His Strength Is Mine

2 Mar

It’s funny how life comes back around in cycles. I often find myself in the same place, learning the same lessons over again which I thought I had conquered years ago.

I guess your own history repeats itself. Nothing really changes, but everything does. The universe is more circular than we realize.

And our inner selves are in a continual cycle of growth. Death to self and rebirth. Everything comes back around.

I find myself on the other side of constantly questioning my faith, back into some kind of simplicity of what it means to be a Christian.

I rejected that title for so many years. Not because I ever stopped believing or loving Jesus, but mostly because of the people, the hurt, the reputation.

I spent years rejecting the religious side of church in order to get free. And I did. But it left a void. Jesus was still there, calling me into grace, but often I let the my own cynical voice drown him out.

Now, I feel like I am kind of starting all over. These are the days of simple songs and words. I can’t stomach another blog post on what’s wrong with the church, the same words I used to feed on and write.

I find myself going back to words I used to reject because of the memories connected to them.

Basics, that I come to see aren’t so basic after all.

Love God, Love People. 

Another freeing mantra that became a cliche. (Like all things do eventually.)

And this one, often:

Your strength is made perfect in my weakness. 

It roams in the back of my head, always, leaving tire tracks in the mud of my understanding.

I say it over and over until I believe it and even then, it’s like I can’t fully comprehend it.

But I know I am so weak. 

I feel this lately. Emotionally and physically exhausted. Just tired of feeling life isn’t going the way I thought it would.

I am so ready for a huge shift, a breakthrough, a big change. Something. 

I feel like I am drifting with no focus or direction. I grasp on to something familiar because that’s all I have.

Jesus. 

(Maybe this is the point.)

I think about how in less than 3 months my body will release my son, and we’ll get to meet him for the first time.

I am excited, terrified, in awe, unprepared.

My mind goes back to those scattered moments of my daughter’s birth nearly three years ago.

The intensity and prayer. The feelings so weak and so strong all at once.

Reaching the point of knowing there is no possible way I can do what I have to do, and then doing it. 

And my daughter suddenly being in my arms.

Knowing I don’t think I could have done it without my husband being there as my comfort and my coach.

He never once doubted my ability or our decision to birth naturally free of any interventions.

I think of his words, his love, the pressure of his hands, and how suddenly,  in the middle of my greatest weakness,

His strength became mine.

Then I remember a few days later in the lowest, darkest moment of our lives sitting on a bench outside of Cook’s Children’s hospital, our perfect, brand-new daughter hooked up to so many machines, drugs running through her body trying to help her breathe.

I remember my husband, this pillar of strength and faith in my life being so broken that it was like a physical punch in the face.

I wasn’t sure how I could hold him up in that moment, but somehow I did.

Somehow God’s strength never left me, and in the middle of a crisis,

I was able to lend him my strength. 

And suddenly, I know this truth and it warms and heals me deep down in a place that’s been left bruised and vulnerable:

When one with someone, you borrow each other’s strength

 

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Only I am one with the creator of the universe. One who is yesterday and tomorrow, light and love, power and strength.

And I know, all those words I memorized and whispered as a child that became cliche to me over the years are true.

True enough to shake the foundations of the universe and steady my crazy emotions and become real in every moment of my life.

With God, Nothing Is Impossible.

The Same Power That Defeated Death Lives In Me.

I Can Move Mountains.

His strength is mine. 

 

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All the Right Reasons- Thoughts on Pregnancy, Love & Staying Fit

14 Feb

I’ve always had a disdain for exercise. Maybe because I am not athletic, or because when I was younger  I didn’t think I needed it because I had a super high metabolism and could eat whatever I wanted and stayed skinny. Maybe it’s because it was forced on me when I attended a strict Christian program after High School that equated staying fit with spirituality.  Or maybe I am just lazy. I’d rather sit passively and observe. But I am not 19 anymore. And (thankfully) life isn’t just about me.

Today, on this rainy Valentine’s Day,  I was at the gym  and I had a sort of epiphany. I’ve been dragging myself there because I know I need it, because my husband is a personal trainer and encourages me to go, and honestly, because of the cheap childcare. I know it’s good for me, but it’s not really something I enjoy. In the past I made it a necessary evil, but a selfish one.  I thought maybe I could get my body back, feel good about myself, feel thin. But then I got pregnant again.

