feeling the love

beach-1beach-4beach-5I just want to say how thankful I am for everybody and their feedback on my last post. It was much-needed and far exceeded my expectations of what would come of it. I love you all lots and you made for a loving and light birthday week.

More to come from the Dominican Republic soon.

-EJ

 

the blues, greens, and pinks of my seventeenth year

My seventeenth birthday fell on the Tuesday following the weekend everything broke and got put back together again, the season my family decided to move to another city just before my senior year, and the year that loss found its way into the wrinkles and eyes of the people whom I love. It had been a hard year. Life continued to make me weary and the colors with which I saw the world had been very subtly fading. I had not lost hope, however. People would look at me crazy when I expressed no pain at the loss of my Senior year but I knew that I wasn’t where I needed to be.The Lord was begging me to grow up. My 17th birthday was the day I got a rocking chair, a typewriter, and a tan, and I looked ahead and saw more color than I did looking behind.  I thought, I will be better soon. Everyone will be better soon.

After a trip to Africa and a wisdom tooth extraction, we piled into cars and headed to College Station, Texas. The majority of the ride consisted of oxycodone tears and a throbbing mouth, but the last leg of the trip I began to notice the colors on the ground and in the sky. Bold greens and blues and pinks all swirled together during the sunset hour as we approached our new home. I remember the smell outside during that summer season at our new home. It was just like a lake house- bugs singing into the humid air. This is the place where things get better, I thought. If this wasn’t the place, here where the colors were so bold, then I didn’t know that the place existed.

I spent the rest of the summer in my suitcase traveling from one place to the other. From lakes to camps to concerts to Midland to College Station to Florida. It was an absolute dream. (I mean can you say #hipstahfresh?) I had nothing but excitement for what was ahead- the unknown that promised healing and newness. After my final summer escapade in Florida and a tear covered weaning from my dear friends, I left for my new home in College Station for good. I left hopeful, driving into the deep colors.

This is where the story gets hard to tell because it is all a very blurry dream-like memory. I am still not fully convinced that I have lived in this town, out of school and of existence (as far as the conventional standards of a seventeen year old are concerned) for nearly a year. I feel as if my life went on pause that day I left the Houston airport, because instead of driving into the colors of Summer, I drove into a coming of Fall. It was a season of changing and thinking about change. Deciding which college I would go to and whether or not I would choose to go a semester early in the Spring. After a quick trip to Nashville, I decided I would attend Belmont University in the Fall of 2014. I figured I was already far enough from everything I know anyways, might as well go to Tennessee (again, #hipstahfresh). I began to intern with some awesome photographers (who I now consider great friends) Tim and Kristen Douglass. I spent my days doing things I can’t really remember. I had yet to see life in the bold colors I was sure I would.

The Winter quickly came upon us, and as the weather grew colder, so did my spirit. I continued to struggle with depression and loneliness, which is not unexpected given my circumstance and extroverted personality. But It was more than just an adjustment shock. I was incessantly questioning God and His hand in my life. Which is a light way of saying I was beginning to feel trapped in the darkest of places. I was overrun with the thoughts in my head telling me lies and supplying me with an inexplicable dark fog. And while I did not know this at the time, demons had been finding their way into my mind and heart. I would have a day dark like this, only to be proceeded by a day accompanied by a settled spirit and a quiet mind. I would notice the sunrise once again and see the contrasting greens, pinks, and blues, and think to myself- being here is a good thing. It wasn’t a waste of energy and gut wrenching goodbyes. So I would not speak of these bad days, because maybe, just maybe, they were about to phase out. I did not see God. And worse, I did not hear God as I begged Him to speak. I talked myself down- next semester will be different. Next semester.

The next semester came after a low-key Christmas Season. All I remember about this time was constantly being on a sugar high, as I ate ALL the deserts for every meal in order to numb the loneliness (only kind of funny). With this came the ‘Freshman 15’, which I pray is actually only the ‘year after finishing high school 15’. 2014 brought me to first clean out my life by changing what I put into my body. I did a whole30 in January and began doing crossfit. I was determined to spend time with the Lord, even though I had little faith in His audibility or overall presence, for that matter. Somehow, through all of this, I planned to gain the strength to pull myself up by the overall straps (because overalls are what I want to be wearing always) and never ever be so weak as to see dark days again. There would be only good days. While the dark days did not cease, the good ones were better almost wholly due to the improvement of my physical health. I really believe that there is a spiritual link between physical and emotional health. During this time I was reminded to work hard with my hands, for this is my appointed joy and to Not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which is taking place inside of me. Fiery it indeed had been, but I had no idea how fiery it would become.

