Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bleak. It's a bleak winter, and it's getting to me. Badly. But, I find little pieces to hang on to. One of the houses on my block still has it's Christmas lights up, and I just want to shout "Hallelujah, God bless 'em!" I think it's one of the harshest aspects of January -- no more Christmas lights. December's full of berries and greenery and lights and food and family and all the cozy warmth associated with winter...but then comes January. Cold, grey, merciless. Everyone goes back home or back to work, the lights come down, the tree and garlands are gone. Everything looks dull, colorless, cold.

I was describing to Dan the other day how the North Carolina beach cottage was the only place I felt like me. That was beginning to change, but this winter's making me wonder. I don't feel like myself lately. It's like I'm hibernating, and it's affecting my mood. Heg suggested the other day that I start going outside to watch the sunrise and the sunset. She said that despite the cold, just being outside and watching something beautiful unfold will rejuvinate me. Maybe she's right.

I tried it tonight. Although I missed the actual sun setting, I caught the last few vestiges of light before it was night. It was only for 15 mintues, but just taking the time to really look at something worth looking at...I started crying. I couldn't help it. I felt naked in front of the sky. Like it had the power to look back at me. And I was afraid. I was afraid.

Looking into the sky sometimes...it's like the feeling when you look into the mirror --not to admire or criticize -- just to look at yourself. In the eye, nakedly...and hold it. What do you feel?

Do you feel fear? Do you feel love? Do you feel disappointment? Do you feel peace? I feel everything. I felt the same as I looked at the sky tonight. It's like I'm facing the judgement seat of God - my life lying nakedly before me, and I can't alter a thing. I can't influence the way it sounds or looks, or choose what I reveal or what I hold back. It's all there. And on that table, cut with a scalpel of honesty so sharp that I've never truly dared to use it, I'm open.

...and I find truth. An in that truth I find myself. And it's not so bad.

I found mercy and understanding and appreciation where in my life I had only impatience and demands for perfection and taking the good for granted.

And I found condemnation where in my life I only had excuses -- but now they are cut aside, and I discover that I don't mind it, and I can bear it. Because there is a mercy and a love so profound that I'd never imagined it like this (and I'm only feeling a piece of it -- just a sliver that has filtered through all the barriers between me and God), and I never dared to look it in the eye.

It burns. It burns. But it's the very heat and warmth that I've longed for all my life. And I feel to say: let it burn. Let it burn away all that never belonged there in the first place, and if I'm left with little more than nothing, then that little will be more than I had my whole life. Because it will be me. The only pure me that there is. And for once, it will be on the surface, not hidden under layers of selfishness and insecurity and doubt and materialism and mindless distractions that don't...mean...anything...to me.

Monday, March 13, 2006

on a corner, and cold

When I was a child, I got sick. I waited on the corner of our cul-de-sac, wrapped in a blanket; waiting for my dad to come home (wanting to be the first to show him my swollen tonsils, to be taken care of, protected). I knew he'd come home, I knew the path he'd take.

I was barefoot, waiting on a corner on a chilly autumn night, wrapped in a blanket. I was sick. I was cold, but I knew that I was secure, protected. The world was my father. Nothing felt threatening. It was the neighborhood, the street, the house I was born into. Everything enveloped my in a protective light. (I fell asleep waiting for him there).

Later, when I was older, he dropped me off to wait on another corner, wrapped in a blanket. It was winter now, and he sent me out to be a sign for my brothers and my sister, who were following behind, to keep them from making a wrong turn at a difficult intersection.

I don't remember why, but again, I am barefoot. I'm older now, and I'm in a strange neighborhood. I'm more afraid than I was then. Sickness isn't so charming, the cold more biting. I clench my fists into the folds of the blanket, and shrink into it, pulling it tight across my shoulder to keep out the wind snaking down the nape of my neck. My father's gone on ahead and out of necessity, I am alone now. Alone and cold.

There are people on the streets, but they are strangers to me. Rushing by, just lights and metal and lines on the pavement. And the others, fumbling for gas money for a brief moment before they disappear back into the ebb and flow of traffic. Or the homeless ones, tattered and dirty and huddled together for conversation and warmth. I feel closest to them. How soon I feel alone, permanently, because now I feel like I'm one of them -- homeless, cold, barefoot in a blanket. I want to huddle with them -- but I can't.

I can't because I'm waiting. I need to stand alone so they'll see me. I watch for them, but I don't know if I'll see them -- there's so many strangers, so many passing cars.

"What if I don't see them?" I cried, before he drove away in the twilight, "I'll be all alone."

"Wait on the corner," he calls to me. "It will be alright. They will find you."

And then he was gone.

