Sunday, June 11, 2017

Dear Sister: On Dreaming

My sister got married last year. This past weekend marked her one year anniversary. My other sister got engaged a couple of months ago. And so, in my decade-of-marriage wisdom, I've penned these posts gradually through the past year, hoping that they might speak to their futures. 

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Dear Sister, 

Right now, your dreams are big. They cover the world. They string together your enlightened days. They fuel your conversations. About the present. About the future. About the fulfilled & broken past. You whisper them under lovely breaths at night, squeeze them between kitchen kisses, & spend road trips reciting the future. 

One day, they will grow smaller. Not a lot. Not all at once. But they will. Your life together will change your own dreams, make them ONE dream. And suddenly the multitude of big separate dreams will become one big dream of two married souls. You'll share toothpaste and Thai food, parking ticket fees and airplane ticket miles; you'll dream about welcome door mats & open doors around the world. 


Their shrinking doesn't shrink their importance. 

I realized this year that part of me has stopped dreaming. It isn’t that the seedlings of my dreams died—rather, they morphed. My wide dream of traveling the world has been roped in by a family budget, a work calendar, & small children. My deep dream of becoming a vocalist was quickly dubbed by the fact that our four-year-old has better tone than I do. My tall dream of being outdoorsy & spending the summer weekends hiking & mountain biking & rafting & fishing has been forlorn by chubby kid thighs & knee injuries & accessibility. No doubt my dreams are still present—i still smell the gelato & taste the fresh coconut & feel the salt on my once-was skin; but the daily aspirations that we laid under pillows late at night & left on lips between the sheets have faded. 

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If you are roped into the bell curve of statistics, one day you will lie on a bed of faded dreams & share quick kisses of parting on your way to the carpool line. One day you will wake up & wonder who stole your body & with it, all the aspirations of things you were going to be & do & experience. 

But you’ll find yourself. and you’ll find your dreams. you won’t even have to go searching for them. They’ll be comfortably tucked away, asking to come out like sunshine in your pocket when life allows. 

I can tell you that some dreams will die. Like, for example, if you wanted to be Jasmine at Disneyland. Hashtag: black hair doesn’t go with your skin tone. But I can also tell you that your marriage, your union, your support of one another will sometimes be that small spark that reignites the flame for things bigger than yourselves. 

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And if we are honest with ourselves, that is what dreams are anyways: the thought that we are part of something bigger, grander, & bolder than our current state of being. 

Grasp that. Hold that. And don’t let it go. Pass that between the sheets, under door mats, & through postage stamps. Don’t leave yourself out of the dreams you hold close. Find new ways to dream about old things. Maneuver through joy in the necessary restrictions of life & budgets & kid schedules. 
And if I could tell you nothing else about the Sparks of dreams that are & were & will be, it is this: dream together. Dream big & small & in all sizes. Dream far & close & wrap your arms around each other when dreams break & fall & shatter. Because they will. Find new dreams in the fragments of the old, new promise in the breaking of the former. Keep the small ones alongside the big ones. Don't match them by perceived magnitute but by received joy from the dreaming. 

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Roadblocks will come. Cherished dreams will shatter. Life, at times, will seem an insurmountable passage by which you must access those cherished sparks of hopeful scheming. But you will have each other. And if you keep at it, you will have your dreams. Waiting patiently like sunshine in your pocket; waiting to come out & shine light on the life you've made together. 

Love you. 

Jlyn

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Dreamer.



You counted your birthday chain today: 37 days until you turn five. Half a decade. Five trips around the sun. One thousand eight hundred and twenty-five sunrises (I swear you have been awake for at least half of them). Countless minutes to grow and learn; countless opportunities to make it right, make it better, make it count.

You are still learning. And my biggest hope for you is that you become a student of your life.
Yesterday, while you recited the Pledge of Allegiance and built your fifth Lego dragon of the week, our Country got a new President. His name is Donald. And while you pranced around munching on white cheddar cheese and salami, he raised his right hand and vowed to protect and supervise the place we call home for the next four years. I would have turned on the television to show you, but we made the choice long ago to forego channels and commercials for the sake of our sanity and our budget. I think you would have like the music, though.

