Monday, July 16, 2012

read aloud

i will never complain about reading for grad school ever again.

okay, that's possibly, maybe, probably a lie. but my respect for the ability to read has been greatly increased since i've had an ongoing stint teaching kids how to read this summer. reading is HARD. for real, y'all. i'm amazed that i ever learned and internalized all the bajallion rules (plus all their exceptions) and skills it takes to read a seemingly simple, easy sentence. i've always loved reading since i was a little girl--a fun afternoon after school for me was often as follows: grab all my favorite books, stack them in a pile next to my beanbag, and re-read all my favorites. oh, and then reenact and embellish their stories with my stuffed animals. books literally changed my life. but tragically, this was and is not a reality for many.

check out some of these statistics:
44 million adults can't read well enough to read a simple story to a child.
Nearly half of American adults are functionally illiterate, meaning they can't carry out seemingly simple tasks such as reading drug labels or writing essays for jobs.
60% of prison inmates in America are illiterate and 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems.

i won't go into the many, many different factors and issues that go along with these statistics right now, but the point is that they make me sad. sad, yes, because millions of people don't have access to better jobs and pay and opportunities, but also that they miss out on the learning, challenges, and imagination that reading offers. they lose such opportunities to explore a different place and time, interact with people similar to and unlike them, experience things they'd never otherwise get to experience, to dream of new possibilities and discover a new worldview all through the magic of words and storytelling.

my favorite time of day at summer camp is always getting to read aloud to my tutoring kids. if i could get paid to be a professional children's book reader, i would do it in a heartbeat. and honestly, i won't mind if my kids don't remember a single reading "rule" or vocab word from this summer. i just pray i can instill a little, tiny seed of the joy of discovering new knowledge and possibilities through reading. books truly can change you and the world.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

prayer run

i run. i run because i want to, i like to. But more than that, i run because i have to. because if i don’t, i might sink underneath the weight of the world, i might curl inward, my chin tucked so tight into my chest out of fear, despair, wayward longings, loneliness.

it hurts, and i’m still trying to figure out where. it’s somewhere beneath my heart, below my ribs, tucked deep in the belly of my gut. it pulses; some days, when my identity seems to slip right through my fingers, it beats stronger, heavier, louder. these days the world always reminds me i’m it’s object, my flesh theirs for the taking. but don’t worry, they say, we’re creating you just the way we want you to be. our desires must be yours: beauty, attention, clothes, makeup, sex, flesh, perfection—desire. their desires consume me and i often don’t fight it. even scarier, most of the time i don’t even realize they've completely consumed me. the world has bought me, its people have bought me, and now, i have bought me into it too.

i’ve forgotten, it seems, who and Who’s i am.

my body is morphed and mangled by the constant tugging of their desires, my vision blurred as i stagger forward. i no longer exist, but am segmented and separated. Skin. Hair. Eyes. Lips. Legs, butt, hips. Shoulders, chest. Stomach, feet. a twisted, broken mosaic is all that’s left—all the pieces, scattered and broken, but the picture no longer fits together.

a divided person is a conquered person. they’re no longer a person at all.

and so i run. i run to know, to feel my body, each part struggling for wholeness. Feet swelling, leg muscles stretching, tensing. Pound…pound…pound, they land on the pavement—the dull thud that courses through my muscles begins to match the pounding in my head, the feel of my blood pulsing through every vein until it explodes in my temples. Heart throbs, chest tightening. my shoulders tense, my neck stiffens, arms pumping. slowly we sync together; a chaotic symphony of mangled body parts finds their rhythm in gasps of breath, until together we scream, “i am more than flesh and bones! To dust i shall return, but you can’t tear us apart…” my body becomes my voice. together we run, together we are once more united. if the world won’t listen, then i will listen to my body. i will run, each motion, mile after mile, propelling me towards wholeness.

The run, my body, becomes my prayer.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

resurrected hope

i know, i know...i haven't blogged in a hot minute. life has been a whirlwind. this semester i have been interning at UNC hospitals as a chaplain, which basically entails me going into a person's hospital room and offering spiritual and emotional support for them and their family during their hospital stay. sounds simple enough, eh? i could write nonstop for weeks about my experiences there, but i wanted to just share a few snippets. it will take a lifetime for me to process it all...needless to say, i am forever changed.

healing. during my first few weeks as a chaplain, a young woman on one of my floors requested to see a chaplain. when i walked in her room, her face was unrecognizable--one eye completely swollen shut and the other blood shot, lips swollen beyond what i ever thought possible, bruises all over her neck and face, chunks of hair missing. she could barely move, see, talk. i listened as she recounted to me the terrible, unspeakable, heartbreaking acts of physical violence by her boyfriend that brought her to this place. it was all i could do to hold her hand, look her in the eye, and listen as if she were the only person in the world who ever mattered. because in that moment, she was all that mattered. and i had no magical answers for her. the only words i could muster were, "you are so brave. and you are so loved." God gave me the gift of getting to spend the next few weeks with this precious woman of God as she recovered. i experienced with her the pain of relationships, the fear and terror of the unknown, and yet the healing found through scripture, poetry, and prayer. not many days go by that i don't think of her and pray longingly that she is safe and that she knows she is precious and loved.

