sleeping with the light on.

Some nights you sleep with the light on. 

Some days are followed by nights that demand more than a metaphorical light piercing the darkness. So you leave the light on. A tangible weapon to defend yourself from the darkness that threatens to overtake you. 

Tonight I sleep with the light on. 

Bombs dropping. Children murdered. Cities in uproar. Lives being taken by hands of others and lives being taken by our own hands. 

Oh God, it’s dark. 

And as much as I would like to stand up against it all as a beacon of hope…tonight, I cannot. 

Headlines are one thing. Reminding you over and over how everything seems to have gone to hell. It’s a whole other thing to see the demons staring back at you in the mirror. Depression stole another {prominent} life this week. And you heard about it. Chances are your phone buzzed multiple times letting you know that a life was no more. And we wept. And rightly so. It is a tragedy. 

But. What doesn’t make the front page of your newspaper are the not so prominent ones who choose to take their lives each day. Your phone doesn’t buzz. Video montages are not readily available. No one dedicates a twitter feed. And you don’t see a slew of Facebook/twitter/tumblr/Instagram posts proclaiming that the world “lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings.”

I sat in my car tonight, alone, and I thought about my story. My name would never make CNN or Foxnews or your Facebook timeline. But my story isn’t that much different. Depression is a relentless bastard. Caring not of tax brackets or job title. He doesn’t give a flip about how many movies you have made or how well you manage your home. He lies and cheats and steals. He steals your hope. Your joy. Your sense of direction. He leaves you feeling trapped and suffocated and alone. And after he has whispered those lies for a good long while, he whispers that there is a way out and all too often we choose to believe him. Because, honestly, we just want the shit in our heads to stop. 

So. Tonight I leave the light on. 

It’s the only thing I have right now to combat the darkness.

It’s the only thing I have to tell the whispers – the lies – to stop. 

I leave the light on because the headlines are too much and the despair is so heavy. 

I leave the light on because, while I cannot be a beacon of hope, I believe one still exists. And this lamp is just a reminder. 

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dirt.

I’ve never seen the ocean.

Not the real ocean anyway. I went to the Texas gulf coast when I was very young, but don’t remember much of it. And really, it’s the Texas gulf cost, so it’s one of those things you’d rather not remember.

Lately, I have been having dreams of the ocean – of finding a piece of sand and sitting there until I can’t sit and stare at the horizon any longer.

~ ~ ~

This week, one of my dearest friends trekked down to the gulf coast and she has to continually remind me that Galveston does not count as the ocean. I beg her for photo after photo of the salty earth and the never approaching horizon.

“I’ll try to find some that doesn’t look like dirty,” she tells me.

She tried. Sent me a few photos.

“This is not what your dream looked like.”
“It didn’t look like this, either.”

She was right. The water was brown. The ground dirty. Even the columns anchored on the beach bearing up the walkways seemed stained with mucky earth.

Then I saw it. Sure it had been rung through filter after filter. Blues painted along the left. Hues of yellow and green splashed toward the right. And a ferris wheel. Nestled on the pier stretching out over the water. It was beautiful.

“I had to filter the heck out of it just to make the water not dirt.”

Dirt.

My mind jumped. A visceral reaction to the word.

Dirt – Made the blind man see.

Dirt – Witnessed the release of the woman caught in adultery. 

Dirt – Washed from filthy feet by the hands of God himself. 

That is the thing about dirt, I suppose.
Maybe it doesn’t make all things beautiful. Like oceans.
But it can be beautiful.

Maybe it is often ignored that dirt and oceans, though entered into completely different beauty pageants, have something in common after all.

The power to heal. 

The power to set free. 

The power to lift your face and sing the simple refrain over you –
“You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.”

 ~ ~ ~

I will see the ocean this year. I will find a nice square of sand and I will sit. I will sit and stare at the never approaching horizon until the last hint of sunlight has drained from the sky. I will plunge my hands into the sand surrounding me. Running it’s sticky grains through my fingers, I will bring up handful after handful of earth just as a reminder of the power carried in these very tiny rocks.

And I will not be afraid. 

