Friday, November 30, 2012

the v word

8 long months since the last post. I must say that it dawned on me today that I might lead a boring life and have nothing to report.

I know I'm not bored, just boring. Thats how we all answer the question right?

"So what's new with you?"
"Oh, you know...same old. Nothing has really changed. How about you?"
"Yea, nothing is really different, I'm pretty boring I guess"
...and the cycle continues.

I cannot tell you how many times I have had this conversation. But is just can't be true. It can't be true because, well, I'm me and because I'm human and everyday there is something is new and different. Everyday I see a new building or person and experience a new Philadelphia smell.

The real issue is, as a dear friend put it tonight, the "v word". I had many guesses as to what she was eluding to....virginity? victory? veritas? no no no. Vulnerability.....duh.

No one wants to talk about smells, or a conversation that was funny at the time because of how this one person said it this one time in this one voice that they sometimes make; you know the way they say that one word. Repeating those stories never me, I have tried and tried. But instead, people really want to talk about life. They want to talk about what gets them excited and sad and what urges them to put one foot in front of the other day after day. Right? Maybe not, that may be too much for most people to dive in to, especially when they don't really know the person they are talking to.

The bottom line is being known. Everyone wants to be known. But no one really wants everyone to really know their faults. By default, revealing yourself involves revealing your flaws,  no matter how hard you try to hide them. When you become to known to other people, your insecurities are exposed, your weakness is on display and your heart is open for the stomping. And sometimes it hurts. It hurts in a way that makes your physically groan. I've been there. Recently. Everyday.

But sometimes, just sometimes...being known means real relationships. Not those fleeting kind that come and go. It means sharing life with others and talking through things that helps other people keep going when they think that can't possibly go another step. Exposure of your heart can mean growth, wisdom and a full life.

Being vulnerable is hard. But so worth every terrible, life giving, traumatic moment.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I obsessed with the Civil Wars. Obsessed. When I come home at night I turn on grooveshark and type in "civil wars" almost subconsciously. Sometimes I don't even realize I do it until I'm singing along to Joy's voice and smile at her simple words and beautiful harmonies.  I listen to the words and the music as it fills my head and my room and I become full of emotion; contemplative.  Two things I try to actively avoid at all cost.   Last Sunday I attended church in West Philadelphia at a wonderful church called Antioch. I came home and sat on my back porch and basked in the sunlight of an unseasonably warm mid-April afternoon. I sat and listened to Joy and John Paul's harmonies.

Haven't you seen me sleep walking?
'Cause I've been holding your hand
Haven't you noticed me drifting?
Oh, let me tell you, I am
Tell me it's nothing
Try to convince me
That I'm not drowning
Oh let me tell you, I am
Please, please tell me you know
I've got to let you go
I can't help falling
Tell me it's nothing
Try to convince me
That I'm not drowning
Oh let me tell you, I am

Over the past 2 months I have felt the suffocating weight of drowning in this thing called life, and I didn't even know it. I have felt like I am 'sleepwalking'. I have listened to the repetitive and comforting words of song lyrics and words from those who love me and like water on a wet seal I have let them slide right off my back. 

The sermon this morning was about letting sin suffocate Jesus and the Holy Spirit out of you. Becoming complacent and selfish enough to test the Holy Spirit. Thinking you are better than someone else because you know the right verses to say and you are doing 16 different ministries. You know the motions, you know the words - you can fool the masses. I can fool many.

We sang songs about the Holy Spirit and we were told to pray, pray, pray. By the end of the sermon the pastor rebuked those guilty of spiritual pride and going through the motions of faith. Having an "us-them" mentality. He talked about stagnation because of too much religion. You get caught up in the motions, in the mindless obligations of the American Church.  With a pause and slight tilt in his head, one hand in his pocket the other outstretched; the words spurt out of his mouth like hot coals on my broken heart "God doesn't call the church to cuteness, he calls them to get down on their faces and repent."

I went home and prayed, prayers of humility and begging for grace. More words from the sermon came into focus. "For every one look you take at your own heart, you should look at the cross 10 times" Grace, mercy, forgiveness. 

"Too many believers are living in too much compromise" conviction.

Later on, I went to our monthly prison ministry at CFCF. The topic was the Holy Spirit. Joseph and Wayne talked at length about who the Holy Spirit is and I felt lead to speak about what the Holy Spirit can do. Fight. The Holy Spirit fights for you, you need only be still.

I feel exhausted and like I'm losing the battle. As the words of Joy Williams fills my room, "haven't you seen me sleepwalking?" The feeling of sleeping through life fills my heart. I have been doing all the work. The Holy Spirit intercedes and gives us life and peace. Be still, you need only be still, and the Holy Spirit will fight for you. Wake up and be still. Be. Still.

wake up. its time to wake up.

