Thursday, December 28, 2017

Reflection: Advent

Still reflecting on Advent, on waiting, and the mystery and wonder of how and why the very thing you hope and pray for comes fulfilled in the most unlikely, unexpected, sometimes unwanted ways: in the form of a life transition, a new or ending relationship, a kind or difficult confrontation. So I'm thinking about all the hard circumstances or looming anxieties that hang out in my head, wondering if they're merely byproducts of things I asked for. Sometimes it makes me hesitant to hope, hesitant to ask, hesitant to let my needs and wants be met because I hate the disappointment of it coming differently than I've concocted in my head. I hate losing that sense of control, of "this isn't how it was supposed to be," or "this wasn't a part of the plan." I hate feeling like everything I ask for needs to come in form of a lesson.

You pray for peace, and instead are "gifted" with jolting circumstances that make you fight for peace. You pray for joy, and are "blessed" with heartbreaking situations that make joy feel unreachable. It's as if to ask Him for something, He makes it clear how much you don't have anything. Thanks God, that's the point of me asking, because I already feel like I have nothing. It's a difficult thing to reconcile, understanding the ways that God works, or even disposing our "understanding" of how God works. Is that the way God works? Is He really making things hard for me?

Or how much of me is ready to be surprised by grace? How much of me is ready to find goodness that I never worked for, or comfort that I didn't have to fight for, or affirmation that I never had to be perfect for? How much of me can accept new and different things as beautiful blessings? How much of me is ready to say "this is better than the plan" or "better than my finite imagination believed?" How much of my heart can believe that He has already gifted me with joy and peace and hope, and that maybe He isn't the one trying to take it away?

Perhaps I haven't rid myself fully of the lie that I am not enough, that I still need to work in order to have good things. Perhaps I am too quick to blame God for the difficult things instead of recognizing God in the good things. Perhaps I easily forget that there are other forces out to steal, kill, and destroy; that in the same way Herod, at the sound of a new King, sought out to kill the newborns, the enemy, at the sound of the new things planted in my soul, seeks out to steal it from me, and ruin the joy to be had. If only I could fully believe that goodness comes in grace. If only I could sit still in the wonder of a newborn swaddled in a dirty manger. If only I could understand that the worst things aren't a Father's punishment, and the messiest things could be hiding the most priceless treasures, and the best things can happen in the most unexpected ways--then maybe I'll finally have the insight to see all the ways hope is and has been fulfilled.

He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all--how will He not also, along with him, GRACIOUSLY give us all things?
- Romans 8:32 

"Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her"
 - Luke 1:45


Sunday, December 10, 2017


Sometimes I feel like I live in an airport, yes like that one Tom Hanks movie. I’m watching everyone else take off and arrive, while I’m stuck here waiting to either get onto a plane or get outside these walls. There’s WiFi, but that only lets me observe life instead of live it. There’s no rest (because the seats are terrible), the food is too expensive (and I’m broke anyway), and all I have are ketchup packets. And I seriously, absolutely hate ketchup. This is my life right now. Waiting, restless, stuck in comparison to the lives of others and even pining for my own previous life.

There’s power in thought and perspective, though that transformation of the mind takes time. This time of waiting can be a time of dreaming, of creativity; it can be a time of confronting my insecurities, and challenging my fears. Instead of dread and looking back, I could be hopeful, full of anticipation. Maybe I'll be here for a while, but I won't be here forever. The next place could be a new adventure. The next place could be home.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

On Remembering

We asked her if she remembers her house and she forgot she owned one.. forgot she lived in Alabama.. asked us where in Alabama. It took a few photos to jog her memory, and she's only been here in Hawaii, away from home, for only a week. How do we help her?

This conversation happened at Island Brew; Mom had been doing so well, staying at home for an hour or two. It was a strange afternoon and Wes and I thought it would be nice to go on a coffee date. “Should we take mom with us?” Wes asked. I personally thought it would be nice for it to be just the two of us. Plus we haven’t had a coffee date in a while. But I told him I’d also be ok with asking her—sure she has a sore hip, and she lives for Law and Order, but we should ask her anyway.

