Wednesday, December 17, 2008

on adrienne and my constant


You are beauty.

Those are the first words that come to mind as I sit trying to think of what to write of you, of wishes I have for you, and things I remember and love about you. You are beautiful; who you are becoming is beautiful, and so is the person that I have known since day one.

It’s hard to believe there are only a few days left before you pack up in the car and we drive off our separate ways. I know you’re coming back; I know that our friendship is deeper than distance in miles or measurements. I’m not worried about losing you. At the same time, though, I realize that this era, this year of our lives together… it’s done. This is an ending, but also a stunning and brilliant beginning. When we reunite and have the chance to live together again, life will have taken us down different roads, both good and bad. Who knows what those paths will be… who knows what mistakes and triumphs we will have felt.

I know that when you read this you will smile and chuckle on the inside, calling me the nostalgic one between the two of us, especially with such finality seemingly ringing in my words. I guess it’s because I know more than most that so many things can change so quickly, and I am saying goodbye to you with the understanding that we may not get the chance to walk in the door and call eachother ‘roommate’ again. Things change, and that’s okay. I am at peace with whatever future awaits us.

Adrienne Salome, you have changed me (in a good way). So much will I take with me of you, wherever I go, and so many memories I guarantee I will laugh about for years to come. There was turning our balcony into a nest of blankets and sleeping outside all summer under the stars, a drive to Seattle with our bare feet out the open windows and the music loud, becoming close to our neighbors, sitting in the stairwell bundled up in blankets as summer began to slip into autumn.

The most beautiful about your spirit and your heart, though, is not that you were there on the sunny days. You were also there when it rained; when it poured. You were the shoulder I depended on during the most hurtful and drawn-out breakup of my life; you were the one who told me I was not being the intellignt woman I was designed to be; you were the one who curled up next to me on the floor when I found out that a love from long ago was engaged; you were the one who made sure I finished the application to get back into school to pursue my dreams; and more often than not you were the one to set me straight and tell me I was meant for something more.

What might top the cake is tonight. The walls in our apartment are stripped and boxes line the walls where our furniture used to be. It doesn’t look like home anymore. Our lives are packed tightly in cardboard and duct tape, ready to be whisked away to wherever we are headed next. You and I pulled the couch to our sliding glass doors to look out at the brilliance of the fresh snow on the mountain and over the city lights. We put on our shoes, bundled up in blankets, and flung the door wide, just to feel the 7˚ winter wind in our faces and know that we were alive. We turned the music up loud, you put your head on my shoulder, and every few minutes we would sigh. Several moments of silence passed us by.

“How are you?” You asked me.
“I’m happy. Content with where I am at,” I replied.
“I am too. I can feel that God is bigger, and that He is in control, and that His plan is bigger than mine.”

We sat in silence and let the wind sting our face, taking in every word and gust of the breeze. It was simple, but it was one of my favorite memories with you; finding contentedness in life’s small pleasures and moments of peace.

Adrienne Salome Forsythe, you are valient and fearless. I know you admire those traits in others, but I have found them in you. You are my soulmate, my other half, my best confidant and secret-keeper. If I show up out on the town by myself, there is something missing, and everyone knows it. They ask me where you are, why we are apart, why we are doing our own thing. Even the world knows that I was not meant to be having the time of my life without you.

You have been my constant, my deepest friend, my fellow nomad, and the heart beating for the both of ours when my own seemed to flicker and fade.

Thank you. I love you. I can’t wait to see where the road of life takes us.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

on beautiful days and giving thanks

It was a beautiful day.

It was one of those days where you keep trying to take a photograph in your mind of every moving moment and every time the light from the sun catches on your face. A day when finally your soul can rest in the comfort of converation and cups of coffee, when the people you are with are the people you love and the sky seems so wide and full of wonder.

I am so blessed. Some people say lucky, and others say fortunate, but I feel like those words can be a copout because they don’t imply that what you have is given from someplace else.

Two friends and I drove up to Spokane today to take my roommate Adrienne to the airport, to kiss her forehead and tell her we loved her and can’t wait til she is back with us. The dimensions these friends and neighbors of mine have been constantly adding to my life lately is astounding; I keep being amazed by the grace they have for me and that we have for each other ever day. It’s like every day another layer of ourselves is pushed aside so we can grow deeper and closer and more real.

To be honest, my heart craves to leave Moscow some days. I feel suffocated here sometimes, with the nearest city being over an hour away, and where I can’t go anyplace without running into a familiar face. Sometimes I feel like I am trapped, and I look at the next two or three years I will spend at the University of Idaho as a neverending stretch of time.

But more often than not, I realize that my life has found the consistency that it has been lacking for so long. This place, Moscow, is where I belong right now. I realize that these friends – these people I have been able to surround myself with – are my lifelines. My constants. My makeshift and dysfunctional family that supports and loves one another no matter what goes down, no matter who or what wins the battle. And sometimes we fall short, and we lose, and we are let down. But I think that’s okay.

I think we are learning through the rain to appreciate days like today even more deeply. A day when I start my morning dancing with my roommate to Aretha Franklin and ACDC in our pajamas, and cups of coffee with pumpkin creamer sit beside me while I open the shades to let the sun shine in to flood our apartment. A day when my friends and I serenade my mother over the phone singing ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,’ and when the open road in front of you seems like the most wonderful thing on earth.

Thanksgiving week is here and soon the day will come crashing in around us and be gone again without warning.

But when I give thanks, I give thanks for today.

I am thankful for this moment, new beginnings, for my friends and neighbors that have come to support me through the sleepless nights and the rainy days. I give thanks for right now, for the ability to change and to be changed, for how bright the sun can shine, even in my small town, and even in November.

It is true; I am exactly where I was meant to be, and for that, I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Friday, November 14, 2008

on fighting for the logical and late-night revelations

I lose myself in thoughts sometimes. Times like tonight.

Trying to be profound and say all the right things. Trying to spill my heart out in a way that is appropriate and politically-correct. I fight for the logical, wanting to badly to make sense of all these things, of all these events and people and places around me.

I'm finally coming to terms with the fact that life doesn't make sense.

I'm finally beginning to realize that I can't control other people. I can't make them want me, I can't make them be friends with me, and most of all, I can't always be friends with everyone in life, no matter how challenging that is for a people-lover like myself. For someone that is used to being the girl everyone wants to be buddies with, that is becoming difficult for me. To know that my actions don't always define what will become of something. To know that I am not always supposed to steal the show and know all the right things to say and when to say them.

It's not about me.

It's even hard to see that spelled out in black and white, because in our culture we are so accustomed to fighting for our individuality. We are raised and trained-up to want to be recognized. In our country especially, we whore ourselves out to the spotlight, wanting to draw attention in whatever way we can. Uniqueness is a wonderful thing, and life would be monotonous without it, but I am finding that there are some things that are more important. Recognizing the everyday blessings, seizing what is nearest and making the most of it, loving the friends that you have and the place you are at in life.

That is difficult for me, lately. Though I'm not sure why.

Maybe it's because for the first time in my life, I actually care what people think about me. I actually worry about it. This is odd, because one of the things I have always taken pride in is my self-reliance, my confidence and security in who I am and what I am chasing after in life. I am still chasing after those things, but I doubt myself some days. I doubt that I am beautiful, that others think I am beautiful, that I am worth chasing after and pursuing. It's not that I don't have people interested in me, it's just that it doesn't seem genuine, and usually they are intoxicated or desperate - sometimes a frightening combination of the two. Finding men-folk to hang out with that can actually carry on a profound and meaningful conversation are few and far between, let alone ones that I am attracted to and that feel the same way.

It's not all about intimate relationships, though. Then again, it rarely is. And, as previously established, it's not about me.

What is it all about, then?

I often think that it is love; that this is the one thing that makes us different from animals and our ancestors. We have the ability to love, to be self-aware, to extend that love to others and to see the fruits of that as we grow older and have deeper and more meaningful relationships with others. I find that the older I get the easier it is to spill out my life stories to whoever wants to hear them, unashamedly. Because I love where I have been, where I am at and where I am going. That's it. Life is about love. Love of neighbor, country, yourself, and dreams.

One of the things I love about Spanish is how it differentiates between different kinds of love, and for this reason I feel like that language is so much more expressive and passionate about deep thought and emotion. In English, we say we love our spouse and that we love food in the same sentence. We equate how we feel about a movie with how we care about our deepest friend. In Spanish, they have a word for loving an inanimate thing, for liking a thing, for being in the midst of falling in love with someone, and for actually being in love with someone. The verb for loving a sandwich or the weather is a completely different and unrelated word to the love you have for human beings and for lovers. I love that.

Yes. That's it. It's all about love. Love is all you need (mentally humming the Beatles).

That's my 2:45 revelation for today. Tune in next week for my views on developing nations and indigenous rights (not really).

Friday, November 7, 2008

on ethics and preserving the yanomami

Sometimes I wish I didn’t care so much.

At times I wish that I had the ability to turn off compassion, to be able to sleep at night even knowing that others are suffering. That's probably not true, in reality. But I am sleepless, yet again, and for a group of indigenous people I have never met.

