What a Triathlon Taught Me

I’ve lost count of how many times someone has asked,
so, why did you sign up for a triathlon?

Depending on the level of interest I perceive from the person asking,
I’ll answer that question differently each time.

Now, for some reason you’ve decided to click on this blogpost, so…

15 months ago my friend’s mom, Carrie, planted the triathlon seed in my head when she challenged me to think through what type of woman I want to become in this lifetime. Her words: “When I think through the next five years, I want to be a woman who can say, ‘I did a triathlon.'”

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(Here she is riding in front of me two weeks before my tri in San Diego.
She has the trait I like to refer to as “BA.”)

The hope and determination in her words took hold of me during a time when I needed it most–I was wrestling with faith, depression, and purposelessness brought on by unprocessed grief, deep loss, and trauma.

I felt I had been presented with a new dream waiting to be fulfilled.

I went back and forth for months.

Fear and doubt whispered, “you can barely swim… you have never been the athletic type… you will fail.” 

11 months later, on March 12th, I came to another point in time filled with painful life transition and growth, and felt the familiar shadows of loss and grief creep up a few weeks after my grandfather’s death.

Given the previous experience I had with unhealthy grief, I decided to plunge into the deep end by signing up for the Solana Beach triathlon. I knew that, for me, having a structured routine, game-plan, and measurable goal as something to work towards would help in my healing process.

Somewhere along this journey, a dear friend challenged me to think through how I could apply what I learned from this experience to my spiritual life.

I was… All. About. It.

Here are the ones that stood out to me the most:

  1. Lasting progress, growth, and change takes time, discipline and hard work.

    In retrospect, I’m thankful for the process when I think back to where I was at three years ago. Physically, I struggled with exercise–induced asthma and couldn’t run more than a mile without chest pain or coughing. After four months of what felt like a frustrating run-walk-run-stop loop, I got to a place where I could run 2 miles without stopping.

    Fast-forward through a year and a half of exploring a new world of strength-training, foam-rolling, work-out apps, fueling and nutrition, and I had learned the need to re-prioritize time, resources, and energy into this lifestyle. That meant being quick to say, “no” to much in order to have a fruitful workout the next day, which would result to be fruitful in the long run. (pun intended)

    There were no shortcuts on the road to improvement. There was no room for long breaks or changes in the routine over the course of the year leading up to the triathlon. I became more intentional once I reached the 8-weeks-left mark.

    Here’s the program I followed to focus on improving speed and endurance:   TRI.Speed_Boosting_Sprint_Plan

    It was not easy for the new habits and patterns to take root three years ago, but after the first 30 days, a second 30 days became easier; and after 90 days, I began to see results.

    I’ve seen the truth of these principles cross over to a universal application.

    I can think through times when I sensed God ushering me into various seasons of growing in patience, humility, trust, or healing. Often, I’d wake up on any given day of the aforementioned seasons and go through the motions and tasks necessary to succeed. I knew what was required of me and I knew that it would not be easy.

    At times I had to exercise a Spirit-empowered, “dying to myself” in the context of a relationship by admitting my wrongs and swallowing my pride. Other times, I had to exercise letting go of self-sufficiency and self-protection by being open about my brokenness and admitting a need.

    ….and the list goes on…

    Those spiritual, emotional, and relational exercises did not come easily and there were times when I did not see any fruit for years. I’m reminded that in the same way one’s body takes much time/effort/discipline to change, improve, and build endurance, one’s character and maturity follow suit.

  2. Gratitude, grace, and rest carried me further than rigid self-motivation and fear.

    Somewhere during the more intensive 8-week training, I discovered the need to “prove myself in terms of how hard I trained. Despite all the healing, growth, and maturity I had experienced over the years, there was still a part of me that, at my core, believed: I am still unhealthy; and I must exceed expectations or else I will fail.

    Two of the biggest motivators each morning were:

    1) fear of failing

    2) confidence in my own natural tenacity and perseverance.

