Friday, September 30, 2011

healing agents

It's pretty simple.  There are just some things in life with the natural ability to heal your soul.

In a spontaneous moment, my best friend and I compiled a list.  My ideas spawned out of desire -- in this not-so-comforting season, I'm craving some comfort.  All these battle wounds need some healing and well... not all healing is within our control.

But some of it is.

Happy Meditation
Whip my Hair
Mexican food (esp. black beans)
Holding hands
Ice cream
Bear hugs
Eskimo kisses
Hot chocolate
Movie night
Having your hair played with
Compliments from kids
Sleeping in
New earrings
Home cooked meal
Spontaneous dancing
Second kisses
90's music
Babies falling asleep in your arms
Forehead kisses
Breakfast for dinner
First day of spring
First day of summer
Putting on clothes right out of the dryer

Feel free to add to the list.  We need all the healing we can get.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I think he's an angel.

Something in his eyes.  I've seen it before.  On an elevator last year.  In a man in a blue Chevy at the park.

I caught him.  Radiating.

Reading over spelling words, writing and erasing and rewriting words.

I leaned in.  He looked up.  Said something I don't remember because I was paralyzed by the light I saw there.

As if, in their depths, he was telling me a secret: "I am here for you," his eyes twinkled, "just in case you got confused and thought you were here for me."

He went back to homework, head bent low, eraser shavings everywhere.  But I just stared at him suspiciously.  Knowing in my heart, the only way sometimes we know truths, how often we entertain angels.  The ones who are strategically placed in our lives, who require more, who wear us out.  The ones we are better for knowing.

We are better for him being in our lives.  Every thrown chair, every punched wall, every blank stare.  Stretching us.  Wearing out our hearts and our arms and draining us, so we are empty of ourselves.  So the One who sent him can move in.

Don't you dare smile, we tease.  Thinking we are drawing something out of him he would otherwise reserve.

Don't you dare love me, he responds by shuffling his feet and dipping his chin to hide the truth flirting with the corners of his mouth.

I dare you.  

to tell the truth

Honesty is pulled out of me like the nail I just pulled out of my tire.


Let out all the old air.  Hit the ground.  Useless.  Unbalanced.  Dangerous, even.

To tell the truth, to expose.  Perhaps, like a splinter, only removal will heal.

I still feel sick over it.  Maybe use my words to guide, to heal, to remedy.

Guilty.  Refusing to hold on to shame.  Or accept it from another.

But really.  Nail's gone now.

Plug it up with appropriate material.

Refill with clean air.

Keep going.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

the village

Recently I was hit with an overwhelming sense of incapability.  After barreling into the new semester somewhat self-assured and utterly excited.  After almost a month of being horribly physically sick.  I hit a wall.  Physical sickness put me to bed for eight hours in the middle of the day.  And kept me far from par for the rest of the week.

But the next wall I hit was an emotional one.  Of insecurity.  Of self-doubt.  Of fear.  Damn that wall.

I am not a go-getter.  I like instructions.  I don't want you to watch me while I do what I'm supposed to be doing.  And the only thing that makes me squirm more than criticism are compliments.  I am messed up.

I don't get ideas like I used to.  But I can argue and advocate and intervene like my life depends on it.  I give great hugs.  And I listen well.

But sometimes those things don't seem like enough.  I wonder, in the back of my mind, if I will ever do what I do well.  If I will ever make a difference.  Or if anyone will ever want me on their team.

I've been overwhelmed by another realization lately.  A more powerful one.  One with weight and truth.

The organization I work with right now has set up this eco-map for each child involved in our program.  We call it "the Village".  A six-part system constructed to surround the child (the sixth aspect) with the community, support, direction, discipleship, and counseling he or she needs to succeed.  Standing in the office of the elementary school yesterday, I listened to a conversation about one of our favorite boys.

And I got this mental image.  Not of a village.  But of an army.

I am part of an army.  An army who has assembled in order to defend the lives and hearts of children.  One child at a time.  We have surrounded them, shields raised against the world and so much of the bad.

We are advocating for these children in a way unprecedented.