voice. i have often felt in my life like i didn't have a voice--that i wasn't allowed to speak, or was too afraid to, that nobody would ever hear my voiceless cries. yet so many in our world are left truly voiceless, at the mercy of the powers and principalities and our sin. a young man came in on my ICU unit, and i was terrified to meet him. i knew he was incredibly sick and that the doctors didn't know what was wrong with his body nor how they could help; and i knew that he was intubated and therefore couldn't speak. i walked by his room for days before i finally mustered the courage to go in. the room was completely dark, but nothing could hide the sheer terror across his face. i realized that in all my fears, nothing compared to the fear this young man was facing. after i introduced myself, he looked me dead in the eyes and with difficulty mouthed a single word--"prayer." my heart stood still. i literally felt voiceless, felt the intense fear and longing emanating from his body as he literally lay there in the hospital bed, grasping desperately for my hand and for the words to speak to the only one who might truly hear his heart. i have never prayed so hard for the Holy Spirit to be my words in my entire life. this faithful believer opened my heart to realize that God is always listening. God will always hear our cries. No prayer must ever remain unspoken for.

holiness. "B/G" stands for "baby girl" on the pediatrics unit. this particularly precious baby girl had already died when i met her--a mere two months of a life lived. i stood in her room, staring at her tiny frame, which only seemed tinier amidst the jungle of machines that surrounded her. family was already gone. i was merely there with a packet of white model magic, a squishy, clay-like substance with which to make a foot and handprint. memories of a short-lived life.
her hands were already starting to stiffen, her fragile, petite fingers curling inwards into a fist. her face had lost its color a mere hour after passing, now an odd grayish color that stood out starkly against the bright pink bow wrapped around her bald head. i wanted to touch her and pray for her, but it seemed an odd thing to do in that moment. there was something otherly, holy happening.
the nurse cradled her gently in his arms so that i might take her footprint. i hesitantly took her right foot and began to press it into the white mold. was i pushing to hard? would this damage her precious foot? these questions ran through my mind, even though i knew she couldn't feel my cold fingers. diligently i pressed each sliver of a toe down, so as not to miss one tiny centimeter of this precious B/G. 5 toes in all, each accounted for, here and in heaven.

words cannot express how grateful i am for God bringing each and every one of these persons into my life. i count it as an immeasurable privilege to have known them and lived a part of our lives together. amidst all the pain, struggle, fear and doubt i have felt these past months, these moments have somehow resurrected hope in me, a knowledge that God is always with us--groaning, crying, rejoicing with us--as we wait to be brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

Friday, December 23, 2011

story of my life

i'm convinced that the best storytellers don't actually know where they're going--they just start writing/speaking, and slowly they piece together a captivating tale...

sometimes words fail us. sometimes things must be said, but finding the words is unimaginable. and yet words come. the words come, and maybe you have no idea what they mean...and yet, they still give you a meaning. it's in these moments where i often find myself saying that a particular situation is the "story of my life." they are the occurrences that seem to follow me around, and yet i cannot for the life of me understand how or why they keep happening.

lately i've been forced to think much about stories--about my story, my family's story, the story of the Church, the story of Jesus.

i've been reading a new fiction book (yay! no school!) that's part of the genre called 'magical realism.' it's hard to explain, but the basic premise is that the magical can happen in the world as we know it. fantastical occurrences aren't just magic; they are the everyday, blending in with our lives so that often we don't even notice it's craziness or absurdity.

i think that's the story of my life.

jesus' story is ripe for some magical realism analysis. in the spirit of this advent/christmas season, i've been re-reading the story of jesus' birth. some of my favorite fantasical moments include: an angel strangely greets you, scaring the mess outta you, and then proceeds to tell you you're going to have the SON OF GOD(!!!) even though you're a virgin; mary responding to this scandalous news with joy and praise (say what?) at getting to do the will of God; angels appearing to the poor shepherds--just trying to do their job, folks--who are thus justifiably TERRIFIED (what exactly do these angels look like anyways? i'm getting concerned...); joseph being told in a dream to flee with his newborn and wife, oh ya know, cause the king is trying to kill. your. baby. seriously, people--what is this ridiculousness?!? then i remind myself that i believe this is all REAL LIFE.

i don't know about you, but i'd much rather serve a God that embraces the extraordinary and fantastic inside the ordinary. because that's the real story of my life--the story of a God who exalts the meek and humble, who uses ordinary people in deceptively extraordinary ways. my story is inherently fantastical and magical in that it obscures and hides its wonder in the very ordinary things that i often overlook.

there's a reason Jesus speaks in parables and stories...magical realism, folks. that'll preach.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

the twilight zone

You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead — your next stop, the Twilight Zone.

it's mid-afternoon, and i'm chillin in what looks like a waiting room, filled with comfy couches and diverse array of wall hangings. nothing special or interesting really about the room, but i'm introduced to a man. nothing special or interesting about said man. oh, well, except for the fact that he's just had a body transplant. wait, you mean you don't know what a body transplant is? it's where you get to keep your head, but it's transplanted onto a different body. no bigs.

this man is looking great--walking, talking, the whole bit. all is swell with this episode of The Twilight Zone that is my brain on dreams. except then the other people in the room start telling me that i, in fact, need a body transplant. no explanation is given, but they are adamant. my concerned and confused looks hint to them that i was not all down for this game plan, and so their faces change to looks of sympathy.

