Sunday, February 3, 2013

Less Waiting. More Doing.

 I heard this today.

“ Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” John 14:6-8

I heard it from the stage but it’s a story I know by heart.  I know because the very question that Phillip asked was the question that I am asking still.

As he says it from the stage, it makes sense, what Jesus says. That He is the way.  The truth.  The life.  If you really know Him, you will also know His Father.

How could Phillip have missed that?  How could he have been so blind?
How could he have been so dumb to ask?
Wait.  Was it dumb?  Or was he just asking what we all ask?  What I am still asking?
Was he brave enough to say the words that my heart hides?

Jesus tells Phillip that he has seen the Father because he has seen Jesus.  Because he has seen the things that Jesus has done.  
Because Phillip has seen, he should know it to be true.

And really, haven’t I seen it too? 
Haven’t I seen the miracles? 
The goodness.  The feeding.  The healing.   The love.   The saving.
I have seen those things.  Yet just like Phillip I still need more proof.

I used to think that it was God who needed to show up. 
That I had gone as far as I could go and it was up to Him to close the gap.
That I had done my part and now the only thing left to do was to wait.
Wait to feel it.  Wait to feel Him.

But maybe what he said from the stage today is the key. 
Maybe simply inching my toes up to the imaginary line that I’ve drawn and waiting for God to step over first will only ever leave me asking questions.

That in order to feel it I first have to live it.  

That in loving.  In giving.  In feeding.  In sharing.  In serving. 
That in becoming like Jesus I would come to see Jesus.

That if I want to know God in the way that I long for, I have to live in the way that God longs for. 

And so maybe today the answer to the question that I have been asking for the longest time becomes less about waiting quietly to hear it and more about doing something to find it.  



Thursday, January 10, 2013

From This Stick

I found out this morning that another one of my cousins from my Dad’s side of the family was sentenced to 14 years in prison on drug related charges.   And I took the news hard.

So much so that I’ve been surprised with my own reaction.  To be honest, I wouldn’t know this kid if I saw him.  I don’t even know his real name.  We don’t have a relationship and I’m not even sure that he knows that I exist.

But I get him off my mind.

We are family.  We share the same blood and the some of the same genetic make up.  We share grandparents and great grandparents.  And we once shared a last name.

I’m not sure why I care so much.  But maybe it’s this:

De te palo, tal astilla.

In English we would use that phrase to mean “like father, like son”. 

But that’s not what those words mean.  Their literal translation is “from this stick, this splinter”.

Maybe that’s it. 

Maybe that’s why I can’t stop thinking about him today. 

Maybe it’s because I know that I was supposed to be him.  Maybe it’s because I know the research on addictions.  I know the genetic predispositions to things that are ingrained in a family’s legacy.  Their literal DNA.

Maybe it’s because the family name that we share has a literal translation of it’s own.   

Liar.  Cheater.  Abuser.  Thief.  Addict.

And maybe it’s because I spent so much time trying to convince everyone that I was more than the sum of my family’s sins that I forgot. 
Maybe I forgot until today that the reason why my life doesn’t look like his actually has nothing to do with me.  

Maybe it’s that, in my need for people to know that I was different from them, I forgot why I was different.  I forgot that I didn’t earn a better way of life.  I forgot that being “good” wasn’t what separated me from them.

Maybe I forgot until today that I didn’t deserve it. 

But that I was gifted it.  And in forgetting the gift, I ‘ve failed to give thanks to the gifter.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.  Ephesians 2:8 

Thanks be to God.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Today we laugh...

Today we are celebrating Isaak's 11th birthday. And celebrating we are! Over the past year God has brought our family from a place of pain and mourning and chaos to a place of peace and joy and, to be honest, still chaos.  Yesterday we wept.  But today we laugh.

The changes that our family have undergone are due in large part to the transformation that has happened in Isaak's life. He has worked so hard the last 10 months through 3 day a week therapy sessions and radical diet changes and counseling. We could not be more proud of him and more thankful for the way that God has redeemed the pain that we felt for so long.

