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I like bigger guys because when they hold me, they take up enough space surrounding me that my doubts, for a moment, are suffocated.

It is hard for me to fall in love with gap teeth; I know how easy it is for unmentionables to slip through the cracks.

It is all too important that they tend to my stomach, since its achings of joy and distrust are often great indicators of permanence or doom.

Do not neglect to breathe me in; you will be met with honeymoons and obituaries, and I know the agony of tasting the winter of another, but my love, you’ve gained a garden.

I don’t fall in love; I walk into a surprise party I knew would happen. Yet, if I am incapable of making you delirious, I find myself an emergency exit and evaporate.

I can’t lie to them; there is nothing quiet as shattering as not being enough.

I will call you at my worst and burn your brain with painful disclaimers and retreat at any sign of resistance.

I will make you the same dinner every night you come over to see how you rise amidst my plateaus.

When they tell me my anxiety is a habit to be broken, I nod as I prepare for our demise. I would shake it if I could, but not for you, not like this.

When they say I am their home, I neglect to tell them that these walls can close in on themselves, and I was never good at shoving these demons under the carpet.

I do not assume the best in people, so they don’t begin with a blank slate, and as defense mechanisms go, this one is particularly unfair, but when you prove me wrong, our canvas will beam of the sunrise, in all her glory, and we will forget what leaving looks like.

I will beg you in all my swallowed screams to teach me how to forget.

 

If I Should Have A Daughter

(I stole the title from Sarah Kay. Please don’t sue me, I am broke.)

Esther (or whoever, but I really hope your name is Esther),

There’s a lot I want to say to you, and most of it is probably tainted with my still being an embryo in the grand scheme of things, but the same thoughts keep coming back to me and even if you are never born, even if this is just my talking to myself and the few strangers that come across this, I believe this note is worth it.

We need to talk about heartbreak.

You will most likely fall in love with a boy. I say “most likely” on the off chance you’re drawn elsewhere, but if you’re like me, you’ll fall in love with a boy. You’ll know it when it happens. It won’t be a fleeting thought, it won’t be something that makes you smile when you least expect it. That’s a crush, that’s stuff that girls fall into.

When you are a woman, you will experience love in the deepest pit of your stomach. You will want to plan your whole life around this boy and mold yourself like Play-Doh into the shape of his favorite songs. His smile will leave you curled up on your bed, your whole body tingling, as you whisper to yourself every syllable he has said to you. When he is around you, you cannot stop your smile. You love him this much.

And one day, the man you love will love you back, and every day will feel like Christmas morning. He will hold you like a newborn, and that’s exactly how you will feel. It is all so new. When he kisses you, you will feel like his oasis and he will whisper that you are his home. You will want to give him anything and everything, and he will call you Beloved.

If you break up, not when, but if, you will feel every soft spot he has ever discovered feel like it is slowly gutted with a utility knife. Every part of you that stretched for him will feel the SNAP like a thousand rubber bands and it will be the first, real winter you have ever experienced. Please know, at this moment, that you are still whole.

You might refrain from telling anyone for as long as you can, because giving this tragedy airtime only affirms its reality, and you hate it. You hate how you still feel his stubble on your neck and you hate being asked about him. You are sixteen, nineteen, and this feels like divorce. You feel his arms every night.

They will tell you that they understand, that the first time is the worst. When you hear this, you will feel slapped. I get it. Do not allow their dismissals, however kind their intentions may have been, to label your relationship as a drop in the bucket. When they express anything other than sympathy, remind yourself that you do not need to regret him. You do not need to regret him.

Do not create a version of who he was in your head. He is a spine and heart, same as you, brave enough to give himself to another in exchange for the possibility of permanence, and he will always be your person in this way.

And please, please, please, do not allow your heart to find its way back to the basement of your youth. If you are anything like me – if you are half as much like me as I am like my mum – you will not wear your whole heart on your sleeve. Your love will have gotten through every thistle that guards your person and, if he leaves, it will be tempting to grow your defenses like vines over each and every sore spot.

But, I have every confidence that you will one day be pursued by a good man, one who sees past your sarcasm – which is inevitably sharp and developed, as, again, you’re your grandmother’s granddaughter – and loves you deeply, faithfully, for who you are. He will see your shattered bits and he will pray over every wound, and there will be a permanence you had not known.

So do not rush into the arms of another or into your bed of tear-stained sheets. You will heal, you will heal and when you look back, when it’s all said and done, your thistles will trampled under all of your gardens.

