Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I am an artist. For a long time I wouldn't admit that. I was too afraid of too many things. But I am an artist and I'm talented. That isn't being arrogant, it's being truthful. I have finally gotten to the point in which I can admit that to myself and to other people. I am an actor and a singer and I love theatre as much as I love ministry and fighting for social justice. I'm on a quest to figure out how I can live out both of those equally strong parts of me. So next week, I am going to start auditioning again in the Greater Philadelphia area. I was texting my friend/mentor/voice teacher/etc. Tim and said, "This is scary!" To which he replied, "You've done a lot of scary things before...you can do this one!" I seriously bust out laughing. Too true. I moved to Camden, New Jersey the "Most Dangerous City in the Nation" and hardly bat an eye but a little audition freaks me out. I am still laughing at myself. I appreciate friends who bring me back down to earth and help me not take myself so seriously. Auditioning isn't so scary after all and I'm really excited to do it again. This is the part where you say, "Break a leg!"

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lessons from Strangers

Once upon a time I had a livejournal I used to blog on and tonight, randomly, I decided to log in and read old entries. I mean really old. It felt a bit weird, reading about events and feelings I had entirely forgotten. It felt like I was reading the entries of an entirely different person. It was so impersonally perky even in the more thoughtful writings. I'm not that person anymore, but she was once me. I'm not sure I ever knew her well. She was so busy, so active, running from here to there, sometimes really mean. Every entry sounds like it was written in a rush. Not long ago, I complained to a dear friend that I was bored and he said, "Maybe this is a good time to ask yourself why you always keep yourself so busy." Being in Mission Year taught me how to ask the hard questions. I became a more self-aware person. At 24, I know that I don't really know that much, but I know that I see myself much clearer than I did at 20. I wonder if I will look back on this entry, years down the line, and think that I did not know much now either. Marilus says that I'm a very intense person, that I interact with everything and everyone like I am in love with them. I don't disagree with her. She warns to be careful, that people like me get hurt and become hardened. But I've walked that road most of my life and this last year I learned a different way, this intense way of love. And she's right, a lot of time it hurts and I've been disappointed more than once, but I like being a passionate, intense, emotional sort of person. I like the empathy I have because of it. It is tempting to return to my heart of stone, to rebuild my high walls, but I won't do it. I pray that I won't do it. I don't want to be tough, I want to have the sort of strength that comes from being in those hard places and walking through them trusting, and maybe not fully knowing, that God is with me in the darkness. Sometimes I feel like I walk for days in darkness and confusion and then have momentary sparks of light and awareness before the darkness falls again. More often than not, I choose it in a desire to be more self-aware. To the next question: why do I keep myself so busy?

This could be a separate blog but I think I'll just include this thought here. I met a homeless man last night who completely broke my heart. His name was Thomas, he was nearly 61 years old, and he is a veteran of the Vietnam war. I was broken by his story, disgusted with our society and American war patriotism, and crushed that I could not do more for him than listen. I think one day I would love to write a play about our soldiers, men and women, that we so recklessly send to fight our greedy wars, vehemently display "support our troops" bumper stickers as we sing "God Bless America"and pray he protects them, and then leave these veterans to sleep on the streets in the rain and eat out of dumpsters in their old age because they have made a few "bad" choices in their broken state. Whose fault is it that they were sent to take the lives of other humans and experience a side of life that most of us won't even choose to see by entering the "ghettos" in our own cities? Sometimes I get really angry because of how blind people are and sometimes I remember grace because not everyone has had the privilege of meeting Thomas.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Funny story....TWO days ago I went running in my neighborhood. I invested in a pair of barefoot running shoes and adopted the toe-heel running style. Mind you, I haven't run since before Mission Year ended and TWO days ago I decided to knock out two miles in my new shoes. Just an FYI: when your calves start hurting like a you-know-what WHILE you're running....that is bad news. TWO days later, I am STILL climbing up and down stairs like the 94 year old women in the church congregation. All I need is the pink cane...

Monday, September 20, 2010

In the Pursuit of Happiness

Thank you, well wishers

and good intentioned fishers

for concern and for hope

for my heart's happiness scope.

Thank you for your word,

your advice is well heard.

But I have one request

I hope in your heart it finds rest.

Please, let me be.

I don't have to smile or grin

or laugh till I'm thin.

I don't have to be happy at all.

It's okay to be sad when you call.

So please let me be

Let me feel all inside me

And trust that in breaking

A whole person God's making.

