November 13

Favorite place to road trip

Waco, TX. Saturday, I completed my fifth trip to Waco, but my third this year. It makes no sense at all. Texas is home to some large and gorgeous cities, the Hill Country, lovely beaches, and some wonderful small towns, but there are none that I love as much as Waco.

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My Airbnb from my 02/18 trip

Interestingly, the Magnolia Silos that typically attract most people to the city has never compelled me. No disrespect to Joanna and Chip, but I’ve never seen an episode of Fixer Upper. I don’t have cable so I don’t plan on watching on either. Houston has the best food, I have ever eaten in life. Waco is home to a series of chain restaurants, but even their local food is not out of the park amazing. If you asked me what draws me to Waco as a city, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I can tell you about everything I have come to love when I go.

The first time, I went to Waco, I had the luxury of being escorted by a local.

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The Alico at night.

Who as we pulled off of the I-35 began to tell me stories of his time as a child in Waco and all the mischief he and his friends created: setting forests on fire, the time the FBI came to his school and carving a styrofoam boat to shoot the Bosque River and ending up two miles away from his home. Nostalgia is contagious; I caught it. The life he described was something like the Hardy Boys, and I was mesmerized that what felt like fiction was actualized in the life of a man. As the afternoon progressed, I went to lunch at Kitok and met his parents. I don’t remember the food or the conversation. I remember two things. Being nervous as hell and his mom interjecting everytime someone her children had grown up with came into the restaurant. It was different from my upbringing. There are not many any people I have grown up with that I am still in contact with currently. I remember telling him on the drive back how much of a luxury it was that he had friends from childhood. He then offered some bullshit theory about female friendships that I was too feminist to ascribe too…cough, cough mansplaining.

The second time, I went was in March of 2017. I went with my friend Christeen to visit my friend Priscilla who went to Baylor at the time.

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Irish Coffee at Dichotomy

Most of the time, there I had my friend on the other line instructing us on where to go and what to do. He led me to two places, I have grown to love intensely. I will only share one of them right now. Dichotomy is my ideal coffee shop for a number of reasons. (1) It is good coffee. (2) It is good mixed drinks where the bartenders have ownership over their craft. (3) The aesthetics are good for socializing or studying. (4) They have a covered rooftop. (5) Parking is easy. Transparently, they may be my favorite coffee place in America…and I have been to Portland. I do like pretty subpar coffee though. I like a light roast that’s not going to put hair on my chest. I love going into a coffee shop and having the opportunity to be completely anonymous or known. Dichotomy is the exception to the “Waco has bad food” rule.

The three times, I have gone in 2018 have all been for concerts. Baylor University is a private Christian university which makes Waco a college town in my head. In walking distance from the campus is Common Grounds.

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King’s Kaleidoscope
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Propaganda
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Penny & Sparrow

A coffee shop, but more importantly a concert venue that attracts eclectic, obscure, and often minimally recognized musicians and artists who deal with Christian themes (implicitly or explicitly). It has been life-giving. It’s not even that the artists don’t come to Houston. For King Kaleidoscope and Propaganda both came to Houston, but the appeal of seeing them at Common Grounds was greater. The way they interact with the crowd is just different. It’s personal. I get to see them as people who generate art, not artists. I look forward to potentially seeing Gungor, The Brilliance, and Propaganda there next year. As I think more about it, the value for me in Common Grounds is that they continually bring artists that have created music or poetry that has resonated with me. How could I stay away?

What I have learned to love in my most recent trip to Waco is that it is the perfect place for me to escape and return to just being human. Fighting to exist in a big city makes me feel so small in all the ways that breed insecurity, doubt, and fear. I am entirely inadequate. When I spend the night in Waco it’s done away from the downtown area.

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The beautiful dog from the farm I stayed at in Waco

When I look outside, I am greeted by an array of stars hidden by city lights attempting to steal their grandeur. I feel small in all the best ways. My humanity restored to it’s incandescent and opalescent splendor in all the ways that make me feel hopeful and filled with wonder. The way children feel when overtaken by natural beauty.

Waco highlights every country song authored about the Texas sky. I have never attempted to capture the sunrise, sunset, or starscape. It feels rude to take candids of nature exposing herself to you. When something bares itself to you, appreciate it. Marvel at the complexity and the simplicity. Take it all in and create a memory.

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My view from my Tiny House 11/18

Don’t preemptively seize the moment, by taking a photo. You lose so much and remember less. This includes people who bare themselves emotionally or physically to you.

My last trip to Waco, I spent a significant amount of time in Cameron Park. Which was the second place, I was led to by my friend. Cameron Park is the 2nd largest park in the nation, only trailing behind Central Park in New York. When you drive through Cameron Park it is surreal. It is as if you are a romantic in a car commercial, with winding hills and overarching trees inviting you to steal a lovers kiss. I’m still waiting to have mine stolen…I digress.

