Monthly Archives: October 2012

A Weird Fall

This has been a weird fall, if I’m being honest. It has been a weird fall in so many ways, for so many people, that to even begin to try to explain the intricacies of the pain and joy interwoven in this tapestry called “life” would take pages and hours. My heart, the hearts of my friends and family, ripped and torn and bruised and beaten and healed and helped and dropped and kicked and restored – sometimes switching from ripped, beaten, bruised; to healed, helped, restored; and back again; within the span of a day or two. Faith, relationships, friendships, boys, girls, dogs, Alzheimers, school, pride, homesickness, in-laws, abuse, inadequacy – it seems everyone close to me is dealing with one of those in some big way, whether positively or negatively.

It’s been a fall of learning. Learning to love, learning to let go of love. Learning to embrace doubt without a ceiling, knowing that God is bigger than any doubt. Learning to step out and initiate new friendships, to invite the new girl to dinner or coffee, to stop being judgmental. Learning how to put up the necessary walls to get through a day of work or class. Learning when and with whom to take down those walls.

It’s been a fall of 8 page text messages, fingers tapping the screens of cell phones rapidly, urgently, as if typing fast enough can make the pain go away. It’s been a fall of honesty and confrontation, of putting the cell phone down and meeting in the plaza or at the beach or at Union Station to discuss in person. It’s been a fall of learning to admit feelings, to admit wrong, to admit to being hurt. Learning to stop sweeping everything under the rug. Learning to stop BEING the rug, letting everyone walk all over me.

It’s been a fall of ups and downs, rapidly, sometimes three or four in a day. Rejoicing with one friend then sobbing with another, in the same hour. Calling in to work because I just can’t get out of bed this morning, I’ll be in this afternoonThe kind of hysterical laughter that only comes when it’s been way too long since happiness from deep in the gut. Like a roller coaster, climbing and climbing then plummeting with no warning whatsoever.

Up, up, up, cornfields and new church and family reunions and journaling and long walks in the city lights and making up and new friends and late night nachos and perspective and surprise visits from Jocie. Down, down, down, endless headaches and misguided conversations and trying to make my own plans and crying in the car again and maybe not going back to Peru and things changing and Lady dying and nursing home conversation and doubt. Up, down, up, up, up, down, down, down, down, down, up, up, up, up, up.

{Have there been more ups than downs? Of course. Is God still faithful and in control? He is, has been, and forever will be.}

It’s been a fall of long-sleeve-covered hands wrapped around mugs of Peruvian mate de coca. It’s been a fall of new coffee shops, popcorn every night, How I Met Your Mother, apples, considering tattoos, and appreciating my roommate more than ever before. It’s been a fall of trips back to the Mitten almost every weekend, of avoiding journaling because I just can’t right now, of new musical tastes, boots and scarves, of solving other people’s problems alongside my own.

It’s been a fall of realizing how stinking blessed I am. A fall filled with moments where all I can do is whisper, “thank You,” because I don’t come anywhere near deserving the abundance of blessings God has heaped on my head. It’s been a fall of being selfish, forgetting how blessed I am just moments after my awe-filled “thank You,” demanding, “more, Daddy, more,” like a child. It’s been a fall of grace, of Him giving me more and more and more even though I ask for it selfishly. A fall of Him prying open my tightly closed fists, then wrapping His hands firmly around my now empty palms, showing me I’m not alone.

It’s been a weird and difficult fall, yes. But when I look back on my life, the seasons that were the “weirdest,” or “hardest,” are the seasons where God has taught me the most. The seasons where I’ve cried the most have been the seasons where I’ve also grown the most. It’s been a fall of leaves changing colors, falling to the ground, and being trampled on. The trees will freeze soon, but that won’t be the end. Soon enough it will be spring.

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Born Blessed

With the elections coming up, Puente (the student group I’m in) has been focusing our discussions on the issue of immigration. Specifically, we’ve been talking about how to respond biblically to this issue and how to minister to immigrants.

I’ve grown up aware of the issue of immigration, but only in terms of numbers, bills, laws, etc. On Monday night at Puente, we played a board game about the immigration process (it’s more fun than it sounds, trust me). Each person was assigned a character, and we moved through a series of real-life situations that immigrants face. As my character got deported a second time, forced to leave her American husband for 10 years while jumping through paperwork hoops, I started thinking.

