There are no Magic Words

What can be so frustrating about grief is the mutual powerlessness of it. I am in pain and want a fix, something that will ease it. You too care about me and want to give some abatement. You come to me with words or actions hoping they’re sufficient knowing they’re not. I wait hoping without reason, knowing they will be insufficient. Then bitterness seeps in.

How could you not know?

How could you not have the magic words to make it go away?

Do you even care if you can’t fix this?

And if I ignore that you’re wildly ill prepared and yet still attempting to help, I will only see the shortcoming. Within you, and further within me.

That’s the trouble with grief because I’m looking to you to give some simple or any kind of quick end to this pain, to lift the burden. What’s worse is when you come offering to help carry it for a while I push you away knowing you can’t help me carry it forever, you’ll have to release it at some point to hold your own.

By that time I will be the one insufficient in helping you, and you have to endure a different pain I will never know fully.

Magic words.

Magic actions.

Shortcuts.

Growing up there was this car game? Song? Chant? We used to do on trips.

“Going on a lion hunt, I ain’t scared…” it can vary which kind of hunt, but the grit is the same. You’re not scared (only time I was allowed to say ain’t) because you’re prepared. You come to various obstacles, a gate, a fence, a wood, a pond, and what you discover most frequently is that you can’t go around, can’t go under it, can’t go over it, but you’ve got to go through it.

Got to go through it.

And it’s wonderful when you have someone with you, helping you carry that burden, asking questions, but they cannot endure the grief for you. It is still your own.

Some days it’s light and airy, and some days it feels like a 50 ton truck.

So I’ve got to learn to let you off the hook. Allow the help you give be sufficient even when it doesn’t feel like it, so that when you need me to help you carry yours you’ll know I’m not capable to fix it or carry it for you, but perhaps just hold you up for a minute.

Hi, I’m not one of “those” White People

I’m tired, my head hurts, and I just feel heavy.

…if you’d rather save your energy for listening to the voices from the people of color, I totally understand, this is probably where you should stop reading.

This isn’t supposed to be my time to talk, but I’m confused and frustrated so I will just write out all my thoughts and thinking. You might get mad at me at some point in this, if you get further than this point, but c’est la vie, am I right?

See that’s my problem though, I am so afraid to say something unless I feel so completely strong that what I have to say is right, or correct, or good, or something worth while that I don’t say anything until I have thought everything through, but sometimes I can’t think it through and when I talk to people about it sometimes they will reassure me in ways that can be helpful but I don’t know if I get anywhere in my thinking.

A black man was murdered and I am a racist.

No, that’s not right.

A suspect was detained and excessive force was used and I am not a racist, I’m an intellectual.

No, that’s not right.

A black man was murdered by an aggressive cop but not all cops are bad.

Well, can you say a cop is good if he or she protects the offender?

Okay, so cops need to be put in check and our country is still racist, but I’m not like them.

I’m not like a regular white, I’m like a cool white, like a woke white because I am ashamed of my whiteness. No, not ashamed just aware of the history of oppression with which my ancestors plagued this world.

See that’s just my problem I keep making this discussion about me when it should be about those who are suffering and angry. Those victimized by systemic issues.

Systemic issues. What are systemic issues? Hiring practices? Admissions allowances? Education disparity? Economic disparity?

I am getting away from my point.

I am tired of hearing the news that people of color are being murdered at the hands of white people.

Period.

Yes people of all backgrounds kill other people of similar or different backgrounds. What’s typically different in these cases is the point of power the killer stands from and whether they are subject to true justice.

What is justice?

When you do something and you receive the consequence of your actions for good or bad. Decided by some people or hirer ruling authority.

In the US we founded our country on the belief that those who rule should also be held accountable to the same justice that the general population is beholden to. Well, unless you don’t count as a person, but we’ve moved on from that, right?

I don’t know.

Growing up I was taught that racism was a thing of the past. That it no longer existed in our world because “sooo long ago” the civil rights movement happened and now everyone in the world knows it’s wrong to judge a person based on skin color alone. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was realized! Huzzah!

My first encounter with prejudice that I remember is something strange. A kid said I wouldn’t understand something (I don’t even remember what) because I was rich. I got so angry at something that wasn’t even detrimental to my life. The assumption that I had wealth. But it made me angry anyway, I somehow had this association that I didn’t like wealthy people, that they were bad and didn’t have real problems.

I then remember being told I had it easy because white parents don’t hit their kids, I just remember thinking my parents must have missed that memo. My grandparents and my parents had disciplined me with physical action.

Anyway, I say this to say, one of my biggest hurdles in attempting to be more “woke” is running up against this wall of people placing expectations on me, or judgments on me labeling me as a white wealthy racist. I learned from some of my peers that to be white was to be racist. To be white was to have money. To be white was to have privilege. I didn’t associate with any of that, although to a degree I now understand the third one a little more.

I think it’s hard when you try to discuss something with someone and when you disagree, you’re told you’re a racist.

But I can’t imagine how much harder it must be to be gaslit and told, “you’re just being sensitive, it’s not that big of a deal”.

Statistics can say so many things, or rather can be told to say so many things. “More white people are killed by cops.” “Based on population the likelihood that a black man is killed is much higher”

What is more telling to me is the experiences that are shared, those moments when you’re listening to a conversation and you hear, “Ah, yeah that happened to me, too” and there is this nodding that happens when people sharing a similar experience are commiserating over those aggravating moments.

Honestly I don’t how to interpret the statistics, because there are so many factors at play, but at the end of the day I cannot ignore the amount of people who have said, “oh yeah, that’s happened to me” or even those moments I have witnessed myself.

See fortunately or unfortunately it really is your experience that will shape your world view. If all of your experience with people who look a certain way is similar you begin to create a greater image in your head. If every police officer you interact with is kind and respectful, then sure it will be hard to break that image. When every experience you have with an officer is based on aggression and power, that will be your impression of them. Realistically it’s a whole lot of mixed up nuance.

So, then if everything is based on perspective why are the words systemic racism used? “Maybe it’s nothing to do with race, more to do with you taking it personal”. This is when we should take a moment at look at our history books again, when I think about how excited I was in school to hear that schools are forever integrated, Ruby Bridges faced adversity and now we all can go to school in harmony.

When I moved to Bushwick (more on the topic of young white male moving to a mostly brown and black neighborhood later) the school across from me was all children of color. Why? As I began to look more into it I discovered unfortunately super late in life, that a lot of schools are still “ghettoized”, that is to say lower income communities (who tend to be people of color) go to schools in their neighborhood who eat publicly funded by the government based on local income levels. So if you live in a poor neighborhood, you go to a poor school, the school has less money for programs and education tools, so that the students face a harder time pursuing higher education. The system goes on into college level potentials and the workplace.

