my metaphorical pen is extremely rusty.

i haven't written in so long i forgot how to craft words--not that i ever did it well, but the art form of it is altogether lost to me.

I have tried so many times. it's been so hard to write about the trip. maybe it's just laziness. or maybe it's putting the pieces together more, seeing more of not the future big picture--but the past. seeing how God has knit Ukraine into the bones of the woman He's re-creating. (just got a hella ahead of myself). which is so. incredibly hard. to put into words (bc I am so afraid of seeing & thinking things that aren't actually there. of false hope).
there's a wall, or a something. I can't get past it, I can't seem to engage & process. maybe it's partly the sudden loss of a family member. but honestly, I am so good at compartmentalizing that I don't think so. I can grieve him and still think about other areas of my life.

it's a fuzziness...an ache. it hurts. processing Ukraine hurts in new ways. because I'm older? because I better understand that sometimes you don't get to go back? maybe because I have a deeper understanding of trauma, of what these kids will face as they grow & work through their pasts?
because I am ashamed that I *felt* almost nothing? I chose to love the kids--I fiercely love the team! but I didn't have the full range of emotive feelings related to love. I recognized walls within myself are still standing. so much fear! I hate it, I have regrets. I want to go back, make different choices. but I can't. yet even there, I faced a much more bitter regret after my first trip (due to uzgarod) and yet found the words.

Jesus take this weight? help me work through this. give me honesty. give me clarity to see where my true failings & true sins are; what are the real hindrances to ministry. don't let me chase after every little shred of regret. fight for me, slay the demons of false mistakes, of things done well, of moments You acted through me that I question & see as failures. give me words to share the stories of these previous kids--it's about them. I have an opportunity to be their voice, don't let me miss or waste it!


i don't know

sometimes, it feels like cheating to take another's honesty and let it speak for your own. but sometimes it's just so on point there's no need for your own words.


there's this idea that there can be beauty found everywhere, and it's one that i ascribe to...

but damn is it hard.

sometimes life is just nothing but stress & tension & sadness. sometimes it is  r e a l l y hard to find the beauty in it, the sweet to the bitter. sometimes i just can't look for it because it's all i can do to get out of bed.
i need a win. it's a season of striving so hard just to fail and picking back up and falling again and just wondering if maybe it's all a wasted effort. i'm not talking a big win here--no raises or nailed interviews or free tickets to the closest Lone Bellow concert...i just need a small win. a something, anything, that says "hey, you're doing the best that you can with what you've been given."

also honestly? i'm not doing the best that i can with what i've been given. i give up in my head 56 times a day. granted, i talk myself out of it but still. i spend way to much time formatting the outline than writing it. or studying without making flashcards because it seems ridiculous when you have a new exam every week (187 flashcards for an exam in two days, really?) i stress coma and stare at my textbook re-reading the same page for 30 minutes. i stay up all the night before a 4:50am morning because i'm stressed, but i won't make the effort to open my bible & pray it out or drag myself on a run or color to soothing music. i have coping mechanisms, i'm just too self-sabotaging to use them.

it's the emotional version of cutting, i think. and it's hard to stop once you start, because every choice you make could have been better.

i thought i was going to write about finding beauty to help myself choose to see it. but apparently i needed to get rid of my own ugliness first. there's something about writing or sending off the worst and most shameful pieces of yourself. it's like shaking the dust.

shake the dust.
stand up.
find beauty.

however many times it takes.


h o p e

struggling with a heavy heart today, knowing that the battle is usually won with song but unable to get there. 

unable = pretty much sums me up today, actually. 

opening my bible with little faith, because usually I need to worship myself out of my funks before I read. but desperate I open my heart and whisper "oh God where is your hope in this book?"

this never happens, so I'm not offering this as a healthy method of studying the word... but I flip through and haphazardly stop at Zechariah 10, bc "restoration" caught my eye. 

what. I've read this book cover to cover many times, and it's new. I can't remember the last time the Word felt fresh or new to me. here, amidst chapters of bizarre visions & judgment & wrath on Isreal's enemies; is a psalm of restoration. 

“My anger is hot against the shepherds,
and I will punish the leaders;
for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah,
and will make them like his majestic steed in battle. 
From him shall come the cornerstone,
from him the tent peg,
from him the battle bow,
from him every ruler—all of them together. 
They shall be like mighty men in battle,
trampling the foe in the mud of the streets;
they shall fight because the Lord is with them,
and they shall put to shame the riders on horses. 

