touch

Once upon a time, in a world completely different than the one we live in now, i wrote this piece about touch. I wrote it in a world that had no idea covid was coming. I was just a sick person in the hospital who was very touch deprived and thinking over concepts of sickness, isolation, and Jesus. i found this in my drafts and i think it might resonate even more now than it did when i wrote it. enjoy.

            At work, someone asks me if I am sick. How the hell am I supposed to answer that? Well, I answer in the only appropriate way, which is to say the short way, which is to say that I just said yes. She covers her face and takes a step back before asking me where my store keeps the Adidas section. After I point her in the right direction, she scurries off before she can catch what I have. But not before I notice that underneath her North Face jacket, she is wearing scrubs. I watch her leave because I can’t believe she of all people has no idea how to treat sick people.

            The short answer was, yes, I am sick. But I’m not sick in the Contagious way or the I’ve Got The Flu sort of way. I’m sick in the I Am Never Going To Get Better kind of way. Like the, My Body Is Attacking Me And It Cannot Be Reversed type of sick. I can’t really explain to her that my lack of an immune system is no threat to her; that she is more likely to get me sick than the other way around. So I let her have her space the way I’m always letting people have their space.

            The same way, how when in middle school, after I had lice no one wanted me sitting next to them anymore. When we all made plans to hang out it was always, “hey Faith, have you gotten a lice check?” or the “Faith, no offense, but my mom said you can’t come over-like I love you! But just my mom said she doesn’t want me to get lice.” Of course, nevermind I hadn’t had lice since last summer and all the kids at church still wanted to act like I had given it all to them. I had no other friends but them; I just wanted to stop feeling like it was all my fault. But somehow, years later, people still asked me if I still had lice. In the 6th grade I found out exactly how it felt to be a pariah; a skill I never wanted to have but needed to have.

            I needed it for the day I was called out on a missions trip for being immodest in high school. Me, working my ass off in this 100 degree Tennessee heat, wearing the exact same thing everyone else was wearing; a tank top, one that had two finger length straps and reached all the way down to my hips. I was showing no cleavage. I was told that the next day, I wasn’t allowed to wear that shirt to work camp. The next day, I watched every girl on my team wearing the same shirt as me. Again. And again. And again. But I knew it wasn’t about the shirt. It was about me. My body. My wrong, sinful body that was distracting the men from working. The parts of my body that caused strong men to stumble. I couldn’t wear a shirt because it hugged me in a way that showed I had two sin traps stuck to my chest.

            They didn’t like they could see the shape of my breasts. Because that was what I thought when I got dressed that morning. “I need to find a way to distract the boys and make them like me. I don’t care about the heat or the practicality of sleeveless shirts or the fact that this shirt actually makes me feel beautiful for once. No. Boys.” And the other girls with Normal Sized Boobs or the Skinny Girls or the Flat Chested Girls? They were fine. No temptation there. So in high school I was taught that my breasts were bad and needed to be hidden away under layers and layers of baggy clothing. Actually, all my life I was under the impression that my body was the problem. My body was sinful. My body was wrong.

            Some days, days like today, when all I can think about is the shit that I have believed in the name of the Gospel, I find myself simultaneously so entranced by Jesus.

 I’m in the hospital being treated as a Sick Person and marinating on the fact that throughout my life, even when I was healthy, I always felt like the Sick Person in the room, and it’s difficult to swallow that pill. When people who claim Jesus go out and say the things they do and preach the things they preach; I get angry. I am angry. I ask myself why I still stick around, and the answer is usually Jesus.  Like, damn. I wish they taught him in the way you read about him in the bible. I wish I paid more attention to the times he has been taught well.

There is this story in the bible about Jesus just being around his best friends on the Sabbath and they’re at the synagogue doing what they do best, telling stories, and this woman is there, this sick woman with back pain, and when he sees her he really sees her! Like, the greek word is “horaō” which is like, to see, but also can be translated as “to see with the mind; to perceive, to know.” And it says this woman has been sick for 18 years. 18 long years. I can just imagine her walking up to Jesus and him just seeing in his minds eye all the doctors she’s seen and the gatherings she’s missed and the nights she has curled up on the outskirts of society and sobbed because she has been so so alone; and I can see Jesus not needing to ask the dreaded question; “Are you unclean?” “Are you sick?” Because he knows what kind of sick she is. The My Back Aches And Sometimes The Pain Is Too Much To Bare kind of sick. And the I Have Been Alone For 18 Years And I Just Want To Be Loved And Sometimes The Social Isolation Is Worse Than The Disease kind of sick. He must have looked at her the way I imagine he looks at me. In the way that says “I know it is 3am in the emergency room and no one is listening to your pain but I am here.” He is with her. She’s standing here, in this place she is forbidden to be at, and Jesus comes to her and he touches her.

            They share this moment together and God, I can’t even imagine being in her shoes. You know, like you’re a social outcast and no one wants to be with you, no one is allowed to be with you, and then this man comes up and dares to lay a hand on you! A man! In a temple! This man touches you and you don’t know how the people around you are reacting-some are horrified, some are worried about him breaking the literal law and some are worried because this is Jesus  and a woman and he is touching her and its risqué and intimate and women should only touch their husbands-but you are not seeing them. You are seeing him and being seen by him.

Like, I can’t imagine being her.

But if I close my eyes really hard I can. I can see myself in 7th grade having lice and how much I just wanted to be invited inside and to be a part of something. I never would have forced my way into church on the Sunday after I found out; after I was told not to show up. I never would have the courage to make myself known to Jesus and demanding to be tolerated by others the way this woman did. And I can’t imagine being touched in a way that looks so scandalous to others but is the most holy touch to you. But sometimes, sometimes I close my eyes and I can see the way my love touched me for the first time and how, for the first time hand prints didn’t feel like sandpaper against my skin and I didn’t worry about being unclean because I knew it was a holy moment. You know, one of those moments where it just hits you what the hell possessed Soloman to write the erotica he did and what possessed people to call that erotica the holy word of God. Like, God made touch and called it good. And sometimes we have touches like those that remind us that our bodies were never the broken vessels that the Church taught us they are.

And yes, Jesus heals her of her sickness and there’s all this drama about him performing a healing on the Sabbath and all this other cool stuff, but the part that gets me, what always fucking gets me, is the fact that Jesus touches the sick and that he breaks down every law, social code, and church policy in the process. Jesus goes all fuck your rules I’m helping this woman. And I think it’s so badass. I think it’s ironic the way we have created “Christian” eg; Mini Christ to mean “hypocritical, judgemental, all about rules, and purity,” when Jesus was the one who hated all of that. He gave a big “fuck you” to the religious people and did whatever was necessary to make sure hurting people were seen. And every time I’ve wanted to walk away from my faith I find myself thinking about stories like that. I think that no matter how much people may try to bastardize the bible and twist it to fit their ideas, it will always be there existing, and when you read it for yourself after pushing away all the baggage and the mold, you find something that speaks to you. Stories like these have spoken to me.