I realize Motherhood changes the shape and size of your body. It’s difficult at first. I catch my reflection in a full-length mirror or see the number on a scale and suddenly I don’t even recognize myself anymore. But then I remember that growing and sustaining life is a privilege and a miracle. And I know deep down, I don’t want to be skinny. I want to be strong. 

And today as I was on one of the leg machines, looking down at my belly, swollen with life, I realized I wanted to be there.

I want to be there because I don’t want labor just to happen to me, I want to prepare for it, like a marathon runner trains months in advance for the big day. I continue to try to exercise because I believe very strongly in natural childbirth. I believe it can be not only bearable but beautiful. I believe my son can come out my body smoothly, that it doesn’t have to be traumatic or something to dread.

Yes, I acknowledge that sometimes no matter how much we prepare, things happen.  I learned the painful lesson when my daughter was put in an ambulance and sent to the NICU 30 minutes after she was born— some things in life you just have no control over.

But I can prepare. I can pray. I can hope for the best. I can get my mind, spirit and body ready as much as I can.

I don’t have to just let and birth happen to me.

I have a choice the way my child comes into the world. I can be at peace. I can be strong. (I am strong.) I can make myself stronger. I can take captive every thought and fill my mind with beauty, peace and strength.

I think a large part of maturity means you realize you are in charge of your own life. But the conundrum lies in the realization that as much as you’re in charge, you’re not necessarily in control. It’s a grasping hard and letting go all at the same time. A pushing forward and a finally closing your eyes and resting. It’s a striving for the goal, yet understanding everything worth anything is a gift you can’t pay for.

It’s all about motivation really. I think that being strong is a much better motivation than trying to avoid weakness. Love always moves you farther than fear. It’s all the right reasons.

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“Because I want to,” always goes father than, “because I have to.”

So I’ll stay awake and active. I’ll let self-discipline not be something forced on me by some inner dark voice, but a light within me motivating me to never give up. Always keep moving forward. I’ll let it be fruit in my life that comes automatically from healthy roots, water and sun.

Because that’s what love looks like. It looks primarily like work, with emotions blindsiding us as an extra reward when we put the effort in. It looks like sweat, blood and tears. For all the right reasons.

New Poetry Book Available

1 Dec

In 2009 I self-published a collection of poems I wrote while traveling through China and Central America the previous year. My hope was to raise money in order to move to Asia. Plans changed, as they do, but I was happy just for the accomplishment of getting my words out into the world. Years went by and I toyed with the idea of doing another book. Procrastination got the best of me, as always. After all, it is so much easier just to press “publish” on wordpress. Finally, after many life changes, moves, marriage, a baby and another on the way, I published “What the Water Does for My Words.”

It’s interesting to see how my style and voice have developed over the years. Also, how I really still have no idea what I am doing. I am not a poetry expert. Sometimes when I read other poems I think, “my stuff sounds nothing like this.” I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it’s just me. I’ve found over the years, it’s the one medium I can be completely free. Despite what experts may say, there are no rules. I like that I can feel the freedom to play with words and not worry about being relevant or cheesy. Either it speaks to you or it doesn’t.

I think poetry is one of the most overrated and underrated forms of writing. I say this because it has a bad reputation in modern society of being sappy or cheesy. Like greeting cards or Christian rap. But throughout history it was the language or lovers and warriors alike, an artistic form that surpassed logic and science and went straight for the heart.

I think that’s why I can find my home there.

I have a hard time categorizing poems, I guess that’s the whole organizational thing that doesn’t really come naturally for me. But I attempted in this book to group them into three overlying themes that came out as I read through them:

Earth.

Wind.

Water. 

Many of these poems are about finding peace and contentment in nature. Others explore my frustrations with modern society and myself. Others are more about my struggles with Christianity and my journey from religion into grace.

If you’ve followed my writing at all over the years, I think you will like it. 🙂

Thanks for reading, friends.

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Click here to order the paperback on Amazon.

Doors

1 Nov

they say just walk right through when it’s open

but sometimes the noise is too loud to find your footing

I still dream of that perfect place where the windows are always open

and the outside and inside are one so there are no dark corners

walls are safe and secure and they keep us yearning

even when we want to tear them down

we just keep building them

It’s not a matter of good or evil, it’s what you do within them

they say that the each of us in a house
and what the rooms look like inside represent a soul
but some of us are tents
wandering from country to country
refugees of our own making
never finding home

they say just keep waiting for a door to open
but some of us are builders, bolting locks
others are fighters, kicking them down
in order to let the sunlight in

 

 

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The Poetry Marathon

13 Aug

Today I participated in The Poetry Marathon. Basically, you sign up and commit to writing a poem every hour for 12 hours (the half marathon) or 24 hours for the full marathon. I decided to do the half marathon because I need my beauty sleep.