I digress.

Yes, I do actually believe at the end of the day it is up to an individual to make something of their life, to choose to fight against whatever adversity life throws at them to succeed.

But if you were fighting all your life an uphill battle, or even if you decided not to fight all the time, settle a little bit like other peers who have an easier time, you’d be tired of seeing the inequality.

Life isn’t fair. I know that, but if I have in my power the ability to bring a little more fairness, wouldn’t I want to try?

But, what can one man do?

He can do everything he is told to do.

He can read all the books he’s told to read and support all the people that he’s told to support and just do it because justice.

No.

This is where I might lose you if you’ve been with me up until now, but please bear with me a second. I don’t even know if I know you but I care about justice and fairness and you and I want you to hear me out for a second. I don’t quite understand if you want to just shut me out after this, but I will respect your choice.

I believe Black Lives Matter.

I don’t necessarily believe all the other political entanglements that go along with it.

I think there comes a time (and it sounds well and lofty coming from privilege I know) but I think we need to work together as peoples of different backgrounds to find forgiveness and walk with each other.

I can do my best for my own life, but I don’t think I can be held accountable for all the sins of the past. I have my own story within my heritage of oppression and violence, I am a descendent of colonization in a much different setting (it doesn’t justify oppression now).

I am heartbroken at every unjust death, but I will not always rage. If you know me well, I am not reactive. My anger usually runs cold and quiet. I am sorry if that isn’t good enough.

There are other fringe beliefs that can get entangled with this movement that I don’t support. Socialism can get wrapped up in this as a solution to disentangle the school to prison pipeline, I don’t agree. Historically socialism fails in many settings of various culture. And as a country we are so wide and diverse in people and topography that I don’t think it will work here.

I know that it is well intentioned, but hearing, “You’re one of the good ones (whites)” to me is reminiscent of micro aggressive language to people of different culture who code switch to “public white spaces” and are told by white people, “You’re one of the good ones” Neither one is justified.

When people riot my first response feels like that of an elementary school teach (or probably my mom), “throwing a temper tantrum will not solve your problems”. While I believe that is generally true, sometimes people get to their breaking point. Dr. King (the man white folk like to quote to stem aggression) pointed out that riots don’t come out of thin air, they are the culmination of people perpetually silenced. Sometimes rioting is misguided. But if we can support the individual right to go get a hair cut we should at least pay attention to injustice and murder.

Now, why should you even care what this white man has to say? You don’t. Because I know there are many white men (including myself at times) who have done the foolish thing of speaking over or for you. This isn’t my attempt to tell anyone to do anything. Really this is a personal blog, just airing out my own thoughts.

I struggle writing this because it gets complicated because like I said I believe Black Lives Matter, but sometimes doing so makes it seem like I agree with everything that is part of the movement.

I struggle with not writing anything because I don’t want to be part of the silent “unjust on the side of oppression”.

I struggle with writing this because it shouldn’t be my platform to speak on.

I struggle with not writing this because it helps me organize my thoughts and feelings and I am afraid that people will not feel supported or loved by me.

I struggle with writing this because am I just trying to sound clever and cool and want people to give me props or tell me I am woke and on the “right”side.

At the end of the day I know this: we have broken systems in this country because people are foolish and selfish and if we want true justice we need to recognize our issues and dismantle some long held traditions. Black lives matter and they are worth me sounding foolish or potentially being perceived as racist from people of color as I share my feelings on the matter.

I can’t believe they are not thinking of my needs right now!

“I can’t believe you actually believe that!”

“Don’t you know this is just going to ramp up again? Or don’t you care about anyone beside yourself?”

“Look at the long term affects of this, I think this will have some worse after affects”

“Not everyone has that luxury”

“Can’t you see how this is disproportionately affecting those of a lower economic class, especially people of color?”

“Wow, you think it’s okay to do this, but not that? How does that make any sense”

Here’s my personal, unasked for, but freely given hot-take on all of this anxiety inducing, rage bubbling, rhetoric.

People are generally trying their best and are not intentionally malicious.

Since this pandemic began in the US almost three months ago, emotions have become strained. There is a lot of confusion and fear. People’s normal way of living has been in a large way thrown out of rhythm. Life stopped for some and for others became chaotic overwork load. One of the most difficult aspects about this entire scenario is that no one knew what would happen and everyone was making their best attempts to find the right way to handle this unknown situation.

No one was prepared.

You can have all the data, all the information, run all the simulations you want and still not be exactly prepared. We were concerned with making sure the spread was kept to a minimum. How do you know well enough that the curve has flattened sufficiently? There are many people with the exact same credentials giving contrasting results. That’s normal when there are so many unknowns.

But how do we know what to do then?

We don’t, but you know what’s a relief and should be freeing? No one knows, so that means everyone is in the same place trying their best to figure out how to handle this as best as possible.

Recently I’ve felt overwhelmed with this anxiety that others are having about what to with moving “forward”. There are people I know that are jobless and don’t know where to turn next. There are people with jobs terrified to return to work and put themselves (and their loved ones) in a vulnerable place). People I know leaving for “safer places” and people who wish they could but have no where else to go. And everyone is reacting to their unique circumstances in a way that is completely understandable.

The discussions about whether we overreacted or we still are not reacting strong enough are important to have, how else will we learn (even if we still don’t know which one is true). The concern whether the government is overstepping or being too lax is also an important conversation. The obvious discrepancy between protestors and racial bias is an important conversation to have. The discussion over body autonomy is an important discussion to have.

Taking a step back when you see people are acting in ways that appear to be contradictory to former statements it’s important to note, people will always argue in favor of their bias. It’s human nature.

Black Lives Matter protestors frustrated over the egregious unfortunate visualization of white armed protestors is understandable, but I wonder is the question whether they should be allowed to protest or whether what their protesting about of significance to you? The same goes for those who say that if “people just did what the police asked” rage at the injustice of being told what to do, I wonder is the discussion about whether you think compliance is the answer only if you agree with the law?

Pro-life people who say it’s a personal right to put themselves at risk, do you think the same goes for those who say the same in regards to pregnancy. The argument goes that it’s not just one life but two in terms of pregnancy, does not the same logic apply to those who could be harming others with their own “personal risk assessments”. And those who would say it’s a personal choice, how can you not see the argument here as well.

All I am saying is I wonder if we looked more honestly at our motives will we begin to understand others better. We justify our stances with our personal beliefs. Absolutely that makes sense, but if we are to use logic without hypocrisy we must look a little deeper, and I think that’s fine. That’s the point. What are you really upset about? Is it the law? Is it other people’s actions? Or rather is it a sense of personal justices that has been affronted? Someone else is getting away with something that you have been expected to adjust for? And it’s not fair?

