I Am Not a Burrito

Edit: I wrote this a long time ago (like three or four-ish years ago) when I was still in college, but I just found it and started cracking up, so I’m sharing it with you. I remember this day clearly because Mary sang that song about being a burrito all day, and when we got burritos for supper that night, we had a long discussion about whether or not we were cannibals. (We decided we were.)

I am not a morning person.

I don’t speak in the morning until I’ve had at least one cup of coffee. Even with that, my brain doesn’t actually turn on until 8 or 9. I’m grumpy, mean, and vaguely homicidal every morning. My family avoids me and warns everyone to never talk to me. It’s bad.

Usually, when I sleep, I find a comfortable position and lay there like a dead person all night. When I was young, Lady Lifegiver would come in to check on me, and she always had to feel to see if I was still breathing because I was so motionless.

Now (when I’m home), if she feels the need to check on me, she pops her head in my room, sees me in bed, and leaves. She told me once that she figures, if I’m dead, she’ll smell me in the morning and everything will be just peachy.

Strangely enough, I also have a problem with falling out of bed. Like, a very serious, I-can’t-sleep-on-the-top-bunk, I-can’t-have-tables-with-sharp-corners-by-my-bed, it’s-normal-to-wake-up-in-the-floor problem.

I have no clue how both of those things go together. I guess, when I do move, I do it violently.

All of this has a point. You need to understand this about me to know why some of the events of this particular morning didn’t surprise me at all and some did.

Ahem. Story.

I woke up feeling the terror of a new day and a gross morning. I kept my eyes closed, basked in the glory of my warm cocoon of blankets and made a decision. I had read somewhere that, if you leap out of bed and make some sort of happy noise and manufacture a happy face, somehow, it will improve your day.

I had tried this before last semester, and it failed horribly. I had been studying the night before and left my book beside my bed. When I leaped out of bed, my foot caught on the book, and I plowed into the floor.

A bruised face does not make for a good day.

But!

It was a new, disgusting morning, I hadn’t been studying in bed the night before, and I decided to try again. So, I gathered myself, tried to force a smile, and leaped out of bed.

Except I didn’t make it very far.

I couldn’t move.

I opened my eyes to find myself in my floor, next to my bed, completely wrapped up in all of my blankets, all of my pillows, and both my top and bottom sheet.

Apparently, I had a rough night.

“Wrapped” was also probably the wrong word to put there. It doesn’t adequately describe the knots I had somehow made in my sheets and the way my fitted sheet had wrapped its way around my head like a giant turban and the tight hold my blankets had on my legs, rendering them immovable.

It was bad.

So, I did the only thing I knew to do – I tried to get out.

I was flopping wildly on the floor, grumbling to myself, and trying to get at a knot behind my left shoulder blade that seemed to be holding it all together, when I heard the tale-tell thud of Twin getting out of bed.

“Great,” I grumbled again. “Now I’ve even awakened The Kraken, and she doesn’t have to get up for another hour or so.”

Bracing myself for her terrible visage and suddenly glad I had all the padding my blankets afforded, I watched Twin climb the stairs to my room.

When she saw me she stared, rubbed her eyes with her fists, stared some more, and finally asked, “What are you doing? Why are you a burrito?”

Realizing she was too sleepy to be mean, I decided to make the most of her presence. “There’s a knot under my left shoulder. Help me get it.”

She stared at me for a second more, said, “Okay,” then turned around and walked back downstairs.

“No, Mary,” I called. “I need you! Come help me!”

She didn’t reply.

But, a few minutes later, I heard her coming back up the stairs, humming to herself (which, if you know her, you know is a bad thing).

Finally. Help. I would be able to get a shower before class.

She stood at the top of the steps until I looked at her. Strangely enough, I noticed she had her blanket.

I could only stare as she looked me square in the face and said, “If you’re a burrito, I’m a burrito.”

Then she laid down beside me and wrapped herself up.

“No! Help me with this knot! I need to get it untied so I can get out. I need a shower, and I can’t be late for class!”

She calmly flipped over in her burrito, looked me in the eyes and said, “Mary’s not here right now. I’m a burrito, and burritos don’t have hands.” Then she flipped back over and refused to speak to me.

Finally, I got the knot out on my own, got my shower, and made it to class on time.

When I left, Mary was still in my floor. I think I also heard her singing something about being a burrito and that being okay as I shut the door behind me.

