Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hound of Heaven

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me.
It was not I that found O Savior true; No, I was found of Thee.

I find, I walk, I love, but oh, the whole of love is but my answer, Lord, to Thee!
For Thou wert long beforehand with my soul, always Thou lovest me.

Thou didst reach forth Thy hand and mine enfold; I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea 'Twas not so much that I on Thee took hold, as Thou, dear Lord, on me.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Impress on me the weight of Glory to anchor me.

I know you feel hollow and disembodied like you're floating through your days,

while the mundane present seems so irrelevant compared to the sharp gaping wound,

but you must keep insisting on staying in it.

Give it more space, attention, and import than you give the weighty darkness.

Flip the switch on real and non-real.

Felt reality isn't true reality all the time, nor is it the whole truth of present reality.

We know this constrastly (and sometimes in opposition) as we attend to, make space for, and live by the largely unfelt, invisible reality of Abba's reign.

Insist on that; let it become greater, weightier, despite felt experience.

Oh for that day when that which is felt and that which is true are in perfect, lovely harmony. Every lack will be met. "Hollow" will be crowded out of our experience and vocabulary; emptiness will be no more, when we are filled with his fullness.

Grateful to live with my soul sister, a therapist-to-be who lost precious sleep to sit in the puddle with me.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On wanderlust.

the land where the edge of the sea meets the wall of the sky.

the horizons that stretch your sophomoric imaginations and longings.

well by dwelling in God. in Him is rest. without fear. without boredom.

the things that last forever and ever.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Love of a jealous kind, 10.

9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1

LORD, why is this?! I trembling cried.
Will You pursue Your own to death?

thank You for laboring with me in love.
so meticulous, so kind
to make me Yours.

Tis in this way, the LORD replied,
I answer prayer for grace and strength.
These inward trials I now employ,
From self, and pride, to set you free;
And break your schemes of earthly joys,
Til you should find your all in Me.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Little one, Pt 2: CANCERFREEOMG!

Pausing this morning to celebrate Abba's goodness, this brave little booboo's resilience and joy, her family's strong hope. She is HEALED!

from Stage 3 NHL in April
to cancer-free.OMG today!

Received your great news as most worthy excuse for celebratory ICE CREAM FOR BREAKFAST. Raising a spoon to you from your old stomping grounds :) It was Haagen Dazs Caramelized Banana Chip Gelato, pretty good!! Seeya in Seattle!

"Is everything sad going to come untrue?" // Sam Gamgee

hope shall change to glad fruition
faith to sight, and prayer to praise

Friday, September 12, 2014

On 9/11 and PTSD, Pt 2

Here are some snapshots from one of my favorite writers (a paragraph of her unfiltered, confessionally honest wit, and her refreshingly researched and resonant views, similar experiences except she's better at everything, and you who know me will know that I adore her. Penelope can we be friends?)

Penelope Trunk, who survived 9/11, and a host of other crazy shit, is a traveling friend and a credible witness. She blogs about PTSD every year on 9/11.

Because she has allowed herself to heal through storytelling, through reframing (which is an important marker of therapeutic rather than ruminative narrative), and observed her own healing.

On therapeutic vs. ruminative writing -- I am reading Pennebaker's social psychology findings through computational linguistics research -- this is a whole other post on how to heal through writing. Well, this whole blog is an attempt at health and help through writing.

I don't have a roadmap to the wilderness. No one does, that's what makes it wild. There are a few signposts though, corroborated by many who have gone the pilgrim route before us.


1. Walk together. Let's be generous and hospitable. You can afford to be human.
Written for Time Magazine, the week of 9/11/2001.

There was no one around. White everywhere. The four of us had nowhere to go. I couldn't remember where I was. I walked toward the water. Police directed everyone north. I asked a woman next to me, "Where are we going?" She said, "I don't know." She had no dust. She looked so steady. I followed her. This was the beginning of her long protection.

