Being a Samaritan in a Hard and Callous City / A Journal Entry

New York is not for the faint of heart.

I can recall to mind clearly, the thoughts my drama teacher spoke in my graduation send-off  (a bit paraphrased since this was 2 years ago and I don’t have the tape currently on me!)

Coming From New York, I understand what is required for someone to thrive there. And of the many students who have come to me with their dreams for the city, I have only recommended three individuals to take it on. It requires a fierceness and tenacity that only few have.

And I remember thinking: how hard can it really be?

As a silver linings person and an idealist, I fantasize over only the good aspects of places, people. Upon arriving, it was a startling, cold truth that met me. Especially when temperatures were no longer easy-breezy-70, but rather a bitter 25.

When the weather turns cold, people turn inward and with that emotional withdraw the care-free summer working girl becomes a hard, callous person, annoyed and frustrated with…just about everything.

Anyhow, I never thought I’d be the girl who’d yell “Seriously, man?” when a cab driver cut me off when I had the obvious right of way, never thought I’d be the one to send dirty, nasty looks to those who are visiting and walking 4 abreast on a sidewalk where you really ought to be walking single file. I never thought I’d be that one.

And yet here I am.

Today, a giant, black SUV defiantly ignored the traffic regulator and brushed right past me as I attempted to cross 29th Street. If the smoke coming from my ears was visible, it definitely would have been cause for onlooker concern. Sitting here in a quiet dorm room 9 hours later, it seems trivial to have deliberately made eye contact with the guy as I passed by him, yet at approximately 1:48 PM today, yowza.

How fitting that tonight I’m reading about Mercy. Being a good samaritan – loving your neighbor. It’s easy enough to say, to promise yourself to do, yet when that guy in the black SUV cuts you off – love begone, bygones will not be bygones, seriously dude?

And 9 hours later and I’m reading Luke 10 and yeeks, it hurts.

Some of the immediate thoughts I had after reading the text were penned as follows:

Cultivate mercy. Your neighbor includes the guy who runs the red. the groups who walk slowly. the people who don’t hold the door open for you when your hands are full.

anger is a choice.

being merciful is too.

Second only to loving the Lord with all your Heart and Soul and Mind (Luke 10:27a), is loving those around you (a longer synonym for “neighbor”) as you love yourself.

NOTE TO SELF: Mercy goes far beyond seeing someone in physical need and wrapping their broken with your feeble. Yes, it is a thousand times over coming to where the man lies, wounded and stopping and to bind up his wounds.

It’s also a heart-state.

It has to go beyond empathizing with someone who is injured, sick, or in an especially dark place.

This week and all the weeks after, may this mindset be something I lean into through my days. Because in this cold callous city, when someone allows you to take your right-of-way, when the girl in front of you waits a second longer to hold the door open for you when your hands are brimming, when the teacher helps you collect fallen papers off the floor: these are the ways you love those people around you as yourself. And when they cut me off. I am called to love them still.

 

Advertisements

on writing and the park bench

there is a frantic nature to it

to push each word through your limbs as fast as the sentences and your fingers allow.

verbiage waits for no man.

//

it’s clumsy, like learning to walk except once you pen the last mark, the clock reverses

the legs lose muscle memory,

and you’re back on the floor, crawling through chaos and catastrophe, allowing each texture and moment to surge through you.

//

to write is to magnify your weakness,

to take a microscope and focus on the swab of your failures

and to sketch what you see.

atoms and molecules, vibrating and buzzing and alive –

to write is to expose

temptations, mistakes, victories, happiness’

it is to peel back the layers of your yesterdays

to reveal todays thoughts, fears, truths.

///

it is art that does not need interpreting

because each sentence says the same thing

look at the ways i have lived

look at the things i have felt.

//

so it’s frantic

because nothing makes sense and to put a pen to paper is to attempt to understand why rain feels the way it does. because if you wait one second too long the moment will pass, the breeze will carry the scent of his clothing away from you, the man will hop onto a subway, the peaches juice will dry on your hands, and with the transience

goes the words.

so you put it down quick,

on the bench for ollie in the park,

so that tomorrow when you start thinking about sitting in that spot in hopes of a certain freckle faced boy walking by and saying ‘hello stranger, you are ravishing’

you won’t

because you’ll remember, he never comes.

and it was a mistake to sit there for all that time and look for him in each face.

///

this is the way i write.

frantically. frenetically.

 

diez y seis

 

I have nearly burst into tears numerous times throughout today’s 12 hours of wakefulness. It wasn’t until I was sitting in class writing down the day’s date that the sinking feeling arose in my stomach. Now it is all I can think about.

