Becoming the educator I was meant to be

The story is simple.  Teachers changed my life.  

Classes gave lessons. The schools gave community. The expectations gave me new goals.  And the diplomas along the way allowed for new opportunities.  

But the teachers? The teachers offered a day in and day out commitment to making life better, wider, more inclusive, more respectful, more understanding, and more justice-minded than my own ability ever could.  

Teachers were shepherds, politicians, mentors, experts, counselors, advocates, role-models, and story-tellers all wrapped up in one person at the front of the class.  Truth be told, they were often at the side of the class, behind the class, and walking amongst the class as well.  Regardless of where they stood, talked, listened–they dreamed big dreams for all of us.  

So I became one.  

And I loved it.  Every year. Every school.  Every student.  Every possibility. 

Despite my affinity to education, I have exited the classroom teacher role before now. Once I left my dream job to stay with my children.  Once I left the college podium to follow the man who guides and leads our family as he pursued new work in another state. Both exits gave seasons of my life to live and love alongside new people.  First my children, and then more recently, a sector of the writing industry.  Re-entering the classroom in my children’s district in 2014 proved to be a homecoming of sorts.  I once again stood in a place that, in essence, had changed my life. 

Fall 2016 begins a new chapter of the educator I was meant to be.  I step out of lesson plans and grading, ushered there by circumstances that refined and humbled me.  I feel a loss.  I will lose what daily teacher-student interactions and learnings can do and become.  

However, I step into a role that will allow me to advocate for under-served populations, support the Deans, partner with teachers and families, and connect with students as they wrestle with inequity, diversity, aspirations, opportunities, and achievement.  

This is exciting.  My one wild and precious life (Mary Oliver) gets to rise again (Maya Angelou) and be not only a teacher, but an awakener (Robert Frost). 

As an woman, a mother, a minority, an adoptee, a dreamer, a writer, a speaker, and a social justice hopeful, I may now just be becoming the educator I was meant to be.  If I have learned anything over the last few years, that although certain areas of my life feel cemented into a losing streak, being able to call myself an educator fuels me. I will bring goodness to the world the way I can. 

The story is simple. I want to change lives. #EducationMatters

no. 10 Work 

  
no. 10 

Today I miss Bangladesh.  It might be because the remaining affects of the mosquito-carried disease slow my steps and cross my mind.  It might be because I look out at students who venture to express themselves and wonder of their futures.  Whatever the reason, to the lives we live and the work at hand, I pause to view another snapshot.  

A woman, sweat beading and muscles extending, she shifts the bricks above her head and carries on.  

The work we do, each day, in our respective corners of the world–it matters. We are tied to our work with labor and time. We live our hours with dedication to a cause, a goal, a profit, a purpose, or a calling. Oh, the stories we would each share of we spoke of our toils and triumphs from all our years. May we not just make survival or just make money, may we also find that, today, our contribution to the world matters

#seeOthers #BeExcellent #Work #Life #birthcountrytravel #perspective @thehighcalling #Bangladesh

no. 9 One year 

no. 9

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Deep sorrow exists when we acknowledge the inability to catch all those who fall and that pain, for a moment, can be blinding enough to make resources and love feel unreachable to people near us.

Death grips, it chills bones and breaks hearts.   The journey of my educator spirit has been greatly influenced by the mental health and hope, the lives and the deaths of students and colleagues around me.   My own story is saturated with the struggle to belong, feel worthy, and to move into spaces that I can offer the world goodness and not just feel hurt.

So my breath shortens when I walk past the picture of a young man who shared a conversation with me just hours before life was let go.  Shoulders feel heavy as a one year timestamp circles around and the agony parents and friends feel since he left clings to the air.  My eyes blur with tears and images for a country I was convicted to go see in the aftermath this student death.

I will speak of the life we get to live, of the hope we must chase, of the beautiful we are. I will do this  because I have seen those who do not believe it.  I have taught young people who have forgotten and I have walked alongside adults who can not shake the dark voices.  I have seen the world in privilege and prosperity and also have seen the world steeped in poverty and injustice.  I can not change everything and will not claim I get it all right.  But I stand today, having felt the shadows, having lost people, and knowing that Bangladesh is part of what makes me unique and bold.

