A thing called hope

hope-5

The world is not made out of sugar. There are no mountains whose bodies are crafted from chocolate candy or corners of the earth that are filled with strawberry popsicles. We come to know this as fact as the years pile up on our bodies and our minds grasp the threads that explain what it means to be a human being. It is sticky and hot and cold and hard and beautiful – everything rolled into one.

And yet, despite this shocking realisation that in this human life sugar is not always a given, there is a song for all the moments when our heart is filled with it, when it is dripping with sweetness. A song for all the times when the heart refuses to give up and die.

Because the opposite of sugar is often something very painful. Even when it lingers in the middle, it is something unbearable. There is a going back and unfolding of all the pain and brokenness, tears and shattered pieces that collect in a pool at the feet. I think this is done so the heart can see, really see the extent of the knots life creates because what follows next is a mystery even the heart itself can never unravel: the heart gets up on its feet, steadies itself and decides to try again. Even with the evidence lying in the open there is a relentless compelling to walk again.

There is a song for those moments. A song whose lyrics weave across and fall in and out of each other. The richness of rhythms that pour courage into the loins and make one more time possible and within reach. It becomes a place the hand can extend to grab and pull back into its body.

In my mother tongue we have a name for this song: Icicitekelo. In saying it the tongue rolls over the syllables as if pulling them in, drawing breath from them even as they become defined.

In English it is called hope.

When our hearts are broken, it is the thing that makes us believe that healing will come, and that we will love again. When we fall flat on our face and the way is dark before us, it is the thing that helps us up and illuminates the way.

It is hard to talk about hope without talking about expectations, for hope is constructed with the same threads. We live in perpetual fear of expectations because we know we are fallible as humans – we cannot possibly meet each other’s expectations perfectly. But there is also something else that fuels this – our fear of responsibility, the kind that demands we hold up other people. We have never truly learned this. To be expected to be there for someone else means to be responsible for showing up for that person. It is hard. It is scary.

Expectations mean vulnerability and vulnerability means open hearted feeling. And so hope is not a shy little thing that lives in the secret corners of our minds. It is a big, bold thing that dares consume the whole being – mind, body and soul. It can steer a life into a new direction, pulling it from the ever-encroaching pits of despair.

Hope doesn’t mean everything is going perfectly accordingly to plan. It means being centred whole-heartedly in the knowing that everything works for good in the purpose for which it is created and woven together whether it is life journeys or relationships.

Hope pulls the strings of life together and gathers it back to us; back to the centre of knowing. It is not incidental but coursing right at the core. It is a thing based in trust. This is why it cannot be disassembled from expectations. When we trust someone or a process we expect it to function a particular way. We expect the someone or process to show up in a way that is equivalent to the very trust we hold. It is that simple and that difficult. We hope in what we trust. And to trust requires vulnerability – a tenderness of heart. Hope works in the same way. It softens our outlook on life, caressing all the rough edges, aligning them. It is the foundation of faith, and it is what makes us believe that everything, everything will be alright.

We each decide where we lodge our hope, in which compartment or corner. It matters that we know because when its beautiful melody comes floating through our house we recognise it and are not afraid to grab its rhythms tight and embrace it because in actuality the end of this thing called hope is the beginning of all other things.

 

This post is about God

caution-god-at-work1

Here is the thing about being a God-lover.  It’s not all candy & bliss. It’s more like sugarcane. To get to the juicy, full-bodied flesh of sweetness, ripping, peeling & cutting has to happen.

To love God you actually have to do things; God-things. The things God does that make Him what He is. It’s the impartiality, the forgiving of others, the loving of the enemy, the esteeming of others better than yourself, the sacrificing & the keeping of the law. You do these things even when you don’t feel like it or you’re having a bad day. This is difficult.

Some people believe it to be a kind of slavery. Maybe it is. But imagine being chained to a mountain of goodness. & imagine that mountain oozing its goodness into you…it’s like that.

To love God you have to know Him. It’s not the mucking around in the emotion of it but the knowing of Him to the core. What He thinks & His take on life. The doing of Him. See, it stops being about you & how you feel & what you think is right. It’s about doing the God-thing regardless of what you think or feel. It is doing that thing that is the right thing to do everyday, everywhere and every time.

Of course this is impossible because we are human & are filled to the brim with the murk of our nature. But we cannot claim to know God without acting like He does.  We might as well leave the arena.

