Saturday, December 24, 2016

What Does Christmas Mean? (For People Like Me)

The time of joy and carols and of peace. The time where those who are recipients of God's grace rejoice in hallelujah's and songs of praise. 
Christmas is a time of laughter and happiness.
But what does Christmas mean for people like me?
What does it mean for me in the midst of my depression 
and my doubt?
What is it for my heavy heart
that breaks more and more every day?
What is it's significance during my bouts of insomnia
where my tears don't stop falling
and my fears don't stop growing?
What is Christmas about for those who have lost loved ones?
For those who are struggling to keep their head
above the rising waters?
For those who are sick?
For those who are being oppressed and persecuted?
 What is the point of the birth of a baby to those who 's only desire
is death?
Where does Christmas fit in our hearts?
Is it next to the idols?
To the addictions?
To the alcohol?
Would Christmas fit in the space that once held the piece of my heart that I gave away?
We celebrate God incarnate but where is God now?
What the hell does Christmas mean for people like me
whose pain is so significant 
they can barely breathe?
Whose prayers aren't answered
whose trials keep continuing? 
During Christmas we say rejoice! We say hallelujah! 
But what about those whose hurt runs so deep
they can't offer a single utterance
of praise  to the King?
If Christmas is for the joyous, than where do the exhausted fit in the equation?
What does Christmas mean in the midst of suffering?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

5 Things I Learned About Life From Dying My Hair

    I dye my hair therapeutically. I like to dye it when I change seasons in my life or when I need a change. I dye it for a million reasons. I've been doing it since I got purple streaks when I was 11. Ever since that time I just fell in love. I was going to do a post on the evolution of my hair, just as a cool off from all the really heavy posts I've been doing lately, but that wasn't working. I can't find enough pictures of all the hair colors I've had. But today I got my hair dyed again and for the first time I'm feeling uneasy about it. I actually miss my blonde hair. I'm worried that I'll never be blonde again. That my hair won't be able to bounce back the same. But alas, it always does, one way or another. So without further ado, I wanted to tell you some things I've learned about life from dying my hair.

   1. Change is good
   I hate change. Which is weird for someone who is constantly changing how they look. I actually panic right before I dye my hair. Every. Single. Time. I get scared and worried and overthink. But I always love it when it's finished. It's always refreshing and I feel so much better. Change doesn't have to be something we fight against. I'm learning to accept it.

   2. Don't be afraid to be bold
   Cheesy, but true.
   I've done a lot of crazy colors. Teal, pink/purple, red. And it makes me stand out. Sometimes I look weird among "normal" people. But I actually like that now. I'm not scared to be the odd one out. In life I think we should make bold decisions and be comfortable doing the uncomfortable.

   3. You can grow
   I've had haircuts I despised. I have gotten uncomfortable because my hair is too short and I think I look weird. But hair grows back. As a person, I've had setbacks. I've experienced things that knocked me down and hurt me. In so many ways, I've felt like I've regressed backwards. I find myself back in old habits and old ways of thinking, and it's easy to start feeling like I'm never going to grow. But I will. Slowly, but I will and I can. Hair grows back the way people grow back from pain.

   4. Nothing is permanent
   I use semi permanent dye for my hair. And every time I wash it, some of it goes away. That's a silly little reminder that nothing stays the same. Things change. Your circumstances fade out and things get better. Sometimes its painfully slow and other times it goes way faster than you want. But there are seasons for everything. If you're having a hard time and find yourself stuck, just know that it won't always be like this.

   5. You can always start again
   I shaved my head once, and it gave my hair a brand new start. It grew back healthier and stronger and the same color it used to be. In a way, I was giving myself a fresh start too. I can do that. I can start again. I can forget who I used to be. I can get rid of things that are holding me back. It's never too late to begin again. If you don't like who you are; change. I think that's the best advice I can give.

(Wow this post was cheesy but y'all needed a break. I hope everyone is having a great week.)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Something Great

   "Yet this I call to mind and therefore have hope; because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed. For his compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness."-Lamentations 3:21-24

   A couple blog posts ago I mentioned that God was teaching me to be soft. I wrote about it in 2014 in my novel. I felt that phrase come up time and time again. I feel it in me. I wanted to focus solely on that. Today I opened my journal to find notes for a bible study I'm leading next week, and I ended up looking at entries from back in August. The passage from Lamentations I included above was written in red pen. It caught my attention because just last night, I journaled about the exact same verse. I had no idea that it was a continuous theme.

