shift

i’ve been reflecting a lot lately. possibly because i recently returned from being overseas, or perhaps because i am going through a period of transition… another academic year over, another personal year soon drawing to a close.

there’s also the reality of summer, with its cool nights and fading twilights – being in that witching hour, in that magical period between dusk and nightfall, as the first stars emerge from their hiding places and begin to twinkle in the sky – that just draws it out of me. it’s called NOSTALGIA.

i constantly struggle with living in my mind, with looking back wistfully on what was, or wasn’t, while looking ahead in daydreams that have not been realized yet. i am constantly wrestling with these thoughts and feelings and hopes and musings (someone once called it, ‘scope for the imagination’) that pull me into shifting periods of lightness and darkness, until i catch myself and dazedly ask that they stop.

oh heart, wilt thou not quiet down?

it’s been one of the most amazing and yet challenging years in my recent memory. through it all, i have learned, and am still learning…

…to find joy in the process.

…to live each day with purpose.

…to do my work well.

…to love well.

…to wrestle and rest at the same time.

…that i am part of many communities.

…that He may never remove this cup from me…

…and that’s okay.

as a new year creeps up, i hope to receive it with grace. with hands open, palms up. with knowing that, as always, things may never unfold quite as i hope or dream them to, but that doesn’t mean the dreams will fade. that He always knows, better than i do, what i need.

it’s always a little scary. apprehensive. but i’m going to hold on tight to this journey, because, if nothing else, He will be faithful to the end.

 

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heartstrings.

heartstrings being tugged, both directions.

sometimes the horrors of this work that i do is unimaginable. and i’ve realized that i keep much of it to myself because (a.) I want to protect others’ emotions, and (b.) nobody really understands. for example, how could anyone respond to the following?  – –

i went to visit a family yesterday afternoon at the tail-end of my day at CII. the referral was for a 2 year old who presented with extreme disruptive and ADHD-like behaviors, who currently lived with a relative. this relative was at his wit’s end, trying to make meaning of why this child was so hyperactive and disruptive.

it turns out that when this little blond, blue-eyed boy was 8 months old and living with his parents, he witnessed his dad pull the trigger on his mom. while he was being held by his mom, he watched her getting shot in the head, all of the insides of her brain spilling onto him. i can’t even imagine what his reaction must have been: did he freeze? did he cry?

and though he is in a safe place now, he continues to carry the memory of that incident, and possibly several memories of other incidents, around in his little body. no wonder he can’t sit still, doesn’t know how to use his words, screams and flaps his hands when in distress, throws toys all over the floor, and can’t sleep.

my heart cries out, “God, why?” 

i keep the information in my head, intellectualizing, so that i can explain to the relative how trauma affects very young children. meanwhile, i don’t quite know how to process and what to do with all of this stuff. i think, in a way, walls are necessary as a protective factor. but the sad part is, that many of us are all alone and isolated from sharing stories like this one to our closest friends and family, to our communities.

it’s sobering, but it’s a confirmation. confirmation that this work is necessary and someone  has to be there to walk with these broken families.

but why me?

this morning, while at LLU hospital, I made my routine visit to see one of my patients, a teenage girl with a relapse of osteosarcoma that has since metastasized, who actually placed herself in foster care because she did not feel safe living with her parents. this young girl had decided a few months ago that she would no longer pursue another round of chemotherapy, because previously the cancer had returned more aggressively after some rounds of chemo.

today, she told me and her attending physician that she had decided to give chemo another chance. my heart fluttered. i told her how proud i was of her decision, and she blossomed into a shy and happy smile. i asked her what had changed her mind. she told me that God had told her that morning that He would protect her, watch over her, keep her safe. my heart swelled.

again, confirmation.

this work is exhausting and draining. but these are the moments, good and bad, when i realize this is the work i have been called to. i’m slowly processing the events and experiences of this past week. it hasn’t been easy, but my heart is stirred by something deeper and bigger than myself, telling me it shall all be okay… someday.

in the meantime, those heartstrings… they will continue to be pulled.

loved

in the recent wake of several passing from this world to the next… my sister-in-law’s brother [i walked into Charles-and-Mel’s L.A. ceremony with him], a childhood friend’s older sister, a friend’s grandmother, other friends-and-family of friends, i’ve been reflecting on death… and first love.

