me sleep, it helped me focus, it helped my mind sift through what was important to think about and what could be discarded. It did not, however, help me feel. While previously my emotions had run from one extreme to the next, sertraline kept them steadily muddled in the middle. No outburst of joy, no breakdown of sorrow, no overwhelming anxiety. No reason to feel alive.

So I stopped taking them. I asked my nurse practitioner at the time to help me lower my dose (as a nurse I have to emphasize you cannot stop these things cold turkey, it can be extremely hazardous to your well being) and after a few weeks my mornings were sertraline free. I cried every single day for a month. Of course, this a week after graduation, three months before getting married, and most of my friends were moving away but I was so relieved to cry about all of it. I had been so afraid of feeling I forgot how it helps one process life. When one of my closest university friend moved with her husband, I sobbed and sobbed, and it was good! It proved I had cared, I had worked for strong relationships and they were true. When I got married, I cried for six days. I cried for the sanctity of the choice we had just made, I cried for the grace the Lord had given us – to find a friend and lover all in one. I cried that my family wouldn’t see our first few months of marriage, I cried that we were alone in this journey. I wrote morose poetry, I spent hours reading, I gave myself time to feel all that had changed, all that needed to be felt. And it was all good.

Being happy isn’t equivalent to being content. For so long I believed this. I believed if I was not always deeply happy, ready to laugh and giggle and engage in frivolity I would be seen as stiff, depressed, or just plain wrong. I was afraid people would doubt my faith if they knew I didn’t always feel like singing songs of praise. I don’t know where these assumptions came from – unless they were residue of past remarks. If you’re prone to feeling blue I’m sure you know the cringe worthy phrases “Smile, you’ll feel better!” or “How can you be sad? You’re a believer aren’t you?” Oh, how that last one grates on me. How can we not be sad as believers? As we look around the world and see how far we have fallen from Eden? How can we not mourn our own sin and see His Grace with a reverence that brings us to our knees? How can we not weep for those who do not have our hope in an eternity? And how… how if we know the intricacy with which God created us can we ignore the deep wells of emotions He has given us? Did He make us to be expressionless? Stone faced and somber or with consistent painted smiles? Or did He makes us to feel the spectrum of humanity – and show it all when needed?

I’m no expert on this. I am trying to be more upfront with myself, with my emotions, and with others. Brave melancholy, to me, means knowing what you feel, knowing how to express it, and not being afraid. Brave melancholy means knowing that not everyone feels the same way you do. Some people are indeed continuously happy, rejoice with them. Do not slight people because they don’t feel the same way you do – what humanity would that show? Brave melancholy means I am able to recognize it, feel it, express it, and leave it there. Leaving it is easier said than done. On many days my own melancholy overwhelms me. I have days where I think maybe Sylvia Plath knew what she was doing, maybe that’s the only way. Those are bad days. Those are the days I forget the deep set hope in my heart. The Hope we share with other believers. The hope that this world has much to mourn, and much to rejoice. This world, this temporary residence of our corporeal bodies, is not the home of our tender hearts. No, they are with Him, where weeping is only from joy.

Don’t be afraid of your own heart. Be afraid of stifling yourself in a box prefabricated for you by strangers. I wish I had the words to say all I want on this matter – there is so much more to be written. But I’m at a loss. So I’ll end it the same way it began, a poem, written by a man, about the raw sensitivity of simply feeling human.

‘keep being sensitive.’
the mountains tell me.
the flowers.
the drink.
the stranger.
the music.
‘keep being sensitive,’
life screams.
delicacy is
a forgotten art.

– Christopher Poindexter

On Poems

ON POEMS

Home is he.

He is the stranger in my heart.
He is the only one by whom
I wish to be known.

He is.

How do I know?
He shoves the steady ground under me
When I’m falling into my self made abyss.
He fights for me when I surrender to
Despondency.
He clings to me, draws me to his chest
As I struggle to run away and hide.
He knows me, and wants me still.
He hears me scream, yell, and cry,
Shattering the illusion of blissful
Matrimony,
And still, he pulls me near, kisses me
Softly.
Still, he wraps his silent self
Around me,
And still
I find myself home.

