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.

Right?

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….

Glitter Waves

The waves gather morning sunlight until they look like shiny, golden tubes rolling upon the shore. As the foamy water breaks apart, the light scatters across the sand like a plume of gold glitter before dissolving into the wet earth.

I’ve never seen this effect before. Could it be the black volcanic soil of this beach? Maybe it’s the Caribbean sun. Whatever the case, it’s beautiful–God’s artwork in nature.

Written January 2014
on the beach in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico

City Lights

The stars are so pretty right now. I can hardly see them through the city lights, but there they are: sparkling like bits of glitter on midnight-black construction paper.

Remember when life was simpler? When all we had to do was look up, make a wish, and somehow we knew – we believed – it would come true?

I’ve been sitting on a bench at this bus stop, doing a little stargazing, and it occurred to me: What if I just hopped on the next bus? Just…went, no matter where it was going? I know this isn’t “allowed.” It can’t be because, for heaven’s sake, it’s a weeknight and I have responsibilities.

But what if I did it, anyway? What would happen? Would it disrupt the space-time continuum? Would the world as we know it come to an end?

I doubt it. In fact, I’m pretty sure civilization would carry on, regardless of what I did or didn’t do tonight; and, ya’ know, I really am tempted to find out the hard way where this next bus leads…

Spring Sun Rising

This is how I feel: a spring sun rising over a cold, winter sky.

It’s been a long, dark night, but dawn is approaching….

Summer Ends

It’s not really the end of the summer (thankfully!), but I’m sharing this poem because I wrote it around he the same time as the writerly musing I just posted on Monday.

I wrote these two pieces at the very end of a wonderful summer, as the days grew shorter and cool weather approached, but I’m posting them now (in the spring of 2020) because it seemed appropriate in light of the COVID pandemic.

Because all seasons, no matter how good or bad, do come to an end.


Lovers, brothers
Movers, shakers
Authors, singers
Movie-makers
Crissing, crossing
Even lines
Waters breach
The sands of time
Hope is lost
Lost is found
Seasons shake
The shaky ground
Calming tides
That come again
People change
And summer ends

butterfly

written August 28, 2012
as the seasons of life (and of my life)
began to shift