Many months later...

“love yourself & others. change the world for good!”

“love yourself & others. change the world for good!”

It’s been nine months since I’ve published a post or written almost anything. I’ve deliberated scrapping this blog altogether—for what worth is it now? How do you show up this many days or weeks later, with little to offer, still?

Still. That pesky, five letter adverb and a word I’ve mostly associated with shame. I hear it in all tones and voices, remnants of people projecting their own insecurities onto me. The enemy loves to gobble that up, you know.

Still sad?
Still no answers?
Still talking about your diagnosis?
Still feeling depressed?
Still returning to that sin?
Still caring what people think?
Still not over it?

Still, still, still. Maybe it comes to haunt you, too.

The question isn’t always asked disapprovingly, of course. Sometimes people are genuinely curious, wanting an update, or checking to see if their prayers were answered. But prolonged pain also makes people uncomfortable. Few of us are naturally skilled at knowing what to do or say when someone’s life has been the same kind of hard. I’m not.

I’ve long internalized opinions and reactions and words, resulting in this ludicrous timeline I’ve charted for myself… and God. Definitely God. I want to calendar my healing. I want to quickly extract lessons from pain. I want metrics to prove I’ve grown. And then, I’ve thought, God will be pleased. He will see that I have “learned my lesson” and give me a break. He will get more glory because I’m not still wrestling.

I scrutinize my life and wrongly expect you’re doing the same. So I put off the catch ups, the texts linger unanswered, the pen never touches paper, and my prayers are delayed till I can’t bear this withdrawing a second more. When I’m alone with my thoughts (usually on my commute), I know I am afraid. I fear I will be unable to recover from what illness, abuse, or my own sin has broken in me. And I’m afraid for anyone to notice and wonder—she is still hurting?

For years and years, I’ve been hard at work, curating how I’m perceived. I hoped for a reputation considered otherworldly, driving me to more control. As these months have been significantly painful, I’ve found it impossible to keep that up. There’s little left to offer from the “old Erika.”

I thought God and those around me would be displeased. But gosh darn it, what if there is a different narrative—one without shame—that I can actually live from? This is why I’m finally writing from my months-long place of cocooning and darkness. I want to discover who God is, who I am, and how the heck we are to live in this world.

This is my reminder for tonight:

I’m still growing.
I’m still a daughter, sister, friend, and truth-teller.
I’m still waiting on him, praying (maybe barely) and he still hears.
I’m still a disciple of Jesus, not exempt from his promises or commands.
I’m still asking questions, curious, and willing to learn.
I’m still laughing and interpretive dancing at inopportune times.
I’m still here, with a voice and a purpose.

I’m still God’s.

___________________

PSALM 13

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

When I want to be in control.

Sometimes, I'm foolish. 

I'm not sure why I thought to start a 30 day writing challenge the week I began treatment would be a good idea. In a matter of seconds, I can revert to strutting around as a look-strong-be-strong overachiever. I tried to think of words between 1 and 2 am every night, justifying to myself how I technically wasn't late for a post that day because it wasn't midnight for Pacific Time folks. When I should've been resting, I tried to get this ol' brain to help me perform as a wordsmith. For the sake of what?

Growing in discipline as a writer is not a bad idea. But maybe right now is not the time for these higher demands. I wanted to skip from writing twice a month to daily, which is indicative of my personality and how uncompromising I can be. You should've seen me last night, worries radiating after I decided I'd forego posting and get sleep instead. A writing challenge seemed like a good way to develop my skills, yet I didn't seek God for what would be the best way to accomplish this or to use my time. It was an assumption, not wisdom.

I called a friend today, after cleaning large portions of the house (to which she pointed out my overachievement), bemoaning an area in life that's another not right now. My brother's favorite word is "cumbersome," and I'd say the waiting and waiting and waiting has become just that. This person/place/thing occupies more of my thoughts and emotions than it probably should and I'm close to defaulting to: take control! make it happen! forge a way! I could blame this on being all-or-nothing, but perhaps it's that I don't trust God with the scope of my life. 

Have I asked him what he wants me to give attention to right now? Maybe it's not to be spent finding a home or a spouse or words hidden in my brain. I'm going to be spending time seeking the Lord and asking how he desires I use my resources, talents, affections, opportunities, time, pain, and passions.

