I found an old Facebook note I wrote a few years ago and I thought I’d share it today. Words are failing me lately so I’ll defer to my 23 year old self in the hope that you will learn from her. I certainly need to.

” There is a silence that screams. It is man made, created to make us feel better about ourselves. Yet instead of comforting, it screams of our insecurity. I am a master craftsman of that screaming silence.

It seems almost comical to me: the way I treat is not the way I would like to be treated. Isn’t that the human condition? There is a bad taste in my mouth left there by words too sweet, too elevated, too self serving to utter.

“When you and I say goodbye before you get on that plane it could be the last time we see each other before heaven.”

He is slow, deliberate, calculated in his movements if only to fit more of them into the day. Yet his words are not thought out or comforting. I tried to look at him through my sunglasses but I could only steal glances every few seconds. This was the moment. I knew what I should do. I could even imagine what would happen. I would take his hand, put my head on his shoulder, say some bible verse. I would tell him how much I cherish him, love him. I would take advantage of the vulnerability shown by a man who had fought wars.
Oh yes, I can weave a lovely sorry based on what I should have done but that is not the truth. As hard as it is for me to admit,  I walked on paying more attention to the dog than to the old man behind me.

I will forever store this moment in the filing cabinet labeled “wasted.” Life and death are in the power of the tongue, as we are often told, and I did not have the courage to invoke either.

I think we should more often be told of the power of our choices. I chose undeniably wrong yesterday. I knew it when I saw his tears. I knew it before he made that observation. I knew the choice I would have to make even before it was presented to me. Two roads diverged and I chose poorly. And that had made all the difference.

Fight or flight? I taste those unsaid words even today. I feel that unheld hand in mine. But what good is all of that right now? This moment is meant for something else just as they moment was meant for him. But I chose to ignore, retreat, cower in the fave of vulnerability.

There is a lesson in all of this that I will spend my whole life trying to learn.”

image

to the puerto rican mountain man; in memoriam

I knew the last time I saw you was going to be our last goodbye. I remember the softness of your old man hands. And the depth of your laugh. And the sweetness of your voice as you sang Spanish songs from long ago. And the way your jaw clicked when you chewed. And so many many other things that are now gone forever.
I am your first grandchild and as such I have deep abiding memories of you. There wasn’t a day in my life when you weren’t there in some way. I knew you prayed for me every morning, every meal, every night. You have been a constant for every bit of my 27 years except the last 15 days. That is 15 mornings without your prayers, 15 nights without knowing you were watching Bill OReilly at 8pm, 15 days of this odd emptiness that I did not expect.
When you go through loss this intense things change. I have a hard time putting things in past tense these days; I keep rephrasing things in conversations so I don’t have to say or type the reality of the words ‘had’ ‘did’ ‘was’. I find that tears are the greatest makeup remover. I wake up at 2am every morning thinking mom will call me back to say it was a mistake, that they saved your life, that you’ll be home soon. I still have a hard time crying in front of people, but not for the usual reasons. I keep thinking it isn’t real, this isn’t my life. I don’t know what life is supposed to be like without you and that is what makes me the saddest of all.
You know, oh of course you know that I love you. I will never stop. But when will I get to a point of steadiness again? You lent me such strength, such quiet dignity but I can put none of that to use here. I must wail and scream and sob and laugh and smile and feel everything as deeply as I can.
There is no way to end this letter and I will never end it. Thank you for the innumerable gifts you gave to me, for the things I cannot talk about because they mean so much. I love you I love you I love you and I will never say goodbye to you, Welo.

Besitos,
“Waige.”

we’ll take a cup of kindness, dear.

Heart pictures. Nanoseconds of my life curated with the utmost care, tucked away and saved over these years. I take them out every once in a while, roll them over in my hands, gaze at them with unfocused eyes, memorize their shape, study them in detail.

I am a museum.

Endless portraits of sunsets, rolling hills, fields of corn. But the landscape section of my museum will never be filled up.

The image of a scarf floating through the wind, tied loosely around a boy’s neck. The glow of the dashboard of some car where dreams were shared and tears were wasted. An oar dipped in river water.

Some bad things too. The tears on my mother’s cheek when she realized what she had done. My sister hunched over a coffin as our father tried to pull her away. My friend’s shoulder as he hugged me in despair.