Undoubtedly, she wanted to come. But it wasn’t just that she wanted to come—she complained that we never take her anywhere and keep her at home. That made me sad, because it isn’t true, and unfortunately we can’t gauge what she does and doesn’t remember. Like how we brought her to church that morning, and drove her around the East Side (though everything is “basically Puerto Rico”), and numerous other places over the last few days. We definitely couldn’t just leave her at home with a tone like that. We took her on our little date.

So no, it wasn’t really a date after that point, but we accepted it. We talked to her about Alabama to jog her mind, and she talked about Ron which made her cry. I don’t like seeing her cry but I want her to keep talking about him. I don’t want her to ever forget him.

That night, I fell asleep long before Wes, and I dreamt that everything I loved was taken from me. First was the life I knew (check), but next was Wes. As well as my son. Everything felt dark. It woke me in a fright, and I was saturated in both fear and anger. “Babe, are you ok?” Wes asked, since he was still awake, about to sleep. He reached over to touch me, but for some reason I resisted him. In my lucid state, the dream made me convinced that if he held me, it would be for the last time. Maybe if he didn’t touch me, this moment wouldn't be our end.

I recently read in my baby journal about the word “remember” spoken in the Old Testament, and how God had repetitively told the Israelites to "remember the laws and commands of the Lord and they will live." The journal author explained that the opposite of this word “remember” is not “to forget,” but “to dismember.” Dismember. That word feels more human and more personal than to simply “think” or “commit to memory” to help the act of remembrance. To dismember is to be separated. It’s distancing oneself from people, especially the people who hold the qualities and traits worth remembering. It’s being disconnected.

I hate that my dream made me feel that keeping myself at a distance actually prolongs the life of a relationship. What a lie! And yet how many of us live out our relationships that way? We call them friends and loved ones, yet we are still so disconnected from them, lacking the vulnerability and honesty, the "I'm all in!" It's because we feel the strong sense that investing too much of ourselves is only a precedent to loss and great sorrow. We dismember ourselves to protect ourselves from pain. Pain is something we all want to forget.

But at the cost of also forgetting everything beautiful?

I don't think we can choose what to remember, and that reality is what makes us choose forgetting—either we have only the greatest memories, or none at all. So often we disconnect and choose the "none at all." No depth in our relationship means no confrontation or altercations. It means doing none of the work or hard labor that goes into cultivating AND maintaining deep connections. It's the reasoning behind surface laughter, trivial interactions, casual conversations, and the reasons why we gawk and relish at all the memes about being alone and not making efforts to be around anyone. No, I'm not talking about the difference between extroversion and introversion, I'm talking about the difference between inclusion and seclusion. Pain does that. Loss does that. We cheat ourselves out of happiness for the sake of forgetting the hurt.

Wes' mom has dementia, and like many others who suffer from it, she still has her mental anchors. Things from her past that she's had time to recite over and over are still second nature to her conversations. She'll tell anyone and everyone about her horses, Canadian geese, (love for animals in general), how she spent 6 months in Puerto Rico and turned 21 there (that's why Hawaii isn't amazing to her), and she won't forget how she and Ron met. Things that are recent, or events that don't hit her core values are fleeting in her mind. She might ask the same question every 2 minutes. She can't remember if she slept well last night or what we did that morning. She watched the same four Law and Order episodes over a 10 hour flight without a nap. She knows Ron died, but sometimes forgets when or how he died. And about that last one, to be rather frank, I like it that way. That is to say, I like that she remembers how he LIVED and the life they shared. I like that she has sweet memories of him lodged in her mind deeper than the trauma of seeing him have a seizure. And when she sees a photo of him, she cries a little, but she doesn't reiterate her pain and her loss, she says he's in a better place and that she was lucky to have him. She looks for his photos when it rotates on Amazon Echo,  lingers to look at him, and later that day will let us know she saw him.  She won't throw away old calendars that record his doctor's appointments. She keeps his funeral program in her purse.

The night I resisted Wes after the horrible nightmare, I fought him off until my tired body could no longer do anything but give in and let him hold me—and being in his arms is my favorite. My dream wasn't real, but it made me sure that I want every moment we have to be the best moment we have. I want every fight we have to be because we're fighting for each other. I want the frustration of being misunderstood to be confronted because we are laboring to make US better. I want us to feel silence and rest together. I want us to belly laugh together. I want every routine to be sacred, every embrace to be warm, every shared experience to be full of gratitude.