When you entertain a thought of tragedy, whether it be an induced thought or a nightmare, you suddenly become all-to-aware of everything that would be lost in an instant. You imagine how hard the smallest tasks, such as breathing, eating and sleeping would be and how different everyday from then on would be. In these contrived moments we stare humanity in the face and weep. We jump from our sleep, panting and gasping. People say things like I could not live with that. But bad things happen, and we live. We eat, sleep, breath, even if not at the same time. We continue to do for ourselves what needs to be done (or otherwise let people do them for us) and we take our next breath. When I would wake from nightmares about my parents getting divorced, I was aware of all the things lost and all the things that would never be normal again. I would become aware of all of my perception of life that hinged on my parent’s well-being within themselves. Forgiveness was alive because they chose to forgive. Grace really does abound because they accept that grace freely. Transformation is alive because they transform into better people and hope is worth hoping for, wholly because they do. If they did not hope, or forgive, or transform, or accept grace, then no one really could. They could pretend to, but it would not be genuine. So yes, I would wake up, well into my teens, overcome with a darkness and a fear I had not known otherwise, because the bond I was born into and the first form of unity my learning eyes knew was theirs. Nothing could be more sacred than the unity that gave me life. That gave me the capacity to feel such darkness at such ungodly hours. So I would gasp and weep for a moment and say to myself I could not live with that.

But I did. Come mid-January the bomb was dropped, and I said alright. For a moment there, because I continued to breath and eat and even sometimes laugh, I thought I was going to be just fine. Maybe this wasn’t that important to me after all. However, if that much of the color with which you see the world rests on that unity’s shoulders, it is that important. And every piece of bad still comes, but one at a time. One by one taking away every color and convincing me those colors were only an illusion. Black and white is all there is, and it comes in on the clouds and in the cold of the foggy January around me.

That is how the next few months went down, and in exactly that direction: down. It started as bearable and quickly became too heavy. I was no longer able to convince myself that this move was anything but disastrous. Generational demons wrapped themselves around every part of me and disturbed the peace that was still present in my soul. It manifested itself in the fear of repetition – which inevitably leads to repetition, come to find out – and in a proliferating anger. I was surrounded by different people telling me different things and I was stuck trying to decide who was worth believing. Honestly, who could be trusted? The fear that I would go completely unheard bore weight on me more and more everyday. Even heavier than that, the fear that I was not hearing the right person myself. In short, hopelessness had become successful in convincing me of its merit. Transformation was no longer of me and was certainly not of the people who I love and who hurt me. This was perhaps the most painful lie to believe. The greens did not collide with the pink and blue sky, because the trees were dead and the sky was cloudy.

I continued to busy myself with the food I cooked. I planted a garden and I bought chickens. I think I did these things almost in an effort to convince myself I was meant to be alone in the country somewhere people can’t get hurt by my flailing attempts of throwing the gospel around as if it wasn’t a bloody weapon. This way I could hide and control my well-being, because it is simple in the country. And it has to do with my own hard work not that of my parents or even of, for all I was concerned, my God. Even still, God would come to claim my soul. Not in the way I was used to where He gives me a passion and I run with it. He wasn’t my coach, this time. He was my sleep. My embrace. My Father. He would supply me with exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. With community and health and sudden unexpected warm days. With a peace I cannot explain, or even remember. During this time, one thing I could not deny was the Lord’s perfect timing and supplication and with the same mouth I would question His audibility and awareness.

So with the next few months came the fickle Texas spring weather -indecisive at its core- alongside my equal and opposite days. Days so far from hope I wished I could somehow escape myself and days so perfectly orchestrated by the Lord’s hand, I wished to stay close to this pain if it meant it gave me an out and an excuse to be this close to Jesus’ kind of peace. Days during which I was practically drowning in loneliness and days I was surrounded by people who’s lives gave me hope of a different future than the one I had replaying in my mind incessantly.

I knew in my heart that this was no way to live: In constant flux between ok and absolutely not ok. Nothing was coming out of me. None of the bad and therefore none of the good. I was somehow ok with letting both die inside of me, if it meant I would not harm anyone during the extraction process. From this point I stopped, and did nothing. Which was somehow the only way I am able to now do something. Anything. I let people pray for me. I let go of any false premonition that I had any authority in my life. I saw my soul as the rope with which good and evil were playing tug of war. My heart stopped at the acknowledgement of the absolute reality of this war: My very concrete and real welfare being fought over in warfare. And all I had to do was believe it. I voiced with my mouth that something was wrong and by doing so dared the Lord to make it right. And He came through and He is making it right.

This acknowledgment has not brought peace to the war, not yet. But rather a louder war with a predetermined victor. With it has come last stitch efforts from the enemy disturbing my sleep with images of me weeping and gasping and nobody actually seeing or understanding my explanation as to why I was so hysterical. Lies telling me you should not be alive. You are in the way. But these thoughts are not my own and I refuse to claim them. So I wake and weep The Name of Jesus and am reminded of my actual thoughts. My actual inheritance and my actual anointing. The thoughts that He has bestowed upon me  assuring me that I am understood. I am a daughter. Evil does not have power over me and hope is worth hoping and transformation is real and it is happening inside of you. Transformation is green pressed against the blue hope pressed against the pink love that is in the new land you abide.

