Friday, February 25, 2011

hugging sideways

Last week I gave a short presentation at Auburn church about the crisis center I went to last year in Peru. The crisis center is for girls who have been physically and sexually abused. Their ages range from about 11-24. I get achy every time I think about them. But it's a hopeful achy, mind you.

After Bruce and I were done talking, a woman came walking towards us. She had one of those carts that helps you walk, but also helps you keep all your earthly possessions together. Though disheveled, you could tell she had taken time to look nice this Sabbath morning. She had glitter all in her hair with plastic butterfly clips keeping the long grey locks piled on her head.

When she came closer I could see tears pooling at the bottom of her beautiful blue eyes... and then she began to share. You see, her dad was an awful man. When we talk about the sexual and physical abuse these girls went through, she gets it. All her life she was told she was stupid--that she'd never be anything better than a whore. And so he took from her. He took everything he could. Stripped her clothes, her dignity, her self-esteem, and her chances of living a normal life. She has multiple personalities now, and no one will hire her. Because, you see, her dad was an awful, awful man.

In the middle of her story she began to cry and Bruce moved to hug her--she swiveled and put out one arm. "You'll notice that I hugged you sideways. I still can't hug anyone straight on. I just can't do it," she said.

I left church that day feeling heavy. I kept thinking about that swivel--replaying it in my mind. There's so much fear attached to that motion. Fear of being vulnerable, open and embraced straight on with your heart smashing up against someone else's chest.

And I hate it. I hate that at some point that becomes instinctual. You start to shield, you know?

I've been hugging sideways so much lately, and I see other people doing it too. We're all swiveling and twisting and protecting and distancing--because we're hurt and broken and scared and so tired of getting let down. And honestly, sometimes throwing your arms wide open and leaving your heart exposed is just too dang vulnerable.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

belly buttons and brain waves

My eyes are droopy and I'm about to get ready for bed. It was a full day of work--and I mean full in all senses of the word. So tonight I took it easy and just enjoyed the fact that I'm free to do what I please. Free to read by the fire until I accidentally doze off, play around on the guitar and Skype with friends.

I've been reading a book called Traveling Mercies by Ann Lamott. My appreciation for the book, who she is and the way she views her faith grows with every word. Tonight was an exceptional night of reading. She had lots of little gems of insight that I made a point to underline in the book and take note of in my brain. She's so raw. I don't know how else to explain the way she writes--but I really like it. Tonight she talked about how belly buttons stink, and I thought that was funny and uncomfortable and real--and I think that's perfect.

Tonight she said something that I loved thinking about, and am going to love thinking about it for much longer. She said:

"Again and again I tell God I need help, and God says, 'Well, isn't that fabulous? Because I need some help too. So you go get that old woman over there some water, and I'll figure out what we're going to do about your stuff."

And so we're all in this together--just like God wants. We're falling and reaching for help with our left hand while our right is pulling someone else to their feet.

I need a shoulder.
You need a hand.
She needs a car.
He needs a check.

So tomorrow what I am going to try to do is remember that I'm trying to help God answer prayers, and while He's helping me by working through other people, maybe I can be worked through too. A tool for God, if you will. What a concept. Now if I could just remember and apply all the other things I was taught in Sabbath school...

Monday, February 14, 2011


On the way here I shared a portion of my trip with a retired car salesman named Dave. How he got in my car is a bit of a story--but it's safe and makes sense, so don't worry.

Dave is 74 years old, swears like it's nothin, and calls me 'hun' when he gives me directions. He is precious. He is a grandfather of six and a great grandfather of two ("little tots", he calls them). I was like the riddler for that treasured half hour--asking all the questions I could think of--straining every last drop of wisdom and life experience into my brain before he left. Dave isn't much of a story teller, turns out, but he was kind enough to humor my curiosity.

When he told me that he has been married to his wife for 54 years I immediately put my hand on his shoulder and was like, "Dave, that's awesome!". It's funny that this was my response. He seemed pretty tickled by it though, like I had reminded him that he was a marriage champion. When I asked about the secret to his marathon marriage he just said, "Back in those days you thought you were getting married for life."

Ah, right.


I start my job tomorrow. It's the beginning of a new phase and I have a feeling that the anticipation isn't going to let me sleep very much tonight. But the drive over was really good, and I think tomorrow will be too. And the next day will be awesome because JESSI TURNER is gracing me with her ever-loving presence. Ooooohhh man. Here we go!

beyond reason

I learned some ugly things about my family's past today. The kind of crap that makes you realize how broken people are, and how we are the ones doing it to each other.

This stuff happened years and years ago (WAY before I was born), but lives are still being altered by the mistakes. And as I sat there listening to this mess of brokenness, I thought to myself,

Man, this place sucks.

And just when you think it can't possibly suck any more there's another divorce, another broken heart, another person dying of cancer, another rape victim, another suicide--another, another, another. And it makes me want to curl into a ball, and it makes me want to scream, and it makes me want to close off whatever valve it is that is pouring empathy into my veins.

But here's the thought that has been creeping into my consciousness as the day has gone on--the thought I will choose to focus on as I get into my over-packed car and move to Seattle tomorrow:

There is still love happening. Still!

