To the girl I once knew

How do I tell you

I miss you?

How does a vine

Tell that to the branch

On which it grew?

Do you think

Of us

The way I think

Of you?

And wonder why

After reaching

Up for the sun

Together

So many seasons

We are separate?

Do you ever wonder why

You are there

And I am here?

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moments of the heart

“I remember the moment I first realized I’ve been living my whole life in black and white. It was like discovering a color I never knew existed before. A whole new crayon box full of colors, that was it for me. From then on, there was no putting the pieces back together. No going home. Things were different now. Asia had ruined me for my old life.”

While I don’t share the same experience that Anthony Bourdain did in Asia that ruined him for his old life (of course, his was centered around food), I can relate. I remember my moment, not huddled under a cheap plastic tent eating a steaming hot medley of flavors and textures so new to my North American palate. No, it was in the back of the truck. It was only a few minutes away as we left the airport for the first time, heading to somewhere totally unknown to me. I looked up at the big, gray sky, my whole person enveloped in the thick, humid air that swallowed up everything from the ground up. I remember breathing in deep and knowing that I’d be back. I was ruined for my old life.

I spent two weeks in Thailand my first trip. It was full of classic church mission trip experiences; the good, the bad, and the ugly. But there was also something very real about that trip, something that woke up a part of me that up until that point had been in the dark. I had gone into the trip naive to the culture and history of the peoples that lived there, and arrived home with an insatiable hunger for understanding.

What better way to satisfy it than google? So I did. And then I had another moment that ruined me for my old life.

I don’t know how I got where I did, but I remember exactly where I was; the far corner of my parent’s dining table, my back to the living room, a floral tablecloth draping over my lap, and old dell computer stationed in front of me. I read stories of children being used in terrible ways in Southeast Asia. My peers, girls 13 and 14 like myself and friends, a commodity to be purchased. Something else woke up in me that day, and I wasn’t the same.

In high school I became a crusader against injustice of all kinds, but particularly against child prostitution with intense focus and fervor. It was an isolating and heartwrenching experience to allow myself to be heartbroken over the evil people are able of committing against one another. In most was I was still a normal teenager, but I felt very much an anomaly in regard to what I cared about. And I so desperately wanted to share it to anyone who would hear and resonate.

I’ve learned a lot since those early days. As I have entered into a new career in child abuse prevention and care of children who have experienced hurt, two lessons have resonated even more deeply.

  1. Sensationalism will not shock anyone into compassion.
  2.  You don’t have to know to care.

Regarding the first lesson: graphic accounts of evil are not helpful nor effective in sharing hard truths. I used to think if I explained how terrible things were, I would surely shock a heart into caring like paddles bring life to a dying heart. But that is not the case; it is more likely to alienate, and all too often reduces the terror experienced by individuals across the world into an elevator speech. This kind of pain and perseverance deserves more than that.

And regarding the second lesson, which is very much tied to the first: you don’t have to know all the details to feel empathy. I read an interview recently of a director defending his choice of including a scene where a teenage boy is graphically sexually assaulted. His reasoning was along the lines of: we want to raise awareness of male rape, so we included a scene where this happens to our lead character. This type of reasoning is full of so much fallacy. It excuses our decisions to not want to know about the hard things in life because it’s too much to confront in its fullness. And alternatively, knowing all the details does nothing to enrich our lives or response to injustice. We ought to be people who need no explanation or graphic initiation to do what is right and stand against what is wrong.

Usually I like my blog posts to lead us back to the beginning. I opened with Asia, but I’m ending here. I guess this is a place where I haven’t found a “conclusion paragraph” just yet. I’m still figuring it out, what it means to be ruined for the life I could have had. But, I hope that the little I’ve learned so far on this journey gives you something, and maybe encourages those of you who feel the same.

xoxo beth

take from me again and again

AA8B52AD-1F9B-4EDE-9FEB-55B9872936F5.JPGWhere do I begin? Does a waterfall truly start with a stream? My love thunders for you so loud I can hardly hear myself think at times, just barely catching myself to take a breath.