To speak of faith & God you have to spill yourself onto life. For to be a God-lover is to be vulnerable to ridicule, misunderstandings, judgement & criticism. But it is also to be privy to joy, peace, contentment, fulfilment, purpose & deep satisfying pleasure.

Many people proclaim to love God. I don’t know much about that. I only know of my own proclamation – I know it like a man knows a woman.

I am drawn to His purity like a miserable moth to the light. Irresistible, undeniable.

He has been merciful to me – the mercy He pours into my lap, no human can offer me. He has the one thing I cannot find anywhere else on earth or in the heavens. Even when I crawl into His presence with bleeding knees & parched lips, I leave with a nourished soul.

But when I try to explain this, words do not exist that quite capture the mystery. The letters of the alphabet fall off one by one in their inadequacy to name the beauty that is God to me.

I walk in a straight line. I am determined so. But as you would know, walking in a straight line can be like walking on a tightrope. You get wobbly & fall off sometimes. So you learn the art of steadying yourself. Balance. sweet, sweet balance. Sometimes it is the difference between life & death.

God is my balance, my ground, my earth, my air, my everything.

& so every night I find myself praying;

“I want to be secure in my knowing of You. In Your loving of me. Please, please…I want to be one hundred percent for You. I want to be amazing for You”

Just another boy

Just another face

There are 6 billion people on the planet. The earth is teeming & full. But somehow that fact turns into useless mist when you fall in love with one of them. Everybody else becomes a faceless face & a nameless name.

Your sights are imprisoned by one.

The one that sets you alight. That boy.

That boy who makes you lower your eyes because you can’t meet the sheer force & beauty of his…shy…yes; that boy who makes your heart gallop like a horse taking your breath along with it; that boy who inspires butterflies to ricochet in your belly – turning you inside-out; that boy who smells like heaven – ‘envelop me, please’ you cry;  that boy who speaks & you’re floored – lush & golden, his voice cascades down your spine; that boy who makes you lose your step in the hallway as you pass each other.

It all started like a dream. Of sugar & spice. Of untold fairy tales.

Girl meets boy. Girl falls flat in two seconds because let’s be honest, she has been in love with him from the moment he crash landed into her conscious.

He talks & she drinks him in every word, every syllable & every inflection. So, so sweet to her ears & her starving soul.

He implies things. She takes them as promises.

He is the one! He is the one! The little bursts of exquisiteness he evokes in her bewitch her into total belief. Surely they can’t be wrong.

But they are. & she is blind to it. Partly because she makes excuses for him – his indecision, his not showing up for her & for every promise uttered by his honey-sweet lips. She initiates. He responds but only to take &take. He leads her on, drawing her close but yet so far from him.

‘I can make him realise that I am the exception’ she reasons. ‘I can change how he feels.’

By the time she looks up, she is halfway across the ocean. & there is no one else. Except her & the darkness. She had it all wrong.

The pain she feels is unearthly. Like the tearing of flesh off her bones…her heart douched in poison. She is a foetus on the floor trembling from the fire that consumes her from within. Nobody had ever told her just how painful a broken heart could be.

And when she shares the brokenness, everybody tells her to move on, to get over it, to toughen up – because everybody goes through that. It’s part of life. Nobody has time to whine about broken hearts in the world or to take them seriously.

And so she stores away the pain & hides it behind broken smiles & a façade of strength. But every day when she closes the door of her room shutting the world out, the pain erupts & makes her heart go into cardiac arrest. She cries until she has no breath left in her. Alone & dejected, she falls asleep every night desperate for healing & release from the pain. Day after day after night after night until one day something begins to rise from the ashes…something begins to rise from the ruins of her soul

Some lessons can only be learned through experience. Some lessons cannot be learned when things are great. So, sometimes, brokenness is needed to drive the wisdom into the heart. Like a wedge. The hope is in the beauty that can follow heartbreak if & when healing comes.

And the girl soon realises that something has shifted – twisted her back into alignment with her purpose. She still hungers for a man & the love he can offer & the one she wants to lavish on him but she realises that it is not the kind of starvation that will kill her. & so she learns to sit with the wanting, to find joy in the waiting.

& then one day she wakes up & as she crosses that boy in the hallway, her heart misses a beat. His wonderful smell envelops her & fills her nostrils. She shakes her head gently,

‘yes but no’ she whispers to herself.