Our society is obsessed with "happy." Turn on the TV for 5 minutes and you get bombarded with all kinds of messages and advertisements that promise happiness if you just buy whatever they are offering. There are too many people in this world with unhealthy and often dangerously deadly addictions because instead of being told that it is okay for things to be hard and to feel wrecked over suffering and then taught how to face it and survive it, they are told to get on with life and find something to make them happy again. What is that song, "Don't worry, be happy?" So we search for immediate happiness and instant gratification wherever we can find it - drugs, alcohol, sex, food, shopping, adventure, motorcycles, movies - distractions, all, so we don't have to think about what we are really feeling. No wonder no one stays in the same place or job or church or relationship for very long anymore. Living in Camden, I see that so much. I wonder what would happen if instead of telling someone to move on and find happy, we said, "It's okay that this is hard. I'm here, I'm with you and I will walk with you through this pain." Compassion is not looking on with pity, it is suffering alongside. But we all want to be happy, right?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I am an emotional creature. And don't you dare tell me that's wrong. It is the only thing that feels right and real at the moment. Everything else is just madness.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Lord, often the things I want
are right in front of me
waiting for that moment
when I recognize you for who you are.
Maybe it isn't in the asking at all
but in the perspective.
Why do I ask my Provider
to provide?
Isn't that just who you are?
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
I ask, not to move your hand
or reveal my needs to you,
but to make myself aware of my own heart.
And maybe your answers aren't in the granting,
but in the removing of the barriers that blind me.
In that moment when I finally see
how you have been providing for me all along,
I know beyond any asking that
the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Prayer

"A Friend in Need" from Aotearoa Psalms 

Lord, I am hurting
I feel like a tree 
with its roots laid bare.
Suddenly there seems to be no support
and I don't know what to do about it.

I know that adversity builds character
but that's tomorrow's story
and it has no meaning for now. 
What I need, Lord, is a friend. 

Choose my friend carefully.
Please, no one who's going to tell me
how to put my life straight,
no amateur analyst or teacher, 
no preacher, no well-meaning person 
who is going to "should" all over me. 

I want someone to come in the door
with a smile and a big warm hug
to let me know I'm valuable
just as I am. 
There'll be no advice,
no expectation of change.
My friend will already know 
that pain is important in journey
and must be travelled through.
My friend will stay beside me
and hold my hand 
while I make my own discoveries.

And then, when all this is over, 
Lord help me to remember two things:
To say "Thank you,"
and to be a friend
with a big warm hug
to someone else in pain. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wake up

I had a dream last night and it wasn't until I was journaling this morning that I understood it because I stood on the outside watching strangers like I would watch a movie. At first I just thought it would make an interesting play. I watched a group of people, strangers at first but had become a close group of companions, a community built through shared joys and sorrows. They had clearly suffered together, but I watched them laugh and build and work side by side. No one was the focus really, all were equally important. They lived in the wilderness and had learned to survive with one another. (It was very LOST, even though I haven't watched that show in well over a year now.) They were pleasant to watch, until the dream started coming to an end. As they were building, working, laughing, and talking, the focus suddenly shifted to one woman and all the others disappeared. She was still building, working, laughing, and talking but to people who were not there. She was alone. By some accident or tragedy, her companions were gone, like death, still and silent. But she heard them, she saw them, she acted as though they had never left her. As I wrote this down in my journal this morning, I asked if that woman was supposed to be me. If I am living and acting like nothing has changed, like my community hasn't left me, and like I still have the support system I once relied so heavily upon. The truth is that I don't have that. I know I am loved and like that woman, I carry them with me beyond their actual presence. But I wonder if how I am doing that is unhealthy. And I wonder if they are the shadows, or if she is? 

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Good Day

I think it would be safe to bet that almost every Mission Year person DREADS Saturday neighborhood outreach days. For some reason, leaving your house on a Saturday to spend intentional time with neighbors seems hugely daunting. Naps, movies, and snacks always seemed much more appealing. But this past Saturday, I walked around my empty "suburban" neighborhood and sat at a playground for about 2-3 hours to which no family or children came, and cried. I missed knocking on the doors of my neighbors and inviting myself in just to sit with them and talk for hours. I missed sitting on the steps with Miss Joyce and Miss Pat watching and commenting on the cars and people that go by. I missed puddle jumping with Anaira and holding Nay Nay and Mia in my lap as they talked my ear off about what they were doing in school. I missed sidewalk chalk, swings, little kid bicycles, hoses, snowball fights, random cookouts, coloring, and Hannah Montana. My first Saturday back in New Jersey and I didn't see a single person almost all day. It was heartbreaking to me. I thought about how much doing life in a year long program changed me. So much so that I'm finding it hard to work out how to live life outside of it now. 