    Two weeks before the TRI, I felt released from that faulty core view and surrendered those fears to God. For the first time, I harbored an overwhelming sense of gratitude while I jogged, biked, and swam. I took each breath with a mindful disposition and thanked God for my lungs, my legs, my feet, my toes, and everything He provided along the way. I thanked God for how far I had come. It was freeing to accept my limitations, my human-ness, and my God-given capacities.

    At the start of training, I heard Him say, “I will carry you through this triathlon.” He graciously showed me, yet again, how He is faithful, unchanging, and kind.

    I’ve seen tendencies in my spiritual life where I desire to earn God’s approval and resist grace. I can easily fall into doing more and more for God even when He hasn’t asked me to.

    There is nothing more freeing than coming before the Lord just as I am and living out of the fullness of who He made me to be by accepting my limitations, capacities, and giftings.

  3. Network of support is required at all times.

    I could write a blogpost about each person who supported me with their words, time, energy, efforts, materials, gear, wisdom, knowledge, and so much more. We need people. No man is an island, etc. Instead I’ll post some pictures that can speak for themselves.

Arggi Tri-105

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This is healthy, trust me.

A couple of weeks ago my spiritual director told me about a time when her husband was doing his residency for medical school on the East Coast. A terrible flu season had broken out. It was so severe that several of the doctors became sick, and some still persisted in tending to patients, going from room to room with an IV pole in tow.

Rd0EgO2(the self-deception is real)

It’s safe to say this scenario is not ideal.

It’s also safe to say this scenario is more about surviving and less about surthriving.

The more I come into contact with people who are on the other side of what appeared to be an insurmountable feat–suffering, pain, tragedy, hopelessness, etc– the more I’m impressed with the Creator and how He wired humanity to have such strong resilience. It’s beautiful, awe-inspiring, and heartbreaking all at once.

Even so, I really do think that “dealing with pain,” or healthy coping is a gift from God. There are seasons where God gives us the grace to do that and accomplishes His divine purposes in spite of ourselves. The fruit is bountiful and sweet to taste.

It’s easy to draw parallels from the doctor illustration and apply it to any caregiver, church leader, parent, or human in a nourishing relationship. Especially to those who feel burdened by capital R Responsibilities.

For these people, it would be inconceivable to check themselves into the ICU and lay dormant, even if they were prescribed mandatory bed rest.

I’ve seen those patterns in my life and have wrestled with integrating the mixed motives that drive me to resist receiving care and instead insist on giving it.

Why?

I’m sure there are varying answers for different people, (where my enneagram 2’s at?!) but as I sat with God and prayed through that question, it became a little more clear.

I imagined myself lying on a bed at the ICU, comatose, with Jesus at my bedside. Tears ran down my cheek once I realized that I could not tolerate not being able to do anything for Jesus. Everything inside my imagined unconscious self wanted to sit up, rip out the IV tubes, and immediately get to serving others to make up for the time I lost while bedridden.

The reality I was running from is, at my core, I don’t know how to be loved without a quid-pro-quo. I have to resist the thought,
“you will be loved if you, ______ or when you, ______.”

Parts of me still try to earn God’s love.

And that’s okay.
It means I’m human.

Whether we’re aware of it or not, within each of us lies a deep existential question that, at our core, threatens us with a fear of abandonment, worthlessness or any number of shame, fear, or anger inducing alternatives.

3bcd90f29f48146b2c57c39d36b77a42(nothing like a small dose of humorous nihilism to serve as a reality check)

Logically, we may know there is nothing we can do to make God love us any more or any less. We cannot ensure God’s love or make safety deposits.

His love is freely given. No stipulations. No take-backs. But there are parts of our narrative, history, or personality that inhibit us from living out of that truth.

A beloved mentor of mine likes to say, “there are parts of our person that still need to hear the Good News, that still need to be evangelized.”