Her heart settles back into place. & she watches the delicious scent of him un-hug her & disappear into oblivion. She glances at the boy & suddenly sees him for what he is – just another boy.

Grabbing healing by the horns


It doesn’t actually work like that. Not really.

They say time heals all things. This is true. But it is also true that it depends what you do with that time. You can sit on the edge of your bed for 3 years waiting for healing and still feel like you are in a raging inferno. The passing of time alone does not stop wounds from festering.

Healing happens to be a much more complicated process than I initially realised. I remember as a little girl lying sick in bed and waiting to feel better. I hated taking medicine. I would feign swallowing the pills and as soon as my Mother was out the door I would spit the disgusting stuff out. Even back then I had this belief that my little body would heal itself.

I’ve come a long way from those days. There are many times when the body can heal itself…but we have become a generation that is known to pop pills even for a scratch so our bodies have also adjusted. They almost always need our help to heal. 

Even then, the body is still an absolute wonder. Truly and truly. It is capable of two kinds of healing;

Regeneration – the process by which restoration of health is achieved by damaged cells being replaced by new cells that form similar tissue as was originally there.

Repair – in this process, the injured tissue is replaced with scar tissue.

Most of the organs in our body will heal using a mixture of both mechanisms.

I have been thinking about healing because I have been watching and observing my heart as it recovers from a heartbreak. In the process, old wounds festered and I’ve had to face those too.

Healing non-physical wounds can be incredibly hard. Unfortunately, this is one area we cannot heal through regeneration. Our only option…for now…is to repair what is damaged and carry the scars for a lifetime. But, you know what they say about scars 😉 

Wound healing is even more fascinating. After the initial clot formation to stop the bleeding, a wound then produces cells that kill bacteria and releases damaged tissue. This damaged tissue is sometimes releases as part of a white-yellow or yellow-brown substance we commonly know as pus. And travelling in this pus are any toxins that the body ejects from the site of inflammation. Without this important ejection of toxins and tissue, this stuff would stay in the body and we might as well kiss healing goodbye.

Last Saturday, on my way to church, I hit upon a wall. As I sat on the bus, my head safely leaning against the window, I felt this deep sorrow that unhinged the depths of my soul. I was thinking about why the man I thought was the one was not the one, and why that fact alone threatened to bury me in a grave of hopelessness. I had given my all in terms of how I showed up for him. He took and took and took and that is all he gave in return – his taking. The few moments spent in his mesmerizing presence were beautiful but whenever I was apart from him, the beauty faded away and I was left grasping for the mist. The doubts would flood in. There was nothing secure. And yet, I kept going back for more. I was like an addict going back for more heroin. But it was utterly hopeless because the high never lasted.

As I shut my eyes against the tears that flooded my being, it suddenly dawned on me that I was carrying toxins deep within me. This man I loved was not good for me. He was toxic. And expulsion is the only worthy door left to open.

This is the beauty of the healing process, it is never complete until all the toxins are released and you’re healthy again. And so, if needed, you will be cut open again and again and again…whatever is necessary to bring you to wholeness.

We forget that a broken heart is a sick heart; that brokenness is a disease that requires healing. This is why we have wounded people walking around and wounded people cannot have wholesome, out-of-this-world relationships.

We carry around wounded hearts because frankly, most of us give up on this healing mumble jumble or maybe we just don’t have time for it – it’s too hard, it’s too painful, too exhausting, too much. It’s easier to pretend it doesn’t really bother us or doesn’t matter. And so that is what we do. This is a tragedy of tragedies.

I cannot heal you. Nor can I tell you what your healing will be like. I can only tell you what I’m learning;

Healing will bring you to your knees. You will not be able to hide. You will have to come out in the open and face the hail and storm. It is hard work. But the work humbles you and you are never the same person again. 

So instead of grabbing healing by the horns, you need to take it by the hand. Because sometimes itwill lead you. Other times, you will have to be the one out in front directing your healing. It is not a war, it is a partnership.

And when all is said and done, you will come into a clearing. You will be healed, at least as far as human healing goes. Your heart will be healthy again and hopefully, wiser too. And that is definitely worth all the pain in the world.

So, take your healing. Take it. By the hand.

We need less wounded people in the world, surely.

Feeling your heart beat again

heartbeat again

It would seem we all need constant reminders about how special life is. It’s so easy to get drowned in everything that is wrong in the world and with our own lives that each day becomes more like a wrestling match. We wrestle with ourselves, our attitudes, our jobs and even our loved ones.