Christmas is for Broken People Too

Christmas is for Broken People Too

It was Taylor Swift singing Silent Night that finally broke me.

“Silent night, holy night, He’s here.”

I wanted more than anything for Him to be here.

I pulled over on the side of the interstate and cried. I cried because I was angry and sad, and I desperately wanted to know my broken heart was in the Great Physician’s hand.

He’s here, right? Where?

It’s Christmas, and I can only sit back and watch the joy of the people around me. I have none. More than anything, Christmas reminds me of my brokenness, of the pain I can’t seem to beat back, of the heavy weight of fear that cloaks my life. As I watch people get excited and decorate trees and sing carols, I just want to crawl back in bed and sleep until it’s over and all the happy people go find something else to be excited about.

It’s Christmas. It’s a time of joy. He came. He’s here. God with us.

I don’t feel much of anything at all.

My favorite Christmas song is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. It speaks of the brokenness and the deep longing for God’s presence. It begs Him to be near when He just seems so far away. It’s a cry for rescue to the God who seems to have abandoned His people.

Are you allowed to feel abandoned on Christmas?

I think it might be okay to be broken at Christmas, to struggle with joy, to be unable to honestly sing the happy songs, and to be left shattered and crying out, “Where are you?”

There is a place in the Christmas story for the broken people.

Christmas is, in and of itself, a cry out to the darkness that everything is not as it should be. It’s a scream of frustration and shattered hearts. It’s calling for something (or Someone) to come into the brokenness and mend the rift.

Christmas is recognizing the hopelessness we are left in without a Savior. We celebrate Christmas because God showed up, but God showed up because we needed something to push back the darkness.

It’s okay to be broken this Christmas because brokenness is why Christmas exists.

And if you can’t find your way around your hurting heart this Christmas, please don’t imagine that makes you any less. Please don’t think that you’re alone. The original Christmas story isn’t all pink-cheeked babes and soft, cuddly sheep.

It was a time when so many people were displaced from their homes for a census, there wasn’t even room for a man and his pregnant wife at an inn. For many, it was a time of massacre, a time when Herod killed all the boys two years old and under in Bethlehem and the following region. There is pain in the story of hope, but it’s a reminder that God shows up even in the midst of feeling lost and broken.

It’s not always how we expect Him to appear, it’s not with fanfare and trumpets, and it’s not usually very comfortable. But He shows up. In the midst of the darkness, He’s there. Somehow, in the middle of this cosmic chess match God decided a baby would be His next best move.

“And God became flesh. Check.”

If you’re hurting this Christmas, it’s okay. If you can’t find God or Christmas cheer or hope or life, it’s okay. There is a place at the table for you. There is a place in this story for you because God shows up. He is absent, and His absence hurts and feels like a yawning hole in the middle of your chest, but let Christmas remind you that He will still come.

He will not abandon you to the pain, even when it feels overwhelming. He will not leave you to fend off the demons on your own, even when your sword is getting too heavy to swing. He will not let you drift away on the sea of loneliness and sadness that threatens to drown you.

He came. He is coming. He is here.

So this year, believe in magic. Believe in hope. Even when it feels like it’s all falling apart or like you can’t feel anything at all, cling to the knowledge that this is not the end. We will not end in hopelessness and despair. It’s not over until the Hero returns and sweeps us away. This year, if God feels distant, it’s okay. Look for Him. Wait for Him. He is here and He is coming and He is never far.

I don’t know how to be happy this Christmas. I’m not. I’m struggling deeply with my depression and anxiety. I’m struggling with not feeling anything except an all-encompassing agony that assures me that destruction is imminent, and if that’s not enough, my anxiety is quietly but persistently telling me that I’m failing everyone because I can’t be happy right now.

“And where is God?” I ask. Because I’m angry, and I’m hurting, and I want Him. And He feels so far away. I know He could take this all away, but He won’t and that feels even worse than abandonment.

But I also know that I am never truly alone. I know that He will never actually abandon me. I know that if I draw near to Him, He will draw near to me. I know that I can search Him out in my brokenness, and He won’t hide even though it feels like He’s the master of hide and seek.

The Bible is full of instances of God’s children crying out to Him and asking Him where He is or why He’s abandoned them. I never realized feeling His absence was such a universal problem. I’m so glad it is. I’m so glad I can call out to Him with confidence, knowing that in my brokenness I’m heard.

