Poetry

Dear Mom

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Dear Mom,
You’re the reason why I make my bed every morning
And spring clean the house every Saturday.
You’re the reason why I dust, sweep, and then mop.
And you’re the reason why no one is allowed to step on that recently mopped floor.
It’s your fault I lock my husband and pets out of the house until all is dry.
You’re the reason I do dishes as I cook; so there’s less to do afterwards.
And you’re the reason I wash my husband’s spoon before he’s done using it.
You’re the reason why I can’t sit down until everything is clean
And I can’t watch TV until I know I can rest.
You’re the reason why I walk into a room and forget what I was doing
And you’re the reason why I start to do one task and then get distracted by another.
You’re the reason I love flowers
And stop to pick and smell them.
You’re the reason I love the sunshine
And why I have sun wrinkles on my face.
You’re the reason I do the laundry
And why I always match.
Dear Mom,
You’re also the reason why I “Pray about it”
And give over my heart-sufferings to God.
You’re the reason I have faith during the times I can’t feel Him
And choose to trust He still sees me.
You’re the reason I love even when I’m hurt
And why I forgive even when it’s not deserved.
You’re the reason why I kept hoping there was a man out there for me
And why I chose the one who would love me the way we always prayed he would.
You’re the reason I don’t give up even when I’m exhausted
And why I still have time to listen even when I just want to sleep.
You’re the reason why I believe God will provide
And that He will pour out His blessings so much that there is not room enough for it.
You’re the reason why I don’t fret when evil men succeed in their evil ways
And why I see that quiet committing righteousness does shine like the dawn.
You’re the reason why I strive to do what is right even when it is blurry
And why I see that all things do work together for the good of those who love God.
You’re the reason why I am here today
And why I have become the woman I am.
So thank you, Mom,
For being all the reasons why.

“Her children arise and call her blessed … Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.” -Proverbs 31:28-29

Poetry

Dear Third Culture Kid

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Dear Third Culture Kid,
I know what it’s like to feel alone on the planet. Even though you have friends in multiple villages in multiple countries in multiple continents, you still wish you had that friend who lives just down the street. The one that comes over to just talk on your porch swing. Who with one look knows your heart is crying though your eyes hide the tears. Who knows exactly what to say or who doesn’t. Just being beside you would be enough.
Dear Third Culture Kid,
I know how wonderful it feels to find that friend you’ve been praying for only to know you’ll have to leave soon. I know the dark feeling that crosses your heart when you wonder if it is even worth it. I know how you feel when you think it is safer to live in your lonely world so your heart will never break with the never ceasing goodbyes. I’ve felt that cold sad ache in your belly knowing you could never see your friend again. I know how much safer it feels – but how hard lonely can be – when you block yourself off from everyone and choose to live in books and movies instead. I know you’d rather say “See you later” than “Goodbye.” And we both know when we say “See you later” it’s not true. But it helps us get by.
Dear Third Culture Kid,
I know how it feels to wonder if anyone remembers you exist. To watch your friends make other best friends and live out your dreams with someone more constant. You weren’t the one who went to the mall picking out prom dresses together and painting your nails and feeling beautiful and graceful for one night in your life. You weren’t the one who danced all night and laughed all night and slept all night at your best friend in the whole world’s house making memories to carry with you to university together. You weren’t the one to stand by her side at the altar watching her dreams finally come true with the man you cried with her over.
Dear Third Culture Kid,
I know what it feels like to be a lost puzzle piece that never finds where it fits. You aren’t really sure you want to find where you fit because you don’t want to lose what makes you unique. You don’t want to hide or lose half of who you are. But how you long for someone to be the puzzle piece that finally fits with you. Then maybe at least someone can see and understand that the parts of you that look so different really do make a beautiful portrait. Maybe then that restless feeling would go away and you could finally feel at home.
Dear Third Culture Kid,
I know what it’s like to feel like you skipped a beat or can’t even keep in time with the drumming rhythm because you’ve never heard it before. You feel like you’re trying to waltz at a tap dance and no matter how quickly you move your feet you still can’t count the same. Even though you use the same numbers. How do others move so smoothly? No one told you the rules. Even if you knew the rules you still can’t shake that feeling as though you’re missing something. Something unspoken. Something that is inherently learned that doesn’t match your multicultural heritage.
Dear Third Culture Kid,
I know you get scared and feel lost and alone and you hate being a nomad but you love it at the same time. You wish you could have a “normal” life but know you should be thankful for the opportunities you’ve had. Others tell you how fortunate you are and how blessed you are and you know it’s true but they don’t know how cursed you feel at times. How tortured your heart and mind have been with knowing your duty to be grateful and take full advantage of your experiences but longing for some sense of belonging and not always observing. You’re always on the outside. And no matter how many doors you pound down you never find yourself inside.
Dear Third Culture Kid,
I know how you feel. And I know it will be okay. You are not alone. There are so many of us hidden in the shadows you’re walking through. With one look we can see the foreign in your eyes and find a fellow comrade. We see the tears you’ve cried because they have run down our cheeks too. You don’t need words here. We can hear them all because they’ve come from our own lips. You don’t have to worry about keeping up here or learning a new dance. We’ve created a dance all our own. You can rest here. You can scream and yell and cry or you can just be silent and know you do belong. You’re the puzzle piece that makes our cultures beautiful. You’re the friend we all wished we’d had.
Dear Third Culture Kid, remember no matter how many times you move, no matter how many countries you’ve traveled to, no matter how many cultures you acquire, you are home here. You are inside an unseen but powerful world. And you are not alone. You are a beautiful portrait. So let your colorful cultures paint.