"now don't be alarmed," they say to me slowly, " but you're going to be really tall."

more looks of confusion. then they literally show me the legs. the legs of the person's body that my head is now to be attached to. that's when they tell me that the only body they had available for me was...a dude's body. but don't worry, i am not phased by the fact that i would now have male anatomy attached to my head. and the tall bit...well, i could get over that. i was still not ready, however, to go through with this body transplant; just didn't sit right with me. i knew i needed a solid reason to convince them otherwise. what would be a sure fire excuse to get out of this predicament?

"oh, i know!" my dream-self thought inwardly.
"sorry," I tell them. "i just can't go through with this. then i couldn't have any babies."

*wakes up in bed utterly confused

i won't bore you with the bajillion theological/philosophical/medical questions that have been running in my mind sense. but seriously, think about's a fascinating (if also somewhat frightening) thought experiment. and then tell me all your awesome thoughts =) thank you for crossing over to...the twilight zone.

Friday, August 26, 2011

hope and despair

as the summer winds to a close, i can't help but be overwhelmed by my experiences of the past few months and even the past year. i don't even know where to begin.

hope and despair. that's what i've learned, experienced, breathed. degrees and extremes of hope and despair. they oddly enough look and feel quite similar, and can often be found in the same places at the very same time. they're found in the eyes of a room full of people who are homeless but not nameless. they're found in new friendships despite the racial struggles of the past and present. they're found in broken relationships, social and economic divisions, and the people who refuse to let them remain that way. they're found in the courage of the young and the old who yearn and seek for a kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

i am plagued with hope and despair, and i'm okay with that. because hope and despair now have faces and names, praises and prayers, gifts and shortcomings. i'd rather have all that baggage with hope and despair than not have it at all.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

the clothes closet

every wednesday morning, i am the keeper of the clothes closet. inside this tiny, jumbled closet are mounds of second-hand clothes to be given to our folks at grace place. when the door opens each week, you never really know what to expect, but one thing is always promised-an adventure.

last wednesday proved to be particularly interesting. it was my first time running the closet myself, and i was slightly nervous about handling the situations that would arise (because, like i said, it's always an adventure). let me preface by saying this is not an extensive operation we are running. our clothes are very limited-we often don't have enough of certain items to go around, and our sizes are makeshift fits at best. we work with what we've got. it's funny how giving out clothes to people will send your mind spiraling into theological circles. i wrestle with what clothes to give people-is that shirt nice enough or too messed up? would i feel dignified wearing that? does this clothing treat them as an equal brother or sister? and then there are the reactions you get afterwards: there are those who are always grateful for what you can give them, despite my apologies for our limited offerings; then there are those who are never satisfied, and boy, do they let you know it.

my very first clothes closet customer was a new guy to grace place, and for the record, he was already crabby and in a hurry when he approached me. since he was first in line, he got first dibs on sizes we had. i gave him the pair of shorts he asked for, along with anything else, and was pleased to be able to actually give him his size! he, however, was not quite as pleased. i'd already moved on down the list to the next person when he reappeared at my closet door with this lovely greeting: "hey, shorty. hey, hey shorty." oh joy. apparently these shorts (which were actually very nice) were too short-i believe the term "daisy dukes" was used as a description. now i would have loved to roll my eyes and lecture him about proper names and ways to get a lady's attention...but i didn't. i showed him a couple other pairs we had, offered him his choice, and he went on his grumbling way.

but this closet is also the source of joy too. meet kenny. kenny is a faithful grace place attendee, a member of galloway, and probably the only guy who willingly participates on our craft days. he's a mess, but he's a kind, joyful and friendly mess, and thus we love him dearly. kenny decided to sit right outside the closet door that morning, and while i saw him there, i didn't think too much of it. i soon began to notice though that kenny was monitoring the door. every time a guy came up, kenny would remind them sternly that they were not to enter the closet, telling all the newbies the rules. i remember asking him multiple times if he needed anything that morning, and each time he replied "no" with a smile. it wasn't until i was about halfway through that i realized what he was doing-kenny was looking after me. he felt the need to be my protector and helper that morning when he knew i was working by myself.

my heart laughed and smiled at the same time. it laughed because kenny, like i said, is a hot mess. brief synopsis: he's old, walks with a cane, and has a slew of medical issues. but you best believe, if something had gone down that morning, kenny would've been in the middle of it, cane and all. kenny didn't need to be there, but he wanted to. kenny is a living, breathing, messy but honest example of the power of true relationships.

one final note-i'm getting really good at sizing mens' clothing...don't be alarmed if i practice guessing your pants size correctly. i promise it's not creepy.