I don’t know what I was expecting to write when I sat down in a hospital bed to write about my body and Jesus. But sometimes I get these feelings and it moves me a little bit. It’s funny, I always have a hard time listening to Christians talk because they say so much shit I don’t understand and it sounds so bizarre; but then I write pieces like this and I have to reconcile all over again that these people I rub shoulders with and get into arguments with are a part of who I am and who I am becoming. They may not have always accepted my body but I’m glad we both look to a God who does. Sometimes I even get ambitious and start to think that I don’t need everyone in a church to agree with me because shit, I am a mess, but a long time ago another mess of a woman approached Jesus and she seemed to do just fine. I figure I’ll be just fine too.

on learning to love femininity

I used to wear dresses.

All kinds of dresses. Dresses with frills, with lace, with beautiful floral patterns; dresses that were simple or plain. I loved wearing pants under my dresses for some reason; my fashion never made much sense to anyone.

I’m not sure what happened.

By the time I was in middle school I was wearing boys basketball shorts and baseball caps; call it a personality change, and maybe it was healthy, but sometimes I wonder why I really did it. I can’t pinpoint the moment I first realized that the color pink was a “girls color” or that crying during an argument meant that you lost. Maybe I liked the tomboy style, or maybe I just wanted to be liked. Maybe it was a little bit of both.

I remember being a young girl and being afraid to say that I liked high heeled shoes. My mom never wore them because they hurt and my dad, well, he had some strong negative opinions on them and the women who wore them. So I added high heeled shoes to the list of things I would be made fun of for liking; lipstick, high heel shoes, certain TV shows with female leads; the list went on forever.

It wasn’t just my dad; I internalized all of the things boys said to me growing up. It wasn’t that I had crushes on them, I just wanted to be liked by them. I always tried to be one of the guys because these were the kinds of girls they respected; girls who played by the boys rules. Boys liked girls who could play sports and video games, girls who liked the right movies, didn’t post the wrong things, didn’t look a certain way; you couldn’t be too much of a tomboy so that people thought you were a lesbian, but you couldn’t be girly because that was seen as weak. It was a fierce balancing act.

I’m 23 and I hate how much I still want men to like me.

I can tell that they take me less seriously than they take men. I get criticized for being too sensitive or crying too much; men have never been taught how to cry or given the space. They don’t know how to handle my tears because they were never taught how. Its a fucking shame.

I am slowly learning to untie the knots of toxic masculinity and patriarchal lies in my life. It starts with the belief that femininity is weakness; that things that are considered traditionally feminine are also considered lesser. Female trends are not cringey. Female led media isn’t a joke. Female rappers are just as good, if not better, than their male counterparts. And women do not need to sacrifice their femininity to compete in the real world. We can be soft and, in fact, I encourage it. It takes strength to be able to remain soft and optimistic in a world that worships violence and power. It takes courage to feel every emotion rather than to numb them away.

One of my favorite shirts is an XL t-shirt with Ariana Grande’s album cover for “sweetener” on the front. I’m wearing it as I write this actually. I used to be afraid to listen to Ariana Grande because men made fun of her, pop music is considered not real music, and most people judge you for your taste in music. these days I try not to care; her music is fun to dance to and life is too short to spend it worrying about being cool.

Since I’ve tried to become more aware of the patriarchal influences on my life, I’ve realized how many movies I really don’t like; I don’t think Tarantino is a good director, I don’t like the glorification of violence, man are always dicks in movies, women are so often used as plot devices rather than as characters themselves, and I don’t need to pretend to ignore these tropes in movies simply because Hollywood has deemed the films “Good.” I’m tired of justifying violence and gore. I love movies with cheesy plots and happy endings; I love movies that are directed by women and show really strong, platonic female bonds. I love rom-coms and goofy movies. I wish we stopped having a separate genre for female movies as if they were a lesser form of film.

Toxic masculinity has bored me. I’m no longer interested in having fiery debates with men over feminism, I don’t care that men think my taste is inferior, and I won’t be wasting my breath to educate people who are set on upholding ancient patriarchal ideals. I’ve seen toxic masculinity ruin good men by telling them that in order to be a real man, they must shut out their emotions, keep a stiff upper lip, and worship the god of violence. I’m tired of the music in the industry that talks about women like they’re objects to be compared and contrasted; tried out and critiqued. I don’t think being a tough guy makes you interesting anymore.

It is okay to be soft. Dance like an idiot. Make stupid tiktoks. Do the makeup trend. fuck the patriarchy. I promise; it’s okay to be feminine. pink is not a bad color. and yes, you can be a badass in a skirt. you got this.

The Parasite

The water splashes onto the floor; soap bubbling up inside of it. I take my mop and quickly begin to soak the linoleum floors. They’re grimy and stained to the point of no return, but I try anyway. I have been at the homeless shelter for a week already and this is my family’s chore. Each family gets one and we rotate. Outside I watch the moms with their kids on the playground. There were single moms with six kids. There were families of every color, but even at 14 I noticed they were mostly Black, LatinX, or mixed families. Not white families, like mine. I don’t think it crossed my mind at that point. I just watched them curiously. I wondered how they got there. We both came from vastly different walks of life, yet somehow all ended up here, in the same place. We all ate grits in the morning and took turns mopping the dining room floor. We all frequented the nearest Walgreens and bought junk food with our food stamps. We were all looked down on by society because they didn’t understand.

I’m 23 years old now and I still don’t really understand. My dad was never good with money. My mom isn’t the best with it either. But they both work hard. My dad’s long period of unemployment wasn’t his fault. Sometimes I feel like the people who took us in didn’t really get it. Maybe the church didn’t understand. I think many people blame my parents. They said maybe if they stopped buying so much junk, stopped spending money on cigarettes, stopped just stopped just stopped. It’s easier to think there is a formula for getting out of poverty then to admit that the societal structures we have cultivated are corrupt. It’s easier to blame the homeless for their situation because if we don’t, it means they don’t deserve their suffering. Maybe it means you don’t deserve your wealth.