In my anthropology class we are involved in a project designed to bring attention to one of the field’s biggest controversies – the Yanomami people of Brazil and Venezuela, and their plea to the international community for help. In the 1980’s, anthropologist Chagnon and genealogist Neel took blood samples from these indigenous people, offering to trade them goods and weapons in exchange for their blood. They promised them that it was for medical research; to find out more about the Yanomami people and their diseases and more importantly, to help them find a cure that would improve the quality of life among their people.

In short (very short), because I spent twelve hours reading up on this today and have no good way to sum it up, here is what I learned:

The Yanomami have had no results back, and have received little to no assistance with the epidemics they are facing because of the exposure to the team back in the 1980’s. Neel has been accused of intentionally giving them inappropriate doses of a vaccine to see how it affected them, while Chagnon has been accused of dishonesty while gathering the samples, not getting adequate permission to use them as he intended, and for misrepresenting this group as an overly-violent people.

What’s even more disturbing, in Yanomami culture, all remains of their deceased are to be destroyed. If this is not carried out, they believe that the dead will wander, unable to leave earth, and will furthermore cause problems among the living out of anger for their part in keeping them from eternity. This is as foundational a belief to them as Heaven and Hell is to most of us in our culture. Today, the blood samples taken decades ago are still being stored throughout several locations and universities in the United States, and some Yanomami are outraged. No one told them that the samples would continue to exist, even some beyond their donors’ deaths, and some claim that they were deceived into thinking differently by the scientists.

Again, in short, I am sleepless tonight thinking of all the sleepless nights these people must have endured, knowing that their loved ones are not at rest, that they were deceived because of their previous lack of exposure to the Western world. I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep knowing that mothers have mourned their children, without knowing if samples of their blood were still in existence someplace else, preventing them from their designed course into afterlife. It is as hauntingly and terribly moving as thinking of our loved ones in hell. And it could be prevented.

I am not claiming I believe or find personal merit in any of their religious beliefs, but in a practice like anthropology where ethics and honesty should be key, there is something deeply disturbing to me about this whole situation. It is unethical. It is dishonest. It is destroying the culture of a people most have never heard of. Most of all, it’s just wrong.

Here is the letter I wrote as my assignment… it is a joint letter to Dr. Joseph Fraumeni (of the National Cancer Institute which is facilitating the return of the blood samples on the American side) and to Carlos Eduardo Oliveira (the key official on the Brazilian government’s side) to try and urge them to sign the waiver to begin negotiations to find a way to resolve this issue. I spent hours on it, so I figured I would post it just in case anyone cares enough to research it a little on their own and see what they can do. Pressure from university students nation-wide is what prompted negotiations in the first place.

Think what we could accomplish if more people were aware, eyes open and listening.

Here is the letter I submitted for my assignment.


Dear Dr. Fraumeni and Mr. Oliveira,

There are many controversies in the field of anthropology demanding attention. There are many issues, on large and smaller scales, all crying out for the day when they will reach resolution. It is understandable that proceedings for any of these items are carried out cautiously and with ample time for the voices of all parties to be heard. One cannot deny the importance, however, of an immediate intervention in the case of the Yanomami people. I am writing today in hopes of turning your attention toward the urgency of their predicament; inspiring you to take action and sign the pending waiver agreement as quickly as possible so that one of today's most pertinent anthropological issues may be one step closer to reaching resolution.

First off, when looking at this issue in its entirety, the "Do No Harm" standard should not only encompass physical or tangible harm but also that of emotional and spiritual well-being. I, personally, believe that part of the beauty in anthropology itself is that it studies not only the physical properties of the human race, but also the importance of their beliefs, ideologies, customs and religions. The American Anthropological Association clearly states in its Code of Ethics that “researchers must do everything in their power to ensure that their research does not harm the… dignity, or privacy of the people with whom they work, conduct research, or perform other professional activities” (AAA 1998). How can one deny, then, the significance of honoring the religious beliefs and customs of the Yanomami?

I have recently been provided with ample information and resources on the subject of the Yanomami and the storage of their blood samples in various facilities across the United States, and have been moved by their plight for our international attention and action. In our culture here in America (and in many other countries worldwide) it is customary to bury our dead, to join together with others in reverence for their lives, and to know that they are resting safely in whatever eternity we believe awaits them. If that right were to be taken away, what consequences and what turmoil would that stir up in the hearts of the affected? We would feel violated - we would cry out, we would stand up, and we would make our voices heard.

Unfortunately, the Yanomami do not have access to the same resources or technology that much of the world is now accustomed to. It is much more difficult to make your opinions heard in the international community without these things, and thus they are looking to influential leaders like yourselves to help further their cause and amplify their voices. I am asking you on their behalf because I believe that without ethics and respect for other cultures and beliefs, the foundation of anthropology is no foundation at all. Regardless of the original intentions for use of the blood samples by other individuals, the power to formally return them and to initiate proceedings to resolve this issue lies in your hands.

All in all, I know that I do not have all of the answers - I, personally, have little say or influence in Yanomami affairs. Being aware of your key position in this matter, however, I encourage you to take into consideration the burden this situation has placed on the shoulders of the Yanomami and the way it has challenged and upset their very core beliefs about life, death and spirituality. The responsibility to act has been entrusted to you, and I believe that a resolution in the not-so-distant future is very much within reach.

Sincerely and with hope,

Dayna Buri

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

on the good in me

This was hard to make myself actually write, but I feel like I have been a downer lately, and that I should take better care of my soul. So this is for Me. Go me.

Positive things about me. In no order.

I am outgoing.
I have great friends.
I have a nice smile.
I am friendly, even when people sometimes aren’t friendly back.
I am faithful.
I have a heart for the poor and needy.
I am an intelligent, deep-thinker.
I have a great family.
I am a leader.
I laugh. A lot. And it spreads to others.
I give my time and effort to people that seem like they need friends.
I confront issues instead of being passive.
I have beautiful eyes.
I am fairly open-minded.
I don’t judge books by their covers.
I (have heard that I) am a good cuddler.
I am passionate.
I am not scared to show emotion, even if others think it is weakness.
I love all kinds of people.
I am, as a general rule, very upbeat and uplifting.
I love the little things.
I am usually the first to reach out to newcomers.
I try to be well-rounded by reading books and trying to learn from them.
I am a dreamer.
I have a great voice.
I can write songs that move people.
I have good fashion sense, though I usually can’t afford it.
I am always down to try new foods.
I do sweet things for other people to let them know that I love them.
I am back in school.
I have a roommate and neighbors who love me.
I know another language and am passionate about learning more of them.
I have a great sense of humor.
I know so many freaking people.
I work hard.
I would drive for hours if someone needed me.
I learn from mistakes, for the most part.
I like to share what I have, when I can.
I am attractive, inside and out, even if I don’t see that sometimes.
I love to dance.
I embrace the journey instead of a destination (usually).
I can write beautiful things.
I am getting better at calling people back and staying in touch.
I find beauty in the most random things.
I could, hypothetically, tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue.
This has yet to be proven.
I am good at taking pictures so I have things to look back on.

Things I need to work on but that are completely possible and within reach:

Having a consistent attitude instead of being so up or down
Working to be more passionate at my job
Being more responsible with my money
Give all I have to my schoolwork, all the time
Try not to take things personally
Find a job that pays the bills but where I am happy simulateously
Get in shape enough to where I feel more confident in myself
Keep my attitude in check when I am wronged or let down
Listening more
Not getting attached to friends or other relationships so easily
Get more sleep on the nights I need to
Work on my music more and use it as an outlet
Not being influenced as much by what people think of me
Be passionate still, but don’t settle into unguided passion
Finish school before I become a nomad and travel the world

See, me? You are actually really cool.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

on the rare ocassion that I feel like a letdown

Another night. Another sleepless one, no less.

I spent most of it sitting on my balcony with the cool air in my face and my enormous quilt wrapped around me. The Nyquil is making me drowsy, but sleep has yet to join me and I am lost in thoughts and my funk that I get in sometimes when things don’t seem to make sense.

I get down sometimes. It’s difficult to say why, and there usually isn’t just one reason, but every now and then when the lights go out in the rest of the world, my eyes stay open and my mind is awake and dreaming of different times and places.

Often I think of the beautiful moments, and the memories and life experience that make up who I am and I reflect on where I have been with fondness and nostalgia. But tonight, for some reason, all I can dwell on are the things out of my reach, and how much I have failed at so many things when I am still so young.

I turn twenty-two this month. Twenty-two. Somehow it has been ten years since the divorces, unfamiliar heartache, family drama and all those other nights that were sleepless, only for different reasons. Somehow I am growing more and more distant from the girl that I was, the girl whose old stories and writings I read to look back on, and the girl that was so much younger than I am now, but who seemed to know so much.

How did I get so far? How does a person completely, entirely change?

I am usually an optimist. While I used to struggle with thoughts like these constantly, it has been awhile since I have sat and counted myself as a letdown.