During that prayer time where I saw myself in the ICU, Jesus reassured me that he wasn’t going anywhere. He said, “You don’t have to do anything. You are enough. Lay here, rest, recover, and let me be with you.”

Jesus deeply desires for us to experience His love, to be with us, and he will patiently sit at our bedside.

I needed to invite Jesus into that deep part of my subconscious because it had not yet been touched by the truth and steadfastness of his love.

It’s humbling and freeing to admit I have not achieved a perfect understanding of how to live life, follow God, and love others. I’m far from it. We all are.

We are all in process, and in need of others to help move us along the journey.

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(though at times moving to a new, albeit smaller, planet seems tempting)

no green smoothie? then you can starve.

2016.

Now, there’s a mouthful.

Depending on who you ask, it may surface a variety of interpretations.

For me, it translates to: the year of non-linear journeying through growth, healing, hope, despair, restoration, flowing with rivers of cathartic tears that continue to slowly purge layers of previously unknown internal darkness.

Whew.

During my first semester at Talbot I learned that sanctification (becoming more like Jesus) is one of the slowest moving processes on earth.

That was three years ago.

At the start of my graduate studies, I could have told you my strengths and weaknesses. I enjoyed caring for people, showing compassion, and moving others towards God and wholeness.

The other side of that? I was a people-pleaser, had a hard time saying no, and unhealthily sacrificed for others. (poor boundaries)

There have been incredible strides towards growth since then, along with a discovery of deep motives that drove my behavior. All of that is attributed to God and the wonderful people in my life; and each year, I’m confronted with the reality that true change takes time.

(the verdict is still out on whether or not Michael Scott is an Enneagram 2)

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Though at times my introverted self fantasizes that sanctification could take place on an island in an isolated vacuum, it doesn’t. As iron sharpens iron, for better or worse, those wonderful people in my life who are closest to me bore the brunt of my growth.

Healing, maturing, and growing happens in the context of relationships when the full spectrum of emotions are experienced with one another… including the negative ones. We need that thing that some people refer to as intimacy. No bars hold. No walls or facades.

I love my loved ones and I am so incredibly privileged to know the people I know. At times we annoy and frustrate one other and, as a recovering people-pleaser, I have painfully learned that it is normal, okay, and healthy to experience that in true relationship.

There are, however, three people who I rarely have trouble with expressing and feeling the full spectrum of emotions: my father, my mother, and my little sister.

Recently, my sister came to California to visit and we had a blast. I loved hosting her, taking care of her, and welcoming her into my world.

 

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Sarcasm is probably our strongest love language. We share most of our time laughing, joking, working out, and cuddling. We match each other’s level of crazy, weird, and humor that occasionally (often) crosses the line.

(we can be what some people refer to as, “extra”)

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On the Sunday morning she stayed with me, I woke up feeling excited because I could not wait to have her come to church with me. For the past seven years, I have flown to Florida to visit family and this was the first time since early college that my sister would enter into my day-to-day.

I have a routine each morning. I love routines. I eat breakfast as soon as I wake up, I make coffee or tea, strain my keifer grains, have my alone time, and think through a plan for the the day. While she took her time to hatch (she is not a morning person and needs time to get out of bed) I gave her the option between coffee and tea.

“I don’t want any,” she responded.

That was okay.

So then I thought, ‘well, we won’t be home for a few hours and it’s so important to get your metabolism started as soon as you wake up to help maintain a healthy diet, so I’ll make us both my favorite green smoothies. That will hold us off until lunch and fill us with the important nutrients we need for this meal in light of the other meals we’ll have today.’

(*note I decided what was best for her without informing her*)

She shuffles around the living room and gathers her things to get ready for church. I’m in the kitchen preparing a masterpiece. I pull out my blender, a banana, a ripe avocado, fresh spinach, cold almond milk, cacao powder, and two mason jars for presentation.

I walk towards her with a jar in each hand, take a sip of my tasty breakfast, and say, “here’s your green smoothie.”

