It’s easy to forget

"Hey! Hey!"
I turn to wave,
his kiss still wet on my cheek.
I can, in these moments,
forget that dogged darkness from the womb,
the dark that swallows him now.
Life feels so much like life
when his eyes still glitter hope.
So it's easy to forget.
Or not to remember.

And then I do,
and I want to run back
and snatch him
from what his family and his god
demand of him.
Because who will he be
when he reaches the end of his hope?
The end of his life?

"Hey! Hey!"
I turned around again
to see him looking over his shoulder
as his mother's hand leads him away.

Photo credit: Scott Szarapka on Unsplash

Pride and apathy

True love drives away laziness, that’s what a young friend learned in philosophy class. It drives away apathy too.

Then why do I grow apathetic to the woundedness that surrounds me?

Overwhelmed, that’s what I am. Overwhelmed by the dissonance of compassion and my own limits. I am one person with moderate abilities and stamina. I cannot be a superhero no matter how hard I try. My tiny contribution of self-sacrifice will not change the world.

And so I begin to seal off my heart, and what began as love is reduced to apathy.

Or was it even love to begin with?

When I fill my schedule to the brim with world-changing activities, what is my motive? Can it be love? It might be, but, if I’m honest, my motive to change the world often starts and ends with pride. And it’s a pride that turns apathetic when I refuse to be humbled by remembering my limits.

There always will be busy seasons in our lives, some longer than others, but a sustained frantic pace, even under the pretense of love is not truly loving.

Love isn’t defined by the absence of laziness or apathy. The real meaning isn’t found in the absence of something. It’s not even found in the presence of something like hard work or compassion. It is ultimately found in the Presence of Someone.

When I realize that I am not the one who must save the world, I am freed. The burden to be the savior rolls away. Finally, I can stop panicking over my limits in light of all the work that needs to be done. I am finally free to love well.

I can sit with someone who needs to cry. I can make cupcakes for a team event. I can read a captivating book. I can agree to tutor another student. I can have a friendly chat with my neighbor from the patio. I can probe deeper into the heart of a young woman who isn’t sure who she wants to be just yet. And I can do all of this, recognizing that I am just a small piece in what is happening, and, praise the Lord, I get the joy of being a piece.

I am a created being, created with limits. And that is very good. Why? Because the work does not begin and end with me but with the One who is limitless.


For an excellent resource on human limits, I recommend You’re Only Human by Kelly M. Kapic.

It’s hard

It’s hard not to look at cancer as a monster. Sometimes, it’s even hard to remember that God is sovereign.

A while back, my niece memorized Psalm 23. It was delightful to hear her cement the words that have challenged and comforted for millennia. “He leadeth me in the paths of risheshness for his name’s sake… Mommy, why’s his name ‘Sake’?… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of deaf…” They made a video of memory verses to send to Mommy’s friend who was sick with cancer.

It’s hard to watch someone we love walk through the valley of the shadow of death. “Hard” is simplistic; it doesn’t really touch that helpless gnawing. But she feared no evil, not because it wasn’t hard but because she bravely clung to God’s goodness and mercy. He was with her, comforting her with His rod and His staff.

It’s hard to believe that death hasn’t won after all. But what is death for her except an opportunity to dwell in the house of the Lord for ever?

We’re going on a house hunt

We’re going on a house hunt.

We’re going to catch a big one.

What a beautiful day!

We’re not scared.

Or was I? 

House hunting during a Spanish lockdown was agonizing. 

Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy! went the first few weeks. Not too bad. I mostly strolled around the town (this was between the two lockdowns), trying to find my way around and which area would be my preferred place to live.

I looked at online ads and then I started making phone calls. The online ads were rarely current; real offers were snatched up within hours. I realized I might need to adjust some of my ideals. But I had time. It was only January. Splash splosh! Splash splosh! Splash splosh! 

I found one that I wanted and seized the opportunity. But when the realtor contacted the owner again, she had already rented it out to someone else. Squelch squerch! Squelch squerch! Squelch squerch! And that was only the beginning.

The more realtors I contacted, the fewer the options seemed to be. Thus began a series of realtors who pretended to be helpful and passive-aggressively stopped responding to my messages or phone calls. 

Prices soared. The demand was so much greater than the supply. Meanwhile, everyone knew that there were empty apartments all around the city, but no one wanted to open their doors to renters, especially of the immigrant variety. I learned to ask in a roundabout way if the place was legal. I learned to carry papers with me that showed I was indeed earning money and indeed a legal resident. I even learned a few self-defense tips along the way. Stumble trip! Stumble trip! Stumble trip!

At this point, I decided that I didn’t care what the place looked like. I am creative and could deal with that later. Just please. Something.

In the middle of all of the realtors who took great pleasure in ignoring me, there were a few who promised to call me with options and then did. I teared up the first time that happened. The place was on the opposite side of the city from teammates, but I didn’t rule it out right away. Instead, I begged the realtor to let me work with her in the future (I didn’t tell her she was the practically the only one who was willing to work with me). Hoooo woooo! Hoooo woooo! Hoooo woooo!

Time wore on. I lost hope. Or very close to it. My emotional pendulum clattered unpredictably between “God, You’ve got this under control” and “The sky is falling!”

Even as towns shut down again due to covid, I continued contacting the faithful few until I became a dripping faucet. 

“Are there any new apartments for rent?”

“Have you found anything new?”

“Could you please tell me if you find a new apartment?”

Drip. Drip.

Then it happened. 