I will not be afraid of the dirt or the texture. I will not let my anxiety or OCD steal the wonder from my eyes. I will not be afraid of the time spent sitting and I will not be afraid of the dirt staining my pants. I will not be afraid of the mess.

Instead, I will marvel. I will sit there, in the middle of the mess, and I will heal. I will be set free. And I will rest under the refrain – “You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.”

For those few moments, all will be okay.

And the dirt will make it beautiful.

"I had to filter the heck out of it just to make the water not be dirt" @ronnerock

“I had to filter the heck out of it just to make the water not be dirt” @ronnerock

six months.

Dear You,

Today is the day. Well, I guess there won’t ever be THE day. But this is definitely one for the books. Today is day one-hundred-eighty-two. Today is twenty-six weeks. Today is six months.

Some people might say that I am celebrating. But the truth of it is that we are celebrating.

Choosing life always sounds so simple. And sometimes it is. But then there are times where the right step is the blurry step and the right choice is the hardest one. I remember talking to you in those days before. “If I don’t walk away from this – it will kill me” I told you, knowing full well that playing with fire sends you home burned. “Take one step. Just one step. I’ll be here for the first one and for each one after it.”

I had been self harming almost consistently since I was 11 years old – more than half my life. The motivation for walking away was not “I want to be obedient to what God has called me to” or “I don’t want to keep running to things that will never satisfy” or “I want to be faithful even though I am so so tired and I don’t think I can do this.”

My motivation was simply this – I don’t want to die right now.

Sometimes, I guess, that is enough.
So, I packaged up the far-too-many razor blades I possessed and painted a picture.

“I will have JOY in the Lord. I will be glad in the God who SAVES me. the Lord is my strength.”

The envelope, filled with cisterns that can hold no water, was taped to the back of that painting.
It was shipped off for safe keeping.
And then I cried.

On day eight I texted saying there was no way I would make it to day nine.

On day twenty-three I pocketed a razor blade swearing that it was the last day I was going to count.

On day forty-nine you called me out for believing lies and I was adamant that I would never talk to you again.

On day one-hundred-twenty-six there was a feast. We celebrated making it that far. We told stories. We raised our glasses. And we made dessert.

On day one-hundred-fifty-four I realized that it was really only day one-hundred-forty-seven. I resigned myself to defeat and convinced myself there was no point to move forward.

Then day one-hundred-fifty-four came back around. And we celebrated it again.

On day one-hundred-sixty-six we had breakfast and dreamed about celebrating six months.

Day one-hundred-seventy-three we both raised our fists against the darkness. We longed for light and were determined to fight for it.

So today, on this day, I want to say thank you. I raise my glass to those who have called me on my crap, to those who won’t let me continually shut down or check out. I want to give a shout out to those who refused to walk away, to those who have stayed up way past their bedtime to remind me of who I am and whose I am. I am grateful for the truth you have spoken over me. I am grateful for the texts and emails and Facebook chats.

If you come across those today who are walking a hard path would you tell them a few things for me? Would you encourage them to be faithful and obedient to what God is asking of them?

I am familiar with the shaking hands and the weak knees and I would still say that choosing life is worth it. You will doubt almost everything and that is okay. Relax into the doubt. You won’t drown, I promise. Chances are you are going to fail at some point. Maybe not outright, but in little ways. That’s okay too, get back up. You aren’t alone. There will be times when you will be so tired you will think your body is actually failing you…don’t give up. Keep walking. The road is dusty and tiresome, but one thing it is not is empty.

Trust that God is a good father. His heart is kind toward you.

So, on day one-hundred-eighty-two, I raise my glass to hope.

Here’s to day one’s.
Here’s to longing for light.
And here’s to a hope that does not put us to shame.

I’m with you and for you.

