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.