Antithetical.

And I am desperate for Your grace.

I need Your provision like I need air.

When I dream, I dream about drowning

in a sea of water, thick with salt and pollution.

And I gasp, because light does not reach the bottom of the ocean.

My lungs whisper frantically.

Don’t tell me you’ve never dreamed of the ocean depths,

of being lost in the Mariana Trench, one thousand eighty miles below anything terrestrial.

The hardness of your stone heart and lead feet pull you there.

If any of us were being honest,

you would know the world’s population claims residency in the Trench.

And so when I am honest with myself

and I allow myself to sink below the waves,

all the way down to the waveless black,

only then can I truly long for the taste of air.

Mostly nitrogen, though everyone had us fooled that what we breathed was oxygen.

They spin many tales about the air and the waters.

From my seat at the bottom of the planet,

I can tell you that there are no pineapples here

and there are no blue fish who sing mindless songs

and it is too cold for mermaids.

When you sit at the doorstep of the hot mantle of the earth,

on the threshold of the underwater volcanoes,

it is easy to remember the feeling of nitrogen in your lungs,

interspersed with oxygen and some carbon dioxide.

But it took sinking to appreciate the feeling of full lungs.

And only here, floating in the depths cold as ice and yet so much closer to the fiery core

do I cry out for the air.

We are broken, they told me.

We are pale representations of what we were made to be,

watercolor paintings grown moldy and yellow after years of hiding in the attic of some old spinster.

Cracked and shattered.

When a vase falls from the mantle and five pieces scatter across the floor,

(because it was thick porcelain, not glass)

it seems easy to glue it back together.

So you do, and you are careful about it.

You buy special porcelain glue from the five and ten shop

and you spend a whole Saturday morning at your kitchen table.

And then you put your once-shattered vase back on the mantle

because it looks so perfect, you see,

and while fixing it you thought perhaps you’d relegate it to some dusty corner in the den,

but it looked good as new so you changed your mind.

And it sits on the mantle and people forget the day it fell down,

and one spring day you saw some purple wildflowers on your drive home,

and you picked them.

They’re only weeds and you know that but you picked them anyway.

You arranged them in your vase,

and you put some water in it too,

water from the depths of the Mariana Trench

probably

and your mantle looks perfect.

Maybe you walk away to make dinner or go for a run or something.

But when you look again at your once-shattered-once-glued vase,

your eyes are drawn to the puddle of Mariana Trench water dripping onto the floor.

We are broken, they told me.

And when I break into five pieces,

you can glue me back together

but you can’t find the trillions of dust particles that sealed the miniscule gaps between the porcelain fragments.

We may not look broken,

but I’m telling you there are cracks.

And if you were honest with me

you would not try to make the cracks

more significant or more insignificant than they are.

We are like wounded doctors, all of us.

We run around trying to fix everybody

and we forget the gashes on our foreheads and the holes in our chests

because we are bleeding just as bad as the rest of them.

So antithetical in our own existence.

Catch the blood in the vase, dump half of the Mariana Trench onto our wounds.

So fragile and yet so resilient to the depths.

Lambs who sleep with wolves,

whoring after money and fame and power,

slaves strong enough to break our shackles

but not stupid enough to remove the fixture we should be chained to

because in the depths of our hearts or our brains we know we are only fit enough to be in one place.

Flimsy and floppy, traversing from here to there,

from content to greedy,

making a poem about drowning into something about doctors and whoring.

And I don’t know what comes next

but if I did I know I would still be afraid because aren’t we all?

I don’t look for questions and I ask not for inquiries as to my health or my sanity.

I promise you I’m just as normal as you all

which is both a comfort and a terror, but one that I’m okay with.

But I want you to hear

because that’s all that matters.

And this time I’m going to be brave enough to say it.

About time someone did.

I am desperate.

To wake up.

To breathe.

I don’t even care that it’s mostly nitrogen,

nitrogen that my body does nothing with, only breathes back out,

clinging to the oxygen.

So scattered.

So fragile.

If humans were eggs, the guy at the grocery store would have dropped us all.

I am an egg,

and I need the scalding boiling water of grace.

Hardened but not for hardening’s sake.

Made unbreakable again is all.

I need Your provision like I need air.

Mercy like air.

Peace like air.

Wrap my wounds with love

and be the unfound porcelain dust in the groves of my fallen-off-the-mantle heart.

Chain me back to You.

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Flashback Friday: “For Times Like This.”