 

I just keep looking up at the perfectly blue sky, and the clear air, and I see New Yorkers taking pregnant pauses on street corners and I’m reading all these “Never Forget” posts all over the internet and I am in this city and it exists as usual. With it’s humans, it’s inhabitants pushing vulnerability into the bottom of their belly and carrying on as usual. And I’m not sure why it’s the 16th marker that triggered something in my soul, that unlocked a certain sorrow that I haven’t known before, but today 16 years later, I am not only profoundly aware of the date. I am painfully aware of the people who never got to go home.

And I can’t think too long about it. Because the breath gets all stuck in my throat and the tears gather beneath my eyelids because I’m…overwhelmed. Because 16 years later, I am walking and breathing and living steps away from the place that rocked the tectonic plates of the city.  I ache all the way down to my bones, because every time I visit Ground Zero, I touch someone else’s name and it hurts the lines in my palms, that they have never known the same name twice.

 

I feel cut up and carved out.

 

Because 2,996 is a big number. Because each one was a separate entity at one point that now makes up a whole. I am hurting and bruised for those who visit graves today and picnic beside the markers with those lost names on them. I ache. The skies are blue, the sun is shining, and it has been 16 years.

 

So I’m taking those pregnant pauses with New Yorkers today. I’m stopping. To look up at the sky and marvel at the blues that I get to see, the coffee I get to drink, the steps I get to take, the feelings I get to feel.

I’m remembering but not thinking too hard. Because I’ll cry. And the gratitude will seep right out of me.

Gratitude and sorrow exist simultaneously today. And I’m running out of words to say. 

So here. The rest of the journal entry:

Profoundly aware of the blessing of today. Of being able to breathe and remember in unison with a city that has groaned and grown in the wake of tragedy. 16 years later and the exact moment the towers cracked was spent learning about the collective processes that allow us to see the colors of our world. It is a day to mull over the gift that is today.

16 Years Later and I’m beginning to cry writing this at the table on the second floor, because I don’t remember what the skyline was like before. I don’t remember the crackle of the TV screen and the sound of Mom crying as she watched the tragedy in real time. 

So it’s 16 years later and I can’t remember what 8:46am was like.

But I know how it feels to look at the beautiful blue tower resurrected in honor of the 2,996. I know the surge of joy, of sorrow, of fresh pain, of pride, that rushes through every limb and muscle strand when I glimpse the building resurrected in their honor.

So it’s 16 years later and I can’t remember the exact moment. But I am thinking about all the names. And praying hard for the ones left behind. And there is no smoke in the air. And the skies are blue. And it’s 16 years later and it hurts. And I’m grateful.

happiness’

today, i ate dumplings for the first time. 1.25 of pure deliciousness.

IMG_7823

tasty dumpling / chinatown

can we take a minute to appreciate these shadows? all the heart eyes. yes please.

Processed with VSCO with e6 preset

lowes / 6th ave

if you’re ever in the city, wanting to do non-touristy things (10/10 would rec), the union square farmers market is the loveliest! honey bee farmers with jars of delicious syrup, gorgeously wrapped bouquets, the freshest tomatoes, juiciest strawberries and a whole lotta local love. (open m, w, f)

Processed with VSCO with e6 preset

farmers market / union square park

waitress was one of the most wonderful musicals i’ve seen. all the of the gut-wrenching tears and belly-aching laughs.

Processed with VSCO with e6 preset

waitress, the musical / 47th street, b/t 7th and 8th ave

this van gogh quote, stirring up my heart-strings:

happy labor day. here’s to all the little happiness’ that collect around our lives like stardust does to the night sky.

xoxo,

brittanycharis

 

Of Devotions and Storms

 

Today I was reading this passage in Luke:

“And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves and they ceased and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and waters and they obey Him?” (8v23-25)

This is my response:

I like the calm after the storm. The way the water begins to flow softly, tenderly. The way sun breaks through the clouds, pushing darkness to the edge of the world. The golden light that shakes water from tree branches, touches the tips of the waves, kisses light, goodness, and peace back into the places that had, moments before, been places of upheaval.

I like the calm after the physical earth-shaking storm. I like the calm after the spiritual one, too.

The peace. The easy-breathing. The golden days. The light.

And this metaphor is horribly cliche and yet ever so telling of how trials and tragedies and dark times feel. Like chaos. Like disorder. Like darkness. And as I was thinking about the words of these 3 verses of scripture, this seemed to bubble up out my soul.