Think about it.  What if five specific, consistent people intentionally loved on, invested in, and spent time with you?  What if you had an army?  An army of soldiers who fought for you behind the scenes.  Who spent hours at night, unable to sleep, because they knew you were on the brink of transformation.  What if you had even one person praying for you?  Two or three of those five who noticed the littlest bit of progress and commended you for it.  What if your achievements, however small, were celebrated?  What if you got bombarded with hugs, and at the end of every argument, or every punishment, you were told you were loved?  That you were special.

I wish I had that.

That wall I hit knocked me out for a while.  Made me want to curl up in bed and hug a pillow and ignore the alarm.  I don't like not being good at things.  I don't like being uncertain.  But whether or not I move, whether or not I continue "doing" directly effects the lives and hearts of the ones I love most.

They don't have time for me to be insecure.

I sat down with "T" on Tuesday.  I had noticed something different in him, something which drew me to him and demanded my slowness and intentionality.  Quickly I explained to the teacher I am certified as a para educator and she smiled, sending me over to sit with T and help him with his free writing assignment.  Today I went back to the lunch room and found T, who carried on a perfectly random conversation about farmers and spoons and pudding.  It was, perhaps, the best lunch hour I'd had in weeks.  Before I left I carefully touched his shoulder and fixed the hood on his jacket.  Quietly he turned over his shoulder and mouthed "thank you" and smiled.  Well.  His eyes smiled.  And I noticed because he was making eye contact.  My heart swelled.

This afternoon I sat across from another one of my favorites.  The consistent theme of our conversation was "choices".  I watched him get rattled.  Brow furrow.  Lips purse.  Jaw set.  I leaned over and whispered, quiet enough so he'd have to lean in to listen, "You have two choices."

In a matter of minutes he had straightened up in his chair.  For the remainder of the day, whenever anger and frustration tempted, all I had to say was "make a choice".  And he would.  Good choices too.

They need me to be teachable.  And brave.  They need me to have open eyes and a healthy mind.  My capacity to hear and understand directly impacts them.

They need me to be humble.  Humble enough to know this story is not about me.  That I may not know the best way to do this.  Humble enough to know that I am not really needed -- the story goes on without me.  I am not important in the grand scheme -- but I must be humble enough to know how to play my part well.

They need me to teach them what humble means.  Maybe only by living that way.

And today, Marcus and I were hit with that realization at the same time.

"Humble -- yeah I know what humble means.  Humble means poor."

I stopped with my hand on his head and looked up at Marcus.  No, no, no.

"What does it mean then?  Sad?"

In a quiet moment at the end of the day, in the middle of the routine of lining up for the bus, truth was revealed to Marcus and me.  A seed, unearthed.  The root of a dirty weed, which has been growing in the ghettos and in the suburbs and up the walls of the high rises and on the concrete steps of the shot gun houses.  We saw it, then.  And I swear we both almost feverishly attacked it with a spade.

They don't know what it means to be humble.

And so we find ourselves here.  A village.  An army.  Fighting a battle, which makes our fatigue make sense.  It's a wonder we don't walk around with bruises and scrapes, from the forces we're up against.

It is in this, we find these children make us better.  In our attempt to rescue them from the hell they were born into, they have propelled us into growth and strength and purpose unmatched.  They require authenticity from me.  Self-examination.  Honesty.   It is because of them I am getting better.

It is because of them I will pull myself away from the shadow of that wall.  I will wash my hands of the self-pity and the insecurity, which threatens to taint everything I touch.  And I will either scale that wall and leave it behind, or hack through it -- damaging it, weakening it, so that one day it will collapse entirely.

Maybe one day I'll be wise enough to be like "A".  Who knows himself well enough that on Monday he said quietly, "I'm not mad.  I just don't want to talk right now."

Hello.  My name is Anna.  I am tired and a little lonely.  Pretty sore from fighting a fight I'm not strong enough to fight yet.  What I wouldn't give tonight for a village of my own.  For the five who suit up in their armor just to fight for me.  But then I smile.  Because my kids don't know that's what we're doing for them.  They just think I'm some bossy white girl who can't play basketball and likes to give them hugs.