Our first Flashback Friday, kids!  This actually isn’t much of a flashback – I wrote it December 16, 2012, in the wake of the Newtown, CT, shooting.  I don’t watch much television here at school, but I know there is ridiculous media surrounding that tragedy even now.  But this isn’t about that.  It’s not even really about Newtown.  It’s about life and death and bad things and good things.  I hope it gives you hope.

_____________________________

“I don’t get it!” she screamed at him.  She was standing in the middle of the dock, and the small rowboat was to her left, bobbing in the water.  The mountains were behind her and they silhouetted her.

He was standing on the concrete shore, the parking lot they passed for a beach.  He looked at her, and the rowboat, and the mountains.

The rain was coming.  Of course it was coming.  It always came at times like this.

“I don’t get it.”  She whispered now, because the quickening wind was drowning out her voice and her thoughts, and she liked that.  “I don’t get why there is death inside some people.  I don’t get why it eats them, turns them into black ash, makes them crumble to reveal a heartless chest cavity.”

She whispered, but he heard her.  Maybe the wind was blowing the words to him.  He glanced at the rowboat and the mountains, and then at her once more.  He only stood.

The rain started.  Right on cue, because rain always comes at times like this.

“Say something!”  She was screaming again.  “Give me an answer, give me something!”  She sucked in a ragged, cold, mountain-air breath, and whispered.  “I know it’s bigger than this confusion inside me.  But you’ve got to answer me, or I’m gone.”  She pointed down at the little rowboat when she said this.  Raindrops soaked her hair into strings, and she had cried moments before so her nose and eyes were red.  To look at her was to look at a thing tortured too long by too many thoughts and stubborn optimism marred by overwhelming fear.  It wasn’t beautiful, even though it should have been, with the mountains towering behind her and the rain and the water and the expanse between them.

He blinked slowly, head down for a long instant, before looking back at her.  He took one step closer and she edged one inch closer to the boat.

“Where would you go?” he said finally.

She sighed.  The rain was heavy but when she yelled her answer, it it was calmer.  A desperate, defeated calm.

“I don’t know.  Maybe there’s a place to hide.  Someplace where people don’t die before they die.  Someplace decent.”

“Maybe,” he replied.  The rain, as is common in times like these, died down a bit.  Drizzle.  He scuffed his boot against the concrete as he thought for a moment.  “Yeah, maybe there is someplace like that.  But I don’t think you believe you’ll find it.”

She only stared at him.  They stared at each other a lot.  They had been best friends a long time, after all.  Staring is usually more important than most words at times like these.  She gave him time to tell her what they both knew she knew.

“You said you don’t understand why there is death inside some people.  Why it eats them and turns them into something not alive.  But what if it’s inside all of us?  What if it’s not just some people?”

The rain had let up.  There was steam rising from the water in the bay, rolling down from the mountains standing, imposing, behind her.  Because she didn’t want to be near another person, but because she also didn’t want to leave him, she sat down in the middle of the dock.  He sat down too, ten or so feet away from her. He went on, because she let him.

“I think maybe some people do evil things because everyone has it in them.  I think people kill other people because every day, in my own head, I think deathly thoughts, but they’re only ever thoughts.  I think there is a creeping sort of plant in everyone’s chest cavity, one that grows slowly, and can be killed itself by most people, or at least kept at bay, at least can be pruned back often.  But some people can’t handle it.  Some people let the plant’s twisty vines squeeze the life out of their insides because there is nothing in them that tells them to control it.  I think stuff is really screwed up.  And I don’t think anyone gets it.”

She let his words travel between the expanse and into her, to the place words are kept.  Then she spoke, and in her voice resonated all the pain in the world.  Of course, the pain was her’s and her’s alone, and it belonged to no one else.  But the thing that must be understood is that when someone says “all the anything in the world,” it is because their own world is heavy enough to suffice for the universe at large.  Our own life is big enough to feel too big most of the time.

So, she spoke: “Why not me?”

He knew her best, so when she said this, he understood that she was not talking about what everyone else might have thought she would have been talking about.  She wasn’t asking why she was never a victim.  She was asking why the plant in her heart never overcame her, but overcame others.

The rain was going to come back.  At times like this, the rainless moments are only a short reprieve.  Eventually, it will be moderately sunny again, but when a storm comes, it rains for days.

“Why not any of us?” he said in a low, gravelly voice.  “We’re all broken vessels, love.  But some of us get patched, I guess.  There’s no explaining it.  There’s only living with it.”  He paused, smiling halfheartedly.  “I think we should be happy about it.”