MUSE

to be a muse or a poet?

oh the writer for certainty.
to be the muse is to be adored,
presumed upon, idolized, to be the
muse is to find yourself a person you
cannot attain. to be the muse is to
be broken by one wrong word, one
unbecoming truth, and it all comes
crashing down. to be the muse is
to be left broken hearted with
stacks of empty, ink stained pages.

but, oh, to be the writer revered,
with marionette sentences around
fabricated pretenses and their
human counterparts.
that is when the true artistry
begins.

DEBT

what do I owe you? those hearts I broke?
what do I owe those intentions I
mistook
for abuse?
what do I owe you? you, who wrote words
about my very being, in vainglorious hope
that i,
would share reciprocity?
what do i owe you? when you’ve lost your muses
when it was my spirit and mind you had to use –
what do i owe you?
when i didn’t give you time,
no, not even a chance.
what do i owe her? who i could have been?
swept away by poetry, met by
incandescent dawn.
what do i owe you? you who bravely
sat behind walls to write about me, but
when it came to the reality of loving me,
you were gone.

let me pay my debt.
let me be free from this hell of holding on –

what do i owe you?

STAY

what do i owe him? he who kisses my
forehead so carefully, who cares for me so
tenderly?
do i owe him happiness or honesty – because
i can’t give both.
i owe myself nothing, i know, nothing.
my should is being uplifted from the dregs in
which i steeped so so long. i owe myself
nothing.
they teach you about modesty, pull your shirt
up, dress down, shoulders haunched, heart fearful.
but they don’t teach you about promiscuity
of the soul.
the affair of words and rose tinged memories,
the decadence of wooing serendipity.
they don’t teach you how the heart wanders
and leaves the hollow bones behind.
you learn all that alone, on a sofa, in a safe
room with afternoon light, dust hanging in the air.
his hand on yours, his voice in your ear. sure,
certain, lovely, inescapable.
you run away, staring at the boxes of pictures
you have nowhere to hang.

On Being a Woman – Tender and Fierce

Before I dive deep into the quirks of being a woman I must first assure you all of something. Though I wish I did not have to preface this post at all, I know the world to be misunderstanding and at times, cruel. So, before I write a long post empowering women, let me remind you I am happily married to a kind, loving, and gentle man. I will not insult his masculinity, his intelligence, or his place as a husband. I do not expect him to fit any sort of mold for a man. I expect him to be the God fearing man he promises to be every day – a faithful servant, a seeker of peace, a generous giver, and a devoted husband. I expect the same from myself – to be faithful, respectful, supportive, generous, and kind. With that being said hopefully you will know that as I write about women role models and share stories about high school I am not discrediting the male gender.

Some eighteen years ago, I was a small, tan little child running up and down the coasts of Portugal. We were there for a single year of language training. It was beautiful. In my room I had a carpet with roads and houses on it. I drove my little cars around the map, right next to the barbies who lived happily on patches of greenery. My sisters had chosen to live together, which they later told me was a plot to not let anyone live with me, and it was a bit lonely in my room. It soon filled up however, with my dreams and make believe games. There was no one I could not be, no hero who’s shoes I could not fill. At four, I was unstoppable. If you look at pictures from that year you will most likely see me wearing a dress up veil. That veil was worn for about a six solid months. I don’t know why, my best guess is that we had watched The Princess Bride too many times and I fancied myself a new Buttercup. Whatever prompted the veil, it wasn’t disputed. My parents were not particularly bothered that their daughter was wearing an embarrassing headdress. No, they were more concerned if I was being kind and compassionate to other children. There is unfortunate footage of my four year old fist punching another child, and I can assure you that incident received much more grief than any piece of dress up clothing I wore. My parents were not concerned whether I played with dolls or cars or reptiles or teacups.  When I begged for a doctor’s kit for my birthday another missionary bought it for me and I was overjoyed – I could be a doctor now. Some days I was a doctor, some days a pioneer, some days a scientist, some days I was just me, playing with some other kids. My parents never tried to reel in my imagination, they never stunted my dreams or tried to fit me into a box. I can never remember being asked “Why are you not like your sisters?” I can never remember my parents asking me why I was not someone else. Their love for me, knowing all my flaws and seeing first hand my sin, is what gives me the courage to share these posts.