I am a bad friend. Not always, and not entirely, and it rarely goes mentioned, but the more I think about it the more that I realize that it must be increasingly difficult to be friends with me. I have a really hard time calling people back, or remembering to be there for them when they need me. I am a wanderer, and never seem to be happy where I am (take now, for instance). I can’t stay in one place for too long or I feel stagnant and sedentary. Moscow, for example? I feel like I’m suffocating in this place. I am nostalgic and wish for times past (even though when I was there, I most likely was feeling the same way about some other era of life). I can’t imagine what my friends go through, having to listen to the same stories over and over again, having to be there for me and be strong when all I want to do is break out of where I am and change the world.

Oh yeah, and my dreams are impossible. I want to go everywhere. Literally. I spent part of today looking at places to volunteer abroad, and narrowed my selection down to about fifteen or twenty places. I will, likely, never see most of those places. I can’t afford to travel when I can’t even afford to live where I am now.

And that’s another thing. How can one person be so terrible with finances? I am, literally, thousands of dollars in debt. Granted, a lot of it (most of it) is from school, but not in student loans, because I am ridiculous and didn’t research my options before decision-making. But I am working thirty hours a week, barely breaking even as it is, let alone making enough money to pay off minimum payments on a credit card that I never should have obtained in the first place. Now I have no car that functions (until I magically come up with money to buy a new alternator), no money to spend on anything except for very-cheap and inexpensive food, a cell phone that is insanely-simple and frequently runs out of minutes, leaving me feeling even more lonely that I was already. There is nothing worse than a night like tonight, when all you feel like is a failure, and all you want is to hear the voice of a friend that loves you, and you have no minutes to call people with.

Seriously. I have given up playing music as often because even some of my closest friends make me feel like it’s nothing special, especially when they say things like, ‘well I would compliment you on it, but I am really just as talented and we are the same, so I know we don’t really need that from one another’ or ‘when you play I think it’s just because you cling to that as something that will make people like you.’ No, that’s untrue. People like me very easily and I even gave up performing entirely for a long time to make sure that it wasn’t just a way to get attention. I was gifted with a really cool talent and ability, not just the ability to sing some notes, play some basic chords, and make them resonate correctly, and can actually write songs that make sense and move hearts, and I don’t use it. Not even a little bit. I sit on my own time, when no one is home and within earshot, and then and only then do I express myself the way that I used to. It is only then that I play real and sing out loud, because I don’t want to appear to be self-glorifying and conceited in front of others. So thank you world, now I have a complex.

Moving on.

Spirituality? I have no idea where I am at or where I am going, or what I even want from God. Even then, I’m not sure if he is still waiting around to listen after all of my bitter diatribes about me feeling badly when really I am just too lazy to chase after him. Honestly, a whole huge part of me wonders how it is that the entire world has thousands upon thousands of belief systems… what makes my specific choice the right one? Doesn’t every single person in the world feel that their convictions are the right ones, and that there is no possible way beyond the path they are walking? That their path is the true path to enlightenment and offers the best answers for the basic questions we all inherently have inside us? I do believe in God, and I do love him, but it is a love that is somehow always changing and being redefined by my experiences. I know that faith is the unwavering, illogical faith in what is unseen, but at the same time, how do you sleep at night knowing that if you die in the morning, you might have lived and died for all of the wrong reasons? I can’t sleep.

This fluxuates from month to month, but sometimes I drink a little too much and when I drink I am not a happy drunk the majority of the time. In fact, most of my biggest fights and tears have happened over alcohol. Might as well start calling me by my father’s name. And I have taken up the ocassional habit of smoking while in bars here in town, because they allow cigarettes. Mmm… breath that smells of ashtrays and the wafting scent of liquor.

Relationships? Oh don’t even get me started. I have been needy, desperate, dependent and relient, and while I wouldn’t say I am those things in my relationships now, I still always seem to seek out and find guys that are incompatible with me. Not better or worse, not angels or assholes, just different. Just wanting different things than the other could ever give them. How is that fair to either of us? Besides, if we both change to be what the other one needs, we will cease to be who we really are and will cease to chase what we really wanted in the first place.

But I digress, and I sincerely hope that this is Nyquil talking instead of myself (I really think it is, because reading over this, it doesn’t really sound like me at all, and I am bordering on exhaustion… and exhaustion without rest always means over-thinking).

So, just a recap: not a great friend, impossible dreams, lack of vehicular transportation, financial
disaster, ocassional-drunk, chain-smoking, musical dropout, spiritually-apathetic, relationally-retarded, nostalgic mess of a human being. Beyond all of those things, I also have the uncanny ability to be two-faced, can have a really bad work ethic, I procrastinate (though I do somehow manage to get everything done), I have problems following through, and I lie ocassionally to make myself look good.

The personal ad writes itself. I am going to bed now.

postscript: I know I have to 'be the change if you aren't happy' and 'be your own person' and 'follow your dreams' and 'explore your talents' and all of those cliches. I also am aware that they are mostly true. I just was up way too late to have anyone remind me.

Friday, September 26, 2008

on eyes opening and instilling curiousity

Sometimes my life and my brain turn me to face strange directions.

I will think nothing of a topic for days at a time, then all at once it seems like all of my experiences, conversations, wonderings, and even topics in my classes seem to point me towards something. Indefinite as it may be, it’s just the concept in general that lingers there, somewhere in the back of my mind.

So, my friends, here is the concept of the moment: differences. Why are we created different, with diverse political opinions and varying aspirations and talents? What good does it serve? There is the cliché of the betterment of the general world, that we are all special in our own ways, that we all have the ability to make a difference. But beyond those stereotypical responses, what is left?

My sister, Brittany, and I chatted briefly last night about how differing we are; about how it is even possible that out of all the combinations of siblings we could have acquired by marriage, it was us. Polar opposites, inside and out. My petite and athletically-gifted sister has straight, blonde hair while I am taller with unruly brown hair and curls that can’t ever seem to stay put. But beyond the superficial and less-important, our differences lie in so many other areas.

Despite the many things we talked about, the one thing that resonated with me was how we agreed that our difference inspire one another. That when she is passionate about something, it make me passionate about it as well, or at least instills in me the curiosity and desire to find out why it is so important or applicable to her, and vice-versa.

I think that is beautiful.

Do we, as a general rule, function that way with the rest of the world? Seeking to understand passion that is not our own? Trying to examine the world through new eyes? By enlarge, I think that we don’t.

Maybe that’s the reason we are meant to be different and unique, swimming in the knowledge of our own individuality. To inspire. To put forth ideas and beliefs that are new and true and relevant. Open-mindedness does not mean changing your views or believing that right and wrong is different for everyone, just as it doesn’t mean conforming or subscribing to organized religion in order to see where they are coming from… it just means that your ears are open. That your heart is open to love, regardless of differences in culture, personality, or preferences. That you seek to be inspired instead of deterred by differences.

Sometimes I think our eyes have been closed our whole lives, and we are going about this thing all wrong.

I am going to try opening my eyes differently tomorrow.

(Or at least in five hours when I wake up to go to class...)

on cups of tea and old-fashioned letters

Ah, relationships.

For whatever reason, I have been thinking of them today. My history, my memories, my photographs, the tattered, old-fashioned letters I keep stowed away. I have so many great things in my life, my friends and past-relationships being most of them. I have slips of paper with ‘I love you’ scrawled across them, from friends and loves that have come and passed.

I am coming to realize a few things about me lately. There are a lot of them. One of which is that I am happiest when I am in the company of someone else, and I tend to cling to relationships to define me. Another is that I am nostalgic to a fault.

My roommate and I sat out on our patio overlooking Moscow last night, the cool autumn wind in our faces. We curled our fingers around warm cups of tea, and enjoyed the rare treat of a cigarette. Bundled in blankets with my head on her shoulder, we admitted secrets to one another; secret worries about the other, musings about our lives and where we are going, and the always-necessary recounting of our separate experiences that day.

“You just always seem to be looking for what’s going to happen next; where you will live or your next relationship, or you are the polar opposite and dwell on what’s been and the places you have lived and want to return to. But you can never go back, really, and you need to be a whole person… I don’t think you have ever felt the need to be your own person outside of a relationship before. But I think you would like it,” she told me, “and I think you need to give it a try. Really give it a try.”

I felt like that’s what this past year has been spent trying to reach.

Parts of me know those things are true, for the most part. Relationships to me, while various other people see them as hard work or exhausting, are a challenge that I enjoy. It is a chance to be more than yourself, and to focus on letting that person know you care, and that you are invested in their life and their happiness. It gives you the chance to be thoughtful, to be considerate, and to realize things about yourself that you may not have found on your own.

But where is that balance?

Between being happiest in the company of others while learning to make your own happiness of the utmost importance? Between loving being with someone and feeling like you need them? Between hoping for the past and future while living in the present?

I would like to say that I know, but the answers are still hazy in my mind.

Going through the box of letters and memories today gave me gratitude for all the amazing men I have been able to date in my life, and all the different ways I have been blessed by them and inspired and driven by them. They each have their own place in my history, and a few ended painfully while others are still my closest friends. Granted, there are a few I with I hadn’t wasted so much time and emotion on. Granted, the endings weren’t always beautiful. It is definitely a funny thing, this life.