Many American Christians are using the argument that if grocery stores and liquor stores can handle being open than so should they, ignoring that there are still capacity minimums in grocery stores and liquor stores, not to mention you don’t regularly sit inside a grocery store over an hour singing and talking to a lot of people. There’s a perception of being “attacked” when in other countries meeting in small groups of 10, hiding from the government is the norm and they’re not fined for breaking the law, in many cases they’re imprisoned or killed.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t meet up, but what is the church really?

The church is a group of people worshipping together and sharing life. And that is very difficult to do alone. That’s the real hardship.

Loneliness.

And a lot of people are experiencing it, and fighting against it. There is sadness. Places of worship are spaces where people can gather and curb the edging loneliness, the hopelessness of life. Let’s be honest here, the reason we want to gather as a church is because we want hope, we want love. And that’s an okay thing to want.

That is probably also why the “Karens” want their hair salons and coffee shops open. People are despairing and they need human connection to feel comfort.

All that being said, perhaps we can do better at figuring ways to do that in a smart and safe way.

I’ll be the first to admit, I loved having people “break quarantine” for me when my mom died. Some friends invited me over to be at their house for dinner and dessert. Other friends came by my apartment for dinner and quality time. So I am grateful.

After my mom died, I “broke” the rules and flew to my dad’s place in Oregon and we moved him out. Drove down to California and stayed with my sister a while. I lied to the grocery store clerk when she checked my NY ID and about had a heart attack that I was out in the world. I said I had been out of NY for over two weeks when it had only been twelve days. I knew I had been careful, but instead of explaining all my precautions I just lied to make her feel more at ease. Do I regret it, no. Get mad at me for being irresponsible.

From California we drove through Arizona and New Mexico to Texas, where my grandparents live and where my dad would live. Each state had slightly varied requirements but all were trying to do their best with social distancing and cleaning. Being from NY I can tell you first hand that the risk was much lower in those wide open spaces. Why should people who live in densely populated areas tell people who don’t how to stay safe? Why should people who live in low risk environments tell those who live and work in high risk areas when they should reopen?

Your friend living in a large four bedroom home telling you to reopen the economy doesn’t understand what it’s like to live in a two bedroom in a building with over a hundred people. Your son’s friend or your niece living in a tight metropolis cannot understand that the closest you’ve been to a person in weeks is at the drive through.

People who have invested all their life savings into a company will have different fears than those who haven’t. I understand first hand what it is to work food service and how frustrating it is to have someone who has never been behind a register tell you how to do your job or why you should be grateful for work, but I have never had to take out multiple loans to get a business afloat, tied all my worth to a business.

What am I driving at?

If we all begin to understand that the rhetoric is not the real fear we can begin to have real conversations.

We make funny memes about extroverts struggling, but seriously in the same way introverts don’t want to be shamed for leaving an event needing to protect their mental health, how do we help people who are emotionally starving right now? Do we just say, “get over it?”

When people talk about “restarting the economy” to they talk about the long term concern for human life not having resources? How long can a government sustain this? For the frontline workers in “essential business” when they speak about their anxiety do we listen or just say, “be grateful you have work”.

It’s complicated and messy, but perhaps if we start with, “I’m afraid” or “I’m feeling…” maybe we can begin to work through this.

Life is scary and dangerous, and I think because we in the US have had “generally” an easy time this is a reminder that life is risky and scary, but overcoming is what makes life worth it.

The people who want to be with others again aren’t intentionally trying to hurt others, they’re scared and lonely. The people who want to not rush out the door are not intentionally trying to hurt others, they’re scared and cautious.

Using false logic, listening to pundits who benefit from chaos, passing on click-bait videos will continue to divide and hurt one another.

I’ll finish with a story. [TW: Suicide]

Yesterday, on my (social distant) run I noticed a lot of helicopters and boats near Brooklyn Bridge. Continuing on the path I ran through probably the densest grouping of people I’ve seen in a while all looking up. There was a man standing on the top of one of the major braces for the bridge and police officers visibly talking to him. I kept running. I have in the past had the misfortune of walking towards a building as someone jumped off and had no desire to experience that again.

Why do we stop? Why do the cameras start aiming up? What were they waiting for? I am hoping most were wishing to see a successful rescue, but in any case there was money to be gained with photos sold to the news and media outlets. Why? Because news and media make a profit off of salacious images, images that we can’t help be curious enough to look at, to click on.

Wouldn’t it make sense if the same were true regarding this pandemic. There is profit to be gained with news, with click bait, with quipped titles that help form or ratify personal bias. There is little money to be gained from the stories of unity and health.

You will hardly ever see articles that don’t fan the flame of contention.

I’ll end my rant here, please, please understand. That person that you disagree with is scared, too and like you doing what they think best in their situation.

Joy in the time of Grief

Joy. What a joke, am I right?

At the beginning of 2020 I did what many in the Western Church do at the start of the year, I prayed for a word. A word so full of depth that it would define my year. A word to focus my energy on in my prayer time, a word full of meaning that would flavor all of the moments of the year.

Honestly I have no idea where this concept for a word for the year started. It probably comes from those psuedo-Christian manifesting your energy into the universe. Realistically it is a psychological trigger for you to intentionally find patterns and meaning into the daily, normal stuff. I don’t have a problem with it, I think it can be a good way to bring focus. As a Christian it can only be a good thing to focus on the good qualities of faith life right? Look at the fruits of the spirit?

We should just focus on spending time with the Holy Spirit and allow Him to develop fruit in our lives, but hey, it’s helpful to have some practical tools and lenses.

Anyway, so the idea is you ideally spend some time in prayer asking for a word from the Holy Spirit. The word will be a special focus for the year. Some people fast while they do this to zero in the focus on the prayer time. I intended to fast this year for a week and pray asking for my word for the year. In my time of prayer where I was telling God my extra special sanctified plan He replied I didn’t need to do that to hear Him and He had my word for me.

Joy.

Joy is going to be the word that defines 2020.

To be honest my heart fell. Perhaps this is pessimistic, or perhaps cynicism, not quite sure how to describe why my thoughts turned dark. Perhaps because I know that most of the time these fruits of the spirit grow in adversity. One of the overused jokes in church growing up was be careful what you pray for, if you pray for patience God will give you a lot of opportunity to develop that character attribute.

So joy.

My first thought was, “I wonder if this means this is the year mom will finally pass away”. I put away that thought and said, perhaps this will actually not turn out so negative, maybe I’ll get a promotion, or a girlfriend, or maybe I’ll just find joy in the simple things of my life.