Storms inevitably rise up in our lives. In places that were once calm, in places that we’ve never been before. They rise. Around us, in us. The kind of storms you don’t see coming that happen in places of joy and peace, are suddenly ripped apart the winds and rain. And we tremble. The ground beneath our feet gives way. We shake. The physical, worldly comforts are removed. We are filled with fear.

In these seasons, how quick we are to ask the King to calm it.

We are taught that He is our helper, our merciful Lord, our sure and steady rock and He is all these things.

So we accuse him of distance and detachment when the storms gurgle and boil and rise.

As our boats fill with water and the waters bubble up within our hearts, fear and trembling and doubts creep in to a faith that we once dubbed as being strong.

And when the Lord returns to view, when he wakes and draws near and calms the wind and the raging waves with but a word, we are filled us with marvel. Suddenly our long drawn out season is but a drop in the bucket, He becomes the “Good God” in our hearts, he becomes the caring, merciful King once more.

And it begs this simple question: “Where [was] your faith?”

The disciples marveled at his ability to calm the sea, once it was no longer a threat.

And I think we feel this same marvel too, when trials and valleys disappear.

But how incredible is the wind?

The waves?

The way the waters rise and surge? The electricity pops and the darts of light that drag themselves across the sky? How wonderful are the disasters? How messy, how muddy, how beautiful.

These things should fill us with marvel. Metaphorically and physically.

They are extraordinary, beautiful, disasters.

I want to be filled with marvel and wonderment in the midst of the flood.

In the midst of the deep. In the midst of the storm. In the midst of fear, in the midst of pain, in the midst of tragedy. I want to see the ways he has strengthened the pain so I might become less. So He might become greater.

May the pain of trial, winds, and rain show you the greatness and

Unfathomable beauty of our Savior and king.

In our weakness, He is made strong.

The calm will come, but until then, be filled.

With marvel.

Xoxo,

brittanycharis

Overwhelming

I love a good published journal.

Anthony Doerr’s Four Season’s in Rome began my love-affair with nonfiction prosety in the form of journal entries. Earlier in the year, in an attempt to get involved with nonfiction again, I purchased D.H. Lawrence & Italy, a published collection that contains 7 short-pieces that are quite descriptive and, as I would come to find, profound.

Nestled in the midst of sweeping descriptions of the Italian countryside was this quote:

“There is the I, always the I. And the mind is submerged, overcome. But the senses are superbly arrogant. The senses are the absolute, the God-like. For I can never have another man’s senses. These are me, my senses absolutely me. And all that is can only come to me through my senses. So that all is me, and is administered unto me. The rest, that is not me is nothing. It is something which is nothing.”

Holy. Wow.

Typing this up to put into this post, it is just as startlingly true and rattling to me.

In summary, what D.H. Lawrence is trying to get at is this:

Everything comes to us through our own senses. Our experiences of events (traumatic or dreamy), words, even food comes to us through that which is singular and tailored to the individual.

So basically, no matter how many times your mom tells you to “put yourself in their shoes,” it is quite impossible. You can’t leave yourself at the doorstep. You do, in fact, bring 100% of yourself and your feelings, emotions, reactions, opinions into every situation and experience.

Let’s put that on the back burner to simmer for a moment.

Just under 2 weeks ago, I travelled down to Quakertown, Pennsylvania to participate in a bible camp as a counselor. The camp always stirs something within the campers and is so heavily saturated with spiritual encounters that we always leave feeling exhausted (because of no sleep) and totally drained because of how emotional it is to meet with the Savior and King. We ask for his Spirit and He always always meets us. What a faithful King.

As we were travelling down, I was praying over and meditating on the Lord, and I just felt Him bring to mind (or focus my attention on) a word that would come to play a huge part in the week.

Overwhelming.

To be quite honest, I had no idea what it meant. But the word just kept washing over me.

Overwhelm. Overwhelming. Overwhelmed.

Let’s put this one on the back burner too. Like any meal there are a lot of elements to this post and story and I can’t explain them all at once, of course. Bear with me. I think it will be good.

This year and more specifically the last few months of school were some of the more difficult I have walked through. Riddled with doubt. Depression. Brokenness became my being. Waking up felt impossible. Going to bed was a nightmare. Darkness swelled, and fear grew, and I thought at least once a day “How am I ever going to get through this?” I think the easiest way to describe the physical feeling of it was emptiness. Utterly numb to feeling, emotion. I felt detached from my body, from my King, from those I loved. Like I was living on a plane on which no one else was.

