faith

To the Families in Uvalde: I Hope the Sea Splits for You

There are a lot of important conversations happening in the wake of the absolutely monstrous tragedy that took place at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday.

The weight of the lives lost—the where and how—is unbearable, and the why remains so far beyond understanding, I have trouble even asking the question out loud.

We all want to fix it, to say something that will take the events of that day back, or, at the very least, ensure that something like this will never and could never happen again.

I understand that want and that need, and I will continue to listen and contribute to the conversations and elections that hopefully will make that difference.

But when I was reflecting on what happened in Texas. When I thought of the families and the children and the teachers. As I bared a fraction of the pain that they are carrying right now, I kept having one image come to mind: The ocean.

I kept imagining being in the middle of the ocean, with no idea where to go or how to stay afloat, all while the waves raged and crashed. That’s how I imagine grief like this—like losing your child to senseless violence, like seeing an unspeakable tragedy unfold in your backyard—must feel. Like unendurable chaos. Like drowning.

While many of us will read about this tragedy online, waiting for the chance to vote or advocate or donate to causes or laws that aim to prevent this from ever happening again, there are people and families that will continue to feel like they are actively drowning. Amongst all of the arguments and social media posts and anger and hatred and blame and desperation, these people will still be feeling the full weight of this grief, holding on for dear life.

And so I’m thinking about them today—thinking about you.

I know that “thoughts and prayers” is practically a cliché at this point. So I want to be clear that when I say I’m thinking about you and that I’m praying for you, it’s not vague and it’s not impersonal.

I am hopeful that I can somehow pray to exactly where you are—right there in the water.

There is a story in the bible when Moses, who is freeing slaves from Egypt, parts the Red Sea so that they can get across. It is perhaps one of the most well-known bible stories, and one that shook me as a kid. I liked to imagine walls of fish higher than the Israelites heads, swimming around like nothing was out of the ordinary, like the sea hadn’t just split in half and humans were walking through it.

And while this notion of “splitting the sea” only literally happened once, the metaphorical experience is referenced a lot in the community of faith.

In the song “No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music, there is the lyric: “you split the sea so I could walk right through it.” And in the song “Graves into Gardens” by Elevation Worship, there is one that says: “You turn seas into highways.”

And so my prayer is that through the support of your family, your friends, your community, our country, and the world, you will find something to grab onto, something to help keep you afloat as you mourn. I pray that you would not focus on the why—for nothing, no answer, no reason will take this pain away or make it make sense—but rather on the who. Who you lost. Who they were and how not just their death but their life changed the world.

I pray that in time the sea will split for you. That these raging waters will turn into solid ground. That you will find a path—not out, not away, but through. Right through the center, between the high walls of fish. And I pray that you’ll find freedom on the other side. Not from the memory of those you’ve lost, but from the darkness that would gladly hold you captive forever. I pray there’s a sunrise, and every color imaginable, I pray there is good where evil thought there could be none, and I pray there is hope when it once seemed impossible.

I am thinking of you, and I am praying for you. May faith find you, right there in the water.  

The Year of “Start”

I know I wasn’t alone last January when the clock struck midnight and I sat there thinking, what could possibly follow 2020?

I was feeling let down by the happenings of the last year, especially since the foreseeable future seemed to hold much of the same. And yet, the word I felt stirring in my heart, the word that would be the defining word of my year, the word I believed God was showing me, to guide me through the twists and turns of 2021, was…start.

Start.

Defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as:

To move suddenly

To come into being, activity or operation

To begin a course or journey

To do or experience the first stages or actions of

To start is all about beginning. It’s all about moving from a still place to an active place. It’s about newness.

But I didn’t feel new. I was almost a year deep into a global pandemic, I had just recently turned 30, I’d been working the same job for over a decade, and my sister and I had been living in the same condo for almost six years.

There wasn’t a lot of newness in sight, and with so many restrictions on what we could and couldn’t do, and who we could and couldn’t see, I didn’t see a lot of opportunities for newness up ahead.

I didn’t understand how this could possibly be my word.

But alas, as it always does, the word showed up in blazing colors. Saying, YES, I AM YOUR WORD. I DON’T CARE IF IT DOESN’T MAKE LOGICAL SENSE. I AM YOUR WORD, BABE.

And so, the year began.

Seemingly five minutes in, I was ready. Impatient even. Okay, I thought, START. Bring me all the good things. All the new things. All of the everything that I’ve been wanting. If this is the year of start, then start.