Now I choose to love. I no longer want answers or clarity. I want trust and forgiveness. Oh how badly I want to know forgiveness. I want to look it in the face and not break eye contact until we become conjoined and I become dependent on its blood. 

Here in college station the weather is beginning to change again. The green has emerged and the colorless clouds are making themselves known far less frequently. Humid warmth becomes the evenings so well and the familiar sound of the bugs humming takes me back to the lake. Back to last Summer, where I left things off. My skin is beginning to darken and all that is around me reminds me of hope. The sun comes out and I do not feel vain in waiting expectantly and longingly for normalcy. I feel it is the time for normalcy. I am growing excited for college and people and a place in which my name is on an attendance sheet. I find hope in a day to come, yes, but I also find hope in my soul that is hidden away with a perfect keeper- making loneliness and depression obsolete and very temporary. I find hope in a freedom I never truly believed I possessed. With a power that laid so dormant in me for so long.Today marks the day I will begin living out of my suitcase again, as I leave for the Dominican Republic with my mom. And even as the Summer will bring the second and third moves in the last 12 months, I welcome it’s hectic promise. I look forward into my 18th year and see again an unknown and strange adventure as I go to Nashville knowing practically no one. But in that unknown I feel a familiar excitement and hope. And hope is all I ever really needed. And when I look back at my 17th year I will not see it in black and white. I will see it in the blue pressed against the green pressed against the pink love that found its way inside of my soul.

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Emily Shuler - You are a seriously amazing writer. I was able to visualize and put myself into those everyday moments because I was once there too. Please continue to write because you are so incredibly talented and it would be an absolute shame to waste that God given talent. I look forward to reading more. So keep on keepin’ on, Emma. And know you have someone rooting for you!

stay golden,
Emily

Emma - Emily- thank you so much for your support. It makes me so happy that somebody can relate. This was such an encouragement. Thank you!

Anthony Patch - Your prose is slightly inconsistent in tone, but that makes it all the more real. Your voice bounces back and forth between light and fun to very somber. I do not think it takes away from the piece, rather it strengthens it by giving it more of a colloquial feel. As a reader, I can feel the emotion in your words and your voice becomes even clearer.

people whom I love

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follow up on images of toddler Sam from Wednesday

The Carrigans are people in my life who never fail to love me the way I need to be loved. In them I know I will always find an open home and loving arms. I have honestly thanked God time and time again for them. I am so grateful to be able to call such awesome people family.

Carrigans, you inspire me and I enjoy being around you more than I do most people. I love you all so dearly.

Happy Sunday

-EJ

the sun as my weapon

I am over pretending that my soul isn’t a real thing or that there isn’t a war taking place for its sake. My soul is real and the enemy is real. He acts through patterns and uses the same schemes over and over and over again. I believe the spirits and demons which have laid silent in my soul – but active, nonetheless, –  are stirring up in their dwelling place as I have shaken their peace. I have made them known as if my soul is a snow globe and they are the particles that dance and flutter to the ground.

The enemy is most active when he is able to convince us that we are somehow off the record: that our lives and decisions and losses are just a messy collision of circumstances, mishaps, coincidences, and experiences. Each of our lives is a story. A story worth telling. No matter the plot twists, we have been given the grand storyteller who can make everything fit into a beautiful, unique, and comprehensive story that plays into His metanarrative. And that power, that ability to turn anything beautiful, is what puts to death the lie that is root of all hopelessness. Because transformation is alive, it is not dead. What He has given words, begs to be spoken. It begs to be proclaimed to audiences; without regard for their comparing eyes, but only for their mirrored souls- proclaiming their own stories. There is nothing like the worshipful harmony of stories told to one another. I just know that God must be composing the epic narrative of His Kingdom as a symphonic story, even as I cannot hear the notes of it now.

So I am going to write the story of my seventeenth year, in honor of my birthday on Wednesday. I will tell of the magic that lay inside the snow globe of my soul. I will tell of the bad spirits, which I intend to put to death. I will tell of the good spirit, the one which shines like the sun in the dark and silent places of my soul. I intend to speak life to what God has given words and by doing so reveal the disguised and deceiving existence of the enemy.  In me they will not find a place even to sleep as they have been doing because the sun will shine and it will not set. Whether or not I choose to acknowledge or fight the battle of contrast that lay inside, spiritual warfare will continue. Just as eternity has been imparted to my soul, so has this war- custom tailored to my circumstances. The enemy may wake and haunt for some time during this process, but they cannot live in the light. So I will fight with the sun as my weapon.SUN-2SUN-6