“I don’t eat breakfast. I don’t want one.”

“But breakfast is too important to skip and it will be a long time before we eat again.”

“I told you, I don’t want it.”

We are both strong willed and tenacious. So, I put her smoothie down and start to get ready so as to allow some time to pass before my second attempt at force-feeding her nutrition.

(*also note, I am ignoring the fact that she is an adult and despite the 5 and 1/2 year age difference, she has the freedom and right to make her own decisions*)

Five minutes until we have to leave.

“Okay, Chi. (her nickname) Here’s the smoothie. Just taste it. It’s really good.”

Her: “No.”

Back and forth *colorful dialogue* continues for a few minutes.

Me: “Fine. At least eat a Kind bar. It’s good for you and it tastes good.”

Her: “No.”

Me. “Well, if you don’t want to eat anything, then you can starve.”

Meanwhile, my awesome, patient, wonderfully objective roommate Bev, a.k.a. Dev, yells to me from the other room, “you’re being a mom again.” I reflect on that and think, you right, Dev. You right.

Dev, my sister, and I rush into my car for our 4 minute drive to church. I call myself out and apologize to my sister during that time. At church, we start singing songs to Jesus and there is still some lingering tension between my sister and I.

I replay what happened earlier that morning in my head and start to laugh. Firstly, because I recognize the streak of crazy that runs through me. But secondly, a scene from, “Beauty and the Beast” runs through my head– the one when Belle refuses to come down to dinner.

 

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I whisper this scene into my sister’s ear and we both start laughing.

 


 

I share this because a few years ago, were this scenario to have happened I would have had a harder time extending grace and receiving grace. Instead of being able to laugh at my excessive caring nature upon realizing how I had crossed healthy boundaries, I would have felt guilty, flawed, and unworthy of love.  I would have gone into a downward spiral of self-pity and sucked others into it through emotional manipulation.

Yikes.

I still cringe to think at the potential my shadow side has when my good intentions have unhealthy motives. If it hadn’t been for intimacy with people and scenarios like this throughout the past few years, I would not have been able to slowly move towards maturity.

I could read all the self-help books on boundaries, emotions, attachments, growth, and still miss significant beneficial life changes.

Unless I am in relationship with people where my ugliness comes out, I cannot experience or extend grace, forgiveness, and love. That’s where the raw, painful, healing growth happens. Love can’t touch the dark parts within us if we are unwilling to expose them or have them exposed.

Intimacy is scary, but the risk is worth it to take those steps towards a person.

Conflict may seem like the worst, but resolution deepens your relationship and love for one another.

Pulling ourselves away from ourselves and looking inward is not easy because it can be painful. At times it feels uncomfortable, humbling, and grueling, but the fruit of that work is so rewarding.

It’s beautiful because the more space we make for love to dwell and move within us, the more we can reflect it and share it with others.

Here’s to a lifetime of being in process on that snail-pace trail of sanctification.

on death, dying, & more

I remember, five years ago, sitting in the auditorium with a group of friends after our weekly CRU meeting had finished at my alma mater, UC Irvine.

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Our group would usually stay talking for hours about anything and everything.
On that night, a friend asked us a question, “if you knew you only had one year left on this earth, what would you do?”

He waited to see which of us would answer.

With an eager disposition, I was the first to respond:
“Well, I would drop out of school, pack my bags, and move to Florida so I could be with my family and share the gospel with my relatives who do not know Jesus. I would probably just take to sharing the gospel with everyone I encounter.”

Others shared similar content, but mentioned foods they would want to eat and places they would want to see and visit before they died.

I was curious to see what my friend had to say, so I asked him what he would do.

Being a few years older than me, I anticipated a wise response from him because I looked up to him, but I’ll never forget his answer:  “I’d do exactly what I’m doing right now.

At the time, my obsession with seeing people come to Christ was so strong that I almost made it my personal responsibility and mission to save the world. God moved powerfully through me in spite of my mixed and naive motives.