She said, "You can walk home with me. You need a shower." I coughed. She asked why I was carrying a wastebasket. I said, "In case there's another bomb." She held onto my arm as we made our way next to the river. In Chinatown, she bought me shoes. At the Bowery we finally found a payphone that didn't have a line of people. So she called her husband and I sat down next to my wastebasket. It was the first time I sat down, and I started crying.

2. Let's hold hands. Let's give each other dignity.
Written for Time Magazine, the week of 9/11/2001.
I remembered one more moment under the rubble. When I couldn't breathe. When I couldn't see. In the middle of the dead quiet was a voice. He said, "Is there anyone here? Can someone hold my hand?" I reached out to the voice, and held his hand. It was shaking and the skin was old. I squeezed and then I let go.

3. God shows grace and mercy toward humanity. Accept that you are human and there was no way you could have rewalked that valley perfectly.
8 years later.
Over the years, what that upsets me the most about 9/11 has changed. In the beginning, I was most upset about how when I saw danger, I walked toward the building, to see what was happening, rather than getting back on the train and going home. Later I learned that most of Wall St. responded the same way, so I was beating myself up for what was simple human nature.

Later, the thing that most upset me was that I needed so much help from people, but I did not offer help. For example, someone else broke a window, I don't know how, but I pulled myself into a building with breathable air just as I was preparing to accept death. I made my way to a bathroom that was clean and had running water.

Our mouths were so coated with debris that we couldn't really breathe without first swallowing water. There were men fighting over who could drink out of the toilet first. The fighting men scared me and my instinct was to lock the door—I just wanted to be safe.

Later I realized that most people around me were being selfish. It is another natural instinct that you never read about in the newspaper. Who wants to tell a reporter about their selfishness on the anniversary of 9/11?

This year, I realized that my most upsetting moment has changed again. It was the moment where I accepted that I was going to die. I had just married my husband, and I was so disappointed that I would not see how our lives unfolded. I realized that the greatest joy in life is simply watching the lives of people you love unfold in their very own way.
4. Let's tell our stories. Then transcend them. Let's listen well to each other.
Oh yeah, and duh, let's accept the premise: we all could use therapy.
This excerpt is from 2 years later, in 2003.
The way to deal with post-traumatic stress is to tell your story over and over again. The theory is that when you are in the moment of trauma, you have to turn off all your emotions to get yourself through it. After the fact, in order to stop having nightmares and panic attacks, you have to experience the emotions you missed.

So I told my story over and over again. And each time, the story was a little different. (I still tell the story, although to be honest, most people are sick of it. Even my brother said, “That just took 25 minutes. Maybe you need an abridged version.”)

When I began telling my story I saw myself as an imbecile — for staying at work after the first plane hit, for standing so close to the building, for not trying to help anyone but myself. Later, my story focused on how I was a lucky person to have come out alive. And I was a lucky person to have a moment where I thought I was going to die and saw exactly what I cared about in my life.

This is the process of reframing. How we frame our stories determines how we see ourselves. It's the glass half-empty/half-full thing: The trauma of 9/11 taught me to frame my life as half-full.
5. Be patient with yourself, healing takes time. Go slow. Take the space and time that you can.
She writes 7 years later, that it didn't change her overnight though sometimes she wishes that it had.

The slowest moment in my whole life was the time between when the World Trade Center fell next to me. . . In my memory this time span is about fifteen minutes. But from the historical record, I know it was about one minute.

I have been writing for seven years about how the World Trade Center changed me.

And I have been writing, too, about how much I want to change. Sometimes it’s about productivity, sometimes it’s about compassion, sometimes it’s managing my own money. I always want to change something.

I always thought that my success is due to my fast pace. My quick thinking, quick delivery, quick judgment, quick shift. I tell myself that I can get what I want if I try hard enough. And then I translate that to a faster pace.

Don’t tell me about meditation, and yoga, and being present. I’ve done all that. The problem is that a fast-paced overachiever can undermine even those being-present techniques. For example, I am sure that I’m better at Ashtanga yoga than you are: See. That’s how the mind of the fast-paced works.

There is the step you take where you change what your body is doing, and then there is the second step, where you change what you believe. So I have had a hard time believing that I’d be okay with a slower pace.