It makes me think of Parasite, the Korean film directed by the brilliant Bong Joon-ho. When I saw that movie I felt like someone really understood me. There is a scene where Ki-woo looks out at the party happening down below on the lawn where there are happy people, violin players, and an abundance of and he says, “Do I fit in here?” It’s a question I’ve asked myself a million times. As I look around at my classmates who can afford to go to grad school and not work at the same time. For people who get to go on vacations. People with cars. For people who come into my work and spend $600 dollars on Nike apparel “on accident.” Most people have an abundance of wealth that they take for granted because they assume everyone lives like they do; they don’t have wealth. They say they have “enough.” They’re “just comfortable.”

Most of my friends would consider themselves an average American; well off but would never consider themselves to live in excess. But most of my friends never ate bread for dinner at a homeless shelter. Most people I know don’t get overwhelming anxiety when they start to feel a little sick because they can’t afford to take off work. Most people get new IPhones as soon as they come out. Buy themselves new clothes when they like them. Go out to eat as a family. Don’t have to ask for loans or help. Don’t pray asking God where the rent money is going to come from. Haven’t spent the night in a dark house, bundled under layers and layers of blankets to keep the cold out once the electricity got shut off or slept in their vans or had to work two jobs to take care of kids or spent hours waiting in line at the local food pantry. Please, don’t tell me you understand.

Sometimes I get sick to my stomach when I think about it. As I sat in my room staring at the screen watching Parasite for the first time, it made me realize that you can’t make it to the top without exploiting other people. There is no situation in our world where someone isn’t directly suffering as a result of wealth and a life of luxury. As Americans, we are diluted into thinking there are no losers to our self-indulgence. We like to think we are a part of some solution because we haven’t directly inflicted harm on another human being. You can’t see it when you’re on the winning side. Security is a hell of a drug. It blinds us to world of suffering and all the ways it comes from us. We close our eyes. Pretend it isn’t real.

Of course, I type this article from my new laptop. I have name-brand leggings on with the air conditioner blowing to keep me company. I’m in grad school. I used to have to work two jobs but last week I paid for a huge meal for a friend and didn’t think twice about it. I tip well, sometimes it’s enough to make me think that I’m a good person. I’m generous. I love to give but I always need to be comfortable. There is a line. Because I still want what I want. I love people but I would never give money if it meant I couldn’t see a show or a movie or eat out. I love the poor but sometimes not as much as I love myself. I’m so afraid to be poor again. No amount of money hoarding will ever be enough to give me peace of mind. Sometimes, poor people are desperate and desperate people do horrific things. Really, who can blame them?

It’s a sin the way wealth, money, and status operate in our culture and in our churches. God, especially in our churches, because historical Jesus made most of his teachings on our attitude towards those with less. He spent most of his life on earth elevating the poor, the sick, and the widows. But we, as humans and believers, find ways to fit giving into our budget when we really need to start plotting our lives around service. Imagine, if we all gave generously, you would never need to worry because someone was always more generous back. we’d function the way it was supposed to. We could embody a real community and support system; be the images of God on earth we were told to be. We’d live in the Kingdom come; overtaking the god of capitalism and abolishing the lies that tell us security, happiness, and success matters only if it belongs to us; as if those things weren’t a right for all living things; all with imago dei.

When Jesus said, “take up your cross and follow Me,” He meant it. Not in the nice, figurative way. He didn’t mean giving to mean just tithing. Jesus had a radical idea about wealth re-distribution and giving. He didn’t want his disciples to be comfortable; he wanted them to be his hands at feet. Being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world means walking the road alongside your homeless neighbor, holding the idea of “private property” with loose fingers, being more willing to give than receive, and sometimes it means abolishing oppressive systems in our world today. I’m tired of writing and reading pieces on wealth and redistribution; I’m doing more. I have to do more.

Every day I get little flashes of what success would look like for me. One day I want to give TED Talks and be the Brene Brown of my field. I want to have a PhD and do research and maybe even go to seminary. But the longer I live the more I fear success. I fear that I want it too much, that my motives are wrong, and I fear being corrupted by Wealth. She can be so enticing sometimes. She makes promises she cannot keep; she can’t provide security or happiness or belonging, only the false illusions of those things. I think I’m finally understanding the book of Proverbs now. To love money is to become corrupted. And I truly don’t want to gain the world just to give up my soul.

So I pray I never stop shopping at thrift stores or Googling coupons; pray I never go on shopping sprees or buy a brand-new car. I hope I always choose to walk over driving. I hope I never stop tipping more than I need to and I pray that we all learn to live without luxury so that others can live to take a bit bigger of a step out of poverty.

i’m coming out (of my cage and i’ve been doing just fine)

i have never been to an actual confession like the ones they have in church with the priest where you have to confess all of your sins while you stare straight ahead inside of a small box. but i have some things i have wanted to confess for some time now. i hope you will hear me out. hear my confessions and sins, and abolish me from them. give me resolution. forgive me.

a long time ago, i promised myself i would remain a virgin until i was married. some time ago, i broke that promise. i don’t think i ever expected to truly recover from that night; it was traumatizing and frightening, and it has taken me almost 3 years to realize how much of my trauma came from my preconceived ideas about sex and love. church had always taught me that sex determined my worth. i held that very closely even as those teachings tore at my self-image and identity.

forgive me for believing those lies. it has taken my three years to finally see it was not my fault. i am not worthless. i am not less valuable because of my sexual status. i am not less worthy of love and respect. i am not any less loved by God despite what the church would say. i deserve respect.

i have not had a good relationship with Church since then. i feel as if losing my virginity put me in a second class status. i was quickly labeled a sinner and dismissed. people have tried to get me kicked out of small groups as punishment for my actions. i have been the topic of gossip among my peers. in the safe walls of church, my secrets have been discussed without my consent. i lost so many friends who thought i was living in sin by choosing to engage in a healthy sex life, away from the immense trauma of purity culture.

forgive me, but its so fucking hard to forgive those people. forgive the bitterness in me. i am so bitter. i try not to be, but every day i feel the pick at my wounds. the hurt goes deeper and deeper. i have lost all hope of having a future in an evangelical church like i once wanted, because slutty women don’t get church jobs. and i’m angry about it. its easier to silence women sometimes than to acknowledge their criticisms on theology and purity culture. its easier to ignore than to change. sometimes, i feel like the church just isn’t ready; but i think, if they aren’t now, they will never be.

i have another sin to confess to.

i’m bisexual. but that is not my sin. my sin is in thinking that made me defective or wrong or sinful. my mistake was in examining those parts of myself, i deemed them bad when i should have been celebrating it. i’m bisexual. i’ve been attracted to women my whole life; it isn’t news to me. but coming out was not something i had planned on. i figured i could get away with marrying a man and living a life that looked straight on the outside. but I think God wants more for me than that.