“I will strengthen the house of Judah,
and I will save the house of Joseph.
I will bring them back because I have compassion on them,
and they shall be as though I had not rejected them,
for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them. 
Then Ephraim shall become like a mighty warrior,
and their hearts shall be glad as with wine.
Their children shall see it and be glad;
their hearts shall rejoice in the Lord. 

“I will whistle for them and gather them in,
for I have redeemed them,
and they shall be as many as they were before. 
Though I scattered them among the nations,
yet in far countries they shall remember me,
and with their children they shall live and return. ...
I will make them strong in the Lord,
and they shall walk in his name,”
declares the Lord."

my desperate cries are rarely answered so clearly, but thank You for this. thank You Lord for knowing I am at the end of myself, for being gracious, for provin Yourself kind & gentle with the broken.


why i hate mirrors

I wrote this shortly after my 27 birthday; and while I'm in a different place I wanted to post it here so I don't lose it. 

I'm sitting here reading a memoir from a Jewish boy who escaped the Soviet Union with his family in the late 1980s. I thought it would expand my mind, & my heart; put myself in another's very different shoes for a while. Maybe gain a little more insight into the history of the Ukraine I know & love so fiercely. 

I didn't think I could possibly relate.

I didn't expect to find myself reflected.

I didn't foresee having to 
move the book so the pages don't wrinkle--not from tears of empathy for his pain, but of familiarity. 

I didn't expect to hear I wasn't alone from such a vastly different experience. 

as he explains his self-loathing, his need to run from who he is. the journey of realizing the communist hatred for his ethnicity has become his own. as he talks about trying to run from himself, not grasping safety. wanting nothing more than to stop being a "zhud"--but he can't because he sees it every time he looks in the mirror. I can't imagine what that would be like, to hate myself for my olive skin & brown eyes. at least that's what my rational brain expects me think. but instead I'm crying, heart cracked open by the ache of hating mirrors myself. the girl who fought so hard to rise above & choose to be happy & goofy & resilient doesn't look back at me anymore. the messages of my worthlessness & ugliness & fragility from my abuser--words I fought so hard against in my mind--have become so much a part of me I can't see my reflection without wondering if it's true.

just like he can't help but believe he is worthless because of his birthright. 

i can't help but believe i am worthless because i am a woman. because i wasn't "enough". because i was treated as if i didn't matter, as if i was a burden.

so instead of expanding outward, I'm expanding inward. yes, I too have a hard time with mirrors. I too want to run from my story & the ugly parts I can't change. I too have taken on the messages of my abuser, until I cannot see myself apart from them.

I too hate compliments, because I cannot see myself as worthy. they call into question the integrity of the one giving it. how can I trust your judgment now? Why would you say that--are they lying to me intentionally? are they blinded bc they love me? are they fools? 

I too have been shaped & molded by the people whose actions told me I wasn't worth fighting for, told me I deserved abuse, told me my heart & my safety didn't matter. told me God wasn't concerned with my protection, only my response to "trial". it took me a long time to realize the nagging voice inside that wanted to scream against their words was truth.

Lev Golinkin, thank you. thank you for sharing your story with all its ugly jagged edges. thank you for not masking the raw pain, for taking us through the struggle. for showing us you have overcome. showing you have become one who is able to look his past square in the face, fight its lies and move into somebody who claims their rightful heritage. it gives me hope that I may do the same. 


dear social media,

i find it funny how "socially aware" you pretend to be. how you pretend to know about all the disabilities & cultures & pain people face, how you get into the worst arguments supposedly on their behalf when someone shares something you find insensitive. sometimes, you are right. there are things worth fighting against: racism, class-ism, mocking the horrendous injustices done to slaves and rape victims and boys who are "not man enough"--all those things should be challenged.
but for all your sensitivity, you're a pretty rough monster for people who have suffered trauma.

nobody "deserved" it. nobody earns abuse or bullying or injustice. there's this thing called human dignity--that's what we all deserve. THAT is the definition of how to treat another human. let me tell you, it is easier to do for others than it is for myself. some of us cannot. or could not change our circumstances-- it doesn't make what happened to us our fault. you might say "well i wasn't talking about you". but see, one survivor recognizes another. we all have different stories. we experienced things we shouldn't have to varying degrees. none of us would say we understand or feel what the other feels...none of us are the same. but there is this sense of...shared burden? between some of us. when you say he "asked for that beating" part of me rises to his defense--wants to scream at you, wants to punch you in the face and then say "your inflammatory words asked for it" only to see how quickly that theory falls apart when you're on the receiving end.