I could have an army and never know it either.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

real quick

emotions are ridiculous.

one minute, a piece of news has me thinking I'm Jonah and God's sent a storm and I'm fixin to be lunch for a whale.

the next, another piece of news later, and there's a goofy smile plastered on my face.

get it together, anna.  get it together.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Teetering on the very edge.  Shift weight.  Precarious.

The fear of it is worse than the falling.  The catch in your chest, the adrenaline pulsing in your armpits.  Or the dread, heavy in your belly.  You know.

I know where my decisions lead.

And so I sit, swinging my battered, bruised legs over the edge.  I know.  And I want.  A word whispers around my ears, tickling the back of my neck.  A word I crave.  A word whose echo sounds like more.

The world, to me, will never look the same.  Once you've taken a glance over the edge, once you've felt the air here at the end of all you know, and learn how you can't reach the end of Him.  The words string together.  A language their own.  One I know, salty on the back of my tongue.

I've been thrown off balance.  Thrown by high speed and lack of oxygen.  It's not too heavy, but I've been handed more than I know how to hold.  Rearrange.  Recalibrate.  Repack.

Some should be discarded.  Thrown over that edge, disregarded.  But some newness must stay, must integrate and become part of me.  Settle into the stretched out, hollowed, reinforced places.  You will see this and reject.  What, who, how I am and became at the edges may not fit into the spaces you have.

Identity restored.  I find myself distracted and drawn back towards.  A steady, deep rhythm in sync with the beating of my own heart.  If held still, only for a moment, I will find it again.  Truth beats here.  The truth within.  The truth without.  They match.

I know where my decisions lead.

And the power within the words I speak.

One step.  One muscle contracts.  In the right direction.  In the name, for the sake, of the words tickling my ears.

I am right.  In tune.  Intuitive.

I know people.  And I know this edge.  I know the emptiness hanging below my feet and I know how I could sit forever and watch the shame fall.  But with new scars and stronger muscles and more limber tendons, armed with words the world will try and deflate, I stand up.

The world I will reencounter is not the one I left behind.  I dropped so much.  And the path's leading elsewhere.

On the edge I collided with truth.  In the whirlwind of discovery I lost my breath.



Find me here.  At the edge.  Reclaiming breath.  Restoring dignity.  Redeeming love.

Monday, September 12, 2011

realistic expectations

I'm getting overwhelmed.  I am over-stimulated.  Experiencing sensory overload.  Too many plates are spinning.  I'm losing track and am watching, almost helplessly, as one by one plates begin to spin and teeter out of my control.

As desperate as the sentence even sounded.  This is how I feel.

It's late Sunday and I'm facing another week.  A full schedule.  A hard work load.  High demand and low funds.

How in the world am I supposed to make this work?

Here's to taking it one step at a time.  To setting measurable goals and objectives.  To developing action items.  Completing tasks.

Here's to setting attainable goals (this doesn't always translate to: easy.  But it might.), which I can achieve and then somehow measure the achievement.

So this week my goals are:

1) cook two full meals
2) go to the gym three times
3) get caught up on homework
4) get 6 hours of sleep at night

Simple things.  Important things.  Possible things.

Because the goals I want to set, look more like:

1) Buy a community center
2) Adopt a baby
3) Speak French
4) Restore the ghetto

Sometimes, easier isn't bad.  Sometimes, easier is wiser.  Short term goals versus long term goals. Because deep in my belly, I know that the big things are dependent on the little things.  And it's faithfulness in the mundane, which prepares you for what's next.

It's just that my "what's next" keeps turning out to be more hardship.  More testing.  More challenges.

Today there's only so much I can do.  I will do so much.

“Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” - St. Francis of Assisi.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

not by myself

My intuition almost never fails me.  Whether or not I listen to it is another issue entirely.  But there is a space in my heart reserved for the warnings, the encouragement, the quiet whispers.  Therein lies the truth and the voice of the Spirit.

Within just a few minutes last night, while washing dishes, I experienced intervention.  In a way long unfamiliar to my heart.  I sat back, forearms deep in dish water, and watched.  Familiarity soothed and unexpectedness startled.  Well, hello.

How dare you?  Come now, after all this time.  Why choose now, tonight?