people do not belong in closets. i’m done hiding away in one. i have come to the painful conclusion that all of me is needed at the table; not just the nice parts, but the parts i don’t like talking about, the parts i’m ashamed of, the parts i don’t want the church to see. all of who we are is welcome at the table.

in 2016, i started to read more about sexuality from an educational perspective, and forgive me, but i can’t go back. i have seen and personally felt the destruction that purity culture has wreaked on my life; and i stand by the belief that if the fruit is bad, so is the tree. purity culture must be cut off at the root. i have cried with too many friends who questioned if God loved them because of how much of themselves they “gave away” to boys. the church had told us all that touching us made us less valuable. we believed every damn lie. forgive us.

i keep trying to be optimistic about church but how can i be, when they will only allow me to marry in their sanctuary if they approve of my partners gender? how do you feel safe somewhere that calls you an abomination because of something natural, or maybe even God given? so lately, i haven’t been going. its the first time in my life where i am making a conscious decision to skip church. i’m sorry, but i just don’t have the heart.

churches have remained mostly silent on the issue of Black Lives Matter; they are afraid to be too political. too divisive. but they alienate the Black lives in their communities that desperately need to be upheld and supported. its upsetting.

i confess; i am so angry at the Church. i wish she was better. i wish she gave more of a shit. i wish she would support me. i wish i could let her go but i write painful love letters to convince her to change. sometimes, the church is a cruel lover.

it has taken me a long time to come to full grips with my deconstruction. it has taken even longer to build a stronger faith. change requires you tear down everything you once believed, and have the courage to try again.

but i no longer seem to have the energy for debates like i used to. i don’t make these confessions as an invitation to disagree; no. its a statement for you to read and resonate with, and if my words don’t speak to you, keep scrolling. i don’t have the strength in me to explain why gay people deserve rights or why i deserve to be in a position of leadership in a church despite what people might think of me. i don’t want the whispers and secrets and gossip anymore. i’m not ashamed of who i am.

my writing has always been a way for me to speak when i am afraid and to shine light on pain that thrives in the darkness. purity culture has been poisoning my life for too long. im here to call it out and put an end to it in my life and in the lives of others. too many women and young girls carry wounds from careless theology made by men. but there is a life past it and that is what i want to write about. my time in my own exile has been quiet the adventure.

its a damn shame that i have to be so vulnerable in order to be believed and listened to.

i do not know what the future holds. but i’m done watering myself down to make myself more digestible for others. i’m a tough pill to swallow. God didn’t make me quiet, and i’m finally realizing there was a reason for that choice. they say to speak the truth in love, and that is all i’ve tried to do. so with my aching heart, i give you these confessions. i don’t want them anymore. they are not my sins to carry

writing about my garden

A couple months ago, I decided I wanted to plant a garden. I have spent a lot of time researching good plants, soil, timelines, and tips. I’m not sure why exactly, but a lot of writers and theologians that I respect had such beautiful, insightful revelations over gardening. Its a way to connect back to the Earth. It’s both nourishment for the soil but also for the soul. That is what these writers say.

I killed my first plant. It was a succulent. I killed flowers in the fall. All the indoor plants I tried to keep during the winter died. I couldn’t keep them alive. I bought a sun lamp. I watered them. I even tried talking to them to encourage them to grow.

Then the spring came and it was finally time to plant my garden. I’ve been out there every day for sometimes hours a day. My new neighbor gardens too, and in just a few weeks we have managed to redo our shitty backyard into a beautiful garden. I wish I had before and after photos to show just how much of a difference it has made. My neighbor has been able to help me learn faster than I was learning from YouTube videos and Pinterest. She taught me how to make fertilizer and how to get make my plants to thrive.

It’s not easy. My knees and elbows always ache. It’s hard to squat in the dirt and pull weeds. Weeds have almost overtaken my whole yard since it has been years since anyone cared for the land out there. As I sit there and pull weeds every day, I find myself praying or thinking out loud. I think about the Native people that tended to the land my garden now rests on, before it was my garden. Before this place was a city, there were Native people who loved this land. I hope I can love it just as much and take care of it just as well. I pull out all the weeds that threaten my plants. I think; I didn’t have a say in what was planted here before me, but I do have a say in what happens here now.

I’m such a cynic and somehow, gardening has made me so soft. I smile at the spiders in the dirt and be careful of all the worms I come across. I don’t have time for hate or skepticism in my garden. I pull out the weeds of hate and of anger. Lately, it has felt like my heart is tangled up in weeds. I’m trying to pull them all out to make room for better things to grow. Love. Patience. Acceptance. Peace.

Two days ago, I went to a Black Lives Matter protest to demand my city defund our police. I wanted to go to say, hey, Black lives are so important, I’m risking my life to tell you. Despite the pandemic still raging on, my friends and I went. It was powerful. We chanted the names of Black people who have been murdered by police. We shouted that Black lives matter. We listened to Black drag queens speak about their experiences and their demands. We knelt together in solidarity and protest. Thousands of people crowding the streets, kneeling in solidarity.

Every day before and after that protest, I am pulling out weeds of White supremacy in my life and calling it out when I see it. I never got a say in what I was taught about Black people growing up; I saw things in the media, was given subtle messages from adults, and consumed ideas about Black people that I can’t change. But I can change what I do from here. I don’t have to keep believing what some racist family has said. I’m trying to listen to Black people more. Sometimes, I admit, it is hard. I like the sound of my own voice too much sometimes.

But in my garden, I feel more quiet. Its like the beauty of it just shuts me up. I feel more ready to listen and be empathetic. Like flowers who turn their heads towards the sun, I feel more grounded to turn my ear towards others. I have continued in my goal of reading more POC authors, and wow what a year to do it. Sometimes, I sit outside as I read Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. I sit and I listen.

Gardening has deepened my appreciation for nature so much more. My backyard is beautiful and teeming with life. My favorite part of every day has been going outside and checking on my plants. They grow so much faster than I was expecting. It seems light just yesterday they were seeds and now they’re all tall. Well, not all. It is my first garden, so many haven’t made it or are barely sprouting. I get sad and still hope they pull through. Each plant is beautiful in its own way; so special to me.

I think once the harvest comes, I will have a whole new swell of emotions as I get to eat the vegetables that we’ve been growing all this time and season my dinner with herbs from my garden.