Fortunately for me, Ellen came to visit me Saturday evening and stayed till this afternoon. We laughed so much it hurt and mourned the loss of our Mission Year together through many conversations, much sharing about what was in our hearts, and relying on the comfort of our friendship and deep understanding of one another. It was really good for my heart to speak to someone who understands what I'm feeling and who I know is so much on my side and for me. As a part of her visit, we went to our MY neighborhood and tried to see as many of our neighbors as possible. It was amazing. We spend Sunday evening and all day today with them. It was wonderful to see everyone again. It has only been a month, I know, but sometimes it feels like so much longer. Some of it was sad. It was hard to see how the neighborhood is already changing. People are moving and new people are moving in. The landlord is as negligent as ever. Maybe in a year nothing will be the same. I suppose that is what happens in this adult life. People change and don't stay where I leave them like I wish they would. This city has changed me and will continue to. I am excited for and afraid of those changes. But in this present moment, it was a really good Saturday on this Monday.  

Friday, September 3, 2010

Haiku from a dear friend...

"Broken, yet still whole
Lonely, but never alone. 
Humbled and empowered."
I am the Beloved. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Beginnings

I really am honestly going to try to get better about blogging. The truth is that I love to write but I write so often and this is usually the last outlet I go to. Probably because I never know who is going to be reading it and I don't want to accidently offend someone. No one reads my prayer journals and emails/letters are usually only shared with one person. I have no control over who reads this so I feel like I have to be more careful. But I want to be honest still. So here goes...

I am back in New Jersey, living in Pennsauken which is just outside of Camden. It isn't as "dangerous" but it has its own problems. I walked around the last few days and explored the neighborhood and also visited some of my old haunts in between organizing my bedroom. It feels really good to be back here and seeing my friends and neighbors again. 

In Mission Year, I learned how to feel. I know that sounds weird but it is true. I became much more self-aware and learned to pay attention to what my heart was feeling rather than just ignoring it for the sake of "keeping it together." This last month I have felt like I've been in a limbo. I've wanted to feel things as acutely as I felt them during Mission Year but sometimes things just got so busy that I reverted to ignoring again. I miss having people around me who challenged that, it made it easier. Now I have to learn to ask those questions myself or look for them where they aren't so easily found. 

Last night was a really good night for me even though I ended it in tears. Lindsay and Ra, two of the other team captains from MY, came over to visit. Actually, they came over to help me organize my classroom but about 10 minutes into their being here I knew that wasn't going to happen so we went back to the house where there is air conditioner. We visited for a while and they met Marilus who kept saying, "I'm just going to tell this one more story and then I'm going to watch my show which I'm missing right now!" She's funny. Then we baked some very experimental cookies from just whatever we found in the house which turned out okay considering. We could probably tweek our recipe a bit and then they'd be worth sharing. We ate them. Afterward, I responded to an email I got from Caz. She asked me how my heart was doing; what made it smile and what made it tight. I sent her a very lengthy response (because I write novels) and realized how much what Marilus and Sheila said is true. Caz is a release for me. With her, more than anyone else, I am able to just release whatever is bottled up inside of me even if it is just in responding to an email. It is the need that she fulfills in me. 

I responded to her email in tears of relief more than anything that I was finally facing the hard stuff I've been avoiding. And I came to a very awesome realization about God and community. They say that God fills all our needs. I realized how that works last night in the context of community. Ra and Lindsay filled my need for laughter, understanding, and meaningful conversation. Marilus fills my need to be challenged and talked to. Caz fills my need to release and notice my feelings by asking the right questions. But ultimately, there is no Ra, Lindsay, Marilus, or Caz. There is only God, living in each of them and fulfilling my needs through human hands. Henri Nouwen says, "You have to move gradually from crying outward - crying out for people who you think can fulfill your needs - to crying inward to the place where you can let yourself be held and carried by God, who has become incarnate in the humanity of those who love you in community. No one person can fulfill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God's faithful love."

I think I have spent much of my life searching for that one person that can fulfill all my needs. But I realized last night that I will never find that. I will find my needs met "incarnate in the humanity of those who love me in community." That is how God will fill me. I think in my head, I always knew that. I love and find such joy in those moments when my heart finally catches up with my head. That was where my tears came from, in experiencing the joy of God's love in community last night.