Although I saw God bear much tangible fruit through me during that season, the fact that my friend lacked a desperation to drastically change his life when confronted with death really challenged me.

I asked myself, “am I really where God wants me to be, am I inside His will for my life? If I am willing to drop everything at the drop of a dime when confronted with death, will I ever know with certainty that I am living life to it’s full potential?”

I knew I would not find answers to these questions easily, and that I had much to learn about life, about the fleeting nature of time, about trusting in God’s sovereignty, and about my personal contentment.

As early as elementary school, I would habitually think about my mortality.

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I’d often wonder, “will I live past the age of 10?

That’s how old my brother had been when he died.

Beyond that, I’ve had a couple of near death experiences.
In both instances, I came to a place of accepting my mortality and the finality of death—ready to, “meet my Maker.”

But something about that night at the auditorium shook me.

The question I would look to answer from then on was, “am I really living?”

The past five years have been a whirlwind of experiences, deep processing, rapid growth, and healing that seems to increase exponentially with each passing year.

In that, I am learning there are worse things than physical death on this planet.

I oscillate between seeing death as a pestering, vanquished enemy and seeing death as an opportunistic villain who lacks both mercy and prejudice.

I don’t like referring to death as an “old friend” and I don’t like the idea of carpe diem because both can lend themselves to prideful or self-reliant and self-serving views.

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Death wasn’t supposed to exist in this world. It’s our enemy.

I don’t take it lightly or greet it amicably. Death has been defeated because of Christ’s death and resurrection, not because I possess any power in and of myself or because I am brave enough to confront it or accept it.

Following this train of thought, seizing the day without regarding the future seems to give little thought to the stewardship God has given me over this life and over the people He has placed in my path.

When I think through what I do each day, I hope to live life out just as Jesus did— in constant connection and consultation with the Father.

I do have a “northern star” I’m walking towards during each season of life, but I feel like a passerby on this planet because time is limiting.

I’m open to seizing the opportunities that come up, but I tend to filter them through the direction God has given me and how they might fit into that.

Thinking about life, death, and mortality reinforces that there is much purpose and intentionality behind who and what I choose to invest into.

I am aware that I have limits, that I am in process, that it has taken me years to adopt this view, and that I will continue to refine the view. I look at my pastoral care through that lens and I don’t expect everyone to view mortality in the same way I do.

There are places that some of us can’t face yet and I was reminded of that on my 24th birthday when I chose to have a picnic at Hollywood Forever Cemetery with a few of my best friends.

We sat on a blanket, ate cupcakes, and took pictures in the rainy weather.

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I asked each of them what they would want to have written on their epitaph. A couple of them did not want to think about it or share. I respected them. I have been humbled time and time again into accepting that I cannot force processing, growth, maturity, or healing onto people.

I recognize my place in God’s kingdom, choose to live for it, and seek to fulfill His purposes in my life and in the lives of those He entrusts me with.

If I knew I were to die in a year, and in light of Psalm 90:12, I think I would do exactly what I’m doing right now.

Chaplaincy, Hospitals, Azkaban, & Patronuses

“Hospitals can be like prisons,” said the Chaplain who is mentoring me this semester.

I felt relieved after hearing that because my first visit felt heartbreaking and painful.
It’s been a summer of healing, lament, and hope, but often the topics of death, loss, and suffering still feel raw.

I couldn’t imagine a single patient or patient family member on the ICU floor who would willingly place him or herself in a position of gaping pain or deep despair.

I wasn’t prepared for what lay beyond the first pair of double swing hospital doors I crossed on that day.

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Truthfully, it had been years since I stepped into a hospital. As I walked down the hallways, the walls seemed sterile and lifeless.

Lyrics to What Sarah Said creeped into my mind: “I looked around at the eyes on the ground as the TV entertained itself.”

Images began to flood my mind. I kept picturing both my parents at the ICU saying goodbye to my brother as my dad held his lifeless body, clinging on to what little warmth it had left.