I signed up last minute in hopes to kick myself out of the writer’s block I’ve been stuck in. I usually don’t take these things online too seriously, and I proved myself right when I woke up late this morning after staying up late with friends and said “screw it.” It was past the start time and I was feeling too tired and uninspired.

But I really had no plans for the day, so I had breakfast and sat down to write a line or 2. I am glad I did. I am not in love with any of the poems, but it was a great creative exercise. I may even suck it up and do the full 24 hours next year.

So here you go: 12 poems in 12 hours.

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8 am

The sky is bleeding today
It’s a comfort to say the least
Less I run out of words to say

The idea that I can change the world
Feels old and retired
Feeble and expired

Coddled up next to dreams
Barely holding on by life support
Beside kin argues whether to pull the plug
And I am forced to choose

Do I stay or do I know?
Do I leave it all behind in my mind?
Refuse and waste
Allowing practicality to govern

 

9 am

Before I go down to the river
Lend me your hand
So I can understand how
The way your veins run with blood
And how the water runs over rocks
Are the same

 

10 AM

Lovely.

That’s what you said
As you whispered thoughts that have never come up for air
Drowning in your sentences
New and alive
Words melting icicles
Dripping wet in the sun

Good morning.

That’s what I said
And the newness of the day wrapped around us
A blanket covering our nakedness

 

11 am

Billowing questions of worth
Transcend time and matter
As we walk against the wind
Barely holding ourselves up
How can we get anywhere
When questions like this prevail?
How can we make a dent in the ground
To plant anything worth harvesting?
How can we plan for the future
When we don’t know our own names?
How can we bare children
When all is left barren?
When the storm shouts
Deafening us to any other voices
“You don’t deserve this.”

 

12 pm

Little dove
Don’t worry about your destination
Your wings are strong enough
Despite what you’ve been told
You carry the weight of the universe
In your feathers
Yet the upward motion comes
As easy as the rising sun

Little dove
All will be well
Despite what the news projects
You carry the potential for peace
In your beating heart

Don’t let the world bring you down
You belong in the clouds

 

1 PM

Lately I feel it all
Rushing into me
A house fire blazing
From room to room
Leaving only charred foundations
Caked with soot
And I am left standing
Shivering in the ashes
Grateful for the in and out
Of my lungs
Grieving over what’s lost
With the tiniest certainty
One day I’ll rebuild

 

2 PM

I live for the imagery of travel
The journey and the road
That finds us closer to the sun
Away from the cold, dark forest

I live for the endless roads
Stretched out across vast lands
Of my imagination
Winding mountain passages
Going straight to the heart

Come with me as we drive
Windows down
Air freely moving
Into the soul of these words

 

3 PM

Walk with me
And tell me amazing things
Of how you conquered the world
Inside your own head
Slaying those dark thoughts
With glimpses of light
Beams of grace
Illuminating ghettos
Show me your scars
While telling war stories
Of how you barely lived
To see today
Just so you could walk with me

 

4 PM

I feel a relief sweeping through me
Like knowing summer’s almost over
And soon I’ll be able to be outside
Breathing in air that doesn’t suffocate
Like soon I’ll have a place to rest my head
Away from the chaos I create

 

5 PM

I used to imagine the afterlife
A sparkling city with a dark sky
Literal golden mansions
Where flawless people picked fruit from backyard orchards
And bathed in clear waters
Walking on diamond covered river

Now when I do think of heaven
My mind is blank– there’s no scenery
I only picture the immense feelings
Of loving purely– and being loved
Multiplied by infinity

 

6 PM

I close my eyes and drift to a place
Where I am always happy and at peace
Where I am organized and productive
Where my life is shining and clean
Where my book is a best seller
And I travel the world with my babies
Where every word I say matters
Then I stop
Rewind a bit
Backtrack from an imaginary future
To the past
Where I was a scared little girl
With nothing but dreams
Afraid to speak
And that I’d never be enough
And I know
We’ve come a long way, baby
This is only Part 1
The rest of my story will have plenty of twists

7 PM

I am tired but I am here
I just want to be more than here
I want to be present
Fully alive
Available
Myself
I want to be captured by beauty
And be ok in my own skin
To stop overthinking
And really live
Maybe one day I’ll write about more
But for right now
Every line in my poem
Leads me back to this:
Happiness comes when I am fully awake

