Twentytooth

The long awaited birthday post. I have begun to hate reflection because it is a harrowing process of pointing out all the things I could’ve or should’ve done better. This year I’ve come to another iteration of my True Limiting Factor: striving to change myself (ironically)!

The obsession with being better, of growing and having made progress has shackled me. Has made me depressed. And makes me depressed. Somebody I consider a mentor told me that she once regarded her eating disorder as a thorn in her side, something she wished would just disappear. Something she begged God or the universe to take away. Then, at some point the thought stirred: what if this thorn was meant to teach me something? What if all these vices and destructive habits are clinging onto me because they are attracted to my punishment-based, self-hating mindset?
How can I be with the things I loathe about myself, such that I no longer hate myself at all? How can I accept that this living, eternal being that I am is enough, as I am?

See, it’s the same track over and over again and I’m getting tired of hearing it. The driving impulse to fix myself and try harder – how ludicrous to think I have failed even at loving myself! I’ll stop fiddling with the thorns, entrapping them ever deeper. God will perfect me His own way, as the only doctor who can heal my hurts and habits.

Today, I am a new creation. 22 with some two grey hairs.

Sophie, you are loved when you are late to class, eat too much, speak too hastily, snap impatiently, lose your new gadgets, spend too much, neglect your responsibilities, procrastinate, sit idly, think inappropriately, selfishly, and carnally. You are loved when you have nothing to say, when you feel like you don’t know a thing. I love you still. 

Advertisements

Immanuel

You were there with me, you were there with me, you were there with me Jesus!
I was curled up, eyes were dried up, I thought I couldn’t cry harder.
But you were there with me and you were crying with me
and you gave me my breath.

You are the one who sees me,
you are the one who defends me
– who can be against me?
You were there when I just wanted sleep,
made me feel like I could just be
in my pain and weakness.

Thank you for your peace today
You are my everlasting Father.

I’m twenty-one

Might as well write a post, right?

The defining moment yesterday: I carried the laundry basket in my arms and walked across the hallway; a picture of the birth canal. I thought: twenty one years ago today, I was a singularity. From where there was no consciousness, I was brought to life. And here I am with the fullness of moments, strings of thoughts and feelings, present and past knit together. Here is a snapshot of life as I moved forward through to the end of the hallway, making my way to a graceful exit.

What do I do with a day of affirmations? Shouldn’t I have felt happier? Why wasn’t I able to embrace the love I was receiving?  Somehow I couldn’t tap into the authenticity of people’s messages. I think I’ve always had this erroneous idea that I must strive in order to be loved- that I must give more in order to deserve kindness. If I truly understood their hearts for a moment – the thoughts of my brother, my sister, my best friends and my acquaintances about me – I’d be brought to tears.

I think we must remind ourselves of the absolute reality that we are intrinsically valuable. God only makes remarkable creatures and He delights in me. He likes me, no matter what I do- just because I am.

It is a privilege to be surrounded by such talented and amazing people in my acapella group. It is a privilege to learn French, even though it takes me five hours to type one page. It is a privilege to send out an email at 2am for my sorority. As my friend so wisely put it: “even on my worst days, my resting state is all the way up here”. Yes! I am resting perpetually on the apex; I am wonderful and I do not have to prove it. Thank you Jesus! If I am already loved, if I am already victorious, what is holding me back from loving the things that I am doing, the things that I am a part of? Nothing. I am walking in His light today.

 

Out of dust

Sophie's picture

Photo of New Zealand by my grandfather. 

I am tucked in the middle of a queen-sized bed in my favourite black bralette. Family Guy is running in the background and in front of me is a scenic painting of Norwegian mountains. I have a glass of water beside me, a cup of tea, a bowl of jelly beans and a dry-fit hiking hat I told my granddad I liked. That hat has been to the untouched underbrush of New Zealand, the snow tipped French Alps and the coves of Mallorca.

Grandparents love to spoil their grandchildren, especially grandchildren they don’t see often. Love pours out of their eyeballs, like dew drops by the bridge of their noses (they’re not crying, it’s just something that happens when the glands are tired). “Let me get you coffee!” said my grandma. “Let me get these tickets for you” said my grandpa. But the best part of it all is that time with them is sacred. Momentous. The fact of your existence is already a joy and you are an exquisite thing to be learned and absorbed. They get the gist of you, your knack for the arts a red pin in your profile. Your favourite colour, a pair of killer heels on a card for when you had a phase for fashion illustration. A photo of a dog, a cut-out from the newspaper, something they think you’d like. Being around them is so plainly satisfying. There’s so much to learn from these wizened souls, the ripples of influence forever expanding from their ancestors to your parents and now to you. We carry each other in one way or another, the memory of you ingrained in the way I pay close attention to harmonies, enraptured. In the way my desk mirrors the clutter in your kitchen, a projection of the sparks in your mind.