You must realize that this new President-thing is going to happen a lot in your life. And while you don’t care today, someday you might. Someday I hope you do. Someday I hope you care enough to sign your name on a ballot and commit to using your Citizenship for bettering.

Today, while you built a Lego Igloo and turned your nose up at the yogurt fruit dip I made, women joined hands and walked on city streets and country roads to tell the World that they believe in something. And while you sat in time-out for body-slamming your sister and giggled with glee at the puppies up for adoption at the Pet Store, Americans spent their morning in the rain and snow and cold holding high signs and babies and hearts, reminding the World that they have a voice to be heard.

You must realize that passionate people have a place just as much as passive people do. But the former group will initiate change, expand perspectives, and fight for justice in ways that are more bold and more foreign and sometimes more uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean they are wrong. I hope someday you feel passionate. I hope someday you feel strongly enough, convicted enough, to see through the signs and marching. I hope your vision is clear enough to see the message.

You see, leadership does not mean the best kid on the playground wins. It does not equal the captain of the football team or the kid that is always mimicked in high school. Leadership is a privilege that must be earned. And while many people are questioning the mind and message and motivation of our new President, in our household we will still recognize him as the Leader of our Country.

But I want to set the record straight about a few things.

Our political opinion doesn’t matter. It certainly doesn’t matter to you at age almost-five. And the truth is that where we stand on the donkey-elephant spectrum today probably won’t matter in a decade. We change as the World changes. As a human race, we are supposed to evolve. We are supposed to advance. We are supposed to look back with applause and appall. And we are supposed to stand on the corner of commendation, moving forward in our human journey with greater perspective.

Do not take this to mean that opinions don’t matter. Or that they don’t have a place to be voiced or displayed or dispersed. More than the way in which they are shared is the heart behind their creation. As the World Turns, sweet boy, life will continue to move. People will move forward. Technology will advance. The impossible will become reality. Dreams will materialize. And just as much as these great and beautiful and bold things will happen, the opposite will also be true. Communities will look backward. They will forget to hold close the lessons and lesions and losses of road-pavers and justice-makers. Hearts will harden. Tragedy will transpire in unthinkable and indescribable ways. Dreams will dissipate.

You are not your opinion. You are not the opinion of someone else. You are not the subject of accuracy in the tabloids or on the lips of your peers at school. You belong to something better. And our biggest prayer for you is that your soul finds home in Someone Greater.

Opinions matter, kid. But hearts matter more. I don’t know our new President. I don’t know what he eats for breakfast. Or what laundry detergent he uses. I do know he poops, though—which might make your almost-five-year-old mind fall into a fit of giggles. He is human. A sinful, selfish, soul-bearing mortal who happens to be in a position of leadership. He is like us.

Each morning, as God pulls up the sun, equal grace is poured on us all. On me. On you. On him. Although our opinions may be polarized, our voices may take up residence in different octaves; although our wrinkles may show years of wearing different emotions, GRACE has to win.

The difference, my boy, between you and the world is receptivity.

I know the day is coming when you decide that you don’t like me. The day is coming where you will roll your eyes at the way I fold underwear or organize groceries. The day is coming where you will dislike more than just yogurt fruit dip. You will grow. You will continue to journey around the sun with billions of other gleeful souls. You will continue to form wrinkles that paint stories of your emotions, continue to form opinions that shape your convictions, and continue to stand for things you love—be it Lego dragons or equality. We hope that regardless of the marching or mayhem or misfortune, you continue. We hope you continue on in grace, realizing that you do not have to be shaped by your leaders but can become one yourself. We hope you continue on in love, recognizing how worth it the heartbreak of commitment can be. We hope you continue on—to make it better, to make it right, to make it count.