Five chubby fingers on each hand, dirty fingernails that I’ve let grow far too long, grab my face and turn it in the direction of your two beautiful eyes, big and blue just like the ocean where we’ve made our home. Usually it’s when I’m fussing over something like trying to get water with one hand into your cup or to prepare dad’s lunch before he leaves for work. It’s then that you’ll stop me, right in my tracks, bring me back to earth. Such a little, overpowering creature you are.

You were so sick this weekend. And I know how terrible you felt, because I’ve been there. I’m afraid you’ve inherited my proclivity to intense, exacting sickness that sucks you dry of all you are. In between throwing up all you wanted was to be close. You rested your head on my chest, snuggled under my chin. You fell asleep at one point. When I put you down to change your diaper and get your temperature, I ended by giving you soft touches on your face. I stopped to pick you up and even though you had barely spoken since you got sick you looked at me and weakly said “more?” Yes, my sweet baby. Mama will always have more to give.

Mama will always have more to give even when you are sick and scared and cling tightly as another wave of nausea ends in vomit all over my shirt, again. Mama will always have more to give when you throw your food on the floor and scream in protest even though I do know you like the food in front of you (technically, below you). Mama will always have more to give even when I feel depleted beyond what I thought possible, another cry at another ungodly time of night after what only feels like minutes after the last one. Somehow, in some way, I can’t stop it. Even when I feel frustrated, overwhelmed, helpless; I still have more love in my heart for you than I know what to do with. And by the grace of God, I hope I will always have more for you, my love, more of whatever it is you need.

I see my limits in harsher light now as your mom. The boundaries of my possibilities are emphasized by all the feelings and imperfections and victories that come with motherhood. I recognize my failings in reaching out to my heavenly Father in my day-to-day, my limits in loving your dada and you my son the way Jesus loves me. But even though I fail, I am still His vessel. And when I am empty and cry out, He graciously fills me to overflowing.

So always know, baby boy, any good and any love and any beauty you have experienced and will experience in our lives together is from Him. His forgiveness and grace are deeper than the sea, higher than the highest point of the universe. Even I can’t exhaust it, there is always, always more.

 

 

I guess it’s okay if I’m a little scrappy

Mulch and I have this thing where we do things differently. Weird, right?

Our diverse methods shine no brighter than when we are in the kitchen.

To make a meal, I will loosely follow a recipe. And I say loosely, because I am the queen of substitution. No eggs? No problem. Just use some flax meal. Frozen cauliflower instead of broccoli? Who is going to notice? No one, that’s who!

While I’m throwing this and that and letting a little extra cinnamon into the recipe because who doesn’t love extra cinnamon, you can find Mulch perched over the opposite counter, carefully weighing out each gram of flour that is being mixed into the perfect artisanal bread dough.

And while I may giggle at his exactness, it’s his very exactness that produces the delicious loaf of bread a few hours later that I can be found slathering in butter and eating copiously (sorry I eat all your bread, Mulch). I know he would say differently, but I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed in one of his loaves. They all turn out just perfect.

I on the other hand experience some losses from time to time. While substitution can be helpful and open up opportunities that would otherwise be limited by our lack, it can also produce some yucky things. Like, what-on-earth-did-you-use-in-the-recipe kind of yucky.

“I’m not sure why it tastes like this…” I’ve quizzically questioned out loud. Mulch always responds with, “Well, what did the recipe say to use?” to which I almost always respond by slowly slinking back, quietly stating my chosen substitution. Well, that’s why it tastes yucky.

I’ve had to learn that there are certain things where substitution is not an option, while there’s an entirely different world of substitution freedom where it’s completely acceptable to swap out whole wheat for white.

Do you see where this is going?

Living on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific has put my substitution game to the test. And I don’t mean just being adaptive in the kitchen, which I’m beginning to master after shopping almost exclusively at Costco for 3 months and have had to think of a million ways to use up the behemoth packages of food we purchase. No, I’m meaning in life.

There are certain areas of life where we need to follow Mulch’s example, and stick to the recipe. No fudging, no guessing, no subbing this for that. Doing so would spoil the outcome. Loving your spouse, integrity in the workplace, esteeming truth above deceit. Whatever it may be, these areas were meant to be honored for what they are and not subjected to shrewd revisions.