But this year, I tried going slower. I tried to trust that I’d change the most by changing my pace.

Changing my pace has been about trusting that good things will come from being slow, just as they do from being fast. It’s hard to trust in that, because if you’ve been fast your whole life, you don’t know what you’ll get from slow. Instead, you only see what you cut out of the fast life to make room for the slow life. You know what you lose but not what you’ll gain.

Some of you know what I mean. Others of you are sitting in your chair, smugly thinking that you are great at slow. But those of you who hate a fast pace, you still have a pace problem, it’s just the opposite: Speed makes you anxious. You might miss something. You might do something wrong. You might get lost. These are the worries of slow people that are foreign to the fast.

Pace matters. It opens doors if you use it well. I am not sure if I would be able to change my pace if I had not had an inescapable, defining moment that forced me to try slow. So today I am taking a moment to have gratitude to all the lessons I learned, during my slowest moment..
6. Let's stop when it's time to get on with the day, the point of integrating that old pain into the present, is to be present.
Time to stop reflecting and start shining. But, if you can't--if you're not there yet--first, that's okay--second, make sure the voices you listen to are the ones that know. Read Penelope, for example. 13 years out, you can believe her when you look at her life.

The world is riddled with the same stories, many role reprisals. Just stay in the Story. Abide.

I wanted to eventually get to some arbitrarily numbered point to say, if you make it through this valley, you will have no fear left. But I also now want to just stop reading, and plug back into propelling life forward.

But this post was for you. You know who you are. Go read Penelope. Go read the Bible. You are going to be okay.

So, that's for today--the mental diarrhea that anniversaries draw out of me.


On 9/11 and PTSD

A major legacy of 9/11, for me in the past seven (!) years of living in New York City, is survivor stories. A resilient community, formed from a crucible of crisis.

Just like the legacy of my own little exilic hell at City College of New York, morbidly drawn to Holocaust Studies, to survivor lit.

Tell me your secrets, and you will tell me my story.
Tell me your sorrow, and I will tell you my hope.

Where did it come from, your will to live, that lunatic hope?
How did you make it, against all odds? 
And WHAT. is this joy, this foreign lightness,
that surprised you when it showed up to stay?
What treasure did your tragedy bestow?

Surely, if you can survive, you can learn to live. One can hope.

Anniversary grief of any kind is a curious thing. Hard.

to any suffering friends, i pray that in these days,
in the cycle of seasons, in the recurrence and repetition,
welcome or not:

in these days, may you return not only to your hurt,

your ever-present Help.
oh my friend, you are not alone.
let not your pain crush your heart.

i know you want a map of the wilderness, the mutilated world,
but traveling friends and His guiding presence,
that's all we are given.

oh, and and perishable bread for today
(but enough for a Sabbath)
and promises...

it will be okay soon.


at first, the stories are about surviving trauma.

then, they are about surviving Post-Trauma.

the latter is the more difficult task, I think.

the former, your body does for you, on total out-of-body auto-pilot.


and then, you have to get back into your skin, saggy and ill-fitting and scraped now.

when it comes to Post-Trauma, you are warring against your self, and against your seemingly self-annihilating mind. you are fighting for the present, and for your right to stay there.

Living in the day-to-day, after you have met the extremes––dull. Dull, dim, dark.

Dull like your pain. Dull unlike your flashbacks.

But, oh God, those flashbacks, they are searing. Blinding.
Shocking. stunning. Unlike real-time, which is dull like paralysis.
They demand that you attend to your pain.

They say, heal. Arise. Go. onward.
They say, you are forgiven. What? is that what I really need?

Survivor stories are travelogues of traveling friends. Witnesses who have gone before. Who have found themselves ejected from the life they once knew, in a blur, and then have wandered the wilderness. Some make it out.

Thank you friends, for sharing your stories. The moment you start telling your story, you have survived the prison of your secrecy. When you were unknowable and alone after being dehumanized, it was such extremely narrow confinement.

oh, it is NOT good for man to be alone.

Thank you for your will to live.

Where others had stayed in slavery
When others had perished in the wilderness...