The truth is, I have loved a lot in my life, and been loved by many. In the grand scheme of things, that in itself makes me blessed.

In this process of becoming myself, this unending walk of mine, I wonder if I will get to a place where I can be content without needing to have the knowledge that someone is content with me and thinks I am lovely. Who I am should assure my soul that I am safe. That I am beautiful. That I am cared for and appreciated regardless of circumstance or status.

But on nights like tonight, I just want someone to sing me a love song. I hope that’s okay.

Friday, September 19, 2008

on developing nations and the morning breaking

It is four a.m., and the morning is breaking but sleep is far from my mind.

I spent my late-night moments composing a speech to give to my United Nations class just a few short hours from now, and there is something stirred so passionately inside me that keeps me awake and wondering. Tonight, more than ever, I am thankful that I am pursuing a career and an educational journey with the purpose of working towards betterment in the world instead of just my own personal gain and interest, my own eventual wealth and accumulation; how empty that would feel and how fruitless it would be, in my own heart at the very least.

In a few of my classes we are studying developing nations and smaller-scale communities that most people have never heard of that live in the outreaches of the civilized world. I have been reading about how they function and breathe, how they form relationships and how they make do with what little they have, and it is so interesting to think of how little we know of what they live daily.

The funny thing is, when we hear about people like the Australian Aboriginees, or the San people in the Kalihari Desert, we think of them as uncivilized and in need of our assistence to help 'catch them up' to the present day, so to speak. We think of them as our pet-project that needs a helping hand to become just like us economically, socially, spiritually and educationally.

What often goes unrealized is how beautiful simplicity is. In my own mind, at least, I have always assumed that hunting and gathering groups lived a rough life and must spend days on end just scavenging for food, living in unrest and in relentless pursuit of life's necessities. What is really never presented to us is that they really only spent three to five hours a day collecting food in an intricately-organized plan to minimize effort. They live this way so that the rest of their afternoons and evenings may be spent focusing on what is important: relationships and conversation, story-telling and feasting together on the things they are thankful for. They have more complex kinship systems than we do, with more elaborate ways of categorizing relatives and more ways to interact in an egalitarian society where no individual is elevated above the rest of the group (though I'm sure there were exceptions).

How amazing it would be if we still all felt equal. If instead of working for yourself and your own friends or family, you give what you have to the group and it is shared equally. So if one person is unsuccessful, it goes unnoticed because of the achievement of someone else. I am well aware that in our society today, that would never work, I am not implying that at all (save the speech). Most people would have an issue with that today because they would have no chance to stand out or shine, to 'show what they've got,' so to speak, and would get consumed in not getting noticed and not getting enough attention for their achievement (which some would argue is essential to American culture, and I would agree, though I think it is self-motivated and self-seeking). The more I'm learning, the more I realize that the richer countries of the world always seem to think they've got it right, and become stuck in ego centrism, evaluating other cultures based only upon the perspective of where you come from, drawing from the data bank of your own experience instead of reaching out for what could be newer or richer.

My speech I finished tonight is about developing countries, and what role we as independent and developed nations should play in the course of their future. The first thing that usually comes to mind, for me at least, is sending over heaps of money that will hopefully reach the right people and work towards the right things when it gets there. But how do you find that balance? There has to intensive framework in place to ensure that the small percentage of rich people in those poor countries don't receive some more pocket change. There is also the issue of corrupt governments, and people trying to get ahead on what should have been someone else's gain.

How crazy and complicated and complex is our world?

If there is one thing I am learning in my International Studies major, it is that all cultures evolve at a different pace, and that is a beautiful thing. Even recently I looked down at certain cultures for being not as 'caught-up' with the present day as we are. For not embracing our clothes or culture or monetary system. We think of them as unrefined or savage, as naive and ignorant of the world growing and changing around them. I am learning to disagree with what I have always been taught. I am learning that most people we would call 'indigenous' loathe that term and consider it offensive. They scoff at how we fumble trying to classify them.

I don't want to try to classify cultures that are misunderstood or misrepresented anymore. I just want to reach out, to understand, and to get some sense of how they live and why. I want to stretch myself and experience, to open my mind and heart to how I can help them be who they are, originally, apart from who we would desire them to be.

It is so great to be learning again. I just can't wait til I get in my Issue Emphasis classes about Global Resources and Development. Way excited to know how I can get more involved in the right ways.

I will keep you posted. = )

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

on fancy words and elaborate things

Sometimes want to speak to you in fancy words and of elaborate things because that’s what I think is beautiful. But I know you want my honesty and the openness of my heart.

I miss you.

I haven’t been talking to you as much lately, partly because I am so preoccupied with all of the newness of my life and all of these changes that are crashing in around me. I get busy. I push you aside. I settle in where it’s comfortable and where the pangs of conviction can’t quite reach my restless soul. I reach for what is lesser and temporary.

I know you are well aware by now, but I am selfish. I have my own agenda, and all of these things in my life that I want to get done my way, and in my time, and by my own feeble hands. I have my own demons that I refuse to let go of, my filthy habits and my half-hearted relationships I cling to so desperately. I just won’t let go. I enjoy addiction to lesser things and tattered worldly glory because it’s easy. It’s comfortable. Mediocrity can be soothing at times.

Despite what I like to tell myself, I am really not all that great of a person; my plans for my life are self-seeking and egocentric. You know this. I want to travel so I can say I have been places. I want to learn languages so I can appear smarter or more accomplished than other people, even though I really do enjoy the learning aspect as well. I stretch the truth. I bend the rules. But how long can I bend and not break?

I do love you. I really do.

Sometimes I talk at you when I am alone, when I am under a sky of stars that you created. I tell you of my day, about lessons learned and things I am wrestling. But more often than not, my voice echoes back at me, and I wonder if you have heard; if you have been hearing me at all. My whispers are met by the crickets and the faint sounds of cars someplace distant. I exhale slowly in the near-silence and wait for you to answer me.

Someplace inside though, I know you hear. I know you listen. If there is a listening deficiency, I am more than certain it is on my end. But I am not hearing you tonight.

So with your ever-constant heart, I hope you hear that I love you still. That I still long for you. That despite the inconsistency of my actions at times – most times – I still know that your way is the best way, and that your love is the greatest and most beautiful.

Someday I will learn to overcome my humanity and learn to let go. But until then, I know you will be waiting. Thank you for always waiting for me.

Monday, September 8, 2008

on conversations with popo and hospital rooms

I am up in Spokane tonight, spending time with my grandpa while he waits to undergo surgery tomorrow. These are words and stories that poured forth in moments that often go unwritten. This is Popo's story... the words I clarified for him are in brackets.

I heard an Illustration that was used once at a conference in Colorado Springs, someone asked one of the pastors that never flew anyplace, ‘Why don’t you fly, you always use the train’ ‘Well the Lord never said he would protect me on a plane’ ‘What is that supposed to mean?’ ‘He said ‘low I am with you always.’

This next [illustration] was told as a real story but I’m not sure if it is or not… [it was] about a beautiful large church, kind of upper-class, so to speak, and it was right across the street from the University. [One Sunday] this kid came into the church wearing his worn-out sandals, and he walked in, the church was full and he couldn’t find a seat. He had jeans and a big beard, and he walked all the way down to the front and he folded his legs and sat on the floor right in front of the front pews. The whole time he walked, people that thought they were all ritzy were astounded, and then all at once in the quietness they heard an older gentlemen get up, a man with a cane, and he walked all the way to the front, and as difficult as it was to sit down, he sat down next to the young man, and put his hand on his shoulder. The pastor couldn’t preach his sermon or anything, it blew the church apart when they realized ‘we think we are so hot, and here is this guy who goes and sits down [on the floor].’

And that’s the way it should be… if Jesus was walking down the aisle people would say ‘he doesn’t belong in our church.’ It was told to me as a true story but I don’t know if it is or not.

So I talked to [my old friend] Rich on the phone… the talk came around to age eventually… he said ‘Floyd I’m going to be sixty soon’ so we got to talking about this and that, and anyhow, long story short, I felt led to preach a sermon last Sunday on something I have never preached on because it didn’t appeal to me and that is on the subject of age and getting older. I can’t remember exactly, I think it's Psalm 37, it says something like, 'I was young once, but now I am old, and I have never seen the righteous go hungry'...

I preached [a sermon called] ‘come and grow old along with me’ and so I brought out some of the aspects of what it meant to be aged, what transpired [in our lives], what can benefit people... Some people in their eighties that I know minister more [to the community] than their pastor.. they fold bulletins for three or four thousand people downtown… some have a food pantry, some friends of mine, Lee and Glenda Gwin and I think she is eighty-something and he might be right at ninety, and they go down and work in the food pantry [downtown] and feed people that need food, and some markets give them vegetables and stuff like that… [it goes to show that] even in your older years you can still be doing something for the Lord.

People [at church on Sunday] said it was interesting that I took a subject that maybe would be unappealing because none of us really like to get old because there are various things that can happen to you, but there are still a lot of good you can do for the cause of Christ… I had about five points but I can’t remember all of them… I talked about [the] advantages of being old, and about your family. You have a tighter knit family sometimes and you have long relationships that have gone for a long time, years and years, and one of the things about your children is that you wake up one day and realize that your children are your friends… when they’re growing up you’re not sure and you’re not always looked well upon by your children… but when you get older, your kids are your friends not just your kids.