The older generation knows that tomatoes are picked from trees, not grown in baskets. Grandparents raised in the countryside have a special appreciation for the world that moves without us, the scuttling of hedgehogs at night and the turning of leaves from lime to amber. They are in wonderment of the Earth, the ancient trees, the land that gives and gives us life. The carpeted floors of moss, the gentle trot of speckle-breasted does by crystal streams. Life all around us, nudging us into humility. Beautiful without even trying! And you see how they used to think the gods were everywhere.

I walked through the fields, weeds tickling my ankles. In the dust from which I came, I thought, horse poo trailing my Nikes. Out sprung a blackberry bush, and I picked at them with fervour, bearing the sting of nettles on my hip and hands. Not to fear, they grow by Doc leaves, I remembered my dad once said. I rubbed the leaves on the swollen bumps and the pulsing in my hands abated. The Earth provides. I went home, boiled the blackberries and made dessert. The Earth provides.

Synchronicity

I’ve been feeling like I’ve put a cap on my faith, a roof to what’s possible and reasonable to expect in my life. I’m drawn to this particular issue because I’ve been seeing this Faith theme pop up everywhere, from an article I’ve stumbled across, a random sermon online, to a book I’ve been reading called Synchronicity: The Promise of Coincidence.

I’m determined to flip this thing around. The more outrageous my prayers and hopes, the greater the power of God I can see revealed. Because He is capable of more than our wildest expectations, if we only ask. However, as I’m writing this, I feel it is careful to ask with the right sort of attitude. With honesty, trust, and humility. A profound understanding that we need His guidance and a deep gratitude for His care and love. He answers not because we deserve it- not because we go to church, not because we clean our trays at McDonald’s so that no one else has to- but because He is good.

‘Truly I tell you that if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and has no doubt in his heart but believes that it will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours’.
– Mark 11:24

Our God is a God of miracles, an unseen supernatural being with whom we can communicate and witness the work of in the material world. I remember believing as a child that the world was full of magic; I flipped through my books on mermaid and fairy sightings, immersing myself in a world where they could be found in countryside cottages, in the hollows of trees or by secluded rock pools. It was my favourite thing to do, fostering a sense of excitement for these enchanting creatures. I loved the Harry Potter books, where there is no limit to the wonders of life, an epic reality where dreaming is synonymous with creation. I wish to redirect that childish, misguided faith and bring openness and expectation to God.

Synchronicity speaks of God’s many thoughts about us, His plans and provisions. It is the idea of perfect coincidences which are in fact, not coincidences at all. I learnt a neat little fact: there is no word or concept of ‘coincidence’ in Hebrew. Only the word ‘mikreh’, which means ‘a happening of God’. Every moment is significant. When good things happen, give thanks, for they come straight from His hands. Sometimes, little ‘signs’ appear just to remind me that He is present and watching. And it has proven helpful in deterring me from sinning a couple of times. Sometimes a web page doesn’t load, the phone rings or a door is knocked on, so I get a chance to rethink what I’m doing. Every time, it is for my good.
When bad things happen, they prepare us for more of Him. They are opportunities! Last week, I strained my right leg doing exercise. Pulled a muscle. And I remembered what this yoga instructor said to me earlier that week: “if you ever tear a muscle or hurt your leg, once you recover, you’ll be more flexible than you were before”. This experience serves as an analogy for what my friend said the other day when I confided in him about my struggle with lust. It was so special: think how He must love you to let you have these desires, this challenge, so that you may experience Him and know Him better. So that I will learn to rely on the One who brings victory. I will trust in His unfailing love.

Here’s a snippet from an awesome article I read today:

The true disciple is an expectant person, always taking it for granted that there is something about to break through from the master, something about to burst through the ordinary and uncover a new light on the landscape.

And I think that living in expectancy—living in awareness, your eyes sufficiently open and your mind sufficiently both slack and attentive to see that when it happens— has a great deal to do with discipleship, indeed with discipleship as the gospels present it to us. Interesting (isn’t it?) that in the gospels the disciples don’t just listen, they’re expected to look as well. They’re people who are picking up clues all the way through.

Rowan Williams

I have started to pray: give me a big faith, God. A hope against all hope. I want to be excited for each new day, because I get to experience more of You.

Rom/antics

So, I stopped myself from sending you a post. It would’ve earned a chuckle, and you’d have confirmation that I remember things about you and that you still surface from time to time. Like a whiteboard stain.