I was looking through some pictures this morning and reading some things that I had written in the darkest of days. It brings me so much joy to know that I am on the other side of that and yet, at the same time, I feel so much for that girl that I was. At the time I don't think I even realized how bad it was. How broken I was. I remember so many tears and so many prayers begging God to make sense of all of it. There were days when I felt like He had turned away. When I felt like I was alone and abandoned and destined to live in that darkness forever. I found this that I wrote around the time of Isaak's birthday one year ago.
Time disappears.
Days. Weeks. Months. Years.
All gone.
They evaporate.
Because time is a luxury for the hearts that are still beating.
It's a measure of breaths and smiles and dawns.
Hours clump together to form days and days are marked by the creation of something new.   
But when your heart surrenders to the old, new ceases to exist.
When you've given up.
Given in.
Even time succumbs to the dark. 
It's not that light can't be seen from the dark.
Oh, it's there.
It's glaring and blinding and a constant reminder of what could have been.
Of a joy reserved for others.
For better.
For more deserving.
For what feels like everyone else.
But you.
And what is left.   

Reading that today makes me sad for all the time that is gone.  It breaks my heart that I refused to see that even in pain there can be joy. It makes me realize that when I felt the most alone, I really wasn't. It also makes me wonder how I got anything done except painting my nails black and listening to Emo music.  Seriously.

Just last Sunday I sat (and wept) through a worship service as these words rang in my head and heart in a way that makes them so much more than words.  More than letters and spaces and consonants and vowels.  More than a hope or a wish.  But a promise that I have tested and I know with all that I am to be true.  From Luke 6:21:

Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.

Yesterday we wept.  Today we are laughing. And still weeping, but tears of joy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Possible. Not Perfect.

A few weeks ago I had dinner with some old friends from high school.
We knew each other so well back then. Almost 20 years ago.
We grew up together. We grew apart together.

One of them said it first. Then the others agreed.
It was suppose to be nice. She meant it at a compliment.
It was her perception. Their perception.
Their conclusion of the story based on the what they had seen.
What I had told them. What I had shown them.
But mostly what I had not.

It came so easily out of her mouth. "You life is perfect" she said.
They agreed.
"Perfect family." "Perfect marriage." "Perfect house." "Perfect."
It was that word that I had spent a life time trying to convince people of.
That word that should have felt good. That should have felt right.
But instead it stung.

I heard it and it hurt. 
Like a slap. Like a cut.
Like a punch that knocks the wind out of you.
Like a lie. I should have stopped her right there.
I should have not let them leave that table until they understood.
I should have told them the truth.
I should have showed them.

I said "thank you" and I tried to down play it and I tried to change the subject.
But this is what I should have done.
What I should have said.

I am the product of divorce.
Of two lives that crashed together and left three little girls in the wreckage.
I've heard it all.
The yelling. The screaming. The fighting.
The tension. The angst. The constant crisis.
Broken. Never perfect.

I am the daughter of an addict.
Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Gambling.
The hustle.
A criminal. A lair. A cheater.
I pretended as a little girl that I understood.
That I could rationalize knowing that we were better off without him.
That I could understand that even when we were with him, we were without him.
But all the rationale. All the reason. All the justification.
None of it hid the truth. The reality that he loved all of those things more than me.
The things that tormented him. His afflictions. His own personal demons.
He loved them all more than he loved me.
Never perfect.

I am loved by a man that, on most days, I can't completely love back.
Not because I don't want to. And not because I don't.
But because I can't understand why he does. And how he could.
How he could know me and still love me.
There is always a little piece of me that is waiting for the day.
The day when it all gets to be too much.
The day when hard become too hard.
The day when he takes the same path as my father.
Never perfect.

The list goes on.
All the things that I am.
Scared. Prideful. Stubborn.
All of these things.
The distrust. The shame. The anger. The broken. The shattered. The fear.
None of them perfect.
Not even close.

On my own, I'm nothing but a mess.
At best, nothing more than a list of my worst.
None of that perfect.
Not even close.

I wish I could go back to that night. I would make them hear this.
I would look each one of them in the eye.
And then I would tell them this.

It's all grace. 