I have loved being able to get to know my neighbor and being able to strengthen my relationship with my siblings. We all get to learn this together. It’s been an amazing adventure.

lent: reflection

For the last forty four days I have remained off of all major social medias. Namely; twitter, instagram, and facebook. I allowed myself Pinterest, because of the wholesome content, and Snapchat; mostly to talk to elizabeth and julia. (Admittedly, I joined tiktok during lent which wasn’t part of the plan but, as they say, “it is what it is.”) Before this, I had never committed to doing a single thing that for many consecutive days. I was determined but terrified. I wrote once during lent and published it here, but I didn’t let anyone know. I put it out there without hyping it up on all my pages. It was freeing to just write something and release it, not caring where it ended up or who saw it.

Over the season of lent I tried to fill the time I would have been using on social media and put it towards acts of self-care like reading more books, journaling, making more art, writing more, watching films that you want to watch and taking up mindfulness. I bought myself a small stash of books once the libraries closed due to the pandemic that abruptly interrupted how I was experiencing lent. But for once, I was grateful to have been away during this time. Normally when things this scary happen, my body has the self-destructive instinct to read the moments about them on twitter and binge on tragedy porn. This time I couldn’t do it. My mental health has been so much better as a result of it.

I was more free to look inward and focus on myself while I was away from social media. For once, I felt truly free to form opinions as news came out that weren’t highly influenced by what others have said. I got to experience grief without feeling to urge to hold the pain of everyone I see on social media. I’m an enneagram four; so I am very sensitive and empathetic, and I tend to feel people’s pain when I read about it. But without social media, I got to focus on my own reactions. Now that lent is over, I feel full enough to help. I am full and now I can hold space for others without breaking. It felt good to establish healthy boundaries in my life and practice them.

Lent wasn’t all easy. Obviously COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way the world functions, and for a long time, my fear was winning. It was hard to get out of bed. It was hard to smile. Some days felt like they would never end. I felt exhausted. One time I even fell asleep in the middle of a therapy zoom call. Trying to learn how to do online school in a house filled with 9 other people (many of them small children) has been an adventure in of itself. Some days my anxiety got the best of me. It was terribly lonely at times; to be quarantined in my house and not able to go on social media felt like a nightmare. I had no distractions. I had so much time and I almost panicked; I’m not used to being able to rest. Learning was a good thing, but it was hard.

During those times where my anxiety is bad, I am thankful for the little things; movie nights and marathons with Miguel. Lord of the Rings trivia with my mom and the minis. Watching Community with Gordon. Sharing tiktoks with mom and Dayle. Playing Smash with Noah. Art with Lois and Anakin. I love the life I have been privileged to get to live right now. I can afford to be home and safe with the people I love and there is not a day that has gone by where I haven’t thought about that. I got to learn to be present in the moment and enjoy them as they were happening. That’s not to say I didn’t take pictures (come on. of course I did.) but I didn’t need other people to validate the beauty of those moments. They are my memories and no one else’s. It’s taught me the peace of knowing that I have a right to my privacy. It is special.

Writing and reading have been particularly special. Through these things I have able to learn more about myself. I’ve been able to ask myself; who are the person you want to be? I didn’t worry about who others wanted me to be, but who I could choose to become. It was empowering. It has not been perfect, but this time of reflection has taught me to be softer with myself. I am trying my best; that is enough. I loved making the art that I wanted to without being influenced by what is popular or what is “in.” I became more attuned to my own voice and the Holy Spirit’s gentle whisper.

Lent has given me the rest I needed for the longer journey ahead. There is more of me yet to discover. More truths to see. More writing to be done. More puzzle pieces of God to find in the world. More things to see. This is not the end. But I feel ready now. Shaky and terrified; but ready. I know I will fuck up, fall down, spiral, fight, but I also know I’ll keep going. I keep going because Jesus said, “it is finished.” I have freedom to live in the now. To live life as full as I am able. There is so much life out there to see; you won’t be able to pay attention if you’re too weary. You don’t want to miss it.

Lent

A couple weeks ago I made a commitment to give up social media for 44 days beginning on February 26th and ending on April 9th. For those of you with a religious background, you know that those dates line up with the liturgical calendar as the season of lent. This season is a time where many believers choose to fast or give up something to make room in their lives for Jesus and look forward to Easter Sunday. I didn’t grow up in a kind of church that celebrates lent, but many people I admire have found that following the liturgical calendar has brought some sanctity to their wounded relationship with the church and God. I wasn’t sold on it, but I was excited to see how this season without social media would change me.

As many of you know, two weeks into lent was when coronavirus broke into the United States and began ruining lives in my country as well as in hundreds of other places outside of my home. It was detrimental. It continues to be one anxiety attack after another as this disease runs its course. I was out of town when there began to be talk of school cancellations and travel bans and social distancing. It was one of the most anxiety inducing vacations I’ve ever had. Meanwhile, I had no real idea what was happening because I was only hearing second hand accounts. I had no idea what people thought of this virus or how bad it was expected to be. I had to Google news sources and look through articles to figure it out. As someone who is used to getting her news from Twitter, it was a real change.

Thankfully, I didn’t get stuck out of the state and was able to return to my family without drama. But I’m still recovering from going on emergency leave so suddenly, my siblings being out of school, all my classes getting transferred to online, and my mom’s store getting shut down for the time being. It’s weird to think that its not just me having these complications. I’ve had to attend virtual seminars on how to cope with all this change, everyone seems to have nothing better to talk about, and this virus is the only thing happening in meme culture too. I’ve wanted a break.

There was a tweet that someone sent me that I found hilarious that said, “I wasn’t planning on giving this much up for lent.”

I went from working two and a half jobs plus doing a full time Master’s program to doing school and my internship online. The quick transition feels like it gave me emotional whiplash. One moment I was sprinting and before I knew it, something had knocked me out. God said, “full stop.”

I jokingly told my siblings that coronavirus is God’s way of punishing the world for not honoring the Sabbath, but sometimes I find myself laughing at how true that sounds. We live in a world that is go go go all the time and now that things have stopped, we don’t know what to do with ourselves. Working from home has become a series of beating myself up every time I take a break as if every waking moment of my life has to be about productivity. I feel guilty for watching Netflix because there is always more laundry to be folded and dishes to be done. Even with nothing going on, I feel like I need there to be something going on.

The first few days stuck inside drove me mad. I had such bad anxiety. I realized it was because for the first time in a long time, I am without distractions. There is no social media to numb me, no work to throw myself into, and no friends problems to deal with. There is just me and my pain. It’s uncomfortable, isn’t it?

Suddenly the world goes quiet. What do you see?