I don't want to be disconnected, not from the ones I love, not from the ones who connect me to life and freedom. Not from the ones who give me reasons to hope, reasons to keep fighting, reasons to keep persisting. And I don't want to be afraid of pain. I'll never like it, never want it, never be used to it, but I don't want to be afraid when it comes. Somehow the terrible things make the sweeter moments even sweeter, and the small moments even more meaningful. It makes me more grateful, and I want to stay connected to it all.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

On Grief

It's the phone call we're all dreading. The one that comes early in the morning while you're lying next to your loved one, running your fingers through their hair to gently bring them out of slumber. The one that beats the alarm clock and beats the daylight, the one that comes in the dark and feels heavy and cold. The one with MOM on caller ID.

"Ron died," I could hear her say. I saw Wes go limp as he relayed his condolences and comfort while trying to wrap his head around what he just woke up to. You know that phrase, "It's always darkest before the dawn," I felt like darkness just came and it sat there. It camped out there. Made a home for itself. And dawn never came, not for a while, not for months after those two words were uttered.

Jeanne recounted the story with bright memory, how Ron, her husband and the man who raised Wes, woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, laid down to sleep, and had a seizure that his body wouldn't recover from. It was our impression from that phone call that he had passed, but through talking to others we found out he was still on life support and between hospitals until his daughter could pay her respects. He was pronounced dead the next day, Friday, November 3, at 12:03 am.

The truth is, right now I’m still grieving. But not for Ron—only because we’ve felt emotionally and mentally prepared for him to pass. No, this isn't about grieving Ron; rather, it's about grieving the loss of the life we used to have. As quickly and unexpectedly did he pass, so did everything we knew about our everyday life—our normals, our routines, our constants. As with Ron, we never had the chance to say goodbye.

Without hesitation, we bought bereavement flights to Alabama, kicking into a gear what might be the most stressful two weeks we've ever had to experience as individuals and as a couple. How do we deal with funeral costs, or lawyers and the estate, or outstanding bills, and life insurance, and medicare? And no one knows where the security deposit box key is to even find out what his will says, or if the will is even in the security deposit box. And where's the deed to the house? And one of their horses is dying, and who's going to put it down the day of the funeral? And Wes hasn't seen his blood sister in 20 years but she's crossed states to be here; where and how to begin with conversations? And with a limited amount of time, we are having to plow through files and emotions and anxiety and phone calls and confusion, waiting for death certificates, waiting for banks to blow open security boxes, waiting for a chance to breathe, waiting for the dawn. And I don't have cellphone reception, and there's no wi-fi, and the carcass of that horse makes this property smell like sour death.

We need to get out of our heads.


There's a story Jeanne proudly tells about how Ron used to work for FEMA, so he would leave her home alone for days or weeks, and she was fine living on her own. In fact, she'd tell us (and others) about the revolver she keeps under her mattress. When she'd say all this, Wes and I would consider: perhaps she's ok on her own? Perhaps we could hire caregivers in the daytime to keep her company, and have video monitors to check on her at night? But in the days following the funeral, we realized her memory had deteriorated drastically. Her fears became a little more irrational. Her questions were repetitive and more frequent. She was not okay by herself, and Wes as a loving son could not leave her alone. And I as his wife, and about to mother a son, I understood—she is the woman who sacrificed for him, loved him, raised him. Wes was her final remaining anchor, and a nursing home was not an option. Our home was the only option. Wes was her home.

Being six months pregnant, we were already anticipating a change, but it’s different with baby: we know he’s in there, we're granted (God-willing) nearly 9 months to prepare for his arrival. We could take classes or do thorough research. People surround us with wisdom and support. We start dreaming of nursery spaces and expecting sleepless nights, knowing—fully aware but never fully grasping the total scope—that everything WILL change. But nothing could prepare us to fly across the ocean to a funeral and come back with a roommate.  There were no preparatory classes on how to suddenly deal with someone with memory loss, diabetes, and other health issues. There was no checklist on what administrative task to do next, no guide to tell us the best decision.