This world is a stranger to me, and I wonder if I've been left behind. The only thing that envelops me now is this blanket, the words "they'll find you", and the knowledge that I have a purpose.

he who falls

I read a book called "Esperanza Rising" wherein I found this quote: "Aquel que hoy se cae, se levantara manana" (He who falls today may rise tomorrow).

The other night I had the humbling experience of (again) finding myself grateful for the miracle and mercy of human and divine compassion, and the healing that comes from such. I read somewhere: "most of us look for a cure, when what we really need is healing". Many people think, when I talk about grace and mercy, that I'm talking about a cure -- requiring little effort, little pain -- just say you're sorry and everything's better. God erasing your mistakes. I don't believe that's possible. That's cheap grace. There's a world of difference between grace that we cannot "earn" (in the way that we do not have the power to do what God will do -- for it goes beyond the price that we can pay), and "cheap grace" -- grace that is easy, without cost, without effort. True healing is different. It may take an instant or a lifetime -- it seems to transcend time, for it is not "quick"; nor is it easy. It is both simple/pure and deep beyond comprehension. It is incredibly costly (the price that God and Christ paid, and also what it requires of us), and yet it is incomprehensibly free.

I've been telling Dan that he needs to see "The Mission", which contains one of the most heart-wrenching scenes of someone trying to scratch out the mistakes of the past in a raw and desperate attempt to find redemption. I can't completely agree with the way redemption is portrayed in the film, but I identify deeply with the emotions at play in those haunting moments as DeNiro's character seeks to find release from something that he cannot take back.

There is danger in trying to "earn" redemption by punishing ourselves (as Robert DeNiro's character seems to be attempting), though it does take effort -- and this effort is portrayed clearly, I feel. Sometimes the spiritual effort it takes to believe, risk, trust, be vulnerable, humbly acknowledge guilt (without excuse/justification or the opposite, being unnecessarily masochistic and/or guilt-ridden) is immense.

If anyone has ever exercised faith in another person to the point where you lay yourself open before them, trusting that person with your heart, your failings -- with all you want to be and fail to be -- feeling that you can't possibly deserve to be loved and yet asking for it anyway...in these moments, when you find compassion...you have felt a little of what it feels like to find redemption. You have found a moment of holiness, a moment wherein man becomes like God. The love you feel for that person is almost holy. Full of humility, gratitude, light. Grace.

There's an added element in my pleadings with God for forgiveness, though; more than mercy or grace, more than love/acceptance, I'm asking for change. I'm asking for a power beyond my own. A power that exceeds all my best intentions, all my strenghth, all my reasoning, all my effort up to now, a power that I keep feeling that I should possess, but in these moments I know deep in me that I don't. (As much as I want to...as much as I think I ought to, logically...I don't even know that I can't -- I only know that I don't.) In my heart, I feel, like Peter when he basically said: To whom else can I go? John 6:68

Finding compassion in another person is divine. It's what we are meant to be for one another. I guess I'm just so humbled when I find that in someone, or when I'm able to be that for someone else. I'm even more humbled when I find an experience of profound pain, of shame and weakness one day evolve (through the mercy and example of God), into a well of understanding, compassion, knowledge, and faith that can be used as a tool for something profoundly good.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

verbal snapshot

I wrote this for my “About me” section, but I hated it showing up in full form on the front page. But, I still felt like it summarized me in a snapshot sort of way. So it’s here instead.

I love sharing food; wiping up the counters in public restrooms; talking to kids as equals; and putting an insane amount of effort into learning to play the guitar. I’m also trying to learn Spanish. I want to live where I’ve got an outdoor shower (inspired by the North Carolina beach cottage). It's too cool for words and if you haven't experienced it, I don't know if you can understand. I both run away from and long for change. I hope to always love life as I do now. Someone said to me: "you must know yourself, to be so happy. Only those who know themselves well make choices that lead to happiness." Maybe that's all there is to it: making choices you can live with.

I teach ESL to adults; volunteer at a homeless shelter; do freelance art & photography; and recently got involved in humanitarian work, whereupon I began falling in love w/ the music, food, culture, and people of Mexico and the land, color, and people of India – a place where you wear flowers in your hair on a daily basis.

Future dreams: to have a family; serve a mission for the LDS church w/ my currently non-existent husband; and photograph & write about my travels and life in general. Could be a pipe dream, but I thought the same about humanitarian work -- and I'm living the dream now, so I guess anything can happen. I'm turning into an optimist. Scott L. says I need an idealist. Maybe he's right.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

picture of me in mexico

Me in Guadelupe Guayparin, Mexico with my neighbor kids. They were hanging out watching me paint the FAI building sign for over an hour. I guess I was the most entertaining thing around.