It hurts to look back on these days because I can still feel pieces of this loneliness that felt like it devoured me.

I remember every day, pleading with the Creator on my bathroom floor that he would redeem the moments, the days, the hours. That he would shine light onto my darkness. That he would be bigger than these moments.

I also remember being angry. When that time on the bathroom floor would end and the minutes would turn into hours and the hours to days and there was no spiritual respite it was this that went through my mind:

My Creator King, my Holy Father was nowhere to be found.

Loneliness. Crippling loneliness.

I knew that He was there. But I didn’t feel him. I knew He would sustain. But I didn’t feel sustained. I knew He would redeem. But I didn’t feel (or see) anything of the kind.

So here I am,  at Youth Camp, expectant to meet my Savior but bringing with me the baggage of last years loneliness, fear, unmet expectation, the broken-heart of all my broken relationships (which at the time felt like it included my Jesus). And here he was whispering this word:

Overwhelming.

And over the course of the week this is what I felt stirring within me. These are the things the Lord crafted within my soul using the broken knotted strings of last year.

As imperfect human beings with a desire to understand all things, we want to marginalize, define, and understand our surroundings fully. We experience life from the time we are born and apply our experiences and our understanding to everything that comes our way. But our god-like senses are horribly imperfect. (The D.H. Lawrence quote fails to mention this.)

In the midst of deep darkness and massive waves I confined his power and love to a mere life-preserver that would grab me out of the stormy waters and put me high on a cruise ship (not even a boat!). This was his love.

I applied my finite knowledge of his faithfulness and decided that from all the ways the Lord had protected and preserved me, this was no different: I was meant to be healed of this! He is supposed to be healing me of my brokenness! His love comes in the form of healing.

Yes. But.

 

His love is overwhelming.

 

He is more.

A Just King, who disciplines to teach, who holds your hand in the midst of the fire (but doesn’t always silence it). He can calm the seas, yes, but he teaches us his faithfulness when the swells rise higher than we ever thought they could.

Life is confusing, yes. He plans all things for good, yes. He is FAITHFUL, yes.

But he is beyond even the written word.

And ultimately this:

His love is deeper, wider, and greater than I could ever imagine.

His ways are higher. His thoughts are bigger than we can comprehend.

I confined my King to a 2×2 box, I didn’t allow him to be bigger than simply being healer because I held so tightly to the desire to be whole.

And when he did not throw the life-preserver and swam beside me instead, I looked at the skies and told him that he was not who he said he was. I yelled

And I screamed.

And I pointed to Psalm 30, saying if he promised the morning would come where was it?

And the way he came into that doubt and that confining tendency.

Oh. I still can’t get over this.

 

Reader, He is an overwhelming King.

Your circumstances are big, I know.

But He is bigger still.

When the night grows dark, remember that our God is greater than our finite human senses and understanding and capacities.

He is far beyond our earthly, imperfect understanding.

His love is more.

Than loneliness.

Than depression.

Than the city that runs you down.

Than the friend who doesn’t understand your Faith.

Than that thing in your life that gets in the way of earth-shaking joy.

He is an overwhelming King.

Whether you want to remember this or not, He is. God is only capable of being BIG in his goodness and love and kindness.

He is always more.

 

I dare you to get lost in it.

To revel in the OVERWHELMING ways of his grace.

In his deep, full, healing love.

In his complete, freeing being.

 

This week, I want to challenge you to spend 15 minutes thinking and writing down ways the Lord has revealed aspects of his love and character to you. When you have written down the characteristics of Jesus, find scriptures that have shown you this and write those down beside the characteristics, so that in the moments when you’re tempted to make him small you can remember the ways that he has shown himself as bigger.

 

He is bigger still.

He is more, still.

 

Get lost in his love, reader.

He is freedom.

 

XX-

Brittany

 

P.S. and if you feel yourself struggling to stop confining him to that 2×2 box, pray.

He desires to meet you, in fact, He will meet you. Our overwhelming King delights to show himself to his kids.

 

(SOME) MY FAVORITE SCRIPTURES ABOUT HOW OVERWHELMING OUR KING IS:

(JOB 37)

(ISAIAH 40:10-18, 21-31)

(PSALM 75:3)

(PSALM 66:4-7)

what i wish i’d been told during a breakup

According to Miriam Webster Dictionary, breakup (noun) means, among many other definitions, to end.
I, however, find this terribly un-fitting, terribly ironic and too…short, to have anything to do with the breakups of which I am acquainted.
break·up /brākˌəp/ (n) (The Brittany / Long-Winded Definition)

Days once filled are now empty. Nights that were once saturated with words of love and future and now, are now filled with dead air, silence, and a dark that is far more than a physical state. The person who was your closest companion for a long time now cannot be spoken to*.