These heart pictures have sounds attached to them most of the time. The giggles of my teenage roommates as they opened christmas presents. Mom’s soprano floating through the house. Languages I dont understand. The knife sharpener that meant dinner was almost ready. Screams of excitment during my first roller coaster ride. Music. Endless music.

And suddenly, in the midst of confusion and pain and questions and busyness, I understand that old phrase we hear this time of year….”For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne.”

give me dove’s eyes.

I want to put away my cynicism. I want a simple faith, a simple love. 

Earlier tonight I was preparing to drive home after having dinner with a friend. I was thumbing through some old CD’s I stash in my car (in case of emergencies, you know.) Bullet to Binary (hardcore mix), nah. Glee (season 2, of course), nah. Dance Mix, nah. Johnny Cash favs, nah. 

And then there it was. No title. Just lyrics written in blue sharpie covering the whole front of the CD. I had completely forgotten about this one. I popped it in and started to drive. Jonathan David Helser’s gravelly tenor was pure nostalgia, though the memories are only a few years old. 

Abba, I belong to You,” he sings. It’s tattooed onto my skin and yet I had forgotten where it came from. And suddenly I felt this deep longing to have the last two years erased from my life, to return to that place of complete simplicity and healing. I have very different views about Abba than I did then but I have gained a cynicism that is toxic. 

In my attempt to free myself from the chains of religion, yes I have found the raw and genuine Jesus, but I lost the beautiful Abba that used to hold me and cry with me and tell me how precious I am to him. Oh, must I always lose something in these life lessons? 

There are terrible parts of the bible, things I cannot believe. But there are beautiful, gentle, healing parts of the bible that take my hand and give me precious gifts of faith. 

I miss the simplicity. I miss the way I would ease into conversation with him. I miss the feathers dropped on the ground, a sort of inside joke with us. I miss the tears of joy and the tears of pain.

He, abba, was always solidly present to me that it didn’t matter that I couldn’t see him or hear him. felt him. I always will. 

“here is the deepest secret nobody knows 
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)” e.e. cummings

 

hold me near

Boy, I never thought I’d be here. I never thought that my twenty-sixth year would bring so much…muchness. Heart-thoughts come in waves lately. A hurricane of questions overwhelm me and I just barely grasp a few long enough to look at them in confusion and then release them to the wind. I keep telling myself that it’s okay to feel these things, it’s so very natural for me to gather my thoughts like wool. The only problem is that I keep putting off the carding and spinning of this wool. It’s always so much work and I’m worried I’ll do it all wrong and end up with yarn that breaks apart at the first sign of tension. 

I know what kind of life I want- one of love and servanthood, one of fearless adventure, one of daring and ferocity, one of grace and humility. I know these things are essential to who God is. But what about the other things we have all heard about God? What about the rules, the behaviour expectations, the parts of the Bible that aren’t so shiny? Am I just supposed to read, accept, and move on? Because I can’t. I’ve been trying for 22 years in this weird love-affair, and I can’t do it anymore.

There are things about the God of the Bible that I do not want to accept. I don’t think they nullify the beauty, the effortless love. But what, then, shall I do? This is a particularly stubborn tuft of wool, but perhaps the most important. 

There are things about The Church that I think are completely ridiculous. What we’ve clung to in the past, the words we put on our signs, the things we’ve decided are important. You can scream it from the steeple all you want, “Relationship, not religion!” but don’t be surprised when people mistake your gospel for a list of bylaws. Before you love your neighbor find out their sexual orientation/preference, views on abortion, and who they voted for in the last election. If they meet most of your standards, invite them to church, get them in the door, then bombard them with changes they need to make in order to fit in with what your church views as the ideal christian life. Truly, that is the gospel in action!

I used to take solace in the church, as a group and as a building. What can I do now but grieve the loss of such a place of peace and reassurance? It holds little for me but questions and sarcasm. If there is beauty I can’t seem to muster the enthusiasm to look for it.

I understand that I have the opportunity to affect change in my own church circles. Frankly, I don’t relish this responsibility. Those of you who have taken on this task, I applaud you and I thank you and I will support you in any way possible. But please, be patient with me as I gain courage to join your ranks. 

