Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Ten Years Out- Reflections on Hearing Loss

Ten years ago today, after my mother gently dragged me to a local ENT doctor, my life changed when he told me I had bilateral degenerative hearing loss. I was terrified, in shock, unbelieving-not me, disabled? At 2o?!  who will love me now? How can I finish college? What will my life look like now?—ran through my mind as the kind, yet ignorant-of-my-situation nurse who took my blood test told me “not to cry, it’s just a shot”, if only she knew.
But now, a decade later, I can’t help but reflect on how many of those questions and fears have drifted away—I finished college and went back. Disability in one area doesn’t mean you don’t have strong abilities in others. We are each more than a single label or diagnosis.

If I could go back, I would tell my twenty-year-old-self—I know you can’t see past this now. It seems to mar your life, to irrevocably screw up your plans, your dreams.  It seems to shatter every truth you knew about who you are and what you’re capable of. Later that afternoon, as you sit on the beach, pen in hand, pages rippling in the forceful wind—you will make a pivotal choice—to turn to, not away from Jesus in this day of pain and fear. You chose not to get bitter, cynical, or self-pittying—and by His grace you live that out. Sure, you have moments of agony and deep fear—but your roots are strong—to him be the glory.

Ten years from now you will be thankful for this day—you won’t wish it away, dread waking up and putting your aids in, live in constant fear of losing the rest of your hearing or not having batteries for your aids. You won’t hide your aids under your hair—you’ll again experience the freedom of wearing your hair up—exposing those ears, knowing that the people who can’t see past them don’t deserve your energy anyway. Ten years out, you will be so grateful for loss—for you have gained so much-perspective, empathy, compassion for the hurting—that far outweighs any loss of your physical hearing. You’ll smile to think how this was made for you—chosen in love to strengthen, EQUIP—not hinder, the life you live. Your eyes will glimmer as your mind fills with pictures of how this loss is gain—from relating to many scared parents with a fresh Autism diagnosis, to the way your niece gently pulls back your hair and in awe and joy exclaims “you got my ears too!”

Ten years from now you will read scriptures like “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126) and your heart will smile with an understanding and joy—fulfilling this verse and knowing its truth. Ten years from now, the once overwhelmingly painful anniversary will have faded to one of bittersweet gratitude—for now you have those sheaves—the harvest of suffering that reminds you pain in this life is birth pains. Trembling 20-year-old-self—this diagnosis you think is ending your life—is actually the greatest beginning. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

merry manifesto

I want to write with abandon and vigor. Boldly penning words of hope, truth and joy. Words that snap, crackle, and pop as they fly across the page. Words that lead to action. Words like pugnacious, tenacious—opulent grace-filled pages of truth and hope. Words that inspire. Words that convict. Words that rip into the calloused flesh of patriarchal scars while rending to mend. For it is in our brokenness we can be healed. Cracks are how the light gets in—how the festering wound is cleansed as the infection below the surface oozes and is exposed. People may be repulsed—and they should be.
Oppression bends and breaks when the hunched backs begin to straighten. When the burdened cry-ENOUGH, when the marginalized come together. When the silenced shout. When every solitary person finds their “me too”.
For this is what Christmas brings—Christ’s coming signals a revolution—a baby threatened the king, a man—the empire, and yet, all of this was Emmanuel—God with us. My favorite Christmas song reminds us that “His law is love and his Gospel is peace”. Law is loving—boundaries are beneficial—they don’t limit life-they enhance it. Peace isn’t a cease fire-it’s a person—a man who entered into our wounded world. These are the words I want to write- words that may offend and pierce—a mere echo of God who was pierced FOR us.

I don’t know what this process will look like—I’m sure that it will be line any other journey. That my ideas and perceptions as I pen the first words will be a distant memory when I finish. I don’t know where this spark will lead me—but I know this new joy and new freedom will grow—one word, one post, one day at a time.

