Because I Didn’t


The light turned red.
I saw you standing there in jeans and a gray sweatshirt with the hood covering the sides of your face. The air was cold like a smiling face biting bitter words. You held your cardboard sign in reluctant fingertips like you didn’t want to catch it’s disease. It said:

Anything helps
God bless”

Such a small piece of cardboard for so much to say.
I read your sign and looked at you. You knew I looked even though you couldn’t make eye contact. I read the sign again. And looked at your eyes you never settled on anyone. Why were you homeless? What happened? Did you set out on an adventure of self-discovery and end up meeting cold-hearted life instead? Were you kicked out of your home by an angry father who couldn’t accept you since you didn’t measure up to his self-righteous standards? How did you end up standing here at this exact moment when our car stopped beside you?
Why was this light taking so long to turn green?
How can you be homeless? Especially now when winter is eating its way closer to our bones. When Christmas is just around the corner? How can you not have a home? Not have a lit up tree? How can you not have presents for Christmas?
This light is still red.
Your eyes still keep averting themselves.
So do mine.
Did you really mean “God bless”? Or were you just throwing His name out there in hopes that someone would have compassion on you like His Son would? Was this a guilt trip? Or a reminder? Because if you believe in God you must be very angry and confused about His role in your life right about now? Was it your own choices that resulted in you standing here on the side of a busy highway? Or did evil see such a light and joy in you and decide to throw such painful needles to pierce you in the night? Was evil trying to numb your feeling heart? If you believe in God, do you wonder why He’s not providing for you? Do you worry He will let you down? Or do you feel as if He already has?
This freaking light is still red.
I look back at your lined, young face. You must be my age. Or younger. I see your eyes shifting as if looking at another human being burns your eyes like a gas stove being lit. It even hurts my soul to look at you. I can feel the shame stifling you and it makes me wonder if my gaze suffocates you further into its darkness. Do you wonder what I think when I see you? Maybe you think I assume you are just a drug addict reduced to standing in the cold in hopes to be given a few bucks to get high and escape the shame you wear like a dirty sweatshirt that just won’t come clean. Can I blame you if that’s what you have to do to find relief from your shame? God only knows how I’ve tried to escape mine. Do you silently scream for me to turn my eyes away from you just like this light is screaming red? You seem to ache for green too.
It’s still red.
We’re still stuck here with you not looking and me not being able to stop. I know it’s rude to stare. And I’m not trying to be rude. I too was taught never to make eye contact. But you have a story behind that cardboard sign. Behind that disease you hate to touch. You never wanted to end up here like this. As a boy I’m sure this is not what your wild dreams were made of. You probably expected to have a wife and kids by now. To be at home setting up a tall green Christmas tree strung with colorful lights with your children at your side and your wife filling your home with the smell of baking chocolate chip cookies. Silent Night plays in the background. A horn blares me back to see you. You’re not home, you’re here. At a busy intersection where everyone can see the humiliation you tried to hide under a hooded sweatshirt and a cardboard sign.
The light is green.
Please look at me.
Please know, I see you.
We pass you by without giving you anything. I pray a prayer for you, feeling how inadequate it is. Will you be okay? Do you have somewhere warm to rest tonight? Will you cry yourself to sleep too worn out to try? Will evil win another piece of your light? How much longer can you keep it glowing? I can’t see your heart or your thoughts with this glaring green light in my face. But I can see you wilting under the weight of people’s judgments like a tired green leaf withers under the weight of cold snow. You don’t have to hear their slanders when eyes that look but don’t see scream louder than any words. It is terrifying how just a glance can skip your sentry skin and shoot straight into your veins. Bitterness ices our hearts like this cold gnashes on our warm blood. How do we stay warm with such a Cold War to fight? How do we keep our light warm and glowing when wicked wind is constantly blowing against us? How can beating love survive?
So many questions behind that one infected sign.
So many untraceable answers.
So many eyes and so many pockets of change.
And I’m just another car driving by.
For that, for all of it, I am sorry.
So from one mangled human heart to another human soul
—Please know, I see you.


Remembering the Greatest of These


I wanted people to rejoice with us. At the love we had and have for each other. To rejoice that we were finally able to give the love we’d been storing up for 27 years to one another. I wanted them to see that the love we have is real and not some shallow, naive choice made out of fear of being alone. But they don’t know our stories the way we do. They don’t know how long we waited and prayed for this day to come. They don’t know the faith it took to step out, even though we were afraid, trusting in God to hold us together. They don’t know how we risked our hearts. But faith is believing and hoping even when we can’t see the end.