The Jesus I cannot abandon is full of love. There is light and life in his presence. Whatever hesitation I might have about God, whatever criticisms I offer about the Church, I can’t let go of Jesus. He is what I crave about this faith of mine. His reactions to the world are what I cling to and hope to emulate. And for all my kicking and screaming…I’m still very much in love with him. And I really believe I always will be. 

So that is the odd path I find myself taking this year. If it has hurt- I’m sorry, I love you, and I hope to do better. If it has helped- I’m grateful, I love you, and let’s all do better. 

 

touch my mouth and hold my tongue.

I have said many words in my 26 years on this earth. Kind words mixed with hateful things, cutting and affirming, self-deprecating, boastful, angry screams, soft whispers, loving thoughts, curious musings. Some in different languages, some in gibberish, some in a tongue only Jesus can hear.

And I’m slowly trying to apologize for every single one of them. I have been selfish and cutting and harmful in the quest for myself. My tongue has been my master and it has exploited both of us in ways we may not yet know. I have done no service but for myself. 

This may seem counter-productive, adding more words to the ones I already wish I could take back. Please forgive me for whatever negative thing may come from this.

And now begins the journey toward listening and thinking and treasuring. Being silent more often than not. Using actions to convey my heart-thoughts. Giving of myself in new and sincere ways. There is so much ground to cover and I fear it will be this way for the rest of my life. And if you hear these words in your own head/heart and do not understand what they mean, please cast them aside and forget them. There is enough confusion in this world without my influence. 

May peace invade our conversations. May love be the language we speak among each other. May our tongues drip with encouragement and affirmation. May we be students of each other in ways that will rearrange our relationships.

how faith compelled and bore us on.

I am the John-Boy of my family; the oldest and the most prophesied over. For years the elders in my life, mentors in their own respect, have spoken things over me that I cherish and still hope to see manifest in my lifetime. 

To listen and learn from people I admire, though I do not agree with them, has been the most humbling lesson of my life. Faith is precious, though it may not resemble my own. There is so much I have learned from the older generations of my family. There is one prophecy I hope to fulfill soon. Ever since I can remember my grandfather has always told me that one day I will write a book about our family. This may seem trite and disingenuous, but he and I both know what a treasure our history is. It is important to understand one another’s experiences and to honor our history by recording it. And so it is that I come to present a meager offering of that history, at least my experience of it. 

___

(an excerpt from The Book)

Patriarchal expectations aside, these beautiful women have developed some way to hold fast to their independence. They gather together in kitchens, a place that our culture has demanded they rule, and they talk. And talk and talk and talk. And all the world’s problems are solved before you can say Arroz con Gandules. And they touch each other’s shoulders in support, sharing each other’s burdens. And they teach the younger generations about family and faith and flan. Those kitchens are sacred ground where worries are flattened out like tortillas, hurts are thrown into the oven to be refined into strength, and love is the ingredient that makes life worth all the effort. 

These women are precious gems that have rubbed against each other so often they have made each other shine. This realization came to me quite a long time ago. When I decided to embrace this ancient tradition that was my heritage it became clear to me that my world would always include these things. 

Cooking is always going to be synonymous with friendship. My children will know as surely as I did standing at the counter in Abuela’s kitchen watching her fry up the Bacalaitos: family is the most important thing. 

I can walk into a group of women with full confidence thanks to Abuela and the fearless way she lives. I can learn new things because she learned them first. I can live my life and give away everything I have to the people around me because she has shown me how rich she is with love. It is an irreplaceable lesson, a humbling reminder that I am responsible for myself and the impact my own life has on this world. 

 

 

“Long after we are dead and gone, for a thousand years our tale be sung, how Faith compelled and bore us on. Oh Sarah, fair and barren one, come to Canaan, come.”

you have a way of stirring up my soul.

It was 2001. I was an awkward freshman in high school, completely self aware and yet wholly apathetic as to how the world operated. I was just coming into a thirst for knowledge (of which I have yet to be cured). The years ahead were vast and innumerable, filled with the hopes and dreams of the little girl who gazed up at the moon each night in wonder. 

That was the year I joined the youth group at church. That was the year I felt God hold my hand. That was the year I learned what it was He expected of me. That was the year all of my hopes and dreams changed into some kind of list of expectations and requirements. Things became complicated and difficult and many weeks were spent anguishing over His silence. Tears, bitterness, heartfelt longing for a simplicity I did not know existed. Why, God? What do you want me to do? Where are you? How have I failed you?