Friday, April 6, 2012

the waiting room

There is something jarring about a hospital waiting room. People sit in the waiting rooms with expectation. Whether its good news or bad news - they want news. Everyone wants to hear something. We are impatient people...

As we sat in the waiting room, anyone who walked by in scrubs got an expectant look. We had been up since 5am and the carbs from the bagels has long worn off. We were getting grumpy. They told us the operation would take 5 hours. So we waited 5 hours. And then we got nervous.

Others came in and out of the room. They sat, read, looked around trying to avoid eye contact mostly. Except one man, who apologized repeatedly for bothering us - he was just so nervous. He had no one to wait with him, his expectant looks went unnoticed by anyone but him. He felt alone. He was scared. It was his wife, and he was scared.

I was scared and I knew my mom was too. She spoke a lot, more than normal when the 5 hour mark had come and gone. "We should have heard something by now"...."do you think we should ask someone"...."surely they have to be done by now".

My response was a smile and a deep breath reassuring her that her expectant looks and questions were heard but they would have to remain unanswered. There are so many questions I can't answer for her, so I look around for someone to notice my stare. Not a single sign of recognition. I could only sit with the unanswered questions for so long.

I got up to stretch my legs. Took a walk down the hall. I noticed I swing my arms a lot when I walk and maybe I have gained a couple pounds because my ankles felt heavy. Should I be thinking about more serious things? Should I be praying? Why wasn't I praying? I started to worry - it was hour number 7.

I couldn't help but think everyone walking around today looked too normal. Didn't they know my Dad was going in for a major operation? Shouldn't they have perceived that today was a hard day on me? I am in a hospital, afterall. This was not a normal day for me. Shouldn't their looks and gentle smiles be more sympathetic?  Someone get me flowers, buy my coffee. Nothing.

I started to think perhaps this is how I walk around the streets of Philadelphia everyday. Head directed inward to my own thoughts, not thinking about how the woman walking towards me is feeling. And to be honest, most of the time I don't care. Because I am busy. And I probably can't help. And because she wouldn't care enough to tell me or talk to me about her private issue. No one talks anymore.

 The looks of expectation and worry in a hospital room are so much more obvious in their context.  Would I notice them if I were walking around Rittenhouse Square on a beautiful mid 70's Sunday afternoon while drinking my delicious iced vanilla chai? Maybe somewhere along the line I stopped looking around.

I sit back down. My mother looks at me and smiles, she rubs my arm and asks how my walk was. I nod, "fine".  When in reality, my level of anxiety about life and death and all of the heartbreak that happens in between has been heightened from a 4 to a 28 in the matter of ten minutes. Silence. I hear foot steps behind me. I spin my head more dramatically than I would have liked and startle my Mom. A doctor. My breath stops as if it's a reflex to seeing a man in a white coat.

"Everything's fine...he's going to be fine"......

Sunday, March 18, 2012


It's 1:21 am and I should be asleep. But my head spins as I think of the days ahead of me. Decisions, plans, fun.

Pandora is on. "good to sea you" by pinback is playing. The words..................
it's good to see you,
its good to see you go.

are playing on repeat.

it's good to see you,
its good to see you go.

Followed by Foster the people, words repeat
run, better run....

I can't help but think its a sign.

Tonight I finished Season 2 of the Walking Dead. Its a zombie show, and before your head spins with judgement and your mouth spurts words of disgust in my general direction, albeit under your breathe. Hear me out. 

On Christmas Eve this past year, my three siblings made me, forced me to watch The Walking Dead, Season 1, Episode 1. I was horrified. And vowed never to watch another episode, but before the end of the night I was on to Episode 3 and then 4. I was hooked, and so were they. They watch this show almost religiously as week after week humans are being eaten and the world seems to be coming closer to an end with every hour that I watch. But I was hooked. Every episode I watch with tense shoulders and a blanket covering my mouth as if to save me from zombie attack out of my television screen. I scream out loud and I cover my eyes. I yell at the characters and my roommates ask my why I continue to watch. But I'm hooked. I cant stop watching. I have recently roped in my roommate and her boyfriend so at least I don't have to watch alone. This helps me feel like the zombies can't get me. 

My siblings and I are very different. Very. Different. But for some reason, we all watch this show about the end of the world. It makes me feel connected to them in some small, strange way. I text them after the show and talk about what happened and see if they know what will happen next. In the midst of feeling like I need to run to escape the impending doom of the end of the world, I watch to feel connected to my family all spread out along the East Coast, the opposite of running. 

Most of the time, running feels good in the moment. But sometimes running doesn't feel good, and even when it feels necessary it doesn't make it the best decision. Sometimes you have to stay and watch the story unfold to feel the most connected. And I feel like that's what we were made for - connections, relationships, staying. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I tried to be vegetarian

This past weekend, I watched Forks over Knives a riveting documentary about health and Americans. Needless to say, I have been scared meatless. Or so I thought...