 Each of us cries with thankful heart, "Lord why was I a guest?"

What is there to say, but Thank You.


At first it is terribly dark and cold and grey. They try to fumble their way back to a lost world. lost life. lost garden. Safety was back there. Simple was back there. Plans were back there.

But it is lost. Life can only be ahead. They float on through.

Sometimes they fight.
All the rhythms that were once parasympathetic, all that was for granted, now you must fight for it.
Now you must gasp for air.
Now you must fight for joy.
Now you must wrestle in worship.
Now you must fight to live.

Don't run from the tension.

And suddenly, light. The tears have filled all the secret silent spaces, and they are refracting all the debris of your life from the tunnel's end, into a kaleidoscope.

Life is bursting into full color.

The sun has risen.
A new day has dawned.
It is Easter.

Just like He promised. I will find you. I have never forsaken you.
I descended to the dead. On the third day, I ascended into heaven.
I am seated at the right hand of our Father, where I am your strong and perfect plea.
I came that you might have life––and have it abundantly.
If you are faithless, I will remain faithful.
I will bring you safely home.

We sing a new song:

Oh, if it had not been for the Lord, we would have been swallowed in the sea.
We were so near to death. If it had not been for the Lord, let Israel now say.
You have led us well. You have saved us and safekept us.

Do you know, you can do more than survive?
You can live again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Rabbit in the Moon

Grandpa loooved rabbits. It was his zodiac year.

Not the actual animal species, I don't think, but as an icon. His sandals and cell phone charm, for example, sported the Playboy Bunny... (as it was fobby Taiwan, he did not know anything about the Hugh Hefner enterprise behind the symbol).

One year during 中秋節 (mid-Autumn Festival) he taught me to search for the 兔寶寶(bunny rabbit) in the moon. We gazed and gazed at the full and happy moon, from my second-floor window in Warrenville. I just don't see it, Grandpa! But I see you! Like trying to read an ultrasound, or unlearning the viewing of the world through the photo-real lens to reach back into a pre-TV imagination that saw stories connecting the scattered stars... I could not eke out a rabbit in the moon, but was happy to just have Ah-Gong instead, a rabbit in my room.

Grandpa and Grandma had brought from Taiwan more battery-operated lanterns for us than we had hands to carry. They also brought mortars and pestles, wooden and marble, in all different sizes. They explained something about the rabbit in the moon pounding something––rice, maybe? I tried it, and it was harder than churning butter, and far less rewarding. What was the point? I didn't get it, and thought a mortar and pestle were not my toys of choice most days except as percussion instruments, but I did once grind up some chalk in one to make an art project with water and black construction paper. I didn't understand most of what they were trying to impart, I mean, the Autumn moon was lovely, and so was being family with Grandma and Grandpa, and so were lanterns and pomelos and pumpkins and dumplings and taro and duck. The mochi, I loved, but mooncake was sick nasty (aside from the salty egg yolk, round like the moon).

Back then I didn't get it but now I recognize and value: They were giving us tradition. They were giving us stories. Culture. Language. They gave us Taiwan, Japan, their world(s), their time(s),  their war, themselves.

And I am so grateful.


When our family of six traveled by sedan, I would sit in the backseat on Grandma's lap, with Joshua and Grandpa. Look at the moon, Grandpa would say. There was an eyebrow phase, a watermelon rind phase. It's following us! And I would wonder how does it do that...? A pearl in the sky could stalk us all the way home (except for the occasional disappearance behind a tree or building). Obviously, the rabbit inside is running very fast!

My top teeth hang over the bottom row in this problematic overbite that makes it difficult to eat anything off a bone with civility. When my new front teeth came in, they were humongous (baby teeth had been tiny) and didn't grind down... Grandpa liked my bucktoothed smile, when I was still self-conscious about it. Like a bunny! An Easter bunny, my brother would tease.  Grandpa would try to coax my toothy smiles––don't hide those pretty bunny teeth! then pretend to be blinded by two full moons at my grin. To this day, my front teeth are rounded and humongous, :B is an apt emoticon. Thank you for not settling for lippy smiles and polite giggles, Grandpa.