“Feels like everyone is scared and angry.  Like everyone’s got it in their heads that now is the time for their own vendetta to start,” she said.  “I don’t think anyone cares much about dealing with life.  They’re just pissed at it all going to hell.”

Quickly, he said, “It’s not going to hell any quicker than it has been for the last couple thousand years.  It’s just easier to see it these days.”

The rain was starting again, but this time the wind didn’t return.  Everything was softer.  The fog swirled around, the water in the bay wasn’t as choppy, the rowboat didn’t bash into the dock.

“Maybe everyone is pissed because they all feel it too,” he mused.  “The creeping plant, the broken places.  Maybe the vendettas aren’t about this thing at all.  Maybe the vendettas are just a safeguard against themselves.”  He laughed suddenly.  “You probably should leave then.  There are far too many people in this world all full of hate.”

She smiled, pushing her tangled, stringy hair from her eyes.  She reached out her foot and nudged the boat in the water, raising her eyebrows at him, like an invitation.

“Wanna come?  We could float away from the confusion.”

“Nah,” he said.  “Confusion’s always gonna be here.  It’s a screwy place, under these mountains, on this shore.  But I think, since we’re some of the ones who’ve been patched up, it’s probably sort of a duty for us to stay here.  Keep showing people there’s hope, you know?”

She stood up very slowly and walked to him through the rain, leaving the boat and the mountains behind. She was smiling and so was he, which felt, for one fleeting instant, like a very wrong thing to be happening.  But it’s only possible to be angry and upset and full of pain for a certain amount of time before it’s ridiculous not to go on with being normal.  She knew this, and so did he, so they let it feel wrong for a second, then they let it be what it was.

“You think?” she said when she came to him.  They began walking back towards town.  “Hope?  It’s our job?”

“It’s our part,” he said with a shrug.  “I don’t think most of it is up to us.”  He stared at her as they walked.  They had both gotten good at staring and walking, since, as we now know, staring usually means more than speaking.

“You don’t patch broken things unless you intend to use them,” she wondered aloud.  She stopped walking abruptly.  He was one or two steps ahead of her before he stopped too, looking back at her.  He just waited for her to work out the words that were already in her.  “We have to go on without answers, don’t we?”

He nodded. “Yeah.  I think.”

She nodded once, curtly, resolutely, resigned but freely resigned.  “Okay.”

The rain, as it usually does at times like this, kept on.  But they also kept walking.

A Blog About the Blog.

I have never read a book about blogging.  I have never attended a seminar on how to boost your followers or how to make yourself marketable.  I’ve heard that blog posts should be short and to the point, or else no one will read them.

If that’s true, then I don’t see the point in blogging.  Unless, of course, you write for other people and not because you feel the need to write deep inside your bones.

It’s not like that for me.  Yes, I do love it when people read what I write – I always have.  It’s gratifying, to know that someone cares enough about what I have to say that they are willing to read it.  That says a lot about the person (i.e. you).  It makes me feel necessary and appreciated and valued.  It’s a lovely feeling.  And I admit – part of why I started this blog was because I wanted to tell people what I thought.  I wanted my thoughts to have an audience.  It’s rather narcissistic, believing that the stuff I think has any bearing on the rest of the world.

But I also think I must write.  I think God dumps disjointed words into my heart and tells me to make sense of them with the gifts He’s given me, and then to let other people in on the stories too.  If I don’t write, I can’t think.  And if I can’t think, I feel like I’m floating around.  So – this blog is so much bigger for me than a simple search for an audience.  At the end of the day, I wouldn’t care much if no one in the world read what I wrote.  I wouldn’t stop writing if that were the case.

Happily, though, people are reading this.  I’ve had this blog for just over a month, and I have 15 beautiful subscribers, 200-something views, and one click from a search engine.  Isn’t that insane!?  Someone googled “infj” and then THEY CLICKED ON MY BLOG.  And, get this – someone in Australia and someone else in Malaysia have viewed these silly words!  When I saw that, I almost flipped my lid a little bit, until I realized I have like four good friends who live in Australia, and it became less of an insanity.  But I have NO friends in Malaysia UNTIL NOW.

As for those 15 subscribers – yeah, a fair few are related t0 me in some way, and my mom did subscribe with both of her email addresses, so I guess to be fair I only have 14 subscribers.  But many of the email addresses I don’t recognize, and there are bloggers I’ve never met who follow me, and then of course there is everyone who follows me on Twitter, which makes me loathe Twitter a little less.

