When The Ground Falls Beneath You

We spend our lives building ourselves. Subconsciously, we add a thousand pieces of life to our identity. Who we are is rooted in countless places and people.

The family we’re from or the friends that we have.The straight A’s in school. A boyfriend or a girlfriend. A hair style, a skinny body, or a tall figure. Designer clothes, achievement in sports, or the lead role in every play. The church that we go to, the Bible verses we know or even our entire faith.

And one day, all of that can fall apart and everything is gone. The ground falls beneath you and you’re the only one left. You. Just you. You’re naked, hunted down, ravished, alone.

I say this because it has happened to me. Maybe to you, too.

Until this week, I never knew how much I put my identity in things that would fade away. Relationships, who I was in high school, even dreams that I had that I knew would never come true, school, theatre, and my faith. I built them all up. I allowed them to fulfill me in ways they never could. But recently, as the weeks have gone by, one by one, each precious jewel has been taken from me. Torn. Ripped from my soul. Until now, in which I feel as though there is nothing left but me. Naked, empty, struggling, searching me. Alone and undone without all of those things that I thought made me who I was.

I used to think that faith was a good thing to root yourself in. Turns out that I was wrong.

I used to say, ”most of all, build your identity on your faith because you can’t trust anything or anyone else completely.”

I used to know that everything would be alright as long as I just had faith.

That is, until it all fell. Until I heard things I’d never heard before from someone I didn’t think would tell me these things in a place I never expected to hear them. Until I started to question, doubt, wonder things I’d never questioned, doubted, or wondered. Until everything around me was falling but I knew that I’d be fine and safe with my faith but then that went, too. Until it was all, all gone.

When the ground fell beneath me and I wound up in the pit. Naked, empty, alone. Identity-less.

I lost everything superficial about who I was. No, those things weren’t ”bad” particularly, but I’d let them define me and that was wrong. And of course, at one point they got the better of me and fell. Even my faith.

So now I’m building again. Crawling out of the hole and back up onto my faith. Building a new identity, a new faith. Trying to leave all of those old ideas of who I was behind. Trying not to do the same thing again.

This time, I’m putting my identity in God. Not faith.

Adieu Twenty-Eleven

2011 is coming to an end in just a matter of hours. It seems strange to me that this year is already over when the memories from this time last year are ever-present in my mind. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday that my grandma’s death was fresh and new, a friend had just hurt me, I started this blog, and I was looking forward to 2011. Time has really, really flown.

At the same time though, it is unreal that all of these things happened only a year ago. God has blessed me with an amazing memory and so I can watch a lot of these experiences in my mind like an old video. But looking back now, I realize how very long ago that was. Things have changed. I have changed. Although I can remember what happened like it was yesterday, I don’t feel the feelings like I used to at all. Even the pain is gone. It’s like it was a dream and I am awake now.

The road behind me is fun to look back on though. After all, it is the path that led me to who I am today. Every sorrow and every joy alike has shaped the person who is writing these words now.

2011, you were a good year. You started with so much promise. I was sad back then. Really sad. But on New Year’s Eve I realized that you were coming and that you were new and not at all connected to the griefs of 2010.

Back in January 2011, I made resolutions that I half-kept (whoops!). One was to eat healthier. Another was to finish my book. Maturity was on the list as well. I don’t even care about the ones I slipped up on though for God gave me everything that I truly needed for 2011.

I gained friends and grew in my old relationships, too. Where I used to feel lonely, I now enjoy love, comradory, and joy.

I became beautiful this year. Well, actually I just realized what it means to be truly beautiful and learned to accept it.

I got to act way more times than I could have imagined. I was blessed with some very nice roles and wonderful coaches and directors who taught me tons about acting. I grew as a singer, too. Basically I came out as a confident performer.

I got back on track with school after a rough start and ended up doing very well. I received scholarships and opportunities. I decided on university for next year and began the process of post-secondary education.

And I learned a lot through it all. I found that God is good and merciful and cares for His children. I learned how to trust Him more and realized that He will always see me through. I was freed from lies I believed. It was a year of healing, of happiness, and love. I discovered, delighted, and learned about friendship and love. God became my even better best friend.

Today, I say adieu to 2011 and all of what it held and brought to me. It’s been a good year and I enjoyed looking back on it. I am thankful to God for the amazing mercy that He has shown. I am glad that I have changed and am happy to change once more. God, thank you so much for 2011. Please be my guide even more in 2012.

How was your year? What did you learn, do, and become in 2011?