*nothing makes abuse okay*


i get it, it's hard. it's so much easier to blame the victim, so much easier to personalize the abuser so we don't have to face the ugliness of what they really did. i get that. hell, i still do it constantly. i still feel as if it's my job to not let the past out of its little box. to not make things awkward. to not change how others perceive him, not call to question their trust of him.

but that's not my job. or my responsibility. he made the choices to abuse me emotionally & verbally & psychologically & physically--he has to live with the consequences of those decisions.

as do i. a marred reputation is painful. but a wrecked heart is also painful. part of me feels guilty for being honest when questions come up. i used to lie about them, why be honest now? --but. the other part of me sees so many bruises and cracks in her own heart and so little compassion for herself that she can't spare any more for him.

so when you say "she asked for it" i wonder what her story is. what really happened? were you there? is that part of why you say it--because you were spared, so surely it must have been her fault? or because you got "it" to, and you blame yourself for things you never deserved?
b/c all of us--abuse survivors or not--tell lies so quickly to protect others. or/& to protect ourselves from the rifts & confusion it causes when "good" people do unjust things... we don't usually know the real story ourselves. until someone cares enough to ask.

the most dangerous part about that statement is it undermines all my new thought patterns. part of me wonders...what if it's true? i don't judge her like you do. i can't. it's too personal. and that's my bias, maybe it's wrong of me to take on personally something that has nothing to do with me. but right or wrong, i go there: if it's true about her, than it can be for me too. there are some lies that sink into your heart despite all your best efforts to not believe them. not every behavior or every unhealthy thought is a choice. some of us had our choices made by others. sometimes you fight desperately, with every tooth & nail, shouts & whispers in the darkness, to hold on to the light. and it still seeps away. you can give your all to hold on to what you know is true; but the lies still hit your soul. they still take root in your heart. and you can't stop it.

powerless is sometimes a reality, not just a feeling.

there are some things that we could. not. stop. this is hardest for some victims to believe. hardest to accept that circumstances were outside my control. it's easier to blame myself. easier to think i could have acted and it would have been different. i've been hearing my whole life how it's my fault. how he's the victim. from the screaming words and the loudest of actions. now, it's all i can do to NOT tell myself those things. it's all i can do to believe that i matter as much as the next person, and not put every single human i meet above myself.

nobody can heal themselves.  we can invite the Great Soul Physician to come in to our wounded spaces...but we can't make Him work.

i'll be deleting this for sure, but tonight i feel trapped and angry and suffocated and needed to vent the steam.


{ because my hands are tired }

The Lone Bellow - "Watch Over Us" Unplugged from Michael Leiato on Vimeo.

^^this band for me embodies things that i doubt they have any idea of: that beauty can be born from struggle. the truth that hard fighting doesn't leave a pretty face behind it, that some sorrows scar & forever alter our hearts. something powerful happens when they sing. it's as if the songs are crafted no longer with words & notes but instead with honesty, blood, sweat, pain. a weakness refusing to shatter; hope refusing to surrender. it bleeds into the music and creates a great exchange: what overflows onto the listeners is a beautiful courage, a fierce grace, a real and messy hope. it breathes the gospel without one bible verse ever being stated. maybe it's just what deep souls sound like when they allow themselves to spill over with the rawness of everything they have. maybe it's so rare because few people engage their sufferings and let it deepen them. or maybe so many of us have never felt the safety of kindred souls, and we have forgotten how to bare our own.

maybe i just think these things because the first time i heard of them was on a night i almost stayed home. a hurt had been silently building for almost my whole life, and had finally reached overflow levels. it was seeping through my heart, out my skin. i was afraid my friends would see it in my eyes. ask questions i couldn't answer. i didn't know them myself yet, back then. but i went. this passionate little band from brooklyn played songs from their Ep, & i had tears for the first time in ages. i felt a spark. the first time i had felt anything but hollow ache in many months. here's where this is going to drift into personal rant...