Little girls eventually grow up. While we don’t always want to leave our make believe games behind, there is a time when whispering conversations to yourself is no longer acceptable. For me, that time came when I went to high school. I’ve mentioned before that high school is a gruesome place for even the most stoic of people. It is, though, absolute hell for dreamers. Unless you have Robin Williams teaching your English classes, you’re forced into cramped rows of wooden desks, a strict list of dos and don’ts, and an overwhelming amount of scrutiny. I did of course have friends in high school, but only one of my friends would appease my need to play make believe. I’m not sure why I had an insatiable imagination even then, but I know it fueled in me a belief that things, this earth, these people could be better. It’s not wise to be caught up in dreams, and forget reality (Thank you Dumbledore) but sometimes, they’re the only way of making it. So, with this sensitive belief that people will always be good and kind, I walk into high school. Brutal. Quickly I learn – not everyone is nice.

The next three years are a blur of speaking out in class and getting shut down, being called too quiet, too loud, too bossy, too enthusiastic, too dramatic, too weak. While dating is in general messy business, I think dating at boarding school is particularly destructive. Rather than healthy guidelines or mentors we were given rules. Girls who dated, or girls who were outspoken, girls who thought a little differently, girls who wore blue in November 2008 were all given stern talks and daily warnings. These years were filled with fleeting friendships ending abruptly. They were filled with the dread of going to class, and being surrounded by people by whom I wanted to be known. A particular nasty memory of being called naive and shallow in front of my entire class resurfaces daily. And while we know class superlatives are not definitive, I was absolutely horrified at being named the class flirt. It was a reminder that I had either not been true to myself, or was entirely misunderstood. I was not shy around boys, I felt I had every right to be included, as every other girl did. That superlative hung over me for two years after graduation. I was terrified to talk to boys at university, wondering if they would presume something or the girls would judge me. The superlative also bothered me for a different reason. During my third year of high school I was locked into a racquet ball court by two of my classmates. They were boys. One had a cast on his arm – he used it to hit me. I remember walking away, being called weak, and I remember reading that superlative, wondering ‘who in their right mind in this school thinks I enjoy being around these boys?’ By the fourth year of high school I remember shutting down during classes. I just stopped listening, stopped debating, stopped commenting. It was easier to be silent than disputed. It was easier to be apathetic than told I cry too easily. It was easier to be invisible than to defend myself.

Again, I did have several wonderful friends at school. I am not discounting those friendships at all, but the nature of my high school did damage the spirit. Imagination withers when it is consistently told it’s too much. I believe someone more resilient than me may have walked into high school with the same dreamy determination and walked out just fine, but resilience wasn’t my strong point then.

So I arrived at university, distraught and confused. I knew who I had been as a child, but that girl was not adequate for this world. She was too weird, too emotional, too head strong. All of these were traits I had been told were not for a woman. I kept quiet during my first semester. The second semester introduced me to Honours, a class where I was surrounded by outspoken and quiet women alike, all intelligent, all diverse, and all willing to speak their mind. It was a terrifying breath of fresh air. Through these classes I met one of my closest friends (looking at you Lauren), and one of the first words she used to describe me was fierce. Fierce. Me. No. Over dramatic maybe. Overly passionate perhaps. Bossy yes. But fierce? Fierce was too empowering, too positive. Fierce made me think of a lioness, she prowls for prey, hunts and kills then returns to gently bathe her cubs. It took over a year of running with this friend, and her continuous use of the word, for me to eventually embrace it.