And in all the drama of trying to survive yet another day, we forget to notice that our heart continues to beat within us…keeping us alive, steadfastly so.

We forget to say thank you that we are alive.

I’ve travelled much of the United States in the last 4 weeks and I’ve experienced every emotion imaginable from pure, gushing hurt to indescribable, enveloping peace. I’ve watched my life unfold before my own eyes and I’ve seen it through other people’s eyes. I’ve gone down memory lane and traced the trail that brought me to this moment. I’ve cried tears of awe that there is a favour that has been laid upon my life from the day I was born. God didn’t have to choose me but He did. That knowledge alone brings me to my knees.

So, here I am…in San Francisco; in this city that I’ve read so much about and heard so much about since I was a little girl. Like all the cities I’ve visited, it used to be a mere dot on the map…but now, I’m here. I cry because I’m touched in a way that makes my heart beat like it’s never beat before.

Before I left Melbourne, my heart was broken.

Today, my heart is beating. Sometimes quietly and other times furiously, but all the time, invigorating and assuring.

Something has changed and I know that I can never go back to being the same again. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

I read somewhere this week that “it turns out when you unlock your dreams and dare your heart to open, our soul isn’t a maze of rooms that we can compartmentalize.”

The things in our heart have a way of entangling with each other. And rightly so because I don’t think it was intended that we open up parts of our heart and keep others shut. This is why often when we find ourselves going through something, old wounds and old memories come rising up.

But the beauty is – that is how healing is achieved. You walk your heart through the paces one entangled step at a time.

I used to think being an adult….and being a woman meant I had all the answers and that I didn’t feel scared and insecure. My trip has taught me that is not the case.

Being a woman is a process – sometimes I will not have the answers and sometimes I will feel insecure and scared. This should not define or master me. I should be working to rise above these things.

So because I didn’t understand how this stuff worked, I was waiting for myself to miraculously change into a woman…waiting to feel like a woman.  But now I realise that I AM, one.

A woman whose heart beats with a rhythm that tells the story of how far she has travelled; a woman whose dreams graze every corner of her being; and a woman who is growing into being the best woman she could ever be.

I’m grateful to be alive, and for the answers that God pours into my lap, always at the right time.

May your heart know how grateful you are that it beats for you.

 

 

 

 

What to do with a broken heart

broken heart to do

The heart can be quite a messy thing.

Sometimes it’s as though it spews poison right into your body and takes you to places you don’t want to go…dark, cold and lonely places where even breathing is painful.

I don’t like that sometimes my own heart can feel so foreign to myself. It’s like a stranger carrying a heavy suitcase just walked into my house but instead of relaxing in my fold, he refuses to lay himself or his suitcase down.

How could this thing that beats quietly inside of me be capable of producing so much anguish?

Yes, the heart can be quite messy.

I’ve been starring at this mess for the last five months now. Moments of blissful existence intricately woven with moments of sheer torturous desperation creating one fabric that I cannot tell where the seams begin or end.

I’ve only ever been truly in love twice in my life.

First when I was sixteen.

And now…just at the cusp of my womanhood, at the outer edges of my thirties.

My heart doesn’t lend itself to falling so easily so when it does, even I most often can never decipher it.

People say so many things about love, how it should be and what makes it work. Everybody has some opinion or two and usually they talk from their own personal experience. And it’s good to listen to people. Sometimes. Other times, you have to do what’s right for you. The catch is, whether you listen to people or make your own decision, you have to live with the consequences.

I don’t know much about love…especially a man’s love for a woman. I only know what I saw my Dad give my Mom. And I wanted some of that.

I am the most inexperienced and insecure woman when it comes to men and their hearts.

So as I was falling in love the second time, I couldn’t help but want to do it right. I wanted to get it right and I wanted to plan the whole thing!

But of course you know how plans go, especially the ones that involve other living, breathing beings. Everything happened the way I didn’t expect it to.

I fell head over heels for a man who can give me nothing in return…or at least he chooses not to.

And therein lies part of the problem with love because at some point, it becomes a choice you make over and over again. You can’t rely on your feelings to sustain any kind of love. That’s just something feelings are not fully equipped to do.

At some critical point, love has to be a choice.

My love for him spills over like an over-flowing bucket beneath a dripping tap.

