The most vulnerable part of my heart.

I’m moving! The Art of Losing is moving to Heart of the Tico, my new website/blog where I will post everything about my life and ministry in Costa Rica. I will stop posting links here after the next few blogs posts, so please subscribe over there! It’s the same me, same writing, just a different space. I love you all and would love to take you all with me when I move.

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The most vulnerable part of my heart.

I was in fourth grade when I became reserved. I have memories of my younger childhood when I would run around the playground chasing kindergarten boys, giggling about the third graders holding hands down the slide, and playing with friends on the monkey bars.

But when I got into fourth grade it changed. I had a few friends, but really there was only one best friend — Heather. I remember feeling alone in groups of people and feeling like I wasn’t enough. I felt like I couldn’t do things well enough whether it was in sports, music, or academics (though I was very smart). I stopped trying because I always thought I would fail. With everything. Fifth grade was pretty much the same, but sixth grade was much worse.

And this is the part where I share the most vulnerable part of my heart that I have only ever talked about with a few close friends (four, to be exact). When I was in sixth grade my stress, anxiety, and depression were awful. One Wednesday night after church (Missionettes, aka “Jesus’ Girl Scouts”) I went into the bathroom and plucked out my eyelashes. Usually this is the part where people laugh. What?! They are astounded that anyone would do something so strange. Yeah, I know. I am too.

But one by one, I tried to make the rows of lashes even. I don’t know why it was my eyelashes except that maybe it’s because it was something I could control. I could control the perfect lines of my lashes and eyebrows, trying to make them perfect, unlike the craziness of my life that I couldn’t control — my mom’s depression, my parent’s fighting, my dad yelling at my older brother. I couldn’t stop those things.

It didn’t make me any more perfect once they were all gone. Instead it made me full of shame. I was the funny-looking girl with ugly eyes. I looked like that for months because when they started to grow back, I would pluck them again — still feeling a sense of stress-relief.

It was at this time in sixth grade that I withdrew from everything. I felt uncomfortable talking to people. I felt unwanted and alone. I felt invisible. My depression worsened, but I didn’t know it. I didn’t have a name for the feelings I had.

When I was 16 I told my mom that I was depressed and she told me it was just because I was a teenager. My mask was good. I became very good at lying. Not even my mom who also suffered from depression could see it in me. Fast forward five more years, to my junior year of college — just last spring. I cried multiple times a day. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t force myself to get out of bed to do anything. I wanted to be sucked up into a black hole and disappear. Sometimes I would dream of falling asleep and not waking up for 10 years, just so life would be different.

I went to a counselor at SPU and she told me that I seemed like a very strong person, despite the many hard things in my life. The counselor told me I was fine. Even though I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Even though i couldn’t make it a day without crying. Even though I felt hopeless in every area of my life.

Finally I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with severe depression. There is a test they had me take that has a scale of 40-70. If you are at 50 or less, you’re normal. At 60, you are depressed. At 70, you are considered severely depressed to the point of being suicidal. I scored 78.

I have been on antidepressants for a year now. There are some days I still feel it, but the depression is no where close to what it has been. Most days I feel normal, praise the Lord!

But I know there are other people — other young women — who still struggle with depression like I do. When I was 16, I wrote this (probably to showcase on Myspace):

[11 Jul 2006 | Tuesday] if I had one wish

If I had one wish: I would wish that my future self would come back and tell me how stupid and insignificant high school drama is.
and because we all know wishes don’t come true, I’m stuck dreaming and hating and wishing and crushing over insignificant things that wont matter in 5 years. but the thing is, right now, they matter.

Well, they matter to me.

to everyone else they are just as stupid as they will be to me in a few years. so why do I find myself crying over things that don’t matter?

As I read it now, my heart aches. There is nothing I can do to change my past, but there are other aching, 16-year-old hearts that I can choose to see and choose to love. I desperately wanted someone to lead me and teach me and see me. But where was the future-me? Where was the girl I could look up to and who would tell me that high school drama wasn’t everything?

Teens don’t have to feel alone, but it takes adults to step into that loneliness to make a difference. It takes YOU to step into a youth’s life. That is my purpose in Costa Rica. I have observed in Costa Rica that it’s more difficult because Latinos are not used to being vulnerable and sharing their hearts. (Many American teens aren’t either.) That is why I’m going. I’m going to love and encourage these young girls who think they are alone. They’re not. And you’re not. And we need to show the world that.

To love the one you cannot love.

The one where I’m brutally honest about something I’ve never posted in public.