When we left our apartment, we didn't envision coming back to a twin bed in our living room. We didn't anticipate that our house would be wallpapered with notes and reminders, like "Knock first, do not enter" on our bedroom door, or "wash dishes with soap and water" because used plates were always found in the cabinet.  We didn't know how to meal prep for a diabetic with teeth issues and a limited taste palate.  We didn't know how to deal with the same question being asked every five minutes.  Wes, as a grown man, didn't know what to do with the incessant phone calls, "What time will you be home?" Or worse, when she didn't want him to leave because "What if you die in a car crash?"  Sometimes he would say, "Well, what if I died here in this apartment?" And she'd respond, "At least I'd know where you are."  This wasn't our dream. This wasn't the plan. We weren't ready for this drastic change.

Before I continue, I need to be clear: I’m not mad at her, I definitely don’t blame her, and I do love and care for her. It's not her, it's her condition—and that condition is out of her control. She's not shifting our lifestyle intentionally, she's probably not even aware.  I'm not mad at her.  I’m not even mad at God. I do get frustrated at her condition, but the bottom line is, it’s just a HARD situation. Can I reiterate that enough? It's just a hard situation. I don’t want to be misunderstood as accusing her for changing my life—life changes whether we foresee it or not, and usually we don’t foresee it at all. When it boils down, hard things happen, and the sorrow comes from not feeling strong enough, or capable enough, or even willing.. at all.


Sentiment #1: If you have depression, you're living in the past. If you have anxiety, you're living in the future. If you are grateful, you're living in the present.

Please allow me be vulnerable: I have not yet reached gratitude. I've come to acceptance, but that's it. I'm not even close to contentment. I fight depression, longing for what used to be. And Wes fights off anxiety, fearful of what is to come. We learned that we are resisting the present, we are resisting change. And what a shame to admit that sometimes, I cannot look into the eyes of change. It isn't her, I constantly tell myself, it's her condition, and the change that her condition brought. The change that I cannot accept. The uncomfortable sacrifices I'm required to make.  The new normal that isn't mine.

I miss it being just Wes and me. I was looking forward to a final trimester in the little apartment where our marriage first bloomed. I miss our morning routines of coffee and chit chat. I miss our evening routines of late dinners and switching between our favorite TV shows. I wanted Thanksgiving, and Christmas traditions, and a New Years repeat of last year where we made and ate unhealthy amounts of dairy and carbs and sugars and champagne (nix the champagne this year). I want to walk around half naked in my own home.

These days look a little different. My house hasn’t really felt like home. The living room is not where I live, it's where she lives; I’m banished to the bedroom at 8pm. My dreams are haunted by the countless rape victims portrayed in Law and Order, since it's on repeat from morning until bedtime at high volume. I feel bad eating whatever I want. Wes works from home a little longer, I stay at work a little longer. And we’re still trying to balance all our aspects of health—emotional, mental, physical, spiritual—while carrying the weight of new financial and legal responsibilities, and I'm still gaining weight with this unborn child.

But what I really miss?  Not having tension case my body.  I miss having conversations outside of this situation.  I miss laughing! And I mean really laughing.  I miss rest.

And I feel SO selfish, and SO guilty for feeling selfish, and guilty for missing my old life. And I get really sad, and I want to feel better, and I want to embrace this new normal. I want to be full of gratitude. I want to be able to rejoice in my sufferings, to have contentment in all circumstances. I want to say I'm better than how I'm reacting to everything... But right now, I'm just dealing.


Sentiment #2: we can see transitions as divorces to grieve, when we should see them as graduations to celebrate.

Sometimes I think that Wes and I would have been okay if we just had time. Typically speaking, I need time to let go of something and slowly close the door before I walk on the new path, and Wes needs time to learn as much as he can about the things ahead of him before he can embrace it fully. Wes needed time to say hello, I needed time to say goodbye.

It feels like a terrible breakup. The kind where you're up at 2am looking at old photos and pining for the happiness you felt in photo-worthy moments. The kind where you keep repeating conversations in your head, wondering what you could've said better, or where things went wrong, and where things could've been so right. The kind where you start to beat yourself up with regret—should've been more grateful, should've been more present, should've loved more selflessly.

But I want to move from grief to anticipation. From all the things that are lost, to all the possibilities and opportunities that can happen. From looking back to looking forward. No, not even looking forward—to looking at now. I want to stop WISHING I loved more, I should just LOVE MORE.