The whole earth groans for Him, and this Christmas I will lift my voice, a tiny voice buried in all the cries around me and say, “Where are you, God?”

And He will answer, “I’m came. I’m here. And I’m coming again.”

If you’re broken this Christmas, there’s still a place for you.

The Girl Who Laughed

The Girl Who Laughed

I just wanted coffee. Or hot chocolate. Or chai. I just wanted something hot to drink to maybe help soothe my burning throat, and I’d consumed all my options in Haven. I had just woken up from sleeping like the dead all day, and I was hungry and slightly irritable and running from a headache that threatened to split me wide open.

I was annoyed at the car in front of me who took forever to turn out of the apartment complex. I took it as a personal offence that they were taking their time when I was coughing up both lungs and just wanted something, anything, to help. Their lack of haste ensured I saw the car at the top of the hill flip when the bus hit it. The school bus full of children. The car caught air and smashed down on its roof.

I wasn’t going to stop, afraid of what I’d find in a wreck like that. But I stopped.

She was fine. The children were fine. She was already out of the car, speaking in a too loud voice and unable to stand still as the adrenaline that helped her duck in time to avoid her caved-in roof coursed through her veins. She was fine then, but she’s probably going to vomit when it sinks in.

I became a rock. I slowly turned with her as she flowed around me, clenching and unclenching her trembling fingers. I spoke softly to force her to stand still and close and lean in so I could make sure she was okay. She was amazed at how fine she felt. I warned her that it was the adrenaline, and she didn’t need to be alone when she crashed. She laughed and said there was no way her roommate was going to leave her when she heard.

She was fine for now, a skinned elbow. I warned her about the bruising that was going to crop up across her chest and hips. I told her to take ibuprofen for now, don’t drink to celebrate her one finger salute to Death, and to go get checked out if anything felt wrong.

She was laughing. She was confused about the details of what happened, but she knew somewhere in her currently slightly muddled head that she was one of the lucky ones. She didn’t have answers about her car or what she was going to do, but she knew she was very much alive and she relished even the growing aches and pains because they meant she’d survived.

She laughed while we waited for the cops and firefighters to show up. She laughed when they pulled her into the ambulance to check on her. She laughed when she hugged me before I left and waved with a smile as I drove into traffic.

I went on to get my coffee once everything settled, and I was soaked from standing in the rain with her. The guys behind me in line quietly made fun of me – “drowned cat”. Or maybe it was “rat”. Gee, thanks.

I was going to stay and wait out the traffic the wreck caused, but they took the last remaining table. I was more upset about that than their quiet mocking. I did, after all, bear a striking resemblance to a drowned animal. I might have coughed on them in revenge. It was a horrible sounding cough from deep in my lungs, and it left them slightly terrified. I felt justified. Maybe plagues are spread by slightly annoyed girls.

Last week, I told my therapist I was scared of getting better because I didn’t know who I’d be without anxiety and depression and the ever-present weight on my chest. I told her it scares me because this is all I’ve ever known. I don’t know who I am without it.

I know that right now I’m the girl who needs a caffeine infusion to feel normal, who can’t help stopping, and who unapologetically coughs on rude strangers, but is that who I’ll still be? Is that who I want to be? Will I still like who I am when I’m not afraid or smothered in an all-consuming darkness?

I’d like to believe that maybe one day I’ll be the girl who crawls out of the mess and laughs because at least I’m still very much alive, who’s trembling and doesn’t have the answers but knows where those answers come from, who’s unafraid of the pain because it means I made it out. I’d like to believe that one day I’ll be brave.

Pain is a Liar

Healing takes a lot more time than I think it should, and I’ve just learned that it is something that can’t be done alone. Trust me, I’ve been trying, and it’s not working. When you hurt, it completely defines you. You lose sight of everything else you are and want to be. Everything becomes colored in a grey shade of pain and unless you have other people to remind you of who you really are, you become trapped in that world.

Pain and brokenness are extremely isolating. They tell you that no one will understand, that your pain is personal, that you shouldn’t be a bother, and that you shouldn’t talk about it because you need to protect all the very wounded parts. They say that to open up enough to share this deeply wounded part of you is too much risk.