Friday, I drove to Cameron Park and stood at Lover’s Leap. In a moment of true escape, I put my emotional guard down and just allowed myself to feel small in all the ways, I wish I had the luxury to be in daily life: weak, vulnerable, scared, tired, but cared for. I let the cool air whip my tears away into the Bosque River, trusting not one lament was wasted. Pluto played in the background recounting the heaviness that I have felt and may continually feel.

I’ve been worried all my life
A nervous wreck most of the time
I’ve always been afraid of heights
Of falling backward, falling backward
I’ve been worried all my life
Until one day I had enough
Of this exercise of trust
I leaned in and let it hurt
Let my body feel the dirt
When I break pattern, I break ground
I rebuild when I break down
I wake up more awake than I’ve ever been before
Still, I’m pinned under the weight
Of what I believed would keep me safe
So show me where my armor ends
Show me where my skin begins
Like a final puzzle piece
It all makes perfect sense to me…
The heaviness that I hold in my heart belongs to gravity
The heaviness that I hold in my heart’s been crushing me

I wept for twenty minutes. It felt so freeing to be weak, even if was in solitude. Nudity is precious even where there is no one to look on. I hope for more of those moments in Waco. I am grateful for the opportunity to have them.

Well, I guess I told you what draws me to Waco.

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Looking out from Circle Point at Cameron Park

 

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October: the Longest Month of the Year

I have long held the view that October might be the longest and my least favorite month of the year. As a child–and an adult– I scared really easy. So all the demonics of Halloween never appealed. Life is scary enough. I don’t need to pay someone $15 to be more scared. Let me walk a dark alley and I will be just as scared and probably out of $15. As an adult, October just felt daunting like an massive anticipation to get to the holidays. Like a plot build up for a massive let down. Like an overture that went on for 5 minutes too long.

This October felt no different.

I knew this October would feel like forever by the midpoint of September. The parts of the month I would need to move slowly would race like nascar. The parts that could have sped would drag on like roadkill. Nevertheless, like every year October comes to a close and I think I am grateful.

There are days from this month that I wish I could relive and sadness I wish I could dispense. I am beyond grateful for my counselor who has bared the brunt of my melancholy. I have cried more publicly and privately. I have stepped more fully into being a manager and out of a friendship. I have written papers, completed projects, and binge read books. I have gone to a wedding and a baby dedication. I have authored the longest email that will probably never get sent. I decided I need to outsource accountability if I’m ever going to lose weight. I have decided to let go of dreams of living in Houston, just in case the Lord moves me somewhere else. I have realized that I still struggle with figuring out where I fit in this city and in friendships and in families, but I’m grateful for those who are kind enough to make some space for me and reassure me when I’m ready to flee.

This October is no different, but somehow different. I’m glad it is over. I’m glad that I get three days away from work and people and daily life. I’m glad it ends with tears again and repentance. I’m glad it ends with a long lost friend celebrating love lasting another year in their family. I’m glad I get to look forward to a Waco road trip, Thanksgiving in Atlanta, and concluding another semester. I’m glad for silence.

I’m most grateful for faithfulness. God has been very faithful to me. This month has hurt beyond words and humbled me like nothing else, but the Lord has been with me. I have felt so lost and feel no more found than I felt at the beginning of this month, but there is hope because I know I’m not alone. God has journeyed with me through so much. Underneath it all, I’m terrified and confused, but I’m not alone.

Every blog feels like a lament. So much so that I don’t know why I write and why people read it, but I’m glad October is ending. I hope it is ending for you too. I hope November brings thanksgiving and hope.

Day 7: Meaning Behind My Blog Name

Life does not progress in a linear fashion. There are assumptions on how life should be ordered, but the older I get the more I realize that’s not going to happen. However, I am grateful. Life is nonlinear and I’m grateful for it.

It’s my nonlinearlife.

If you want to know more about it. Start at the beginning when I have kids with four other women.

Death of a Youngster

I left my interim home at 8:30am, anticipating being in Temple, TX at 12:05pm. I arrived on time. I was the first one at the funeral. I stood in the foyer staring into the distance at an open casket with a body in it, that did not look like the last time, I had seen him. He was 15. He was 14 when his family left last year. Shot and killed immediately, he had been dead for 10 days.

Before, many others began arriving. I asked the aging pallbearer if I could view him. I only made it halfway into the sanctuary. I stood in the middle frozen, weeping, breathless. I left and walked outside, hoping to reclaim the air that death had stolen from me.