Someone asked me a week or two ago if I was walking and I said ‘yeah I only walked two blocks last night, got tired in front of the funeral home and sat down out front waiting for them to open up.’

All in all, Dayna, I just like people. And I think when you like people, they like you too. I think it’s like the Bible says, ‘to have a friend you have to be a friend,’ or something along those lines… it’s just always been my 'thing'… for lack of a better term. I love people. And because of that, people by enlarge love me too. I don’t have many enemies.

When they told me I had to have this pacemaker opened up again and have this other surgery a few weeks ago because they thought something was flipping out in my heart... There was a nurse I hadn’t seen before, and when I told her my age she said ‘you couldn’t be that old!’… and that makes me like them whether they like me or not! We got to talking and I told her I was a pastor, and she said ‘I just can’t believe that, and that you are 83’ so when I got ready to leave Judi and I were walking down the hallway, and the nurse was getting ready to leave down the hall in front of us. She turned around and blew me a kiss… it almost made me tear up, it was so sweet. A neat little nurse. I just really love people.

more to follow.

Friday, August 22, 2008

on august the twentieth

Three days.

In less than a week I leave my year-long hiatus from higher education and try to realign my life with the goals and pursuits that sometimes seem in the past instead of in my future.

It’s funny to me that in order to make money later in life you have to spend so much now, and for what? A piece of paper that tells me I am accomplished? A pat on the back or more security in job interviews several years down the road? What if I spend all this money only to decide that I want a lesser-paying but ultimately more fulfilling career? Will I think of this time in my life as wasted? And regrets? I don’t believe in them, but I fear having them one day, though it may be far off from this moment.

Don’t misunderstand; I want always to pursue thought and reasoning, to push myself to see the world with new eyes when the scenery appears to be the same. I think the moment stagnancy enters the picture something is broken inside. But I have always taken pride in following a less-beaten path, enjoying the journey instead of spending the present on worrying about the future. It has always been with confidence that I tell people I have never regretted taking time off to explore this world and my music and myself. But with that same confidence I know that the things I need to do in life to reach my potential has to be reached through school, instead of shortcuts or other paths. I have explored, I have seen some of this earth that I wanted to see, and now it’s time to settle in and discover who I was made to be.

I am sensing rough waters in my life soon, but in those waters will be security and purpose. I will fight those sixteen credits with all the mindpower and confidence I can find in me, and I will think because I was gifted with a mind that is able to learn and stretch and grow.

I can only hope that whatever path I take leads me to a place where I can give back to the world I was placed in like the people in it have given back to me.

Selah… let it be.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

on magic carpets and grownups

I have been out of school for a year now (though eagerly anticipating my rejoining of the academic world in the fall), but it amazes me how much I am still actively learning. I wonder if life will always be this encompassing and new, in the sense that I am constantly experiencing and enjoying new aspects of my life, my relationships, and my spirituality. It is beautiful; I hope so.

Coming home is not always a vacation for me, mostly because there are so many people to see and things to do and shifts to pick up at my old restaurant. There is rarely time to relax and to exhale, though it is always a bit relieving to finally be surrounded by people I have loved and missed so terribly. In the chaos of it all it is easy to lose track of what I wanted from this week in the first place.

Intentionally and with purpose, I had set aside the first five days of this journey back to Duvall for two reasons, and two reasons alone: to find a few moments of tranquility to be alone with my own soul, and to spend as much time with my family as humanly possible. Just setting those goals for a few days has made all the difference (although if you have met either of my two brothers, in any length of time, you are probably aware that those two goals can’t usually coexist peacefully).

There are a few lingering moments in my life, happening more frequently as of late, when I look around me and suddenly realize how beautiful the moment is that I am in, along with all the potential it contains and, at last, all the mysteries and answers in my world and mind seem to be at rest. This happened yesterday at my brothers’ graduation party that carried on throughout the evening.

I am learning to live deeply in these moments. I lifted my hand to shield my eyes from the sun, sighed, and then took a look around me. Loved ones and friends wandered around our backyard, music wafting through the air in the background, surrounded by laughter and sunshine, a game of volleyball at hand, the barbecue making the yard smell like a summer dream. It was a celebration of endings and beginnings, and as my eyes darted from face to face I realized that there was a smile on every one of them. I sat at a table with a book in my hand while my shoulders took in the last rays of sunshine. I was captivated. And I watched.

I vaguely remember hearing someone sitting next to me say to their child, “No honey, not right now, I’m spending time with the grownups.” After a moment went by it began to register… she is talking about where I am sitting. I am a grownup.

I am a grownup?

For some reason, it’s such a bizarre concept for a girl who was a tomboy until middle school and didn’t learn to properly apply makeup until quite a long time after that. Forget that I turn 22 this year; I am still deciding on my major and worrying about the FAFSA and gas money.

I used to think that when I hit a certain age, my life would magically unfold… like a magic carpet would roll out like a scroll on the ground in front of me and give me all of the answers. It would pay my rent and make sure I was driving the right car and dating the right person. Somehow, at this magical number of acquired wisdom, this would all come about. I think I decided that age was 16 (this was, of course, when I was 9, and sixteen seemed years ahead of me instead of a mile marker in the road behind me). If my theories were correct, then by some stroke of evil luck I am still paying rent on my own, driving a car that is paid for, but far from perfect, and not dating… at all.

Now, however, none of those things seem like a burden, and instead seem so beautiful and such a part of my adventure and my life. I wonder why it is that our perceptions of success change so much with each era of our lives. I used to fight for wealth and possession and now I fight for wisdom and cultural understanding. I used to long for a job where I would be materialistically satisfied, and now I only long for one where I can be encouraged and at peace with who I am and who God has created and intended for me to be. I used to fight to find a relationship, no matter how damaging they were for me, or how needy or desperate I was for them. Now I desperately want to just understand myself and who I am apart from the men I have been blessed to have in my life.

I have been reading a lot this week about mindfulness and meditation, on focusing on what is good and true, and learning to dwell in that, in the here and now. I am not talking about new age religion or things like that, but about learning to be conscious in the moment. My favorite way it was described is that ‘mindfulness is essential to spiritual practice, for no matter what spiritual tradition we follow, we must have a mind that is able to stay in the present moment if our understanding and experience is to deepen.’

One of my favorite verses in the Bible says ‘Be still and know I am God.’ So simple. Yet He knew how we would wrestle with it, and how our minds tend to wander and focus and dwell on lesser things and that which is temporary. So, slowly, I am learning to be here. Present. Engaged in how stunning this moment is instead of how great tomorrow looks on my calendar. Learning to look around and be thankful. The process is slow, especially for me, but I am learning to love my life, my struggles, my personal victories, my disagreements, and my families, blended and beautiful and overflowing with love.

Three years ago I walked down the aisle of a ceremony and was handed my diploma, leaving behind the world of high school and all it represented. Some moments it feels like yesterday, but most times it seems another lifetime behind me. On Friday night I watched both of my brothers do the same, smiles on their faces and tassels on their hats… I listened to one of them speak words of wisdom to his classmates as salutatorian, and I beamed with pride. They are both so individual and unique… good at so many different things but yet completely different in their countenance.

It has been a week of learning, for me; learning more about myself and the aspects of my heart and soul that need work and maintenance. Learning more about how to gracefully interact with my family, even if I disagree, and even if I sometimes think that I am hardly in the wrong. Learning to stay silent more often and to listen more (although this is obviously still a work in progress). More importantly, about recognizing how beautiful my life is, no matter how flawed or how imperfect it may seem.

I can only hope that all of life is filled with learning and knowledge and relationships like my journey has been this year, with a thirst to learn language and people and history, and a desire to deeply know my God and myself. I just want to know. To reach. To move others and be moved, to teach and to learn. To continue to reach for the stars, and to refuse settling comfortably on the nearest mountaintop.

In the end, I think all of that is up to me.

I’m ready to reach.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

on missing my california

I am missing my California.

There are days when I think it was all just a dream; that I have really never left this place where I grew up at all. Did I ever leave? Was I ever really gone? Moments come when I can’t picture the faces anymore... I can’t piece the memories together and I don’t know what it’s like to feel the sun shine on my face the way it did then. It was another time in another place. I had a different heart, different hopes and different loves.

It is early in my story still, or at least that is what I like to believe when the end seems too near. If it is early, in fact, then I am led to wonder why my mind feels so aged and so accustomed to change. I am led to wonder why I am so numb to that change when it is crashing in around me. It seems as though my heart never registers what is going on until it’s too late to go back and start again. I wonder if God intended it that way… a fail-safe in case I dare to look back to where I came from and change my mind. By the time it hits me what I am letting go of it is already gone and over.

