Nebulous

I would like to shout at God.  I would also like to hug Him, in a big way.  A big, fling-myself-into-His-arms sort of way.  And then I want to yell again.  Back and forth, strung between anger and joy and tiredness.  I walk through my days joyful, bouncing and beaming and laughing.  And it isn’t fake; it isn’t a face I’m putting on.  Then, I pause for moments and I realize that I am exhausted.  Exhausted in a way that sleep doesn’t seem to cure.

Then, I un-pause.  I tell myself that I am in my third year of college, which means of course I will feel exhausted.  I tell myself that I have four jobs.  That I have lots of people who love me and with whom I want to spend time.  I tell myself that everything I do, I enjoy.  I tell myself that I have to think about next semester, next summer, next year.  I promise myself that I can take a break from writing poems.  There aren’t words.  Or there are too many words.  Nebulous, disconnected words that mean a great deal in my head but do not yet mean anything when I write them.

Sometimes, I fear that God will take away my gift, and I will be left with nothing to offer.

And I recognize how completely ridiculous that sounds.  As if the gift were mine to begin with.  As if God took where He had no right to do so.  As if God left His children worse off than He found them.  As if He left at all.  I know that He is good, that He has created me for His glory and so He will give me means to glorify Him.  But when I can’t feel that twisty tug at my heart, the one that whispers write, write, write

That is when I question.  And I shouldn’t, because there is so much more to me than the blogs and poems I can churn out.  More to me than the metaphors and the pretty pictures I can paint across a page.  I know that I am loved – very, very loved – for more than what I can do.  I am loved for the heart from which the thoughts and words are spun.  I don’t understand it.  And yet I know that it is true.  I go to the Lord and I stand before Him in awe of the treasures He bestows upon me.

A place to sleep.  A family to call.  A relationship with a man who cherishes me and pushes me toward the Father every day.  Friends who build me up and let me ramble and share their hearts.  Countless other blessings.

So if He asks me to put aside my gift for a month, six months, ten years – I will do it.  If I can never move thoughts to the page again, I want to be content with that.  If I never get my dream job, and if I never have the house with the kitchen island and the big oak in the front yard and the kids in the backyard, I want to be content.  If all anyone ever sees in me is Jesus, I have more than fulfilled my purpose.  That’s what I want.  I want to make sense of the world and I want to have a family and a home and a career and I want to write poems and books and plays – But I don’t need any of it.  I need to desire Jesus.  I need to seek Him – not passively wander about, glancing here and there –

I need to tear through the desert and the jungles, cut my bare feet on the thorns and the broken rocks.  I need to find the faintest trail and never stray from it.  I need to seek Him with a passion, with a ferocity and a fire that exists for nothing and no one else.

If I shouted at Him tonight, I would ask if He sees me.  Does He see me when I’m paused – exhausted and stretched out and distracted?  Is my brokenness and darkness real even in the midst of my joyfulness?  And when I’m un-paused, does He see me then?  As I scurry and stumble and dance through my day, does He see my excitement and anticipation?  Are those as real even in the midst of my brokenness?

I could shout.  I have shouted before.  But tonight, I want to fling myself into His arms.  I want His comfort.  I want Him to use me even when I don’t understand it.

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I am not dead.

…And here is a blog to prove it.

It’s been a while.  I’m not happy that it has been a while.  I miss this – writing and blogging.  I haven’t blogged in about a month, and I haven’t written for almost that long.  It isn’t that I haven’t had anything to say; on the contrary, I’ve had lots to say, but few words to say it with.  And since I’m not a fan of forcing myself to write stuff that hasn’t been fully formed within me, I held off.

I’m still holding off, but I wanted to make sure I hadn’t forgotten the password to get into my blog.  And while I’m here, I might as well write something, huh?  So I’ll tell you about my summer.

This summer has been a quiet one in many ways.  I’ve gotten to sleep in.  I’ve gotten to stay up ridiculously late.  There are more days that I haven’t put on makeup than days I have put on makeup.  I learned a rap.  It’s a rap from a musical, but it’s a rap nonetheless and I’m going to keep saying so because I feel a little bit hardcore about it.  I’ve become a belayer (belay person? belayist? rock wall rope holder?) and have succumbed to the joys of physics.  Because physics tells me I can be 100 pounds and still haul a 180-pound 11th-grade farm boy up a rock wall without anyone falling to their death.  And you know what?  PHYSICS IS TELLING THE TRUTH.  I’ve taught a camp staff about homesickness.  I made a Prezi and everything.  I visited camp and led an interest group about sign language and when I went home that afternoon, I wasn’t at all upset about not working at camp this summer.  Mostly, I was excited to sleep in air conditioning and not be directly responsible for the lives of 15 children.  I planned VBS for 20 preschoolers.  Then I taught those 20 preschoolers.  And my brain didn’t explode.  I’ve led a few Bible studies.  I’ve fallen in love with the youth group at my church.  I’ve had some of the best nights of my life, sitting around a campfire, listening to the workings of the Lord in their lives.