You know what the ironic thing is? Even before we were married, Wes and I would talk about having kids and agreed that yes, we wanted them, as long as we had our first full year of marriage to ourselves. And indeed, we had only one year. On our first anniversary, although "our family" was just the two of us, I was pregnant, and then Ron passed away a few days later, kickstarting this cycle of events. When we asked God for that one year, we thought it meant one year before having to care for a baby; we didn't think it meant one year before having to care for his mom.

I suppose we never really realize the things we pray about, or the way God answers prayers. Sometimes I think, what if God wanted to take Ron sooner? What if the timing of his passing was an act of grace? What if God wanted to take Ron in the middle of our first year, or the first trimester, when emotions are high, and Wes and I were still navigating love and sacrifice for each other? We needed that one year to build a strong foundation, to fight and get over hurdles, to celebrate and make the most of of small moments. We needed that one year to fall in love. That one year, the year that I am still grieving, was the grace of God.

But to this day we remain questioning God. Why us, why now, why this way? And I don't think He'll answer us, just yet. I think we still have a lot to learn about patience, about grace, about being able to compassionately look into the eyes of the ones we are called to love. About being okay if the answers never come. About choosing joy every day, and finding the buoyancy that brings us back to the surface. And there's still a lot of healing that needs to be done in my heart, the kind of full healing where I can look at this situation and it doesn't hurt anymore.. where I can say that grief was a season, not a definition.

I know that embracing feeling when the sun kisses your cheeks after being in the cold for so long... the way the warmth bites at your skin, causing the tension to subside and melt off your shoulders... the way the Light gently wakens the world around me and the world inside me. I know what it's like when Love gently takes you out of slumber and welcomes you with a sunrise that spans the horizon. Surely it's always darkest before the dawn, but if I have a sprig of hope, it is that dawn still comes. Morning still comes. The Son still comes.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.

- Psalm 130


Thursday, September 21, 2017

On Weekday Mornings

I write to remember: Weekday Mornings.

5:30—Wes wakes up to embrace the quiet with a cup of coffee, and he reads, catches up with finances and selectively socializes (aka social media).

6:20—He comes into the bedroom, turns off the air conditioner, pulls the covers away, and gently rubs my back until I waken. Apparently I have a series of grunts and groans in my lucid state. I reach for him to pet his arm. Sometimes he’ll come into bed with me for a cuddle; if we're short on time, he'll slowly raise my body upright. With the latter, I typically collapse back into bed. I hate waking up. 

6:30—I'm finally out of the room. I climb onto his lap. Right now I have a growing belly, and this stage of our morning will possibly be eliminated for sometime, maybe indefinitely once we have a little one vying to be held by him too. I embrace him jealously.

6:30.42 because I am heavier with baby—I get off his lap. 

6:31—I drink his coffee. He already anticipates this. We stopped caring about whose coffee mug is whose—cat mug, Nepalese mug, mugs with identifying initials... I'll end up drinking some of his anyway. I only need a few sips.  I scroll through my phone.  Wes tries to tell me his new stellar financial plan that will pay off our debt in 6 months, afford baby's college tuition, and gift himself with a Toyota Tacoma AND a Ferrari 458... or bankrupt us indefinitely and we die of scurvy.  I smile tenderly, "Nope, not now, booger."

6:40—I prepare my lunch. If I was smart, I already took care of that last night. I'm not usually this smart. Wes always makes himself available: if it's a sandwich, he's already heating up my lunch meat. If I'm running late, he's cutting up my fruit. If I'm EXTRA late, he puts my lunch in my bag with extra snacks. If he doesn't know what's happening, he'll ask me, "What can I do to help?" I am probably spinning in circles when he asks me this. I quite literally mean spinning in circles.  "Wellps, I guess you're eating at 7-11 today," he says.  I concur.

6:48—The worst timing. I probably HAVE to go to the bathroom (for a while, if you know what I mean). "Pray for me!" I blurt out as I dash to the bathroom. "Godspeed!" He yells back.

6:53—I still don't know what to wear to work today. Wes says the yay or nay to color schemes. I can't fit my pants, or I forgot to iron something, or I forgot to shave during last night's shower. I hate wardrobe decisions.

