Tag Archives: Story

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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The Three Births of Aurelia Claire

24 Jul

It’s close to four in the morning and I am awakened by the sound of my daughter crying. I slowly emerge out of a sleepy haze, rolling over to get out of bed. I pick my baby up out of her bassinet and try to comfort her. Her cry is loud now, reverberating across a silent house, her pink mouth wide open, waiting for me to feed her. For a moment I just want to drift back to sleep. Sweet, blissful sleep. I am then reminded of how just two weeks ago I longed so badly to hear her cry, and I would have traded every night of sound sleep just to hear her voice.

1.

It’s the sound we all hold our own breaths to hear, as a new baby enters our world and takes their first breath. My daughter struggled with hers, even after she let out her first glorious cry. For some reason we still don’t understand, her lungs never fully expelled the fluid inside them. She was born gasping for breath and we didn’t realize it at first. Everything about her looked alert and perfect, I couldn’t believe how flawless she was, not a wrinkle or imperfection.

I caught her myself after 10 hours of labor, 30 hours of water being broken, and 48 hours of no sleep. I pushed her out with a strength I didn’t think I had left, while on my hands and knees. I had already tried the relaxing birthing tub and every other position in the book, but her head was stuck, until that final, raw and real moment.  My midwife and birth team rushed to cover the beautiful wood floors with towels as Aurelia slipped into this world and into my arms.

I held her for an earth-shattering hour or so, the last time I would hold her until a week later.

The events after her birth were a gut-wrenching blur. Pure joy followed by overwhelming panic. She wouldn’t nurse, and showed signs of distress. She was given oxygen and a phone call was made. I got stitches. I rested in bed in the next room while medics wheeled in with the proper equipment to give my daughter the breath that she needed. It was storming hard outside, dark and foreboding. I couldn’t go with the ambulance, I wasn’t strong enough yet, I could barely stand. So my husband went. They rolled her into my room to say goodbye. I stood on shaky legs, holding onto the bed post, my vision blurring and blacking. I saw my precious baby hooked up like a science experiment, a pure, precious child inside of a machine with wires and tubes everywhere. I collapsed back on the bed sobbing.

No. This wasn’t our story.

I had just birthed a nearly nine pound baby with nothing to slow down the pain but my breathing. I have avoided hospitals my whole life, always gone “the natural way,” always assuming my body was fine and that it would fix itself. I believe very deeply God heals and protects. I rejected medical advise when I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes and opted to keep it in check myself through diet and exercise, which worked brilliantly. There were no complications and I was once again considered low-risk.

This NICU, this wasn’t our story.

I felt like I was in a bad dream when I finally arrived at the hospital. My father-in-law pushed my wheelchair through the endless maze of hospital corridors. I watched several cops run by us to a group of people standing at the end of a hall watching a man who was broken to pieces, yelling through his tears, “They told me he was alive!”

No. We didn’t belong here.

I was supposed to be enjoying the suite-like relaxing birth center, taking an herbal bath with Aurelia, eating a pancake breakfast in bed with my new, complete family.

We arrived to the hospital room with Louvier on the door, and there she was, hooked up to so many machines, sedated and far away from me like she never left my womb in the first place.

—————————————————–

the constant mechanical beeping reminds us

of these fragile lives

who came to earth to soon

hanging in the balance

a few numbers

determining survival

but the will to live is strong

it echoes through halls

if you tune out the dark

and choose to hear it

—————————————————

 

Everyone we met in the hospital had far worse stories than ours. Most couples had preemies who had been there for months. They had been traveling a long, hard road, and there seemed like no end to it. My heart broke every time I walked down the hall and heard the cries of those tiny infants, who often had no one to hold them besides busy nurses and an occasional emotionally frail parent who drove from a long distance away and could barely keep up with their lives back home.

I was humbled, every time I began to feel bad for myself. I know you can’t really downgrade your own pain by comparing your circumstances to others, it is still the most difficult thing I’ve ever been though. But I quickly saw the stark black and white difference my attitude and perspective made in my mood and my overall sanity.

Gratefulness became my lifeline, and as days passed there was more and more to be thankful for.

My baby got better every day. Every single thing they tested her for came back negative. There was no bigger issue, no abnormal development or defect. She was indeed perfect, she just had a rough start.

strong

The nurses changed every 12 hours. Most were excellent, a few were mediocre. One in particular, a cheery, round woman who had been working in the NICU for 25 years, was our own Mary Poppins, our angel. She came right in the middle of our stay and saw Aurelia as healthy and whole, and treated her so. She pushed the doctor to eliminate machines and slow down sedation drips. She even bent the rules so that I could hold my baby, even though I wasn’t supposed to because she still had an IV in.

