Saturday, May 25, 2013

To Zach Sobiech

Dear Zach,

I've seen your face; I've heard your voice; I've read a bit about your story. But I never met you, and I don't know much about your life.

Here's what I do know:  You have kind eyes, the type that radiate hope and joy, though I've only seen them on a screen. Your story breaks me and sustains me. And I hope to meet you someday. Because I know that you did it--you realized what was important in life, in those precious days you had left. And I am so happy for you, really I am. It brings tears to my eyes at work and throughout my days.

Because  you shared yourself with others, producing heartbreaking beauty along the way.
Because you maintained hope and smile.
Because you were strong as you strummed your guitar and sang your way into our hearts.
Because you were dying and you did something about it: you lived.

You're going up, up, up,  but you're flying a little higher. Flying forever, where the view is a little nicer. Maybe someday, I'll see you up there.

So in the meantime, I wave to you as you look down at me from your paradise in the sky. And I give you an air five. Because you are beautiful. And you made it to your clouds.

You reminded me that we don't have to die to fly, only to fly that much higher. Your last days showed me that we can fly every day--we can soar--until the day we join you that much higher. 

Pray for us up there, man--that when our turn comes, we won't say, "If only I had a little bit more time."

I'll see you up there, man. I'll see you in the clouds.

It won't be long now.


"Let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors. You should sing as wayfarers do — sing, but continue your journey. Do not be lazy, but sing to make your journey more enjoyable. Sing, but keep going." -St. Augustine

Monday, May 20, 2013

moments of grace*

You pluck your guitar strings late at night, while offering your vocal melody

You pour boiling water on your mate, and extend the gourd to me

You sing of God in the morning, inviting the discord of my untrained voice

You easily hand over your credit card, paying for the man without a choice

You teach me about laughter, brightening the misty rain

You walk with the homeless woman, giving food to ease her pain

You help me pack sandwiches, your disabilities do not hinder the service you give

You share your smile continuously, showing me the better way to live

You open up a new jar and slide the green salsa my way

You send me a homemade package filled with treasures that you made

You drop me off at the back door, so I don't have to take the stairs

You wait for a call or text, to tell you I'm safely there

None of these are extraordinary, perhaps to our everyday lives

But they are all extraordinary, when seen through grateful eyes.

*to all of the people I'm privileged to know

Friday, May 10, 2013


You catch yourself looking at yourself in the mirror. And you have to laugh.

What on earth are your eyebrows doing? You look like a younger version of Einstein. So you lick the tip of your finger and try to brush them into submission. Better, but things are still a little haywire. The humidity did a wonder on your hair, leaving it unpredictable and wiry. Your skin is peeling a bit on your chin. You've got a smudge of mascara underneath your left eye.

"Good God! I'm a fiasco!" you think.

You chuckle into the mirror. Yes, you are a fiasco. You are a nut and a half. You try so hard, you really do. Yet you do not have everything under control. And it's a little endearing sometimes.

I'm reminded of Anne Lamott, who graciously named her thighs "The Aunties," and relives a moment in a bathing suit when she had to stand amidst four teenage girls in bikinis.

"I touched the aunties gently, to let them know I was there, and that made me less afraid. Ugliness is creeping around in fear, I remembered. Yet here I was, almost naked, and - to use the medical term - flabbier than shit, but deeply loyal to myself...

When I got to my room, I took a long, hot shower and then stood studying myself in the mirror. I looked like Divine. But then I thought about the poor aunties, how awful it must feel to have me judging them so harshly - the darling aunties! A gasp at this injustice escaped my lips, and my heart grew soft and maternal and then I said out loud, "God I am so sorry," and the aunties tucked their heads down shyly, not knowing now if they were safe....I put on my sexiest T-shirt, my cutest underpants, and I slathered rose-scented lotion on my legs, rubbing it in gently with the indignation of a mother who has rescued her daughter from school-yard bullies or the hands of the Philistines." 
-Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott

I had my Anne Lamott moment in the bathroom at work, looking at my lovable pitifulness and saying to myself, "this is good." 