3 years later. here i am again, walking through all the pain that i boxed up last time. because 22 years of abuse and manipulation and threat of violence was just too much to unpack alone. it still feels like too much. i know the words to answer my friend's questions now, if they look close enough to ask them. but it's still hard to verbalize. even with a counselor who gets not only the power of Jesus, but also the way He created human hearts and minds. i still want to box it up. i can't bear to look at my fragility. i fear the crushing weight hidden under layers of a childhood-teenagehood rewritten with gentler words; carefully highlighted light and erased darkness. my pencil was a better silencer than any duct tape. i'm scared to see just how much of myself was lost. it is easier to live within my familiar ghost of a girl. i want to run back to my safe denial. my lies that none of it matters, that i wasn't affected, that it's not a big deal. those which made this bearable, that kept me sane, that kept the families around us comfortable, that maintained the status quo. sometimes i want to collapse under the darkness. at moments it presses in so fiercely i don't know how my lungs have room to expand. it doesn't seep through as much though, anymore. not hard to live an externally happy & normal life. mostly. but there are days when i don't know how i am breathing & smiling & going to the grocery store & working with classmates. i guess i should be amazed at my normalcy of function when this same pain had me crippled by panic attacks (and thinking i was crazy) 3 years ago. but honestly? i'm not very grateful for God's sustaining grace. the sustaining part, i mean. i'm by no means suicidal. i don't want to die, just... stop. & rest. & heal up slowly and all at once. so this dragging on & little steps has a foreseeable end. sometimes i resent this body & mind that keep going, going, going. long after my heart has caved in. i want to hide from the harsh realities. to pretend the brokenness of my family is a more normal dysfunction. a kind with no shame. i want to numb my pain with Netflix & Pinterest. Drowning it out in the noise of an increasingly cynical & apathetic & shallow world. in our inspirational quotes, positive thinking, happy veneer that has no weight in the face of the excruciating losses mortal humans face.
but i can't. not anymore, because when the truth has been seen it can't be forgotten. it's my story. it's not what i wanted. not what i would write. but i only have two options: claim it and see where the pages turn; or deny it and always be re-writing a fiction. it belongs to me as intensely as my DNA. i no longer have the option of pretending *and* keeping any truth in my soul. i would have to trade authenticity for comfort. it is tempting. i'm ashamed to admit how often...

here's where the lone bellow comes in: i want to be like them. a soul that sparks hope into the broken when they bump into me. a person honest & vulnerable & real so the bruised soul recognizes itself in another. a visible proof that triumph does exist in the long defeat. i want a life that proclaims "i have seen darkest nights, i have bruises from the floor on my face; but i'm still here--not just surviving--thriving. enjoying places the light seeps in. there's still beauty worth surviving for!" (it's not like i have some weird obsession with the band themselves, i'm not looking at them as saviors or gods & goddesses on a pedestal--it's the music) their music is a focus amidst all my confusion. a constant reminder of who i wanted to be long before i ever heard them. a whisper telling me there might be restoration to my story yet. it might not always be one of shame. i might not always carry guilt for things done to me, as if i deserved abuse for just being alive. a thought that maybe one day all this ugly might be made lovely. all these jagged edges i can't bear to look at might be patched and almost-whole.

that's why i have to face my pain. i have to battle it, i have to engage it. because if i don't, i give up any chance of redemption. any chance to have a powerful story. i won't grow deeper. i won't have a fire from demons battled to keep me warm in colder places. i won't be able to look the hurting in the eye and say: "i have no idea why such hells are allowed on this earth, but i know there's a heaven Kingdom coming." i want to not only see the Light; i want to share it. i want to make beauty out of the hard spaces. mostly, i want to face it all now so it no longer dominates my narrative. i want to become brave, unashamed, free to be honest. a woman who brings grace to wounds and creates light from dark shadows.

but right now,
i just want to rest.
my hands are tired, my strength is gone...


things I've always known but rarely allow myself to dwell on

 what I really want is just to sail around the world & live at sea. to be a drifter, to have stories, to be free & strange & content. I want to delve a little deeper into the cultures of the world with each stop. I want to become familiar with/able to converse in many languages. not from textbooks, from necessity. from meeting like-hearted people, from learning to read the soul reflected in their eyes and thus connect meanings to language. I want to know my capabilities thoroughly--when to jerry-rig, when to let a pro fix it. I long for weeks on end alone with myself and God. until my desperation is so fierce I finally let go of all my pride & fragility & fears. to regain the ease of speaking with Him, to feel again that His love & approval--securely mine already--are the rock of my joy. I want to be sure of myself again, & the sea always gives me that. I want to be a student of nature, reading the sky & sea as if my life depended on it. keeping me centered. to build friendships without Facebook. show my gratitude with letters & foreign presents.  to crave human interaction after weeks at sea--instead of the constant craving for peace & solitude that lies just beneath my fraying smile. i want to lose my dependence and false "need" of materialism. to learn true simplicity--not the kind I strive for now by avoiding target & Pinterest & the first privileged world that constantly screams at me to buy! want! have! more is better!