2.

I walked into the room after one of my long, painful bathroom trips, and Mary Poppins was standing over Aurelia’s bed grinning. She had produced a festive red bow from her magic bag, and placed it on my baby’s sweet head. I stopped, choked up, staring at my baby who finally looked like a little girl, not just a sick child. I got situated in the oversized hospital recliner and the nurse placed Aurelia in my arms. That day was my “due date” and even though she came into the world the week before, I felt like she was being born all over again.

holding

Soon they removed the ventilator which had been keeping Aurelia silent. I waited for her cry, thinking it would happen immediately, but her poor voice box was all scratched from the tubes. A faint, hoarse noise slowly turned to a strong proclamation of life over the next 24 hours.

3.

Her “third birthday” happened a week later when the doctor finally declared her well and signed our discharge papers. We went home, exhausted and overwhelmed with emotion, knowing Aurelia had no medication, condition or even a diagnosis.

“Some babies just have a hard time transitioning,” our pediatrician who I nicknamed “the baby whisperer” explained when we went to our follow-up appointment. Aurelia screamed her lungs out to prove they worked, then calmed down immediately when he put her in a different position.

At home, we quickly fell into a routine and relaxed knowing that whatever normal, hard things we went through with adjusting to having a newborn, at least it wasn’t magnified in the hospital.

We were finally home.

———————————-

Hallelujah 

Every breath is a second chance

(Switchfoot)

———————————–

I don’t claim to know why things happen. I can’t justify the fact innocent babies suffer, and that while we have our happy ending, some in the NICU do not.

I do know that life is so unpredictable, no matter how well you plan and prepare you just never know what road you’ll have to walk down.

I know that you never know how strong you are until you are brought to your very weakest point.

I know that there is a transition that happens in that moment of utter brokeness:

His strength is made perfect in your weakness. 

I know that Grace and Comfort are there in that moment, and He is more real and tangible than the tears in your eyes and the pain in your heart.

I know that sometimes the smallest, more fragile looking things in life often carry the most strength.

And I know my girl has found her voice, and one day, the world will hear it.

 

 

Jean-Thomas wrote Aurelia this song when I was pregnant and sang it for her in the hospital. This was our Fourth of July celebration.

 

Beautiful girl in a beautiful world

Do you know just how much your worth?

Your dreams are already changing this earth

There is so much more you’re destined for 

There are those who’ll tell you you’re wrong

They will try to silence your song

But right here is where you belong

Take your dreams, sail away

 

You’re the dawn of a new day that’s breaking

A masterpiece still in the making

Blue in the ocean of grey

The birth of a star that sends darkness away

Be the hoper of hope far out of reach

Be the dreamer of dreams and impossible things

 

Though this world may try to define you

They can’t take the light that’s inside you

So don’t you dare try to hide

Let your fears fade away

 

You’re the dawn of a new day that’s breaking

A masterpiece still in the making

Blue in the ocean of grey

The birth of a star that sends darkness away

Be the hoper of hope far out of reach

Be the dreamer of dreams and impossible things

and impossible things

A Brief Conversation with the Sun

5 Sep

“Good morning, world,” she said, letting a ray of sun on her face,

“Why I am here another day?”

She paused, letting questions shift and arrange priorities inside of her, putting off her daily routine to try to understand how to be human.

“To love,” the sun replied, realizing an answer from the world would be a little hard to hear because of the colorful noises, melting into each other. Besides, sometimes the world got a bit demanding, and he might  convince her to try to fix him.

She hadn’t been expecting an answer at all. The question was purely rhetorical.

But now that she had it, it warmed her, drawing out light between cracks of uncertainty and dusty corners of familiarity.

“To love,” she repeated, knowing that the tiny word held a billion galaxies full of meaning, that the world himself couldn’t even dare contain.

“Yes, to love,” The sun repeated for emphasis, rising higher in the sky at the energy that came from the proclamation, making sure his fingertips reached her, tickling her face.

He knew he was only a metaphor, his warmth a picture of what could happen on the inside of her, if she dared make this truth her purpose, if she believed this instead of focusing on the chaos the world would bring.

“To love,” she whispered, knowing beyond knowing that this was greater than any human heart, any world, greater even than the brilliant energy shining on her skin.

The sun smiled brighter. Now she got it.

Mmm, Tastes Like A Story

19 Jul

I really, really like food. I mean, who doesn’t?
Food is so much more than sustaining, surviving.
It is also more than temporary pleasure.

The best food tells a story.

I mean, that’s what it’s all about right?

Food and drink, together-ness.

Story.

I love how Jesus fed people with physical food to represent the spiritual nutrition they were receiving.