As I head into another week, I want to leave you with a song we declared as a church this morning. Even with all of the unknowns, I take comfort in this Immutable God I get to know and experience, right now. May these words touch and refresh you, too.

He is God and we are not.

Renovation Music | Immutable, John Vaughan

Nanny portrait.

"Miss Erika"  by a 3 year old

"Miss Erika" by a 3 year old

Not much to say tonight except how my heart beams at the opportunity to be "Miss Erika" to little ones. I've tucked multiple children into bed the last two evenings which doesn't happen often, as I'm a nanny by day kinda girl. But I've loved the brief moments after the toothpaste has goateed chins and before the snores kick in—where I speak life and God's love over them. I find myself praying for peace, for courage, for true rest, and hearts turned heavenward. It gets me teary-eyed. How important it is this next generation experiences God. Do I portray his character beyond nighttime prayers, when it's more natural to curse instead of bless? What is it they see?

READING NOW.

いま読んでいる本
Books I'm currently reading:
 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Book #1)
by J.K. Rowling

This is my fun read right now. My sister and I weren't allowed to watch or read Harry Potter as kiddos, so I have no idea what I've been missing out on. Sometimes my cousins would watch the movies when we visited, and I'd hide behind their rocking chair because I couldn't join them in good conscience. 

I figured it's time to read the series for myself. If I like them enough, I might even convince my mom to give them a chance, too. People have said there are some beautiful, redemptive themes which I look forward to parsing out. 

A few of my friends are committed HP fans, so I texted them the photo above. They were thrilled. The big question is: what Hogwarts house will I belong to? A BuzzFeed quiz tells me Hufflepuff, but I have no idea what that is or what it might say about me. We shall see!


Vulnerable Communion
A Theology of Disability and Hospitality
by Thomas Reynolds

I'm reading this one for my internship and it's constructive theology I need time and help to understand. I worked for a few hours today to create an outline on what I've been reading, hoping that'll aid me as I distill the main points into something I can effectively remember and share.

Reynolds' words and reflections might be complex, but his thesis is clear. He'll be unpacking the following statement as the chapters carry on:

There is a strange logic to the Christian witness, one that gives testimony to a strength that comes through weakness, a wholeness that manifests itself in brokenness, a power that reveals itself through vulnerability.

I'm curious to see where he goes with this idea and how it then informs our perspective on disability and hospitality. Maybe I'll share more thoughts in the future. Let me know if you'd be interested in reading those?


Mental Health and the Church
A Ministry Handbook for Including Families Impacted by Mental Illness
by Dr. Steven Grcevich

Also for my internship. I snagged this after coming across Key Ministry, which Dr. Grcevich founded. More studies are showing the great neglect found in churches when it comes to including people with hidden disabilities, particularly mental health conditions. The book is practical and direct. I'm not very far, but I've already been moved to recognize my ignorance and passivity, repent, and seek how to appropriately respond.
 

___________

I've had 6-8 books on rotation for months now, as you'll see in my ever-growing Goodreads list. These are the main three I'm working through as of today. Honestly, books and I have been out of sorts this year. Partly because of brain disassembly, partly just lack of discipline or choosing other activities—like long nature walks and spontaneous times with friends. Once fall weather hits, I imagine I'll be making consistent library trips again.     

What are you currently reading? I'd love to hear!
 

Paying attention.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down --
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

—MARY OLIVER, The Summer Day

I know I've seen Mary Oliver's final, earnest question here extracted and used in all sorts of places. My guess is those last two lines are the most well-known of the poem. But tonight was my first time reading The Summer Day in its lovely entirety, and I have my personal favorite:

"I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention..."

Gosh, how that mirrors my inner discourse from this morning. The baby slept and I, the nanny, peeled away to the guest room where I worried and wondered in my head for a good hour. All that time, I felt the beckon to pray. To get on my knees and focus on God. To give him the big and little things, admitting I don't have the answers or the power to solve what's wrong in this world. The words wouldn't come. It's like I forgot how to pray altogether.

Naptime almost finished, I finally muttered a few sentences. Why is it so hard to pray for and love others? To entrust all of life to the Creator? Have I missed the point lately, failing to give people the care they deserve? There has to be more.

I don't know how to pay attention to God's voice and people's hearts, but I want to learn. So that, Mary Oliver, is what I plan to do.