Then the world turned upside down. Fear and anxiety, slowly at first and then all of the sudden, spilled out over everything. People lost so much. I was able to maintain my job, so I was grateful and just saw it as a “free vacation”, a time to work on some good habits, do a puzzle. I could find joy in spite of this, I could be happy.

“Your mom isn’t doing well” has been a common phrase with my family for a while now, but for some reason it hit different this time.

“She hasn’t eaten in days”

“She’s not really responsive”

“The nurse wanted me to tell you to think about flying out”

That Thursday night after dad had mentioned flying out to be with her I went to my church to help film for Sunday’s worship set and just really cried out to God, in so much pain.

Why now?

Realistically my mom had been sick for a very long time, so why in the middle of a Pandemic should this happen.

“CDC recommends that no one fly out of New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut unless it’s essential”

To be very candid that Thursday night was full of anguish. I couldn’t fall asleep. I began to truly understand the phrase, “Cry out to God”. There was a lot of frustration, confusion and anger. And also there was peace. Unless you have experienced this, it will be very hard to understand but God spoke to me. Not in the booming voice of television, but in the quiet stillness that comes after a storm.

“She’s coming home tomorrow morning. She will finally be with her parents again. Her grandmother. She’s been missing her mother for a long time, too. I’ll be taking her at 7”

You may think I’m crazy, but that’s fine.

Friday morning March 27th my mom died around 7.

I woke up early and made breakfast, meandered around my apartment and looked up sheet music to the old Sunday School Song, “Rise & Shine”. It was a favorite of my mom’s to wake us all up. She would roam around the house, swing our doors wide belting,

“Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory”

Over and over the same refrain.

It was about the same time I started playing that my mom rose and began shining with God, giving Him the glory.

Grief is strange. I find myself saying this to people a lot lately. It is the best way to describe it. It’s like waves on the ocean, sometimes its a sweet up and down and then at times you get pulled into the undertow, not knowing which way is up.

My problem is that I keep trying to figure out the “right way” to grieve. Should I be weeping? Should I cry for a little bit and then put on a brave face. What happens if tears don’t come? What happens if they don’t stop. And why do I keep getting stupid Mother’s Day ads? What happens if I go an entire day and not think about her? What happens if I can’t stop? If I can just do this the right way then I can contain it, understand it, label it, categorize it. Then I can focus.

Where is the joy in all this?

Is it hiding in the corner? Is it in a funny memory of my mom? Is it giggle fits with my sister? Is it knowing that mom is in a better place? That I’ll see her again?

I’ve been told that joy isn’t the same thing as happiness. Happiness is circumstantial.

“The joy of the Lord is my strength”

Nehemiah 8

What is the context for this Christian phrase we embroider on so many throw pillows and pieces of wall art. Where do we get this phrase we like to post in flowery writing on our social media websites?

“Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink the sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’”

Nehemiah 8:10

So why do these Israelites need to be told to not be grieved and told to celebrate?

They as a people had been displaced. A neighboring warring country had come in and overtaken them. The Babylonians had removed them from their land. Nehemiah was a politician who requested to take an envoy of fellow Israelites to rebuild the walls of their former capitol in Jerusalem. They had begun the work and Nehemiah was about to read from the Law. The Israelites were grieved to hear their crimes against God because it was their crimes that they were subjected to the Babylonians in the first place.

God’s response was to tell them to stop grieving and rejoice.

So what does this have to do with my grief?

Mom didn’t die because of my sin or her sin.

Maybe nothing, but maybe the principle is the same?

Too often we like to take little pieces of scripture out of context and we are reassured because the words are nice, but grief is too heavy. But how am I to be reassured, how am I to find joy in the midst of this pain? Maybe I’m not.

Bear with me here, for a moment.

Jesus grieved and it was good. We are told that He even grieved when He knew that there would be a happy ending. He knew He was to bring Lazarus back to life and yet He still wept for His friend with His friends, the sisters of Lazarus. Jesus knew He would be victorious over death and bring redemption and yet He still wept with so much anguish He bled in His sweat.

So where is the joy?

I’ve been writing from the standpoint that I’ve had for a long time and I think that a lot of people have, especially in America, especially in American victory Christianity. The same culture that tells you that your deceased family is in a better place, that she’s no longer hurting, the culture that says where there is grief there is no joy, that they cannot exist in the same space. The same culture that hinted that grief is a bad thing instead of saying it is the response to the broken thing.

Almost four years ago a good friend of mine passed away and while at her funeral her aunt said something so profound to me about grief. “You all are speaking about where my girl is and I am glad that you are consoled about her well-being, but she’s gone, she’s not here, she’s mine and I don’t have her anymore”

And in one of my favorite movies that I find almost too difficult to watch, a young Peter Llewelyn asks of J.M. Barrie, “It’s just I thought she’d always be here….But why did she have to die?”

I honestly don’t quite know where I’m going with this or what I am trying to say, other than I don’t think joy and grief are mutually exclusive. The joy of the Lord is my strength but I miss my mom and I think that’s okay. I think the joy is that the story isn’t over. We’re in the really hard part now but I hold onto the hope of joy in the future.

I can have joy in this moment in my memories of my mom and also in the knowledge that I will see her again. I am joyful now because I know I will have joy again and yet I also can grieve now because some part of joy is lost temporarily.

The hope of Christ, what makes Him different, is that He grieves with us and celebrates with us. He never promised life without difficulty, He promised that He would be there in the valleys. At times I have wondered, what’s the point if I follow Jesus and I still suffer? Perhaps because there is a purpose in the sadness or at least a relief in the big picture knowledge and that joy is much richer because there is eternity out there in the making.

I think this also applies to this season our planet is in collectively. Jewish law mandated every 50 years a break, a year where the land could rest, the people would rest, debts would be amended, etc. While I know a lot of essential workers are still out there in the thick of it, the world at large is still in repose. A pause. They called this year jubilee. Joy. Now these Hebrew words were different, but the understanding that jubilee was release, was exultation. Joy is exultation. A victory.

I grieve and some days it feels like I’m smothered, but there is victory and there will be victory. I am not going to diminish my grief but I will hold onto joy, even as I try to figure out how.

a daffodil

I stole a daffodil today. Not from the grocery store or florist. One of those ones from the planters you’re not supposed to take. In fact I think there may even be a fine for it, but I’m not worried about it. Totally worth it. I think I needed it more than the small patch of dirt next to the running path underneath the FDR.