I feel so blessed and humbled and a little in awe of the fact that you people care about the stuff that is in my head.  And now, I think I have this really important obligation to keep writing.  Perhaps it is narcissistic to write because you want people to pay attention to you, but what if it’s also a little selfish to write only for yourself?  Maybe that’s what the Lord is trying to teach me through this: He gave me the ability to write about His glory and the crazycool things He does in my life, and I have to keep writing about it.  Hide it under a bushel, no.

In light of all this, I’ve developed a little schedule.  Like I said, I’ve never read the blogging books but I’ve heard tell that bloggers, like, plan the stuff they’re gonna write about.  That’s such a foreign concept to me – I’m a very stern believer in “writing from the heart” and “drafting and revision kills creativity” or whatever.  But now I’m totally beginning to realize why it’s important to plan.

1. If I don’t plan, I will keep putting off writing.
2. If I don’t plan, I will write about stupid stuff, and I will waste everyone’s time.
3. If I don’t plan, I will never develop as a writer because I will always write the same kind of stuff.

Hence – The Plan.  I’m still not convinced that I need to make a long-term-blog-schedule.  But I have been thinking about the stuff I want to do short-term, and I want to tell you about it.  Because if I tell you about it, I’ll be more likely to do it.

February is going to be A Month of Poetry.  It’s the most un-catchy name ever, and also, it’s borderline presumptuous (I tend to groan at series-type stuff, unless it’s a book series.  I don’t know why.   I think “doing a series” is too much like a cliche for me and I basically want to kick cliches out of a helicopter and into the Pacific Ocean).  But I have a rationale: I stinking love writing poetry, and I have like four journals full of it, and I don’t write much romancey poetry but people tend to associate poetry with romancey-type stuff, and February is the month of love, so I’m going to post a piece of poetry every Wednesday, starting tomorrow.

Additionally, I’m gonna start Flashback Friday, a name with which I am infinitely more pleased with than “A Month of Poetry.”  Flashback Friday is going to happen for an undetermined length of time, on whatever Fridays I choose (because this is my blog, duh).  The rationale behind Flashback Friday is that I have like forty thousand pieces of non-poetry that I’ve written in the past six-ish years, hidden in all sorts of places (Facebook, notebooks, saved as text drafts, on Microsoft Word, on folded up pieces of paper stuffed into books) and I want to start collecting them all here.  I know that someday the Internet will crash and explode into trillions of broken pixels and then the world will probably melt away into chaos and destruction, but I still want to save all my musings here.  They’re my stories, stories I still want to share.

Finally, I have two new posts cooking up in my brain as we speak.  The first is going to be about the story of Joseph from the Bible.  I’m involved in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (hair and makeup crew), so I’ve been studying the story of Joseph in Genesis, and God has just been blowing my mind.  I want to tell you all about it soon.  I’m thinking within the week.  Second post: a Valentine’s Day musing.  I’m not sure what the actual content is going to be, but based on my 20 years of experience in being me, I’m sure it will have a lot to do with being single and going to a Christian school where everyone gets married all the time and whether or not God wants me to be a nun or something.  It’ll be grand.  I’m shooting for having that up on the 14th, but who knows.  I could get discovered by then, on a plane to Hollywood to star in the next blockbuster franchise.  Crazy things happen.

This post, incidentally, was much longer than I anticipated (because I didn’t have a PLAN), and I was definitely planning on starting a paper tonight, but as we can all tell, that is not going to happen.

Thought of the day: We sang The Doxology in chapel today.  Did you know that song has more verses than that “praise God from whom all blessings flow” verse?  It does.  It was incredible – that is a song I have literally been exposed to since I was an infant.  I’ve sung the words since I could make words (mostly I made up the words until my church got a screen when I was like twelve).  But not until today did I really listen to what I was saying and realize that this song is a worship song.  Just as much as any other song – this is a song of praise, not a song of ritual.  This is a song I can lift my hands to.  How amazing is He?

Introverts: What We’re Doing When You Think We’re Being Weird.

I’m in a class right now called Organizational Leadership – basically, it’s an upper-level class for communication majors on how to be a good leader.  I normally really dislike anything that attempts to teach me how to be a good leader – books, workshops, blogs, classes… It all feels very contrived and presumptuous to me, even when the content is decent.  Anyway – that’s another post for another day.  Long story short, I actually really enjoy this class – it’s honest.  It’s useful.

