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.