How do I say thank you?

My current med setup, not a household shrine. Promise.

My current med setup, not a household shrine. Promise.

Treatment, week one.

I glance at the chart, pairing capsules and droppers and sprays to their proper doses and conditions. It's a grown-up matching game. 15 drops, twice daily, the 4th row reads. Empty stomach? Check. The droplets roll into my cup. So tiny and clear, they could be mistaken for rain, tears, possibly even sweat. Expensive sweat.

Bacteria is present, partying in my body like it has for years. But my new practitioner says she's hopeful. This time I believe those words. Because I finally am, too.

If treatment yields a body without pain, I would be so grateful. (Many of you have been praying and are currently praying to that end. Thank you for that. Truly.) Can I be honest, though? This body—the one that creaks and swells and tires—is how I've known it since 18. Life has been lived and loved through it. In those years, I've grown up with symptoms always surrounding me. Plenty of mornings, my energy (or spoon supply) was emptied before I could leave my room. But God was constantly near, his presence encircling me in ways I can't perceive. Unfailingly, his spirit would sustain me when I thought it impossible to continue on. 

Joni Eareckson Tada wrote in When God Weeps:

The damp fog of my despair did not dissipate overnight, but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I had turned a corner. I was moving in the direction of God. My questions also created a paradox: in the midst of God's absence, I felt his presence. I found him after I let go of what I thought he should be. My despair ended up being my ally because through it, he took hold of me.

I eventually came to know his kindness in my physical suffering. Paradoxes, yes. This is why, without a healed body, I can say I'm grateful right now. It's the Spirit's work, I know. I'm too grumpy and selfish and impatient to produce anything resembling thankfulness. Please remember that.

When coming to Atlanta, I knew nothing of health centers in the area. I started to pray this spring for direction and wisdom on where to seek treatment. The Sunday before Hope Heals Camp, I received prayer for healing from one of our elders. We spoke later that morning, and he said he'd be in touch. Cell service was spotty at camp, but if you held your phone just right, you could load emails on the front patio of my cabin. The message came through on my birthday—the elder connected me with someone who had Lyme disease. She'd seen results through a center up north, where I'm now a patient. By early July, my prayer for direction had been answered.

Next, I needed provision. God has stretched my part-time, hourly pay to cover all kinds of bills and costs, but appointments and remedies from my own check were out of reach. I began to pray for the right resources. I made my needs known and once again, God used his people to answer my prayers. It is through the generosity and faithfulness of my brothers and sisters that I now get to receive treatment. WHAT!?!

Last time I started treatment, I walked away from the church. The isolation I felt made my heart wilt with despair. A few years later and it's the church that is walking with me to wholeness. They don't know how they've already been integral to my healing these last 9 months. 

"We want to see you well. Start as soon as you can."

I've never had this kind of support. A billion thank you's could not suffice. 

These are photos from my bedridden days over the years. All pre-Georgia. Don't be fooled by the colors and twinkling lights—grief, fear, and confusion were bundled inside. I thought I was Erika the Sick Girl and nothing more. Seems like another life.

Googling, recently.

We live in a world where google is an official verb. Don't know something? Google it real quick. Results to our important and not so important questions populate within seconds. Our hunger for knowledge (not to be confused with wisdom) can be easily met. Googling is handy and I like what it can do. Yet I wonder, how does this impact our curiosity and does it lead to transformation in thought and action? Maybe it doesn't matter and I'm weird to be bothered by this thought at 10:30 in the evening.

Anyway, that's a long intro to say, years ago, D.L. Mayfield shared her week in Google search terms and I liked her idea. If you can tell what a person values by peeking at their bank account or their calendar, does the same go for their search history?

Here's what I've been pondering:

  • Do daddy longlegs multiply?
  • Why is a timing belt called a timing belt?
  • Atlanta BeltLine gentrification
  • Ableism and the straw ban
  • Captain Jack Sparrow "opportune moment"
  • How to be a good conversationalist
  • Transcultural and multicultural
  • How to unevenly split rent
  • Naps for 15 month old
  • Christian missions in Japan
  • "You'll Be in My Heart" lyrics

I have heaps to learn and I might burst not knowing how to make new information useful. Also, still not sure about the daddy longlegs, but help—what is it they love about my shower?