My 14 year old brain, frontal lobe still vastly underdeveloped, was not able to reason with God. So much of my teens was spent learning and adopting other people’s opinions while letting go of my own. They shaped how I interacted with God, how I thought about Him on a practical level. It was unavoidable yet deeply regrettable. Shadows and blurred lines and gray shapes in the distance of my worldview were not allowed; everything had to be black and white, starkly contrasting at every level.  

This is 2013. And I am still fairly awkward, but hopefully less self-involved and more mindful of other humans. And this year of turmoil that I have yet to summit has brought to light much of what I have, until now, held as truth. 

I can kill spiders without sobbing for hours afterward. I can say words that would make my grandmother scowl and I don’t think twice about it. I drive with my knee sometimes and have yet to get into an accident.

The point is, some of the things I believed when I was 14 cannot follow me into my late 20′s. The expectations I placed on myself that pertain to my “Christian Faith” have not stood the proverbial test of time. I love Jesus without all the rules I thought were necessary to our relationship. Such excess, superfluity. And for what? To make all of us look/act/dress/speak/think the same? Unnecessary. I have my own ideas and dreams and desires that Jesus knows and I believe He loves my individuality. Without the rules and expectations there is a freedom of feeling without having to filter my emotions. What I experience doesn’t go through some sort of checklist of right/wrong, godly/ungodly. Saying that I belong to Him isn’t some way of lashing myself to a cause or a doctrine. I belong to Him because it is the only freedom my soul has ever known. 

Ten years from now, when I look back on what I believe at this moment, maybe I’ll cringe with regret. But at the very least I will have a better understanding of the fluidity of faith and the effects of true freedom on the soul. 

Stink Bugs and Introspection

In my room I have one stink bug. He leaves me alone and I keep myself from squashing him with my slipper. I know many people who have bigger stink bug problems than I do. But today I had a thought. What if I only have one stink bug this season? What if this is the worst it ever gets?

And that, I think, is a crucial part of who I am. I will always believe that whatever circumstance I am in is the worst it can get. I know it sounds like such a morose and grim thought, but I honestly think it’s a positive one.

When faced with a problem my go-to response is to hope for the best. If this is the worst it’ll get, I can handle it. I’ve been through this before and I can keep going through it, because this is probably the worst it’ll be.

I think this is what makes me a good friend. I will always believe in the best possible outcome, no matter how much others may try to talk me down. You can literally do your worst and I will still stick by you, because if that’s as bad as it gets then I can handle it.

I believe in good. I believe that life, no matter how horrible, will always be made meaningful by the good. Whether it is a sunset or a cat’s purr or a deep love or a baby’s giggle, good will always win. And I will always hunt out the good in people, and I will always be the one who points it out. Because that’s what I believe in.

Good always wins.

there’s no end to affection you have for me!

My nephew was born a few weeks ago and I was so honored to be a part of that process. I’ve relived it so many times and each memory is precious.

Noah can’t talk, he can’t think cognitively, he doesn’t know how to interact with others. But he is my favorite person in the whole world. I am happiest when I’m holding him; he is the best part of me. I can’t explain that, and honestly I don’t want to psychoanalyze it. There is a beautiful simplicity to our relationship right now, and I believe it is more than enough to fill up my heart for a lifetime.

He came out of my cousin and into the world with blood and screaming and tears. He will most likely experience blood and screaming and tears sometime in his life. But his very existence in this world is a miracle. He survived the blood and screaming and tears, he lives in spite of everything he has experienced so far. This is what I am learning from him. In all of the mess of his birth he is a beautiful survivor.

And this is the grace in it all: That God sees me like I see Noah. I am a mess, bloody and screaming and filled with angry tears. At times I am not happy with anything He does for me. But I know that his heart fills up with love when he looks at me, when he holds me and kisses my cheek. The very breath in my lungs is air he breathed first. I look like him, I sing like him, maybe I even talk like him. And every interaction with me makes his heart swell. Even when all I’m doing is breathing, he is so proud of me.

Do you see? It is never because of what we do. His heart fills with love for us because of who we are.

It will never be about how dirty we are, or how much we cry, or how needy we think we are. It’s about the fact that he is our Daddy, and he can’t help himself. He just loves us because we are his kids. It’s beautiful and simple and wonderful and radical.

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