In Christ, this tragic world is an uproarious comedy, and the smiles Grandpa taught me were in their way a passport to the party and the pleasures. Laughter: A gift of sanity! Celebrating the wonderful. Puncturing the true. Illuminating the beautiful.


I set aside an hour and a half today, the mid-Autumn Festival, to write a eulogy for Grandpa, whose cremation and memorial is not until October.

In fits and starts and scribbles, I did manage to get out some words. But didn't get very far. There is so much to say. so. much. I think about John, his highly visual imagination, his word pictures, how he recorded in canonized, forever-words: He did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

And that makes perfect sense to me in this moment.

Jesus must have loved John, so, so much.  so. much. He must have entered John's world, gotten down to John's level, crawled with him, slowed down, dumbed down for him, told repetitive stories, drawn diagrams, taught him how to walk, fall, get back up, bike, fall, get back up, how to love, fall, get back up... sleep, wake, cry, hope, wait, work, live, laugh, rejoice. Jesus must have done so much, together, and been so much, with. There is just so much to say about someone who appears into your world, then stays, just to know you and love you and be with you. One day we'll reach a throne room that I like to think will surround us with these very infinite bookshelves filled with all his doings. We'll know, fully, not secondhandedly from the mansion's massive library (the books will be there just for pure pleasure). Not even like a mirror. We will know. And feel fully known. We will catch up on all the years, every moment that we mourned or missed.


How can I winnow all memory of 阿公 into a publicly digestible, concise platter? I couldn't keep up with my pen. There is so freaking much to say, so many flavors, I don't know how to serve it up in good form. But this at least I've decided:

Going forward, I set apart every Autumn Moon Festival to honor their memory, love their nations. I'll celebrate the harvest. I'll insist on joy. I'll look for the rabbit in the moon. I'll try to love their daughter well and pray for their sons.

Maybe it'll be like today––and include friend, family, and feast. Some good ol' Old Speckled Hen EPA, trespassing (under the fence) at a forest preserve nearby for a spontaneous midnight moonchase hike to the top (thanks for comin' with, Jessica!).

Sunday, August 31, 2014


Nikelle: Your dad disowned you? How so? Im sorry! Thats tough. i think you should divorce your parents

Sean:  you really shouldn't disown people over text, everyone knows that


The gentle death of an old man is not like the time-shattering death of a young one. It is no surprise. You have seen it coming from afar. You have seen him fading, fading. Like last night's candle burning, burning.

You have loved one another well, rectified regrets, so death arrives not as that sudden implosion that sucks all the air and love and plans out of life. Because it has been a cross-fade. Perceptible but gentle.

You have had time, and plenty of warning, to fill the space he would leave. You have arranged to cross-fade. An out-tro, an intro. Perceptible but gentle.

You have seen then, that death was his last enemy, his final care, and at last he welcomed it as a friend. You in your heart are grateful that he rests now, where love abides but loss is gone.

You smile. You cry. You'll live right on. You cry. You smile. You're fine.

You're fine. But you must not ask too much of other people.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Abba's smiles are mine

Dear old man.

Your sons and daughter knew you to be a stern, exacting father. They each still stagger under the burden of your expectations, and so they sometimes like to remind me that this big softie was not the "real" you.

But you came to me with nothing but unabashed affection, like you had worked your whole life just to cross oceans to adopt and adore me. That was the 阿公 I knew.

So I was lucky. Very lucky to have had you for so long.

I get my 5'3.5" from you, I guess. It astonished me to find while visiting you, when I at 16 had (sadly) reached my max height, that I was just as tall as you ever were. Because you were an absolute giant in my book––I wrote an essay about it in my high school Comp class, and all that sap put you and me up for an NCTE Award for Excellence in Writing. Grandpa, I had worked and reworked that paper trying to make sure each word was the right one for you. In my memory, you will always be among the tallest of men.


I watched you fade, these years. Your body got too small for your mottled old skin-bag. Your goofy big ears, that aquiline nose. They just kept growing while you shrunk... 160... 110, 100, 90, 80... and finally 70-something lbs.