It's all because of grace.
It's grace that takes all of these broken pieces and puts them back together again.
And even still, it's not perfect.

It's pieces of the broken that are taped and glued and pushed back into place.
It's not seamless.
The cracks and the shatters and the tears are still there.

Grace doesn't make the old perfect. It makes the new possible.
And even still, it's not perfect.

Never perfect. But possible.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


As a freshman at Purdue studying Fine Arts, I spent an entire semester drawing the same structure. Three days a week. Every week. Four months. The same thing.

There is this place right in the middle of campus where a number of walkways, corridors and buildings converge into an open space. Architecturally and from a space planning sense, it is really quite stunning.

Right in the middle of the open space are these fountains, that seem to be oddly misplaced in the context of what surrounds them. To one side are the buildings that house the schools of engineering. On another side there is the pharmacy school and to yet another side are administrative buildings that house the dean of students and other official types.

But there are these fountains. They seem to spring up from nothing. Whimsical and playful and completely unexpected.

The assignment for the entire semester was to build a portfolio that showed this spot on the map from every possible perspective. To be honest, I liked the idea of spending warm afternoons out on the grass drawing rather than in the studio being lectured. I liked that part far more than I did the idea of drawing it repetitively.

It didn't take me very long to figure out that there were places that I could plant myself that made drawing the space pretty easy. Finding a spot where I could look at the fountains straight on made rendering it in perspective a breeze. Everything looked right. There was no need to measure angles and figure horizon lines and vanishing points. The view from that spot was aesthetically pleasing.

It was the perspective that mattered.

It took me just about as much time to figure out that there were places that I could plant myself that made drawing that space a nightmare. A spot where lines and angles and forms converge and twist and becomes nearly impossible to replicate. The view from that spot was gritty and tangled.

It was all about the perspective.

It could be where one sidewalk would crash into another, both coming from opposite angles. Or where the slope of the walls of the fountain would intersect visually with the overhang from the roof of a building in the background. Or looking down on them from the corner of a roof top of Schleman Hall where, when you stare for too long, your eyes begin to play tricks on you, like you have been staring at an optical illusion and soon you don't know which lines are real and which ones are imagined.

I learned so much about composition and technique and scale and art in general that semester.

I learned perspective.

Little did I know at 20 years old that the lessons that I learned sitting in the grass with some paper and a a pencil would not only encourage me later, but at times sustain me.

I learned perspective.

Perspective isn't this static thing. It's not a feeling. It's not an emotional state. It's not the way you view things.

It's the way you see them.

Objects don't change.

A building is a cube. That doesn't change. No matter where you plant yourself, that building will always have the same walls and roof and windows and doors. The angles and the slope and the pitch of things will always be the same.

If you can't make sense of what you see, closing your eyes and opening them again is not going to help. If you try it enough times, eventually your eyes may begin to play trick on you. They may begin to see things that aren't really there. Just like an optical illusion, you can think you see it a different way. But you don't. It didn't change.

There is only one way to make what you see in front of you different. You have to get up. Up from where you planted yourself. You have to stand up and move to another spot.

It doesn't change things.

The building is still a cube. The walls and roof and the windows and the doors. They didn't change. But the way you see it has.

My life is just like that spot. All around me are things that are black and white. They are schools of thinking that have only one answer. They are diagnosis and diseases and relationships that have no room for interpretation. They are what they are. That will never change.

But there are these fountains. They seem to spring up from nothing. Whimsical and playful and completely unexpected.

If you plant yourself at many spots around them, they don't make sense. You have to squint your eyes just to even begin to see where one form starts and the other stops. It's gritty and tangled and nearly impossible to reproduce in any way that would be recognizable, let alone pleasing.

But then there is this other spot. This one place where if you stand and look at just the right time and in just the right way, what you can see takes your breath away. These two concrete forms begin to take on life and they don't just exist in the same scape, they begin to interact with each other, almost as if they have this dialog that doesn't need words. The juxtaposition of the two forms as they swirl and dance around and among each other is beautiful.

You can capture that image on paper, it is aesthetically pleasing and it makes people stop to stare into it. An image that, had you not moved, would have been lost forever.