It makes you vulnerable to attack from all sides. The depth of your wounds begs for protection against all possible harms. You scramble to hold your heart together, to hunch over it and protect it from the blows you know are going to come. You spend your time constantly checking over your shoulder, waiting for the next strike, hoping that if you can just see it coming maybe it won’t be so bad this time.

Pain says it is the only thing you are. It tells you you can only be defined by it. It tells you that everything else you know and love is somehow tainted by it. It cuts you off and begs you to hide.

Brokenness tells you that you are too far gone, that you will never be put back together, that your cracks are ugly holes that make you useless. It tells you that there is no beauty to be found in your bruised and bleeding heart.

Pain and brokenness leave you devastated and bereft, unsure of the next steps to take. They tell you that the things they’ve broken can never be fixed, that they’re just too far gone. They tell you you’re alone in these feelings, that no one will ever understand so it’s not even worth attempting.

Pain and brokenness are liars.

They are not your friends.

They do not care about you.

They are intruders, rude ones, who sweep in and eat all your food and break your favorite plates and track mud everywhere and leave crumbs on your pillow and steal all your couch cushions.

They paint your world in shades of grey and always direct you to the corner. They tell you that you are only ever your flaws and there is no light in you. They poke at your bruises to remind you they exist. They dig at the wounds to keep them fresh and hurting. They blind you so they become the only thing you can see.

They create an endless cycle – hurt, hide the pain, feel isolated, feel new hurt, hide it, feel isolated by it, etc.

And yet.

People need people. We need each other for support when we are dragging our lifeless feet through the mud. We need people in our lives who see our hearts and offer to help us protect them. We need the people who see us in truth and not through the overwhelming haze of pain. We need to be reminded of our worth by the people who see us as everything we are.

This is why we can’t heal alone. Someone has to break the cycle. Someone has to come bursting in with their own broken heart (because we are all broken in some way) and say the most beautiful words we can probably ever say to one another, “I see you.”

Oh, to be seen. To be recognized as completely broken and still loved. To have someone see all your cracks and find them beautiful. To have someone stoop to gather all the pieces with you, all the pieces you’ve been frantically scrambling to keep together that you just can’t manage to keep a hold of.

To be known. To know that when another human looks at you they see the brokenness plus all the other things that make you so completely you. We need each other to be reminded that we are not only our broken parts. We are badly told jokes, books not yet read, words that bubble out at inopportune times, snorting laughter, a fervent love of rainy days, a hopelessly romantic soul, a daydreamer, and mathematical equations that somehow just make sense.

You are not just pain. You are not only coated in a thick layer of grey agony. You are not your cracks. You are not broken beyond repair. You are not alone.

You are stardust, dreams, and laughter. You are that joke you can never remember the beginning of. You are the stories you tell to young children because you love to hear their laugh. You are the books you devour. You are a thirst for knowledge. You are curiosity. You are snappy comebacks mixed with a healthy dose of sarcasm.

You are an incredible work of art, and you are riddled with cracks. And that does not make you any less priceless or beautiful.

I see you. I see your pain. I see your brokenness. But I also see an incredible beauty waiting for its turn to shine. I see an indomitable spirit that will not be broken (no matter how close it feels like you’re getting).

I see you. I see you, and I know you, and I love you. Hold your bleeding heart out bravely. You are not done yet. You are not broken beyond repair. You are not useless. You are not alone. You are not worthless. You are more than a broken heart. You are not the lies the pain spoon feeds you. Don’t hide. And when you forget who you are, look to the people around you. They see you a little clearer than you can right now.

So how do you ask for help when you’ve spent your entire life pretending you don’t need it? How do you admit you’re not okay? How do you reach through the pain and fear and anxiety to grasp hope with your trembling fingers? How do you uncurl from around the most deeply wounded part of you and bare it to human eyes? How do you abandon all pretext of “okay” and say “Please help. This is me right now and it’s a little too broken”?

I don’t have the answer for that. Like I said, I’ve literally just figured out how very desperately we need each other. I don’t know how to be vulnerable enough to share my pain. I don’t know what it looks like to lean on other people. But I’m willing to learn because I know now that this isn’t a journey any of us were meant to make on our own.

Healing is not something to be sought in isolation. It is not stark white rooms and an endless beating on the inside of your own skull.