We just finished up a unit on the Myers-Briggs personality test.  You know the one – you get four letters in some combination and the letters explain aspects of your personality.  I’m an INFJ – introvert, intuitive, feeling, judging.  We INFJs actually represent the smallest portion of the American population (making us some of the most rare, mysterious people, of course – we’re like the Hope Diamonds of humanity).  My prof had a Myers-Briggs expert (they have those!) come to class for a few days to talk about different characteristics of each letter – it was some of the coolest stuff.  I learned that my strong J balances out my strong F, so I’m pretty well-rounded when it comes to being an emotionally in-touch individual who is also good at being practical, rational, and organized.  The expert talked about the INFJ’s ability to be a gentle, quiet leader with strong passions that often come across harsh.  Much of what she talked about I knew about myself, some of it I disagreed with, and still other information opened my eyes to things I hadn’t noticed about myself.  But my very favorite part of the expert’s lessons were those on introversion.

When I was younger, I knew I was an introvert but I fought against the label, convinced that being an introvert was really a kind way of saying I was a boring person.  I didn’t understand it – I liked people a lot, I had a lot of friends, I loved being in front of crowds, I wasn’t usually afraid of speaking my mind.  And yet every youth group personality test told me I was an introvert.  Adults I trusted and respected told me I was an introvert.  It made me angry, and also somewhat depressed at the thought of being doomed to a life of lonely boredom.

But as I got older, I learned what introversion really is.  Being an introvert means that you get your energy from yourself.  We’re like plants, we introverts: we make our own food.  Introverts recharge in alone time; we need alone time or else we wither up.  It’s not that we don’t like being around people; rather, it’s that being around people for a long time, all the time, drains us of our energy.  It costs us to be with people, whereas extroverts gain energy in a crowd.

Unfortunately, many people, even people who are introverts, don’t get this.  We’re quickly written off as the accountants of the world, the cubicle-workers, the eyes-averted, nose-in-a-book loners.  Of course, some people are like that, but not just because they’re introverts.  Personality is never that simple.  For instance, I want to be on some form of stage all the time, forever (slight exaggeration, you get the point).  I love the thrill of entertaining, whether I’m telling a joke or a story or playing a character or leading a game or giving a speech.  If I’ve rehearsed it, I’m gold.  Even if I haven’t rehearsed – if the pastor asks me to share a testimony or if I’m called upon to lead a bunch of kids in a song, I’m completely fine.  I think a lot of that comes from being a camp counselor for years – one learns to suppress shyness at times.

For a few weeks now, I’ve been thinking about the things we introverts do – mainly, the things I do because I’m an introvert – that can be easily misidentified as weirdness.  I’ve come to a couple conclusions.

Introverts spend time alone and don’t get bent out of shape about it.  Our society-driven culture puts a negative spin on alone-time.  We live in a country where having friends, followers, and subscribers is the currency of worth.  People who are alone for longer than it takes to get in a night of sleep baffle people: Why don’t they do stuff?  Why don’t they have friends?  Are they lonely?  Depressed?  Crazy?  The answers: We do stuff – we read and write and make art and paint our nails and have one-on-one conversations and watch movies and stuff.  We do have friends, but we don’t feel the need to be glued to them.  We are probably not lonely – it takes a lot for us to feel lonely.  We probably are not depressed or crazy, either.  What we’re really doing when we’re not with people is recharging.  We’re taking care of ourselves so that when we do go out with people, we enjoy it.

Introverts have a lot to say, but we want to say it right.  I have recently (as in, over the last few years) become aware of my tendency to sit quietly and watch people, and then say random disjointed sentences, and then sit silently some more, and then recite the soliloquy that I have been formulating in my brain for the past twenty-five minutes.  I’ve become increasingly quieter in college, it seems, because the influx of new people over the past two years has made me hyper-aware of myself and others.  Among good friends, I will talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk… seriously, in high school youth group, I was frequently under time limits when I opened my mouth, my parents often have to tell me to stop talking and eat my dinner, and my best friends can attest to my ability to talk on the phone for hours at a time.  But among the general population, I, like most introverts, prefer to watch and think, then speak.  I’m aware of how this trait can be misjudged as dullness to the ignorant.  But personally, I see it as one of the introvert’s most intelligent and important qualities.

And if you’re a person who has seen me open up after a while of observing quietly, you should know it’s special – I wouldn’t waste my words on someone I didn’t think would care.