You see daffodils always remind me of you. I can’t say why. I don’t even know what her favorite flower was, but daffodils remind me of her. Perhaps it’s that memory of going to the daffodil parade growing up. We’d get up, make egg salad sandwiches, pack the cooler and head to the parade hoping it wouldn’t rain. It was going to be cloudy at some point but hopefully we at least wouldn’t get wet.

There are a lot of things that remind me of you and there’s a bitter-sweetness to it all. Everyone always makes fun of me for liking Peeps. There’s honestly not a lot of flavor there, but you liked them and so did I. Almond Roca too for some reason. Cooking anything to be honest. Math problems.

What’s frustrating is that walkers and wheelchairs remind me of you. And then I start wishing that we didn’t have to watch you slowly decline for nearly two decades.

You know it’s not fair.

Not in the simple sense. I mean, life isn’t fair.

That was one of your favorite responses to our complaints. “Life isn’t fair, and then you die”

And you were right, life wasn’t fair to you and then you died.

It’s not fair, because I, no we, have had to grieve for so long and then still this weight comes tumbling at as when your suffering finally ends.

I thought that I would be so practiced in grieving I would be prepared. After all, I’ve been losing my mom slowly for most of my life.

My first grief was probably the first Thanksgiving when you got overheated and so we had to finish cooking. Then when you couldn’t drive anymore. Then you had to quit your job. You made the best of it, but still. You could no longer ride your favorite rides at Disneyland. Flying became impossible.

Then I moved across the country.

I grieved again because, except for a few, no one in my life past 19 years old has ever met my mom. They only knew me and that I had a sick mom back home.

And that’s another thing, it’s probably an awful thing to feel but I feel it, and it’s mine, but we were now the family with the sick mom.

“How’s your mom?”

She’s slowly losing all her faculties. She uses a walker. She needs a wheelchair. She can’t move one side. She can’t move. She can’t talk.

“Fine, carrying on”

These slow, building griefs like weights, mounting on top of you.

I’ve done my best to bear it. Sometimes avoiding it. Thinking that if I don’t think about it, the problem will go away. But it doesn’t and it keeps interrupting your life, so you learn to carry it.

So why then is it so hard now that she’s finally free. Now that’s she’s completely gone from this earth.

Why does it feel like the weight multiplied exponentially?

Perhaps this is how it always is and I am actually better prepared and just don’t know it, but for a lot of today, it’s felt unbearable.

There have been moments, brief respite. I checked out for forty-five minutes for an interview. I spent time with some wonderful people just sitting, eating sandwiches overlooking a pier. The weight isn’t gone, it just feels lighter somehow, I suppose it’s the support. The people around me, loving me. Asking how I am doing. In a time of social distancing I don’t feel alone.

That’s another thing. Why now?

Why? When it could’ve been anytime in the past five years honestly was it now?

I promised myself when this social distancing, the self-quarantining, began that I would use my limited social media platform to encourage people in this time of difficulty. But I don’t want to today, I honestly don’t feel up to it.

I begin to wonder how it is, that I can write my feelings out so expressly, but when someone asks me how I’m feeling, I don’t know what to say. I am feeling everything and nothing at the same time. My feeling is complex. My mom has been dying from a disease for a long time. She’s finally free. She doesn’t suffer anymore, but she will certainly not be at my wedding. She will never meet her grandchildren.

Writing out my feelings on a platform like this makes it easier to process, I think. I can focus on the syntax. Is the grammar correct? I look for sentences that end in prepositions I think of. And attempt to correct them with the flow. The cadence. But the true reason I think for me that I write and share with possibly dozens of people what I struggle to say to those sitting next to me?

Meaning.

If I can write, create something from my feelings it gives meaning to the feeling. Isn’t that what we all crave? A reason for why we suffer. Why is there pain?

Because….

I know there is meaning in my feeling, and sometimes even if I don’t encourage or inspire someone with some lesson from it, but it makes me feel as if the pain was worth it.

Today I came across a new “to me” song which takes Psalm 30 and turns it to song. The song is called “Graves into Gardens” by Elevation Worship, but I’ll give you a sneak peak at some of the lyrics:

You turn my mourning into dancing
You give beauty for ashes
.
.
You turn grave into garden

I know that God is sovereign. I know He is good. I know He is with me. I know He is surrounding me. I know He will make this grave into a garden.

And I know that my mom is running and dancing with Jesus

But right now, and probably a lot at different moments for the rest of my life I feel like I’m sitting in ashes.

and you know what? I stole a daffodil today.

Lessons in Grief

Life has stopped. Life as you know it has stopped. You dońt know what´s happened. What´s happening tomorrow? It doesn’t matter. Well, it does, but not really because who knows when life will be back to normal?

What is normal?

This can’t be forever. But what are the long term ramifications? What´s the fallout?

There are too many questions when your world comes screeching to a halt. When the world comes screeching to a halt.

That´s the problem though anyway, isńt it? We’re so used to the business of life. The regular cadence of it all. Wake up. Work. Gym (I’ll go tomorrow). Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Fill in the blanks with your day. We’re so set to this metronome of life. Even those of us in faith communities. We have our rhythms. Services, mid-week meetings, community service, revival conference, marriage conference, youth group. We ask God for purpose but more often than not we expect Him to work within our rhythms. And why not, isn’t that life?

This is obviously a very western perspective.

But that´s what I’m saying. Maybe it is that American dream. My American rights. Life. Liberty. And the pursuit of happiness.

But who says we are guaranteed life?

Who guarantees my liberty?

And why is it my right to pursue happiness anyway?

At birth, when I came into this strange and scary world, who was there to hand me my list of expectations from life? And why do I cling to it tightly?

A month or so after my seventh birthday my parents sat my sister and me down to tell us the most unfair news in the world. We were moving away from all of our family and friends. Did my parents not know that I was supposed be given the pursuit of happiness? It is my life, so who were they to tell me where I was to live? Did they not care about my rights? What was I supposed to get from this?

Honestly nothing. I was a child and they fed me, clothed me, cared for and loved me, so what was I to do without them.

I think though the whole moving episode pales in comparison with the most unfair news of my life, it may be the most unfair news of my life but that remains to be seen.

Mom is sick.

Mom is sick, but it won’t kill her.

Yet.

Or at least directly.

The early part of the disease was invisible. At least to the rest of us. She seemed a little more tired, a little less of her intensity. I don’t think I grasped how bad this disease would be until we went on the Matterhorn as a family at Disneyland.

We got on the ride through the handicap line, the one perk of being with someone at a theme park built before ADA laws, you got to cut almost all the lines. She thought it would be fine, I cańt remember if she was in her wheelchair at this point or still using the walker. For any of you able people who have been on the ride, you know it can be a bit bumpy. Now imagine that roller coaster for a person losing control of her muscles. Up until that point I had never heard my mom sound so terrified.