I guess all those things can be said less eloquently: I mourn later than everyone else. Granted, when I rejoice and when I celebrate something in my life, it is glorious and good. But when I do mourn or when I encounter this funny thing called nostalgia, I fall into the memories and I fall hard. I stumble into the ‘what if’ trap, and I fight off the feeling that I didn’t try hard enough or I didn’t choose wisely enough. If not the ‘what if’ trap, then it is the trap of good thoughts and recollections, and wondering if my heart will ever sigh so happily again; dreaming of better days instead of living in today. Physically aching to be somewhere else in a different era of your own life.

Life is so good and so rich. I have been saying that a lot lately and it is still so very true. But today I wanted nothing but to be in Azusa with my sister, walking to a coffee shop and driving to the beach with the wind in our hair and the world at our feet. I wanted to be walking in the evening air from my apartment to Bowles housing… to clutch my sweatshirt closer to my chest and know that a handful of my best friends were only a moments walk away. To rest in the comfort of knowing that God did make the rain, but he made the sunshine so very reassuring and full of hope. Today, I wanted yesterday so very badly.

The funny thing is that even if I returned, it would be so very different. If I were there, I would only wish to be somewhere else. The people have changed, just as I have, and the apartments are different and the friends have shuffled around and discovered new relationships, new paths to walk and new struggles to fight against. It’s called ‘my California’ because it is different than yours, different than anyone else’s.

Do you ever sit and wonder where you would be if you had only changed one thing? If you had only missed one conversation that changed you? If you had stepped back from your calling in life so that you could have it a little easier? I am recovering from a severe cold, so keep in mind that any of this could be the Nyquil talking, but tonight I want my California back. I am sitting here watching night turn quickly into morning, with a candle lit by my side, and I wonder what I could have changed. I wonder if I made the most of my time there; if people still remember me and if I am ever in their thoughts like they are in mine.

Life is so beautiful, and I am so thankful for today. Thankful for my two roommates who I adore and who lift me up and who hold me when I can’t keep the tears inside anymore. Thankful that I have two sets of parents who love and adore me, with more siblings than I could have ever hoped for and more love for and from them than I have ever dreamed of.

I am thankful but I am looking back.

California, rest in peace.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

on stories

I drove slowly as the country road was winding its way into the distance out my rearview mirror. Fresh flowers sat in my passenger seat; the ones I picked myself just minutes before.

I exhaled.

It was that kind of day, with my window down and traces of the summer to come sinking into my senses; the smell of fresh-cut grass and the way the hills are alive with a vibrant green you can only see this time of year. I love this season. The old has faded away and given birth to what is new and fresh. Life. Summer is around the corner, but if you look for it too closely you will miss the beauty that is springtime. I am beginning to understand that there is rarely anything more symbolic of the human heart and spirituality than seasons; until you have braved the coldest winter you will never come to love summer nearly as much or as deeply.

I flipped my turn signal on and pulled my car onto the gravel road that would take me where I was going; the local cemetery. I have never been to a cemetery that I loved, and in fact, most of them aren't places I would choose to go of my own volition. But in Colfax, you stand at the top of the world and look out over creation and the whole town is at your feet. You can see the sky change its color and watch the moon rise over the horizon. My Neenee is here – my grandmother. I parked my car and made my way to the most beautiful headstone of them all and laid my flowers right under the verse 'where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'

I sat down, leaned my back on the tombstone and closed my eyes, wondering what she would think of the seasons of my life that she has missed, or rather, that I have been missing her. Anyone you ask who knew her would tell you that she was the most beautiful of them all; everybody loved her. When I stop and visit where she was laid to rest, I think about life and legacy and love unconditional. I usually sit and stay awhile, and tonight the sun sinking had set the clouds on fire, and there were colors I had only seen on canvas. I breathed it in and brushed my hands against the cool grass.

I wonder what will become of my story when I am no longer here to tell it. I wonder what will be said, and whether I will be remembered and whether or not I was a friend to be trusted and counted on. When all that is physically left of me is a stone on a hillside, will my memory stir love and will it move people to do things that matter? Will I have moved enough for what matters?

As time goes by, I ask these questions less and less, mostly because I realize that either way, she would have been proud of me. She would call me beautiful and she would touch my cheek and tell me that I belong and that my eyes remind her of the blue of the ocean or the sky on a sunny day. She would tell me to be more present and mindful in the moment and to not wish time away because it dissolves into yesterday so quickly. Some of the decisions I have made would not impress her, and there would be no hesitation in her telling me so, but she would be proud nonetheless. She would love nonetheless.

My eyes and thoughts wandered from one headstone to another as I imagined what their lives were like and who their children were and if they loved and laughed enough. They were doctors. They were mothers. They were life-changers. They wrestled their giants and sometimes they won. They were lovers and fighters, winners and losers.

I am captivated by stories lately, and not the kind you hear from the grapevine or the gossip on the nightly news. I am drawn to life stories: struggles, strengths, addictions and triumphs. I have noticed something in almost every story: there is conflict to separate the good seasons, a winter of sorts, to bring a more full appreciation of the day that the traces of snow will finally melt away to summer.

I like stories.

Sometimes I don't like that they wait to resolve, and I want conclusion or the promise of a happy ending. Then I realize that what is beautiful is today, and new mercies, and this moment and all the challenge and potential that is in it. Right now. That I have the power to change, and to be changed; to love and be loved. That the reason those 'choose your own adventure' books have such a draw is because they were meant to echo reality. We really do choose our own adventures, and we really do have the power to write our own endings and everything that rests between the first and last pages of our lives.

Neenee's story spoke and it is still speaking. More than anything, I want my story to speak of love and wisdom and passion. Of mercy that was not wasted and grace that was not taken for granted.

I drove home newly purposed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

on rico's and cinnamon rolls

Life is so very rich and full.

I know we all have our days when the walls seem to crumble down, and the rain seems to fall heavier than usual; your head seems to hang a little bit lower. I have come to know those days well, especially throughout this last year. But it is so comforting to have a day like today, when I feel successful at work and in my spiritual life and in relationships; comforting to smell the air after it rains and know that summer is on its way. I woke up this morning to a cup of coffee and a kiss on my forehead. I also ate a cinnamon roll. If you ask me, getting out of bed doesn't get easier than that. Work felt fruitful, and I threw my heart into the small tasks at work, knowing that I am appreciated and that I am where I need to be.

Two of my best friends and I laughed until we cried today. Sitting inside Rico's in the cozy armchairs, rain falling outside the windowpane, with oldies echoing off the walls... sipping on a Mexican coffee and talking about life, love and God and how amazing and hilarious it can be to interact together. I am so in love with who we are as a trio; with Adrienne and her stories and tales of adventure from the world of her work, with Senja and the way she quietly tolerates my often obnoxious sense of humor. We quote Brian Regan and Borat excessively and in socially awkward situations. We remain addicted to Pandora and cheap jewelry.

It is so relaxing to be who you are, unapologetically, knowing that you have two people that love you. Without conditions. Without strings attached. No matter where you have been or where you are going. It's like exhaling after holding your breath for far too long.

Life can be far from beautiful sometimes. But I never want to overlook the simple days. When life is good and true friends are few but faithful. When laughing can bring me to tears and friendship can bring me to my knees in gratitude.

When I give thanks, I give thanks for days like today.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

on the simple life

It seems I am embracing the country lifestyle I ran away from for so long. At least for now. I do enjoy the city; the glow of streetlights and the sound of traffic on the pavement just after it rains. I especially miss Seattle, with the alleys and coffee house and walls boasting of local art. Oh, how I do love the city.

I have been staying with my family in Colfax, however, and it is glorious.

There is something so beautiful about the simplicity of country life. Maybe its the open space of it all, with room to run and stretch and breathe. Maybe its the way country music blares out of our 1910 barn with the men working in the shop while us ladies sit in the sunshine and entertain my baby brother (I have always loathed country music, but I have found that in the right environment it has the potential to be quite charming). There is a quiet, and a peacefulness. There are birds chirping and a tractor plowing over the nearest hillside. We drink lemonade in the spring afternoons and sit on the lawn in laughter and in silence.

It's almost as if by slowing life down a bit you are quicker to be mindful of the smaller moments, and the beauty of the often-overlooked.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

on intersections and blemishes

I’ve reached one of those points in life where everything you are living and breathing seems so beautiful and new, and everything you have left behind you seems so tragically detached from the person you are now. You walk toward better days with your head facing backwards trying to recapture all that has been. You take two steps forward but you always seem to be looking three steps behind you.

It seems I am sitting at this intersection in my life where all the different roads I have been down and all the different lives I have led have to come together somehow; they have to find a way to comfortably coexist in my history while somehow letting me move forward. There are some people who believe that when you turn your life around in a positive direction that you are supposed to somehow ignore all those raw and dirty places you have been; you have to whitewash them from your mind or they will sneak back in and destroy you. But I wrestle with that because I know that those mistakes and those blemishes help make me who I am; that those lessons I have taken with me have made me both stronger and wiser. I admit they were not all the brightest decisions and that I was designed for greater things… but I think it is foolish to think that those days in their entirety were useless or wasted.

Yes, they were convoluted and my heart oftentimes felt twisted; like a rag being rung out to dry. Yes, there was devastation and sleepless nights; brokenness and drama, but there was also beauty and love, passion and depth. There were conversations by candlelight and peace in the quiet moments. And as wrong as they were at times, I don’t want to forget.