Yes, I am a woman, and yes I am fierce. I am not powerless or distraught. I am also not emotionless or all assuming. I cry frequently, because I feel fiercely. These were truths I had not questioned as a child, but had lost sight of as a young adult. It took ages for me to be okay with being the flawed, passionate, sensitive woman I am. I am no longer afraid to cry freely, to have a strong opinion, to be silly or weird. I am no longer afraid of being called ‘too girly’ when I dress up or ‘too tough’ when I work out. My identity is not in the labels given by others but in the freedom of Christ’s atonement. When I think about the chances I had to encourage other girls or women and didn’t I am ashamed with myself. We, as women, can either be a network of support or a force of destruction. I hope to invoke you to be kind to one another, as our friend Ellen persistently says. Men may always make inappropriate remarks and be unchallenged. Some of them mean every word, and some are just ignorant to how women feel. But we have no excuse. We know the daily struggle against doubts, insecurities, and fears specific to women. We know the constant pressure to fit into a certain picture – whether it’s the athletic girl, the pageant girl, the academic girl – whatever our label becomes we feel we’ve failed if we don’t maintain it. We know, and with our knowledge we should relentlessly encourage one another. Whether we march for women or not we must be kind. We who march must remember that we are taking steps for all women regardless of age, colour, religion, or position in life. We must remind one another that there is hope, strength, and dignity within every woman.

In ending I would like to share a story about a most remarkable woman, a true role model. It’s not Audrey Hepburn or Blake Lively or Michelle Obama. When we lived in Angola we had a housekeeper come to our compound twice a week. Her name was Bibianna. She came to help my mum clean the house, this was so mum had time to spend all day teaching her children. Bibianna was a mother, a wife, a worker. She had birthed 7 children. She and her husband had taken in their special needs family member to care for her. They had all lived through a devastating civil war yet remained faithful Christians and avid evangelists. You would think Bibianna would be callous, toughened by the bleak circumstances of Angola, but rather she was tender. I remember listening to her sing praise songs around the house. Often I would come inside for lunch to find my mum and Bibianna doing laundry together. Bibianna would be sharing a story about a tragedy in their family, or their neighborhood, or their church. She would be crying. My mum would be crying. These two grown women would be crying while working, then they would encourage each other, pray, and carry on with the day. It was an exemplary picture of friendship and vulnerability. Bibianna helped my mum start a bible study for teenage girls in our neighborhood. We would sit on the floor together, carefully stitching “Maranata” into cotton squares while Bibianna led us in songs of hope, songs of strength, songs of persevering after faith. All of these images bring back the comforts of being in our little cement home, but by far the favourite story took place in the midst of the Angolan jungle. Bibianna often went with my dad and other pastors to the interior. She made the long, grueling journey to translate for them and to lead women’s groups. One trip, the car lost a tire. It fell off the road into the gulch. Another missionary tried to pick it up but he could not. So, Bibianna went down and hauled the tire back up to the road. This incredible strength was not limited to her physcial ability – it was shown daily in her faith, her ferocity, her tenderness, and her hope in a country deprived of opportunity. I wish with all my heart I could visit her, to thank her for being a steadfast example of a woman for 12 years of my life.

Women, I plead with you, in times of opposition or discouragement – be true and tender with your words. Be fierce with your love, your compassion, your hope. Be ferocious in your faith. Be courageous in the face of adversity. Believe in your strength. Embrace your emotions, whether you’re a weeper or a stoic. Embrace your dreams, your imagination, your pursuits, your goals. We may not all be meant to be doctors, or writers, or comedians, or athletes or mothers – but we are all indeed meant to be kind, to be loving, to be strong, to be tender, to be fierce.

On This Earth

In light of recent political events the world seems to have shifted slightly, or rather it’s rocking back and forth subtly – like an earthquake that’s just powerful enough to knock your glass off the table but not quite enough to shatter the windows. Perhaps you have felt no difference, or perhaps you are one of those who has picked up a sign and protested alongside a diverse crowd. Perhaps you’ve read and written countless blogs or analyses on the past US election. Perhaps you’ve posted your praises on Facebook, or your sorrows. Or perhaps you’ve reacted as I have – at first in harrowing tears, and then after a sleep and a cup of tea you felt okay, almost serene. After all, this isn’t the final world, this isn’t the last call, “this too shall pass” right? And then you go to work, log on to social media, or go to Thanksgiving, and you remember – this is a different world now, something has been unleashed, something has been terribly, awfully distorted. You return home feeling a bit like Alice, as though you’ve grown a lot and shrunk just as much in very little time. You’re not quite sure where to put your feet, or your hat, or your teacup, and you’re certainly not sure of what to say next. You’re trying to live your life, day in and day out, as peacefully and lovingly as possible. But how? When there is this much adversity, this much convolution of the Truth, being propagated? How do you go on acting as if this political tectonic shift didn’t collapse your world? How do you find the balance between reacting in love and acting in defiance?