Honestly I don’t know when I started mourning my mom, my mom as she was, but it’s been building for years, but you know what the hardest part is? Not knowing how long she’ll be around. She made it to both my sister and my undergrad graduations, but she wasn’t able to make my sisters Masters graduation. She (and invariably my father) never visited me while in college in Virginia, nor have they even been on the East Coast in the nine years I’ve lived here. I don’t know if she’ll be around for my wedding, my children, I don’t know what life milestones I was told I deserved or I was owed that she will miss or her disease will somehow affect.

Why am I talking about all this right now?

Every time I think to myself, “Why me? This isn’t fair?” I hear my mother’s chastising voice respond’ “Who ever said life is fair?”

I think my mom had a hard lesson in the unfair aspects of life early on when her mother passed away.

I think right now a lot of people are struggling and hurting because in a big way life is unfair. Mostly through no individuals fault.

We could get in the intricacies of policy and self-regulating but that is for another discussion. Whether we like it or not, life does not look like we expected it to in this moment right now. All the big life moments, weddings, graduations, funerals, proms, look different. How we approached daily life has changed. For some our livelihoods are in the balance and nothing is sure. We don’t know how to plan. How to prepare?

When you have someone with a terminal illness you get anxious at phone calls. News gets you nervous. You’re not sure if you can plan that vacation because, “What if…”

I say this to to evoke sympathy, but to share that I have some experience with anxiously waiting for bad news. Not knowing how to plan for good things in the future without getting swallowed in despair.

You know what makes me feel better?

To know that life isn’t fair.

I never negotiated a contract to have Life. Liberty. And the pursuit of Happiness when I was in that hospital in dreary, wonderful Tacoma, Washington. Life isn’t fair.

I didn’t get to negotiate my personal limitations or my privilege.

In the Bible, in the book of Ecclesiastes, the wise man talks of the vanity of life, how serious we take our work and we feel owed the fruits of our own labor. He looks at the fairy tale story of good guy who does good gets happy ending and balks. Who made that promise?

How is it that every human seems born with this desire for justice? For an even scale when all empirical evidence from this world shows us that is not always the case. Not only are people corrupt and unjust but the world seems unjust. Crops fail. Storms destroy. Disease kills without prejudice.

So why?

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (ESV): He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Eternity on our hearts. It’s almost as if we know inherently that we were created for more, destined for more. This couldn’t be our home. At least not the final one. This has to be some form of anteroom. Some lobby for the real thing.

Why else would I be hardwired to love justice?

But, why do I also love mercy so much?

I think most of the time we only like mercy when we think people deserve it? And how do we determine if people deserve it? Well if they are like me? Or if I can imagine myself in their difficulty situation and know that I might have to break a rule or two to live well.

So, in me, I have a great love for justice, when it comes to people acting “right” towards me. In me I also love mercy when it comes to clemency to acts that I deem rational. How could I be so complex and contrarian? I am eternal, but in some ways temporal because I’m here and there’s immediate needs, but there are also long lasting needs of justice and mercy.

I want the life I thought I deserved as a child. Without hardship. That I would be treated justly but receive mercy when I rationally acted unjustly towards another.

What is this all leading to?

Who it began with.

Jesus.

If you look at history, life is unfair, both personally and impersonally. Life as we knew it is over. Not being melodramatic, being realistic. This pandemic will affect the whole world, we will be different after. It´s unfair. But this isn’t the first pandemic, it’s not even the worst (thus far). No one promised that I would grow up with a healthy mom who would be at every big event, who I could call for cooking tips, who I could ask about girls. No one promised that the world would continue as we expected.

Life isn’t fair.

But why? And why do I care so much?

My soul longs for fairness, for justice, for righteousness.

And yet it seems I am incapable of making that happen. No one seems to be able to, except one.

Jesus.

Jesus said life would not be fair (personal translation of Him saying His followers would suffer much) and He came in the framework of knowing why the world was unfair, why the world seems like it’s lacking something. A long time ago some auspicious people chose to determine justice for themselves, that they could have the knowledge to make that call. Their progeny has been having a rough go at it.

The world revolted. The planet built on the blueprint of justice and fairness and goodness, broke.

The good news is, Jesus came to fix us, to reestablish rightness, justness, righteousness in us and build us the ultimate home, the real thing, that we have always been meant to live. Our destiny.

So, when I think of my mother and learning to deal with the grief that surrounds this I try to be careful not to be self-pitying. I was never promised a mother whole and healthy forever, what I am grateful for is that I had some wonderful memories with her. She instilled so many great things within me, that I carry every day. Even if the things I wanted or expected don’t happen I still had some wonderful times and at the end of the day this is only the waiting room. Eventually I’ll see her in the real place, and there is a promise of fairness, of health there that I am banking on.

When I think of where things are today and I begin to feel sorry for myself that life has been upended and my expectations are broken, I remember that I have already had so many wonderful things in life (in fact, I still have so many great things in my life today) and I wasńt promised those either.

And one day, I will be in a place where there won’t be sickness or death.

Until then,

Ecclesiastes 3:12–13 (ESV): I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

Whatever that looks like.

It’s been a while

It’s been two years. Two years and six months since I have written. Well written a blog post. I’ve written other things, but I’ll get to that. I can’t really tell you why. Why did I stop writing?

The last post I wrote I titled “The Road not Taken”. Robert Frost originated that title, or I can only assume he did for he was the first to publish a work with that title. The Road not Taken. As often as not the premise for the piece was about my decisive indecision. I found myself at a crossroads. The path I chose made sense in a lot of ways and in some didn’t make sense in others. In hindsight, it was the best decision I could’ve made and I wonder if I should regret it at all. Perhaps I’m just glorifying the open nature of my life that felt like it had more opportunity.

More opportunity is kind of glossing over those moments.

My work was paying me well enough but I was coming to the end of my finances. If you go back through my written works there are many times where I talk about how I was out of money and God dame through. Whether through a friend, a random odd job, a check I wasn’t expecting, God was covering my needs, but I had been praying for a job that would cover my financial needs and He did.

Since I took the job (beyond that first trip to Seattle and a moment in Ireland) I haven’t had a moment where I worried about where money was coming from. I have traveled all over the country, lived in Seattle, took a vacation in my dream country of Ireland, and moved twice in Manhattan. And it doesn’t seem to be enough.

Enough.

Why?

Why isn’t it enough? Me. I think there’s a deficit in me.

And before you get all, “No, you are enough, just as you are”. I’d say you’re right and you’re wrong. We are all good as we are yes, and I should love me, and I do. It’s because I love me that I say, there is more for me.

