Friday, April 27, 2012

To Write Love on Her Arms

A while back there was a day when everyone was encouraged to write the word "love" on their arm to raise awareness and support for those having troubles with self-injury and self-image. It was cool to see so many people doing it!
Yesterday I was looking back on that day, and wishing I had been more informed about what it was really about. It's so sad how people just get swept up in the excitement of a movement like this, and don't actually know the facts and story behind it. So I googled "To write love on her arms", and found out that it is actually an organization that gives support and hope to anyone finding themselves in a hard place.
It all started with a story. A girl's friends wrote it to accompany a T-shirt fundraiser they were doing to raise money to pay for her rehab. Here's the story.


"Pedro the Lion is loud in the speakers, and the city waits just outside our open windows. She sits and sings, legs crossed in the passenger seat, her pretty voice hiding in the volume. Music is a safe place and Pedro is her favorite. It hits me that she won't see this skyline for several weeks, and we will be without her. I lean forward, knowing this will be written, and I ask what she'd say if her story had an audience. She smiles. "Tell them to look up. Tell them to remember the stars."

I would rather write her a song, because songs don't wait to resolve, and because songs mean so much to her. Stories wait for endings, but songs are brave things bold enough to sing when all they know is darkness. These words, like most words, will be written next to midnight, between hurricane and harbor, as both claim to save her.

Renee is 19. When I meet her, cocaine is fresh in her system. She hasn't slept in 36 hours and she won't for another 24. It is a familiar blur of coke, pot, pills and alcohol. She has agreed to meet us, to listen and to let us pray. We ask Renee to come with us, to leave this broken night. She says she'll go to rehab tomorrow, but she isn't ready now. It is too great a change. We pray and say goodbye and it is hard to leave without her.

She has known such great pain; haunted dreams as a child, the near-constant presence of evil ever since. She has felt the touch of awful naked men, battled depression and addiction, and attempted suicide. Her arms remember razor blades, fifty scars that speak of self-inflicted wounds. Six hours after I meet her, she is feeling trapped, two groups of "friends" offering opposite ideas. Everyone is asleep. The sun is rising. She drinks long from a bottle of liquor, takes a razor blade from the table and locks herself in the bathroom. She cuts herself, using the
blade to write "FUCK UP" large across her left forearm.

The nurse at the treatment center finds the wound several hours later. The center has no detox, names her too great a risk, and does not accept her. For the next five days, she is ours to love. We become her hospital and the possibility of healing fills our living room with life. It is unspoken and there are only a few of us, but we will be her church, the body of Christ coming alive to meet her needs, to write love on her arms.

She is full of contrast, more alive and closer to death than anyone I've known, like a Johnny Cash song or some theatre star. She owns attitude and humor beyond her 19 years, and when she tells me her story, she is humble and quiet and kind, shaped by the pain of a hundred lifetimes. I sit privileged but breaking as she shares. Her life has been so dark yet there is some soft hope in her words, and on consecutive evenings, I watch the prettiest girls in the room tell her that she's beautiful. I think it's God reminding her.

I've never walked this road, but I decide that if we're going to run a five-day rehab, it is going to be the coolest in the country. It is going to be rock and roll. We start with the basics; lots of fun, too much Starbucks and way too many cigarettes

Thursday night she is in the balcony for Band Marino, Orlando's finest. They are indie-folk-fabulous, a movement disguised as a circus. She loves them and she smiles when I point out the A&R man from Atlantic Europe, in town from London just to catch this show.

She is in good seats when the Magic beat the Sonics the next night, screaming like a lifelong fan with every Dwight Howard dunk. On the way home, we stop for more coffee and books, Blue Like Jazz and (Anne Lamott's) Travelling Mercies.

On Saturday, the Taste of Chaos tour is in town and I'm not even sure we can get in, but doors do open and minutes after parking, we are on stage for Thrice, one of her favorite bands. She stands ten feet from the drummer, smiling constantly. It is a bright moment there in the music, as light and rain collide above the stage. It feels like healing. It is certainly hope.

Sunday night is church and many gather after the service to pray for Renee, this her last night before entering rehab. Some are strangers but all are friends tonight. The prayers move from broken to bold, all encouraging. We're talking to God but I think as much, we're talking to her, telling her she's loved, saying she does not go alone. One among us knows her best. Ryan sits in the corner strumming an acoustic guitar, singing songs she's inspired.

After church our house fills with friends, there for a few more moments before goodbye. Everyone has some gift for her, some note or hug or piece of encouragement. She pulls me aside and tells me she would like to give me something. I smile surprised, wondering what it could be. We walk through the crowded living room, to the garage and her stuff.

She hands me her last razor blade, tells me it is the one she used to cut her arm and her last lines of cocaine five nights before. She's had it with her ever since, shares that tonight will be the hardest night and she shouldn't have it. I hold it carefully, thank her and know instantly that this moment, this gift, will stay with me. It hits me to wonder if this great feeling is what Christ knows when we surrender our broken hearts, when we trade death for life.

As we arrive at the treatment center, she finishes: "The stars are always there but we miss them in the dirt and clouds. We miss them in the storms. Tell them to remember hope. We have hope."