Open Letter to My First Love

Dear you,

There is not a day that goes by where my mind doesn’t wander back to your arms.

You, the fireplace my evenings found warmth beside, will never be a piece of my history I regret.

Not once did you allow me to feel anything less than Woman, Beloved.

Every word you spoke was a reflection of your great love for me, and any moment we found ourselves in the miry bog of conflict, my name left your mouth untainted with bitterness. Still now, I’ve yet to know a day your eyes didn’t speak of pure love.

I don’t regret that we are apart. It is the most painful decision we made, but maybe one of the best. I write this in tears, but with peace in my heart. He is sovereign. He is sovereign.

I know with all of me that you are in His hands and that absolutely nothing can happen to either of us apart from His grace. Even though my hands are held back from you, trembling under the weight of righteousness that keeps them from grasping for your neck, your laugh, your handwriting, your face, I know that this is right.

But, before I go, thank you.

Thank you for being an anchor for me and whispering truths over each of my fears.

Thank you for giving me a million smiles and kisses to pull out and cry beside on rainy days.

Thank you for giving me no reason to regret you.

Thank you for exemplifying respect, and patience, and consistency, when I failed in each way.

Thank you for being so kind and generous through our separation, and for allowing me to sing to you one last time.

Thank you for being my best friend. My heart will always hold a special, T shaped spot for you.

why i watched you sleep

I write this to the rhythm of your breath. I hear it sound through my laptop’s speakers because when you fell asleep tonight, I didn’t hang up the video call because every time I moved the cursor towards the red END CALL button, I couldn’t do it. Your breath is too fragile, too rich, too beautifully human to not listen to as I write this.

Tonight, you fell asleep earlier than usual. You began working a landscaping job early this morning and you sent me a tome to wake up to that nearly made my bleary eyes well up. “Please keep praying with me, for us…I love hearing you say ‘dear Jesus…’ because I know that a powerful prayer is on the horizon.” It was sprinkled with pet names and hearts and each word danced across my morning like snowflakes. You asked me to send you a voicemail as motivation. I did my best.

Tonight, I said it was okay for you to sleep, and you smiled and murmured your love and when I said I loved you too, I felt my voice catch. You whispered, “are you okay?”, and when I said yes, and smiled, you collapsed onto your pillow, leaving the camera on as I’d promised I’d hang up. Your eyelashes rested on your cheeks like feathers, fluttering with every exhale. I found tears pouring down my cheeks.

“Mostly, I’m just proud,” I whispered. “And I’m sad, because I’m selfish and you were gone for so long and I’m not used to this yet.” Your eyelashes danced in place.

“Mostly,” I said, my heart nearly bursting. Mostly, you feel too much and you’re watching him sleep, and that’s just not done. “Mostly, you’re a gem, thoroughly.” I cleared my throat, your breathing continued. Your breath is like waves, ebbing and flowing and causing my words to spill out into new horizons, because your steadiness does that. Your conscious self is intentional, but when you sleep, the grace continues, and I smiled at this. I smiled and I let the tears flow freely. “I regret,” I whispered, “any day I am not entirely aware of this.”

I stared at your chest rise and fall under your comforter and realized that though this night wasn’t one of conversation, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Elena

When I was almost ten, gap-toothed and freckled, unsure of everything but the bruises my knees picked up like litter, we met.

You, with your long, feathery eyelashes and doll-like expression, your cocoa bean eyes covered by your thin, thin eyelids. I held you like the gift you were, completely unaware that in my arms was not a baby, not an infant like the rest, but a bud so intent on blossoming that, every time I see you, I swear you sprout new petals.

When I was twelve, we became friends. I would come by every Tuesday and we’d play with balls and dolls and your crazy, brilliant smile lit up every week. You didn’t like to cuddle; part of me was relieved by this, as I wouldn’t know what to do. It was made clear very early that you were extraordinary.

You, with your uncanny ability to read the room and know just what to do to get whomever was listening on your side, your beam so radiant, all I could do was agree with you. You were two and reckless. I mean that in its best term; you weren’t crashing about, but your mind raced at speeds most men couldn’t run. Every syllable, another morsel of dessert you’d save for later. I was younger then and didn’t realize that these years were simply spoilers for the symphony to come.