We try so hard to have everything under control all the time. Why not cut ourselves some slack? We will never have everything under control all the time. Rearranging the exterior, layering on the makeup or getting a new outfit won't help if we are not kind to ourselves, if we don't feel a warm affection for who we are. Besides, it's what we do in the midst of chaos that defines who we are, deep in the core, right?

So what if, in the midst of chaos, we found joy? What if, when we looked in the mirror, crazy eyebrows and all, we smiled?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


You are loved. Whether you feel like it or not. Even if your hair actually looked like that today or the weather was lousy. Even if you’re too tired to think about it after work or to even receive it. You are loved.

You didn’t do anything to deserve it, by the way. I mean, not really. But that’s ok. That’s the point actually. The love is there anyway.

It makes your day a bit different, doesn’t it? Knowing that? You thought you had to earn it. You thought you had to deserve love, to work hard, to change. You do need to work hard…at becoming kinder, at making the world kinder, at graciously putting up with other people’s flaws, at graciously putting up with your own. But you don’t need to work hard to receive love. No, you don’t need to work hard to receive the love that’s already there, waiting for you to bask in it, waiting to be returned, waiting to be spread.

Think I’m being too soft? Think about it again. You are loved, but there is still suffering in the world, right? There’s still a lot of gunk you have to deal with--like the fact that you pass by a homeless woman on your way to work most days or that a man limped in front of you at the metro because that was the only way he knew how to walk. See, the love doesn’t make everything perfect. Love doesn’t erase that pain, that injustice. But see, love makes it bearable. It means that, even if everything is going down the toilet and things are ugly, an infinite love exists that prevails over it all—though you didn’t do anything to earn it, though you didn’t really contribute at all. The fact that something so beautiful and generous exists makes you blush and wonder at the very thought. And this realization helps you get by, bit by bit, day by day, bird by bird.

I guess what I’m trying to say is stop trying so hard. Stop feeling guilty. There’s nothing left to do. You are loved. Period. You don’t need to lose five pounds or have your resume put together to receive it. The love is there regardless. It exists whether you take advantage of it or not. And nothing you do will detract from its brilliance.

But this does not mean you get to give up. This does not mean everything is smooth sailing or that you get to do as you please. No. In fact, this love is a challenge, an invitation. What are you going to do with it?

Because love is not stagnant. It never tires. Love brings us out of our self-made muck and elevates us. It makes us reach up to the very top of the shelf on our tippy toes, where we’ve hidden our best selves, and dusts us off. Love reminds us of whom we are meant—called—to be.

So if you truly recognize this love, I mean really, there is no way you can ever stay the same. Your life will change when you encounter this love. And it will be beautiful. The moment when all of this truly sinks in will be beautiful.

You are loved. Use that knowledge. Share it. Because unused love is tragic.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


“You’re not ready yet,” you hear. You nod slowly, knowing the truth of these words, agreeing with them in your head, hating them in your heart. “You’re not ready yet.”

You walk up the hill in silence—day three of this designated time. The wind shatters the stillness of the grass and branches. You hug yourself tighter, but you’re not alone. You reach the top of the hill and look up at the magnificence of the sky. It’s a clear, crisp day, with large clouds sweeping across the expanse. In these moments, they part to reveal a glittering sun. Blinding. You cry for joy. “Hello!” your heart yells across the millions of miles. The God of all is revealing Himself to you, waving like a father does to his child on the beach from the sand. You wave back before extending your hand, reaching with all your might towards the brilliance of the light calling you from above.

“You’re not ready yet,” you hear. You are caught off guard, catching your breath, almost paralyzed, save the tears forming in your eyes. They are mixed with peace and sadness, frustration and joy, because you know, deep down, that it will be a long time before you are ready. You don’t want to go too soon. And yet, how on earth, will you bear it? How, on earth, will you be patient with yourself and with time? How, on earth, will you continue to see your maker though He may not be explicitly there? And how, on earth, will you bear being kept apart?

“You’re not ready yet.”

You’re learning to be okay with those words. You're ready, at the very least, to take life a day at a time, and to be content searching for love in the most feeble acts. You're ready, right now, to one day truly be ready. But you're not ready yet.