If you resound with any of these sentiments, we really should grab coffee sometime. These are the qualms I have wrestled with the past few weeks. At last, after several long runs and a few more cups of tea, I feel I have a few words to write. Now, I do not pretend to be a political science major. I am not a journalist or an economist or a campaigner. I never even ran for school government. What I am is a believer of Jesus and a lover of all people, and I desire to share my heart on these current issues. I write this not in confrontation, I write not to condemn those who voted differently from myself. I do not want to make snide jokes or derogatory comments towards those who have varying opinions from mine. I write only out of my own convictions. During my time on this earth I will strive to follow Jesus, my Lord and Saviour, though many Christians in this country will say I have abandoned my faith for how I voted. So I want to write this post correlating Jesus’ life and actions, to how we as Christians should react in this political climate. There will be a thesis with three main points, because that’s how my sophomore English teach taught me how to write.

Jesus exemplified love. He WAS and IS love incarnate. We, as Christians, have diluted our faith and our churches with so much stuff other than love. We have filled our congregations with desires for success, happiness, comfort, safety, elitism – the list is extensive – we must return to love. There are several factors within this political season that have struck a chord with the church and the secular world. For my purposes, I will focus on these – diversity, entitlement, and hatred. The vagueness of these categories may frustrate you, but I assure you it is much more frustrating to write out every single incidence of racism, violence, economic equality, sexism, immorality, and hate crimes. So, I spared you. Now Jesus’ reaction to these three issues was the same – love.

“The universality of the church was illustrated in a marvelously effective manner. White, black, yellow members of religious orders – everyone was united under the church. It truly seems ideal” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The above quote is an exert from Eric Metaxas’ brilliant biography of Dietriech Bonhoeffer, a man who dutifully loved the Lord and people in the bleakest of times. The quote refers to a moment during which Bonhoeffer is visiting a church in Rome. He is attending Mass for one of the first times, and he is confronted with a picture of diversity, different colours all under the same order, the same purpose, the same Lord. While these colours refer to religious orders, it is made known throughout Bonhoeffer’s life that he believed Heaven’s promises were for all colour’s of people as well. The words that haunted me while reading this chapter were “It truly seems ideal.” I saw a post from a conservative several days ago, he was telling liberals to go live in their “idyllic utopia and stop stomping around the real world.” At first I was angry at him for insinuating liberals do not have a grasp on reality, and then I was at peace with his demand. Of course, as a Christian, I seek the Kingdom of the Lord. I know that while I’m on this earth that kingdom will not be actualized. We as humans have done a fine job screwing up this world, it is nowhere close to being His eternal kingdom. And yet, that is what we are called to strive for – each and every day we breath this soiled air we are called to look for ways to illustrate His ideal kingdom on this earth. One simple way to do this – invite diversity into your life. Invite the spectrum of the human race – white, black, yellow, red, American, European, Asian, African, bring them all into your life and your church. Revelations 7:9 states “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” Should we not make an effort to represent eternity in our limited lives on this earth?