Bread and wine and receiving life in Him.

Fish for breakfast and speaking how all things were now new.

Food and story go hand-in-hand.

The other day I made some  Chinese dumplings for lunch.

I dipped them in soy sauce mixed with ginger.

They invoked a memory, a story.

A tiny upper room in one of my last days in Urumqui, Western China.
Following a new friend through mad, winter-y, chaotic streets as night was approaching.

An introduction,
“This is my family,”

A kind, shy woman.

Small boys with big almond eyes, brown hair, tan skin, giggling.

“You are the first people from US they have seen.”

The kind woman gently placed three bowls on the floor where we sat cross-legged on a beautiful blanket. A tapestry hung on the bare wall, color and design.

—————————————————————————————————–
I had eaten so many type of dumplings the past couple months,

Pork, chicken, fish, shrimp, vegetable, some undefinable meat. A thousand types.

Dumplings are good luck for the New Year. I spent Chinese New Year in an apartment with another girl on the other side of the country laughing as another kind mother attempted to teach this western girl how to make dumplings, and I failed. Completely.

“We cannot eat yours, it is bad luck if they fall apart!”

That night, I sat alone of the rooftop of our hotel and watched the sky light up with fireworks, more bright and colorful and numerous then I have ever seen before or since then.
——————————————————————————————————
I smiled at the two giggling boys and the shy mother and took a bite. The pungent, strong flavor of lamb I was so accustomed to after spending time in the west, mixed with the delicate home-y taste of sweet potato.

I grinned.
“Tell your mother, I have eaten a lot of dumplings while in China, and these are the best ones so far!”

Our friend translated and the mother blushed and smiled. I felt so much love for these people, this minority group of Turkic descent bared no resemblance to the “typical” Chinese in appearance, religion, or culture.

Our friend proudly showed us her family’s copy of the Koran, one of the few possessions in the small room.

“This is to us what your bible is to you.” She said proudly.

After dinner and good byes, she led us back through the dark, cold streets to our hotel.

There, we talked. Our friend picked up the bible written in Chinese and English I had been carrying across the country with me, wondering who I should give it to.

She began to read,

“In the beginning, God created the heaven’s and earth…”

For the first time, she read our story.
———————————————————————————————————-
What food tells a story for you?

When I Can’t Stand Reading the Bible

11 Jun

I’ve read a lot of random books in the past few weeks. I gritted my teeth as I read about Aron Ralston cutting through his arm to save himself from his boulder prison in Between a Rock and a Hard Place. I LOL-ed constantly at David Sederis’ wit in Me Talk Pretty One DayI was shocked and disgusted at the abuse one woman suffered in being in a fundamental polygamist cult in Escape.

But I haven’t really read much of the bible. Sometimes I just don’t want to at all. It is not because I am avoiding God, or because I believe I can attain truth elsewhere, I really just haven’t wanted to read it.

I know it is truth and I know it is life and it would probably make me feel stronger and believe deeper, but I still wonder if I should force myself to do something when I don’t know why I am doing it.

I used to read the bible out of obligation. It seems like a different lifetime, but I felt God would be pleased with me, that I would be a better Christian.

At times I would read it because I would get an emotional high out of it.

I guess I want to be sure of my reasons behind doing things. I have become the kind of person that doesn’t like to do things, “just because,” especially when it comes to my faith in Jesus.

Things must have meaning, and the meaning must be specific and deeply personal. I cannot steal someone else’s meaning.

Formulas make me angry,

“Just do this, and you will fill-in-the-blank.”

In fact, when I hear that, it makes me not want to do it even more.

Maybe I am rebellious, selfish, lacking discipline? Who knows.

At least I am being honest.

At times, revisiting certain parts of the bible feels a little like going back to a place in my hometown where bad things happened with an ex-boyfriend. Sure, the place itself is harmless, beautiful even, but there are negative things that happened there that are seared in my memory.

Me: “I heard a silly rumor that you slept with her. Ridiculous! My friend who told me was obviously drunk.”

Him: (Silence.)

Sharp pain. Me leaping out of the truck and running into the cold dark woods, throwing myself on the snow. Betrayal.

Maybe I am dramatic, but at times parts of the scripture feel like this. Painful to read. I was betrayed into thinking I wasn’t enough. That I had to do more, pray more, memorize more scripture, give until I sweat and bleed because Jesus gave everything, so shouldn’t I?

I know it’s stupid to throw out the whole thing and I haven’t. Thankfully, I have had a revelation of God’s love and grace and that changed everything.

But there are days when it feels like it hasn’t. Days when I don’t see what the point of going to church, when it just makes me frustrated. Days when I don’t want to read the bible or talk to God.

