Beware of Trains

People say tornadoes sound like freight trains when they’re on the ground.

I’ve never been in a tornado, but I have seen (up close and personal) the destruction caused by them. And, in a way, I’ve survived a different type of tornado – one that struck my heart and my life.

It was 2013. I was in debt up to my eyeballs, I had health problems the doctors couldn’t diagnose, and the man of my dreams…well, I thought he was going to propose. I really did. But he ended up leaving instead.

The breakup came by text message, right before Valentine’s Day, and right before a big trip he and I were supposed to take.

My life came crashing down in what, quite literally, felt like an instant.

path of destruction
A real, actual tornado struck this person’s house – ironically, this is how I felt on the inside

After the dust settled, I began clawing my way out of the hole I was in. I saved money however I could: by eating cheaply or not at all; by scraping deodorant from the bottom of the deodorant stick; I even cut open spent toothpaste tubes to salvage whatever paste might be left.

I also canceled all my travel plans, including the trip I’d been planning with my ex, and I refused to go anywhere except to work and to the doctor.

No more makeup or clothes.

No more hair products or haircuts.

No more going out.

Basically, I let myself go. I had to – because of my finances, yes, but I also didn’t see the point in trying anymore. If such intense, horrible heartache could happen in an instant, why bother? I was only setting myself up for failure. At least, that’s what I thought.

beware of trains
I didn’t heed the warning signs, the red flags. I hadn’t meant to get stuck on those proverbial railroad tracks while a train was coming full-speed, but somehow I did.

Battling extreme depression, I tried to tell myself that my writing was enough, that I didn’t need anything else. But no matter how much I poured myself into my work, I couldn’t make any progress. And nothing, absolutely nothing, quenched my thirst.

Thirst. The very word makes my throat dry as I remember that season of my life. It’s like I was searching for something and hadn’t even known it. Acceptance? Love? The kind of love that wouldn’t toss me out like yesterday’s garbage?

As the weeks unfolded, I succumbed to depression more and more. I was mired in darkness—and not the kind that’s fun and exciting. It was the kind that’s gut-wrenching and heartbreaking.

Emptiness, by its very nature, is weightless – yet, the emptiness inside me somehow carried an unbearable weight.

dark gray
Searching for hope in dark places

The weekend of my birthday arrived. Desperate to make the emptiness go away, I partied so hard I was sick for three days. My friends took pics of me passed out at my dining room table. In one pic, my forehead was resting on a banana (“banana pillow birthday” someone captioned the pic).

I had hit a new low.

That same weekend, an F5 tornado struck the small town of Moore, Oklahoma, killing 24 people and injuring 212. The tornado was a mile wide, and it was on the ground for 37 minutes. The destruction was inconceivable–like a nuclear bomb had obliterated the small town–and I was moved by the images I saw on TV.

More than moved. I had a long history of recurring nightmares about tornadoes, especially when I was a kid, and I felt drawn (like a calling) to go and help with the cleanup and relief effort.

The idea sparked purpose in my heart. This was my chance to do something that would make a difference. Sure, I was incapable of helping myself, but I could help others.


american flags
Memorial at Moore’s elementary school
believe in hope
I had been searching for hope in the chaos of my life…but it was Hope that found me

Yes, I thought to myself. I could lift people up. I could rescue them…little did I realize, I was the one still in desperate need of rescuing. You see, I went to Oklahoma, thinking I was going to save people.

In reality, it was Christ who led me there because I needed to be saved—from destructive behaviors, from unhealthy mindsets, and from a whole lot of brokenness.

group photo_during
Our cleanup and disaster-relief crew – we all need a support team around us to make it in life. We weren’t meant to be alone.

Stay tuned for the conclusion on Thursday….

My Thanks to You

You inspire art in me
Brighter than the brightest sea
Whatever happens, good or bad
My thanks to you
Crosshatch Gold
-Written September 30, 2012
when I found a silver lining

Your Love

Your love is a mountain
I venture to climb
Your love is a river
So endlessly wide
Depression destroyed me
It tore me apart
But Your light did find me
And entered my heart

Your love is a refuge
My sanctuary
Your love is a fire
That’s burning in me
The wolves closed in
They tried to steal me
But You are my Shepherd
I belong to Thee

Your love is a fountain
Your love is a spring
Your love is an ocean
The calmest blue sea
Your love is the rock
Your love is the shore
Your love is the strength
And the hope I adore

It’s real and it’s true
For You are my King
Thank You for loving
And rescuing me

– Written on Valentine’s Day 2014
in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

The Cure

I am my mood
My mood is me
So softly
A kiss of the wind
A gentle breeze
A song I sing
So longingly

Stillness settles
What mood is this?
Content to stand
Or kneel
Or sit
I have a hunger
Of this I’m sure
But how I find it
That’s the cure

Golden Glitter

– written August 16, 2011
as I began to explore the world

The Dance

Step, step
One, two
Back up
Not so fast
Take it down
Before it takes you

-Written on July 3, 2012
as my heart sensed something
wasn’t quite right with the relationship I was in