The fierce injustice regarding paid sick time? The horror that the chronically ill face when they try to receive care? The way that diseases mainly harm the vulnerable populations like the sick and the elderly? Or how illnesses devastate communities in poverty and are only a mild inconvenience for those in good health and the wealthy? Do you see that we are stuck in a system that will crush those with its heel to remain at the top? Do you see the way the environment has come back to life when humans back off? Do you see the good we can accomplish when we unite?

Don’t close your eyes to the scary things you don’t want to see. Don’t shut your eyes to your anxiety. Feel it. Let it sit with you. Wrestle with it. Avoid the temptation to numb out with social media and movies and distractions. Now is the time; we’re out of work, the world is giving us the time, and we have a choice to make to listen or ignore it. There is a world of suffering out there, aching for your attention.

I’m not saying to avoid self-care. No; self-care is absolutely essential. As my professor often tells me, “Self-care isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity.” Don’t let the chaos overwhelm you, but don’t you dare pretend it isn’t there. Those of us in vulnerable populations are begging for our lives for you to take care of yourself; wash your hands, avoid physical contact, don’t go out unless you absolutely have to, and clean your surfaces.

On one hand, I’m glad we are waking up and rising to meet the occasion that this virus has brought us too; but I am absolutely devastated that it took this long to get your attention. If only we had paid sick leave before this virus spread to countries all over the world, maybe the woman from the Wuhan market could have afforded to stay home. If only people took their health seriously before this virus; maybe then the sick and the elderly would be healthy enough to fight this off rather than dealing with coronavirus on top of the plethora of other health concerns. If only we had cared when it was just the vulnerable getting sick. If only, if only, if only.

Hindsight is always 20/20.

I don’t know what is going to happen these next couple days or weeks or months. This is not what we had planned. But somehow I have managed to have a sense of peace in me. I am watching a nightmare unfold right in front of me; one that easily would have driven me to suicide had this happened when I was in high school. Yet there is peace. Despite my inability to see through this situation, despite the unhealthy ways I’ve coped since this all began, and even despite nearly going stir crazy locked up in my house with my family…there is peace.

I smile to think of all the people in the world who are stuck at home and have no choice but to sit and enjoy the little things. My family plays a lot of board games. My mom and I drink beers together. I have found a love for VR and videogames with my brothers. My siblings and I stay up too late and watch movies and eat popcorn. My family has been loving the Lord of The Rings right now. I live for FaceTime calls with my baby niece. My mom cooks breakfast every morning. I have time to write and make art and draw. I am basking in this extended Sabbath. Church happens on YouTube Live. Communion is coffee and donuts. We pray over Zoom meetings. And it is not ideal. This life is breaking my heart every day. Every day I wish for a safe place for my siblings to run around in without getting sick. I wish I didn’t have a compromised immune system that would make life less scary right now.

But there is a joy in giving up. I think I’m finally starting to let go of the reigns. I’ve come to accept that I am not God. There are things I can control; how often I wash my hands, how often I go out, taking my medications, reminding my siblings to wash their hands, and how I live my life. And then there are the things I can’t control; tomorrow, today, the future, disease, the government, the opinions, the news, the world.

I look at all the shit in the world and know it is not my job to save it. All I can do is be present in the time that I’m in and use that time wisely. That’s all any of us can do. We’re trying our best. That is enough.

Black Truth (by Daejah)

It’s Black History Month. Well, Black History Month is almost over. But I wanted to continue to highlight the black voices even after the month is over. So I’ve asked some badass, powerful, black women to write for my site. So for the next few weeks, you will be hearing from a variety of women on a variety of topics. Anyway, enough of me. You need to hear from Daejah.

Black.

The color of my skin.

The color of my soul.

What I practice and preach.

The color of the berets worn for me to be free.

The motherland.

Where all sing together

and cry for their

brethren together.

The number of people

who fought to be free

for decades.

The culture I adore.

All things that make me

Who I am.

Daejah was born and raised in Chicago. Being of 2 cultures, she has been able to branch out and embrace both. A music theatre and vocal performance major, she always connected to her culture through song and theatre. So is so grateful to Faith for sharing her piece. She hopes to share her culture with others and spread awareness.

You can follow Daejah (and hear her wonderful singing voice!) on Instagram @dejavu502

In Which I Finally Shut Up And Learn To Listen (Goals for 2020)

Since undergrad, I’ve prided myself on being a rather inclusive person. You know? I’ve liked to think that I was a good ally. I listen when others that are unlike me talk, I engage with the discourse, I’m an activist for causes that do not benefit me, and I erase words from my vocabulary when someone from a minority group says its offensive; no questions asked. But I can pinpoint the exact moment that it hit me just how privileged I was. It hit me all at once. I was like a giant flashback to every time I had ever heard a black person say that white people have no idea what its like. Every time I ever heard a queer person talk about their coming out. Every time I had ever sat with an immigrant. All of those memories came flooding back to me.

I wish I could say that moment was long ago, maybe at the beginning of my undergraduate career. I wish I could say I figured it out early, before #BlackLivesMatter or before Trump or before the wall or detention centers or the legalization of gay marriage. But no.

I figured it out this summer. After I had considered myself “progressive” for years. I had already thought I was well read and educated. I thought I was empathetic to POC and minority groups. I thought I understood privilege and intersectionality. I’m apart of some oppressed groups and some privileged groups; I thought I knew what it meant. But apparently not.

This summer, I was going on one of my library trips, as I do. I always have a book in my hand, especially this year. I’ve been devouring books like crazy. I can’t seem to get enough of them. But on this particularly day, I was just dropping one off. I hadn’t finished it and didn’t feel like I was going to, which is an anomaly for me. But I wasn’t into it. It didn’t get to me. I already had my next book, so I just dropped this one off. That was it. The moment.

I dropped the book into the slot outside of the library and I could feel time slow down. I felt the spine of the book slip through my fingers, the smooth plastic that was placed over it. I felt the cold of the air around me and the cold of the metal door I held open. Then the sounds; the cars around me, the trains, and the thud of the book hitting the bottom of the box. That was it.

I was privileged.

As I walked away, it finally fucking hit me. I’ve missed the whole point of being an ally. It just hit me like a pile of bricks. I have always tried to to advocate for equality and social justice but I missed a crucial aspect of it: listening.