If there is a country or corner, a longing or a learning which makes you see how remarkable you are — go there, sit a while, refill and refresh.  

If there is a way you can gift hope or encouragement to others in your family, profession, social circles, or strangers — do it, intentionally and frequently.

We were not made to do this life alone, but we were made to do life. 

“Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.” ~ Mary Oliver

 

no. 8 Words 

 no. 8

Some days I just want to go back and listen for hours, placing their stories in my heart…

 

Some days I wish the school bell would not ring and students could stay for hours as we grow and learn together.  

Some days I believe in what I have to offer my family, work, and this life.

But there are also days for which I distance from the hearing others.  There are days which I let the routines and the ever changing hours give comfort. There are certainly days I wobble a bit in confidence and purpose. 

Yet, through it all, this I know:

Words are powerful. I have used some of mine for good and some of mine have fallen short. 

We have millions of words to say and hear in our lifetime. We craft them with care in hopes people hear us true. We also leave them recklessly, at times, for others to interpret or misuse, far removed from our initial intentions. We listen and read with freedom to stretch, share, and set the next step. We take in sentences from orators and poets so that we know we are not alone. 

Words. 

Listen well to others; hold their stories close as you love, do business, play hard, create plans, celebrate accomplishments, come and go near and far from their lives.  

Words join actions to shape our days. Savor the ones that are kind and captivating, take not for granted the ones that teach old truths and new dreams, let good words and stories find place to be valued in your day.  

#birthcountrytravels #adoptee #teacher #stories

A picture at a time RECAP   no. 1- no. 7 #Bangladesh

A story at a time.

A picture at a time.

This is what I committed to.  

Slowly pictures came out.  Slowly stories were told.

Not many. Not often.

Here is a recap because in order for the story to move forward, sometimes looking back helps the heart.

Journey with me…

(Update January 2017: I have been notified that pictures no longer upload and will work to resolve this.)

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July 31, 2015:

Dear Bangladesh,
Today I board a plane. I will see your drenched rice fields. I will hear your beautiful people. I will walk your city and your villages. I will take in what I can; please hold my heart gently. ‪#‎birthland‬ ‪#‎adoption‬ ‪#‎1stTimeBack‬‪#‎Bangladesh‬
Sincerely,
The little one wearing red who grew up to be a strong, hopeful woman.

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.

 

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August 12, 2015:

If a heart can split open, stretch, grow, and steady all at the same time, Bangladesh, you have done this to mine. I am Stateside again and though words are few, know the trip was riveted with beautiful hospitality of a country and people, riddled with sights and sounds that echo in my mind, and held a journey of the soul that reaches deep and true. How I want to share and yet silence and quiet beckons me still–for the process, be patient; for the hours I will spend at the keyboard, stay in prayer; and for this story and what it sets free, with me, be expectant and hopeful. ‪#‎life‬ ‪#‎adoption‬‪#‎birthcountry‬ ‪#‎Bangladesh‬ ‪#‎teacher‬ ‪#‎writer‬ ‪#‎amwriting‬

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.
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August 29, 2015:

Asa, it is the Bangla word for hope. It was tattooed once on my body, allowing my skin to be marked by that which has been etched upon my heart since birth.

Now, after struggle and recent birth-country travel, I ink it again, only this time on my wrist. Claiming the story of overcoming what abandonment, life hurt, and depression did to my heart through the years, I added words from a great poet–“still I rise”– to where Asa was first scripted.