When I was fourteen, I began picking you up from the bus stop, your magnificent, coiled mane blowing every which way in the wind. We walked in every weather, and most days, you had me kneel down so I could carry you home on my back. I had to remind you to hold tight to my neck, and ever so often, you’d intentionally slip, and when I hoisted you back up, you’d giggle into my hair. Your peers would walk home and navigate around us, and it never seemed to embarrass you, no matter how old you got. Every moment was a Polaroid I wrapped up in my heart.

Every day with you ranged from science projects to spy games. You insisted on tying my hands with my scarf, as I was frequently cast as the antagonist. We’d roar like dinosaurs and scurry like mice. You taught me about melanin and I taught you that bubbles are made with magic and soap. Every moment, you reminded me of your gracious nature, how quick you are to laugh at yourself. Those few moments I gave you time-outs always ended with giggled apologies.

When I was sixteen, we began to read more. We spent most homework-free time curled up with The Magic Tree House series, your laughs ringing out as I acquiesce to your “voices!” request. (We always make Jack have a surfer voice, Annie, light and squeaky.) You’re a lot more cuddly now; you twirl your fingers around my hair and stare up at me as I read, and part of me wishes I could capture each millisecond and pocket it, but then, I’d never be able to be friends with your future sixteen-year-old self, so I count my blessings, read with voices and wait to hear your giggles.

Now I’m eighteen, and we know that these days aren’t permanent. Next year, your brother will be an addition, and while we like the company, it won’t be just us. It’s hard to write this without a lump in my throat; you have gotten so wise and so strong and so kind. They say kids know most of what their adult vocabulary will be by the age of six, but you’re a step beyond; you’ve got the heart down too. You think and feel and attempt to piece together the craziness of this world until it makes some sense, and when it doesn’t, you smile and accept that, sometimes, magic doesn’t need explanations. You teach me daily. I will never be able to stop time, but I can acknowledge that knowing you and spending your greenest years with you, learning what makes you smile, frown and literally drop to the floor laughing, is one of the greatest gifts I never expected, nor deserved. You are a galaxy in a now eight-year-old body, and I look forward to you forging your path, leaving audiences of starlight applauding in your wake.

Note to my mother…

Thank you.

Thank you for waking up every morning and giving life all that you have. Thank you for pushing past every demon that sees you as a threat and inspiring me to love wholly. Each day, you put on the armor of God, you do your best to fiercely love each and every soul you have an opportunity to love, and you live obediently. Your life is not fought through for acknowledgment or riches or anything this world has proclaimed valuable. You live for Him, and in denying yourself, He is in you. I see it every day, and I am inspired, I am blessed, I am encouraged.

Thank you for being authentic with us. Thank you for never denying your humanity in the midst of being our mother. You have never just been our Superhero Mum (although you are that, thoroughly). You are a teacher, a fighter, a lover, a writer, an editor, a friend, a sister an aunt, a daughter, a listener, a counselor and an advocate. You may not be the standard Proverbs 31 mother, but you are the Micah 6:8 woman. You make every day feel possible and necessary and your dedication to showing us grace inspires me to be a woman of compassion.  I am indebted to you in all areas, and I’m sorry for any minute I have taken you for granted, because I would be hardpressed to find an individual more God-breathed than you.

Thank you, most of all, for being my light. In everything, you have done your best to accept me, while urge me to seek His truth and live by it. Thank you for being there for me to cry with and relax with and work with towards joy. Thank you for understanding depression and anxiety and the years where nothing seems to make sense. Thank you for encouraging my relationships and being my primary earthly counselor in my courtship. Thank you for watching The Good Place with me, even though it’s not your first choice. (I GET IT, the season finale is a little messed up.)

Thank you, mostly, for providing me with roots, while being the constant in everyday growth. I never deserved you, but God couldn’t have given me a better mum fit. I love you, Point B.

Guys…some actual “relationship goals”

  1. Loving Jesus more than her.
  2. Loving her more than other girls.
  3. Communicating always.
  4. Being an encourager rather than a suppressant.
  5. Loving her with intention rather than expecting things to just fall into place, because unless you’re some sort of Roald Dahl character, they won’t.
  6. Letting go of anything that jeopardizes said relationship, no matter how awkward it may be, no matter how deep it goes, no matter how “mean” you may seem. She is worth it.
  7. Taking responsibility for yourself and not just for her.
  8. Not making excuses.
  9. Not taking her for granted.
  10. Not becoming incensed over her speaking her mind, and certainly not using it against her later.
  11. Reminding one another of your worth in Him.
  12. Giving one another the benefit of the doubt, always.
  13. Keep talking, even after it looks resolved.