Monday, October 23, 2017

reflections on anxiety- august 10, 2016

**this is an old journal entry from 2016, I felt compelled to share it now, over a year later**

“be anxious for nothing”—this verse rings in my ears, echoing as I begin a new day almost taunting me. Its repetition a dagger pointing at my failures. “be anxious for nothing”—that’s the problem, I wake up anxious about nothing. Yet my heart is quenched for peace, my mind tries to rationalize the pangs away. Thinking of “others less fortunate” only heaps guilt on the smoldering anxious fire, threatening to bring it all aflame again.
            Then I remember the second half of that verse, “pray about everything”. Pray through the anxiety, write through the anxiety, take up the sword and fight back, So my frightened heart feebly prays, “God, I’m embarrassed that I am quite literally anxious about nothing. I still can’t shake this wall of dread that attempts to crush my heart, quench my dreams, quiet my voice”. This year has been hard, brought so much change—loss of my aunt Marla, moving-twice, quitting a job and starting a new one, and relational strife as I process leaving an abusive church. I can barely count all the changes on one hand. It’s no wonder I don’t know where to start to pray or process—or which on the list I’m anxious about today.
            So I start where I can—one honest word at a time. The one who created my mind and heart doesn’t tell me to “get over it”. He grabs my hand and whispers, “get into it. Let’s look at this together. I knit you and I know you—even your anxious thoughts before you think them”. He walks with me in the fire and the flood.
I won’t let those leaders silence my voice. I take a deep breath and know that he’s with me. He’s not embarrassed by my anxiety. He sweat blood over a life-ending choice—He knows. He understands my frail heart and mind—and loves me anyway. He entered into this world’s pain and brokenness and is with me in my own.
“and the peace of God will guard your heart”—He will strengthen as I pray. He will probe my heart and mind. He provides His word—and sometimes professional help. His Holy Spirit strengthens and encourages. I fight for faith and pray for peace. He’s begun THIS good work—yes, even this battle with anxiety is ultimately a good thing. He will see me through. His grace has carried me safely through this year so far, and His grace will lead me home.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The perspiration of inspiration

The reaction to  my posts about my 30 by 30 goals have been surprising. I’ve been so encouraged by people who have reached out to tell me that my list inspired them—people from all different seasons of my life have taken the time to reply to my posts.
 And yet, that ugly voice of insecurity has reared its head this week, attempting to steal the joy of impacting others. While the comments were a celebration, my insecure heart saw them as an expectation—a weight to carry.   I felt the weight of the gift of impacting others, and suddenly I understood why the men in the parable buried the talent/money given to them—they let the expectation paralyze instead of propelling them to action. They saw it as a load to protect instead of a foundation to build on; forgetting that the talent given to them was a gift of grace.

So tonight I took a deeper look and realized that Inspiration has many meanings such as:
1.  the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative: "the history of fashion has provided designers with invaluable inspiration" with synonyms like : creativity · inventiveness · innovation · ingenuity · genius · imagination · and :originality · artistry · insight · vision · finesse · flair a person or thing that inspires:  synonyms: guiding light · example · model · muse · motivation ·

2. the drawing in of breath; inhalation.

The irony in all of this is that I wanted my list to inspire others, because life has meaning when we spend it with and for others-using our God-given gifts in the world around us.  Even in completing the list I didn’t do it alone—people shared their need for financial support, went on the underground tour, all over New York City, and ran a 5K with me. The encouragement from you has been grace—a God-given gift reminding me of his love for me by the love shown by others. I want my life to show others’ God’s love for them.

"then I had an inspiration"
synonyms: bright idea · revelation · flash · brainwave · brainstorm ·
[more]eureka moment

For me personally, the 30 by 30 list was more of the second definition-a drawing in of breath and life into my heart, mind, and soul that had been so wounded and silenced by spiritual abuse. It was an opportunity for me to re-engage with life and the community around me. This list brought new joy and life—helping me to focus my time and energy on others, as well as regain spiritual, mental and emotional health. Looking back, I am so thankful for the goals that guided me the last six months. Before I wrote the list I prayed FOR inspiration—that each of the 30 would be intentional and life-giving for myself and others—a way for me to step out in faith again. Inspiration is contagious.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Reflections on my 29th year

Reflections on my 29th year.
              Tonight as I baked and cleaned, checked off my to-do list, I began to reflect on my 29th trip around the sun. Each birthday year, August to August I take time to pray and think of a theme phrase or words for the next year. Last years’ were “trust boldly”, which, to be honest, were the last two things I wanted to do. I had just lived through the hell of spiritual abuse, skeptical and timid were more like it.
But today, almost 365 days later, I can’t help but sigh with a sheepish smirk that those two words were exactly what this year of life was about. On my birthday last year I started my job at a new company which has been one of the greatest joys of this year. I didn’t even know how much the stress of barely having enough clients and hours as well as driving all over the city was affecting my quality of life until they were no longer a part of it. My current company has been a prime example of one that is proactive about taking care of employees and seeking to deal with problems instead of hiding them. I have grown much in my practice as I have learned from others around me, and I’m so grateful.
Another way I learned to trust boldly was by beginning to attend a new church. Every brunch and bible study I either sulked in like an emo teenager, or tried to quiet my racing heart. Everything in me told me to run, to shut them out before I could get hurt. But one genuine conversation at a time my heart began to hope, then trust that this place could be different. I’ve made new friends that embody weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice. I’m allowed to be where I am, because everyone else is responsible for themselves—we are alone together—responsible for our choices yet sharing our troubles. These new friends have enabled me to trust boldly.
Today, I trust boldly that I am where I’m supposed to be—my life is not in limbo because I’m single, it’s not less or “cute”—it is purposed and full. I can’t believe I ever felt that way.  In both my work and church I am equipped and trusted to use my knowledge and gifts for others. My career isn’t seen as a hindrance but a gift. I can trust BOLDLY that I have been called to this vocation and it is my joy.
Lastly, around mid-february, with 6 months left in my 20’s, I started a crazy list of 30 goals by 30—they were divided into categories-head & heart, hope, and health. Some were one time things like funding an adoption, buying a stranger’s meal at a restaurant; others took more planning and time-hiking, reading 10 new books, completing the whole 30. (check the facebook page 30by30 for more details). With days left, I’ve completed around 25 of the 30 but I’m content with my progress. I’ve been humbled by others who have helped me in the process—going on the underground tour, cousins spending the day with me in NYC, and so many others have encouraged me along the way. 30 by 30 has taught me to pace myself and enjoy the process. Because the goals weren’t about completing—they were about becoming. Becoming the woman that is intentional with eating and exercising, taking time to be with others and using my resources for them. It was about becoming who I want to BE in my 30s-mindful, balanced, and intentional with my time, talents, and present in the lives and community around me.