How do you love a man who brings knots to your stomach and silence to your lips
whose voice makes your insides cringe and your outsides stiff…

who lies through his teeth, telling the world his beautiful lies,
claiming to provide,
though your family collects unemployment checks from the government
and groceries from the food bank
while he sits on the couch for 10 hours a day…

Not a care,
Not a worry,
No guilt,
And still no job applications…

How do you love a man whom you have always feared
to put you on the streets,
or in the hospital,
or in the grave,
though realistically, probably only from a broken heart
and shattered expectations…

How do you love the man who called you a rebellious liar,
a child, a runaway,
when you followed your dream,
and believed in what the Lord could do through the passion in your soul…

How do you love the man who calls himself a lover of God,
yet lies to his friends,
his church,
his family,
himself,

Whose anger you know better than his love,
whose yell you recall more closely than words of affirmation,
whose eyes have never seemed kind

and whose hands have always been an enemy,
instead of a
counselor
protector
comforter…

How do you love the man who has made you cry,
more than he’s made you laugh,
whose blood runs through your veins,
but whom you fear to call your father?

—–

How did he forgive them men who betrayed him for silver,
who mocked him,
beat him,
lied about him,
killed him?

How did He love the ones who could not be loved?

My conqueror.

I’ve gotta be honest… the past couple weeks that I’ve been home in Seattle have been incredibly difficult. Most days it has felt like my life is falling apart, — my life here in Seattle and my life in San Jose.

I talked with a friend today and he put into words this overwhelming feeling that I’ve had for about a year now, a feeling that increases with every day — it’s the feeling of having two lives. I really do. I have a life here in Seattle that involves my past and my present, my family, my friends, church, school, and my job. This is the life I have here, right now. But there is another life I live, a life in San Jose, Costa Rica. The life with my other family, my other friends, my church, my future and my passion.

My life here doesn’t know my life there, not really. And my life there doesn’t know my life here. It breaks my heart in two. There is a piece of me that will always and forever be in Seattle and now also a piece of me that will forever and always be in Costa Rica.

And right now it feels like both of them are breaking, going through trials, being tested in the most difficult ways. Being here doesn’t make it easy to support my friends and family in San Jose. That is incredibly difficult for my heart. But I know my place is here for now. I have a purpose here. And God must know what he’s doing.

With my heart stretched so far, I feel the signs of depression creeping in again. I’m struggling in school, with balancing time, with loving people who have broken my heart, and being a supportive friend, sister and daughter. This is a season in my life and this too will pass, but right now it’s tough to persevere.

For those of you who have been praying, today and yesterday I feel better. Not whole; not nearly. But I feel better. More peace; more joy; more motivation. I feel your prayers dancing around me. I feel the Lord sending himself to my heart, to quiet and calm her. Thank you for walking with me. I truly cherish all those who walk with my heart.

Keep praying, friends. God is a conqueror, and I know he will win these battles for me. Let God be my strength forever and ever.

A place to go back to.

Of all the places I’ve traveled, there’s never been a place that I’ve gone back to.

I’ve vacationed in Mazatlan, Mexico with my family for my first out-of-country trip.

I’ve adventured to South Africa where I slept in a cold, airy cabin for two months; talked with Sesotho people about the love of God; ate wildebeest; pet lion cubs; went on a safari; and made friends from all over the U.S.

I’ve roadtripped through Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois to visit friends from my travels in South Africa.

I’ve taken pictures at the giant bean and took my first taxi ride in Chicago.

I’ve built a house in Tijuana, Mexico with 60 youth from my church.

I’ve laughed and toured my way through the sites and foods of the Midwest in Independence, Missouri.

I’ve flown half way across the world to Sendai, Japan to visit my best friend, Mallory, who has made Japan her home. We went to Tokyo Disney; spent a week’s salary in photo booths; shopped, toured, and ate the best of the best Japanese food.

I’ve hugged best friends in real life for the first time in San Jose, Costa Rica. We adventured to a volcano, to downtown San Jose, to the ocean at Quepos, and I left with more family than I could have ever dreamed.

And I’ve never gone back to one, until now. Today I’m flying back to Independence, Missouri to tackle-hug my best friend in the airport, and laugh and adventure with her for eight glorious days. Mallory and I have always had a long distance friendship. Our friendship stretches to the other side of the world when she is home in Japan, but there is no one who holds my heart closer.

Mallory is the friend who walks with me no matter how many miles are between us. She is the friend who dreams and waits and sometimes even aches with my own dreaming heart. She’s the one whom I talk with about my future husband and the man of my dreams, about my dreams of living in Costa Rica and my broken heart for the world.

She is the friend who prays for me and with me, who writes my prayers on sticky notes until they are answered. Mallory is the one who I talk with about my joys and struggles with God and in life. She is the one who makes me laugh when I’m crying and makes me laugh so hard I cry.

She said it best herself when she said we are heart sisters.