I forced a smile throughout the tour of each floor–especially during the staff introductions, but I kept wondering, “have they become numb towards death? do they feel the heaviness that I feel?

I’ve been re-rereading through the Harry Potter series–and so, filtering life experiences through it. I have especially been processing my grief and faith by using analogies from the series.

I think there are many of us who know what being around dementors feels like–dementors being, “the foulest creatures that walk this earth, who glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them.”

And I think there are many of us who have gotten tastes of Azkaban–a prison where dementors stand guard.

I know that hospitals are a place of healing and a place that facilitates new life, but for many it can feel like a prison.

I felt the sensation of patients being trapped.

I entered into a room with a man, who had scabies and only spoke Spanish. He yelled to me in a drugged stupor, “help me, help me, I have to get out of here and go to my family.”

I went into another room where a 33 year old woman, who was the size of a 9 year old due to a severe handicap, could not speak because of the respirator attached to her trachea. She grabbed my hand and pressed it against her face because she needed the loving touch of a human.

I am familiar with the theology of suffering, but as I walked out of each room in a trancelike state, all I could think was, “God, why? What did they do to deserve this? How could You allow this?”

I could feel remnants of my existential breakdown– prior to the car accident I had earlier this year –begin to resurface.

I kept busy during the days that followed the first visit, but the impact of it lingered. On the first day of class people began to ask, “where are you interning this semester? how is it going so far?”

It was hard to talk about. My day ended around 9pm with chaplaincy class.

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I quickly walked to my car, sat down, and cried.

I drove home thinking, “God, I have little desire and little strength to go back to Azkaban [the hospital] next week.”

I shared my experience with a couple of older women, whom I love and respect. I was heard, understood, and encouraged. They suggested I pray for protection from the dementors of death and dementors of infirmity before I step out of my house to go to the hospital.

It was like, and not like, having a patronus– a magical guardian brought through the most powerful defense charm.

In the HP series, when a wizard conjures a patronus, it repels dementors.
It’s powerful.
It works.

In my Christian faith, I am aware that I cannot will myself to have positive thoughts. Through my own person, I cannot conjure the strength or fortitude to walk into that hospital and comfort people when I am in a place of needing comfort.

This week I prayed before I went to the hospital and had the faith that God would be my strength. I trusted that God would go before me and surround me with angels to “repel” the dementors. I believed that God’s love would flow through me and empower me to love each patient.

Sure enough, when I walked through those double doors, my focus was no longer on my pain–not that I was ignoring it– but I felt full of a supernatural strength and ability to love each patient.

The chaplain and I were able to visit and pray with nearly a dozen people. I felt a tangible warmth and light. My smile was genuine and my heart was sincerely filled with love for every person I walked by.

I can only attribute this to the power of prayer.

It can be easy to miss out on the blessings we have in Christ. They are freely given to us because of Christ’s work on the cross. There’s so much more to the Christian life than a regular routine without a patronus.

With each season, I see how much joy and freedom there is in participating with God in each step in this life.

Conclusions:
Harry Potter is awesome.
God is more awesome.
AND
I have a newfound appreciation and respect for nurses. (real MVP)

13 more weeks to go?

When I gave God the “silent treatment”

I’ve read about depression in my classes, heard about it through some of my closest friends and their experience, but I had never struggled with depression…So when I checked off all of the symptoms that weren’t going away after a month, I found myself with two options:

1. ignore it and push forward because I’m a strong, mature, Christian seminarian student, who is in a Pastoral Care and Counselor program
(italics for sarcastic emphasis)

or

2. humble myself and receive the care that I hope anyone I love would receive.

Spoiler: ***I’m stubborn and humility doesn’t come easily.***

I first noticed it when my close friends began to say things like, “you don’t seem like yourself lately” or “you seem sedated.”