So, as I look ahead to the next decade, I want to have peace in the process. I am not responsible for the choices leaders and others make. I want to have peace in the in-between—tangible grace to be imperfect and humble, working to improve where I can and accepting my limitations. I want to have peace in the process of dating, working with my clients, equipping teachers to educate children with disabilities. I CAN have peace in the process as I trust God boldly-one thing at a time. Thirty and Thriving, indeed.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Heart of a Mother

Her arms may be empty
The tears flowing fast
She cries out from the barreness,
How long will this last?

Each month that passes,
Every test that's not blue,
Makes her ache to be a part of the masses
Wondering how long she'll ache for you.

Yet her waiting is not in vain,
Her mother's heart is being refined
She's learning to love with hope
Even if her womb is denied.

Her legacy is in her loving today,
In the way she tries again after each fall.
As she dreams for the future, answers today's call.
She knows that she has gifts and value, so today she gives her all.

Her pain is one we all can feel,
For each of us is tied to a mother.
We all weep in disappointment,
Every person longs for dreams made real.

Today let's let her know she is loved, no matter what happens tomorrow.
Her mother's heart is celebrated too.
In the way she embraces those around her,
Even as she waits for the new.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The lessons of loneliness

              Loneliness isn’t a place of lack—it’s a lesson.
A year ago my life pretty abruptly went from weeks of scheduled out activities to a blank slate. Weekly meetings were now a blaring reminder of painful decisions by others instead of community. I didn’t ask for things to change, I wasn’t given a choice. Sure, my actions made a difference, and I take responsibility for them, but they were not decisive, I was uninvited and it felt like I was unwanted.
              But over the last year, I realized that time of loneliness was a lesson. An opportunity to live loved when so much around me shouted rejection. People who had spoken words of life for years stopped calling in a moment. Vibrant friendships wilted with harsh words and misunderstanding. The death of friendships hurts because you mourn someone who is still alive. In the throes of upheaval its easy to forget that the ones who hurt have been hurt themselves, that they are not the enemy. When a friendship dies, no one wins.
              As I look back, I know I wasn’t perfect. Could I have fought harder--probably, had more humility—always. But one of the many things I’ve learned is to have grace—that I did the best I could with the information I had at the time. Maybe someday when the sting has lessened we can try again. If they’re reading this today I hope they hear my heart and hope for reconciliation where we can meet in the middle instead of drawing lines in the sand—to listen out of love and assuming the best.  But for now, I will pray for their flourishing, for their growth and joy. Does it still hurt- absolutely—faithful are the wounds of a friend. And yet, new life comes from ashes. I’m slowly re-entering community at a new church. I’m putting one feeble word in front of the other trusting that the God who brought me through last year is faithful. I’m trusting Him to be faithful and protect my heart and words—even if they’re misunderstood today. He knows and understands. If anything this last year has taught me that He alone understands my heart. He alone loves unconditionally, He alone defines my worth and my value no matter how full or empty my social calendar.

              He led me beside still waters as a means of restoring my soul. The glassy lake of loneliness was not a punishment, it was provision. I am loved when I am lonely. I am heard when friendships grow silent. I am valued when gifts are decried as idols. I am surrounded by His presence when none go with me. The truth sets you free even if no one else hears it. I know I’m not the only one who feels alone—who’s been rejected, who’s been misunderstood. The still waters were an invitation that I never wanted to receive, but I infinitely needed. Living loved in loneliness is based on who He says you are—no one else. Let the still waters of loneliness restore your soul as he speaks in the silence, walks with you in the solitary, and loves you in the abandonment.