The words are starting to find air, the writing will commence, I get to return to the classroom with renewed purpose, and my beautiful family and dear friends cheer all the while. Life and adoption have gifted me much; scars remain for where the tale has imperfections, but the story of faith and forward will remain my freedom and song. ‪#‎lifealways‬ ‪#‎adoption‬ ‪#‎teacher‬‪#‎writer‬ ‪#‎hopechaser‬ ‪#‎rise‬

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.
Nasreen Fynewever's photo.
Nasreen Fynewever's photo.
September 8, 2015:

Day 1 Teacher’s Credo: Tell our students that we believe in them. Thankful for the ones who stood in front of my kiddos, grateful for the privilege to stand in front of 450 of yours. ‪#‎backtoschool‬ ‪#‎teachersCare‬ ‪#‎kidsMatter‬‪#‎FyneweverboysRock‬

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.
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October 17, 2015:

@nasreenalive no. 1 A picture at a time. A story at a time. That’s what I announced in September I would share. I have not done so. Someone teach me how to pour out, to pen beautifully, to push forward the journey of such depth. How do I tell the story of a piece of me which has no words? See the widow. See the orphan. See the poor. See the leper. Learn of the rich in spirit. Learn of the pure in heart. Learn of #adoption, love, and restoration. Yet first the tears, first the marriage and the sons who get my heart, first the friends to care for and the time in students’ papers of their own memoirs, first I live, then I reflect. And it that, 40 days pass from when I attempt to start #writing. Tonight–one picture, one story. A child and her grandmother outside the leprosy clinic in the jungle village of Jalchatra, #Bangladesh. Reflection… Compassion without action feels cheap. Seeing to believe feels shallow. But a wider view of the world and a touch point with a life I do not have; it leaves me changed. How beautiful the feet of those who live with the #hope of tomorrow.#birthcountrytravel

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.

October 18, 2015:

@nasreenalive no. 2 Winding through crowded #Dhaka side alleys, we reached her home she shared with a dozen other people. She stared intently at me. She was so certain I was her #daughterwhom she lost years ago. She believed I had finally come home. My spirit fell out from within me and the hollow ache of#belonging could not feel the present nor the past. She had a dream. She held me tight. We ate her food. We bid her goodnight. So now to this evening, as I venture to the second ever adoption party I have been to, I will celebrate–a little boy who gets to belong. A family made more whole by his little life and I will celebrate, as many did for the Siebers, as many did for my adoptive parents, as we do for others. We want family to win, we want it to be beautiful. For all those who have lost much, for those torn apart by the messy, the grief, and by death–oh weary souls, look to life how you can. Stare it down and still stand strong for all the hurdles along the way. #birthcountrytravel #adoption#hopechaser #life #beauty

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.

October 20, 2015:

@nasreenalive no. 3 Hands clasped, faces beaming, two friends reunited in deep love and shared service. One was from the Missionaries of Charity, the other, our guide for the week, a Sister of the Holy Cross. Lives #devoted to caring for the poor, the uneducated, the ones in need of medical care, and the #survivors who wanted a touch of love. I am indebted to women like these, the hands that hold. These are the faces and the smiles of the many unknown “Mother Teresas” of the world. Do you get it? I just learned it. Mother Teresa is beautiful, to be certain, but we know her story because someone told it and we connected to it. We want #love to win in the world. These nuns, ones I have gotten to know, they do the same thing–endlessly, with no fanfare or acclaim. Their joy is true, their lifetime of humility is resplendent.#birthcountrytravel #Bangladesh#friendship

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.

October 26, 2015:

@nasreenalive no. 4 Floor after floor, thousands of workers sewing flannel shirts, jeans, and sweaters that they would never wear, but I would. I wanted to hide and cower, to personally boycott buying #clothing made in #Bangladesh. As we drove past the place where the clothing factory collapsed and made headline news in 2013, I recalled how the working conditions and the state of a country had met disbelief of international onlookers. Then as we walked the narrow rows between workers, my mind raced as I saw the brands that end up in Target and Meijer stores. Over the course of the trip I saw varying levels of day-to-day conditions and I grew in awareness of steep economic #poverty. I still wear clothing bearing my birth-land’s name because people work long hours to keep their survival a notch higher than living without a job. They have faces and stories. Their work matters to me. Will I grieve the #injustices of lot and placement in life, of fortune and horror, of opportunity and jobs to be had? Absolutely. Often. I am still trying to make sense of it all: what I feel, what action steps I can/will take, and how, with these experiences, I choose to encourage others to live. Stitch by stitch, both the cloth in Bangladesh and the fabric of my heart become made into something of grand design. Thanks for joining the process… #birthcountrytravel#1stworld #3rdworld #jobs