The book I was returning was Bipolar Faith by Dr. Monica Coleman. I had picked it up because it was a book that talked about the intersection of mental illness and faith, an issue I’m very passionate about and have experience with. I was looking for a book that would resonate with me and maybe give me some insight to my own past with the issue. However, that wasn’t what I got. What I got was even better, I just couldn’t appreciate it at the time. See, what I didn’t account for was the fact that Dr. Monica Coleman is black. It wasn’t a book about faith and mental illness, but rather, about how faith and mental illness were shaped by her culture and upbringing. It was a book about having faith and mental illness while being black. When I read about Dr. Coleman and her experiences, I was looking for someone like me. But she wasn’t like me. One of the worst realizations I have had was in tossing her book back into the return bin, unfinished, because she wasn’t like me.

All the things I had thought about her book came to mind as I walked away. Boring. Not inspiring. Not useful. Not interesting. Not relevant. Just not into it. I don’t get the hype. I just don’t care. All of these words made sense now. I didn’t think the book was relevant because it wasn’t speaking to me. I didn’t think it was useful because I had never had a use for it. I didn’t think it was interesting because I am not a black woman sitting at the intersection of faith and mental illness. And I think if I hadn’t been so ignorant, I might have learned something.

I remember thinking how stupid it was of me to toss out a book and deem it “unfinishable” because it wasn’t speaking to my experiences. Must everything be about me? I have grown so accustomed to having everything be about the white experience that when it isn’t, I don’t have the brain space to listen. I tune it out. Isn’t that what we do?

The painful truth is that I’ve always done that. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve rolled my eyes when people talk about diversity in the media and gotten uncomfortable when people discuss race. I’ve hated that everything has to be about inclusion but hell, I’ve always been included. I finally fucking get it. We need to start listening to the voices we have tuned out all this time. We need to listen to people who share different experiences than us. Not everyone sees from the same perspective. Not everyone has the place in society. Not everyone has the same privilege.

I’ve always believed I was well-read and educated on issues regarding minorities. But after this incident, I went back to look at my reading list and realized that I have almost exclusively read books by white people. And I have read hundreds of books. The amount of white authors I read is more than what could be randomly assigned by chance. Like, if you put an equal amount of books in a random generator and randomly assigned 20 books, there would be more books by POC than I have on my Good Reads list. If you don’t see the problem with that, you might want to think about why.

The number of POC that white people learn from is horrifyingly low. The danger of this is that you come to learn about the world in a specific way and you think its fact; that this is the way everyone sees the world, because all of your media plays into that confirmation bias. Because white people produce the TV shows, the books, the podcasts, the art, and the films you engage with. Because the second a black or Latinx or Native person does it, we call it a “black film” or a “Latina book.” Because even if there are POC in it, more likely than not, they didn’t get to be in the room where the character was made. Take the Netflix show, Atypical, for example. They did an amazing thing by making a show about a teenager on the spectrum, but they failed by not letting a teenager on the spectrum write for the damn show.

The point made was made for me when I discussed my realization with a pastor who shared a beautiful, and painfully real-life scenario, of what happens when we let one kind of individual make the decisions. He said that the church bathrooms had recently been redone. They were beautiful and well done and they got many compliments. But the women had an issue; there weren’t any places to dispose of tampons or pads in the stalls. It was only when that issue was raised that the church staff realized they hadn’t had any women on the construction or planning team for the bathrooms, and never even consulted a woman to discuss the bathrooms that the women would be the ones using.

Just because you have some kind of knowledge about a group other than your own does not mean its comparable to lived experience. And make sure your knowledge isn’t coming from a white person, cis-gendered, straight man. We aren’t all looking at life the same way, so if you’re only hearing one side of the story, your view will always be a little lopsided. There is a whole other world of individuals who aren’t seeing life the same way, and they have beautiful things to say. It’s time we listened to them.

Now, I’m not one to make New Year’s Resolutions, but I needed to do this one. I needed to be held accountable to this one. For 2020, its my goal that for every book by a white author that I read, I also read one by a POC or queer person and maybe even, by the end of the year, have my reading list filled more with minority groups than straight, cis, white people. And hell, I should start with Dr. Monica Coleman and Bipolar Faith. And maybe you should too.

I 10/10 recommend doing this with me. I’ll try to blog my way through the year. It’s my goal to highlight the amazing queer and POC that are making amazing content. But to start you off, here is a list of books and such that I’ve read by POC/queer/Native people this year that I recommend.

Books I’ve Read
Bad Feminist and Hunger – Roxane Gay (stereotypical answer, I know. But Roxane Gay is a legend.)
This Is Just My Face, Try Not To Stare – Gabourey Sidibe (A memoir of the actress from Empire, Gabourey talks about her poor upbringing in New York, her stumbling into stardom, and being a fat actress in the world today.)
Things That Make White People Uncomfortable – Michael Bennet (This half autobiography book highlights the issue of racism in the NFL. It was amazing.)
The Pretty One – Keah Brown (This was a great book on pop culture, blackness, and disability. There aren’t many good books out there on disability and even less on the intersection of disability and blackness.)
This Will Be My Undoing – Morgan Jerkins (Another great book on intersectionality; this one talked about feminism and blackness. I really enjoyed being able to read about a subject I’m very passionate about but from a different perspective. It really helped me to look at feminism in a new light and honestly take in the criticism from black women.)
Glory Happening – Kaitlin Curtice (I’ve been following her work on Indigenous rights for a while and its been really eye opening. Indigenous rights were not something I ever even considered before reading her work. 100% recommend her books and following her on Twitter.)

Books I Want To Read
Infidel – Ayaan Hirsi Ali (I don’t know much about this book other than its a memoir of sorts about an Islamic political figure who is, apparently, a badass. It was mentioned in the book I’m currently reading and got intrigued.)
Black Feminist Thought – Patricia Hill Collins (I’ve wanted to read this book since undergrad. Its a classic sociology book on feminism from a black perspective.)
The Cross And The Lynching Tree – James Cone (An amazing theologian that its a damn shame I’ve never read because his books on Christianity and black liberation are, so I hear, groundbreaking.)
The Color Of Compromise: The Truth About The American Church’s Complicity in Racism – Jemar Tisby (Its in the title: its about how the church has been complacent when it comes to racism. I absolutely cannot wait to read this.)
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made For Whiteness – Austin Channing Brown (Again: just read the title. Amazing.)
White Fragility: Why Its So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism – Robin DiAngelo (This one has been blowing up since it came out and its been on my list for a while. I feel like this one is going to be really convicting and I’m sure it’ll be a tough pill to swallow at points. I can’t wait.)
So You Want To Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo (Another popular one, but it seems relevant and intriguing. I know I need to do better about listening to non-white people when they critique me, my work, my politics, etc. I’m hoping it’ll expand my horizons.)
All You Can Ever Know – Nicole Chung (A memoir about a Korean woman who was raised by a White family and her reckoning with her culture and upbringing. I love memoirs and this one touches on the issues of ethnicity and culture and on adoption, which is another issue I’ve been reading a lot about lately.)
Non-Binary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity – Michah Rajunov, et al. (Feeling disconnected to the gender I was assigned at birth is something that I personally can’t relate to or understand, but I’m trying to be a better advocate and ally to my trans/non-binary friends. This book is a collection of multiple essays by various people so it offers a wide array of perspectives which should make for a really informative read.)
We Have Always Been Here: A Queer, Muslim Memoir – Samra Habib (I don’t even have words other than Samra sounds like a badass and I can’t wait to hear her story.)