***

I romanticised my English teacher when I saw pictures of his newly furnished house. Wooden panels, artistically placed photographs he no doubt collected. A curtain separating the living room from the bedroom, used also to dim the lights for movies on the couch. A personal cinema. Someone could lay their head on his lap (I still can’t decide if it’s a man or a woman), whilst he holds a glass of wine, as he does after an evening of marking. On a school night, as he seems to be in the cheeky habit of doing and admitting. He’d put on his favourite movies, or they would watch a new cinematic masterpiece together and discuss it’s merits and downfalls. “Well that was shit…” I can imagine him saying. Or he’d bury his face in his hands, mouth slightly open. “I just can’t believe we spent two fucking hours watching that”, and they’d both burst out laughing. “Horrendous”, she’d/ he’d say. “Just awful“. And it’d become a running joke, with lines from the movie quoted and recited back and forth. It’d be one of those deeply inspiring relationships, full of beautiful lively moments. Good stories to tell. They’d see jazz performers, experience sunrises and green smoothies together, spend nights soaking in music from speakers he’d saved up to buy… I respect anyone who, though lives humbly, owns a pair of high quality speakers. I will marry you for that and your bookshelf.

Poppy

The parents are coming back soon, tomorrow-soon, which means two things: I’ll have the luxury of considering a wax and I won’t be won’t be able to blast music or play the piano in the late am. I remember the glorious first day after they left; the clothes came off and the music came on. I shimmied in the mirror and swirled my imaginary skirt like a queen because I owned this place. It was so liberating. I had the license to grab the wine, sleep on the sofa, do whatever I pleased. Almost like having my own apartment. Minus what it takes to survive in real life: bills, cooking, cleaning. Thank God for grandmothers.

Have I been wearing clothes at home for a month? No, the answer is no. And I don’t want to do away with this privilege. My grandmother and my aunt have grown accustomed to the butt cheeks peeking out of my undies. It’s kind of funny how my grandmother so cooly remarked: “oh you’re not wearing clothes again”. It’s fine as long as there are no dudes around, she says. We both pull up our shirts when it gets too hot.

This summer, I’ve learned that I’m more like her than I ever would have imagined and hoped for. I remember delighting over the fact that my grandmother and I were both born in the year of the Rat… Because nothing feels better than being comparable to someone or something you love dearly. My counsellor said that we resemble our greatest influences and attachment figures, and this has revealed to me a completely new and refreshing dimension to self-discovery. When she said it, I was like- of course! But it never occurred to me that it applied to me too. It gives me such hope for the person I’d like to be and the person I’m becoming.

She and I share commonalities on many levels. We both love talking to people and learning tidbits from them; stories with morals, testimonies, anecdotes and transgenerational wisdom. We love to laugh and she is often the object of my teasing- only because she is such a good sport. In fact, I basically christened her with another English name, because ‘Susan’ didn’t quite suit her. It was kind of a joke but it stuck. She’s animated, expressive, creative, and she loves to do things. Sounds like I’m describing myself. I love her honesty and her innocence, although she has seen and suffered more than I ever have. I would like to think that I evaluate my intentions with the same conviction she does, with the same brutal honesty: I am wrong. Even if it is normal because everyone participates to some extent, I am still wrong. But the thing that makes her a gift to everyone she meets is that she is selfless, loving, and generous. If I’m to pinpoint something that sets my heart on fire and makes me happy to be alive, it is to witness the joy of one who receives love. I am compassionate and forgiving. Not all the time, I regret, but these are qualities I love and treasure in myself. Where did I learn them? I can’t say for sure but I think I have a pretty good guess.

It’s you

You make me want to kick and scream “I’m not like that!” But I’m sorry to admit that I am like that, when it comes to you. I’ll be anything you want me to be. Fickle. And I hate that I’ve taught you that I’m no fortress; I’m an open door. Welcome, fuck me (up) whenever! But how can this be when you haven’t made a home in me? Why is it that you’ve never had to ask nicely for anything- that I’m pulling you into me before the clamouring of a thousand reasons why I shouldn’t?

What’s worse than someone who doesn’t know that they’re the special occasion, you ask? Someone who abuses that privilege. Don’t make me angry with myself. Guard my pride as if it were your own.

This could’ve been a good thing, you know. If you cared for my best interests. Shouldn’t our wills be bent towards the person we love if he loves us more than himself? Where pride has no place?  Where we’d do anything for them and melt into their embrace even in our anger? Our emotions serve a functional purpose. Women aren’t crazy. It’s not me, darling. It’s you.

Oddity

The thing is, it doesn’t matter what I mean to you at the end of the day. I’ll be the person who cares genuinely, even if I’m caring alone. I’d rather my gaze reflect something about the way I want to love than what I want from you. Here’s a sliver of old timey yearning for a time and place where you look at me like that too.

– – – – –

Lupe Fiasco’s lyrics struck a chord today:
Any love less than unconditional is so
Under-Christian, it’s unrepentant.