I wanted them to understand and in understanding rejoice all the more. But this is our love story. So they didn’t see the years of heartache and heartbreak or cry our tears. They didn’t feel the lonely nights when all we had to hold were our cat or our dog. They didn’t ache when the movie theatre seat next to us was empty. They didn’t feel the empty crevices in our hands fisting up to just be held. They forgot how to appreciate someone else’s touch. What it’s like to go months on end without a hug so that your body physically jolts when someone puts their hand on your shoulder.

I wanted them to see our wedding as something glorious and beautiful as our two hearts became one after being oceans apart ever since we were children. But they didn’t see us as children. They didn’t see us swinging on my swing set when we were five. Or how our dads measured our heights by putting us back to back while we walked with them in the field where they would hunt deer. They weren’t in the truck on those multiple Sunday morning trips to church when we picked you up and then went to Taco Bell after the service. They didn’t see you fill your mouth with air and then stick your ears out and they didn’t hear me tell you that you looked like a monkey.

They didn’t hear that loud plane take off that took me out of your world for thirteen years. They weren’t there each time I came back into your world. Every three years we grew taller. We weren’t measured back to back anymore. But we still smiled at one another which were the only words two quiet people needed to share. They didn’t hear the prayers I cried in my bed at night on a different continent begging God to keep you safe and for you not to forget about me. They didn’t know that you never forgot me. They didn’t hear you ask your dad when we would be back in the states. And neither did I. But you did.

They didn’t watch the countless softball games you invited me to. They didn’t see you slide and catch that softball out in left field. They didn’t play Putt-Putt with you and defeat you with hole in ones. They didn’t come to your house on that sad Sunday and hug you hoping to take all your pain away. They didn’t show up at the viewing just to see you and make sure you were getting through. They didn’t care about your heart. They didn’t see the young boy who went through traumas that no child should go through. Or see the wonderfully kind, compassionate man you grew to become despite the evils that tried to break you. They don’t see your strength. Or your love that still survived so many heartbreaks.

They don’t know how every one of our empty spaces is filled by each other. They don’t feel how completely your hand fits mine. Or how your arms hold all my brokenness together. They haven’t heard your voice sing away the fears lurking in my heart. They didn’t dance with you to God Blessed the Broken Road or understand how completely He guided that broken path to one another. They were never a part of our puzzle so they can’t see how completely God fit the pieces of us together.

They weren’t there. They didn’t see, hear, or feel. So how can they know? How can they know the extent of our joy? I wanted them to know. I wanted them to rejoice with us. And it made me angry when they didn’t. Bitterness crept in. Satan tries to ruin even the most beautiful of God’s plans. But I will not let one scowl ruin all the smiles we shared. Because sometimes we humans only know the rules and not how to love. And it was never about them anyway. Even if they weren’t rejoicing or smiling as deeply as we were, there is one who saw it all from the beginning. He was there. And even though we don’t have pictures of us together as kids, He pictured us together when we were just children in a field.

He knew the paths we’d take and the paths that would take us away from each other. He felt our hearts aching and sat next to us in that lonely empty seat. He cried with us when our tears couldn’t be walled back anymore. He hugged us when no one was there to give us comfort. He read the sorrow in our eyes while our lips smiled. He knew the hand that would fill our clenched fists. He knew our brokenness. He knew the healing our hearts needed. And He rejoiced when our paths finally became one. His heart swelled with delight. His smile poured sunlight into our souls. He sees the beauty in our story and He knows every detail better than we do.

So instead of worrying about others rejoicing with us let’s remember His joy for us. Instead of hearing resounding gongs let’s listen to the sweet song of wedding bells. Instead of remembering hateful words let’s remember He was cheering us along all throughout our lives. Instead of  remembering the scowls let’s remember the smiles. His smile. Because it’s us and Him and that’s all that really matters. Instead of holding on to the bitterness and anger, let’s hold on to each other and learn to love like He does. Because without love we are nothing. Let’s learn to forgive like He does. Because they don’t know. And love is really what all of us ache for.


Idols in Your Eyes


You forget I lived a full life before you met me.
Just because you didn’t see that life doesn’t mean I was just born.
Since you didn’t see me grow up or what I grew up learning
You see me as naïve and young and unknowing.
You think I grew up in the wilderness where no evil could reach
Not surrounded by all this “American” evil.
But little girls still get raped where I come from
And 14 year olds are married off by their mothers to 25 year old men
And 90% of the eighth grade school girls graduate pregnant by their teacher.
African girls are still girls and think sex means love and a secure home.
African boys are still boys with raging hormones and charming words.
Women die in childbirth and children die from drowning.
Men still get drunk and beat their women and violate the weaker ones.
You think I lived a sheltered life because I didn’t live in your society
And go to your schools and attend your churches and shop in your malls.
You think I don’t know how the world works because I didn’t have internet.
Just because I don’t see the world your way doesn’t mean I haven’t seen the world.
Just because I don’t use the words you use doesn’t mean I don’t know their meaning.
Just because I am foreign to you doesn’t mean I am foreign to life.
Just because I didn’t live in America does not mean I don’t know how to live.