Death Ends But Love Continues

It is a long time ago now, but I still remember going to my grandmother, Situ’s, old apartment when I was about six-years-old. I went several times, but I remember this one in particular. We were sitting on the couch — all three of us — Situ, my sister, and I. We’d eaten and finished dinner long before, and the Barbies were strewn across the floor. Mom and Dad had yet to come back from their dinner out and Situ was taking a moment to tell us some stories from her childhood. She talked about her days in Lebanon with her many brothers and sisters and all of the animals that they had. Situ explained certain customs and words to us as we watched in fascination. But more than all of that, I remember how she told us that she loved us oh, so very much. And it seemed to me like that would never change, through death or life, her love would remain.

I called her almost every day — or she called me. We talked about a lot of things. She was the one that I told about my success and my failure and everything of consequence or of none at all. Situ would talk, too — usually about her latest purchases or what she was cooking. Sometimes, we even had political debates. No matter what though, we always ended with the words, “I love you.”

Often, when people ask me where I got a particular sweater or accessory, I answer with the words, “My grandma.” Even though nothing has been given in the past year, I still use gifts that she bought so lovingly. She was an expert at shopping and always had something to give us, because she loved us, wherever she went.

Situ always worried about where we were and what we were up to. She didn’t like it when I disappeared to look at books while shopping when I was ten. “Something could happen to you if you don’t stay with your mom and me!” I remember how relieved she was when I quit riding for good, a sport which she deemed dangerous. And she never did approve of my trip to Mexico that last summer. But she always said, “It’s just because I love you.”

Last October, Situ wasn’t shopping or supporting her favourite politician because straps bound her to a hospital bed. She gasped for life, on morphine and dialysis. I went to say good-bye to her there — in that cold, hospital room. “Don’t be too upset when I die.” She said, though I could not help but cry. And for some reason, it took me a long time to say those words of love that had always come out of my mouth so easily before. Perhaps it was because it was so final. Maybe it was for the fact that I would never say it again. She was dying, this love that I had. What words could I use? Finally, I whispered, “I will always love you.”

A year ago today, my grandma, Situ, had her last breath on this earth. It seemed so strange and unreal. I remember calling her apartment after it happened, just to make sure. I knew that she was dead but I still half-expected to hear her voice on the other end. All I heard was an answering machine, the shadow of what once had been. A dead love.

And there was the funeral, in which everyone cried, I read a poem, and we buried her and put roses on her grave. We went through days and weeks and months and holidays without her. Her birthday came and went. The chapter of her life on earth has ended, yet I still think of her everyday. She has not left my mind. Yes, I have kept my promise for I have realized, that love does not really end like death.

For although Situ is gone today, her memory is forever alive. I can’t hear her voice right now, but I remember when I did. I can still see her face, and feel her warm embrace. I may not be able to tell her my accomplishments, thoughts, feelings, and failings but I can imagine what she would say. I know that she’d be proud of all of the things that I’ve done. I know that she would smile and cry with me again if she could. And I am certain that I shall see her again someday, when to that place I go as well. Most of all, I love her even more because although death ends life, love continues it forever.

Situ, my grandmother, forever in my heart.

There’s A Risk

I remember my first death very well — it was my fifteen-year-old dog, Stretch. While some may mock such a loss, “Stretchie,” was my running partner, confidant, and very best friend (or one of them). To my twelve-year-old mind, her death was very significant and difficult. I cried a lot and thought of her often and of how much I missed her. It was in this time that I first realized the extreme risk of love. Would it have been easier if I never loved at all?

Of course, common sense and wisdom soon prevailed over this depressing thought. Looking at my wonderful life thus far with Stretchie was very much worth it to me, even though I would have to face the rest of it without her. Because I had the memories of her licking my face, of plucking her fur (yes, plucking…well, that’s what I called it when I pulled her fur that was shedding), and running with her in the backyard. And really, I wouldn’t trade those memories to have had her forever but to never have loved her or to have never had her at all. The risk was worth it.

Now, almost five years later, I’ve gone through far greater risks and experienced many other grievances. Friends have betrayed me. I left my heart behind in another country. A person that I expressed my feelings to disappointed me. Someone very dear to my heart went to heaven. I’ve sometimes wondered if my old idea was right. Was the risk worth it?

And then, I went to acting school. For my own sake, I went with the mindset that I wouldn’t delve too deeply into relationships with others. I would make friends but not too closely, since I was only there for three weeks and a great distance of land would surely prevent us from visiting often. I’d been hurt by the risk of love too many times and would be again, so I would avoid it here.