But I knew the answer.  And I knew the difference.  Between the times before and this one.  I know, even as light rises this morning, why He stepped in.  With words, "I adore you.  You are my daughter.   You are so special to me."

No condemnation.  Just a quick reminding in my forgetting.  Draw the line, write in the sand.

Love wins.

In all my lost hope, I repeatedly lose my vision.  Like a camera, in and out of focus.  My depth of vision is blurred and shallow.  Yesterday, floundering in my own mess, I reached out.  In defeat, I found joy.

"If I can't find anyone to marry me, Dad, will you help me raise little African boys?"


Perhaps I needed to hear that more than anything.  More than from a twenty-something, big, dark skinned boy.  Just tell me, again and again if you must, that I will not have to do this alone.  This life.  This mission.

Just not by myself.

Friday, September 2, 2011

not the end

"I'm kind of hard to handle," I admitted.  "I know that.  And I'm just really not sure any man would ever pick me."

The words came out of my mouth and I immediately wanted to swallow them.  Grab them before they reached anyone's ears.  I had been thinking this thought.  But saying it aloud, forming the audible words, made it real.  What a confession.

Just in the past few weeks, I've let such a confession slip more than once.  The last time I may have even whispered I'm not sure I even believe in love anymore.

These words scare me.  The truth behind them, rocking me and my ever-expanding world.  I was born into a mess.  And now I've made my own mess.  And it's only a matter of time before my heart starts seeping through the forming cracks, drawing attention to my brokenness.  To the way I've changed.  I smile as I say that.  Knowing you already know.

I am independent.  Partially because of my introverted tendencies.  Partially as a survival instinct.  People are not trustworthy.  People will fail you.  The hope and truth I cling to is, people will also surprise you.

I have based my life's work on what I believe to be truths: 1) that people will rise to meet expectations (and usually no higher), 2) that you must teach people how to treat you, 3) that if provided them, a minority will seize opportunities, and 4) that people are wholly unpredictable.

And I wonder if I will surprise myself.  By overcoming this cynicism.  By reaching beyond and discovering myself in a way, which changes everything.  Honestly, I thought this had already happened.  (In my immaturity and lack of wisdom, I forgot it would undoubtedly happen again.)  My word, I've changed so much in the past two years alone.  My level of self-awareness, my confidence, my locus of control.

I was in one place, so sure it'd be different elsewhere.  And in elsewhere, it is different.  It is so very different here.  I have to move differently.  I see the world differently.  I stand differently.  Not unlike myself in this place, but much like a different facet of myself.

But there's another elsewhere.  A place other than the one before and where I am now.  But does it exist?  Can my heart have what it needs?  Can I let my heart even contemplate this place?  Or am I going to have to settle down, dig heels deep, and steady myself in this place.

I don't feel a thing.  I started crying over this the other night -- this unwantedness.  This desirability without this need.  This new level of invisibleness.  Oh, to be watched but not seen.  To sit back and watch a dream unfold, within arms reach, without need for you.  Tears over the way busyness wipes me off the map.  What I thought would be a deluge of tears trickled down dimples and the corners of mouth and dried up on chin.  Stopped.  Dam.  Damn.

Almost cried again over something I can't remember.  Almost.

But I don't necessarily want to cry.  Come, make me laugh.  Terrify me.  Send the heat, the cold, the salty.

Electricity shot down my spine for a split second.  To end in silence and abandonment; the very, which caused the numbness.

To not hurt, in fact may mean to not feel.

And to not feel means I'm hurt deeper.  Far deeper than nerves go.  It means I lose muscle and limb.  And I can only imagine it means I lose my sight.  Lose my ability to reach out to others, who are afraid of feeling too.  Lose my gift to hold a child in such a way that they are protected from the world.

Here I go.  Pressing forward.  Reclaiming a certain power in the name of them.  For their sake.  So that when they come running into my arms, they will both know love and joy.  So they can learn.  The world, after all, doesn't teach those things.

That may be the only reason I am here.

And then I smile.  I am home alone and still I smile -- though no one sees.  Because I know the world does not teach love and joy.  But children do.  Love and joy are children.

So this may be the only reason I am here.

To have dirty feet.  And arms heavy with hearts and ribs and toes.