but sailing takes money to learn if you have no boat and no sailor friends. some things need to be born into, born for; our society tells us to go for what we want with no understanding that sometimes, it's not best for you.

so I'll work towards a job I love, but that lives behind four stout walls. I will help people & challenge my heart-mind-and-body; and I will be content.


the thing about art

is that it reminds there is still beauty & joy & light amidst all our broken messiness. it gives a voice to those of us who stifle our emotions. it's an expression for we who cannot find words powerful enough for the colors our hearts speak when they feel. 

i still have days where i miss the freedom and release of dancing. i miss the tension of my soul untangling with the movements of my body. we are such interconnected beings.

because however problematic the movie Dead Poets Society may be, there are truths and gems in the words of John Keating [especially taken out of context which he can't mind since he is forever doing that to his poets ;) ] 
anyway in the words of Robin William's script: 

"It's a battle, it's a war; and the casualties may very well be your hearts and souls...We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer: that you are here; that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"


they were kids that i once knew

**all examples have been combined, changed, and editted so as to accurately reflect real-life situations; but none of them represent any one person's story because HIPPA is real.**

today's theme song brought to you by the charts and faces of my first clinical setting of the new semester: pediatric psychiatric crisis ward.
grateful for the opportunity to be in this setting, not many students are. grateful for awesome nurses and a facility doing their best to help children that the rest of society views as a lost cause. glad i was able to interact with these children. there is a level of insight in observing & conversing that cannot be gained from just reading a chart. reading between the lines is easier when you are reading eyes.
but i've been thinking ever since, it can't be a coincidence that every. single. child. had an unstable or non-existent family background. the majority of these kids? not violent towards anybody but themselves. sometimes medications and therapy are not enough. there are some things we cannot fix. some probably cannot be prevented--but some seem like they could be. usually these kids are here for psychotic breaks and self harm brought on by years of severe abuse and/or neglect. 
things like: 39 different foster homes in 18 years. 5 years of sexual abuse from age 8+ from family--those who are supposed to be your protectors. 4 years of abuse in an orphanage, receiving the same from your adopted family. severe physical and emotional bullying--peers telling you they wish you would die, that you're trash, that you don't deserve to live. 
what if we got to the root of these things and stopped them? wouldn't that give them a greater chance for responding to medications/therapy in the future? the mind is both a wonderfully strong and incredibly fragile organ.
i'm not shocked by the stories. i'm not surprised at the behaviors. i know human nature swings from the most loving to the most hateful in every nation on earth. history tells us no society has yet advanced past some degree of evil and pain and ugliness.
but one thing never ceases to amaze me: nothing changes. NOTHING has advanced in our foster/adoption/broken family system. seriously? how is it that orphans in Eastern Europe and the children of my city have the same back stories? if we are supposedly so materially advanced. if our infrastructure is supposed to be stable. shouldn't we find a way to advance in the things that **really** matter? shouldn't hearts, minds, souls matter most? i know there is darkness in people the world over. but we have so much technology, so many resources. can't we spend more time investing in the next generation? 
we all know the system is broken. we all know the price is paid by the innocent. when are we going to change things? how do we rebuild this from the ground up? how do we protect the helpless? how do we invest in our society's greatest treasure, the next generation? the things we have in place are not sufficient. adding more foster homes and more DCEF workers, more social work advocates-- isn't going to help if we still have so many lost through the cracks. it's not the first time i've wondered these things. and i still don't have answers. but i guess it's a long game. and i'm working towards a position where my voice can become actions.

**this is an emotional rant. i'm passionate about it because i have seen the heartbreak and devastating long-term affects of the broken system, of abuse, of bullying. it hits close to home. & i'm still battling demons that are the ghosts of abuse myself. i could have been any of these kids, had any of my stressors been a tiny bit more. hit a millimeter closer to center. B U T.  even without my personal story. i'd still believe ALL kids deserve to be carefree. all kids deserve a childhood.**