You hated to go this way. You absolutely hated losing your competencies one by one––and you were SO competent. You shouldn't have gone in this slow excruciating fade. I hated to watch life dissipate from you, slowly, slowly. You should have ridden your オートバイ into a typhoon to save a puppy––or otherwise exit in some act as heroic as you were to me. But then I wouldn't have gotten to keep you for so long.

So I was lucky.  To have overlapped 25 golden years with you.

2013 you, wearing my jacket.
I watched the earth grow dim to you--first you stopped reading world news as your cataracts set in, then you stopped keeping your meticulous methodical 5-year diary, then you stopped visiting the flower markets as was your Saturday ritual, then you stopped being able to chew your favorite foods (but you still drank coffee, beer, red, and whiskey), then you stopped being able to do the dishes as you did for G-maw when she cooked, then you stopped wearing shoes with laces, then you stopped sweeping the floors as you did every morning, then you stopped remembering who spoke Japanese and who spoke Taiwanese and just spoke in whatever the hell language you felt like to whoever you felt like talking to, then you stopped doing anything at all unless Grandma did it for you.

A photo posted by Esther L (@estherogen) on

The silly smiles you reserved just for me stayed as bright as ever, even while your lights dimmed, slowly, slowly. I would thank your sons for the help and hospitality they showed with each of my visits to Taiwan. And they would thank me for coming and revealing a delight and a will to live/be that they felt unable to elicit on their own. Who am I? That you regarded me with such joy and favor.


I was lucky. You saved all that delight for me. Sometimes I wondered whether I was just a proxy for my mother, your favorite child, your baby girl, whose prison prevented her from visiting. But then you would call me 娃娃. How many 娃娃 do you have? Gramma would ask you, one of the many quiz questions meant to stave off your senility. Just one. Her name is 特特!

Like that one time, what, 20 years ago or so, our family was in Nashville, when you went all hypoglycemic and we heard you and your camcorder hit the floor, and you got rushed to the ER by ambulance. You came to, and you recognized nobody. Not Grandma, not Mama––not immediately anyway. But you knew and asked for your 娃娃, they brought me and I asked you  大丈夫? And I know that right now, you are indeed alright. You are with Christ. またね!

So, my old dear man, surely I was the luckiest, to have known Abba's smiles through you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

we are ocean, we are mist
brilliant fools who wound and kiss
there's beauty in the dirt
wandering in skin and soul
searching, longing for a home

// Gungor

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Eugoogly for G-ma

Friends and relatives and Grandma herself have remarked on the time I devoted to visiting Grandma and Grandpa these past years, at times making extended trips to Taiwan but seeing mostly just the inside of their Taoyuan apartment rather than exploring the island with friends my age. 好有孝心 they would say, but truly, the only response I have for what compelled me, is that Grandma and Grandpa loved us first. They poured out their lives for us. Though as 外孫女 I did not share their name, they made me, their youngest grandchild and sole granddaughter, their little princess. In their care I knew palpably what it was, to be "somebody's baby." I was the object of totally unmerited favor. These last years, it was my honor to return just a tiny bit of the joy and care they poured into my life. It was truly a privilege to spend time with them and form an adult relationship with them.

Grandma brought a lot of light, hope, safety, wonder, and laughter to my childhood. She spent more than half of each year in a foreign country to make sure Joshua and I had the best shot possible at growing up. She came to be a mother––to my mom, but also to Joshua and me. The only people I spent more time with than Grandpa and Grandma, was my brother. Grandma really let us be children: for example, pretending to be mad while allowing us to jump on her bed, delighting in and encouraging our play and exploration. Seeing what a chatterbox she was, even in the last months when her voice was weak and damaged, I know now that Grandma had left her comfort zone, a social realm in which she was the glue, the queen, the life of the party––to make my brother and me her world. She loved preparing or hosting feasts, she remembered everyone's every birthday and anniversary. We had this wonderful example of a pious life oriented toward loving people and lavishing generous grace everywhere. She and Grandpa were world travelers in those retirement years, and they would bring stories and gifts from far corners of Indonesia, Israel, New Zealand, Holland, Egypt... to the confines of our little home in Warrenville/Naperville, where language barriers limited their adventures. Joshua and I do not know where we would be today, if it had not been for her.