Our trips around the sun are numbered, but your dreams don’t have to be. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dear President Obama

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Dear President Obama,

I am 32 years old and don't think I've ever penned a letter to a political figure. Santa Claus, sure, but the President? Mayor? State senator? Never. 

To be honest, it is not that I haven't cared. It's just that I haven't felt enough passion in contrasting boldness to what the actions or rumors of my politicians have shown. And maybe I never believed my letter would make a difference. I learned in Mrs Castleberry's eighth grade debate class that words are a powerful thing. And that convincing a mind change in someone you consider to be an opposite thinker is even greater a task. 

And as such, you probably won't read this anyway. 

But I'm writing it. Because I want my kids to know how I feel about you--the man who lead our country through the most formative of my young adult years. And I want to prove to myself that I was wrong. 

You see, Mr President. I didn't vote for you. If I'm honest with the world, I think I forgot to vote in that last 2012 election. I was elbow-deep in delivering babies & working 70+ hours per week suturing & studying & not-sleeping. The year you won the last election was the year that my Hospitals' management changed. It was the year that made me a mother. The year my marriage was sprayed by the unexpected poison of depression. The year my husband said goodbye to half a decade of service in the Army & hung up his maroon beret forever. Two-thousand-twelve was the year he had knee surgery, I had my first cavity filled, & the year America welcomed you back for another 4 years. 

I must say, Mr President, that I wasn't sure about the country's choice. You seemed to have proven yourself despite the media feeding us doubt, apprehension, & disbelieving statements about where you came from, who you were, &all the things you would (or wouldn't) manage to do in office. The crop of bumper stickers about "keeping the change" from 2008 that had been stuck on metal and glass and minds were faded and peeling. The country was finally rebounding from the market crash where we, as a young 20-something couple, lost almost half of our meager investments. You and the First Lady had appeared on SNL, Facebook, & even the occasional talk show. You had handled the protestors, the rally's, & the beginning bloom of racial throttle with what appeared to be well-intentioned action. Mrs Obama's toned arms continued to be the subject of focus in the tabloids & popular news magazines. And although I'm not sure on the timeline, I do remember that you had successfully quit smoking. Things--life In the United States of America--finally felt stable again. 

Stable, that is, for me. 

I've asked hundreds of patients who our President is in the process of testing mental acuity & orientation. And I've gotten a variety of colorful (& hilarious) answers. Jesus. Nixon. Reagan. Princess Diana. Bart Simpson. And you, Sir, "Obama". But I must admit that me talking about my patients & my work week & my marriage all point to who I am, where I know I stand in the complex web of race & gender & privilege in not only this Country, but also in this World. 

I am a Doctorate-educated white, married, middle class woman living in a semi-rural town in one of the most privileged countries in the world. I have not skipped dinner involuntarily this month. I have never been without health insurance, $100 in my bank account, mostly white teeth, or shoes on my feet. And I am well aware that even the fact that I can use words like "investments" or "work" or "cavity" makes me one of the wealthiest people in the World's greater populace & assumes that I have the pennies to stow away, the employment to help support my family, & preventative healthcare. I am immensely lucky. 

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Months ago I told myself I was not going to talk about the most recent election. I am not writing about repealing the vote, recounting the absentee ballots, or rescinding the position of the upcoming President of the United States. I am not writing to disagree with policy or nitpick your vacation time or comment on the great debates that are fired up all over the country in streets & homes & hearts. 

I am writing, Mr President, to thank you. 

My skepticism of your leadership was wrong. My judgement of your character biased, influenced by the easy media sources around me, by my inaccurate funneling of politics through my religious beliefs, and by my preconceived notions of what I thought our country needed. 

And I was wrong about you.

I come from a personal conviction that demands that my heart be free of guilt. So for my ungrounded judgement, bias with lack of full knowledge, & even for my own pride, I am asking for forgiveness.