Funny how my go to reaction at the beginning of every year is to be selfish and impatient. I always try to mold my word into a kind of assurance that I will finally get what I want, even though those wants change and grow based on what I learned the previous year.

Still, right on schedule, I was greedy. So, right on schedule, I got the polite pat on the shoulder/slap across the face reminding me to RELAX.

This time, it came in the form of a blog post from a longtime favorite blogger of mine, Hannah Brencher. She wrote a post (which was an excerpt from her book Fighting Forward), which inspired me to then write this post about the idea of “slow magic.”

She wrote:

“I can tell you, the magic lives in the secret hours. In the time invested in a process rather than a finished product. The magic will find you there. And if you let it, it will transform you on deep levels.”

The magic lives in the process rather than the finished product.

It was January 4th and God had already called me out. Trust the process. Be patient. Stop trying to find a finish line in January.

Part of me got goosebumps because I felt so seen and understood. Another part of me stomped my foot like a bratty teenager and was like, FINE.

I wrote “believe in the slow magic” everywhere, so I could always see it. It became a partner to my word and a mantra to keep me calm.

And then the beginnings started.

In January, I started taking a Creative Nonfiction writing class as part of my Creative Writing Capstone at UCLA Extension. Over the 10-week course, I wrote five pieces that dug deep into parts of myself that I’d never written about before. This then carried over into the Personal Essay class I took in the spring, where I wrote six more pieces, all of which I’d never dreamed of having the courage to write.

In February, I started a small, part time accounting job to help out a friend and make a little extra money—the small profit of which would come in clutch more than once throughout the year—and I signed up to become a Backyard Harvest Leader for Food Forward, which allowed me to safely volunteer amongst COVID restrictions.

In March, my sister Natalee and I started packing up our condo because our landlord informed us she was selling the property. We then spent hours on apartments.com trying to find a new place to live.

In April, we started the application process for an apartment that was not only in a great area but was affordable and had an incredibly kind landlord who we fell in love with instantly. We moved in on the 15th.

In May, Natalee, my best friend Allison, and I took a mini trip to Ojai where we started talking. Not casually, not flippantly, but openly and intensely honestly. We showed up to the Topa Winery with the intention of drinking a little wine and getting a little tipsy, but we ended up spending five hours sharing our deepest fears, hopes, regrets and hurts, provoking a healing that none of us expected.

In June, I started online dating again. I’d had my sights set on someone for a long time and I worked up the courage to go for it, but I got rejected. So, after letting the sting simmer for a little while, I downloaded an app and put myself back out there.

In July, I started a big writing project with a couple from my church. I was asked to help tell their incredible story so that it could be shared with the world. It was the first time I’d ever written a story that wasn’t my own, and it tested me immensely, but it was also so incredibly rewarding that I cried when I finished.

In August, I started giving blood regularly! I’ve felt drawn to give blood for a number of years now, but have had a handful of struggles and scary experiences in the process. Still, after every mishap, it would only take a few weeks for me to hear that call again. So, after talking to my doctor and figuring out what the best way for me to give was, I donated in August both smoothly and easily—and it’s been that way ever since!

In September, I started an online bible study with Proverbs 31. It was the first time I’d ever done an online bible study, and the first time I’d done any kind of study outside of my church. It allowed me to connect with thousands of women around the world who made me feel more seen and understood than I ever had.

In October, my mom, sister and I started our “Epic October Trip” that would take us to four states across two weeks. It allowed us all to disconnect from the chaos of normal life and just exist in the day to day with each other.

In November, I started (and finished) the final chapter of the church writing project. After typing the final word, I sat, stunned. I couldn’t believe that I had actually finished, couldn’t believe I’d reached the top of what seemed like an un-climbable mountain. I didn’t know where it would go from there, who would read it, or if it would reach any farther than the population of my church, but I felt so incredibly purposeful in that moment, as if I’d used the gifts I’ve been given to make something very powerful—and then I cried.  

In December, I started making plans for the new year. I set 17 new goals, I made plans for upcoming vacations, I opened my heart to trying new things and I promised to embrace whatever came my way.

Amongst all of my “starts” this year, it should be noted that I also learned to stop looking for the finish line. Sure, there are goals that I want to complete, lists I want to get through, and things I want to achieve and finish in my life. But for a long time I was looking for a kind of finish line that would promise no more pain, no more struggle, no more anxiety, no more low self-esteem or seasons when I feel lost, scared and lonely. I wanted there to be a way that I could finish everything hard in my life, so that I could finally relax into it. But there is really only one finish line. And while I don’t necessarily fear what’s on the other side of it, it is a final and lasting line.