But (not to say Mulch’s method is less important than mine…), I am finding in this period of life, where all I want is not at my fingertips and life is far different than I am used to, flexibility is imperative in the things that don’t require exactness. And being forced to employ your skills of enterprising does a wonderful job at distinguishing between what needs exactness and what doesn’t.

Being stuck in one method of doing things would be paralyzing. The rigidity of exactness would be suffocating. Sometimes in order to survive, we need to be resourceful. Make use of what we have, substitute the unimportant, and recognize what actually is important so we can instead focus our time and energy on those things rather than the excess.

So all that to say…I guess it’s okay if I’m a little scrappy. And I apologize in advance for the dinner I may someday make for you that bombs because I tried to use ketchup instead of tomato sauce. Kidding, kidding…

xoxo, beth

 

 

death, our companion.

We are all terminally ill. That’s the great irony of life, isn’t it? That upon birth we already have a death sentence. Our bodies, no matter how much green juice we drink, pills we swallow, miles we run, will all one day turn off like a flickering lamp that has finally burned out.

I value life, I want to burn out brightly in this life, but I am feeling death so much closer than before. I am realizing that each of us is walking blindfolded through a field of broken glass largely unaware that each step we take unscathed is a pure miracle. It’s only a matter of time before we experience pain, tragedy, and finally our own end.

Being surrounded by people who are actually infected with a terminal disease, that ravages their bodies, strips them of their strength, and subjects them to a life they have to fight proactively to live, puts quite a bit in perspective. Death is a companion we all have, but when you have been made aware of the sickness that is spreading in your body, you finally begin to acknowledge its presence more acutely.

Yesterday I hugged the sobbing shoulders of someone who just found out a dear friend died from cancer. I found out someone else lost a parent. A few weeks ago I deleted the name off our client list of a young woman who finally succumbed to the fury AIDs brings upon the body. Earlier this week I listened to the story of a little boy who passed from an unknown birth defect on Christmas Day.

Death is an unwelcome, hateful companion. There is no mercy, no regard for the days we treasure above others, no thought to how it will devastate families and friends and the world we live in. It is selfish and exacting. But it is also a teacher, as much as we hate the lessons it dispenses.

And I cannot end here, with death as the final word. I would be remiss in doing so.

I am a believer in the One who conquered death. Can we take a moment and truly, really, actually dwell upon the magnificent truth of what Jesus did by coming to this earth? That he didn’t die quietly, but his whole purpose reached a crescendo during the public spectacle of his death? Death was always his companion too. He said himself of his death “for this purpose I have come…” His whole life, he knew his purpose was to die. As he learned new skills as a young apprentice, as he invested in the lives of his nearest friends, as he spoke words of life to the masses; he knew his purpose was to die.

And why did he die? That “through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

In Christ, death doesn’t change in form, but in power. It doesn’t lose its present sorrow, but loses its eternal sting. A companion that we will one day offer a final, forever goodbye.

 

the things we lose along the way

Somewhere along the way, I lost a part of who I am.

It’s easy to scoff at youthful naivety: just you wait till they are older, then they’ll see. Well, maybe it’s not that we start seeing with age, but our vision gets cloudier as we buy into the cheap excuses offered up for our cynical opinions.

Looking back at who I was 10 years ago, I cannot deny I acted younger. How can that not be true? A 16 year old is not comparable to a 26 year old in maturity. You see, I have always been one who is passionate about issues that are close to my heart, and though that passion was at that time expressed youthfully, it was not wrong for me to feel as I did. Yet as I have gotten older, I somehow I equated what I felt with immaturity, and taught myself to turn inward instead of outward.

Misguided, though well-intentioned, reproof from others turned me inward. Feeling disconnected from my peers turned me inward. Being afraid of ruffling feathers and being misunderstood turned me inward. My own infatuation with comfort and ease turned me inward. But just like a candle covered by cupped hands, isolating my heart extinguished the passions that once thrived freely.