Certainly, without Grandma, I would not know how to be a lady. I remember with fondness how Grandma loved to style me pretty. She would jokingly plead with me to be more ladylike: "I already have 7 grandsons! Don't be another one," she would say. I of course had spent my childhood trying to catch up to the boys. And she often reminded me to keep it classy... and be pretty. I was her ちびや--her babiest baby. I remember how beautiful she was. And how she never seemed to believe it, when people complimented her. I remember how she loved to brush and braid my hair, and to dress me like a "娃娃," or "doll," as they called me. But still, she was spunky, playful, athletic, witty––and I very much loved how hip and "with it" my Grandma was.

As a child I cried a lot. In more recent years I also carried a heavy heart which she shouldered with me, praying for me, and celebrating the miracle that I had been preserved in the church––her daily prayer for our whole family. All throughout my life, Grandma would tell me to "stop crying. 阿媽喜歡妳!" even while she would be crying with me. I think if she were here now, she would tell me to stop crying and enjoy my 20s. She told me to laugh often, said she liked the sound of my laughter, and to keep my heart open and tender, to leave the heaviness behind, and sing. I loved to hear her sing. Even when her voice got as wrinkly and cracked as her skin, she would sing at church, and those were precious sounds to me.

Each time Grandma left for Taiwan again I could be counted on to cry, beg her to stay. I'd follow her as far as the airport security would allow, and plead with her, "Don't go. Take me with you." She would assure me that they would be back soon, and tell me to listen and obey and do good in the meantime. I grew up with this rhythm of anticipating reunion; so that years after, when I was gathered up by grace to share in Grandma's faith, I had a real tangible sense of what it meant to wait and hope and anticipate a promised return. Her absence left a real lack and longing––but these were inevitably met with certain fruition each time. And there was feasting and kisses, gifts from afar (always 4+ 70lb suitcases with candy and frozen seafood from Hokkaido), stories of their traveling days. Tickles, laughter, and gifting and hugging. I WILL see her again.

I will see her again. I know it, because it was Grandma's hope in Christ that enabled her to persevere in service and love to others. She spent herself for Grandpa in the last years; we all saw it, we all asked her to rest more. But hers was a self-forgetting love, and she loved us all until the very end. For her self-forgetting love, she is remembered and repaid by Christ himself. I hope when I'm 60, 70, 80... That I will be as alive as she was, still praying, still loving Scripture, still hoping, still loving, still serving others.

Grandma's final months were dark, confusing, and painful, as she fought wave after wave of illness. We have great comfort in knowing she inhabits a renewed and restored body now. She is even more lovely and loving than we knew her to be. For this and much more, I give thanks.

Friday, August 15, 2014

It is squash/pepper/tomato time!

Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

For even as He crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

But if in your fear you would seek only
love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing floor,
Into the seasonless world where you
shall laugh, but not all of your laughter,
and weep, but not all of your tears.

// K. Gibran

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Learn from this"

Don't beat yourself up!
Ask God's forgiveness (I'm sure you have),
let that be sufficient, and learn from this :)

Thank you, kind stranger. God must have known I would need such a forgiving friend these whelming weeks. Thank you for a fresh wind of forgiveness.

"Fun to think God might have sent that pretty face of my old friend to NYC just to help you out this week," Abby had said. He was like my own Totoro, a transitional object. I called it an innocuous crush, a silly fun divertissement during a week of messy grief.

But there was nothing innocuous about indulging my ravenous heart... foraging on slippery slopes.

Take, eat. Hunger no more.

Thank you Pa for shielding my way and shepherding my grief. For your mercy that time and again spares me from my folly. I dangle precariously over destruction. Apart from grace.

Caught by mercy in my reckless coping. Oh, you never let go of me.

Yours are loving constraints. While I hang out over pits of hell.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Til soon, Ahma.





Saturday, June 7, 2014

June is bustin' out all over!