We often think about how we met 3 years ago in South Africa and what an adventure that was and who we are now — two Americans who met in South Africa, one who lives in Japan and another who dreams of living in Costa Rica. South Africa was the beginning of our friendship, but it is just a memory now. There is so much more that holds our friendship together.

Though we live 16 hours and so many miles apart, our friendship is one of the most precious things in my life. We may never have the luxury of living in the same place on this earth, but it’s fantastic that we can share life together all over the world — Washington, Missouri, Chicago, Tokyo, Sendai… our friendship has no bounds.

This summer I am lucky enough to have her here in the States, just two timezones ahead of me. When a friendship survives on care packages, skype conversations and yearly hugs, being two timezones apart feels a lot like being neighbors. For the first time in almost 2 years, I can text and call her whenever I want. We go to bed around the same time and wake up around the same time. We can skype together with our crazy siblings and cats.

Of all the places I’ve ever been, the ones to go back to are those where I’ve left a piece of my heart. Lately I’ve been learning that it’s not so much the place that captures your heart as the people in the place. And when you leave your heart with a person, your heart moves with them. It doesn’t matter where in the world you go or where in the world you stay, you’ll always have a nomadic heart as long as that person is away.

For the next week I’ll be letting my nomadic heart take a rest as I spend some much needed face-to-face, arm-in-arm, close-enough-to-see-you-pitting-out-from-the-Missouri-heat time with my best friend, Mallory; my heart sister.

Do you have a best friend, a heart sister/brother? What great things define your friendship?

The wall.

Three years ago I started building a wall. Brick by brick I built it. I built it strong and tall for fear that the heart inside would be captured and broken again.

Now the wall is being broken down and it terrifies me. Bricks are falling and the inside of my heart is becoming vulnerable again. As more bricks fall, I put out my strongest defenses and wait. I prepare for the worst so no one will be able to knock down the rest of the wall. I brace myself for the worst attacker, Heartbreak…

If he says, “I can’t talk,” I assume he means, “I can’t talk because I really don’t like you. I’m secretly hiding it so you don’t get hurt. By the way, I’ll probably never want to talk again because now it’s just awkward.” Yikes!

But it isn’t true. Heartbreak never comes. I worry for nothing.

“I can’t talk,” usually means, “My brother needs the computer so I’ll text you later,” or, “I wish we could talk, but I have to go to the store for my mom because she’s not feeling well today,” or, “I just went running and I’m starving, but I’ll be back in an hour.”

A few more bricks fall from the wall I tried so hard to build. Why do I try to defend a wall that doesn’t want to stand? Why do I build this wall when Heartbreak is no where to be found?

Because my heart has broken before…
Because I’m afraid of being vulnerable…
Because someone told me I wasn’t worth the wait…

And because there was a time when someone said, “I’m sorry I can’t talk,” and it really did mean, “Our lives are too different and I could never love you enough. By the way, I’ve fallen in love with someone else, so we can’t ever talk again. It’s better that way.” Ouch.

My heart loved until it hurt and then it broke until there were enough pieces to build the wall. This wall around my heart prevents me from letting in people I love because I’m worried they will break me again. I’m worried they won’t take care of my heart.

There is no reason to worry, no reason to fear, no reason to be anxious, yet the wall still stands. Slowly bricks fall and slowly I learn to let people see past the crumbling wall into the broken shards of my heart, but I am a work in progress. Walls don’t come down overnight and it takes a while for heart to be repaired.

Slowly, I pull back my defenses and let the Repairman climb through the holes in my wall and put my heart’s pieces back together. While I tried to keep everyone out, He fought for a way in. It is only when He makes my heart whole that I will have something to offer the Heart who waits patiently outside my walls, waiting for me to let him in.

Be patient, Heart. The Repairman is working.

My wild heart.

There’s something perfect about sitting by a fire while the wind rustles leaves and the world quiets down. The sun’s absence reminds me that stars still sparkle with a fire much mightier than the one before me which crackles with summer delight. The freeway rumbles from a few miles away and if you wait for it, in the stillness of the blackest time of night, the train’s whistle faints near the ocean. Laughter echoes in the twilight; smiles glow in the firelight.

This moment is beautiful and nearly perfect, but as I close my eyes and dream, my thoughts wander to a place under different stars. To arms that make me feel safe; eyes that show me how much I am worth; and a smile that reflects my own, laughs with me and reminds my heart of every beautiful thing that surrounds it.

Embers escape from dying logs and I dream of escaping from here. I wonder if someday I’ll float away along with the wind, and be carried back to those arms. I wonder where God will take this heart of mine. I have wishes and dreams; I keep hoping and praying. Like the heart of the flame, my heart is wild with dreams and passion. And I pray, Lord, where will you take this wild heart of mine? Where will this passion thrive? Where will these dreams be given life? Where do you want me, oh Lord of my wild, wild heart?