A fleet of cars pulls up. From the first proceeds a slew of family members, ending with his mother. Who looks the same except for her red hair. She looked at me and didn’t know who I was. I walked inside. It was in the foyer that she said my name. She left her family and gave me an embrace and cried. Instinctually and stupidly, I said, “It’s okay.” The words left my lips and slapped me in the face. This is not okay. Mothers should not bury their sons. A family member impatiently pulled her away telling her she needed to sit down. It was thirty minutes before the funeral began.

I walked in and seated myself in a position where I couldn’t see his face. He did not look like himself. In the time before the funeral, you could hear the irreverent cackling of the family. Mom sat alone and detached. She left the room. Moments later, I felt arms around my chest and a head upon my shoulder. It was mom. I immediately wept. I didn’t want to say any of the wrong words this time. I love you. I am so sorry. For twenty slightly interrupted minutes, she shared her sorrow with me. She shared her guilt and her pain. She shared her emptiness. Though I could not fully take them, I was graciously invited to an experience.

She returned to her family. I moved seats. I wanted to be closer to him. Throughout the funeral, the refrain was repeated in my mind, “Where would Jesus be in this scene?” The ceremony felt quick. The church was filled primarily with weeping adolescents processing death and grief. The two officiants used his death as to preach their messages of gun control and serve as a Beyond Scared Straight episode. It drove me insane. The forty or so youth in that service needed comfort. Many of them attended without their parents. The church should have comforted them.

Some of the family members cackled through the hymnals. I could see mom get irritated. The family was full of laughter, but she needed them to mourn with her. We caught eyes in the middle of the service. Seeing her with her family, her life made more sense. I could understand, why she is the way she is.

The service was over. As she arose, she let out the first wail of finality. It won’t be the only one. With every birthday, every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, the year he should have graduated she will wail like this. It hurt to hear it.

As we exited the sanctuary, we passed by his open casket. I finally looked in. Death has stolen his face. His bright honey complexion was greyed. His bouncing curls cut short. His eyes forever fastened closed. His mouth sealed to provide no opportunity for breath or speech. His rosary filled hands folded on his lap, looking out of place for him. He was resting, but it didn’t look peaceful.

I only stayed at the reception long enough to speak to the mother one last time. Then, I left.

The drive back from Temple to Houston was daunting. I played Miles Davis’s Kinda Blue and thought about everything else, but his death.

Death is a thief. I know that Life is a giver. We all wrestle with both. Death felt victorious on November 8th. Life has won the war. To answer the question, “Where would Jesus be in this scene?” I think He would just be there, wrought with sorrow and grief. Consoling the mother. Correcting the family. Comforting the adolescents. Speaking life into death. I am not Jesus, but I pray I was where he would be in this scene.I pray, that I will be that continually.

First Rain Since Harvey Left

It is the first rain since Harvey departed. In his wake, he left ruins that still remain unbuilt. As disastrous as the Houston landscape has been it was merely been a physical representation of the human heart. I have been gutted. Noahic flooding that seems like judgment, but actually is healing. Personally, I still don’t know what to make of a hurricane that felt like that of a Grecian epic. I don’t think it is mine to decipher. I am not the one who controls it.

God is the Author. He is quite the Author, but such an interesting Reader and Listener to the story as well. He placed Himself in it momentarily, but it has always been about Him. He is a mysterious Author. The best books are the one that leaves me wondering what the author was trying to tell me. He has left a Commentary who teaches, but even then, mystery. Divine and material mystery.

I have gone through the gamut of human emotions since Harvey.

Sorrow. Anger. Loneliness. Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Anger. Loneliness. Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Loneliness. Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Displacement. Fear.

Fear.

Those have been my most persistent friends in this season. They are terrible friends; they leech themselves onto me. As I turn to them, they turn on me. I don’t think they have all departed. I still think they linger, but in this moment, I have felt something I have not felt since the flood waters rose.

Hope.

It was by way of a woman I have always admired. How kind is God in the midst of ruins to sift through the rubble.

Good Father,

I am devastated, in both definitions of the word. I have looked inward for so long, that I have lost sight. Your truth is so simple. Your call is so clear. My cross is so much. Teach me to trust. Teach me to bear burdens better. Remind me that you are both the Builder and the Cornerstone. When I burrow into the complexities of the human ego, remind me of the simplicity of the Gospel.

The Good News is the hope for those who have fear.

The Good News is a refuge for those who are displaced.

The Good News is reclamation for those who feel abandoned.

The Good News is gratitude in a heart that envies what is not hers.

The Good News is penitence in the place of shame.

The Good News is the hope of companionship for those who are burdened with loneliness.

The Good News is understanding rather than anger.

The Good News is joy in the middle of sorrow.

I am not fully “telos-ed” by the Gospel today. I will not know if I will be tomorrow, but Mrs. Ellen, thank you for the reminder. I don’t know if you will ever read these words but bless you.