I'm not even sure I could pinpoint all my inaccuracies. Nor would I expect the same from you. In my daily job, when I make mistakes, lives are on the line--the breath & body & being of people are what I handle. And this, we have in common. The magnitude of your decision, the weight of your work, however, is incomprehensibly larger, more public, more dissected than I ever hope mine to be. 

And you've handled the job with suave, grace, & poise. 

You haven't micromanaged my life--which if I'm honest with you, my young 24 year old brain expected of a new president in 2008. Finally outside the roof of my parents & the guise of college as "real life", I had convinced myself that your role was altruistic, telling me who I could love, pinpointing both child rearing theories & the content of school lunches. From what laundry detergent to buy to how much to spend on my next car, I made your role bigger than it was meant to be. And possibly like many others across the country, falsely believed that your power forcibly extended beyond policy about housing & healthcare and somehow had the uncanny ability to make unwelcome changes in my home & in my heart  . "News" is a big category & a quick swim in the great Internet Ocean left me weighted by all sorts of opinions about you, your opinions, & your then-to-do list. 

And that "Change" you promised? Some of it has come alive--my own citizen mind completely unaware of the hours & days & piles of paperwork it took to instate things like the ACA, the healthcare exchange, or the closure of Afghani occupation. I have an opinion about most of the changes that have happened--both initiated from your desk & from the hand that time has dealt. We still don't agree on a lot of things, Mr President. And some of my reasons for not voting for you originally still stand--big debate topics for which this is not the time nor the platform. The beauty of this country is that I can still hold my opinion, and that despite your leadership & title & privilege, we have the right to disagree. 

For all the things, Sir, that we don't agree on, I must tell you--THANK YOU--reminding myself & my fellow citizens that there are some things that should know no political party nor be ignored in any role of leadership. Some things are worth banding together for. Things like love, equality, children, balance, health, access to vaccinations & bandaids & preventative examinations. Things like peace, justice, food, the right to Worship, & attention to the underprivileged. Though the details of your fight and my fight have been & will continue to look different for each of these cornerstones, the contrast in our beliefs makes me grateful that you've stood for them at all. 

Two weeks ago on the Eve of Halloween, I saw photos of the White House Halloween Party. I stayed up late browsing Facebook, munching on candy I stole from the loot of Thor & a Butterfly Princess that were, by then, sound asleep upstairs. And I was grateful for you & for your family. 

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And this past Tuesday, when it seems the hearts & hopes of half the country broke or shattered, I am still grateful for you for your family. 

From one gender to another, from a white to a black, from a mother to father, a small town girl to a big city man, thank you. Thank you for reaching out to your citizens, for bridging the gap in Elitist leadership, for inviting the world changers & policy makers & trick-or-treaters & unfortunate grievers on to the lawn of the White House. Thank you for hugging. And for hosting. And for proving me wrong in character & in compassion. 

You will be missed Mr President. 

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And if you ever find yourself in Central Washington, know that there will be a lawn who welcomes you & your family. And there will be two adults & three Dinosaur-loving kids eager to welcome you inside--without regard for religious differences or political party or personal beliefs. Not only because you served as our President, Sir, but because you are human. For as much as our human nature resists a change from the comfortable, change is exactly what you've brought. And sometimes we all need a bit of the unexpected. 


Friday, August 05, 2016

The Table.



The world has felt extra heavy this week. Stories have poured into my screen, my ears, my heart about infidelity, brokenness, miscarriage, cancer, addiction, death, & raging hearts. I can’t quite get a hold of it, much less myself. Maybe it is that I’m thinking of the jealousy that stirs up emotion--the jealousy of stable relationships, picture-perfect families, easy fertility, healthy cells; the jealousy of living life together & experiencing the mist & rain & sunshine when others hide from joy or die early or never get the chance at all.

Life is so confusingly fragile.

But at the crux of a brain break, a heart break, a soul Earthquake, i have to make a choice; we have to make a choice: choose God or choose the World. Choose the God who made that mist & rain & sunshine, choose the God who crafted those cells & telomeres & heartbeats, choose the God who knows my days & the hairs on my head & the seeds in my heart. ChOOSE GOD. Or choose the World. Choose the World full of broken people, mortal souls, sinful pride, & hearts with holes. Choose the World with smoggy blue skies & rain on wedding days & rejection & failure & disappointment without cause.