Lately I have been struggling to reconcile these different pieces of me; to somehow figure out how they got there and what purpose they serve; to sort through the desires of my heart and why they exist and how I can cultivate all of them to make me a more beautiful and well-rounded person. But it’s rough, sometimes.

I have so much in my future, Lord willing, with a new job starting and getting ready to move in with two amazing girls. I have so much to reach for and to be excited about, and I am. But I don’t want to be a person that thinks it is essential to forget where you have been to fully be where you are.

God, help me wrap up all the pieces of my heart to be more present in the moment; to let go gracefully instead of clinging to a past I can’t change. Help me to appreciate the fallen times and the broken moments.

I just want to live deep and full.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

on the joy of baby brothers

There are few things as beautiful, hilarious and fun as he is.

I give you my baby brother... :) He is a little over 4 months now.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

on jeanine and friendship

'It's time to go.'

I have said these words before; once upon a time before I left Duvall for the City of Angels. They are hauntingly familiar. A season of my life is quickly coming to an end, and I more than most know what it feels like to buckle up and move forward; I know what it's like to pack up your life in flimsy cardboard and packing tape. I know what it's like to leave ones I love behind and to chase after the future with all that is in me. To be honest, there is always a part of me that is thrilled with the prospect of adventure and with the opportunities of what is to come.

But leaving for me is not so easy this time.

This year has been more up and down for me than most years I can remember; my spiritual life has been fighting for air while the flesh and humanity in me cries out for what is momentary. Jobs have been temporary, friendships I thought were deep at times have proved to be fleeting, and overall there has been an inconsistency that I had never before experienced. Throughout all of that, though, there has been onething that has stayed constant and true, and that is Jeanine.

I usually tend to avoid talking about people by name when I write, because I think usually the lessons learned in life are more important than attributing them to one specific person. But her heart and her character continue to overwhelm what I know as normal or preconceived, so I suppose part of me deems it necessary to recognize that spirit in her; to glorify the woman that I have been blessed to know and live beside this year.

Friendship with me is not always an easy ride, mostly due to my spontaneity and wanderlust, but she took it in stride, and counted it a blessing more often than not to fight my demons alongside me. There were many sleepless nights when I couldn't fight fear any longer and would crawl in bed beside her; there were days when all I needed was a shoulder and a sleeve to cry my heart out on. There were many trying moments; relationships in life fell apart and, more often than not, the plans that I made for my life proved to be futile.

There were all of those things, the tears and difficulties. But above
all else, there was permeating joy. I suppose more than anything I just wanted to remember; to make note in my mind of those everyday moments with her heart that changed me. I never want to forget, you know? I never want to let go of lessons learned and memories made.

Tonight our smiling faces flickered in the glow of candlelight, and our
seemingly dysfuntional family came together, probably the last time before my move, to celebrate one another and to dwell on what is good and beautiful and true, especially in Jeanine. We raised our glasses to friendship and to blessings; to recognizing that true and unconditional love is blind to flaws and wrongdoings. There was laughter, teary eyes, and lessons on packing with aluminum foil instead of newspaper.

This year held so much for both of us; conversations by the light of the fire, flickering shadows on the walls and watching the snow falling in the light outside the sliding doors. There was Christmas in October. There were autumn leaves and Friends marathons, moments of family crisis and spiritual healing. There was decorating for the holidays, our haphazard attempt to tie a tree to the roof of my car; birthdays and hard days, and sometimes they were one and the same. I remember tears and laughter, struggles and victories; I remember lighting candles, and days when my head was heavy and there was a bath drawn for me to wake me up for work that morning. I remember hand-scrawled notes left on my dresser, to remind me that God is good, and that every day is a new beginning.

It is with gladness that I know it is not the end; that I know our story remains unfinished and beautiful in being undone. It is with a smile that I look forward to days to come; that I know the day will arrive when we will 'remember when,' and revisit these times that our lives seemed broken but new. I will miss crawling into bed beside her, and I will miss our neurotic Tessie-dog making sure we are safe from harm. I will miss having someone ready and waiting to hear each new song that I write. But most of all, I will just miss my Jeanine, my constant... my mentor and friend.
I have been blessed with our season, and it is time to go.

There are friendships in life to look back on and only remember the life-changing moments, the hightlights. But there are others still that make the most of the journey; when every day is a highlight and every moment has the potential to be life-changing. I am proud to say that ours is the latter.

I love you J. I can't wait to see where our paths take us.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

on sight and provision

My heart is overflowing, but somehow there aren’t words to say. I wish sometimes that emotions were tangible enough to spell out on paper; that I could take you to where I have been and have you know my heartbeats. It is hard to write your footsteps in black and white, but I have been given a voice, so I will do my best.

Jehovah Jireh.

I have heard the name, had it echo in the walls of my mind, but it has never felt as real to me as it has this week. Jehovah Jireh… the God who sees and provides. I have slowly been learning the different names of God; names that we can use to see him and his heart more clearly. It has been changing the way that I pray; changing the way that I cry out to him in my midnight moments.

He sees. Not only does he see me in my entirety, in all of my faithlessness and brokenness; not only does he see all that, but he loves me regardless and unapologetically. He provides. As if a gruesome death and humiliation weren’t a big enough price to pay; as if unconditional love wasn’t sufficient for my wrongs… He still provides those basic needs that I am coming to appreciate more each day.

Last night, I cried out on my face for direction. For a way to pay my friend for what she has done in my life, for a way to have finances to survive til a paycheck, for a way to know which job I should pursue, and on top of all of that, for a place to live for the summer. I just want what you want for me, God. Help me seek You out and help me follow through.

Throughout today, every prayer was answered without me doing a thing on my own.

Without discussion, two members of my family slipped me enough money to pay my rent and to get me through til a paycheck. Without searching, I had a phone call with a place to live, followed by a text message of encouragement that I was pursuing the right job. I know that my answers will not always be so easily found, but I am so thankful when He is bold in letting me know I am walking the right path.

Great are His ways, and while I will never understand why I am found so priceless by Him, I am finding that it is true. To Him, I am captivating and I am worth it. He is good, even when I doubt, and he is God, no matter where I am at or what I need for the day.

Jehovah Jireh. Saying and singing a name has never been so sweet.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

on an honest prayer

Father, God,
Sometimes I don’t get it. Sometimes I can’t blog, and I can’t find anything more poetic or true than just talking to you. There aren’t any beautiful phrases in my head that could fit this moment perfectly, and you haven’t really given me any random or inspiring subject to bless me or my readers with, like falling snow or puzzling vacuum cleaners. So, here it is.

I don’t get it.

I don’t get any of this life sometimes… I don’t understand the people you have put in my life, or why… I don’t understand why they hurt me sometimes, and why others can be so uplifting. I don’t understand why you would speak different things into the lives of others that I am somehow not let in on. And sometimes, God, it even feels like you have left me out of the loop; like I’m missing something that you intentionally kept from me. I don’t understand why I would feel called to a relationship when the other person wouldn’t; why I would feel chemistry and they would not… and I furthermore don’t understand what I was supposed to learn from any of these trials lately. Did I not seek you out enough? Did I not hand it over to you enough, or was it just a stupid move in general to seek a relationship through the means that I did?

Why? And why do I feel so forsaken?

Why is it so easy for me to slip into faithlessness? Why is it so easy for me to fall back into the same mistakes, when I have asked you to make me a new person, with new desires and new passions? Even when I try my best to let you do your work in my heart and my life, I mess up. And they aren’t new mistakes, they are the same friggin things I have wrestled with my whole life. I just want to be free God! I just want you to make me new, and to take those parts of me that I don’t know how to surrender, and make them beautiful. Yet, every time I have earnestly surrendered my heart to you, genuinely and faithfully, it is swept away by the world again. I would ask ‘is it my doing or yours,’ but I know that somehow the blame rests in me. It is always me, and it always has been.

You say that like a dog returns to its vomit, a man returns to his folly. Why does it have to be that way? Why do I have to keep seeking out this stuff that I have already tasted and experienced; things I already know don’t mesh well with who I am inside? And why are those things still so attractive to me? After every mountaintop, God, you have given me a valley. Or placed me there, whichever way you want to look at it. And now that I am here, and off of my joyride down the hillside, I just don’t want to lose heart. I just don’t want to sink back to the places I have been and the things that have already damaged me.

So would you help me out? Would you give me some hope? Would you point me in the direction I need to go; with finances, relationships, school… I so badly want to be where you want me to be. It is just so hard to get there sometimes or even just to figure out where those places are. Be in my relationships, stay in my heart, and thank you for not giving up on me on night like tonight, when the doubts are creeping in and my relationships and plans seem to be falling apart.

I don’t know a lot, God. But I know that I love you; that I want this thing between you and me to work out, and that I want my life to be for you. I’m for you.

Would you help me live that way, think that way, and breathe that way? Because at this point, that's all I can ask for.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

on lingering snow and mountaintops

At the top of a hill where drifts of snow still linger, my car came to rest.