6:57—Still don't know what to wear to work today. A load of tried-but-“no” backwards shirts and pants and empty hangers cover the freshly-made bed. "Hey.. hey.. hey!" Wes tries to interrupt my frantic and scurried thoughts, but fails. He gets a hold of my shoulders and looks me straight in the eye. "I can see you panicking. STOP panicking. You'll get to work, even if I have to drive you there." He picks a cardigan that ties my outfit together. He gives me a kiss on my forehead and tells me to breathe. I give myself a second to pause and kiss him back.  He's so nice to me.

6:58—I flurry trying to lock the back door and shut off the electronics. "Never mind, it'll turn off automatically!" he says. "Not the coffee pot!" I say, trying to reclaim my analog dignity. His smart home changes make me feel less human.  My spastic state reminds us both that I am human.

6:59—He picks out my shoes.

7:00—I dash downstairs while Wes locks up the apartment and unlocks the car from above. I hurry inside and quickly put on eyeliner before he comes in and gets the car moving. I forgot to tweeze my eyebrows.

7:01—We head for the bus stop. We wish it was 6:55. But it's not. And somehow this routine repeats on the daily.

7:02—We're driving. He holds my hand. And I love him more every morning.

7:04—We hope for pedestrians at strategic intersections to block the flow of traffic as we turn. We also look for human landmarks, like the lady at the bus stop who always looks so well-put together, sometimes she has a fan, sometimes she has sunglasses, but she always has makeup. And 5 bags at her feet. "What up, landmark!" We both weirdly say in unison.

7:05—We are running out of time.  "ECO: OFF," Wes yells at no one.  In a Fast and Furious world, the closest we'll come to turbo with our base model Honda Fit is to turn the Econ-mode off.  We're hopeless.

7:06—Wes: “Check the Bus app.” “7:12,” I say, not looking at my phone. “Are you sure?” He doubts. I bring out my phone and look anyway. “7:12,” I say smugly. He shrugs.

7:08—Wes gets annoyed at people who slow down as they merge onto the freeway. “God bless America!” he exclaims, and then proceeds to instruct the masses on how to drive.  He is fond of yelling at no one.
7:10—We're stopped at a red light.  My hands are sweating.  “Stop panicking,” he says. Naturally, I’m still panicking.

7:12—Two scenarios happen: either we have a second to park and I tell him "thank you and have a good day at work and I love you more than anything," or the likelier scenario, I action-movie jump out of the moving vehicle OKLOVEYOUBYE-littlehug-littlekiss-BIGHUG-littlekiss and head dive into the bus before the closing doors bite my ankles off.

I love remembering this. I love remembering the little routines. I love remembering the little beginnings, the way we begin our day, the way we began our marriage. And I hope I always remember these beginnings with a fondness for what made our marriage beautiful to us: beginning with loving each other in the middle of the frantic moments. Beginning with laughter even while I'm panicking.  Beginning with gentleness and affection. Beginning with grace.

7:14—I start to doze on the bus.  I wake up when he texts me he's back at the apartment, or I get a notification from the stupid non-analog smart home. 

We miss each other already.


PS. Analog over digital 4ever.  Except this blog I guess...

Saturday, September 2, 2017

On First Reactions

You can't take back first reactions. Especially if you're like me and have a face as honest as a mirror.

I already knew I was pregnant, and so did Wes (the hormones do not lie, people!). But there was a strong resistance to seeing it on paper (read: on a stick). We had just made seven months of marriage, still trying to figure out how to merge our daily lives, still trying to understand a life of love and sacrifice, and the lines between introvert alone time, and being together forever. By no means is it a perfect marriage, but it's our marriage, and it's our story. And I didn't want to let go of the time when "our family" meant just the two of us: killing time wandering every aisle of the grocery store but walking out with just coffee creamer, being lazy on Saturday morning making omelettes and watering the plants and watching animal documentaries, having people over on a weeknight whim to play Settlers of Catan, drinking wine and eating stovetop popcorn. I fell in love with our small but meaningful life. Like a dream, it was a little weird, often nonsensical, at times frightening, but coated in bliss. I didn't want to wake up. I didn't want to open my eyes. I didn't want to look at that stick.