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.
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October 30, 2015:

@nasreenalive no. 5 He held my hand. They said he was looking for a mother. His hair was wet. They had just washed it when he arrived at the center from the#orphanage down the road. He quickly turned to interest in my husband’s camera. But his eyes followed my #soulinto the reaches only orphans,#adoptees, foster kids, abused, and#youth left alone to grow up too fast know. It’s a place loving parents yearn to go, it’s a place school counselors and trusted adults want to gentle into. And they get to. But also it remains a place with both deep ache and mountains of hope unique unto each story. The ache plays out in our eyes, but the hope carries us forward. To all the #lonely or the sad, reach your hand to someone, let them hold it a while… To all the #joyfuland full hearts, contagious out your care to a #world hungry for #belonging. We get to be the face of pure love.#hopechaser #adoption#birthcountrytravel #Bangladesh

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.

 

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November 15, 2015:

@nasreenalive no. 6 Can I write of street children any more than I can write of the faces and stories of the youth that sit in front of me each day? Both escape me when I try, but they capture my heart with gripping care. Today I spoke to promise and potential. They showed up hour after hour. They knocked at the door, they walked across the yard, they streamed across my phone. They are embodied in the lives of students and they flutter by in the goofy smiles of my sons. They replay in my mind as I think of#Bangladesh and #adoption, #orphansand those who have found #belonging. I can not make goodness win all the moments in all the corners of this #world. I can not lift #depression and sadness, pain and illness away from bodies and minds that ache. I can not will over survival to those who #today will die. I can not encourage in a way that changes everything to #beauty. But to the moments my eyes can see, my heart can feel, my actions can uncover the promise and potential in and with others, I will. Might you, too?
#birthcountrytravel #hopechaser#liveauthentic #beautifulpeople#poverty #perspective #care

  
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December 7, 2015:

@nasreenalive no. 7 I did not let myself be pictured walking, thinking, or taking in the jungle of #Bangladesh. A visceral reaction to that portion of the land surged recall and recoil within me. I didn’t want anyone to show where I could have grown up, to imagine what my life would have been like had no priest found my discarded life and entrusted me to the nuns who cared for me until I was adopted–they who never stopped loving. I thought the jungle was mine. But it wasn’t really… My traveling companions met deep emotions there, too. Millions have their lives tied to space and place. We all belong, in a sense, to the land, to the Creator who is bigger than our trauma and triumphs. Weeks have passed since my last #birthcountrytravel photo. A readied blog site is waiting for me to transfer Facebook stories over to posts. I can not post often, but when I can, I will. All the while, I wonder much as the pictures still flicker like a movie in front of my eyes. The memories are never distant from me, though they slip further from the minds of those around me. I consider what it is to teach at two high schools, with different student populations, and walk through hallways that I believe I have a purpose for being in. We must live the life in front of us–we must. How then do we get trapped in the lives gone by? Why does my chest heave when I see this picture? How do I arrive to meet teenagers, with all their hearts hold? I am proud of an observation the lead principal of one my high schools made of me. He sat across the table and said I seemed really healthy and well. This is in contrast to the true concern he had last year when the valleys of life kept my spirit fractured. I am well, this year. How is that so, amid an experience of a lifetime, a trip that reveals a lifetime of tragedy and blessing? Her picture. She walks and stands in her reality; the jungle that could have been my home. 

This article. Read it. Learn of others. Understand you are not alone. (http://m.huffpost.com/au/entry/8685040)

Live the life in front of you with all the gusto you can. And for the moments you can’t, give grace to yourself. 

#adoption #ptsd #ptsdawareness#mentalhealth #stories

Nasreen Fynewever's photo.
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December 27, 2015: 

I asked to see a country, how little did I know I would see trauma and triumph clash every moment since then. Tell me of this babe in the manager and the world he came to give peace to… Are we this? Heal with me this next year. ‪#‎teachHope‬ ‪#‎liveLife‬

'I asked to see a country, how little did I know I would see trauma and triumph clash every moment since then. Tell me of this babe in the manager and the world he came to give peace to... Are we this? Heal with me this next year. #teachHope #liveLife'

 

 

Back to Bangladesh — A journey to my birthland

There is not a simple way one travels to her birth-land for the first time after three decades and then pours out the experience for readers, listeners, students, family, and friends. Well, at least there is not a way I have figured out, yet. I have been reduced to blank stares that perpetuate silence and raised to eager eyes that beg adventure and story-telling both.