I joined Puente because I wanted to make a difference in the Latino community. I wanted to connect, to serve, to help make a change. Have I had opportunities to do that? Of course. But being in Puente has changed me as well. For the first time, those immigration numbers are connected to real, human faces. I’m not even talking about the people Puente serves – I’m talking about fellow students and Puente exec members. Some of the dearest friends I have ever known. My peers and equals in every way.

I look at the faces of these dear friends. I hear them talk about struggling through high school, teaching their parents English and US history for the citizenship exam. They tell stories of how their parents came to the US, of not being able to see relatives back home for fear they couldn’t return to the States. They talk of friends who have tried time and time again to come to the US, only to be sent back. Of teenagers who haven’t seen their parents in years.

I hear all these stories, and all I can do is praise God for what I don’t deserve. I am a US citizen by default. I was born in the US, the child of two American parents. Done. Nothing more to worry about. I was born blessed. There are people who spend their entire lives fighting, who give everything they have so their family can have a fraction of what I was born into without asking for. My citizenship is something I take for granted every day of my life.

This post is not meant to push any sort of political opinion on immigration. After all, I can hardly articulate my own. My hope is simply to remind you, as I have been reminded, how blessed we are to live in the United States; to help you realize, as I have realized, how much has been handed to us without our having to work for it at all. US Citizenship is an enormous blessing some people would die for (and many have). Don’t take it for granted.

Proof

“I need You to prove Your faithfulness,” I screamed toward the sky as I drove through the darkness by myself, the stress of the last two months finally collapsing in on me.

So I got out of the car to see a sky full of stars for the first time in months.
A sweet four-month old smiled and giggled in my arms.
I finally got to hug my mom.

“I just need to see someone who actually believes this, who isn’t acting,” I thought as I received the 15th cliche response of Oh, you know God is sovereign, His plan is best in one day.

So a professor shared her personal story of depression and how God brought her back from the pit.
My uncle talked with me for hours and hours and hours.
I sat on the concrete beach with my roommate and saw the tears in her eyes and could FEEL how hard she actually believes this radiating from her conversation.

“I need to know I’m not the only one feeling this way,” I scribbled in between church notes.

So Jocie showed up on the train with just a few hours’ notice.
Work slowed down for a couple hours and I sat with my boss and coworkers talking about pain and doubt and lamenting and sovereignty.
Open mic night brought honest and raw confessions that, in fact, I am not the only one feeling this way.

“I’m not sure You’re in this,” I finally admitted, tired of pretending and at the end of myself.

So He began to show me where He was.
And He was everywhere.

I questioned.

He answered.

I doubted.

He affirmed.

I cried.

He comforted.

I fell.

He picked me up.

I asked for proof.

He proved Himself.

Too Young

It’s Missions Conference week here at Moody, and this piece was born out of the four pages I scribbled in my journal after attending a seminar on sexually exploited children. We were shown a video of children in a brothel in Thailand that was shot undercover. The English language does not contain words to explain the mixture of sorrow, anger, and disgust I felt after watching that video – I literally could not speak without crying for the next hour. It’s time for the church to open her eyes. It’s time for His justice to flow like rolling waters.

Sweet little faces, seven and nine
Their eyes blurred out for privacy.
Privacy
What a sick joke.
Protecting their identities, their “privacy”
From the eyes of American documentary viewers
Sitting comfortably in a classroom or on a couch
As these girls are “visited” by tourists night after night,
who treat their bodies like some sort of gift shop
Taking
Stealing
Snatching
Their very innocence
Their right to a childhood
The light in their eyes
Sometimes 15, 20 times in a night.
Privacy? Please.
At seven and nine, they should be having a tea party
Playing with dolls
Not being treated like dolls
Worse, even, because at least little girls care about their dolls.
They should be in school
Not learning English terms that most self-respecting adults wouldn’t use in public.
With their eyes blurred out to protect their “privacy.”
(Please.)
We watch them explain their services to the men.
Describing in the most basic English the things they can do to them.
Words like “yum-yum” and “boom-boom.”
Coming from the mouths of these sweet seven and nine year old girls.
Sometimes, an older boy steps in to facilitate.
At maybe eleven years old, he seems to be the manager of this operation.
“No,” he says, “she no do boom-boom. She yum-yum only. She too young.”