All my love,
Alison

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lost at sea

dear god,

it has been 147 days. it has been 147 days since i opened my hand. it has been 147 days since i let it go. it has been 147 days since i did what you asked and i don’t feel one bit different. in fact, god, things seem to be heavier. harder. i know that you didn’t say it would be easy. and i know that you didn’t say my heart would be healed. not right away, anyway. but i expected something. a shift. a movement. a budge. i would almost take anything at this point. because, god, if i am being honest, i want it back.

i hear it whisper in the middle of the day. i hear it whisper when the sun is shining and everything appears right in the world. i hear it whisper when the breeze blows my hair and the leaves rustle under my feet. i hear it whisper when the rain is falling and the cold forces me to tighten my coat. i hear it when the sun rises and when the sun sets. the world goes dark, but it’s voice doesn’t rest. it promises control and freedom. it promises validity and safety. i know, i know, god. it’s a lie. but right now it sounds so convincing and i long to be free of it’s taunts.

right now, in this moment. tonight. i feel like i am drowning without it. a wave. another wave. hitting me. taking me under each time. gasping for breath i resurface. all i accomplish is the taking in of more water. my lungs are filling and i can’t breathe. all i want in this moment is a breath. so you know what happens next? it promises breath. and i want to take the deal.

i don’t, obviously. because it has been 147 days of labored breathing. i hear you say, quietly, “labored breathing is still breathing.” but then i think – “doesn’t labored breathing concern doctors?” i’m sure it does. however, i am no doctor. in fact, i have no solid knowledge of how lungs actually work and i am sure that at one point i learned that the human body is made up of approximately 60% water. could i be dehydrated? is that why my body continues to take on water? is this part of the plan? maybe i could just drink water instead of breathing it into my lungs. maybe if i stop fighting a bit this might get a little easier…

except i don’t know how to rest.

i don’t know how to unclinch the muscles in my body long enough to float. i am not cut out for this sea life. my legs can’t stand the swaying and my lungs can’t handle the salt. would you please, since you can, pull me back over the ledge of the boat and sail us to dry land? if you won’t do that, would you at least walk out over the waves to me and reassure my heart that i am not alone? because, god, i am drowning out here and i cannot see. everything looks the same. the horizon has faded and the waves confuse and frighten me.

i don’t know how many more times i can go under.

i don’t know how much more water i can take on.

and i don’t know how i can live on gasps of air.

god, it has been 147 days. the seas have been still from time to time. but my fingertips are prunes and my legs are weak. my eyes are burning and my heart is tired. i still hear the voice calling to me. promising breath. or maybe it is just trying to convince me to go under. maybe it is pulling me under. so, i am asking you. pull me out of the water. or send an air tank. or do something. because i am drowning out here. and i need you. fast.

sincerely,
lost at sea

and here’s to choosing to stay.

Mine is a story of leaving and being left. 
It is a story of somehow choosing to stay. 
Through it all, hope constantly finds it’s way to the surface. 

~ ~ ~

I wouldn’t fancy myself a dreamer. 

Dreams are big and scary and as a small child I was much more accustomed to nightmares. Each night, as I looked up at the ceiling from my white framed twin bed, I would stare at the carousel wallpaper border that lined my room. I would stare at those beautiful horses and convince myself that if I fell asleep while looking at it, I would only have good dreams. 

It rarely worked. 

It rarely worked simply because there were two white splotches of paint on the window pane that seemed to peek through my blinds like a pair of eyes watching my every move. Lurking in darkness, those imaginary eyes watched me as I slept. The good and beautiful dreams that danced in the air right above me were stolen by these hovering eyes.

I learned at a young age that dreaming wasn’t for me.

I just needed to survive the night.

And yet, there was an underlying hope of the morning.

~ ~ ~

The rug of my carefully constructed plans was ripped out from under my feet. The house of horrors I grew up in became the place I would wrestle with the idea of dreams. It was the place that quickly squelched any remnant of my childhood aspirations. Innocence was snatched away and I stopped counting the times I had been left out in the cold or forgotten somewhere in the pages of decade old photo albums. 

My dad left to find comfort. It was available. 
My mom left to escape. It was easier. 
My sister left to be with my mom. It was temporary. 

And I was left somewhere in the charred remains of the life I once knew. 

~ ~ ~

That day, a broken wrist started a cycle of abuse that would repeat itself more times than I can count. As I laid on the floor, my arm twisted behind my back, I remember looking up at her waiting for her to act. Waiting for her to scream at him…make him let me go…waiting for her to leave him. She did none of those things.

She sat there. Content.

Another night, another argument. 

And I actually believed that Jesus could hear me and wanted to save me. So, I cried out. Unashamedly. I asked him to protect me. To make it all stop. I asked him to help.