And many more to come! If you want to follow along my book journey, follow me on GoodReads or Instagram where I share more play-by-play updates on the books I’m reading. This year I want to do my best to intentionally read more books by people different than myself and to use my platforms to signal boost POC/queer/Native/marginalized voices so they can be heard. The world doesn’t need another White blogger. But these stories need to be told. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to send them my way! I read a million books and am always searching for more.

i’ve been waiting (reflections on Advent)

I’ve never really understood Advent. They say its about waiting and longing. Waiting for Jesus now just like they did in the days before he was born. It’s about waiting for the second coming. My oldest brother loves Advent, but I’ve never quite got it. I have a dark history with eschatology, the second coming, and end times theology. I have a hard time with all of the end of the world talk because I was always told that I needed to look forward to Jesus’ return but I was always too afraid of what came with it. Now my theology has changed and gotten rather jumbled; I’m not so sure about anything anymore. I think I know what I don’t believe, but I’m not so sure of what I do believe is true. It all makes Advent a difficult season for me because I just don’t understand.

But every November, I seem to get my heart broken. It happens almost every year. Something happens in November or December that hurts me. Every year around this time I find myself grieving. Today, on the first day of Advent, I’m realizing how ironic that is. Every year around Advent, I find myself waiting. I’m waiting for the pain to go away. Waiting for the world to get better. Waiting for this season to pass. Waiting to be okay. Waiting for my situation to ease. Waiting for good things. Waiting for the news to stop being so dreary. I’ve just been waiting.

I guess it just never hit me that I was in the right season for that. Advent is all about waiting. I guess I always just assumed it was about joyfully waiting the way kids wait for Christmas; with glee and excitement. I never thought about the waiting we do as adults, like waiting at the DMV. The kind of waiting that is painful and exhausting and not at all joyful. I never considered the validity of both kinds of waiting. I never thought Advent could be about the painful wait. Leaning into the discomfort. Sitting in it. Longing. Feeling the hurt and the pain. Desiring. Feeling. Not rushing the time, but still looking forward.

I’ve never been good at waiting, but who is? I’m impatient. I want what I want and I want it immediately. If my bus is longer than ten minutes, I walk. If the line for Portillo’s is too long, I just don’t eat. I don’t like waiting because I feel helpless. I feel the need to be constantly doing something productive. A part of that is my personality and another part of it is the culture I grew up in. We feel the need to constantly be doing and going and being productive. We rarely give ourselves rest. We feel like if there is something we can be doing for ourselves, we should do it. We rarely let time have its natural way. But time is everything. I find myself learning that more and more. It’s difficult. I hate it.

I’m in a season of waiting right now. I’m waiting for something I’m not sure will ever come. I’m hurt. I’m confused. I’m waiting for my pain to go away or to let up. I’m trying not to rush through my pain because I know I need to experience it and process it, but I am so sick of crying. My family is so sick of me crying. Waiting as a concept sounds so nice and peaceful; like we light a candle and sit in the quiet serenity and be mindful. But really, for me it has meant I need to take frequent breaks at work because I burst into tears at random. It means watching Netflix to ease myself to sleep or else I will be kept awake by my thoughts. It’s not glorious or peaceful. It’s constantly reminding myself to breathe and process my grief while I wait. It’s painful. Advent isn’t about rushing to Christmas and rushing to the good parts; it’s about the slow anticipation and the gruesome and tiring act of waiting for things to get better. It’s about acknowledging that things are fucked up but maybe they won’t always be.

Advent has been especially difficult since my faith deconstruction. How can I anticipate something that I’m unsure of? How do I long for something I fear? How do I remain hopeful for something that I don’t understand? And maybe that’s why Advent is hitting me differently this time around. I’m finding it’s about sitting in the unknown and waiting and being okay with not having all the answers and not letting our need for omniscience rob us of our hope. It’s about having hope even when we have no idea what it will look like. It reminds me that the Christmas story is so special to me because of how anti-climactic the whole thing must have been to live through. There were people expecting this great king to come and rescue them and then this baby is born that takes them all by surprise. It must have felt like a letdown. I’m sure that wasn’t what they thought they were hoping for. I’m sure they hoped for something they thought was better. But still, they had hope. They had hope even when they weren’t sure what form their hope would come in. I think it’s okay for me to have hope even though I don’t know how it will come. Even though we don’t understand, we can hold hands with both pain and hope at the same time. Just wait. Hold on. It gets better. It gets better. It gets better.

Sit with those around you that are in pain. Hope is born in community. Grieve with those who grieve. Don’t get swept away into celebration and brush aside your pain. Let it be. Sit with it. Invite others into it. Walk into the void with someone and dare to be hopeful together. Rest. Anticipate. Let waiting mean whatever it means for you. Maybe it means finally releasing your tears or maybe it means meditating or being still for a moment. Maybe it means letting yourself take a nap and physically process. But waiting isn’t always this silent practice. It certainly isn’t always romantic, at least it rarely is for me. But Advent, I suppose, is about acknowledging the world of hurt around us and in us and waiting for hope and acting as people of hope. Active waiting. Being hope for others. Showing up for the sad, messy parts of life. Letting others know that while we still have yet to see the world become a better place, we can wait with one another so the journey is less painful.

There are days I feel like the waiting will kill me. I’m waiting for someone I love to be okay, waiting for a friend to reach out, waiting on the world to be less scary, waiting for a better job, waiting to be in a better financial place, waiting to get into a doctorate program, waiting to start off my career. Sometimes its too much. My heart never seems to get a break. I’m sensitive and the weight of the journey is excruciating for my fragile bones. So I call friends and ask them to talk me down from despair. I stay awake with my brothers who let me sob into their shoulders and tell them how much it hurts. Some days I haven’t been able to leave my bed so I just binge watch The Good Place and cry about how cruel the world is. But I keep trying to tell myself to feel all that hurt and keep going anyway. This is what Advent is all about. Have hope. Keep waiting. It gets better. It gets better. It gets better.