Physical Touch Is My Love Language (and I feel no shame)

We live in a culture where it’s hip to say we don’t like to be touched.

You look all over and see memes of people comparing themselves to cats, hissing at the blasted sunshine pouring in through their window, partial to neutrals and, yes, adverse to contact. An acquaintance of mine, ever cool and collected, seldom allows herself to be embraced by another human being. The most she’s ever touched me is a pat on the shoulder on a particularly hard night for me. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing (different people, different strokes, no pun intended) , but our independent society has taught us to take self reliance to a whole new level, as we create islands of our bodies that only meet come obligation or romance. It pains me that so many teach themselves to not sit with their mothers and share familial kisses and view it as graduations. It pains me that my best friend and I didn’t hug the first three years of our friendship as neither of us knew if it’d make things weird. Ours is a people which shames itself out of connection.

But, dear friends, my love language is physical touch.

I absolutely, without a doubt, love to be embraced. (Perhaps not by my dance friends after a three-hour class, but I digress.) I love reaching over to squeeze my mother’s hand, I love holding my 8-year-old mini me in my lap as we read her books, I love seeing dear friends after weeks of not, I love embracing my guy and feeling his hand twirl my hair, I love cradling babies and letting them tug at my scarf, I love the cheek kisses my grandfather gives me. I love it, love it, love it.

I can understand reasons why one wouldn’t; previous abuse, distrust or simply not liking the feeling. I also understand that we all have love tanks, needing to be filled one way or another. God’s love is enough, thoroughly and completely, but as He isn’t physically present with me at the moment, I believe He’s given us the people He’s put in our lives (whether it be forty-eight or just one) to embrace us in His place. Yes, it can be embarrassing for our me-centered society to admit other people play a part in our hearts, as do the affection we’re given by them.

However, I speak from experience (having Words of Affirmation after Physical Touch), that however needy your love languages may sound to you, acknowledging them, making peace with them and following through on them is wholly necessary and altogether lovely.

The Terrifyingly Perfect Will of God

I have never liked the idea of God having a set plan for my life.

Imagining Him writing my story, from first cry to last breath, is more nerve-wracking than comforting. I’d like to think He’s experiencing my moments right alongside me, not seeing me walk into situations and knowing I’ll come out the other side crying. Whenever anyone says to me, “Whatever happens happens. God has planned out your life to the very last detail,” I feel like a computer program rather than a human being. Where does free will come into this? Is free will illusionary? Predestination comes to mind. Did God choose a Someone for each of us? One out of the seven billion people on Earth that He’s chosen to be my mate? What if the person I marry isn’t The One God picked? Will my entire life be spent waiting for signs, gambling with God that if I do or don’t do x, y, z, He’ll bless whatever good thing I’ve got going on? How narrow exactly is the path? Is it better to be brave or wise?

I’d like to all know it’ll turn out okay, and I don’t know that. My calling is to trust a God whom we can’t define as trustworthy by human standards. Trusting God doesn’t mean that I’ll always be safe, or always be comfortable, or always be brimming with joy and understanding. Trusting God doesn’t mean I’ll initially approve of everything He wants for me, and it doesn’t mean I’ll have all the answers, because I never will.

Last May, my best friend and I decided that we want to pursue God together and begin dating in March. We’ve since prayed copiously, read many articles on God-centered dating and have, despite setbacks and slip-ups, been doing our best to make this His project, an honest plea of two of His children who both desperately want to follow His heart over ours. We are both young and imperfect people who have much living and learning to do before progressing to more serious territory, and lately, I’ve been praying for wisdom. Wisdom for us as individuals and as a pair. Wisdom in how to react to one another and to the world, and how to love well in a world that teaches otherwise. Wisdom to not focus so much on ourselves as this world malnourished of compassion and truth. Wisdom to prioritize and remember what matters and what doesn’t. Wisdom to continue, to pause or to part ways. Wisdom to not make promises we can’t keep and wisdom to pick our battles.

I read that The One who matches up to you perfectly doesn’t exist, that God is The One and we’ll never match up perfectly; that’s where He comes in, to fill in the gaps. This may be true, but I want to know that any relationship I enter is one of His blessing, His grace and His direction, not my own.

So I won’t cower in my room and keep myself from a world parched of His truth. Diligence in prayer and acceptance when His will make itself apparent is my job. I’ll trust God with His.