Several people I know have expressed pro Trump feelings via social media or other outlets. It wouldn’t be difficult to hear their remarks or read their statements if they were not also professing believers. One instance was particular disturbing. A friend of mine shared a popular article “The painfully obvious reason Christians voted for Trump (that liberals just don’t understand).” Of course, there are several comments to make from the title alone. For one, articles like this completely write off Christian liberals. I, as a Christian who votes blue, am now incapable of understanding ‘painfully obvious’ truths. In fact, I’m not even included in the “Christian” category, because I did not vote for Trump. The article went on to speak about Christian persecution within the United States. It made several good points about the American Christian’s struggle against the secular world’s regime. But it missed the point of being a Christian. It is true – being a believer is difficult. The world will not become progressively more Christian, regardless of who is president or which party has the Senate, the United States of America will not gradually become one big evangelical church. We will not be meeting for coffee and shallow conversation on Wednesday nights before returning to watching Game of Thrones, all while complaining that the foreign, secular world has become too gruesome for our liking. And yet this seems to be the expectation of Evangelical Christians. They seem to think that they’ve done their time being persecuted and trodden on in America, that now is a good time for two white men to stand in the oval office and say, “Let’s get rid of Planned Parenthood, the Christians don’t seem top happy with it.” When this is entirely against what we are called to believe as Christians. Hillary’s administration wasn’t an atheistic one, as some people believe, God’s hand is in every choice and every change. Trump’s administration is not a God send for Christians, because (despite everything else wrong with that statement) we are not promised a government that follows our agenda. No, we are promised the opposite. In Matthew 20:20-28 we read a story about a mother asking Jesus to allow one of her two sons to sit at his right hand. She desired for her sons to be honoured, to serve the Lord faithfully and be rewarded in eternity for their work. To her sons Jesus said “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” He was referring to the cup of death, a death brought about by the people persecuting Him, and the government being unable to stop them. Later in the passage Jesus says “whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” If we are to truly emulate Christ’s life on this earth then we must know we are owed nothing from this world, our reward lays in heaven. We have nothing to gain from being represented by a vice president if we are not ourselves representing Christ in our actions. We have nothing to be gained by fighting the progressive acts of this secular world, if we are not loving those who think and act differently from ourselves.

John 15:20 “Remember the word that I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well; if they kept My word, they will keep yours as well.” This is our promise for this earth. As for American Christians, they need to realize that persecution is not defined by being asked to make a cake for two people who love one another. The peak of persecution is not Target deciding to make unisex bathrooms. No, those are realities that make us uncomfortable because we are aliens in this world. Persecution is when a shooter breaks down the doors to a Kenyan university and asks students if they are Christians. The Christians answer faithfully and are killed. Our citizenship does not lie in this country and the rights its constitution seemingly gives us. Our citizenship resides in His kingdom, and if you are a believer, you know of the cup you are asked to drink. So please, do not fight triflingly against the changes of this world as if we are entitled to a holiday bible school like nation. We are not promised acceptance in this world, but we are called to love its people all the same.

Lastly, hatred. I was reminded recently by my sister in law about my own hypocrisy involving love. She, of course, didn’t use the word hypocrisy but we are all our own worst critics. We were discussing the difference of opinions within our wider family. I had mentioned to her, after a comment made by another family member, that it was difficult for me to understand how professing believers carried so little love for others. She gently told me the same could be said of me – I will leap at the opportunity to defend the oppressed, the marginalized, the different sorts, the diverse, but I struggle when it comes to people who are outwardly more like me. My circle of acquaintances, here in southern TN, is largely other white, college educated, straight, church goers. And yet I have the most difficult time loving them. I’m convicted daily to remind myself that they too are His children, and they too deserve the understanding and respect I am asking them to give me. I think I have trouble freely giving them love because there is so much contempt in the words they speak, and the words of the mouth reflect the state of the heart. When I hear a Christian proudly reminiscing a bombing it’s difficult to imagine that same Christian on their knees in prayer for those affected by devastation. When I hear Christians defiantly calling for the destruction of Planned Parenthood, it’s difficult to believe they have a heart for the poor, the afflicted, the abandoned women. Planned Parenthood, incidentally, does much more good than the Christian world would like to admit. It gives treatment freely to those suffering from HIV/AIDS, an ailment the church is not quite willing to address in its monthly givings budget. (But that is, perhaps, for another post.)