I was reading my wordpress entries from July 2009, chronicling those last final moments of precious time spent with an aunt, picturing her face in my mind and my tears flowing down – so vivid as if it was yesterday… and again realizing how we must all pass someday. it’s such a bittersweet feeling when i think about passing on, even though i know i’m going somewhere infinitely more beautiful for eternity, that i hold this hope of Eternity in my heart… but to experience this world with all of its pain and brokenness and beauty and love on my journey to that Place that i haven’t experienced yet but hunger for.

Love.

Do you believe in love at first sight? that something powerful can take place between you and another, in one instantaneous moment? i struggle between reality and fantasy, between being a realist and a pessimist at the same time that i am also a hopeless romantic, feeling so deeply from the very beginning when a connection is made and hungering for that connection to continue. it’s the way i’ve been designed, and it comes with its share of challenges and struggles. living inside my head, talking and holding conversations in my mind, going deeper and deeper into that place until i confuse what’s real with what’s made up, and struggling to rise back to the surface so that i can take a deep breath of fresh air and tell myself to Stop. and then diving back into my head again. all the while hungering for the memories of that momentary interaction, coupled with cries to Him to take it away and make it easier.

i’m grateful for sustaining Grace. if anything, these struggles remind me how much of a sinner i am, and how much more in need of Grace i am.

love at first sight
first love
lover of my soul

it’s all i want and long for and yearn for.
death…and love…and the in-between.

Jeremiah 31.3.

young

life passes by at an alarming speed. and often i don’t understand clearly where i am going or what the purpose of all of this is, until it’s in hindsight. i look in my rearview mirror, and there it all is – the way it has been planned out by a sovereign God who is fifteen chess movements ahead. the timing is always perfect when He is involved. the encounters, divine. 

i’m at that place again, now, where much change is on the horizon, and although i anticipate it, i am not fully looking forward to it as of yet. though some of it promises good things to come, much of it is uncertainty, haziness, fogginess, a teeny-tiny white light at the center of a very long, very narrow, very dark tunnel. i know the light is slowly and gradually approaching at the opposite end, but there is quite some distance to travel first before i get there. 

i just imagine that when i graduate from a doctoral program in five years (hopefully), i’ll be another decade older. i can’t even wrap my head around that. and i wonder, at that age, at that decade, what will my life be worth? what will i have to show for all this time that i have spent working, going to school, building relationships, serving at church… living life? I hope He is glorified at the end of it all. but then, for me, will i be fully satisfied? will i be fully satisfied in Him as He is fully glorified in me? 

i know He holds the future. I know He’s already won. i know He’s set me on this earth for a specific purpose. i know what that purpose is. my head knows all these things – logically, rationally – but my heart wonders about Me. i know i can’t compare myself to others. i know we are all broken. we all have our drama, our baggage, our emotional pitfalls, our selfishness and moodiness, and we are continually, daily, being crucified with Christ. i know there’s this process of sanctification where i fall, over and over again, but i look forward with the hope i have, that i am being renewed little by little, day by day. 

but in the daily grind, i lose perspective of all of this, and i feel just… sad. and confused. and i wonder, if i feel this way daily, how am i supposed to feel 5 years from now?

 

my only comfort is in the realization that i am not alone. as clichè as that may sound, it’s in the walking-together on this journey where the strength and comfort prevail, even as much of my sin lies in my insecurities of those relationships i have with my wonderful community and friends. perhaps i will be alone at 40. perhaps not. i dearly hope not. 

i hope the fogginess is a little bit clearer by then, the light of the tunnel a little nearer. for now, i choose to live day by day, season by season, one step at a time. 

“Because i know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives.” – hymn.