Then I was introduced to cynicism. My unstoppable confidence and belief in what was true didn’t cower at cynicism as a teenager. One afternoon as I got to English class early my senior year of high school, my teacher and I began talking. He asked me what I wanted to do for a living when I was older, and without skipping a beat I responded that I wanted to work with women who were rebuilding their lives after abuse, like former prostitutes. “Well, we’ll see if that actually happens,” he responded with an eye roll. But it didn’t phase me, I just made a mental note to google him when I was older and prove to him that it happened. One day he would see.

It’s not that that particular desire has fizzled; no, that’s still exactly what I want to do with my life. But the cynicism kool aid was being passed around by the time I started my last two years of college, and I took a sip. I watched as friends became angry at the church, questioning everything they knew about life and ultimately Jesus. And I began to feel a little less certain about everything in my world. Cynicism undermines what’s true. It fuels a constant chorus of second-guesses, and never lets you experience the joy of an undivided resolve.

What I learned? That it’s okay to question and learn and feel the emotions we need to feel during the hard times of life. But if you are left angry and bitter, you have cut yourself short in the process. It’s okay to allow your view of the world to be tempered with the wisdom of age and experience; it’s not okay to give it up entirely.

I’m ready to move on from that. I’ve felt like a hollowed out version of myself for sometime now, and I am ready to feel alive again. A reintroduction of sorts. I want to be who I was at 16 as a 26 year old. And in 10 years from now, I want to look back and not feel like my passions are just out of reach, inching farther and farther away by a hardened heart. Instead I hope I feel and cry and care and love freely with passions that have been renewed and refined by age. I don’t want to lose anymore along the way.

the new me

I’m trying to write again. Being a mom has taught me so much, and I think I’m just beginning to learn how to find “me” again–the Bethany that existed before this precious boy joined us.

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(life is spent here a lot nowadays)

I squeezed into a pair of my pre-pregnancy jeans this morning. My stomach is still squishy from the 9.5 lb baby I carried a few months ago, and my hips are wider than they used to be. That’s okay. It took some maneuvering, but I managed to zip them up and wear them out of the house. I’m currently sitting with them unbuttoned, but it still feels good to put something on that makes me feel like myself again.

I don’t know what expectations I had of life after the baby came; I was really just trying to survive being pregnant and managing a department at work. It took all of me. I did hope I’d be able to bounce back quickly; be active, shed those extra pounds I’d gained, be the master of cleaning and preparing delicious meals. It’s hard not to compare myself to other’s experiences, but I should have known that bouncing back quickly wouldn’t happen when they told me my baby was already 7 lbs and had about a month left before he was due.

Labor and O’s delivery was beyond physically exhausting. I remember being sore all over my body, even my face and neck, in muscles I had never used that were somehow activated through O’s birth. Four hours of grueling pushing, which had been preceded by very intense, nonstop labor, had taken everything out of me. People have asked me if I am traumatized from my experience, and I am happily not. It was incredible. But it was hard.

What was a bit traumatizing was being taken to the ER in an ambulance the night we got home from the hospital. I woke up from a nap with my heart rate racing in the 140s, and my blood pressure scarily high. I spent our first night “at home” in the ER, away from my baby, hooked up to more IVs and my body subjected to more tests to figure out what the problem was.

The stress took a toll on me, and I came down with a cold when I got home the next day. My blood pressure finally went back to normal without any meds after about a week. It took me about two weeks to begin walking comfortably post-delivery. After recovering from my first cold, I got another, which I gave to O. Then a few weeks later I came down with yet another one.

Needless to say, I am learning to go at my own pace. I don’t share this for pity, but rather to remind myself that under my particular circumstances, it’s okay that I’m just beginning to feel normal (meaning: going outside everyday, wearing real clothes, cooking meals, etc. Ha.) four months after O was born.

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(on our afternoon walk)

With that said, I am going to to try to be here more often. Writing is something that feeds my soul, and I’m realizing how important that is as I grow as a new mama. It also connects me to who I was before O, keeping the dreams and vision of the world I used to carry still alive. And one day I hope these words inspire him too.

see you soon.

xoxo, beth