Too young.

You don’t say.
She’s too young for all of this.
Too young to live in this place
Too young to know what those words mean.
Too young to have her body, her innocence, her childhood, the life in her eyes
Stolen from her by men 3, 4, or 5 times her senior
Too young to be beaten if she doesn’t “perform.”
Too young to be raped over and over
Night after night
Day after day.
Definitely far, far too young to be so used
So devoid of hope
Too young, you say?

Damn right she’s too young.

There’s no possible way to pretend she’s more than just a child.
And where, exactly, are You in all of this?
God?
Where is the justice?
It’s supposed to be rolling like waters.
Where is the freedom for the oppressed?
You’re supposed to be a Father to the fatherless,
But I’m not seeing it.
A hundred thousand girls go through this each night
In the United States alone.
Why aren’t You moving?
Why won’t You bring them home?
It’s not like I have answers
I can’t even articulate the problem without crying
But why do You let them keep living this life worse than dying?
Where is the rescue?
Where is their hope?
I know You’re the answer
So why won’t You show?

Sweeping Pavement

I was awakened by a familiar sound yesterday, a swish-swish-swish that instantly transported me far, far away.

Someone was sweeping the pavement outside my window, and as I laid in my dorm room bed, my heart moved south about 3000 miles. Back to Pucallpa, to the house on Avenida Jose Galvez, where the neighbor swept his small patch of pavement every. single. morning. around 6:30 am – despite the fact that it would be covered in dust again within a matter of hours. I squinched my eyes shut tight, hoping that maybe, just maybe, I would open them and find out I had been transported magically back to Peru.

Maybe I would wake up and find myself in a bed of the same size, but with a sheet kicked to the side instead of nestled under a down comforter. Maybe I would open my eyes and instead of seeing Molly standing at the sink getting ready for classes, I’ll see Mama Rosy’s head poked through the door, telling me it’s time to get up so we can go to the market. Perhaps if I squeezed my eyes shut hard enough, I would magically teleport to Pucallpa and could call Monica when I woke up, so that we could plan a night out in Pucallpa to eat papas rellenas and picarones and talk about life on the corner by the shoe store.

I squeezed my eyes shut tight, childishly hoping for magic… but also to keep the tears from pouring out. Those heartstrings that are tied to Pucallpa haven’t come untied, but they’ve been neglected. Chicago is so far from Pucallpa in every possible way. I’m so busy with school and homework that I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve closed the chat window or said “lo siento, no puedo hablar, estoy muy ocupada ahorita” (sorry, can’t talk, I’m so busy right now) to one of my Peruvian friends. Mama Rosy has messaged me three or four times asking for an update on my life, but the excuses come so easily: I’m busy, I’m tired, I’m forgetting my Spanish.

I try to sweep the memories from my mind like the neighbor swept his pavement every morning. It’s easier that way. If I stop and think about how much I miss my South American home, I’ll be unable to think of anything else. I’ll lose an entire day poring over pictures and sending messages and crying into the one remaining package of Doña Pepa I have stashed under my bed.

It’s easier to try to sweep away the memories, but the wind always blows the dust back onto the pavement of my mind. You’d be surprised how many things in Chicago immediately transport me back to Pucallpa. There’s that corner on the way to the beach that always smells like the parque central. The SDR serves white rice every day, and if I get anywhere near it, I miss Mama Rosy. Tears prick my eyes whenever I hear people speaking Spanish – and I hear people speaking Spanish nearly every day. Facilities sweeps the pavement outside my window a few times a month (that’s not metaphorical. There is a broom involved).

There isn’t a good conclusion. I don’t have a logical answer or practical steps. My life has had to keep moving, and I have had to keep moving with it. But I haven’t moved on, not really. I’ve swept aside the memory dust, but it always comes blowing back. It coats the pavement of my mind a few times a week, or even daily… and there’s nothing I can do about it. I miss Pucallpa so bad that it physically hurts, but I can’t exactly drop everything and go back tomorrow. I just keep living life as the heartstrings tied to Pucallpa pull harder and harder. And that’s where it stays right now. Not the end, because there’s no good way to end it.

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