I could admit life felt heavy, but nothing I couldn’t distract myself from. I still laughed, made jokes, did well in school, served in ministry,  and trouble sleeping? I’ve had trouble sleeping on and off for years. Nothing out of the ordinary.

In the meantime, when life felt too heavy, I started to run.

Quite literally.

I’d be overwhelmed with sadness and knew that my body needed endorphins,
so I ran.

I started running about 7 months ago just to build up my endurance and I became dependent on it as a way to release sadness and anger.

It was GREAT.

There’s nothing like pushing your limits to break a muscle fiber or two and afterwards feeling that tangible, painful growth.

Whenever I’d start to feel sore or fatigued, I’d tell myself,”You can’t quit. Life doesn’t stop. You have to keep going even when it’s not easy.”

Working out became such a lifeline because it helped contain the anger I felt towards God and it helped contain the sadness I hid behind the anger.

Sometime mid to late March, I could no longer contain the unwanted emotion. The heaviness was constant and the anger towards God was great.

I knew there were things in my past I needed to work through and process, but truthfully, I felt above it. I can learn about grief, and come alongside others WHILE ignoring mine because it’s not urgent.

**tick, tock, tick, tock**

I stayed busy with five classes, three part-time jobs, a demanding internship that I loved pouring into, and delightfully distracting friends.

But grief waits for you.

I’ll say it again, “GRIEF WAITS FOR YOU.

Sometimes it will wait 19 years.

On January 3, 1997 my older brother and best friend was killed in a car accident by a driver under the influence. While making a protected left hand turn, my mother and brother were hit by a drunk driver who ran his red light, killing my brother on impact.

I was just about to turn 7 and I didn’t know it then, but I completely disassociated from the event and emotionally cut off the good relationship my brother and I had when we were younger. I do think it was necessary to cope and move forward in life, but that unprocessed grief and loss would wait until I was ready.

This past year, I started to remember.

I started feeling angry towards God because I could not make sense of this world He created. He seemed manipulative. I had given my life to Him, I had committed my education, vocation, and whole person to Him, yet HE ALLOWED this tragedy to happen.

This was not just about me. When I’d think about others who have suffered loss or when I’d read about Job or Joseph in the Bible, I would get angry for them.

The anger was so great that I could not talk to God anymore.

love prayer. I love reading the Bible.

But somewhere mid April, the very things I loved doing the most became too painful because I felt so misled and used by God.

In the meantime, I began to share with a few close friends where I was at and decided it might be a good idea to go to therapy to process the grief.

I was content with sticking to my to-do list, I just needed to finish this semester. But I kept sinking lower and lower, deeper and deeper into anger, sadness, and despair.

I know enough about God to know that He will never forsake us, but what I felt was so much louder than the knowledge I had learned throughout the years in church or my Bible Grad School.

Here’s a picture of what my relationship with God had become:

Jesus and I were both in my living room, he was sitting on the couch and I was sitting far away from him with my back turned to him. We both knew I was not going to talk to him.

He was so patient and willing to wait. He wasn’t going anywhere.

On Monday, May 9th around 4am, after weeks of conversations with friends who were there to listen and not judge me or try to fix me, I finally decided to talk to Jesus.

It was like dam of emotion had burst.
(picture below for dramatic visual)

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I talked to him about my brother for the first time in my life.

And I yelled at him. I let him have it. Colorful language and all.

He lovingly took it.

He did not resist or fight back.

He bore all of my pain and anger in a way that still does not make sense to me.

I can’t fully describe what it feels like to lose someone. But that morning, it felt like there was an irreparable hole in my chest, I was brutally and violently hit with the permanence of death. It’s physically agonizing, and the weight of that sorrow made death seem better.

So that’s what I told God.

I said, “I cannot take any more. Death would be a sweet relief from the reality of this sorrow.

On Tuesday, May 10th around 12pm, I was driving to school and got in car accident that totaled my car. I was not at fault. I was going with the flow of traffic within the speed limit, and an oncoming driver took a risky left hand unprotected turn.