I have always been one to respect others views, but no meat? That is just un-Amur-a-kin. Until I saw this movie and my views began to shift. With the recent severe health problems and surgeries my father has been facing, and watching all of our patients come in day and and day out with laundry lists of medications and the inability to walk without assistance at age has to stop and think about what we are doing to our bodies. The movie promoted a vegan, "all plant" diet. But like  Nicole I could not think about giving up meat AND dairy at the same time (only she actually did). I am not as strong as she is, so I thought I would start with forfeiting meat from my diet and being aware of the amount of dairy that enters my mouth on a daily basis. I am very aware now, that I am really good at having an all meat and dairy diet.

I tried to forego meat, I tried so hard.  But today, one of the patients brought in wings from reading terminal and they are just-sooo-good and I was just SO hungry and thought, "well, one won't hurt anything right?" And then, without thinking, I ordered potato soup for lunch....complete with bacon.

I am trying and I am failing, but I will try again. I will be healthy, even if it kills me.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

thanks for today

Some days I feel like I have lived my life in a perpetually bad mood. Arms crossed. Eyes gazed towards nothing on the ceiling. Bangs blown upward by the audible exhale of my sigh. All of these things are going on in my head as I go through my day, whether or not they physically manifest themselves is another thing. Like all human beings, I feel beat down by the world, realizing my cynicism makes me all the more cynical - all internal of course. I can get caught up in the little things.

But then something happens. Something bad, really bad happens. Not "someone stole my pen" bad... but something like 
"my dad had major surgery" bad or 
"my grandfather passed away" bad or 
"i cant make ends meet" bad or 
"i lost my baby" bad or
"i lost my faith and myself with it" bad
Bad, bad. 

These things spiral my thoughts into reality. I am able to watch my community band around those hurting, those in need and those who are lost. I have watched as people pray, they reach out and they believe that everything will be okay because we are loved by God and because He sent us each other. 

I realize I exaggerate everything and I'm not always in a bad mood. But I have realized that I do tend to focus on the smaller mishaps of life until something spins my head - something like prayer tonight.  Tonight I listened as people prayed after arts and crafts, there were 6 leaders, 3 elementary school kids and 1 high schooler. We sat in a circle and praised the Lord for his blessings, prayed for his provision in the ministry and asked for grace and guidance for future weeks. But then the young woman in high school said:
Dear God,
Thanks for giving us today.

so simple. so easy to miss. today, tomorrow and the day after are not promised. thank god for today.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

a mindless post for a heavy week....

I am burdened. This is an understatement. So instead of ranting before properly processing how I am feeling this week, I am going to post my favorite cooking secret that I have ever learned and that came in oh-so-handy last week while making a peanut butter mousse pie...

My roommate Emily is from Michigan...Holland Michigan to be exact. She really likes to bake and she is dutch - just like everyone in Holland Michigan...even adopted children from other countries are considered Dutch (i.e. Nicole - Asian, but Dutch).

Before moving out of Delaware I knew about zero people from the great state of Michigan....or maybe I had encountered one or two and I skipped over them not thinking much of it. When I moved to Colorado, I met 3 Michiganders and thought that was crazy. Then I moved to Philly and it seems like just about everyone I meet is from Michigan. As amazing as that hand-shaped state is, you all seem to be moving pretty far from it by moving here though.. (just a thought).

Anyway, my Michigander roommate taught me the best baking trick ever. Have you ever tried baking with peanut butter? The recipe may call for 1 cup peanut butter, but by the time you have scraped all the PB into the 1 cup and then scraped all the PB out of said measuring cup into the mixing bowl you are likely to be missing at least 1/4 due to PB sticking on the side of cups and on spatulas and in my hair....Well Michigan has brought us all the answer by way of Emily. If you need 1/2 peanut butter, fill a measuring cup up to 1/2 with water and then add the peanut butter until the water reaches 1 cup, drain water and MAGIC! You are left with 1/2 cup peanut butter and no PB stuck to the side. To demonstrate I took pictures of my baking experience last week.....please see below and be amazed. 

measuring out 1 cup peanut butter (1 cup water, 1 cup PB)

drained water, pb in mixing bowl and measuring cup almost all clean! I didn't even use a spatula
finished product, it was wonderful.

Friday, February 10, 2012

thoughts on crying, strangers and ethiopia

Before 2008 when I moved to Philadelphia, I never cried. Never. I mean it. I could count the number of times I cried in high school on one hand.  Okay let me rephrase that, I could count the number of times another human being saw me cry on one hand.  But I moved to Denver, and I grew up in many ways, both big and small. Then I moved back East, thinking I left the West behind. But unbeknownst to me, the west must have gotten into my soul in a way that unleashed the waterworks of my eyeballs. I started to cry in 2008 and I just don't think I ever stopped.