And yet the Lord has called for love. He has called for us to pay our taxes, whether they are going to welfare programmes for unemployed people or not – because we are called to love those people. He has called us to fight for the oppressed and underprivileged, as He did when He walked this earth. Christ befriended all the people the modern Evangelical Christian would shun. He walked with those who had immoral livelihoods, those who had debilitating diseases, those who conned the people out of house and home. He loved them all, and called for us to love them as well. He did not call for us to cut funding, to be stingy with our charity, or to pass judgment on the secular world. He called for us to give, to forgive, to accept, and to love. This does not fit into the modern American’s practical world. It really does not. Love does not fit into the budget, but it must be given. If you desire to love the widows and the orphans, then give to organizations that are truly helping women across the country. If you desire to love the people of the nations, then give to organizations helping refugees resettle themselves in a foreign land, and open your doors for more. If you desire to love the poor and the oppressed then be an advocate for standardized healthcare and socialized education – yes be an advocate for people with more money paying more taxes so people with less money can have a better life. Listen to Hamilton and decide what you’re willing to both stand and fall for.

Now, people may have backlash to this post. They may be able to talk about the economy and the essence of the working American, all the practical reasons explaining why the liberal platform is not feasible but I do not care right now. Because the moment we choose to put wealth and security above compassion is the moment we choose to forsake our humanity. And I, while I am on this earth, will choose love and humanity, until the day I am called home.

 

Colossians 3:14-15 “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

On Breaking Ties and One Sided Good Byes

They say it takes the human mind six weeks to adapt to a new habit. Supposedly, after six weeks of waking up at 5:45 and running two miles, your mind should automatically prepare itself for that seventh week. There should be no more early-morning struggle against your own will. It should be natural, normal, a new part of your daily routine. But if your mind is weak, just once, if your fingers follow nasty habits and hit snooze one morning, and your eyes stay closed until 8, your new routine is devastated. The six weeks has to begin again. You can’t have a remote lingering shadow of your old ways in order to move forward. You can’t live side by side with your past and try to make a future.

Earlier this week I was searching through emails to find information on Angola. In a blur of looking through emails from years ago I stumbled across some from an old boyfriend. Intrigued, and hoping to find something amusing, I opened the most recent exchanges we had shared. I should have known better. I should have reached deep into my memories and pulled out the heart grating emotions these emails had created, then I would have had the sense to close the computer and move on with my present life. But I am not that wise.

His words, typed neatly across the screen so many years ago still stung.

“You’re too emotional.”

“You and I have nothing in common”

“You’re too different.”

Three opinions from one eighteen-year old. Three phrases burned into my mind. Over the years as scar tissue grew over the wounds my mind became calloused. It had accepted those sentences as truth, they had become an integral part of my mind’s being, leaving no room for new thoughts. Funnily enough, I can recall saying these exact words to every man I dated in university.

“I’m too emotional.”

“We have nothing in common”

“I’m too different”

Many of them brushed those words aside and said something along the lines of “I’ll overcome that, don’t worry.” They made it into a chivalrous opportunity, as if they knew those things to be true of me, but they wanted to be the brave man to look past them and succeed. My husband, on the other hand, simply shook his head –

“Yes you’re emotional, your heart for people is what I love most.” “yeah we don’t have a lot in common, but we love the Lord, and we have a desire to serve Him. That’s enough.” “Yes, you’re different from anyone I’ve ever met, and I hope I get to spend the rest of my life learning all your differences.”

These were truths that should have performed that figurative plastic surgery in my mind. His honest, good words should have extracted the hold the lies had in me. And for a few weeks, I thought they had. I thought the surgery had been successful, that recovery was going better than expected, that my mind and heart were healing splendidly – they were already up and loving again! But, alas, no. Lies, past ties, truths that have evolved without us realizing, are toxic. They grip onto cells, they infest the mind and await, dormant, until a flash of words on a screen, or a memory, or a smell, or the finding of an old yearbook, evokes them into action. Then they proliferate, attacking each cell they can sink their virus teeth into, they travel through vessels and make themselves known through tears, sleepless nights, and silent days. They infect and metastasize when you thought they were eradicated.