Thoughts

You Saw Me

Hide-and-Seek

It used to conflict me that you never asked about my life in Africa. You never mentioned it and you never seemed shocked or excited when I told you about the scorpion in my bed or the snake that tried to eat my monkey. Didn’t it interest you? Didn’t I interest you? Everyone one else had millions of questions for me but you never had one.
I didn’t realize it then but you were giving me exactly what I had always longed for.
I hid behind Africa for so long. I wasn’t interesting without it. When people found out where I grew up, I became exciting to talk to. I was like a foreign relic they could show off and brag about. Who was I without Africa?
But you were different. You gave me a place to rest where Africa didn’t define me. I defined me. Where Africa is not what made me interesting. A place where you were only interested in me. You weren’t talking to me because you wanted to safari my past. You weren’t interested in me because of the lions and elephants and snakes. You showed me you only cared about me. You didn’t boast about your souvenir from Africa. To you I was more than an airplane ticket to an adventure. I was the adventure.
I struggled with my past. I used it to feel interesting. Africa is where I got my worth. Other times I hid it because I wanted to see if anyone was interested in only me. That was a scary option though. And it was hard to tell a story without bringing Africa up. So most of the time I would just stay silent. But you are helping me to see that my past is not a story I need to tell to find worth. And it’s not something I need to hide either.
But it’s still hard. Sometimes I hide my past because I don’t want others to think I’m bragging about my history. When someone tells a story about when they were little, how do I tell a story about when I was little when all my stories involve Africa? I get afraid people will think I am trying to one up them. How do I relate to a normal childhood when mine was anything but normal?
How do I relate? I guess that’s the real question. One I’ve been asking since I became a third culture kid. I thought maybe the question would go away once I became an adult. But I’m still asking… why don’t I fit in? Why don’t I know how to hold a conversation? Or even start one? Why do I still feel awkwardly foreign? Why don’t I have friends? What am I doing wrong? What are the unspoken rules? I thought I had them figured out. But I don’t. How will I ever feel at home?
But that’s when your voice comes back to calm my fears. I’m your home now. You never have to wander again. I love you for you. Your past doesn’t define you. You’re worth more than the pink and purple sunsets and the dirt roads and the starry filled sky. It is beautiful but that’s not why you’re beautiful. Don’t be afraid to talk about Africa. It’s not just a story, it is your life. Your life is where stories come from.
Even though I tried to hide behind my stories or behind my silence, you still saw me. You still see me. You don’t see the awkward foreign girl who doesn’t know social rules. You don’t see the bilingual translator who can’t understand jokes. You don’t see African. You don’t see un American. You only see me. And you’re helping me to see me too.

Poetry

I Want to Die with You

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I want to die with you.
Holding your wrinkled, worn hand in mine
That still fits like a found puzzle piece.
Each of your wrinkles lines up with mine
To mark the paths that have travelled us.
Lying next to your warm, life weathered body
Snuggling me so close I can feel your steady heartbeat fading with mine.
Your  arms surround me like a blanket
So we don’t feel Death’s cold lips
When he creeps in frostbiting our breath.
You still protect me, and I still feel safe
Even though his numbness has stopped the ache in our limbs.
We can’t feel our bodies
But we can still feel each other.
Feeling your slow breath on my ear
Still whispering not to worry, “We’ll do this together.”
I want to lie like this.
I want to fade into peace like this.
I want to die with you.
But mostly I want to live with you.