During these times, we lean on others to bring us through. And it is hugely helpful. Until it’s not.


When I went through my first break-up as a pre-teen, the pain was new, fresh, and difficult to comprehend, let alone walk through. Leaving a season of blatant disregard (what many call “teenage rebellion”) was synonymous with a relationship ending. When it ended, I swore everyone wanted to say “I told you so” (they didn’t. blind pride and cynicism coming through!) Regardless – that was a heavy heavy weight to carry: that my pain was hardly justifiable. In this loneliness and lack, my Jesus came a-callin, strengthening my weak arms by showing me that his were the only ones that mattered. Another story for another time, though. I want to talk about the aftermath of the proceeding year’s relationships.

Needless to say, breakups didn’t get easier after that first one. In fact, with each “goodbye” heavier doubts and weightier feelings caused deep sorrows to well up in my soul. I leaned in to each friend and companion I had in those seasons (and this one I am in right now), stretching out newly empty hands to be filled with catch-phrases and words to get me through. With their help, a lot of devotions/crying time, and a bunch of hugs, I learned and grew and healed. But, when my most recent relationship ended, I was again at a cross-roads.

We lean into our friendships during these times and are often met with this simple phrase.

“They** aren’t worth it.”

The time, energy, and emotion you are funneling into their presence (lack thereof) is absolutely ill-founded in the long-run. And eventually you will be able to go weeks without feeling any sort of pain or emptiness in regards to them. However, as I was yankin up my bootstraps and trying to deal with the ache of another broken relationship, I wish I had been told this:

It is okay to feel the way you do. It is warranted. Well-founded. Feel it. Absorb the pain. Let your body understand the ache of empty, the heaviness of broken.*** Don’t try to talk yourself out of the sorrow: allow the wave to build. And then crash. And then dissipate. 

I spent so many days asking myself why I felt the way I did, telling myself it wasn’t right, he just wasn’t worth it. The energy, emotion, attention, etc.

I felt awful.

Healing didn’t come.

Each day was an uphill climb, a series of catch phrases in regards to strengthening myself, reminding me of what I was capable of, deserving of, etc. etc. I fed my soul meals that never satisfied. (“You are worth more than this…” often followed by “He isn’t worth it.” “He’s not thinking about you, don’t think about him.” “Someday down the road a better guy will come.”)

And while, again, many of these phrases ring true, while they offer some sort of antidote to the present in regards to the future, they do not allow the time, space or feeling needed to heal.

When a person is cut away from your life, you will feel their absence, whether you want to or not, whether you (or others) feel it is merited or not. Setting out on a road that you thought would be walked with a specific person by yourself is kind of a huge, heavy, deal. It isn’t something to talk yourself out of.

Reader, if you are going through a similar season, I want to encourage you to allow yourself to feel. Healing requires feeling and experiencing the heaviness, sorrow, and darkness.

So this is your friendly, neighborhood reminder:

Your feelings are valid.

They are well-founded. You are not an idiot for feeling the way you do. You are human. This season is softening you for something around the bend. Allow yourself to understand that though they are temporary, though they will pass, it is okay to feel the way you do, right now.

The Lord is with us in our fear and trembling and does not ask us to do anything but cast the heaviness, the sorrow, the cares on him. He will do the rest. You need not rely on your own strength in this season. The same way we press into friends when the going gets rough, press into him, reader. His arms are more than capable of holding you in your weakness. He sees beauty in your right now, broken and bruised or healed and free. He can be glorified in and through both.

So. Tonight.

In the weakness? In the heavy?

Feel.

And then lift your hands to the heavens, saying:

All glory and honour and praise. To Him. To Him who is able to do FAR more abundantly than we could ever ask, with that which deeply wounds us.

I pray your Monday is restful and that you feel his presence this week in whatever season your in.

He is ever so near to the brokenhearted.

XX-

Brittanycharis

Some Balms (Melody-style)

one | two | three

 

*From personal experience, my breakups were never amicable and I am not saying they’re all like this. But for me, these were the feelings I had and the predicaments I was in.

**That Significant Other You’re Thinking About

***I am not saying to let these feelings command you. They are not in control of you. You don’t bow your knee to the way you feel. Feelings are transient. I am simply reminding you that in order to heal one must feel it and then move on. Moving on doesn’t happen without the in-between step.