My car was totaled.

I was okay. No serious injuries.

A few days later, after dozens of phone calls to insurance people, attorneys, medical centers, etc, I had to deal with the reality of my car crashing at the same time my life had crashed.

I couldn’t run anymore.

Literally, the injuries to my knees, hip, back, shoulder, and neck prevented me from being able to cope by running like I used to.

I was forced into stillness, reflection, grief, lament, and healing.

Somehow, I felt God even closer.

A week later, after I came home from class, I lay on my living room floor crying because the lament was so great.

Jesus got up from the couch, sat next to me, placed his hand on my forehead and said, “that day, I lost a brother, too.”

John 11 is one of my favorite passages because Jesus enters into the suffering of Martha and Mary after they lose their brother, Lazarus. He grieves with them despite knowing the outcome and the hope in resurrection.

This world is so broken. So much of it does not make sense. We resist endings because it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Whether it’s a silly television series ending, the ending of a season in high school, college, or grad school, or the ending of our precious loved one’s life, we grieve endings.

God does not always take away the pain, but HE ENTERS INTO IT.

I’m sure He provides comfort and peace beyond our understanding.

I’m sure His love melts the hardest, most stubborn heart.

I’m sure faith is an action that has to be exercised most when our feelings outweigh the truth.

But most importantly, I’m sure of the hope we have in Jesus and I’m sure that one day I will see my brother again.

Grieving is an important part of life and I am thankful for every person who has brought me to Jesus during this time. Every phone call, text, silly snapchat pic, message, house visit, sleep over, conversation, etc, has ascribed more meaning to life than I ever knew possible.

Though the bad is truly heart-wreckingly bad, the good is so much greater.

Life is a gift and well worth living when you live to love others.

Kids & Hills & Music & So Alive

Growing up my dad had this saying in Spanish, “la vaca nunca se acuerda que fue ternero.”  It roughly translates to, “the cow always forgets that it used to be a calf.” I’ll leave that open to interpretation, but I do think we can learn a great deal from children.

Pictured below is currently one of my favorite four year olds. He has a hard time leaving his mom each week (he’s a crier), but costumes help him feel more brave. He loves his hats and capes and cowboy boots, yet he’s so timid and shy.

I love that about him.

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As I was playing with this little dude today, I thought about how often we wear “costumes” or masks in front of others each day. I thought about the reasons behind why we feel the need to put on a false self. I thought about Adam and Eve when they hid and covered themselves because they were afraid and ashamed.

Then, I thought about love. Though I only see this little dude once each week, I really do love him. Part of the excitement behind waking up Tuesday mornings is looking forward to seeing him smile.

Even though he’s emotionally distressed for a little while, when I pursue him and show warmth and love, the walls go down and his helmet comes off. (literally, he took his helmet off and let me see his face and I melted.)

The relationship I have with this kid does not even come close to the relationship he has with his mom and dad. The love between him and his parents doesn’t come close to how deep the Father’s love is for us.

I think about that a lot when I’m with kids.

Whether we’re aware of the things we hide or not, God sees us and waits for us and lovingly pursues us. He patiently, and ever-so gently, takes the wall down brick by brick when we’re ready.

One of my favorite songs to worship God will forever be the prelude/intro to the “Sound of Music.” Aside from Julie Andrews being one of my top three lady-heroes, the words in that song are like a psalm.

I go to the hills when my heart is lonely
I know I will hear what I’ve heard before
My heart will be blessed with the sound of music
And I’ll sing once more.

Hiding is lonely.

Letting God and others in is what brings life.

For me, going to the hills metaphorically (and literally) means meeting with God. It’s where we have a heart-to-heart and I come out of hiding. I know I will hear what I’ve heard before, but in a way that is unique and purposeful to that particular moment. My heart is so blessed by love that melts the walls of false self and I feel alive with His life.

In those moments I know no matter what’s going on in life, I’ll sing once more.