Gushes. Drips. Intense. Calm. Rigid. Soft. Consuming. Liberating.

He makes me want to look for the corners of myself and when I find them I always want to hand them back to him.

He makes me breathless just by existing.

We are so unlike each other and on paper the whole thing is ridiculous and would never work…but and yet he fits into me like he was made for me.

He smells so divine…so much so that his scent has imprinted itself on my memory and I smell him every time I think of him.

Even without saying a word, he seems to know how the pistons in my mind work.

He is not perfect…far from it.

He is raw, rugged and extremely complicated.

When he talks, his voice compels me to listen not only to what he verbalises but to everything else he says in-between the silences.

I swoon when he looks at me.

He is not more or less. He is just the way he should be. And that works for me.

But.

He has broken my heart.

He has cut me open and left me there to bleed.

By not showing up for every word spoken, every knowing glance shared and every emotion evoked.

He didn’t choose me.

He didn’t show up for me.

He didn’t even try.

My heart is desperately broken, un-hinged and thirsty for wholeness. I don’t know what to do with it.

I could tell it tales of how he is not worthy of me in the first place and that it is his loss; or maybe I could distract it with thoughts and dreams of empires and world domination; or maybe I could remind it that if a guy is really into us, he would act no matter what.

But none of these would change the fact that it hurts so badly.

So I’ve decided the only thing I’m going to do is feel the pain and wait for the healing.

And so I write about him in hope that I can in the process write him out of my heart, mind and soul; that I can release him back into the great unknown and I can walk away from this.

I cannot undo the brokenness but I can wait for the wholeness.

I will not play human games with my broken heart. I will not hide my wound. I will let it out and learn to love myself through the pain.  I will wait for the healing.

I will not rush it. There is no need to.

I will wait…and in time, my broken heart will piece itself back together again.

And maybe, just maybe…the third time I fall in love, it will finally be forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing your heart

Men think women’s hearts are complicated.
And us women think it’s the other way round…it is men’s hearts that are complicated. 

The result is that there is this seemingly great divide between men and women when it comes to their hearts. There is so much ignorance and misunderstandings and these tend to shroud the heart in a great cloud of mystery for both men and women.

I must confess here and now that I am going to give my heart to a man who is comfortable with holding a woman’s heart in his hands. I am going to give my heart to a man who is interested and deliberately makes the effort to understand how the heart works. Because a man like that will know that getting his own heart is paramount to getting a woman’s heart…and vice versa. 

For me, this year is about getting back to the basics, getting rudimentary with myself and with life. And I realised the other day when I said something to someone that even I did not expect myself to say, that my own heart is largely a stranger to me. 

So I’m going back to school – to learn about my heart and all its complexities.

For most of our childhood and adulthood, we are taught and trained to fear our heart as though it were something apart from us. We are indirectly and sometimes even directly encouraged not to pay attention to ourselves but to run from ourselves and avoid all the stuff that would make us seem too emotional or too attached to this unpredictable thing called the heart. 

Yes, I do see the need to have a healthy fear for the heart only because we are a mixture of good and bad and this healthy fear if you used correctly would help keep our flawed side in check. However, the training we receive in the world tends to drive us to the other extreme end of the pendulum where fearing the heart is synonymous with avoiding it and not making the effort to understand it. 

People have told me many times that I am too emotional; that I take things too personally and that I make a big deal out of small things. This is true if you look at it from where you are standing. From where I stand, it is something totally different. It is only by getting to know my heart that I came to understand why I appear to take things personally and why everything that affects me is important to me. 

The beauty is that I am reaching a point where I can recognise when my feelings and emotions have their source in insecurity, pride or fear. And once you get to this point, this is actually the easy part. What is hard is dealing with these emotions and feelings in the right way; dealing with them in a balanced way.

Knowing your heart requires courage – the courage to face all the glitter, grim and grime that the heart possesses; the courage to deal with all the different emotions and reactions. Knowing your heart also requires vulnerability because you will have to unpack yourself in the most revealing of ways.

When you know your heart, you know where most of your strengths and weaknesses are; you know where your thoughts, words and actions come from; you know when your emotions are controlling you and when they are in balance with your will; and you know why you act and react the way you do to things, people and situations.

If you really think about it, the mystery isn’t all that great. Your heart is yours to know; it is yours to discover, uncover and conquer….especially before you decide to give it to somebody else.