In Christ. By Way of the Spirit. Directed to the Father.

Amen

Hope.

Hope. Refuge.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence. Companionship.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence. Companionship. Understanding.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence. Companionship. Understanding. Joy

Displacement

God,

In Harvey’s ending, many people, for the first time, considered what it means to be displaced. I did not. 2014 raced through my head. I saw the hand of believers move to serve me, yet I focused on the depression of that year. Remembering the August night spent in my car, terrified and alone. I dwelled on the isolation of that year. The many nights, I remained in my office hours past close simply to be alone. I concentrated on the loss of that year. Initially, it was a job, a home, and children, but by the end, it was a sense of identity, value, and self. When 2014 ended. I was broken.

When you are displaced you lose much more than a home. You lose a rhythm and a schedule. You lose your daily patterns and cadences with people. You lose your ability to control meals. You lose the ability to shut the door in people’s face. You lose control. The only thing I gained in 2014 was weight. 25 pounds exactly and I still haven’t even lost that three years later.

God, I am at a total loss. My heart lies somewhere in the debris of drywall and flooring. I don’t know if it is even worthy of repair. I do know You are the Original Creative. I know You take chaos and disorder and bring life, sustainable life. Take the chaos of a dismantled heart and bring about life and order. I know I have been distant from You. I have wandered from You, but I need You for You to find me. I am done being prodigal. Be my home.

In the Son. Through the Spirit. To the Father

Amen

 

The Language of “I Love You”/Loving My Teens

I have never met three little words as simple and complex and these. Each individual word is only one syllable, but it is as if every letter carries the weight of Kilimanjaro. Because each word means a million other words.

At the conclusion of my first year of foster parenting, I wrote a post titled Loving Your KidsThis post chronicled the beautiful agonies of loving someone with your whole heart and constantly seeing them go. There are several little boys and girls who will never remember me, but they carry fragments of my heart.  The way a parent loves their child is essentially a replication of how God loves me: unrelentingly, at my worst, sacrificially, unconditionally, furiously, purposefully. I don’t think I ever loved people as passionately and ferociously as those little ones. Until now.

I enjoy my job. It is interesting and beneficial and challenging. However, I love my teens. Working with them reminds me of each and every day of being a foster mama. In dozens of ways, God used working at Casa de Esperanza to prepare me for working with my teens. I look back on my adolescence and having a conversation with my friend Jon Butts. It was about those three little words. I remember in my adolescent melancholy telling him, “If you say I love you too much, people won’t think you mean it.” I still hold to that statement, but it is with the added phasing, “If you show I love you, then people will know you mean it.”

Saying “I love you” communicates you have an affect on me. You. You as you are, are so worthy of love. In fact my love is a gift. I want you to accept it, but if you don’t it is always here. Because in the midst of the cursing and fighting I realize, for me to love my teens it requires absolutely nothing on their part. They don’t have to change. They don’t have to like me. I just love them. Know, I don’t do things perfectly. I trespass against them and am rude. I am annoying, and sometimes don’t know when to back off. However, they respond, I love them.

It is a humbling love.

It is a love that let’s another human call you a b#&$@ and not respond in wrath. 

It is a love that forces you to sit in silence as another human pours out their rage on you. 

It is a love that seeks healing for the brokenness. 

It is a love that makes frightening police encounters opportunities to prove you are there for them. 

It is a love that cries the tears that have already dried on their face. 

It is a love that drives throughout Downtown Houston looking for truant teens

It is a love that when someone yells, “$@&# you” all you want to do is hug them. 

It is a love that allows you to sit and paint the nails of a girl who doesn’t speak English. 

It is a love that moves you from your desk to the basketball court while wearing a dress or a skirt

It is a love that finds opportunities for them to grow

It is a love that lobbies for the best possibilities. 

It is a love that does not look past faults, but corrects them. 

It is a love that sees potential and nurtures it. 

It is a love that opens you up to empathize deeply and many time painfully so. 

It is a love that daily wipes the slate clean. 

It is a love that brings you to a place of utter transparency. 

It is a love that desires to know the deepest yearning of their heart. 

 

I don’t do all of this perfectly. I barely do half of them averagely, but the more I look at this list, the more I realize my Father’s love for me. His love knows and drives and moves and seeks and allows and nurtures and finds and desires and cleanses. And, His love is like this unrelentingly and perfectly with the same intensity at all times. His love is best. We are best equipped to love others when we know many of the ways our Father loves us.

There are dozens teens who probably will never remember me, but there are little mason jars, abbreviated authors, troublemakers, teen mamas, and many more who hold fragments of my heart. My hope and prayer in this moment is that they realize it was never my heart in the first place, but the heart of the Father.