Because I love me I attempt to keep my diet well rounded, I go to the gym regularly, and I am constantly trying to improve and refine my character.

Now in a simple theological statement that reflects that I believe that God loves me because He created me and also because Jesus died for me. Because I have traded my life for the life Jesus offers, that means I am on the road to looking more like Jesus every day. (Maybe that wasn’t so simple). In an offline discussion we can talk a little more about this, but back to enough.

I had a dream. I still have a dream to act, to be on the stage, in front of a camera. I have a dream to write, to produce, to make art happen. And right now my stage is in front of a coffee roaster. It’s amazing but also awful at times.

It’s funny right, because there’s this weird mix of pride where I could say I’m just a paid actor doing the pretend roasting thing but I’m not. I roast coffee and I talk about it. I stand in front of customers and explain the process. Answering questions like, “how does it all work?”, “do you love your job?”, “so it’s actually doing something?”, “why kind of profile do you use”, “why do you burn your beans?”, and my favorite, “where’s the bathroom?”.

There’s some feeling inside that becomes a little jaded.

I have an amazing job, so why am I feeling like I’m missing out?

Two reasons, probably. One, I still have this dream that’s burning inside me, even when it’s so dim it feels like a dying ember, the coals never quite go out. Two, I’m fickle and never content.

The dream. I still believe it can happen. I’ve actually been writing more, I even completed a draft of a play. I’m by no means content with it, but I’ve actually completed a version of it which is a milestone in itself. I’m hoping to start taking improv in the summer when I’ve saved a little more. In the meantime I will continue to work well for my company (eventually I’ll talk more about that).

The second reason, I’m still working on.

The Road Taken by NOT Robert Frost

It’s warm, not quite hot, and it’s humid, but there’s a slight breeze to alleviate the stifled air. The slightly overgrown path snakes downward towards the water, making the city feel more jungle, less concrete. That’s it! I feel less concrete. These Saturdays slumber on slowly as they press me in to learn to stop. Stop making, stop producing, stop demanding, stop doing, and simply be. Sabbath.

I love this city. I love how the old parks make it feel like this place is stuck in between worlds, the grit of reality and the magic of fantasy. Old poets, playwrights, authors, song writers, and movie makers will convince you the same. New York is always ready for adventure. Even on these slow days, anything can happen. You can be anywhere. Anyone. So why do I feel so trapped in me?

My problem? I have the sensibilities of an artist, I want words that wax and wane, describing my days as if they are pages or scenes or stanzas or verses. Even writing these thoughts I am pressured to present them with pomp and circumstance. Each Instagram Post illuminating the pieces of an imaginary existence. I can’t even write a blog without sounding pretentious and indulgent.

I am not imaginary. My life is not fantasy.

I am real.

And sometimes that’s the trouble. There’s no plotted course, there’s no perfect next step. Where is my arc taking me? Am I a flat character in someone else’s narrative? I should get to the point.

I am real.

Carpe diem. Seize the day.

I am responsible for what I do. I am responsible for my decisions. I don’t have a script. I am not a victim of my life. I am responsible. I deal with the repercussions of my actions.

Now, I have a good life. I think there are many decisions I chose right. But how can I know for sure?

If I was the hero of a story I would have a clear course, a path from A to Z. Defeat the monster. Get the girl. But who is she? Does she want to be get? Be gotten? She has her own story. So what if the girl decides she doesn’t want this hero? Does she want the black smith? Is she the hero? Am I even in her story?

See, it’s getting muddy.

There’s no clear cast. I am the hero. I am the mentor. I am the plucky sidekick. I am farmer #2. I am the villain. I am the son. I am the brother. I am the friend. I am the crush. I am the crushed. I am the actor. I am the director. I am the stage hand. I am the barista. I am the grandson. I am the supervisor. I am the coach. I am the coffee roaster. I am the roommate. Who am I in my story?

Who are the others in my story? Who stays? Who is supposed to leave?

Stories are good because they teach us lessons, but the best teacher is experience, it is also the hardest.

You see why it’s easier to cloud my thoughts. Fill the space with activity. With things. With other people’s worries. With work. With watching other’s lives through a 6″ screen. With reading someone else’s story?

 

 

silence

 

 

Can you tell I have a flair for the melodrama?

That’s my problem I suppose. My brain sees everything in technicolor and life is a more subdued hues. I am too scared to make a decision because the consequences.

What if it never happens?

Well what if it does?

And what’s the worst that happens if it doesn’t?

I suppose it is less either/or and more in between or and. And maybe I’m making this bigger than it ought to be and I am so worried about making the wrong decision, I make no decision at all. I don’t live in a fantasy, but what if I forget to even live in reality? I suppose I should get more comfortable in the nebulous.

 

Sometimes I wish God would be more clear about every step I should take instead of trusting me to live the life He’s given me. Then I don’t. How great is that He gives me life to live, messy and rife with possibility, and chooses to direct when needed, but more often than not just walk along.

 

Walking down an overgrown path snaking down towards the water. The path splits. Where should I go?

 

Fasting leads to Tantrums

I am terrible at fasting. I don’t know if there’s a way to be good at it, but I definitely know I fall short of that mark. Every time I embark on a fast I realize I have the emotional maturity of a toddler after missing just one meal. For a while I rationalized why fasting wasn’t needed, after all, I can still pray and talk to God without skipping lunch. Right?

Two weeks ago I was challenged by a pastor (via his Instagram story) to fast one day a week, at least until sundown. He argued that fasting was something that Jesus did, something He tells us to do, and that it brings a focus in on what you’re praying about. Fasting also provides the added character development of foregoing pleasure, of building endurance to wait and be patient.

Knowing this discipline was something I have always struggled with I picked a day, Wednesdays. Well last week I did Thursday, but that is beside the point. I set out to hold off eating until sundown. The day progressed fairly well, I think mostly due to me spending most of the day travelling to New York from Central Pennsylvania and having slept in late. As the day drew on (mind you this was the day after the longest day of the year) I got hungry, and anxious. Last Thursday was the day I met with a potential roommate to see if the place was a right fit and whether I was a good fit for the roommate. I knew I would have a home in the City, I mean I had to, it was just a matter of it being good.

A year ago I began to get restless about where I was living. There was a lot happening and I was just ready to move out and into Manhattan. I started doing prayer walks around the Upper West Side, praying and hoping for some miraculous apartment to open up to me. I knew it would be a longer commute to the Starbucks I was working at, but I was ready to be in a new environment. As is often the case with my prayers the answer came indirectly while answering another prayer. I got a promotion.