I have watched life come back to her, and it has been a privilege. When our time with her began, someone suggested shifts but that is the language of business. Love is something better. I have been challenged and changed, reminded that love is that simple answer to so many of our hardest questions. Don Miller says we're called to hold our hands against the wounds of a broken world, to stop the bleeding. I agree so greatly.

We often ask God to show up. We pray prayers of rescue. Perhaps God would ask us to be that rescue, to be His body, to move for things that matter. He is not invisible when we come alive. I might be simple but more and more, I believe God works in love, speaks in love, is revealed in our love. I have seen that this week and honestly, it has been simple: Take a broken girl, treat her like a famous princess, give her the best seats in the house. Buy her coffee and cigarettes for the coming down, books and bathroom things for the days ahead. Tell her something true when all she's known are lies. Tell her God loves her. Tell her about forgiveness, the possibility of freedom, tell her she was made to dance in white dresses. All these things are true.

We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don't get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won't solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we're called home.

I have learned so much in one week with one brave girl. She is alive now, in the patience and safety of rehab, covered in marks of madness but choosing to believe that God makes things new, that He meant hope and healing in the stars. She would ask you to remember."

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pinterest... My new best friend :)

Alright. Big news guys. I've heard this line so many times it's ridiculous, but I'm saying it.
"I am so addicted to Pinterest!"
If you've ever used it, you know what I mean. It's crazy easy to get sucked into! If you've never heard of this Pinterest I speak of, look it up right. Like, right now. I know you can, cuz your reading this, so you have no excuse! :P Pinterest is this cool social networking site where you can essentially "pin" any pic you want, whether it's on the Internet or one you took, or one that someone else pinned. All your pins are collected on your pinboard, and you cam organize them however you want. It's absolutely incredible! You can find everything under the sun on this site! And to prove it, I shall give you a sample of all the random things you could find if you were to go there:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

We All Smile In The Same Language

Hello! (That's just in case by some miracle someone accidentally stumbles upon this post. Better safe than sorry, right?) I've been realizing all over gain how truly AWESOME life is! Seriously, I almost forgot what it's like to laugh with your whole being, not self-consciously or half-heartedly. It feels amazing. :) And I hate to say it, but life seems so much simpler and free since my boyfriend and I broke up. I don't have so many things to worry about, and I can just be me. I accomplish so much more for God too! It's quite refreshing. :)
I've been practicing photography lately. I'm still not great at it, but I'm working on it. Here are some of the better ones:

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Frailty of Life

Great plumes of smoke burst into the four o'clock sky as we passed on the highway. Five minutes earlier, and we wouldn't have seen the flames. Five minutes later would have been too late. The world was still asleep and unaware of the flames' destruction in its midst.
Pulling up to the house, the orange flames were warm on our faces. No one was around except a man in nothing but shorts pacing frantically on the street. Rushing to our still moving car, he shouted, "Call 911! Please! Please help me! Call 911!" My mother was already talking with the dispatch. He ran back to his truck where his three small children stared in disbelief as the only home they ever knew disappeared in violent chaos. Tears glistened on their eyes, but refused to fall. The young boy looked to me, and with honest and unmasked fear all he could say was, "What about all my toys?"
In this time of confusion and fear, the mysterious but intense love I suddenly felt for these poor children was unmistakable. I felt a strong desire to protect them and comfort them when they were forgotten in the chaos of the moment. As I ran my fingers through the little girls hair, it was like God was whispering to me, "You wanted to do something for me? Well this is it. This is what you're meant to do now. Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me."
My dad and a few neighbors immediately kicked into action, pounding on the doors of the adjoining residences. When there was no answer, they had to kick in the door. They would not leave anyone behind.
Seeing this family, and how quickly their circumstances changed reminded me of how uncertain this life is. Going to bed last night, they had no idea what they would wake up to. Nothing is stable, we can't even count on tomorrow coming. Eveyday, we are as frail as the day we were born. This is why we have God. He was certainly with us all today. Everything, from the exact moment the flames caught my mom's eye, to the miracle of everyone getting out of the fourplex unscathed, it was all God. It's crazy! He put us in that exact spot in that exact time for a specific reason! And I'm so glad He did! I'm so glad He was with us then, and He's watching over the family now. He is always the same; He never changes. Our stuff on this world doesn't matter at all in the grand scheme of things. All that matters is God, and his kingdom. <3

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Fools of April

April Fools!!! I'm not actually going to write a post. Jokes! Too late for that now, isn't it? Oh well, at least I tried. I've never been great at April Fools jokes and such. I think the highlight of my pranking career was one Christmas when my cousin and I taped newspaper over the whole doorway to my brother's room in the middle of the night. When he woke up, he just stood there staring at it for a few minutes, then carefully took off one piece and crawled through the hole. It was pretty grand, not gonna lie. :)
Supposedly, here in North America, the jokes are only supposed to happen in the morning. And if you pull a prank in the afternoon people get to make fun of you and chant, "April Fools has come an gone, you're the fool for pulling one!" How rude. Sheesh. And supposedly, in France and Italy, they tape fishes to each others backs! That's a strange one. I wonder if they were real fishes... :P

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