I have a tendency to cry at the most inopportune moments - like on the bus  where it is quiet and full of strangers, in front of boys who become paralyzed with fear and anxiety when they see the welling up of a girls eyes, while wearing make-up, and at work.  

There is something exposing about crying, because at least when I cry I know it is not pretty and I tend to say things I don't mean. Picture mouth turns downward and the cheeks wrinkle towards my ears, tears stream and the make up runs with it, my voice starts to get really high-pitched and then all my words start to run together to form one-giant-run-on-sentence. I see the look on people faces, the look of utter concern and utter shock that my face could distort in that way. In order to break the tension and awkwardness of the situation, I begin to talk and say exactly whats on my mind, throwing "appropriate conversation etiquette" right out the window.

Over the years, I have realized that I tend to exaggerate things...including the way I describe my levels of crying. This past summer, I was talking to a friend and I while I was recounting a story I used the phrase "I started to sob" (using hand motions and all). He stopped, looked at me and said "Sob? Like really sob? Or were you just welling? Were there even tears? I think you need to work on your vocabulary". Ever since this conversation I have categorized my tears into: welling, tearing, crying, and sobbing.  This has really improved my story-telling skills, of which I need little improvement but I guess we can all work on life skills. 

On thursday this week, I was at work and having a pretty rough day. There were several moments that I checked my phone waiting for my Mom to call and give me an update on my father's doctors appointment and status of his surgery. My heart would race every time my phone blinked, beeped or someone called. All day - I welled. 

I went into exam room 5 at one point in the afternoon and was so deep in thought that I didn't notice who the 2 people in the room were. I set up the computer and was in the middle of wiping down the slit lamp, when the husband looks at me, smiles, and says "hello" in a tone of recognition and familiarity that caught me off guard. I looked at him and was equally caught off guard by who it was, a patient who was from Ethiopia.  He and his wife came here to have a surgery done. We met about 3-4 months ago and I talked to them at length about their work - missionaries in their home country. 

The husband looked at me and spoke in a manner that I couldn't help but think of Rafiki from the Lion King. He smiled and asked if I had given any more thought to the mission field and I simply replied I have, I'm in it. 

We spoke even more briefly about my father and the wife felt urgency to pray, and so, because I am obliging to patients, we prayed. She shut the door, I closed my eyes and she began. As she spoke, welling happened, and then tears and then sobs. The beauty of prayer from someone who feels the spirit and knows Him intimately is one that leaves an impression on the heart. They spoke with the peace, knowledge and wisdom of knowing that a great and powerful God is in control. I listened and surrendered to the fact that I am not. 

Sometimes when I am at work, my patients give me hugs before I leave. On Thursday, a day I was upset and discouraged, and on edge I received far more hugs than normal  and prayer from a fellow life missionary.  God is present, but sometimes I like to think all of my life happenings are coincidental or that I had some say in the way my day panned out.  Sometimes I think I have to give name to what is really happening - God is happening all over the place. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


About 5 years ago, I left home.  I packed my things, moved to Colorado and I started this blog. I'm really thankful for this blog because I can look back on my time in the 'rado and remember how I felt when I was away from "all-things-comfortable". So that when I start thinking about going back to "all-things-uncomfortable" I can either get really terrified or really excited (depending on the day, hour or minute). I was looking back on a post from 2007 when I first moved out west, and I quoted Donald Miller because it was relevant to my life (having just left home) I re read it tonight, it feels relevant again, like I was supposed to read it again on this night, with this mood, and this feels alive to me again but in a very different way. Here is the quote I am referring to:
"It is interesting how you sometimes have to leave home before you can ask difficult questions, how the questions never come up in the bedroom you grew up in, in the town in which you were born. It’s funny how you can’t ask difficult questions in a familiar place, how you have to stand back a few feet and see things in a new way before you realize nothing that is happening to you is normal
The trouble with you and me is we are used to what is happening to us...........

We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?
It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.
I want to repeat one word for you.


Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed."

~Through Painted Deserts, Donald Miller

It makes my heart leap and sink when I think about leaving Philadelphia. To think about what I have done, and all I have accomplished; the friends I have made from then until now. But that yearning to leave is still there...on the tip of my tongue, tugging on my heart strings, hanging on every thought. I wonder if it's because I am naturally a wanderer. If I will ever be satisfied. Sometimes I think the word "stay" is a harder concept for me to grasp when so many others love it and just roll around in it until their hands get all pruny.

I have stayed in Philadelphia for 3.5 years now. I have tried out "staying" and I think it fits me. But, ironically enough, the feeling of  "leave" never quite exits my mind and heart.  For now I am here and I am content because like most Christians the point is to be content where you are, right?  Find fulfillment in Christ and the rest will follow suit. I just always questions why then, am I always leaving...