I can come to the Table. I can take the bread & drink the Wine. I can come whole & polished & perfect. I can lay down my color-coded planner & my lifelong plans, I can kneel on starched pants & clean floors. I can recognize a Jesus & know him, but my heart can keep its distance.

Or I can approach the Table. I can feel that broken bread, a body broken--cells lysed, telomeres shortened, breath stolen. And i can feel that maybe the cancer & the miscarriage & the impending emptiness was felt by the one who Emptied Himself; maybe it comes from the one who Fills. I can take in that scarlet wine & cut open the wounds & the sack-fulls of hurt & heartache, letting them spill & sweep & succumb to the Hope hidden in the brokenness. And I can stay at the table, basking in the candlelight, relishing in the dirt that I bring, sinking into the World’s grime, waiting for Hope to wash the scarlet clean. (Psalm 51:2)

And maybe that is what it is about anyways: Brokenness. Messiness. Dirt & grime & ugly-tears. And choices: choosing a side, choosing a Hope, choosing a God. Resting in that Blessed Assurance that Jesus is the One who came. For me, the miscarriage, the mismanaged, the messed up. Looking henceforth with HOPE that the heaviness I feel has a destination in the One who will bear all burdens alongside me, heal all hopelessness within me, & meet me at the Table.

May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for
justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer
from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may
reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that
you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able,
with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour,
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you
and remain with you, this day and forevermore.

AMEN.

a four-fold benedictine blessing - sr. ruth marlene fox, osb - 1985

Monday, July 11, 2016

just show up.

I see you enter, frazzled and under slept, primped & tucked & ironed just-so. I see you with tired eyes and Kylie’d-lips and horrible-beautiful scarred, flawless skin. I see you in moments of weakness when the little shoes won’t come off fast enough or the shirts wont fit over growing heads well enough or the words of reprimand make you feel like you are not enough. I see you.

I see you sit in that seat, on that bench, on that exam table. Nervous. Confident. Excited. Exhausted. Afflicted. I see you flinch. And fiddle. And worry. And wonder. I see your hands wring, your hair curl, your eyes squint in anxious anticipation of what that little person will become; what you will become. I see you cherish those words in one moment and want to hide away with the dust bunnies in the next. That little human you have and hold. That little human you long for. That little human you delivered, adopted, embraced; that little human you LOVE. The one who has grown and is gone from the short reach of your fingertips. I see you.

I see you grow, too. From the young woman with mismatched shoe-laces to the independent young professional with wrinkled pants; mom doesn’t iron those anymore. The path you walk in life takes you for a visit to Anxiety Lake and brushes along the Shores of Love. And soon enough, I get to see you grow up. And those mismatched shoe laces become mis-matched socks on your own little human. Or mis-matched expectations between what your heart is wanting & what life is delivering. I see you.

The truth is that you and I, we get to walk together. And when we split ways—you driving to your home & me driving to mine—your story doesn’t leave me. As I tuck my kids in bed and kiss their soft foreheads and melt into their sweaty palms and heavy breath, I know you are trying your best to do the same. I’ll think about you when I climb the stairs to find crackers spilled out and laundry unfolded and crayons on the wall; my life looks like this too, you know. So when you tell me that you are tired or exhausted or overwhelmed or hurting or longing or breaking, I get it. I hear you.

I’m not sure we’d be friends in real life. You seem to like comics & Harry Potter & furry four-legged creatures. I shy away from all those things & prefer a pet-less life full of all things non-science-fiction (except The Martian, I’ll read that one again). But I still hear you. And my internal non-professional dialogue is nodding yes and hi-fiving and side-hugging and coffee-drinking  and five-o’clock-cheering with you on the days that are hard and good and trying and devastating.

