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.”

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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. 

 

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.”

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.

the violet hour.

I have taken an inordinate amount of time to update this blog. I believe the last time I wrote was in April, and so much has changed and is still changing. My life right now has a beautiful rhythm mixed with some intense moments. But it’s late summer, my house smelled like baked apples all afternoon, the sun shines in spite of the fog, and we are wondrously adaptable creatures. 

There are beautiful moments in my life and I have been challenged lately to start keeping track of these moments. Things that make me happy, ways in which I take joy in life, the reflective pauses in the midst of small sweetnesses. 

selah.

The strains of Debussy’s Clair de Lune floats around the cricket’s and cicada’s concerto from the trees outside. My room makes me feel like Anne Shirley. “Love conquers all” decal above my door is a beautiful reminder every time I walk out (also, I kerned the letters well when I put it up.) The tiny orchard outside my window gives off a sweet fragrance in the heat of the day. The September Issue of Vogue came in the mail today, and with it came free perfume samples. Campfires with lovely people are so calming. Trip planning is exhilarating.

selah. 

So much more. My life is so blessed. 

But I’ve been thinking lately about why it matters that I recognize that I’m blessed. I think it’s because I can get easily caught into the trap of discontent and forget that I am rich with friends and family and beautiful things around me. My life is made up of beauty, regardless of how it appears. The things in my life are beautiful because I say they are. Isn’t that what God did every time he created something? He made it, looked it over, and called it “good.” The world is horribly screwed up, but it is also beautiful because he said so. I have a say in how I view my environment, in how it interacts with me.

And I say, “it is good!” 

they say that the captain stays fast with the ship

Lack of motivation has always been a problem for me. I can be so inspired one day and so apathetic the next. It’s incredible. It also doesn’t help that I have to blog from my mobile phone instead of the computation machine that I don’t have yet. Do you know how frustrating autocorrect can be?
But I digress.

There are things I want to say, but don’t because I have the very exasperating impulse to make everyone think I’m Switzerland. If I do take a stand it seems that it has become the new sport to try to shoot me down with as much complex wit as possible. I can handle my sarcasm, almost as much as I can handle flying an airplane.
I have always felt a bit overwhelmed and disgusted with sarcastic wit, at least the kind that degrades and objectifies others. But it has become vogue to put people down. The conversational style of selfish abandon has become a hindrance to compassion and selfless love. Do we really value our opinions to such a degree that we are willing to sacrifice the friendships of those around us?

It is a mark of how careless we have become with our lives. Hilarious as it might be, I just don’t understand the mentality of destruction. And please take me at my word when I say destructive.

I am not plucking specks out of your eyes. I am looking in the mirror at my own glaring plank and asking myself how it even got there in the first place. Humility. What on earth does this look like? Real, honest, from-the-heart humility. I do not have this within myself. I need it, welcome it. I am at the end of myself. There is nothing good within me. So here is Jesus. And I am sorry for the harm and destruction my tongue has caused. I am sorry. And I love you.

Now I am become Death: destroyer of worlds.

J Robert Oppenheimer; creator of the atomic bomb.

sway to the rhythm of love.

I often wonder what my life will be like when I get married. Maybe I’m jumping the gun here, but I think I should examine a few things before some dear man enters my life permanently.

I see a lot of people getting married and switching up their lives for their spouse. Some even start that process before the elusive engagement ring mysteriously appears on their finger.

I am so used to doing things a certain way. I am slightly concerned that I won’t be able to acclimate well to married life, if that is what I am called to.

I like going to bed whenever I want. I like playing the guitar at 11pm. I enjoy watching season after season of Bones, ignoring the pile of laundry on the floor. I delight in putting on a dress and dancing in my room for ten minutes before throwing on pajamas and doing a crossword. I occasionally skip meals and don’t feel guilty. I sleep with a fan on always. I sporadically clean whenever I want. I don’t like doing yard work. I write messages to myself on my mirrors. I like clocks. I leave towels on the floor. I don’t make my bed. I have old ratty fuzzy pink slippers that are so comfortable. I kill every insect I find. I go where I want without telling anyone.

How on earth can you add another person into that insanity? It would so limit my freedom and spontaneity. But that’s probably just my realistic world clashing with my idealistic world. I just don’t see how 2 + 2 could ever = 4 in my world(s).

It’s so selfish of me, to think only of what I’d be losing in the deal. Because everyone I know says that giving up my messy bed and random bedtimes will be worth it. But honestly, I don’t get it. I get the companionship and the love and the sex and the hand holding and the laughter and the memories and all of that. But if my life feels great now, why should I change it just because someone says that the unknown will be better.

I’m not against marriage, for me or anyone else. I just have these unresolved musings and I figure that getting them out now is better than getting them out after the first anniversary.
Thoughts?

just like a tattoo.

It’s 2am. I’m so tired but can’t go back to sleep. There are thoughts, so many, blurred and convoluted. There is flooding mere miles away, people I love are hurting, things are crazy. But that’s not why I’m posting this, uhm, morning.

I’m tired of religion. Throughout my life I have always been under some kind of pressure to meet a specific standard, follow rules, chain myself to theologies and doctrines for fear of not living a righteous enough life. If I didn’t carry the heavy burden of these manmade standards, I was looked upon as one who had fallen away. I didn’t fit into their normal so they classified me as untouchable.

Everyone everywhere has done this in some fashion. I’ve done it countless times to others. We think we do it out of concern for their wellbeing. We tell ourselves that God holds us to a standard and we should therefor hold each other to those standards as well. We hold our opinions close to our hearts, so close they begin to be absorbed into our relationship with God.

I do not believe he judges me. Maybe that shocks you but I think you can reason this out with me. If we say that our sins were handled on the cross, that God now looks at us through the person of Jesus Christ and all he did, then in Gods eyes I am his dearest one, his beloved, his perfect intention for his creation.

I make mistakes. He knows that. He is grace-filled and his “burden” is not that at all. It is a perfect blend of love and grace. There is nothing I can do that can make him love me more or less. Do I really think myself so important that by my very actions and thoughts I can convince the God of the universe that I’m suddenly not worth loving or saving? His heart is grieved by these attitudes. Can’t you feel it?

I’m getting a tattoo tomorrow, well, today. And I cannot understand why you think that you can ever fulfill the ‘command’ of loving your neighbor if you condemn and despise a fellow believer. This is what I’m choosing for myself and I’m not hanging my salvation on it, and neither should you.

Cut out the law, if that’s what you’re living by and for. Please, for Jesus’ sake, try to comprehend how high, how deep, how vast, how wide, how unending is the love of God.

please speak well of me.

I feel like anything I write at this point will become a hinderance in some fashion. I don’t know. I get anxious sometimes that what I write is too lofty, too grammatically incorrect, too much from my own heart for anyone to understand.

And sometimes things overlap in my head. Mostly I get nervous that what I write will have no meaning at all. Maybe it doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing. There are times when creativity gives me shivers. But I often think that what I have to offer is in no way unique, that I most likely wrote about the topic a month ago or others have already driven the point home or the words I choose are unintelligible and superfluous. (hmm.)

But. (you knew it was coming)

But the very fact that I have these thoughts, I feel, is a good thing. There are things in my life that I routinely question, and I love it. If I didn’t ask myself whether or not there was a point to my writing, would I ever know the answer? No.

“He who asks is a fool for five minutes. He who doesn’t ask is a fool forever.” Chinese Proverb.

I love and hate challenging the status quo. It has always made me uncomfortable to ask questions, but I need less comfort in my life.

I need less me in my life.

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