Is there safety behind the screen of a new blog? I imagine so. And yet, the tapping out of a journey with no shared space, place, and pause feels distant and under-selling to the spirit that is changed and a truth of how we were born to belong.

We crave more than birth-lands that define or boisterous blogs that dazzle; we desire to stand as known, accepted, and loved. So to how a country, a classroom, and a courage have restored my song of belonging, I offer my words to whomever will read.

I will often wish to retract or erase, for leaving a piece of me on the fringe of connection–the very art of writing, to touch your heart and never know, to be misunderstood and feel the scorn, to wonder if it all matters–is a fearful business. However, I write to free. I ask the same of my students. I dare the same of you.

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A story at a time.

A picture at a time.

And in the meanwhile? Let us live and breathe hope; we belong.

5 thoughts on “A story at a time”

  1. “a journey with no shared space . . . under-selling to the spirit that is changed”
    “to touch your heart and never know.” Nasreen, you’ve put to words the steep and unnamed price of this writing endeavor. Some think of blogging as a lesser craft. But in this, it’s maybe the higher. A sacrifice of words in faith. Sowing a field and walking away in trust that another will water and harvest. I’m so glad you’re willing, and I will continue to treasure your words and stories, dear friend. Welcome back.

  2. Welcome back, my friend! You have been missed! We are not in a rush… we will read your words slow, and hear your heart clear. Let the memories and stories and deep deep truths unfold as they may. We’ll be here.

  3. So glad to see you opening up this space for whatever comes to it. Thankful for your bravery, inside and out.

    6.

    Although we barely know each other, just the smiles and passing at the workouts at Farrell’s, I find that now that I have stumbled onto your writings, I am learning about the real you. You insight can and will help change the world. Maybe that is why you are here, now, too articulate your heritage, strife and the struggle’s of a people lost to the rest of the world.
    Please keep writing as I will be happy the learn more of who you are and where you are from. You will find peace in the writings you so wonderfully express. Until the next, Level 10 at all you do.
    Dick

Today I die: The Love Strong Chronicles Part VI

Sweat poured from my forehead.  I felt my shirt stick to my back. The chill inside and the heat of the body slammed in anger toward one another.  I was awake now.  Surely I wouldn’t sleep again for hours.  Not with that startle of my body getting rifled through. Somehow the words, the actions, the abandonment, the hate, the ugly of life that had shamed me found metal.  Metal formed into bullets and they seared through me. My last thought before waking. “Today I die.”

A movie.

A mixing of reality.

A mind wandering from sacred space I nto the pits of human dysfunction and injustice.  Both the fictitious cinematic tale and unspoken truths found residence in my dream in the same stream of thought.  Not a dream to be had once, but one that stomped through my years.

There was no tortured soul in it, but starkly a deep trauma finding escape in picturesque form in my subconscious and then likened in my nightmares.

But not there.  Not at the convent.  The nightmare had no air in the home of peace, the place of joy.

The nun who told me to come soon, she said the same words.  She told me she took little babies, took forgotten women, took her extra time and loved.  Simply loved with all her life so that none would have to say “Today I die.” 

Some did die though. 

As I spoke of the circles hanging from a chain around my neck, as I spoke of the little ones who never breathed this side of heaven after hours of smiling as she asked of my three little boys who romp and race around my days, she remembered.  She remembered in that moment, a conversation chased away by the ding of the elevator and the turn of the hall.  The moment where she started to tell us of the babies who did not make it, whose life could not be secured by human love alone.  I would ask her again later, I would ask of death and what she saw. 

The nun. The Catholic Sister who held those who lived and those who died.

The mother. Her child gone too soon.

The widow. The tears and trials that will not let up.