My store manager recommended that I apply for a position as a Roaster Operator (technically it’s the machine that’s called a Coffee Roaster, I just tell the machine what to do) for the Reserve Roastery being built in Chelsea. I put it off, disregarding the opportunity. It was a different career path than what I moved to the city for in the first place, well mostly (but more on that later). Plus, I had no coffee roasting knowledge, other than it happened. A few weeks later he announced that He got the role of Operations Supervisor for the Roastery and again strongly recommended that I apply for the position. I am glad he did.

I’ve spent the last eight months learning how to roast coffee in Pennsylvania and Seattle. This opportunity has afforded me the ability for that change I was praying for, albeit not in the way I imagined. As my training drew to a close I began to think more towards housing in New York, where I would live, how I would live. I wanted to live in the Upper West Side in a studio to myself, while my promotion does have a significant pay increase, it is not Upper West Side studio level pay. In Seattle I started to get more anxious looking at different sites for places, I had wonderful friends send me recommendations as well as more sites to peruse. I had a lot to sift through and only two weeks to figure it out.

Moving to New York, even moving in New York, is not something you can plan far in advance. It’s not something you look at six months ahead, not even three months ahead. Most brokers will tell you not to even try looking until you’re within a month of your move in day. The last time I moved to the city I left on a missions trip three weeks before I had to move out not knowing where I was going to be. On that trip I met my former roommates for the first time and made a move in agreement.

Thursday, last week, I began my trek back to the city. I hadn’t eaten breakfast, nor had I eaten lunch. I determined I would meet with the potential roommate and follow it with a meal to break my fast. Life can seem overwhelming when you’re driving through Manhattan, hungry and worried where you’re going to live. I knew I would like this place, I just had this instinct that I would love the neighborhood. And part of me was bummed because I was still slightly hoping for an 11th hour UWS-Studio-apartment-in my-budget miracle, and I knew that I would love the neighborhood and want to give up on the Upper West (technically Washington Heights is just Upper Upper Upper West Side).

Throughout this housing process, I was going through this crisis of faith. Bear with me on this. I was thinking that since I prayed for an apartment in a specific neighborhood (I walked around a five block radius) and this job came miraculously God would provide the optimum apartment and it would be this great moment of glory for Him. I could say, “I prayed for this apartment, and I shouldn’t be able to afford it, but look at what He did”. So I worried that if I settled for anything less, God wouldn’t get as much glory. If I’m being honest, God’s still getting the glory, I’m just getting less, and other people won’t be as jealous of me.

I have this desire to be well liked by everyone and I want people to see that good things are still coming to me. I want people not to think, “Oh he gave up acting because he couldn’t get a part for three years”, but I want them to just be amazed at where my story is going. My vanity is at stake. Not getting the miraculous, unnecessary apartment, is a blow to my pride, not God’s glory. He still answered my prayer, and He got me a place in Manhattan with views of the Hudson and a beautiful bridge.

To be quite honest, the apartment I got is probably more what I want. It’s convenient access to the city, but feels like a slight retreat away, with some breathtaking views. I digress.

By the time I reached the potential apartment, I was hungry and anxious, not a good combo. I loved the neighborhood. I knew I would. And I really liked the apartment. The room looked big enough to house my books, there’s a washer/dryer in unit, there are lots of trees everywhere. It’s amazing. Now I just had to impress the potential roommate. I think we hit it off. Following the tour of the apartment, we went on a tour of the neighborhood, and closed off with something to drink and for me, something to eat.

I was very candid, I told him, I was interested but I would be viewing another place the following day. He responded in kind by telling me he also would be meeting with another potential roommate the next day. We agreed to confer after.

To add a little more chaos, I was driving up to Connecticut the next day to meet with my grandparents and my aunt and uncle. After viewing the awesomely located closet of a room on 80th st, I drove north. I knew I wanted the apartment in Washington Heights, I was just hoping I could eke out the competition.

I did.

In another episode of anxious Manhattan driving I was able to give the security deposit to my new roommate. I have a home.

So, back in Pennsylvania for the week packing and tidying up until I can move in. Today I am fasting. And I say this not as a pat on the back for me, or to show off how spiritual I am, but in reality to recognize how unspiritual I am, and how bad I am at fasting.

I’m hungry and cranky. It seems it has taken little time at all to forget how awesome God is, all He has done for me in dying on the cross and on top of that all He continues to do in my life. I forget these things easily because I haven’t had a sandwich.

You know that feeling when you know you’re being irrational but you can’t stop because it’s consuming your thoughts?

Me either….

But really, what I am learning over and over. God is so good and I am a petulant child that He loves anyway. He is redeeming me, rebuilding me, no matter how long it takes to wait out my temper tantrums. And He’s so patient.

I’m trying to see what’s next. I’m trying to budget better. I am trying to love people better, open up and be vulnerable. I realize over and over again that I am more worried about how people see me than I am. I panic about how people’s perceptions of me might change, and it’s funny because I don’t even know what your perceptions are…

I watched this cooking competition show and one of the contestants always seems to have it together, he makes a delicious and beautiful finished product. On one of the last episodes his dessert fell apart and he didn’t have a back up. He fell apart. One of the other competitors, was shocked and tried to reassure him. The perfectionist chef managed to put it back together. I resonated with the chef because he keeps it cool and collected until something goes wrong and he crumbles.

Fasting reminds me: I am not as cool and collected as I think I am, but God is always there for me.

Swell

Breathe. Take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe.

I’ve been here before, but it’s been a long time. I thought I was done here, done with this; I wasn’t supposed to come back to this.

Breathe.

One little thing doesn’t go your way, well and that other thing which could fall apart. Or that one thing that just consistently seems to fall apart. I’m supposed to be happy. I’m supposed to be grateful. I am grateful and I do feel happy, sometimes. Emotions ebb and flow, I tell other people this all the time.

Why does it seem different when you’re the one to ebb and flow. Waves. The tide rolls out before it rolls in.

Keep your eyes above the waves! I am not supposed to succumb to fear! I have seen so much, experienced so much, I’ve experienced miracles. I’m not supposed to let the waves bother me. I’m not supposed to be a victim of the tide. I am supposed to walk on water. I’m supposed to climb every crest, stride through the swells.

Swell. It’s swell. It is swell. It is well.

It is well.

It will be well.

I’m anxious, but…

it will be well.

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As my training in Pennsylvania draws to a close I begin to search for a new place. I was hoping to find my own place and either I am naive, currently facing a rude awakening, or to be faithful and trust God to find the perfect place. Maybe it’s a mix of both. Please pray for me, that I would have wisdom and faith bigger than a mustard seed.