He didn’t come. 

God wasn’t going to come. 
He wasn’t the rescuer that I had imagined him to be. 
He wasn’t sitting there waiting to save me from all this madness.

God left because I was too much trouble. 

God left because I couldn’t seem to get it together. 

God left because I wasn’t worth saving.

Or so I thought.

~ ~ ~

Every so often I can hear Jesus whisper. Every once in a while he feels close enough to reach out and touch. There are times when love seems to wrap me in a warm blanket and tuck me in after the sun has surrendered to the night. 

Maybe he didn’t leave. Maybe he chose to stay. 

I should have walked away from Jesus. I should have spit in his face and never looked back. There are hundreds of reasons I should have left him. But you see, the thing is, I can’t. Every time I try, I am drawn back in and a new wave of grace washes over me and I resurface, finally able to breathe again. I can’t help but hope that somehow I am still safe and wrapped up in God’s great love for me. I can’t help but lean in to his chest and listen to him assure me that I am his and that I am deeply loved. I can’t help but see my brokenness laid out against his beauty and yet still hope that this relationship can be restored.

I should have walked away from my family. When I packed my car and moved 200 miles away, I should have ripped the rearview mirror of my windshield. There are hundreds of reasons why I should have deleted their phone numbers and blocked their calls. But you see, the thing is, I can’t. Every time I am tempted to deny their existence, I am overcome with a deep love for them and my heart breaks again. I can’t help but hope that things can be different. I can’t help but see their brokenness and yet still hope that our relationships can be restored. 

~ ~ ~

Maybe I should fancy myself a dreamer. 

Maybe I chose to stay…in spite of it all. 

Against all odds and against impossible circumstances, hope rises to the surface. It is in my bones. Even when I hate it. Even when I wish I could just wash my hands of it all and be done. Even when none of it makes sense – maybe especially when none of it makes sense.

Hope rises. 

I guess you could say I have dreams these days. 

Dreams of hope. 

~ ~ ~

So here’s to the leavers.
Here’s to those who are left.
And here’s to choosing to stay.

 

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the hope of all these things (my one word)

Last year was the first year I officially chose a word to hang as a banner over 12 months. The word was given to me in a flash of a second and I knew that it was the one I was to walk under. The word was “expect” – and let me just be honest, nothing happened last year that I expected. It was a year littered with grief and suffering and heartache and little gifts of light to sustain me along the way.

I heard God whisper at the beginning of 2013 that I can and should expect big things from him. I did. I tried to, anyway. Don’t be mistaken, not everything I expected from him came about –  in fact, most didn’t. But I hope that this past year cultivated one thing in me – love. I hope that 2013 can be marked by love. It was, after all, the year I learned to love and see people well. It was the year I learned to be seen and known and, get this…loved.

I want to look back at 2013 as the year I didn’t expect love to show up…

…and it did anyway.

There is not one part of me that is sad to see the year 2013 in the rearview mirror.
I am grateful that it is done and maybe one day I will be grateful it happened.

But here I sit – on a cold, rainy ninth day of the year with much anticipation about what this year will hold. The possibilities are endless. And since this is my space and I get to be as honest as I want, I will go ahead and tell you that I am scared out of my mind. This year holds the possibility of a move, of a job change, of me choosing me (for once), of figuring out who I am and where I fit and how I can use the gifts and talents I have been given to make this world a bit more tolerable {beautiful} for those around me. The next 356 days have much to offer.

This year, another word has chosen me. It is a word that is spoken over me every time I leave the house and it is usually the last word before I head to bed each night. It is only fitting that I will march {proudly} into 2014 carrying this word before me and dragging it behind me. The word this year is very well known and most people would assure you they know exactly the definition. But the meaning and weight of the word goes much deeper than the surface you are thinking of.

“Shalom”

You may immediately throw your hand in the air, demanding to be called on, because, of course, you know that Shalom means peace. You would be right, but only partially. Shalom is a Hebrew word that, depending on the vowels used or variations of the word, has a multitude of deep and heavy meanings.

For lack of a better way to name all of the meanings without this turning into a novel comparable with “War and Peace”, I am going to just list these things out and then maybe name a couple of my favorites.