Healing is dirty hands and tear-streaked cheeks. It is hugs and laughter and midnight phone calls. It is friends and family who don’t always know what to say but will always be there. It is sleepovers when you’re not safe to be alone and doughnuts when nothing else seems to be working. It is people reaching for you when you’re no longer strong enough to reach for them. It is hard work. It is time and grace and hope.

Healing is confusing and back-breaking work, but pain is a liar and brokenness is only ugly when you don’t see the beauty in the cracks. Hold on to the people around you. Let them see your heart. And don’t give up. Never give up.

 

Love

There is always this moment in every single shift when I am struck in the face by the thought, “I’m done. I can’t love these people anymore.” It always seems to hit in the most inopportune times – when I’m trying to calm my patients down so they can sleep or alleviate their fears of the upcoming tests or explain the new and scary diagnosis or bring a tiny smidgen of dignity to their new need to have someone help them wash their hair or even walk.

It strikes hardest when I have crazy difficult patients, and before and after every interaction, I have to remind myself that the vile words they spew at me are not them but their frustration and lack of control or fear or pain or detox. The meanest patients are precisely the ones who need my love the most, but after spending more time with them than I have spent with my family in weeks, I don’t always have it in me to love them.

I have learned more about love as a nurse than at any other time in my life.

See, it’s also in these moments when there is more love.

I have learned that, no matter what, there is always more love.

Let me say that again – there is always more love. Always.

“I’m done,” I think, and then I keep right on loving them. “I’m too emotionally exhausted to walk them through this,” I whine, and then I keep holding their hand and explaining that, while their fear is natural, it not entirely necessary. “I can’t stand anymore tears,” I gripe, and then I hold them while they cry on my shoulder.

True love does not run out. It does not stop. It does not grow tired. It is not something to be siphoned out in even measures to the people I deem worthy of it. True love does not whine or gripe or moan about how hard it is or how mean they are. It keeps going. It is stronger than I am, lasts longer than I will, and never gives up. True love doesn’t care where you’re from or what you’re doing or how you wound up in the place you are. Or rather, it does care because that stuff is part of your story and that makes it important, but it doesn’t let that change the way you’re loved.

And I cannot love like this on my own.

I fail every single day to love like I’m supposed to. I try to love on my terms, when it’s convenient for me. I love selfishly, waiting for someone to notice how hard I work to treat the people around me like human beings. It’s only when I run out of my kind of love, when I’m emotionally exhausted and think I’m through, that I can step aside and let true love in.

Thank you, Jesus, that I have such a small capacity to love on my own.

When I step aside and stop trying to love my way, amazing things happen. When I quit trying to be Super Nurse or Really Nice Human or even Pretty Decent Human and I instead try to be the hands and feet of Christ, there is love that I never knew existed.

True love is the kind of love that never ends. It doesn’t need pep talks to be kind to the angry, frustrated person whose room we’ve all been avoiding. It doesn’t need to steel itself before working with the emotionally overwrought patient who just wants to go home to see her babies. It doesn’t react to the anger, name calling, or threats. There is just love.

I’m learning that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter how you respond to the love that’s offered to you. Love is still there. Love is still love. Love holds fast in the midst of rocky storms.

Love is not blind. It sees the loved exactly as they are and says, “I don’t care. You are worthy of this.” True love does not rely on the response of the loved. It gives regardless of who they are or what they’ve done. It has no conditions. However, it never stops reaching for better. True love is never okay to just leave you where you are.

Love lets you run away and break its heart. Love is waiting for you to come back.

Love is sacrifice. Love is handing over your desires for the betterment of the one you love.

Love can be loud. It can be shouting from rooftops and chasing through airports and leaping in front of stray bullets and making proud declarations.

Love is most often very quiet. It is strong arms when tears threaten and whispered words and smiles and a simple presence and patient understanding. It is a sprite for an upset stomach, a warm blanket, a softly spoken word of encouragement, a hand to hold. It is doodles on a coffee cup, texting your friend a play-by-play of the bachelorette finale when they can’t be there, and cookies after a long day of work.

Love like this is not natural. Human beings are not capable of never-ending, don’t care what you’ve done or who you are, doesn’t matter how you treat me love on our own.

However, as a Christian, I have been shown this kind of love over and over again. I have run away and been chased down. I have done horrible things and been forgiven. I have been shown love loudly as my Savior pursued me with mountain streams and people thrown into my life and loudly declared devotion. I have been shown love quietly in softly spoken words and gently breezes and forgiveness again and again and again. My Savior decided my broken heart worth dying for so He could heal it. This kind of love leaves me breathless and shocked and fascinated.