Then I am reminded, this is not a religious step-by-step process, this is a relationship.

Relationships are messy. They ebb and flow. Even in the best relationships there are times when I get selfish, when I honestly don’t want to hear what the other person is saying. There are times when I don’t feel like communicating. The monotonous times are sometimes the most difficult to overcome, but thankfully this isn’t all about what I do.

I think I underestimate how much God understands and knows where I am at. He understands and knows my heart and He’d rather me be honest then go through the motions.

I know the bible is considered a sword, but it is also our Comfort. I know it tells me where I am when I am lost. I know it tells me who I am when I can’t bear to look at myself in the mirror.

Besides all that, is it poetry. It capture the essence of humanity, love, danger, ultimate redemption. It is our story.

So maybe that’s a good reason to read it.

Because God is love and Love doesn’t stay silent. It must have a voice.

And so I will choose to ignore the ghosts of my past feelings of guilt and condemnation. I will know God is not pleading me to open the book so I can use it as a sword, the war had already been won.

He just wants to tell me a story.

A story that defines me, that shapes the world around me.

A story that breathes life into all things.

 

Let Me Tell You A Story

3 May

I am sitting down to write this morning because that seems to be the way I get my lungs and heart to work.

Writing sometimes feels like riding a stationary bicycle. You approach it with resistance, maybe a little boredom. You don’t really feel like you are getting anywhere, but later you feel the ache coupled with a sense of accomplishment.

You are getting stronger.

On better days you feel more like Captain Cook traversing over unknown lands, embarking on great adventures to go where no human has gone before.

At least, that’s what it seems,  until you see footprints in the snowy tundra.

Because really, there is nothing new under the sun.

But I don’t say that cynically.

The world can always be seen as new, it’s all a matter of whether we open our eyes or not.

So, as writers and artists we dare to portray ancient truths in new light. To make connections, build swinging bridges over deep and dangerous chasms.

We write to make sense of life. 

When you forget this, you begin to live like life isn’t very extraordinary. You begin to get into this routine, chugging through hours and days, waiting for something exciting to come your way.

You forget that being a writer and being an adventurer go hand-in-hand.

You realize you can make your own way,  so you do, slashing through thick proverbial jungle green, pointing out that bright yellow bird along the way.

“See that? Look at the way his feathers shine. Look! Look how those droplets of dew glisten in the sun on that green bud!”

 

 

And the party you are leading, (because you are never on this journey alone) “Ooh” and “Aww” because they were so focused on the mosquitos and overwhelming foliage they couldn’t see the beauty right in front of them.

And so eventually you come upon a clearing in a valley. Inevitably, somebody starts a fire. The weary travelers take off the loads they have been hauling and rest, staring into the flickering flames.

And you all feel like maybe you are just like  generations of people who lived this way, who found themselves journeying and  suffering and reminding each other of bright birds and water droplets right in front of them.

Then someone stands up, energized by thoughts of those that have gone before them, and speaks, those sacred, exciting, life-giving words,

 “Let me tell you a story…”

Then all goes silent.

Words tumble out, dancing upward with the firelight.

And the world becomes new.

10 Impossible Things Before Breakfast

20 Dec

There are mornings I wake up and immediately believe two lies:

1. That today is just another day.
2. That I am jut an ordinary human being.

I forget:
1. I am breathing. Life itself is a miracle.
2. I am a hero on a journey.
3. Everything is mine, because it was given to me.

I want to believe these impossible things before breakfast.
And the list continues:

4. All things worth having are a gift.
5. I already have everything that everyone is searching for.
6. Nothing is worth more than this day.
7. Epic stories are in me, waiting to be told.
8. I am loved extravagantly, I with all my counted flaws I stupidly keep track of in the darkened mirror.
9. Everything is finished. The struggle is believing that.

Speaking of number 7, all this feels like a fairy tale at times, a place like Narnia or Middle Earth or Oz, like falling deeper down the rabbit hole or taking the red pill.

Can I believe in what seems to be a story? Or is it that the stories tell a greater Truth that our world can’t grasp?

What is the reason these stories seem more alive than our “mundane” lives?
Why do they resound so deeply within our broken frames?

Could it be because they are the way we understand The Story?

And so I bring you number 10:

10. God came as a human infant; bloody and screaming, into a dark stable reeking of manure. He grew, walked among us, healed the sick, mended the broken, tore down the old system of religion, ate with the whores and criminals, loved all. He was murdered and came to life, defeating death forever, giving us the greatest gift: himself (true life) to all who believe.

Because of #10, because I am a character in This Book, I can believe the other 9 impossible things before breakfast.

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