You see me as the innocent missionary girl who grew up in the Bible
And who can’t possibly know how bad and sinful people can be.
Since you glorify the missionary, you put me on a righteous pedestal
Praising me for not being like “other girls”
And believing me to be uncontaminated by the world.
But you don’t know the dirty hands that have touched me
Or the roaming eyes that have ravaged me.
You didn’t hear the threats I heard
Or the fearful footprints I left behind.
You see me as the girl who knows the Bible and knows nothing else.
Don’t you know the Bible is full of evil too?

On this pedestal you set up, you expected me to do everything right.
You said humans make mistakes but you didn’t see me as human.
And why would you? You crafted me into your golden image
And you expected me to be perfectly flawless.
The exemplary role model your children could admire and look up to.
Up on that pedestal.
You had expectations for me and advice for me to live by.
And I strived to live up to the idol you envisioned.
I wore the right clothes, smiled politely, stayed quiet and submissive
And knew all the right answers.
I was the perfect person you could manipulate because I was too afraid of letting you down.
I had to be the perfect example.
You needed hope
And you looked up to the obedient statue to give it to you.
So I served and I curtseyed and I pleased.
I said the words you put in my mouth to say
And lost my voice to yours.
Every idea you had of me I fulfilled,
Every thought you told me to think
I did.

Your words were sweet.
Telling me to be who I am and that it was okay to make mistakes.
You told me you have to make mistakes to learn
And to not be afraid.
You told me I could make decisions for myself because that’s what adults do
And I couldn’t remain a child forever.
I had to grow.
But when I chose, when I made decisions, when I spoke my mind
You didn’t like it.
You believed I was falling away from God
Because I was falling away from all the expectations you held for me.
You believed I was a deceived little girl because I didn’t take the path you planned.
I stepped off your pedestal
And you were bewildered without your idol.
I fell away from you because I chose to fall into God.
I stopped listening to your words and I could finally hear His.
I refused to please you and live up to your expectations
Because I was finally pleasing to God and fully accepted by Him.
Something you never gave me but I always strived for.
But I stopped striving.
And I found peace.
Or rather, He gave me peace.
Now you can’t stand to look at me.
Your eyes avert and your words no longer praise.
Maybe you’re jealous of the freedom I’ve found
Because to you love must always be conditional.
You wish me to be as sad as you because to you happiness is a sin.
You can only be happy when you’re miserable.
And you hate that I can be happy without your misery.

You forget I lived a full life before we truly met.
Even though you may have been present
You didn’t see the life that I lived.
Or the life that was pressed upon me.
You don’t see the paths that left their traces in my veins
And you can’t see the scars on my feet.
But more than this
You didn’t see the glorious calming light I saw
Or the clear blue sky singing grace.
You didn’t see the open field full of flowers
with freedom breathing from every petal.
You didn’t see his wide open door inviting me into love
You didn’t hear His truth filling words whispered in that quiet place
And you didn’t feel His assurance and joy in the light flooded air.
This is why I dance to Him and quit marching to you.
Your opinion used to matter to me.
But now
I’m free.


Dear Mom


Dear Mom,
You’re the reason why I make my bed every morning
And spring clean the house every Saturday.
You’re the reason why I dust, sweep, and then mop.
And you’re the reason why no one is allowed to step on that recently mopped floor.
It’s your fault I lock my husband and pets out of the house until all is dry.
You’re the reason I do dishes as I cook; so there’s less to do afterwards.
And you’re the reason I wash my husband’s spoon before he’s done using it.
You’re the reason why I can’t sit down until everything is clean
And I can’t watch TV until I know I can rest.
You’re the reason why I walk into a room and forget what I was doing
And you’re the reason why I start to do one task and then get distracted by another.
You’re the reason I love flowers
And stop to pick and smell them.
You’re the reason I love the sunshine
And why I have sun wrinkles on my face.
You’re the reason I do the laundry
And why I always match.
Dear Mom,
You’re also the reason why I “Pray about it”
And give over my heart-sufferings to God.
You’re the reason I have faith during the times I can’t feel Him
And choose to trust He still sees me.
You’re the reason I love even when I’m hurt
And why I forgive even when it’s not deserved.
You’re the reason why I kept hoping there was a man out there for me
And why I chose the one who would love me the way we always prayed he would.
You’re the reason I don’t give up even when I’m exhausted
And why I still have time to listen even when I just want to sleep.
You’re the reason why I believe God will provide
And that He will pour out His blessings so much that there is not room enough for it.
You’re the reason why I don’t fret when evil men succeed in their evil ways
And why I see that quiet committing righteousness does shine like the dawn.
You’re the reason why I strive to do what is right even when it is blurry
And why I see that all things do work together for the good of those who love God.
You’re the reason why I am here today
And why I have become the woman I am.
So thank you, Mom,
For being all the reasons why.