God is really, very good.

I’ve also watched a season of Once Upon a Time, a season and a half of Smash, and re-watched multiple episodes of Firefly and Castle and Grey’s Anatomy.  I got to level 34 in Candy Crush.  I’ve read some books.  So, I mean, there is a significant amount of laziness happening this summer as well.  Part of me wants to be bitter about it, but another part of me is really just happy to be lazy for a while.

I’m growing.  I’m learning about myself.  About the Lord.  About other people.  Sometimes, the growing is scary.  Growing close to people means you tell them all the ways they could hurt you and then trust that they won’t.  Growing close to God means you trust that He’s doing the right thing with you.  Learning about myself means both admitting to myself that I’m not as special as I thought I was, and also that I’m more incredible than I think I am.  I’m still working that one out.

But you know what?  A lot of the time, the growing is really awesome.  Growing close to people means having people in your corner, being trusted, being seen.  Growing close to God means finding this beautiful peace that everything could go wrong in your entire life, but that you would still be perfectly loved and perfectly saved.  And learning about myself means realizing that I am becoming something, even when I don’t feel like I am.  It’s quite the adventure.

I hope your summer is going well, too.  I hope you’re learning stuff and watching some TV and reading something good and investing in someone and allowing yourself to be invested in.  I hope you’re a little bit scared and a lot in awe.  And if you’re in Australia or Argentina or someplace where it is winter (because WordPress tells me some of you are down there), I hope your winter is going in a similar fashion.

I’ll write something with a tad more substance soon.  Poems and such.  The words are close – I can sense them coming :)

Which is a good sign.

 

This is a post to inform you of a future post. Probably.

Almost every night this summer, I’ve gone on a walk with my dog.  And many times, my mom comes as well.  We walk the country road outside our middle-of-nowhere home, half-a-mile down and half-a-mile back, framed by ankle-high corn on one side and… well, ankle-high corn on the other.  Our dog, Toast, a spazzy little dachshund, runs ahead of us, pulling his leash as far as it’ll go, chasing birds as if he could catch them.  I’ve seen few things more joyous.

When I walk alone, I pray.  Usually out loud, because my dog is the only one around to hear me, and he already loves me as much as possible – my talking out loud is nothing strange to him.  So I talk to God, and sometimes I walk in silence, trying hard to listen because I don’t do that enough.  I’ve found, too, that a lot of my praying consists of frustrated sighing.  Not usually frustrated at God, but with myself, because I’m no good at giving a voice to what I’m trying to say, especially with Him.  With close friends, the sighs are clues to what I’m feeling, and the best of them can pick up on the nuances.  With God, I am only grateful that He doesn’t need my words, and that everything contained in the sighs and in my heart are already understood more than I could even understand myself.

Takes a lot off a girl’s shoulders (and yet look at me – still all hunched over, but… another thought, for another Thought Train).

When I walk with my mom, though, we talk.  Well, let’s be honest – it’s still me who does the talking, and she slips in her nuggets of wisdom and her endearing eye-rolls.  A few days ago, I was angry, not with my mom, but with other matters.  When I’m angry, my default is to shut down.  Silence has proven to be intimidating from me in many situations, and I’ve been told that my face betrays my emotions despite the lengths I go to to control it.  I get cold and distant, partly because I know I can be hurtful if I speak with someone who doesn’t get me, and partly because I know the coldness can hurt as well.  That dark and light within me, at it again.

But, behind that mask of silence lives a mind racing with thoughts.  I’ve learned to be very careful who I unload on when I’m angry, because I know I can be hurtful.  But I also know that I need to talk through my anger, or else it eats me.  Really, I need to talk through almost any emotion, or it eats me (and therein lies the main point of this post, which I am getting to, slowly but surely).  There are very few people I allow to hear me this way.  Mostly because a lot of the time, I wouldn’t blame most of the people I love if they peaced out after listening to me this raw.  But my mom has never walked off.  She’s told me to shut up, which I’m grateful for, in hindsight – but she never decided I was too much, never decided that I was too confusing or difficult or messy to deal with.  I suppose that’s what a mother is supposed to do – to love unconditionally.  But I’m not naive and I also know I’m no picnic.  There are many mothers who do walk off.  And I am blessed.  Because I don’t have a mother like that.