With a love like this as my guide, how can I do anything but love the people around me? This kind of love from a Savior leaves my heart overflowing and overwhelmed. He loved us enough to die for us. To paint sunsets and sunrises for us to glory in. To speckle the sky with stars because He knew we would be endlessly fascinated in them. To chase us down when we run away, and to always welcome us back regardless of where we’ve gone and what we’ve done.

His love never runs out.

And this overflowing kind of love is what I get to share with others when I step aside and stop trying to love with my kind of love.

This love doesn’t have to be huge and exhausting and bewildering. One of the most important things I’ve learned about love is that I don’t love the way you love, and that’s okay. His love leaves room for us all the express it in different ways. So find your niche. Figure out what works for you and do that. Love is hard when you’re trying to force yourself to love like everyone else. Love is easy when you’re just trying to be the hands and feet of Christ.

But above all, love one another as Christ loved you.

A Love Letter to My Better Half

A Love Letter to My Better Half

There is something incredibly magical about knowing someone and being known by them for literally your entire life. There is peace in knowing that you are intimately acquainted with my entire history because you walked it beside me. Even when we were only known to anyone else by a slowly disappearing lap and hard kicks against a strong belly, we were wrapped around one another, being formed together, napping together, fighting together.

No one will ever know me the way you do. No one will ever be able to see me quite like you can.

We like to joke that together we make an entire person, but there’s a definite element of truth hidden somewhere in there, isn’t there? You are all the common sense to my harebrained ideas. You are the exasperation to my oblivion. You are the safety to my recklessness. You are the brains to my simplicity. You are the beauty and style to my hatred of pants and fear of straighteners.

You are logic when I am emotion. You are calm when I’m wild. You are the island when I’m floating adrift. You are the light when I’m darkness. You bring me back when I’m trying to run away again.

You are the curly to my straight, the answers to my questions, the laughter to my tears, the hatred of hugs to my need to cuddle. You are the numbers, the facts, the charts and graphs. I am the hugs you don’t always want but you sometimes need, the feelings you don’t know how to describe, and the words you try to bottle up in your beautiful brain.

There is a bit of magic in you. Never doubt that. There is fire and spice even when you don’t see it. There is courage and strength that always wells up when you’re feeling tired. There is kindness and love, generosity and forgiveness, graciousness and hope. You are love and laughter, snappy comebacks, dance parties, late night phone calls, and questionable taste in music. You are bright white blinding lights. You are speeding cars, star gazing, mathematical equations, and imagination. You are so perfectly you.

I have been searching for years for the correct word to describe you, and I think you might be best known as a warrior.

Whenever you get angry or just passionate and ready to fight for the things you care about (oh, how deeply you care about so many things), I am always overcome by a mental image of Boadicea leading her warriors into battle. She must have looked something like you, tall and proud with fiery hair and undying courage.

You have taught me to fight my battles even when my knees are knocking. You have taught me the strength in a strategic retreat. You have taught me that some battles can be won through preparation alone.

I know the things you fear, but I always see you struggling against them. You have never been one to just give up. You have never been satisfied with the status quo. You have spent your entire life pushing boundaries and expectations. You have always tried to reach further, climb higher, and run faster.

Today you’re graduating, and I don’t know how I could be more proud of you. I know the struggle, the sleepless nights, the studying, the sacrifices, and the dreams that have been poured into this day.

I remember how you picked this major:

“What’s the hardest degree at this school?”

“Chemical engineering or nursing.”

“I’m going to be a chemical engineer. Only because I would make a rotten nurse.”

“It’s a really hard major. I don’t know if you can do it.”

“Watch me.”

Baby, we’ve watched you conquer.

Never doubt how incredibly brilliant you are. You have a mind that has been tested and come out victorious. You have a unique way of looking at problems that allows you to come up with creative solutions. You have never been afraid to ask questions and look to other people for support. You have always seen not knowing as an excuse to learn more. You are constantly thirsty for more knowledge, and you’ve been blessed with a mind like a sponge.

Your heart and desire to grow have led you down some interesting and incredible paths through the years. Never stop letting them guide you.

