Perfecting Weakness

It feels good to be small.

This is my main take-away from six months of sabbatical.

Recently I described the year like being lost in the woods .

It felt like I ceased to be myself for a whole year. I ceased to know the things I thought I knew well and stopped connecting with many things that had previously given me joy and life.

It freaked me out to be unsure of everything I used to know. To add another metaphor to the pile, I was drowning.

And kept drowning… 

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The Joy of Grief

It has become somewhat of a tradition to write a blog post on or near my daughter’s “day.” Grief is such a richly varied experience and I have found it to be a kind of beautiful gift. For this reason, there is always something to say beyond the obvious reality that it sucks to have your kid die.

I couldn’t say that I’m glad I lost her, but today and many many other days in the last 7 years I can say that while I lost more than I ever wanted to, I gained many things I didn’t even know I could.

The biggest gain is that I’ve seen God come through for me in a way that I only ever vaguely believed he would before. A week or so after Sarah died, when I realized that I could not grieve in a healthy way, I asked God to take all of it and give back only what is good. While I could recount many occasions in the last 2,555 days that I felt unpleasant emotions; screamed, cried, numbed up, felt sorry for myself, choked on the emptiness, laid in the cold mud of life without her, thought of who she would be now, felt anger at a passing pregnant woman… I have felt all of those emotions and more, but every one of them came at just the time I needed to feel it. Each one helped me heal a little more. Since asking him, God has been utterly faithful to carry all but what I was supposed to walk with in the current moment.

When people find out about Sarah they almost always say, “I don’t know how…” or, “I never could handle…” But of course they’re right and neither could I. Although it might seem weird that feeling pain has been a gift, it’s the way that I have been set free to grieve without guilt or shame, without wallowing or getting stuck too long. I haven’t made this happen, I have only accepted whatever piece came my way….

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My Favorite Ghost

My daughter Sarah is not alive anymore, but sometimes she lives so vividly in my thoughts it’s as though she is alive. But she’s not. It isn’t sad, but it is.

When I’m driving in the car she sits in the back seat and kicks her legs and laughs at something silly I said. Walking down a long hallway, she may skip beside me, she may hold my hand. And sometimes, when I’m sitting in a chair, she gets up into my lap and lays her head on my shoulder for me to pet her hair like I loved to have my mother pet my hair when I was little…

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All Manner of Thing

I am mentally or emotionally uncomfortable about 80% of the time. 10% of the time I’m checked out and the remaining 10% I feel good, happy, joyful. Say what you want about the difference between happiness and joy, I’ll take what I can get. (That’s not entirely true. I do recognize the difference between things that are merely soothing me and feeling a real letting-go kind of peaceful joy.)

I took an online test recently (certainly reputable!) that told me that I’m a “Highly Sensitive Person.”

Good one, Captain Obvious.

The most enlightening/depressing thing I read, as I studied up on this before unbeknownst to me legitimate personality profile was that Highly Sensitive People spend much of their time unhappy because they’re always kind of struggling against an overstimulating world and struggling toward an inner sense of quiet. (An impressively long sentence, if I do say so myself.)

Good luck with that inner sense of quiet I’ve been working on so assiduously…

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Holiday Equilibrium

The Christmas season is upon us. I think I’m finally beginning to reclaim some joy for this season.  It’s amazing what an idyllic childhood of Christmases will do to hinder and taint your attempts to enjoy the holiday as a single adult.

Christmases past are perfect in my memory and all of that had to do with my mom.She was way better than Santa Claus. Most of the year she was pretty stressed with work and taking care of three girls on her own, but at Christmas time she was the Happiest Little Elf version of herself. Her happiness would spill over to her three daughters in a way that caused us to fight less and love more. The weekend after Thanksgiving she would pull out the boxes and the whole house would be transformed. A stack of the best Christmas records would sit on the record player and when they  had played through we would just flip them all over and start again.