Last week you told me your husband was unfaithful. And you cried because you miscarried your fourth baby. And your favorite childhood dog was put down. Last week you weighed more than you ever had. And ate too many cupcakes. And last week you lost 15 pounds. You got a sunburn…again. Last week you drank enough water every day and took your medications like you were supposed to and stopped taking your medications altogether. You gave your baby formula because you couldn’t keep up; you breastfed your two-year-old for the very last time.

I want you to know, mama, that when you come in my office to sit on the chair and the bench and the exam table, that I see you. And that when you bare it all and spill your heart and let the emotion bleed out, that I hear you. And on the days that you are frazzled or discouraged or celebrating or sinking, I want you to remember that you showed up.


And that is really worth something.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Goals 2016: Entertainment

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A dear friend of mine moved to Manhattan with her sweet family over a year ago. It was a surprise move for onlookers. A few months ago she wrote a blog post about new places & embracing the challenge of change that comes with a move.

In case you were wondering, we didn’t move to Manhattan. Just a small, dusty town where three rivers meet in Washington. We are surrounded by farm land. The thai restaurant boasts the same aged d├ęcor that it did in 1992. The thrift stores are second-rate. The school buses are first class. But whether Manhattan or our small corner of the world, people are people.

I’m slowly realizing that although we don’t have tour books written about our new hometown & that most Saturday’s I’m scratching my head (or pulling my hair out) trying to entertain my kids, this is home. This is life for us, dust bunnies & tumbleweeds & painted sunsets. I will have to put on my big-girl pants and accept invitations to coffee dates even when I’d rather stay home in my pajamas. We will have to walk the fine line of establishing family boundaries to stay within & purposely swerve outside our paint lines to meet new people. We will have to let our kids stay up past their bedtime, feed them Mac & Cheese for the third time in one month (it’s a real treat around here), & let them wear grass-stained pants to bed because time with community is more important than a ridged bedtime schedule. I will have to say YES more often than it feels comfortable. Not only in this next year or two while we settle, but forever. Yes to new friends. Yes to scary life changes. Yes to new experiences. Yes to my husband when I’d rather spend my time locked in a closet with only myself as company. Yes to my kids when I don’t feel like the energy is there. Yes to LIFE.

Guard your spare moments. They are live uncut diamonds. Discard them & their value will never be known. Improve them & they will become the brightest gems in a useful life. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

New home. New town. New jobs. We are surrounded by uncut diamonds. And it doesn’t seem to be the how I spend the moments that matters, but how I treat the moments that I remember.

Entertainment is a funny word. I’m not even sure why slapped that title on this category. The truth is that we, in this illustrious modernized iphone-ized world have “entertainment” in the common sense of the word, at our fingertips all the time. We don’t line up at the theater dressed in Sunday-best to see new hits. We (in our family) don’t often turn over large portions of our budget to local concerts or venues. Maybe it is because we feel entertained enough by what we surround ourselves with.

But am I treating those moments with reverence? Am I making memories from them? What am I telling myself when I spend an hour pre-REM scrolling my Instagram feed?  Am I feeding my eyes or feeding my soul? And maybe most important of all, am I spending my soul well?

For as much as my brain needs a shut-off switch at night, my soul needs an equally desperate fire.

The average human gets around twenty five thousand days on this Earth, and most of us in the USA will get a few more. That’s it. This life is a breath. Heaven is coming fast, and we live in the thin space where fairht and obedience have relevance. We have this one life to offer; there is no second chance, no Plan B for the good news. We get one shot at living to expand the Kingdom, fighting for fustice. We’ll stand before Jesus once, and none of our luxuries will accompany us. We’ll have one moment to say, “This is how I lived”. (Jen Hatmaker, “7”)

(Real life update: I've totally failed in this department. Alone is my comfort zone & safety net. And although I've made satisfying progress at home in spending my moments well (most days--I'm still a real person), I am still idling in the service & love & outreach & friendship categories. The good news is that we are only halfway through the year. I know myself too well.)





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