Thus, if there are always lists, always goals, always things I can reach for, people I can meet, mountains I can climb, and wonder I can experience, I am on this side of the finish line. I am learning, I am growing, I am becoming more and more like the person I was made to be.

So while I can think of each day as another day closer to the finish, I can also think of each day as a new beginning. A new opportunity. A new journey. An exciting and inspiring, fresh start. 


You can check out my previous words here: Give – Patience – Surrender – ShineFaith

The Year of “Faith”

It is always an interesting experience to sit down and write about my word of the year, from the other side of the year. When I first learn my word, I’m excited, but often worried about what’s to come. And then in January of the following year, having lived through the ups and downs of both the year and the word, I often laugh at the naivety and anxiety, thinking to myself, you really had no idea what was ahead.

Needless to say, 2020 was unique in its ability to be unpredictable. For me, stepping into a new decade and the last year of my 20’s, I knew change was afoot. In fact, I felt like it had been closing in for quite some time. When I was given the word “faith”, I was confident that the year would be challenging, but I really had no idea of what sort.

Reading through my journal from the early months of last year, I can remember how restless I was. While I’d been anticipating the arrival of change, I was also impatient for it. There were parts of my life that I wanted to change, and I wrote about them in a demanding, desperate tone. I made empty promises to pray more and I set unfulfilled goals to spend more time with God—upset that neither were getting me where I wanted to go.

Then came March, where, on the 17th, I wrote, “well, the world has gone f*cking crazy…”

A true statement that was really only half true at the time.

A few days later, I started an entry with, “I really put my quarantine time to good use today—what an insane thing to write.” And the entries that follow are feverish, nervous, and overly sarcastic, trying to find comfort amongst the ever-growing panic around me.

In April, while knee deep in a puzzle that barely fit on our coffee table, my sister and I sat down to watch I Still Believe, a movie based on the life of Christian singer Jeremy Camp. In the movie, (spoiler alert!) his wife dies of cancer, after having previously believed she was in remission. It is a very hard, but very inspiring story, and I thought about it for weeks afterward, but that night, I wrote this:

“One part of the movie that struck me and that makes me tear up just thinking about it is the very last scene, where they show his late wife’s journal. There is a bible verse she circled that says, ‘do not be afraid,’ and next to it she wrote, ‘I won’t be! I will only believe!’ I can’t imagine that faith.

It is the first mention of my word up until that point. And I vividly remember writing it out, underlining it, and then immediately bursting into tears. It wasn’t until then that I realized how far my mind had wandered. And in a world that had begun to make me spiral with questions—most prominent of which was “what do I do now?!”—this movie was a reminder to lean into that word—to have faith.

Now, 2020 was no stranger to heartache. And oftentimes I caught myself wondering and asking why? Why was this happening? A pandemic was running rampant, people were losing their jobs, their homes, and their loved ones. And in my own life, a string of medical scares had left my family feeling exhausted and terrified. Pain and chaos were coming in all directions and I was not only asking why but how? How I am I supposed to have faith when so much bad is happening around me? How can I encourage faith in others when I have no explanation for what is happening? How can I pray when I don’t feel like it will make a difference?

It was a constant struggle, a constant point of contention between God and I. And I fought my word hard.

But then I would always come back to that movie.

To that little entry Jeremy Camp’s late wife, Melissa, wrote in her journal. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much it meant to me. Someone she never met, never heard of, never knew would hear her story, let alone watch a movie about it and be so moved that it would restore my faith in faith.

And as the year went on, I started to realize that that is what faith is. Faith is believing that our lives, both the good parts and the bad parts, the explainable and unexplainable, have purpose. Faith is trusting that God has a bigger plan, and that we are all playing a part in its goodness—even when there is seemingly no goodness in sight. Faith is living through the why’s and the how’s and sometimes never getting an answer, but trusting that, perhaps in my struggle, I’m helping someone else find their answer.

I don’t know what 2021 has ahead for us, but I know that each day has meaning. That each moment you are brave enough to live out the life you have ahead of you, you are making a difference. That every up and every down matters. And that there is goodness—goodness that we cannot even imagine—up ahead for each and every one of us. So I encourage you on this day and in this year, to have faith. Have faith in the goodness. Have faith in the light even amongst the dark. Have faith in faith.

“Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” – Mark 5:36


You can check out my previous words here: GivePatienceSurrenderShine