In this mess of broken trust, broken hearts and broken people there's still this magical thing going on--this thing deep in our gut that tells us that hugging someone with tears streaming down their face is the right thing to do, that combining resources to furnish a poor family's entire apartment is worth it, and that taking hours to listen to someone else's woes--when you have your own junk to deal with--is a natural response.

And I love this. I love that among all this wretched, complicated mess, people are still smiling at each other and holding doors open and giving back wallets.

You know what? The more I think about it the more I think it's a miracle. The fact that there is any trace of love in the world at all is an absolute miracle. And that, my friends, is something that I would like to thank GOD for. Yes. This has God written all over it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I was never very good at being me when I was a kid. I always had older friends who seemed to know what they wanted, and so their wants became my wants, and their likes my likes. I was a follower--but I hated every minute of it.

I remember one day, after our Unicorn Club meeting had been adjourned (I realize after typing this that I've never told any of you about my Unicorn Club days. But, that's right, yours truly was the secretary in The Unicorn Club. Think Babysitters Club, but without the babysitting--or any sort of purpose at all--except that our president liked being president and telling us what to do. I distinctly remember a unicorn journal, and we may or may not have put our index finger on our foreheads to greet each other...), we were all laying belly down on president April's bed looking at a magazine. Our knobby knees were bent up with our feet crossing and uncrossing behind us--our chins getting red marks from resting them on the palms of our hands. Jessica had brought the magazine over from her mom's house. It was a fashion magazine filled with beautiful ensembles and beautiful women.

It was always a treat whenever we got our hands on one of these magazines. We would flip through each page and examine each outfit carefully, commenting on which ones we liked best. Eventually this evolved into a sort of game. Everyone would have to choose which outfit they liked on each page--I hated it. I hated it because I wanted to be like everyone else, and making a decision on my own seemed like death to me. So I would sit there and be the very last to choose. I would pretend that I couldn't make up my mind, and always ended up choosing an outfit that at least one other girl had deemed acceptable. There were even times when someone would go to point and I knew where they were pointing and I would shoot my hand out from under my chin and say, "I like that one", just as the girl's finger would point to the same one. We would laugh and say "Great minds think alike"--conforming minds think alike too.

I've grown a lot since then. I now have a style that I like and my own (strong) opinions. I hate that the words "green" and "organic" are being used everywhere and that I, also, happen to really like the words and what they signify. I think guys with nice cars are not as attractive as guys with normal ones, and the rise of technology is legitimately starting to concern me. But I still feel like there are parts of me that aren't solid yet. I'm still floundering a bit with this "Who am I and what do I believe?" question. You would think at 24 that this would be mostly solved--but then I look at people my parents age and I think, "MAN, this is a process."

I'm excited about this next phase. I think I'll be growing into my own in that big city of Seattle. I'll be pushed and pulled and prodded and punched (hey, it's a sketchy city), and I'll come out more ME than I've ever been. I wrote a really introspective email to a friend when I was in Seattle last week. It was an emptying of the brain email and there was a portion that went like this:

"But, who will I become here? What will I hold dear and true and what will I throw out? I hope that everything I throw out is on purpose. I hope that it is a PURPOSEFUL throw--and not just a tossing of inconveniences. I hope that I become more ME in this next phase. The ME that I want--not the ME that just develops without hard work and sweat and tears. I want the ME that I choose. Intentional Me."

And that's what I want. I want to be INTENTIONAL in this next phase. I've got work on myself to do, well, God has work on me to do, really. I think I have a long ways to go before I become a force to be reckoned with for God's purposes (ultimate goal)--but I think that I'm on my way. I think that God is really leading, and I'm really loving following, for once.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

preach it, mumford.

in these bodies we will live
in these bodies we will die
where you invest your love
you invest your life

-mumford and sons

Friday, February 4, 2011

stirred, not shaken.

I climbed in bed at 8pm tonight. I wanted to read and I wanted to sleep--and bed seemed like the most logical place to do those things. Lights were out at 9, texts came in at 9:30 and 10:45, and eyes flew open at 11:30. Well this isn't happening--blog writing it is.

I got a job with World Vision yesterday. I guess I've been working towards this for 18 years now--so it's nice that this whole education thing actually works. People have asked me if I'm excited, and you know what, I am--mostly. But exclamation points quickly turned into question marks as I realized that I don't have a car, and I don't have a place to live, and I start work in 11 days. I don't mean to sound like I'm not grateful. I'm totally grateful. I love that I have a job with an organization I BELIEVE in. I love that it's in a beautiful area and that I'm just a few hours from friends and family. I love that I'm going to be an adult now. A real live one with a budget and work clothes and a stool that I'll prop my feet on when I get home. I get to say things like, "Let's get dinner after work" and "I have a meeting at 10, but after that I'm free." (I'm going to be honest and say that there are parts of this concept that do NOT excite me. For obvious reasons--at least I think they're obvious).

When I was visiting Seattle this past weekend I would try to picture myself there--going to church, picking out favorite restaurants, planning exercise routes. I wondered who my close friends might be and how I would spend my time (Jessi, you were very present in all these thoughts). There are parts about moving there that scare me, honestly. The community base is small and Adventist community--smaller. But I have dreams--DREAMS of how I want it to be and who I want to come out as. I'm so aware that this will be a shaping year, and I just hope that I shape right.

Sheeeeeew. God, help me shape right.

sole tree