So I allowed my anger to run its course on our walk.  Because I knew she would listen.  I was snappy and sarcastic.  I was humorless and irrational and self-centered.  I don’t like myself when I get that way.  And the horrible paradox of it all is that I can feel my distaste for myself even as I say it all, even as I snap and quip.  And I go on.

Can I just pause for a moment?  Because goodness – do I need grace and forgiveness.  And goodness – am I glad I can have them both.

On again.  When I finally wore out of everything I wanted to say, my mom just walked in silence for a few seconds.  She nodded at me and gave me one of her loving eye-rolls – her way of acknowledging that she heard me, acknowledging that I needed to cool it, and acknowledging that she still loved me anyway.  She gave me a few hints on how to stave off the anger that kept cropping up in this recurring situation (dontcha love my awfully-masked ambiguity?).  Then we walked home.  And I thought things through, and wrote things through.  Sometimes it’s like everything inside me is a river, covered in lily pads and algae.  After I skim off the surface, I can finally see the rocky bottom.

What am I saying?  That’s rhetorical; or rather, it’s self-reflective.  I know where I’m trying to end up but I don’t know if I’m getting there the way I need to (also another departure point for a Thought Train, maybe in a few days).  Let’s see… best to just say the thing that needs to be said, yes?  Okay.

I need to tell you about a poem I wrote, and the poem is dark.  Very dark.  It gets less dark, at the end, but it is still not shy in it’s darkness.  It’s about depression, and the reason I’m writing an entire post to preface a post I’m most likely gonna put up within the week is because that word – depression – tends to freak everyone out and send everyone into Save the Person Mode.

Let me assure you – I do not need you to barrel headfirst to my rescue.  I’m fine :)  See, I put a smiley there to emphasize the sincerity of the “I’m fine.”  I wrote the poem about a week ago, but nothing about it is fresh.  It’s retrospective and hind-sight-y and a compilation of not only my thoughts but the thoughts of others, morphed into words of my own.  It is something that has taken me years to figure out, and I still have very little idea as to what I’m trying to say.  But I’m saying it.  And that counts for something.  I think it counts for a lot, actually.

Tonight my mom and I went on another walk, and we somehow stumbled upon the subject of depression, although very briefly.  Obviously, it’s a subject that’s been on my mind lately, something I’ve been mulling over.  I said I thought depression was a state most humans find themselves in at one time or another in life.  Sometimes they’re there a lot, and sometimes it’s less common.  Sometimes it’s bad – really bad.  And sometimes it’s less bad, but painful and twisty nonetheless.  And she did her mom thing – nodding, pausing, a quick agreement and a little I-don’t-understand-why-you-think-so-much eye roll.  That promise of love again, contained in so few gestures.

That’s why I told you that whole long story about me being mad and then being snippy with my mom on our walk the other day.  To make the point that my mom is smart and also listens to what I say.  But maybe more than that, the story was me warming up.  You see, I have been exceedingly open with this blog, and in the past six months, its impact has reached far beyond the internet.  I’ve opened up personally too, not that I was ever that closed-off of a person.  I just… I suppose I found some areas in my life where I could be more vulnerable, a quality I treasured but didn’t always practice.  Some people I decided to trust with most of me, even without a guarantee of acceptance or understanding.  And you know what?

It’s been six of the most incredible months because of these decisions.  Because I listen to myself.  Because I started believing truths about the person that I was.  Because people told me they got it, and some of them started finding poems for me that they thought I’d like, or they wrote me emails and told me stories, or they sat with me and listened to me and then let me listen to them.

There are so many confusing, difficult, messy people.  People I don’t want to walk away from.  People who aren’t walking away from me.

So I wrote the poem.  And then I put it away, because I didn’t know if I was ready to put it here.  I wanted people to trust that I was alright, that I wasn’t really ever not alright – I wasn’t great, but I wasn’t not alright (there is a time and place for double negatives, and this is the place, and the time is now).  Even in the darkest, rock-bottomiest times, I was aware of my Savior.  But I wanted them to understand how pervasive the curse is, how fallen we are that depression is less of an anomaly and more of a standard.  At least, as the non-psychologist that I am, that’s what I’ve decided.  It’s what I’ve learned, what I’ve seen.  I wrote it because maybe someone needs it.  Because maybe we should stop shutting away our pasts, because it’s part of us.  I am still so haunted by the depths to which my mind can go, even if it hasn’t gone all the way there in a while.  So I wrote it, because it’s the only way I know to deal with things.  Writing and praying, and to me, they’re one in the same anyway.