But that was before I realized that the minute I stepped into the room full of other students who loved to act, I was taking a risk. It was before I knew that these three weeks would be a time of growing through friendship. I didn’t understand that life and love are about taking risks. I had forgotten the greatest loving risk of all that paid the price for my sins. I couldn’t see the great beauty of the risk.

Thankfully, in those three weeks I saw all of these things and came out with a new love for the risk called love. I saw my heart change and grow and my longings fulfilled. I had conversations that I’d always wanted to have. I learned how to be a good friend and the beauty of a true friend. My needs were met and my insecurities broken at last. And yes, there was disappointment — my three weeks weren’t perfect by any means. It is true that I had to leave these friends and I probably won’t see many of them again. But there are certain rewards of taking the risk to love which made it all worth it.

My heart may be tender but I don’t care if it is stepped on anymore. I know what love tastes like now and it is well worth the risk. Protecting yourself against friendship and love only wounds the heart that God created. As friends, we may pass each other by, we may be hurt and disappointed, and the pain might be great but the love that we share makes these risks pale in comparison.

Binded By Brokeness

I have scars…I’ve been dissapointed, I’ve scattered my heart accross a city two countries away, I have grieved a loved one and have seen others grieve, and I have felt like my heart was shattered. I am broken.

But so is she…that woman over there, laughing and joking as if nothing was wrong. She too is broken. She has been abused and used, heartbroken and dissapointed. She has loved and she has lost. She is broken, too.

And so are they…the three in the corner, giggling over pizza. They have lost loved ones. They’ve been dumped by boyfriends and been bullied by so-called-friends. They have loved and lost. They are broken, too.

And so is he…the friend that lives far away. He’s been hurt by relationships. He has experienced dissapointment. He has been depressed. He has loved and lost. He is broken, too.

But Jesus is not…the one standing beside me and you, the one in my heart, and the one that is no longer on the cross. He is whole and he has the power to make us so. Yes, he binds us together again by our broken pasts and people whose hearts are just as shattered. Because through each hardship we connect, relate and understand. We realize that we are all just people under one God. We are binded by brokeness, and loved by Him. And because of Him, it is good.

You Can’t Take Away My Love

I stand almost alone in the grave yard, in front of a casket baring her I love. I look at the roses laid for her, I feel the rain on my shoulders. I try to say a prayer for her but the words won’t come, I want to cry for her but the tears won’t fall. Still, I’m overcome with grief. I wonder how God could let Satan do this to me. I hear the devil’s laughter and I feel his satisfaction. I don’t want to leave but eventually I have to. The devil laughs again and tells me to look back but I don’t.  The rain continues to fall, touching my silver locket that I wear around my neck. I touch it and I smile. She gave it to me! I remember and instead of looking back to her grave like the devil wants me to, I smile again and retort “You can’t take away my love.”

The tears fall down my cheeks as I’m tormented with the thought of never being with her again. I want to scream, I’d like to yell. The devil laughs again in his evil, satisfied cackle. I fall upon my bed and cry. My head hits a heart-shaped pillow…I stop…she gave it to me a long time ago. I sit up and wipe away my tears. I look around me and see glimpses of her everywhere: in my cherished collection of books, in the shirts that I haven’t put away, in the lap top on my desk, in the suit case I’ve yet to unpack, in the stuffies she bought me as a child. She is here, love is here. I scorn the devil again with my words: “You can’t take away my love.”

I pound my fists against the ground, I let the carpet absorb my tears. I miss her! I want her! I just want to hear her voice, to see her face, to hug her warm body one last time. The devil cackles and tells me that my wish will never be fulfilled. Suddenly, a force pulls me up and I reach for the phone. Nervously, I dial her number, the one I’ve known by heart since childhood. It rings. It rings again. It rings several times…no answer…but an answering machine. I hear her voice again. I listen and cherish. I go and get the photo album and I flip through pictures of her holding me on her knee, and smiling down at me. I recall and I remember. I think on happy times with her and to the devil I say: “You can’t take away my love.”

I sit in dismal fate at the table, missing her. I still want her. The devil challenges me. I pick up the thick red book with the gold lettering on it and begin to read from the last chapter. I read about Heaven and Hell and the end of times and I remember where she is and where I’ll be then too…with her. And to the devil I say: “You can’t take away my love.”

Now my silver locket gleams in the sunlight, shining clearly with love. I smile as a friend notices it. I tell them that she gave it to me. I open it and close it and open it again. It is empty, just as she is gone but I know that won’t be for long…perhaps at present she is  not with me but I’ll always have her in my memory and I will meet her again one day. She is not really gone and I am not really without her. “No Satan…no matter how hard you try…you cannot take away my love.”