It takes so much more than an overlay of current truths to eliminate the damage done by the past. It takes so much more than a few stitches and a band aid to fix a botched lobotomy. And until I realized that, I was walking around like a mental Frankenstein. I wish I could have entered this new life in America, taken six weeks to adjust, and been content. But I didn’t. Besides all the set-backs in life that make adjusting nearly impossible, I was my own detriment. I kept slamming on the snooze button, letting all the un-faced memories sneak their way into my warm covers, tie my hands down, and keep me from running my two miles every day. I let them in for a moment, then shoved them under the bed, allowing them to fester until I was a weak, ideal host for their disease once again. I think this happened because I don’t want to untie myself from my entire past, but I do need to find a balance. I need to be able to say good bye to the bad, and remember the good with an honest perspective – it was good. It was all I knew for a time, but it is over, and life moves on.

So I’m writing today to dismantle that figurative snooze button. I’m writing to put down once and for all my good byes to certain haunting thoughts. I know, however, that someday they may find their way back into my life, but I hope, having written this, I will be a little less susceptible to their infection. And again, I do know that not everything I’m saying a figurative good bye to is bad or hurtful, but it is something that does not fit into this life, something that cripples me from running full force into marriage, into nursing, into Jackson, TN and all that may come after this. So, to begin six weeks of a new habit, I am breaking ties, and saying good bye to people and places who let me go many years ago.

Good bye to the concrete safe house, the red dirt and sticky floors. Good bye to power outages and late nights listening to gun shots. Good bye to sipping Coca-Cola on Friday nights, good bye to imprints of the window screen on my face, as I eagerly watch for the city light to come on. Good bye to a faithful watch dog, a morning greeter, and an afternoon sleeper. Good bye to homeschooling alone, listening to my sisters cry from loneliness and wishing I was enough company. Good bye to long aeroport lines and never understanding the stress of a visa, but always knowing I can never lose my passport. Good bye, a childhood Iona, playing safely in Angola.

Good bye to being called weak. Good bye to raising my hand in class, and quickly putting it back down, afraid of being wrong, or worse, of someone disagreeing. Good bye to spending lunches in my dorm room, watching baboons and birds play in the tall tree outside, waiting for the final bell. Good bye to running alone on a hill after field hockey practice, because dinner just has too many people. Good bye to sneaking into counseling on Tuesday mornings, making sure no one sees my flaws. Good bye to being afraid of caring community, because the ones I enjoyed weren’t there, but I had to pretend, because these were the good ones and the house belonged to the dean. Good bye walks to the dukas, lingering freedom in the vegetable market. Good bye to the name calling, the bullying, the terrible confusion. Good bye, to an Iona eating Korean noodles in high school, finding safety in a few friends and a single burnt pot.

Good bye to being afraid of red trucks and empty houses. Good bye to hating Virginia and never wanting to meet another doctor’s son.  Good bye to being the newest one in a new country, to keeping to myself, to not understanding, to hanging out with the wrong people time and time again. Good bye to letting compliments go to my head, and letting insults go to my heart. Good bye to spending summers without my parents, drinking with strangers in several continents, and always going home alone. Good bye to an Iona, writing papers in the library, running through Kroger with once upon a time friends, to an Iona safely making an illusion, just getting through the next four years.

To the friends with whom I didn’t stay in touch, good bye to something that could have been great, but we both know we don’t have the time. To the friends with whom I tried, and tried so hard, good bye. If I was a better person I would keep trying, I would keep writing unopened texts and making unanswered phone calls. But I’m only human, and I’ve reached my capacity for pouring out to people when I’m clearly cut out of their life. I’m sorry for what I may have done, for the choices that led us slowly in different directions, I’m sorry if I wasn’t worth keeping in your life, and I really wish you all the best. Good bye. Good bye to an Iona trying too hard to keep everyone safely happy, when some people will walk out anyways.

Good bye to trying to build a safe world, one where I’ll never be hurt, and hello to facing the real world – one raw and vulnerable and ever changing. Hello to new mornings with my love, hello to new cities on my own, hello to new traditions and memories with ourselves. Hello to living a life free of illusion, one fully dangerous and fully real, a life I really could get used to.