   For context, back in August, I was euphoric. I was high on life. I was working at Wrigley Field. I had just recently started talking to my best guy friend. I was doing well in school. I was living the dream. And this is what I wrote:

   "I am so thankful. When I really stop and think about my life and how much crap God has dragged me through, I really have to stand in awe. Because there were so many trials I didn't think I would make it through and too many times I just wanted it to be over. But I wanted to write this so that when the darkness and fear inevitably come back, I will feel strengthened. (I probably won't listen but it's worth a shot.)
I'm so thankful for all the trials that made me strong and the boy that broke my heart and the fear that almost consumed me. I pray that these things don't make me isolated. I pray that they would make me soft. I pray that they would make me compassionate. That they would keep molding me."

   It's funny that I had no idea what I was asking for when I prayed that for myself.

   I didn't know that in order to be soft, I would have to be hurt.
   I didn't know that in order to be filled with compassion, I had to become empty.
   I didn't know that in order to be molded, I would first need to fall apart.

   I had no idea what I was asking God to do to me. But I am starting to understand that now. Shusaku Endo says it well in the conclusion of his novel, Silence. "Everything that had taken place until now had been necessary to bring him to this love."

   I think all the pain in my life was necessary. All this pain that I'm currently feeling is necessary. Yeah, it doesn't make it hurt any less, but I think it has a purpose. We like to think we want these things, but we just want God to wake us up one morning with a new heart and a new outlook. We oftentimes forget that these lessons have to be learned the hard way. That passage in Lamentations that I mentioned earlier? Yeah, it goes on to say "Let him sit alone in silence for the Lord has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust." That's where I've been lately. Face to ground; biting the dirt. God is faithful, but it is hardly ever in the way we want Him to be.

   I was told recently that my little brother asked his Awana group to pray for me. His exact words were, "Pray that God would do something great in Faith's life." It was so beautiful I want to cry every time I think of that. But even then, I think about the implications of that. I think God is answering that prayer, but I don't think it was in the way I thought it would be answered. When I heard that prayer about a month ago, I thought the answer would be healing. I thought it would be that God would make me okay again. I thought that I would be soft and that once I understood how to love again, God would save the day and make all things right. I foolishly thought the "something great" would happen in the changing of my circumstances.

  But God chose to answer that prayer in a different way.

   He chose to let something great stem from the ashes of my broken heart. He didn't want to change my circumstances because He wanted to change me. He wanted me to give up the false idea of control that I had. He wanted me to let go of my independence and my self righteousness and my hero complex. He wanted me to be at a place where I was ready to listen. "Maybe the state of having nothing and feeling so used up, maybe that's sort of the state God wants me in." He is faithful to me in the good times and bad. Whether or not He decides to change my situation, He is still good and His compassions will still never fail.

   I have come to the painful conclusion that God must be about to do something great in my life. Because my suffering is too significant to just be suffering. And the place where my heart is at has made me so weak that the only strength I'm running on is not from myself. It can't be. That sounds really over dramatic considering my situation really isn't that bad, but nonetheless; these are the things I think about.

   I am at such a crazy time. I feel like every second I am changing and growing and learning. All I want to do is talk about it and create art about it and think and journal. I want to show people this mess of a life that I have and the beauty that God can make of it.

   The last quote I'll drop is from a song called "There May Be Tears." The chorus says "Children, don't worry, take my hand. I'm taking you down this road you don't understand yet. There may be tears while you're waiting for these answers. You can see the picture but I can see the future."

   I don't understand yet. And God never promises that there won't be tears down the road He leads you. I've had many of tears. Actually, I've cried every day this week and last week. Every day. That's so many tears. But that's okay. Because my heavy heart is making me soft. Because all this pain is going to turn into something great. I don't know what it is yet, but I feel it coming. I feel it in my bones. I don't think I'm going to be the same person ever again.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Rate Your Pain

   "Rate your pain on a scale from 1-10."