Shalom –
–       peace between two entities
–       well-being
–       state of safety
–       to make amends
–       to make good
–       to be (or make) peace
–       to restore
–       prosperity
–       wholeness

Variations of Shalom –
–       [hishtalem] “it was worth it”
–       [shulam] “it was paid for”
–       [meshulam] “paid in advance
–       [shalam] “hope of wholeness”

Gah, there is so much hope in all of that, so much good. I never would have picked this word for myself because I have a hard time believing good things happen to/for me. So when this word became part of my daily routine and I began talking to a friend about it, she immediately exclaimed “this is absolutely your word for the year.” So there it was. I decided this would be “the one” and then I looked up all the different meanings and blessings it holds. My first thought was I was walking into this year proclaiming peace but it turns out to be so much more than that.

This year has all the potential in the world to be a year of peace and safety and rest and restoration. All these things wrapped into one. I may get to look back over this year and say “it was worth it.” The year was worth it. Everything that led up to this year was worth it. Oh God, I hope to be able to say that.

So, I will pray blessings over this year. I will pray health blessings, joy blessings, work blessings, creative blessings, sleep blessings, writing blessings, driving blessings, dinner blessings, and art blessings. I will pray for and hope for all the blessings. But most of all, I will pray shalom. I will pray for peace and amends and restoration and well-being. I will pray for safety and I will pray for prosperity. I will pray for wholeness and the hope of it.

Not only will I pray for it, but I will GET UP and work towards it.
I can’t make it happen, but I can focus my efforts toward that end. And so I will.

Here’s to 2014.
Here’s to peace. And safety. And wholeness.
Here’s to the hope of all these things.
Here’s to Shalom.

And that’s something worth raising my glass. 

stick around.

“Maybe I go because I’m chasing something

Its not that I want to leave,
I just can’t find a reason to stay.
Something. Something out there
is waiting to be caught.
It dances
in front of the light
casting an enticing shadow
on the limestone walls. 

Maybe I go because something is chasing me

 The shadows that once danced
so beautifully on whitewashed surfaces
have turned.
Their beauty has disappeared
and they show their fangs.
Monsters lurking in the night,
carefully hidden beneath small twin beds,
waiting to pounce on little feet.
I have got to get out of here.
Escape.
My only option.
Run. Hurry.
Before you get hurt.
And hurt is the only thing
waiting for you here. 

Maybe I leave because I’ve yet to find someone

 Your silence
and indifference
only echo
the own voice in my head – 

“you
aren’t
wanted
here” 

To look me in the face…

 Please, for the love of God,
lift up my face.
Look into my eyes.
I need to see you
see me.
Please, place your cold hands
on my hot-with-tears face
Don’t look away.
Don’t avoid looking in my eyes
in attempts to coddle your cowardice.
Or uncertainty.
Or fear of misplaced words.

Oh, my eyes, my empty,
bloodshot,
tired eyes.
Look in them.
See how they scream.

And say

 Speak up. Damnit.
Won’t you SPEAK UP and tell me
I am wanted here.
Tell me there is enough room
for me.
Tell me that hurt is not
the only thing waiting here.
Use your words.
Not as weapons of guilt
and manipulation.
But use them to breathe
life and hope into
my suffocating heart.
Tell me there is love.
Tell me there is always
enough
love.

Say these things
quietly, so I will listen.
Say these things
slowly, so I can understand.

Stick Around

“please
stay.
I want you
to stay.” 

I want you next to me

 “There is room for you.
I want you to stay.
And I will keep saying it,
and keep telling you,
and keep screaming it.
I will tell you bedtime stories
of new beginnings
and sunrises
and grace
and hope.
I will hold your hand
and tell you
that sometimes love can stay.
I want you to stay.
Sometimes love can stay.”

Stick Around

“I am not going to leave you.
You are not alone.
I have no secrets –
but hope whispered.
I have no agenda
but to love you.
So please.
Please.
Don’t.
Leave.

I want you to stay.”

(This poem inspired by song lyrics from David Ramirez “Stick Around”. The prompt was given during 40 days of poetry in Story Sessions. There is always room for you there.)