 

My Wilderness

21 Jun

we say wilderness like it’s a dirty word

as if purity is something to fear

untouched by society and progress

wild, yes, but necessary

complicated, yes, but simple

a dangerous beauty to embrace

and yet we are terrified by:

cold, heat, hunger, weakness, work

the very things that make us

fantastically alive

yet we want it easy

even when it’s poison

we don’t want to admit

our comfort is killing us

but it’s so convenient

we say, eyes glazed over

unsure of where anything originated

even ourselves

I’ll tell you:

we came out of a garden

ripe like a vegetable

covered in earth

and every emotion

ready for sustenance

drinking, eating, toiling, laughing

mourning our losses

getting up with the sun

to start all over again

but for many of us

this is only stories

images, visions, words

a longing and a loathing

fantasies of self-reliance

returning to our roots

only to find they’ve been pulled out

a herb garden on a windowsill

surrounded by plastic and steel

miles from where we came from

unsure of what it means to live anywhere

we say wilderness like it’s a pretty word

hip and nostalgic

forgetting animal instinct

the harsh reality of nature

the bloody struggle of survival

but leave me here awhile

and I’ll stay alive

by grace and my own hands

I’ll make something grow

a wild flower

inside my own wilderness

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Translating the Wind

11 Jun

somewhere between where I was and where I am going,

I reside

abandoning all other options

careless to the chaos of choice

the noise ceases and I am still

Oh restless heart, make peace with yourself

a decade ago I wandered from city to small town

overwhelmed by the meaning

in every place, person, and moment

every noun was a sign

nothing my senses experienced was an accident

I wrote like it was the only way I could see where I was going

and even though it tortured me

I knew I could exist in the moment

I knew Purpose

like sun and rain and soil

and it didn’t matter

that I only had if half-right

that I was cowering to fear

rowing against the waves

to an island I could never land on

Oh restless heart, stop for a moment and rest

at last the illusion broke

I screamed in a hotel room in China

I hated what my beliefs had made me

while loving grace for the lies it exposed

I fell apart and came together

I stood on a bridge far above snow covered streets

and knew impossible was nothing

a remaking of self

a transition from winter to spring

I guess I am not done yet

uprooting, planting, blooming

the layers that ultimately become my being

and I’ll keep going

wondering, wandering and questioning

even if I stay still

the Wind speaks and I can finally translate:

Oh restless heart, this is your home

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Where’s Jesus?

2 Jun

Every night, I pray with Aurelia. Sometimes it feels special and even sacred. Mostly it feels like routine, and occasionally just meaningless words.

Lately, she’s been talking and communicating and understanding more than I could have imagines for someone who is not even 2 yet.

The past week or so, when we pray she asks a question, and innocent question that stops me in my tracks and pulls me out of the mundane into something more.

“Where’s Jesus?”

“….He’s here, baby. In our hearts.”

“I don’t see him.”

I swallow, choking on some invisible fear, a memory, a doubt.

“He’s here, baby. Whenever we feel love, or happy or full of joy, that’s Jesus. Whenever we see anything good and beautiful.”

I struggle to form the words.

I’ve never had a problem believing God is real.

I don’t remember a moment in my life ever doubting his existence.

I’ve always made my home in ethereal places that don’t count on the tangible and logical to exist.

I don’t have a problem believing what I cannot see.

I don’t even necessarily struggle with the fact that He loves us.

I know he’s a good father.

It’s how good, how joyful, the “bigness” of His grace and love I think I know deep down, yet somehow I don’t apply to every day moments when I need it the most.

“I don’t see him…”

When my prayers feel like they are hitting the ceiling, when my feelings seems too loud, to real to make sense of the Truth.

When I just want my way, my timing.

When I let those old voices in.

When I believe fear instead of love.

When it feels too hard for too long.

When I am about to give up on my dreams.

When I am tired from struggling to believe how good.

How big.

I pause.


Last night I had a vivid dream.

I was hiking in a dense, dark jungle with my husband. We were trying to get somewhere important, somewhere where people were expecting us.

Somewhere we were meant to be.

To get to this place, we needed to cross this terrifying chasm on a swaying, frayed rope bridge. My heart in my chest, I followed my husband across. It was so high up I couldn’t see the ground. I panicked, half-way across.