   I have been asked this question a million times this week. As some of you know, I have been in the hospital since Monday. I was supposed to be here for radioactive iodine treatment, but I ended up with shingles instead. Even before this week though, I asked myself that question every morning. The question was prompted by a still from Breaking Bad that got stuck in my head, along with a line from a twenty one pilots song, "Before You Start Your Day."

   Doctors and nurses always ask me to rate my pain. I have done this so many times. When I have a headache, I rate it. I rate all my physical pain. But I had never considered my emotional pain. At least, not until this last week. 

   I'm not sure how much of this will make sense. But my sister has a motto she shared with me, that she learned from a teacher in school. "If it's mentionable, it's manageable." It's the philosophy that says if you can find the strength in you to mention the pain, you are strong enough to deal with it. It means all you need is that initial strength to speak, then you can be free. You can get through it.

   "Look in the mirror and ask your soul if you're alright." That's the line from the twenty one pilots song. Some odd combination of all these things made me think about the way I view pain and how I label it. Recently I have been in pain and every morning I decided I would ask myself if I was okay. I have started every morning and ask myself to rate my pain. 1-10. Some days I would wake up and be a 2. Maybe a 5. Some terrible mornings it was a 10. But it varied. I could have a 10 every day for a few days but then it would go back down to a 1. It wouldn't stay the same. I sort of came up with my own philosophy that allows me to acknowledge how much pain I'm in on any given day. To put a number to it. I'm honest with myself about where I am. I can say "Yes, this is a 10." And that simple thing, it carries me. It lets me feel everything and to be upset. I'm not scared to cry or to admit that today is a bad day. I think that helps me appreciate the good days even more. It also helps me to see that pain is temporary. That things will change and how I'm feeling one minute might not be how I'm feeling the next. But I think it's important to allow yourself to feel pain and acknowledge it. That's what I've been doing.

   So I'm writing this from my hospital bed where my physical pain is a 1 and my emotion pain is a only a 3.

   But I don't want to write about my being sick. I wanted to write about art and how this has been what makes my pain level decrease significantly. I've been creating art like my life depends on it, because in so many ways, it does. My survival has hinged on my ability to write incredibly over dramatic poetry. I take photos like it's the last time I'll ever get to hold a camera. Much like Alexander Hamilton, I've been writing like I'm running out of time. It was so bad that the day after I won NaNoWriMo (just barely dragging myself across the finish line at 50,022 words.) I started the fourth draft of Forlorn Hope. There is just this need in my bones to make something. I have almost drawn through an entire sketchbook that, prior to this summer, I hadn't touched since 2014. My body has been waking me up at ungodly hours of the night to write poetry. I mean, I will jolt awake at 3am and impulsively grab my phone, and jot out an entire poem while I'm half asleep. In the morning when I read them, I actually love them. I feel like if I stop creating even for just one second, my heart will collapse. Art has been the one thing that has brought me relief.

   I think, for the first time, I'm starting to consider myself an artist. Because things inspire me and there are things I want to say with these pieces. I have a perspective that is unique to me and art to me is different than art to other people. But I am so thankful for all the people that have inspired me in these ways. Really, I'm thankful for my heartache, because it's when my heart is the most broken that I create the most beautiful works. But someone said something to me that has stuck with me. "I hope happiness makes you write. Not just your suffering."

   (Enjoy some of the art I have made in my pain. And soon I'll post the art I make in my joy.)

   (Also I blame to incoherence of this post on the pain killers.)

   "The Pain In The Heart."
The pain in my heart 
Feels like the pain in my head 
And the pain in my knees 
And the twisted feeling inside my stomach 
And the trembling of my hands
And the weakness in my legs
The pain in my soul
Burns like the hot tears 
Streaming down my feverish skin
And the bile coming up my throat 
And the acid reflux in my lungs 
The pain killers only touch The symptoms
But they can't touch the core
The pain killers do nothing 
But this pain is killing me 
Some days it's a 5 but others it's a 10 
Some days it's moderate 
But somedays it is the worst possible pain
My body lashes out against the tightness in my chest 
The pain in my heart 
Becomes the pain in my head 
And this sickness is controlling 
It's taking my life
But the physical problems are easier to manage
Because Tramadol takes the edge off of the throbbing
And ice eases the aches in my muscles 
But my heart is alone 
To deal with its pain 
The pain in my heart
And the pain in my head