The smoke dances with the wind while the fire flickers and dies as the night carries on, but the dreams in my heart still burn with the strength of a wild fire. Lord, let my wild heart seek you with all the strength she has. And in seeking you, I pray you carry my heart like embers in the wind, lost in freedom and the beauty of dreams that never end.

I dream of being irresponsible.

Some days I dream of being irresponsible. I’d buy a plane ticket though I don’t have the money, and I’d charge it on my credit card and pay it off slowly. I wouldn’t even care how long it took. Every payment would remind me of being with you. Such sweetness and perfection bottled up in monthly payments. It’s hard to bring a girl down when her heart is in the clouds. I would think of your smile and the way we laughed together. Someday I’ll kiss your smile and someday I’ll laugh with you again as we hold hands on a walk through your neighborhood. I’ll fall in love with that smile. I’ll fall in love with that laugh. I’ll fall in love with you, yes, I will.

Yes, some days I dream of being irresponsible, but right now I have to go to work.

Stranger.

A somber feeling is taking over my heart. I feel myself changing and I am realizing before the change is done. It’s strange, this heavy feeling. It’s a physical burden that my body carries reluctantly. I walk throughout my day wondering who this stranger is that wears my clothes and speaks words with my voice. This isn’t the girl I remember. Is there another soul who now inhabits this body?

I’m left with this frame of me; a shell; a remnant of who I was, left without desire, without passion, without focus. It hasn’t always been like this. Once upon a time there was joy and life. I felt alive, accomplished and adventurous. Today I wake up and I feel defeated.

It’s strange to watch myself become something different, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, yet still in the middle of making its cocoon. This is probably a stage of growing up — of needing independence but being forced into dependence; feeling trapped in my small life when my dreams are much bigger; carrying the weight of wanting that is shot down with overwhelming ‘no’s’ and ‘not yet’s.’

But whatever it is, I still have statistics homework that I’m behind on because I can’t focus for more than two minutes. I still have three weeks of spring quarter and one more year of college after that. I still have people to see, bills to pay and applications to complete before I graduate. So I get up, swallow this feeling of defeat and wear a smile. Something about it doesn’t feel right. It’s empty.

There are wings waiting on the other side of this cocoon, but I’m still the caterpillar who doesn’t understand.

I’ve lost me.

I’m escaping to the library between classes this morning. Really, I should be in Stats class, but today I just can’t. And Monday I couldn’t either. The last 5 weeks of being in school and working too many hours have been some of the hardest 5 weeks of my life. I escape to the basement in the library where I can write because this is where my heart feels at home; feels safe; feels the tiniest bit of rest in the chaos that I can’t control or scare away.

Last week I failed the first test I have ever failed in college. I have done about 7 homework assignments in 5 weeks between 4 classes. I should probably definitely care, but I just don’t.

I should care because I’m paying (with my mother’s help) too many thousands of dollars a year for college. I should care because my future depends on it. I should care because I’m only a year away from graduating. I should care for a lot of reasons, but I don’t because I can’t. I can’t find the energy or the joy or the motivation to do anything, even those things that I enjoy.

I’ve lost my joy. I’ve lost my smiles. I’ve lost me.

So I’m sorry I can’t…

Satisfy your expectations of what I should do, who I should be, or how I should feel.

Encourage you the way I wish I could.

Be excited for you with all the joy and enthusiasm I used to have.

Listen to your frustrations and help you carry your burdens.

Keep up with every obligation — significant or insignificant.

Remember to take you out to coffee and ask you about your life.

Be the friend you need me to be.

Sometimes I hide it well behind this smile that I used to wear so well, and sometimes I don’t care to hide it at all. I’m sorry for the inconsistency and I’m sorry if I’m not making sense. I rarely understand it either. Please be patient with me and keep on praying for me. This won’t last forever, but right now life is pretty tough.

Sometimes eyes overflow.

Sometimes eyes overflow. They have every good reason to, but hardly do so with good, heartfelt intentions.

I feel it rising and I can’t control it, though I want to. I want to tell the water to go back to its hiding place, to stay submerged in my sinuses and come back on a day when my heart can make sense of it all. Today she is more confused than ever. My eyes couldn’t care less.

Maybe the nerves were severed between my heart and head. Maybe the message isn’t getting through. My eyes haven’t heard that my heart can’t handle this. They don’t know the consequences — the disaster that will ensue — when the levy breaks.

The dam in my heart isn’t strong enough to hold back this flood, though for her sake, it should be. She needs it to protect her. She needs it to stop the flood before everything comes crashing down.

I choke my way through a few inhales, hoping the air will dry my eyes, but as I exhale, I exhale defeat.

The floods roar; my eyes overflow; the dam breaks; chaos fills my weary heart.