Without the wait, and without the emptiness, and without the browning and drying and blowing away, the cold, the frozen pots, the bareness, the shriveled herb leaves, the sticks of fig and rose, without the white pillows of snow, the spare horizon, spring would be nothing . . . We need sleep. We need to be empty. It is the only possible preparation for the excess to come.

// Marie Viljoen

Friends have been seeking an explanation for my infatuation with farms. I could give heady socially motivated or theologically grounded ideas about dominion, community cultivation, nutritional security and sustainability etc.

But at the visceral level... of why I actually can't (or at least don't) resist its draw. I think I just need the joy and life that seasonality (and living by it) brings. The hope of the first egg, the feast of the last pig. The ebb and flow of sabbaths and solstices.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

remembering maya angelou

for a midwest-bred and Harlem-rehomed woman who read and day-drank and hoped and prayed and wrote her way to freedom in a wide open world, who refused to speak for six years and declared about it "there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you":

i know
as you knew
how a clipped wing
could sing
a dirge for dead

let freedom ring.

sister bird
with bosom sore
you're caged no more
your struggle's done
but you'll sing on
that holy trill
hope's ghostly chill
the sky,

at last,

your home.

sister bird
Love has come
through wasted fears
in desert years

Love's come through

for us.

in grateful hotdiggety memory of Maya Angelou, whose wings surely fit her well.
with hope that she now sings to the Lord a new song.


there's a darkness upon you that's flooded in light . . . it flies by day and it flies by night and I'm frightened by those that don't see it there was a dream and one day I could see it like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it // The Avett Brothers

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Little one

My dear little booboo:

You are making me long with all my heart to dance and play and sit and picnic and sing and nap with you beneath the shade of that Tree of Life––that long but hopeful shadow reaching from the New City back into our present New York City.

The day we received your diagnosis was no ordinary day. You see, it was not a random holiday filled with bunnies and eggs and chocolate––although, you do love all three (especially eggs). Baby, on Easter, eternity broke into history in the most wonderful of ways, beginning the end of all that is sad and scary about our schedules: every distress and disease, every way our disintegrating bodies don't live up to our hopes and plans... On this day, we are called to celebrate the beginning of the end of all that is WRONG on our calendars.

Be brave in light of the coming day, though it's the shadows now making that light stark. On that day, we will inhabit renewed, resurrection bodies in a renewed, restored creation. Be brave for all the vehicles of that grace, even the ones that look like needles and white coats.

And when you say, "I can't! Cuz... cuz... I'm a small girl!" like you like to say when you don't want to try, child, know that He can. And He has. Walked the valley of all those shadows.

I pray you would sleep well with Spirit-enabled song, even when pain and fear persist. I pray that Papa God would be near to you in your sleepy song:

Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong

Jesus loves me, this I know as He loved so long ago
Taking children on His knee saying, "Let them come to Me!"

Jesus loves me, He who died Heaven's gate to open wide!
He will wash away my sin, let His little child come in.

Yes, Jesus loves you. Yes, Jesus loves you! Yes, Jesus loves you. We hold unswervingly to this; this we know when other questions remain.

With hugs and hope,

Thursday, April 3, 2014

we sleep because He loves

9. Resolved, to sleep nightly, trusting Papa God to run the universe, lying down as one who is kept in safety by the One who in His goodness daily renews the work of creation. God wore us out with His goodness today!

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. // GKC

Thursday, March 20, 2014

sprequinox: sorrow and love mingling ahead these dark days

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
 Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
 Memory and desire, stirring
 Dull roots with spring rain.
 Winter kept us warm, covering
 Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
 A little life with dried tubers.
 Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
 With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
 And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
 And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

// from T.S. Eliot, "The Wasteland"

 heavy eyelids, heavy heart. heavy news, heavy knowing.
how do you hold it all in Your heart??
 reacquainting with Your HURRICANE face.

after grandpa's three days... and his hospitalization since...
how could you let him go hungry? how could you let her go ill?
now he wastes away...

oh, he was not supposed to go this way.

Lord oh Lord have mercy on us.