Wes wanted to. He wanted to get the inevitable out of the way. "When you gonna find out, when your water breaks? When you think you're 'peeing yourself' and a baby falls out?" But he'd also ask me to take the test at incredibly inopportune times—before a family gathering, before church, before meeting up with friends. "I can't pee on a stick and look my family in the face 15 minutes later!" I know me. I can't take back first reactions. I can't fake the feelings.

A Monday holiday came, and I had no excuse. No one to see for another week, besides work. And I already had a pregnancy test on hand (thanks to bridal shower gag gifts). "Just get it done, babe," he'd urge. I whined with resistance as Wes drug me to the bathroom. His nonchalance to the matter might as well have been a heavy pat on the back, "Get on the field, slugger!"

Unnecessary descriptive paragraph: the test wasn't one of those pee on a stick deals. Nope, you pee in a cup and use a fancy dropper to dispense your goods into a little tester. But with no disposable receptacle in our home, the cleanest vessel was an empty jar of Better Than Bouillon, lined with a ziploc bag (classy way to pee, I know). I didn't want to see the results alone. We set up the test so the lid of the bouillon jar covered the results. I waited for him to finish showering--the longest 8 minutes of my life.

"This is it," we thought out loud, looking at the bouillon lid that separated us and our future, thinking of all the meals we made with that bouillon. Thinking of when "our family" was just the two of us. "This changes everything." This changes the way we make decisions. The way we operate in community. The amount of sleep we get, the places we choose to live, the way our resources are used. We're don't have control of the parts of ourselves that replicate into the next generation. We don't get to choose what this person will be like. We only get to choose a name. Oh the pressure.

Like ripping a bandaid, we interrupted our thoughts and lifted the lid—

You can't take back first reactions. I melted in Wes' arms, trembling, facing away from the results--which also meant that the results were all HE had to stare at. "You're going to be a dad," I whispered. "You're going to be a mom," he said back softly. And with that, I buried my face into his chest and wept. "I'm so.... scared,” I sobbed.

I’ve heard people say that in a near-death experience, their whole lives flashed before their eyes. And in this new life experience, our whole future flashed before my eyes—and it was blurry. I could see shapes and colors and movement, and I couldn’t grasp it because I couldn’t tell how far away or how close I was. I could see small vignettes of fears and anxieties and questions, and they blended together into more sobs and cries, “I’m so, so scared.” But in my mind, as distorted as my vision was, the sound of a newborn baby’s cry was sharp and endearing.. and I suddenly wanted to comfort it. “You’re going to be a mom,” Wes whispered.

A few Sundays before that moment, our pastor preached about the fear of the Lord. Inasmuch as God can be terrifying, the fear is a reference to awe and wonder, the kind of awe and wonder that makes one aware of His glory and simultaneously indebted to His greatness. With breath returning to my lungs after minutes of crying, this is the fear I had. Wonder of the unknown, concurrent with the awe and yearning to meet this unknown. If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then the fear I feel about this pregnancy is the beginning of an uncharted journey towards finding and knowing and loving God in an absolutely brand new way.

Maybe my first reaction was to be scared, and I can’t take that back. But I’m making my second reaction courage, and my future reactions joy. Wes is going to be a dad. I’m going to be a mom. We’re having a little one. And we’re waking up from our dreams to find out that life is still a little weird (and gets even weirder), often nonsensical (and full of laughter), at times frightening (and never hopeless), but coated in bliss (and undoubtedly, baby poop).

There is new life within me, two fold; God had a dream, and placed it in a second beating heart inside of me.

Our first ultrasound


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

On the mope boat

I regularly wake up with a song in my head, and it’s usually quite random- after all, if you’re ever around me long enough, you’ll find I have a song for just about every occasion. Making pasta sauce? Stir it up, little darlin. Got to the crumby bottom of your bag of chips? All these pieces, broken and scattered. Apparently I’m food driven.  Anyway, when a song creeps up in my head in the morning, prompted by food or not, I can’t shake it off (it's hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake him off) (Florence before Taylor 4ever). Absolutely, I'll sing the lyrics mindlessly, without consideration of meaning.