As I watch you walk across that stage today, I know the things you’ve done, I know your heart, and I know where you’re headed. I see the strength that brought you to this day. I see the friends that have held you up along the way. I see your courage and warrior spirit. I see the love you pour into every little thing you do. I see you standing on your chariot, preparing to lead your troops into battle.

This is now a time of transition for you, and I know how much you hate change. I know how the unknown scares you. I know that you hate situations you can’t map out and plan for. Hang in there. In the midst of fear, you always rise up. You always strap on your armor and keep moving. This time will be no different.

Don’t forget that you don’t fight alone. You are surrounded by friends and family who are cheering for you and always willing to lend a hand. You are loved beyond comparison, and we will always fight with you.

And when the world gets scary and there’s too much change and you’re just overwhelmed, I will always come fight for you. I’m your other half, and when you’re weak, I’m strong. When you don’t have the strength to keep going, I’ll carry you. After all, that’s what twins are for.

Above all, I love you.

On Silence

I used to write a lot more. I used to write all the time. I used to write words that told stories of pain and darkness, love, hate, and fear.

I used to write to make sense of the world around me, the big dark scary world that never quite clicked in my brain, the brain that was never quite orderly enough to create the lines to connect the dots to make the whole picture emerge.

I used to write.

And then I stopped.

Somewhere along the way, the world became too big and scary for even the words to put things back together again. The pictures my brain drew were a jumbled mess of lines that more resembled a drunken spider’s web after a hurricane than the world I desperately needed to see.

It was darkness I didn’t know how to describe, pain I didn’t have words to encompass, and fear that ate away at anything good I had left buried deep inside.

The words failed me.

And then they stopped coming altogether.

I was left with a weight on my chest that held tight and pressed the air out of my gasping lungs. With each attempt to claw it away, it buried itself more firmly in, and I knew when it reached my heart, I would crack open and there would be no more need for words.

The silence was killing me.

I was ready to let it win.

And that was when I learned about silence.

When I was done, ready to give in and hand it all up, I heard it – the melody, the undercurrent, the truth of the silence. I felt the weight of it and remembered that a hug is only a weight when you don’t return it. Music is only mindless noise when you’re not listening. You can only feel the thing below your fingers when you reach out to grasp it. Understanding is not going to smack you in the face; you have to do something to find it.

So I grabbed. I held on tight. I listened with every listening part of my body. I leaned in. I searched out every nook and cranny of the silence. And I heard it.

Silence is a sound – a crushing, desperate, oppressive, beautiful sound, a haunting melody that weaves its way through your soul, into  your heart, and across your lungs. It demands to be heard.

It’s velvet against your fingers. It’s inky black skies before the storm rolls in. It’s the moment before sleep grasps you tight.

There are still words in the silence – broken, desperate words, words that string themselves together and flood into my heart in ways I have never understood, words that usually don’t make sense, words that jumble together and bounce around and flow over and under and through each other, but they’re words nonetheless.

The silence is full of the tears of a hundred thousand million broken hearts, of souls longing for peace, of cries to a God they’re not even sure is listening.

Oh silence, how could I ever find you cold and oppressive? How could I ever think you meant my end? You are heavy with our longings and burdened by our misfortunes. You sit on my chest and flow around me and crowd my brain. You are noisy, so noisy. So loud. So broken. So full.

You are words I don’t have the power to speak on my own. You are melodies I can never recreate. You are lines that come together to form pictures to make sense of the world.

You are hope. Deep within you, in the midst of the tears and the cries and the prayers, there lies a fervent belief that this isn’t the end, that this isn’t the way things should be, that we are not meant to be broken creatures with weights on our chests that steal the very breath from our lungs. Burrowed underneath it all is the fight to survive and a stringent longing for the better days we know are possible.

When silence descends and my brain stops trying to make words and sentences to cover the confusion, there is room for my soul to speak, to throw out the words my brain can’t comprehend, the truer words I really need, the lines to make the right pictures. And sometimes my soul doesn’t have anything to say at all. Sometimes it just needs to sit in the silence and bear witness to it.

The silence has taught me that I don’t always need to have something to say. I don’t always need words. I don’t always need to understand the melodies. I don’t always need a clear picture. Sometimes it’s okay to just wait, to listen to the heart cries around me, and to wait for the picture to slowly form itself.

Sometimes the silence takes my words. Sometimes it gives them back.

The silence saved my life.