We didn't know why we had come; maybe it was just to get away from all the noise and flashy lights. It is tiresome sometimes, this fast-paced world we're in. But now the world was at our feet. Senja and I exchanged glances, and rolled down the windows; felt the breeze brush our faces and dance in our hair. Soft sounds from the stereo melted perfectly with that moment. The world of city lights at our feet, and another world of lights in the sky above us.

I live for moments like those.

When I try to count the stars and get lost in the beauty. When the only light is the moon, and staring at the heavens feels like catching a glimpse at the face of God. When you have a friendship that is deep enough for silence, and real enough to know that sometimes there aren't words to speak.

I am blown away when I open my eyes to the wonder around me. That I know the Creator of it all intimately, and, more impressive, that He knows me better than I know myself. He knows my fears, my loves, my passions and my struggles. And the stars in the sky? That number I can't count to because I run out of fingers and toes? Those are the number of His thoughts about me.

It's always hard to leave a mountaintop in your life. I whispered to God that I would like the superhuman ability to stay in this moment forever; to stretch myself out under the expanse of sky and rest in knowing He made it all. But softly in my mind, I heard Him whisper that it was time to go.

I'm starting to realize that most of our lives will be lived in the valleys below; that mountains will be hard to reach and I might not always end up standing on top of the one I planned to scale. But I think He gives us mountaintops to prepare us for the valleys and the shadows; gives us glimpses of the Heaven that is our Home so we know what we are fighting for.

I wanted to linger a little more; to be surrounded by the traces of snow that are fighting the spring and to feel God brush my face in a breeze again.

But He's calling. And it's time to move forward.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

on praising in the storm

My cries broke the silence.

There was a plea in my heart for another way… another way that somehow the plans I had for my life could succeed, despite the Godly hesitancy and the reasons why… or in this case, why not.

A nearly empty room, my legs tucked under me in an armchair… back at home in my parents’ house, the familiar being twisted around the unfamiliarness of that night. I buried my face in a blanket, and cried out loud:

God, what happens when I don’t understand You? When I want to encourage and nothing I can do gets through? What happens when the desires of my heart are not what You have for me, even though maybe they could be good for a season? What happens when my job feels like a train wreck, my education is a joke and what hope I have for relationships sometimes doesn’t match up with Yours? What happens now, God? You said you would give me the desires of my heart. And tonight, I am not getting what my heart wants and longs for. I know Your plan is bigger than mine, and that you can see the horizon better than I can… but why would you bless me with something for a season only to take it away? Why struggles and why pain? Why can’t I make sense of any of this, even though I’m seeking You?

I think more than anything, God wants our honesty; our open prayers and questioning, our fears and our failures and our beauty. I spent the week with an amazing friend, who mentioned this morning that without some of his struggles and ongoing issues in life, that he would turn to God less. That in a crazy way, he can be thankful for those things he wrestles with; that if we never struggled, and if life were perfect on its own, we would have a more incomplete picture of who God is. I think that is beautiful and true.

In some ways I am learning to be thankful for the things that turn me back to face the right direction, and the One who is Direction. To have joy in the midst of whatever is going on inside of me, whether or not my heart is in pain. I am thankful for all I am learning, and all that He is teaching me through others; thankful for joy and hope, even when they seem fleeting and out of my grasp. I am thankful for weeks like this one, when I am drained emotionally and physically, and when my heart is tired. When I am drawn to look at the goodness of my God; at the way He waits to hold me in the midst of nights like these.

I am thankful that I am incomplete; that the beauty of me and my life is that we are both being pieced together more each day.

There is tomorrow. If nothing else, I can rest in that.

Friday, February 29, 2008

on dancing and the author of joy

The moments are rare when I embrace God as the Author of Joy.

Sometimes I tend to look at the guidelines He gives us for life and I forget that they are to give us peace. I forget that they are there to keep my heart safe. As the church we tend to lose ourselves sometimes in the difficulty of the boundaries He sets in our lives. We spend more time sidestepping failure and sin and skipping over the cracks in the sidewalk then dwelling, walking and dancing with God.

What is so amazing to me is that when we are ready to find joy, it is available. When we are ready to crack open our hearts and recognize that life is greater than ourselves, we will find Greater Joy. It is waiting.

And it is so filling to get lost in the romance that is Christ. To be swept off our feet by the wonder of forgiveness and creation. To be brought to tears knowing that His love for us has not grown cold. He waits patiently for us to realize that what He wants for us is not a dull or boring life, but one of unconditional love and adventure, of challenges and battles, of warriors and victory.

I think He smiles when we finally realize that it is okay to dance. That it's okay to want to throw your hands up in the air and twirl like a child. It's okay to get lost in a breeze and sing out loud; to jump around when something moves inside of you.

I danced with Him today. Felt His hands in mine, pulling me to my feet and later bringing me gently to my knees. Felt my body so full of joy that I learned to forget myself and get lost in Him. More than anything, what I felt was perfect peace knowing that my life is ransomed. That I am new. And that, most beautiful of all, it has nothing to do with me.

I began to remember today why He is the Author of Joy. Because nothing I have ever felt or experienced has come close to fulfilling me like He did today. As a person I can be easily distracted and quick to compromise, but I hope when those moments of decision come I reflect on today, and I remember that we danced. That it was beautiful. That even if just for a moment, I knew it was okay to dance like a crazy person and to jump around in joy, because that's the reason I was made.

I was made to love.

Friday, February 15, 2008

on the empty nights

If only everything made sense. Followed some sort of logic, even.

Some days are so wonderful, and the sun shines down and the coming of spring is evident. The grass is green and all is well.

But I wonder sometimes why there are hard days; days with tears and frusteration and uncertainty. Days when all you need is to cry out, but you can’t find the words. Even if you could find them, the people you need the most seem to be occupied or the timing is unfortunate.

And so a cry breaks the silence. The tears are shed alone. Not quite alone; though God seems sometimes as far off and as vast as the sea. It is hard to understand the ways of Someone bigger than I could understand. Alone is how it feels, whether it remains true or not.

When everything falls down, and the walls are stripped away; when friends aren’t around and peace is hard to find… maybe that’s where I will find Him.

I hope it’s true.

on roses and sushi

My hair is pushed back from my face, my hands still smelling like soy sauce and bleach from the long day finally behind me. I still have Korean menu items and sushi specials floating around nonchalantly in my head. It is hard to find peace in my heart and to leave the rush of Valentine’s Day dinners and hour-long wait lists behind me. But now? There is silence (save the Alexi Murdoch songs playing faintly in the background of my evening).

Now there is peace.

There are days when I feel like I am not getting far in life. I feel like I will always be waiting tables, always searching for a way to get back into school; forever the could-have-been. When I got home, Jeanine and I had a conversation tonight about goals in life, and about where this world places your ultimate value, whether in business accomplishments, retirement plans or a 401k.

“I don’t have those things,” she stated, “but I have found self-worth in things that are eternal. When I think on it, I have had a great life. I have lived in India, traveled the States, spent time in Seattle and Los Angeles, and I have my son Ben. I always want to keep learning in life… to keep finding out new things and new perspectives. I never want to feel retired to doing nothing when I am helping so many people in my job now. I am helping to change lives.”

When I first started my job waiting tables full-time in Tokyo Seoul, a sushi and Korean barbecue restaurant, I didn’t see the opportunity in it at all. In fact, God pretty much had to corner me into working there after other options just didn’t come through. I was a little bitter, thinking I had left my waitress and bartending days behind. I long for the day when I don’t have to pull out a pen and a pad with a plastic smile and ask if my guests are ready for dessert.

I can be very wrong sometimes, searching for the answers in life thinking they are hard to find.

One cool thing I am learning about the Korean language, as I struggle to keep up with it in my everyday life at Tokyo Seoul is this: depending on the intonation of just one syllable, it can turn a question into an answer. I think that is beautiful. That the answer to our questions can be so close, that the answer might already rest in our heart’s vocabulary someplace.

Because I am surrounded by a language barrier everyday, I am learning how important actions are instead of words. I am learning that making somebody coffee because they look like they might be having a rough day in the kitchen is more important than just asking how their day is. I am finding that being open to other cultures, traditions and the strange foods they may offer you out of love, is important because it helps those people feel like you are trying to meet them where they are. When action is the only thing you have to show you care, you learn to appreciate the essence of actually doing instead of just talking about doing.

Every morning a Korean immigrant named Ashjima makes me soup for breakfast. I can’t tell her that I have already eaten, or that onions and raw fish don’t really suit my taste buds at ten-thirty a.m. But she invites me to sit and eat with the four other Korean employees with a tug on my arm. She doesn’t speak more than three words in English, but I know she cares about me, and I know that she values my presence and my attitude in the restaurant. She is shorter than I am, with kind eyes and a soft spirit. Through her I am learning to speak more in what I do and how I do things than in words that seek to be high and lofty.

I am so thankful for this journey. I’m so thankful that I don’t need to have things all figured out; that maybe having goals and running toward them is more important than whether you get there in the end or not. I am thankful for today; I am thankful for roses sent to my work, and for a heart that is quickly captivating me. Thankful for Ashjima and sunsets and sushi, for family and for failures I have learned through.

Thankful for today.