Thoughts

I’m Tired of Dressing Up

Group therapy session

My husband and I were talking the other day about how churches should be more like AA meetings. To us, AA meetings are a place where broken people can go to find acceptance and support and friends and encouragement in their healing process. Where your past, or your present, aren’t held against you. It is a place where you already know that you are broken and you know that everyone you meet with are broken too. But the brokenness isn’t something to be hidden and ashamed of, but something to be celebrated because you are finally free in your brokenness. People don’t scowl at you when you enter for not measuring up to their standards. They don’t pre-judge you before they know you and they don’t judge you when they do get to know you because when they begin to form a relationship with you it is as fellow broken humans who need each other and can fight this together.

Perhaps we are glorifying the AA meeting which is very possible because we only know family members and friends who have gone to these meetings. But from the outside, standing at the doors of an AA meeting, at times, sounds more appealing to me than standing at the doors of a church.

I know several churches who say that they are a place for broken people. Who say that “Churches are a hospital for the sick not a hotel for saints” but in practice people don’t always live that out. Whether it is in the church’s spoken words or actions or attitudes, most of the time people visiting or even attending a church feel like brokenness is not accepted. Going into a church building, I think most people feel they need to hide their brokenness. Even if they don’t know exactly what is broken about them, there is a feeling that when you show up someone will see that brokenness and point it out.

Once inside, often there is not a feeling of acceptance, only a sense of possible acceptance if you can make yourself good enough and live up to all the standards and rules and do all that is needed to be done- confess, get baptized, become a member, go to every church meeting, don’t miss one day the doors are open, volunteer, teach, wear the right clothes, say the right things- basically “be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect” and don’t show any sign of humanness “because you are a new creation.”

Please know that the verses I am quoting are not supposed to be condemning or make one feel inadequate. I am only using them to show how Scripture can be twisted to make someone feel less than.

I have found that inside a church acceptance is conditional and love is conditional. Making the true God into a false god. Worshipped every Sunday as a conditional god who only accepts you when you are good enough, when you have jumped through all of the hoopes, when you have corrected yourself and made yourself righteous and holy and perfect all before you come to Him. Because if His children, who are examples of Him, treat us this way then it must be the same with God. There is no God to meet you in your brokenness here. If the church doesn’t go to this low level then there is the level where the unspoken word is “just do the best you can and cover up the brokenness so no one can see and then you’ll be accepted.”

And if ever a shard of glass from your brokenness falls out of your secure pocket on to the floor, scowls greet you. Once in awhile there are kind helping hands that stoop down and pick up your pieces and share the super glue they use with you. But most of the time, we all are just superglued broken glass trying to hide our cracks in dresses and suites and pretty words and judging others when we see through their stained-glass.

We have a problem here. A church is supposed to be the most welcoming and loving place ever. But more people find acceptance and genuine friendliness in a bar or an AA meeting than they do in a church. Judgments rain like praise songs in a church.“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10) It should not be, but it is. And I’m part of the problem too. There are several times when I wish I could have bit my words before they came out of my mouth. Whether I think someone deserved it or not, is that who I really want to be? If I want others to be loving and accepting, then I should be what I want. I still forget we’re not the super infallible Christian we all dress up to be.

I wish I could always speak kindly and always see the best in people even when they don’t show me their best. I don’t want to be someone who makes this problem worse. Someone who makes God out to be a conditional loving God. That is the worst place to be in. I used to be there. Always striving for perfection, or dressing myself up in the perfection everyone seemed to require of me. Giving the right answers, buying the best super-glue. I met all the standards they demanded-confession, being baptized, showing up every time the doors were open, teaching, volunteering- and soon I believed that meeting all of those standards is what made me a Christian. It was almost like if I even messed up on one of those “requirements” then I was a step further on a downward spiral to hell. I trusted in my own actions to save me. And it was exhausting. When you live like this everything becomes an obligation and not a joy. Everything is dependent upon you instead of Jesus.

If you believe that you are Christian because you show up every time the church doors are open and because you meet all the standards and requirements, that is the same as an addict believing they are sober because they show up to every AA meeting. Sobriety can’t happen if an addict keeps drinking. Christianity can’t happen if we keep hiding. There has to be a heart change. And our hearts can’t change if we keep locking them up because they aren’t perfect enough yet. We need to stop  judging and conditioning God’s acceptance. Nothing will change if we keep dressing up our brokenness. Let’s stop the scowls and stop the judgments and actually start treating others the way we want to be treated. Whether they deserve it or not. Who is it you want to be?

It’s going to be hard but let’s be broken together. Otherwise if we keep biting and devouring one another, we will be destroyed by each other. God didn’t condition His love for us, so let’s stop conditioning our love upon others.