“Her children arise and call her blessed … Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.” -Proverbs 31:28-29


Dear Third Culture Kid


Dear Third Culture Kid,
I know what it’s like to feel alone on the planet. Even though you have friends in multiple villages in multiple countries in multiple continents, you still wish you had that friend who lives just down the street. The one that comes over to just talk on your porch swing. Who with one look knows your heart is crying though your eyes hide the tears. Who knows exactly what to say or who doesn’t. Just being beside you would be enough.
Dear Third Culture Kid,
I know how wonderful it feels to find that friend you’ve been praying for only to know you’ll have to leave soon. I know the dark feeling that crosses your heart when you wonder if it is even worth it. I know how you feel when you think it is safer to live in your lonely world so your heart will never break with the never ceasing goodbyes. I’ve felt that cold sad ache in your belly knowing you could never see your friend again. I know how much safer it feels – but how hard lonely can be – when you block yourself off from everyone and choose to live in books and movies instead. I know you’d rather say “See you later” than “Goodbye.” And we both know when we say “See you later” it’s not true. But it helps us get by.
Dear Third Culture Kid,
I know how it feels to wonder if anyone remembers you exist. To watch your friends make other best friends and live out your dreams with someone more constant. You weren’t the one who went to the mall picking out prom dresses together and painting your nails and feeling beautiful and graceful for one night in your life. You weren’t the one who danced all night and laughed all night and slept all night at your best friend in the whole world’s house making memories to carry with you to university together. You weren’t the one to stand by her side at the altar watching her dreams finally come true with the man you cried with her over.
Dear Third Culture Kid,
I know what it feels like to be a lost puzzle piece that never finds where it fits. You aren’t really sure you want to find where you fit because you don’t want to lose what makes you unique. You don’t want to hide or lose half of who you are. But how you long for someone to be the puzzle piece that finally fits with you. Then maybe at least someone can see and understand that the parts of you that look so different really do make a beautiful portrait. Maybe then that restless feeling would go away and you could finally feel at home.
Dear Third Culture Kid,
I know what it’s like to feel like you skipped a beat or can’t even keep in time with the drumming rhythm because you’ve never heard it before. You feel like you’re trying to waltz at a tap dance and no matter how quickly you move your feet you still can’t count the same. Even though you use the same numbers. How do others move so smoothly? No one told you the rules. Even if you knew the rules you still can’t shake that feeling as though you’re missing something. Something unspoken. Something that is inherently learned that doesn’t match your multicultural heritage.
Dear Third Culture Kid,
I know you get scared and feel lost and alone and you hate being a nomad but you love it at the same time. You wish you could have a “normal” life but know you should be thankful for the opportunities you’ve had. Others tell you how fortunate you are and how blessed you are and you know it’s true but they don’t know how cursed you feel at times. How tortured your heart and mind have been with knowing your duty to be grateful and take full advantage of your experiences but longing for some sense of belonging and not always observing. You’re always on the outside. And no matter how many doors you pound down you never find yourself inside.
Dear Third Culture Kid,
I know how you feel. And I know it will be okay. You are not alone. There are so many of us hidden in the shadows you’re walking through. With one look we can see the foreign in your eyes and find a fellow comrade. We see the tears you’ve cried because they have run down our cheeks too. You don’t need words here. We can hear them all because they’ve come from our own lips. You don’t have to worry about keeping up here or learning a new dance. We’ve created a dance all our own. You can rest here. You can scream and yell and cry or you can just be silent and know you do belong. You’re the puzzle piece that makes our cultures beautiful. You’re the friend we all wished we’d had.
Dear Third Culture Kid, remember no matter how many times you move, no matter how many countries you’ve traveled to, no matter how many cultures you acquire, you are home here. You are inside an unseen but powerful world. And you are not alone. You are a beautiful portrait. So let your colorful cultures paint.