As the youngest in the house, I always got up first on Christmas morning. Sometime around age 7 or 8 I crept down the hall before daylight and there in the living room, in the magical glow of the Christmas tree lights, sat a shiny, red bicycle. I knew it was for me. After gaping at it for a few seconds, I slipped into my mom’s room to wake her up. Before I said anything, her sleepy voice came from under covers, “I missed The Face.” Of course she meant the face I made when I saw that glorious bike, so I replayed it for her….

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Caffeinated Rant

This morning in the coffee shop I had this really typical conversation with a young lady. I ordered my usual, a decaf quad Americano. Well, it’s my new usual, really. I had the stomach sick about a month ago and since I wasn’t able to eat, I kicked the caffeine. I figured I might as well keep up that good habit and switched to decaf.
Anyway, so the conversation started with my order and next  came her questions and then my confession that I don’t drink caffeine. She then asked me, with sincere bewilderment, “How do you wake up in the morning?”

In some ways I find this kind of thing delightful because I like to mess with established assumptions about reality, but in other ways I find it disturbing that in so many ways we’re all still in high school.

I’m not making jabs at this young woman because The Need For Coffee is just a symptom of a bigger issue. That issue is our fenced in thinking.

You might be shocked to hear a missionary invite you to be open minded, but that’s just what I’m doing….

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The Ocean Floor

Music is an incredible gift that I don’t entirely understand, but I do embrace.

Just now as I was trying to start this post several different ways, I realized that I often link thoughts with songs in a conceptual way that doesn’t always involve matching words. My last attempt at an “opening” sounded like something banged out on a harmonica in the Appalachian Mountains.

Noting this, I then realized that the whole purpose for sitting down to write a post was because God gave me a cool gift last night through a series of songs and this is what I wanted to share.

Maybe I’m not making sense?

Okay, so this weekend I was sick. Weird sick. A combination of several things that piled up and kept me in bed sleeping for many hours. Monday I was still not well, but I decided that if I couldn’t work, at least I could spend the day with God in a purposeful way. I sat in a cozy armchair for many hours with my journal, a big bottle of water (still sick, remember) and a roll of toilette paper (for my nose). I listened to Rich Mullins, I asked God real questions and waited for his response…

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A New Heart ~ A New Name

Today took me by surprise.

Today I changed my name.

It seems impossible to tell this story without mentioning that I used to be married. The only reason I hesitate to tell that part is because it could cast some troubled shadow over what turned out to be a very joyful occasion- reuniting with my maiden name.

The timing seems a little random since I have been divorced now for over two years and separated for over three. It’s just that there were several factors that needed to be present before I could get my old name back. Time and money were two great factors. Being a missionary and needing a current passport tend to go hand in hand, so while it costs somewhere around $100 to change your passport, it also takes up to 6 months from applying to receiving said passport.

But here I am at the beginning of staffing a 9 month school and somehow there is extra money this month. When I prayed about whether I should save, spend or give the extra, my maiden name immediately came to mind….

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Staying to Go

Life is moving quickly. Quite quicker than I know how to document. I have actually written several other posts that I didn’t publish because I couldn’t sit still within myself long enough to decide whether they contained true and real things.
I often think that it is in these moments that it’s best for me to stay silent.

But I do want to share, even if the words are few.

After spending 6 weeks preparing, the students have finally arrived. There are twelve of them, 10 women and 2 men. They are a very social group, on the whole. Listening to them share how they got here and why they have come has brought tears to my eyes several times.

Why is that?…

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Holler

If I could create a drawing that described this year, it would probably be a comic strip. The whole thing would be a roller coaster ride.

After sitting here thinking for a while, I realize that describing the pictures I would draw is probably less effective than just describing the year itself.

January: This was a month of great elation. I had just completed the School of Biblical Studies, which is a marathon of studying for 9 months. I had puffy, bluish skin under my eyes and a great big smile on my face.

February: I went home for 6 weeks to “raise support.” I put it in quotes because that is not as concrete an activity as some might make it out to be. Basically I hung out with my friends, made new friends, and spoke to a few groups of people about the work I feel called to do as a Missionary….

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