The poem is coming.  I want to read it a few more times on my own.  I’m thinking of passing it along to one or two individuals to read first too, because I want to ease into it.  I haven’t decided yet.  But I’m going to post it soon.  It isn’t anything incredible; nothing that will bend your mind or have you thinking any more than my other stuff.  It’s actually very similar to the other poems.  I’m not trying to build anything up.  I’m trying to talk myself into this.  I’m trying to take my own advice.  It’s working, slowly; but it’s working.

Page forty-seven.

At the end of he semester, the library at school had a book sale. I waited until everything was free, then I took five or six old books and hymnals. Lately, I’ve been using one of the books as a sort of puzzle – you know how you’ve seen those altered book pages, where people black out most of the words on a page and leave the rest as a sort of poem? Well, it is actually a very useful thing to do, especially when you’re muddling through writer’s block but still really want to create something. In a lot of ways, I also think the exercise strengthens me as a writer, forcing me to think hard about what I’m forming with words already written. It helps me become more comfortable revising, switching around what I leave and what I black out. It helps me pay attention to the purposefulness of words, the fact that the original author wrote these ones for a reason, and how beautiful it is that I can use the exact same words and form them into a completely new idea. And it’s cool, because I know what the original page was about, and in some ways, my poem will still be connected to it, but you, my reader, get a completely different experience.

I love that dynamic: the fluidity of meaning.

Anyway, I’ve made quite a few of these little poems, and I’m going to post them over the next few days. Hopefully I can also figure out how to upload scans of the original pages as well, since part of the uniqueness of this type of writing is what it looks like on an old yellowed book page.

For now, here is Page Forty-Seven.

__________________________________________

he recounted the left behind,
weathered from the broken stone.
we are
history.
an answer to prayers.
we have heard the people
far off.
history is always like that.
pulling at the Valley of shadows,
the great fierce prayer made
Hearts lighter,
because they expected nightfall
all day.

A writer’s benediction.

Last night, at 2:30 in the morning, I wrote this. I was talking to a friend when he threw out a few of the phrases in this poem (though I altered them somewhat) and all the sudden, my mind was racing. Obviously, a racing mind isn’t the thing one wants before attempting to fall asleep. But I was far more excited at the lines already forming in my head. After a few days of radio silence, it’s awesome when the wheels start turning at an unstoppable rate. So I wrote. God speaks loudly to me at night. I’m grateful for the voices He chooses to use – those of friends, but also sometimes my own.

____________________________________________________________________

You once read that we exist for nomenclature.
We give meaning in a way
we understand.
We are not the Artist
but we translate.
You don’t always believe it is a gift.
May that humility always reside
But may your gratefulness never fade.
May you hurl words at your adversaries,
especially the ones that live in you.
May you stare longer than necessary
at everything that begs for your attention.
There is beauty in caring
where no one else does.
May you punctuate your sentences honestly
and not sensationally.
May you never bow to the cliches
or fall at the feet of the cop-outs.
And when you do slip,
trust the words that try to catch you.
Even when they’re not your own.
May you cling to your idealism,
your bright and bruised optimism:
Hope that you’re heard by those
who matter.
When they shower you with praise
may you reflect it to the heavens.
But do so softly –
Loud modesty is often quiet pride.
May you recognize your weapons:
when your words are daggers
and when they are shields.
Use both,
because this world requires
both.
May you trust your instincts:
pen only what must be penned.
The universe needs no more useless prose and empty poems.
When you’re grasping for a phrase
you are often killing the one that is already growing
deep within.
May you have patience for the slow-forming words.
And when you’re overflowing,
when you cannot catch the dripping letters,
may you have peace for what gets away.
May every day be contemplated
so you never feel guilty about
missing your muse.
If dragons swoop in
and carry away what you love,
may you never be afraid
of the curses you pour onto to page.
But if the eagles return to you
all you treasure,
may you be ready to eat your words.
You are always more blessed than you think,
especially when you are literate.
May you have the courage to sleep
when your thoughts will not hush,
and may you have the wisdom to stay up
because sometimes you must.
May you dream of great victories
over great evils.
May you never know enough
except when you do.
May you always crave understanding.
May the words flow from your fingers like lightning
and may God take pleasure in the storm.