I Want to Die with You


I want to die with you.
Holding your wrinkled, worn hand in mine
That still fits like a found puzzle piece.
Each of your wrinkles lines up with mine
To mark the paths that have travelled us.
Lying next to your warm, life weathered body
Snuggling me so close I can feel your steady heartbeat fading with mine.
Your  arms surround me like a blanket
So we don’t feel Death’s cold lips
When he creeps in frostbiting our breath.
You still protect me, and I still feel safe
Even though his numbness has stopped the ache in our limbs.
We can’t feel our bodies
But we can still feel each other.
Feeling your slow breath on my ear
Still whispering not to worry, “We’ll do this together.”
I want to lie like this.
I want to fade into peace like this.
I want to die with you.
But mostly I want to live with you.


She Grew


In a windy, wasteland she grew.
Hidden where no seeing eye could appreciate her beauty.
Up through the dry, cracked dirt
She grew.
As she matured,
Jagged edges conspired to scar her tender green skin.
Dirty hands ravaged her white petals
Striving to strip her soft heart of its beauty.
Suffocating heat whipped her,
Seeking to strain the pink color from her cheeks.
But still she grew.
Despite the nomads who doubted her strength
Mocking her intricate frame,
“She’ll never survive this harsh land.”
Despite jealous eyes ridiculing her elegance,
“Why are you here? No one will ever see you.”
She grew.
She danced in the thrashing wind
Twirling in the midst of the broken ground.
Singing her song in the smothering heat.
Thriving through the destruction
Of careless fingers.
Under the glances of spiteful, blind eyes
The wasteland could not waste her.
Devastation swirled around her,
Desolation breathed upon her
And still,
the beauty grew
though no one could see.

 -For My Sister Abbie, so you can see what I see


Song of the Dawn


Before night closes his sentry eyes to sleep through the coming light,
Silent dew drops slip in.
Resting on green grass in the dark gray
Glistening with excitement for the coming glory.
They sparkle like the stars in the black velvet sky.
For one moment, the night sky and the green earth glow as one.
Like fireflies lighting up the surrounding dark
Their hearts beat light together.
They hold their breath and all is still.
It is coming!
A golden glow awakens on the deep blue horizon.
She yawns yellow, breathing out pink and purple.
Stretching her golden rays she touches each green blade;
And with her pink lips kisses each dew drop warm.
Quietly she lullabies night to shut his weary eyes
Swaddling him in her orange and lavender arms.
Gently, she covers him with her turquoise blanket
Heating the air with her soft song.
Slowly, each flower unfolds their sleepy petals
To soak up her melodious light.
Morning doves flutter their feathers awake
And begin to coo to her tune.
Silently, she stretches through the windowsill
Filtering her light through flowing white curtains
to embrace even me.
With her warm caress she melts the cold scars of my heart.
We are new again.


Pieces of Me


I can feel their words digging into my thoughts
Like termites burrow through cement walls.
They’re so small they bite in where no one can see
Building their red clay towers into my mind.
You’re such a disappointment
You’re not who we thought.
You hypocrite.
Ungrateful girl.
Bad role model.
Grain by grain, brick by brick.
Each day, several times a day
I sweep the destructive red mounds away.
I thought I’d forgiven the spiteful glances and
Poisonous tongues. But the venom still spreads.
Somehow during the night while I sleep
Foundations are being set and red dirt steeples rise
Piercing my heart once again.
I trace their red path searching for the source
To shovel out the root of bitterness.
But the invisibly clear creatures are nowhere to be found.
All I see is the destructive path they leave.
Red dirt seeping through the sockets of my eyes
Red footprints climbing up the cracks of my skin
Red tunnels hiding under the rugs of my mind.
One day,
When I look in the mirror,
Is that what I’ll see?
All the hateful parts of them that bit out the soft pieces of me?


An Abundance


Burying this seed with dirty hands reminds me of my heart. I close my hands around it. I need to protect it. No one else can. No one else can keep me safe. No one can bury this seed where I want it to be buried.

Once it’s in the ground it is safe. Safe from the torrential rains and piercing lightning. Safe from the vultures that would prey. Safe in its warm, dark bed. Safe from the hurt of the sun’s scorching fingers.

Resting here under ground, I’m certain no reaper can reach me. I am so deep. All else dies. No weaknesses survive. No pains. No hurt to hound me. But sorrow has a way of digging a hole.

Now I realize what I have done. The seed I bury, the heart I hide, don’t die in the ground. The sorrows I have tried to plow away are just seeds sprouting to produce a more abundant life; they fertilize me.