One morning last Spring, I woke up muttering words from Tears for Fears: “And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad—the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.” Wes rolled his eyes, “OK MOPE BOAT, move it along.” And I chuckled.  Although he's learned to make light of my fluctuating moods, he truly cares, and tries with infinite best to summon a smile.  "ALL ABOARD THE MOPE BOAT," he'll jest.

But that morning, the entire bus ride to work, I realized the song was defining so much of the sadness and depression that was plaguing me those surrounding few weeks, months even. Didn’t know that was happening, did ya? Well that's ok.  Barely anyone knew.  We surrounded ourselves with people and good times, and I can be a pro at burying.  All I wanted to do was lie in bed and sleep or cry.  I'd take "bathroom breaks" that were really deep breaths to prevent myself from choking up at work.  Worst part of all this? I could never pin down the cause.  I was a mope boat in the middle of a still lake.  Nay.  A mope boat in the middle of a swamp.

"The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had." I asked myself if I've been so distraught because of dreams that died. After all, I stopped making art.  I mean, completely stopped creating anything meaningful.  Besides a handful of floral doodles in my bujo, I haven't made personal art in WAY over a year!  I tried the freelancer bit and made art for a living, but to be quite honest, it was grossly demanding.  I don't miss the business, but sometimes I miss the way art made me feel.  Maybe I'll go back to art one day, but today is not that day, and I am content with that.  SO content.

Speaking of contentment, what makes the mope-boat sadness worse is that I have every reason to be content! I have a wonderful husband, a cozy place to call home, a crazy/amazing church community, and a decent job.  We have food in the fridge, and friends around the dinner table.  We have a car that works, a garden that grows, and an AC to help us sleep.  I have reason to be content.  So I asked myself why I feel so much despair.  And I realized, I don't feel like my soul is dying because my dreams are dying, I feel like my soul is dying because I altogether just stopped dreaming.


And I think people have caught on.  With increasing frequency, I have heard kind questions, gentle encouragements, reminiscing the person I was.  Some from complete strangers who followed me on Instagram, some from the closeness of my husband, who tells me how much he misses watching me create.  They are reminding me of the power of my words, reminding me of the power of created things.  Not long ago, my pastor's wife took a moment to say those very things, accompanied by the verse, "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."

But what if I'm not speaking, because there's nothing there?


I've been doing some self-inventory.  Figuring out what I have, what I'm lacking, what I've used up quickly, what I'm not using at all.  I found out I have little time, a lot of anxiety, and not a lot of motivation.  I found I've wasted my energy, I've miscalculated rest, and I said yes more often than I said no.

I'm doing an autopsy on myself.  Figuring out what or who hurt me, how I hurt myself, what could have been done differently, how to forgive.  I'm figuring out why I stopped breathing, why my heart stopped beating, why my soul stopped daring, why my mind stopped imagining.  I'm pinpointing if there were warning signs, preventative measures, love notes of caution.  But I'm not bandaging this corpse, I'm not mummifying the things I've done wrong, I'm not taking things apart only to commemorate the emotional breakdowns.

I'm asking myself what the resurrected life looks like.

And I don't mean I'll start lettering again, I don't mean I'll be a beat poet, I don't mean I'll open up the books of dreams I once had--owning a coffee shop, running a community center, becoming a photographer.
I'm talking about the resurrected life that recognizes what things had to die, what things must be evicted and restricted, what things must be forgiven and let go.
I'm talking about the resurrected life that, even if I wake up in sadness, I tell myself it is unnatural for me to feel joy, but I'll choose joy anyway.  The kind of life that, when I feel the building of anger, is the first to apologize and forgive--even if I am in pain, and even if the other person doesn't apologize or forgive me back.  The kind of life that, when I begin to panic because resources are low and needs are high, slams on the brakes and says prayers of gratitude, because my life is full, and I am alive, and I can trust in divine provision.  I'm talking about the resurrected life that creates and writes not for acknowledgment, but for catharsis.  I'm talking about the resurrected life that knows the power of constant forgiveness and undeserved grace.

I'm talking about the resurrected life that recognizes that the worst thing was not the last thing.

That I can begin again, and begin again, and begin again.
That a dream can die; nevertheless, I can dream again.


Currently Reading: Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
Currently Listening: "Blessings" by Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book
Currently Watching: Okja