I can’t do it. It’s too hard. It’s not worth it…

I don’t see him. 

Somehow I kept going.

Somehow we made it across.

On the other side was our destination. A beautiful hotel, more majestic than anything I had ever seen. When we walked inside, we found out that someone had anonymously paid for us to stay there. We walked into the beautifully decorated, enormous suite and looked around laughing with pure joy.

It was a gift. We could rest.

I woke up with a jolt.

It’s a risk, stepping out. But there is an enormous blessing waiting on the other side. 

 


I don’t have trouble seeing Him in the small things, in my daughter’s eyes and in the little ways he provides our daily needs.

Sometimes it’s the big-ness I struggle with.

“He’s here baby. Everywhere. He never leaves us.”

She looks at me, innocent and whole, with more wisdom in her little-enourmous heart than I can understand, and says,

“He’s in the stars.”

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Free Because of the Brave

30 May

Today I woke up, and I have the choice to do what I want with my day.

I can openly speak about what is on my heart to say,

I can express my opinion through writing words, and even publish it for the whole world to see online. I can disagree with you.

I don’t spend time worrying that someone trying to silence me is going to knock on my door and arrest me because of my beliefs.

I don’t have to hide who I am.

I can eat what I want. I can make my own decisions. I can walk the streets without being paranoid about what I am wearing. I know if something happens, I can get help.

My husband and I can raise our family the way we see fit. We can have as many kids as we want, and that our bodies our able to have. I can give birth at home or in a hospital. We can choose the medical care we receive.

If we want to responsibly own guns, for protection and sport, we can.
If we want to start a business or ministry or buy a big chunk of land and live off of it one day, we are able to.

I can choose the career I want.

Any thoughts that I am limited by where I was born and who I was born to, the gender I am, or even my education are just an illusion.

I can rise above that.

I can make something of my life.

I can travel wherever I want.

I can produce wealth.

I can give it all away.

I can make a difference in the world.

I can make life better for my children.

I can live without fear.

Whether I choose to see the bad or the good in this country is up to me.

What I do with my freedom is my own responsibility.

What I do with what’s been given to me is my choice,

My life. 

It is not dictated by anyone else. It’s between me and God.

The majority of the world can’t say this.
They can’t claim this.

They live in fear and instability,
Their individual rights don’t exist, according to their government, or lack thereof.

Life, liberty and pursuing happiness is a far off goal that feels unattainable.

Because oppression rules them,
Power and greed are in charge.

The weak are items to be used and discarded.

There is no justice.

Evil reigns.

You can argue with me all you want.

You can scoff at the idea of patriotism and point out all the wrongs,

(That was once me. I wanted to live anywhere but here. I wasn’t grateful.)

You can live under constant fear that soon all this will be gone.

That one day you’ll get a knock on your door and everything will change.

Liberty will just be a distant memory.

That may be true….but...

It doesn’t have to be.

That’s your choice.

And mine.

We create our own future.

And the fact remains,

This morning, if you’re an American, you’re free.

The world is open for you.

Nothing is holding you back.

And it’s because ordinary people throughout our bloody history, felt something, saw something, valued something…

FREEDOM.

They knew the potential. They saw beyond their own temporary existence.

They knew what they wanted for their great-grand children.

They knew the endless possibilities in a people who are truly free.

They knew that one act of heroism mattered,

That it could change the course of history.

And it did.

Today I woke up, and I have the choice to do what I want with my day.

Thank you.

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What the Water Does For My Words

19 May

I don’t know why I get to this place

away from the joy I used to know

almost afraid to count my blessings

nearly afraid to hope

it’s been a long road

towards home

wet and muddy

close to flooding

I usually feel something different in the rain

It’s always been my soul cleanse of choice

(and my cliche poem topic, too)

I’d stop and see

what the water does for my words

how it rinses the dust in my heart

and carries away old, dead thinking

now it’s just some kind of shivering, wet gibberish

trying to build a bridge

in the gap of thoughts

as water rushes in

I wish it were profound and real

but right now, it’s just me

empty and full again

washed and cold and waiting for the sun

stuck in-between the truth I know will set me free

and wishing for anywhere, anything else

all the potential in the world wrapped up in a feeling

fickle as spring weather in Texas

then I close my eyes and  I am a child

tracing raindrops with my finger as they race

down the outside of the car window

 I am going fast and it doesn’t matter where

I am alive

once again finding wonder

in puddle jumping

and the sensation

of the rain on my skin

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