A realtor contacted me and said his friend wanted to rent out her place to a single female. NO MEN ALLOWED. Within a week, I was in contact with the home-owner. And we met, despite the travel restrictions. (Don’t ask too many questions; as far as I know, it wasn’t transgressing the law, but I’m not asking questions either.) I saw the place and realized it was better than the grainy pictures she had sent me. 

She was hesitant because of the nature of my work, afraid that suddenly she would find the floors lined with makeshift beds full of the city’s homeless, namely MEN. And since men weren’t allowed to move in, she told me she would have to think about it.

I was stuck in the middle, wondering whether or not I should keep looking. I didn’t. Not because I had great faith that I would get the place, but because I was too tired to keep on. I offered the home-owner a few references and she took me up on them. “I like you as a renter, but I don’t want your friends.”

Tiptoe! Tiptoe! Tiptoe!

And then one morning, she told me she was in Immigrantville and could she stop by? Was this a sneaky way of seeing inside of our current apartment? I swept our not-very-dirty floor just in case. She clarified a few things and smiled all over. “I will tell you tomorrow morning, but I think it will be you. The other girl is from town and she will have a boyfriend move in with her, I know.”

So, my friends, it seems that abstinence has won the day.

And I have won an apartment in downtown Mytown. As I settle in this week, I keep finding quirks that may one day drive me crazy, but still, it’s a beautiful day!


Note: Italicized words are from the children’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

The woman in the mirror

Who is that woman in the mirror staring back at me?

Glazed eyes from sorting through language notes all day. Almost in tears from how much there is still to learn and how does she start? Really start?

But enough of this not starting! Enough of unfinished projects in a burial heap in the cabinet! Because from now on, there won’t be projects to finish but a process to journey.

That’s what the woman in the mirror decided just now. Because it’s not all about what she doesn’t know, but also about what she does know. 

And she knows that studying two languages each week is hard and doesn’t always fit into her schedule. But she also knows that language learning is an act of worship because it is what God has called her to do.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

(Col. 3:17)

“He’s dying,” she says

"He's dying," she says,
As life seeps away
In voiceless submission
Of what it was taught,
Where death is unknown
And forever beckons
The judgment throne
Of a whimsical god.

The family huddles
To weep and recite
Then sit back and sigh,
"Alhamdulillah."

In the still kitchen
My face in my hands,
I plead for mercy
And hope big enough.

In the stillness is
Just the ticking clock:
Tock. Tock. Tock.

Religious hurricane

The sweeping wind
of religious authority
scatters humanity
to drown in waters
of blind idolatry
of human effort.
Flailing arms
reach out to me.
Instead of “Save us!”
they cry, “Join us!
We have the truth!”
But why would I
search for truth
when I have found it?
Why would I
search for peace
when I am in
the eye of the storm?
And how can I rescue
those who want to drown?

Speak life

How often do I pass judgment without considering another’s perspective? And how often do I whisper that judgment to someone who is willing to listen?

These are questions I have been asking myself recently. Because even if my judgment is accurate, is it edifying? The phrase “speak life” has been rolling around in my brain. But what does it mean to “speak life”? I have a feeling that I haven’t been very good at it.

David says, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Ps. 19:14).

So words of life would be words that are acceptable in God’s sight.

Once upon a time, religious people caught a woman in the act of adultery and dragged her out to be publicly stoned. Then seeing Jesus, these people tried to trap Him by asking whether or not the woman should be stoned. Jesus didn’t pick up a stone, but neither did He deny the woman’s sin. He calmed the mob by questioning the state of their own hearts, and then He turned to the fearful sinner crouching in the dirt. “Go, and from now on sin no more.” (Jn. 8)

Those are words of life. Not words of ignorance or denial, but words that give hope.

Holidays in the desert

Spending Christmas and New Years in disputed territory sounds exotic. And it was. Not in a dangerous sort of way, but in a different sort of way.

aerial view of snow-capped mountains and desert

Flying in from the north gave us a view of breathtaking scenery. First there was green, then snow-capped mountains, and last of all desert: vast stretches of orange that melted into the sky without a horizon. Later, we discovered the reason for that: wind.

aerial view of expanse of desert and blue sky
dry desert floor with sand dune in the background
man's hands pouring tea
desert flower blooming between cracks in desert floor

Who could turn down a cup of tea in the middle of the desert? But even in the driest parts of the desert, there was life… signs that deserts will bloom. We also visited an oasis. It was a beautiful and forsaken piece of green property on the way to nowhere.

date palms

We stayed in a small town where few foreigners roam, everything is everyone’s business, and camel meat is cheaper than beef. We stopped at lots of checkpoints,  visited a nearby fishing village, ate ourselves sick of fresh fish, stuck our toes in the chilly ocean, watched fishermen bring in the day’s catch, rolled down a sand dune (getting sand in our eyes, ears, noses and carrying it home in our pockets),  met a few camels and tasted them too.

fried fish and french fries with coke on restaurant table
two women in saharan wraps walking along coastline while little boy plays in sand
silhouettes of fishermen on peninsula with sunset in the background
small octopus on hook
camel sign along highway
young camels looking at camera
camel tagine
shoes next to carpet in light coming from doorway

But best of all, we got to meet people with years and years of rich nomadic history.

The hand

You said:
“Come to me and I will give you rest.”

But the sea trembles beneath my feet
And my midnight fear is blacker
Than churning waters or the sky above.

Lord, is it to you I stumble
Or just a ghost after all?

Inky waves climb to consume me.
Struggle fuels the water to tie its noose
Around my brittle neck.
Driving rain ignites my gasping face,
Joining the freefall of tears.

“Lord?”

A lightning stroke reveals the outstretched hand
That I never looked up to notice.