Poetry

She Grew

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In a windy, wasteland she grew.
Hidden where no seeing eye could appreciate her beauty.
Up through the dry, cracked dirt
She grew.
As she matured,
Jagged edges conspired to scar her tender green skin.
Dirty hands ravaged her white petals
Striving to strip her soft heart of its beauty.
Suffocating heat whipped her,
Seeking to strain the pink color from her cheeks.
But still she grew.
Despite the nomads who doubted her strength
Mocking her intricate frame,
“She’ll never survive this harsh land.”
Despite jealous eyes ridiculing her elegance,
“Why are you here? No one will ever see you.”
She grew.
She danced in the thrashing wind
Twirling in the midst of the broken ground.
Singing her song in the smothering heat.
Thriving through the destruction
Of careless fingers.
Under the glances of spiteful, blind eyes
The wasteland could not waste her.
Devastation swirled around her,
Desolation breathed upon her
And still,
the beauty grew
though no one could see.

 -For My Sister Abbie, so you can see what I see

Thoughts

Judgmental, Hypocritical Christian: The Three that Should Never Be, but Are

brokenness

Sometimes, I’m afraid to say I am a Christian. There is so much negative connotation that comes with that word. Sort of like saying, “I am a Muslim.” Suddenly everyone thinks you’re going to blow someone up and all you think about is infidels and genocide. But just like every Muslim does not walk around shouting “Off with their head!” so every Christian is not a judgmental hypocrite. I know that sounds like a lie or a plea for “my people.”  But in truth it’s just a plea for me.

I grew up in the church. I grew up as a preacher’s kid and a missionary kid in a the household of the most judgmental and legalistic person I know. And I grew up knowing that Christians should not judge or be hypocrites. But that there were rules and you had to follow all of those rules. If someone else did not follow the rules then you were allowed to judge them and condemn them and prophecy all the bad things that would happen to them. You were to look down on them. So that just maybe their shame would make them want to be right again. He taught me to make it look like you were enjoying yourself so much that the “sinner” would be jealous and turn from their wicked ways and come back to the “family.” I can see now what a twisted, wicked teaching this was. Even though as a child I felt something off about this and in my heart it felt so horrid and wrong, I had to survive. Or I would be the outcast. And at 10 years old in the middle of an African savannah where was I to go? So I believed the lies and ignored the aching questions in my heart. I told myself, he is a preacher. He is a missionary. He knows God’s word. He knows what’s right. He was placed by God over me to lead me and guide me. So if I don’t do what he says then I am not doing what God says. And he told me feelings don’t matter just obedience. So I obeyed and ignored my heart. And no matter what question I had in my heart – “But what about forgiveness and love and grace?” – there was always a hammer of twisted scripture to bash my hope to pieces.

You only get love when you’ve earned it. Once you have believed in me, once you have confessed all your wickedness, once you have baptized yourself, once you have made yourself perfect. You only get love when you do everything right to remain in my love. Messing up is not remaining in my love. Jesus already died once for you don’t make a mistake and waste his death. Don’t push Him to save you each time you mess up because He will get tired of it. He already died for you once don’t make him do it again. Forgiveness is only for those who live rightly and don’t do it again. Mercy and grace are only for the pure and perfect ones who have proven themselves and who deserve it.

But who don’t ever need it.

All I wanted to do was love people. But “You can’t just come over here and love on people!” You have to show them their wickedness, you have to make them do what is right. They are the world. They are the sinners. And until they repent they cannot be your friends. They are a danger and a threat to your Christian life. They will steal your soul so you must steal theirs first for Jesus.

But I wanted to know people and be kind to people not so I could introduce them to Jesus but just because they were people too and they looked like they desired love like I did.

To my little, deceived eyes Jesus was a trickster. He was kind to people and loving at first to get them to like him and want to be a part of his “family” but once you were apart of it there were loads of rules and all he did was point out how miserable you were and how you never measured up and how you failed and were ungrateful and didn’t deserve anything he gave you.

But this isn’t the real Jesus. This was just a man who had been deceived and lied to himself for so long he couldn’t see God’s truth anymore so that he became a deceiver and a liar. He was just a man. He was not God. And he definitely did not speak for God.

I’m beginning to believe that satan uses Scripture to deceive us. When we read God’s word, God is right there. But so is satan. And he’s twisting everything his way. I think it is easier for us to believe satan’s lies than God’s truth because satan appeals to our rational thinking and God’s truths are anything but rational.

You are loved. You are accepted. You have unending grace and mercy. I love to die for you. I love you. Even in all your sin. You don’t have to earn anything. I’ve already taken care of that. Just live with me. Just let me love you. I have so much love for you. I have so much goodness for you. I do want to see you smile and be happy and truly enjoying all I have created. It all was created for you anyway. I want you to feel. I created your feelings. You can be sad, you can be angry, you can feel hate. But most of all I want you to feel love and be loved. Love covers over a multitude of sins. Love builds up. Love sets you free from all that dark baggage that keeps you locked up. It’s hard to see the real Jesus when you’ve seen a false one for so long. It’s hard to believe the truth you’ve always hoped for.

Once I finally got out from under the corrupted teachings, I began to realize how free I was. How saved and loved I was. I had always known it, but I never knew it within my heart. Before, I couldn’t understand why anyone in the world would ever want to come to Jesus if you had to be perfect and live up to expectations and standards and if you failed you were one step closer to hell. I couldn’t see why anyone would want to live to earn someone’s favor but never receive it. To have your failings rubbed in your face. To feel like God’s love was always out of reach. And I could never climb the ladder. It was like once you thought you’d reached the top another 100 steps were added. I knew God loved me and saved me but everything was conditional. He loved me when I had done enough to please him enough to love me. He loved me when I got all of the right answers, when I was humble, when I was thoughtful, when I was kind, when I obeyed, when I knew what he wanted me to do without him even telling me, when he was in a good mood- which was hardly ever because he was never satisfied and was extremely unpredictable. God didn’t love me for me unless me was good enough. Which I never felt I was.

But now, now that I am free from that twisted authority over me, I have found freedom in not being good enough. Because I already am good enough. Even in my weakness, even in my mistakes, even in my sinful heart. The heart that struggles to forgive the mean words said against me, to forgive the deceived father who deceives, to forgive the best friend who betrayed me, to forgive the scowling glances that look down on me. It is hard. But now I know God has grace for me and He doesn’t look down on me for not being strong enough. He smiles at me and says “It’s okay, that’s what I am here for. I’m the strong one for you. I’m the grace-giver, the heart restorer. I have covered you in beauty. You never have to try to be enough because you already are enough. I am pleased with you. You don’t have to do something right to get a smile from me. Just be my child We’ll do this life together. And don’t forget, you have an advantage because I’ve already overcome it.”

With all this love and acceptance why wouldn’t anyone want to come to Jesus? Now I can finally understand why so many other people I’ve read about are so beautifully in love with a God who has no catch.

So, yes, I am a Christian. And maybe I’m a hypocritical judgmental Christian because I still make mistakes and I am not perfect. I still tend to judge people before I know them. That guy with the snakebites and black clothes who walked into my class striking fear in my heart. He must be an angry man who listens to screamo because they are angry too. But who had the kindest smile and the warmest heart. Who talked to me every day. Who listened to Of Monsters and Men with me. Who encouraged and believed in me and became one of my best friends. Or the girl with the tattoos and the sad face. Who wore gray clothes and never smiled or talked. But who drove and sang “Should’ve Bought Her Flowers” with me as loud as we could. Who gave me the most belly aching fits of laughter of my life. Who gave me a place to be myself and still be loved.
Or the tan guy with dirty, baggy clothes who smelled like smoke and softball fields. Who was rumored about – he always has a girl on his arm, his brother is a druggy so you know he does something too, he didn’t grow up in the church so he’ll never be good enough. But who has the softest heart. Who forgives the spiteful words said against him. Who is kind to those who aren’t kind to him. Who accepts my brokenness. Who loves me in my imperfections and still believes I’m perfect to him. Who thanks God with me every day for bringing our broken lives together. Who showed me how to love and forgive and be loved and forgiven.

I know why people don’t want to come to Jesus. It’s because of people like me who fail and get in the way of how much love God actually has to give. People who say they are Christians but don’t love like they should or forgive like they should or accept like they should. People who aren’t perfect. People who are just humans too.

Remember, I grew up in the church I’ve seen how evil people can be. But I’ve also seen how wonderful they can be. So when I say I am a Christian, please remember that doesn’t mean I am perfect, It doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes, and it doesn’t mean I’m not human. I am doing my best just like you. But sometimes I get weary of trying to be good in a world so bad. Sometimes darkness clouds my sight and I can’t see clearly. But please give me a second chance because I know a God of endless second chances and I am trying to be more like Him. Please forgive me for when I fail and hurt you. I know I am expected to be better. But living up to expectations is exhausting. So please bare with me as I try to get through this life as a Christian imperfect human. I’m not making excuses. I’m just saying Christian does not equal perfection. And as you try to remember that, I’ll try to remember it too. Let’s do this life together.