The son. No manual of how to grieve and yet gripped by the tragedy.

The afflicted.  Feeling alone with life, but a chore and curse.

Our love, no matter how strong.

The hate, no matter how sordid.

Is human.

Human.

Today I die.  Not from nightmares or famine.  Not by choice or by calamity.

I die to that which defeats. 

Love will win.

It already has.

Save not the victory for Heaven alone, but for the now, the today, the present.

For the all that you endure, the ways your body has been rifled by pain and for all that you enjoy, as the light of Heaven shimmers through the gaping wounds, chase hope, chose to die to darkness and live where Love wins.

Life abundant.

Heal. Breathe. Live. Invest. Stay.

Easter is coming.

nasreen

What We Don’t Know: The Love Strong Chronicles Part V

I didn’t know adopted parents would scan my words looking for glimpses of how to love their little ones or teenagers better.

I didn’t know adoptees would write of their fears and failures experienced through life and their climb for meaning in letters to me.

I didn’t know those struggling in faith and wondering of worth would slow down to take in my words and tell their stories too.

I didn’t know that so many hopefuls and those hurting would gather here on Friday and then send texts, emails, FB shares and comment in public.

But they have. They have read and reflected. They have traveled into my heart and then looked at their own.

They have.

You have.

I invited you and you have come along. You have passed along the links and said prayers on my behalf.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Ernest Hemingway

You have understood that this takes courage and you keep spurring me on to write more, wounds and all.

You and I, we are learning what loving strong looks like together.

And I rejoice.
Then want to stuff my words in the ground.

I am honored.
Then get the urge to delete or quit.

I feel the privilege of touching lives.
And then cower and lose the guts to stand by my determined hope.

The battle rages in my psyche and the peace settles into my soul in a torrent of unpredictable waves. The UNKNOWN is frightening.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou

Frightening. But so is deadening to that which beats within me.

I believe that in telling my story, something sets free. I am convinced that asking you to look at your own has merit and momentum waiting to be tapped.

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photo by Marie Elzinga

The Nun, The Teacher (The story starts HERE, if you missed Parts I – IV.)

I didn’t know she was a teacher. I had always assumed she worked at the orphanage as one would who had taken on a full-time job.

But she was a teacher.

These Catholic Sisters spent time in Bangladesh as nurses and teachers. Lives devoted to service in a land far different from their childhood homes.

Life stretched out before these nuns to be caregivers and educators.

And they did it.

They didn’t know what was ahead of them when they took their vows and charged the world with their meek and mindful love.

They changed the world.

They recounted instances of their professions within their telling of lives lived well. They spoke with surety that their work and service left others better.

An educator, by training and by passion, I found myself beaming to be in conversation with other teachers. To hear of their students and the people the children grew up to become, I got it. I knew of this pride and expectant joy.

But my nun.
The one that held me. The one who loved when she didn’t have to and didn’t know what my future held. She was a teacher.

She was the teacher who walked a student home to talk to his mother.

She was the teacher who didn’t know what the home would reveal about the little boy who soaked up her lessons. She was the person who wanted more of the story, to learn of his life.

And in this, she was the one who saw a dirty rat run across the belly of his baby sister who laid on a dirt floor.

She cried a small cry as she told me.
The kind of cry that doesn’t let the tears fall or the chest heave. The kind that many miss because it is tempered with control. But it, like most small cries, was screaming with emotion.

She told me she didn’t know what she could do to change enough for the little boy and the rat infested house, but she knew that the unknown couldn’t stop her from trying.

So the teacher became a “home for women and children” dreamer.
So the teacher became a hostel founder.
So the teacher gave her time and her arms to holding babies whom others had discarded. So the teacher became the love of my infancy as my life intersected with hers decades ago.

So the teacher, with academics known and vows spoken, stayed in the story of a little boy and his baby sister. She didn’t know where it would bring her, but she has no regrets.

And as for me?

I don’t know what should be in the blog posts and what should stay in my journal. I don’t know why this is the time to uncover this story and why you keep reading.

But the nun.

She told me to come soon and in doing so, I heard of bravery..

I won’t be the same again.

I likely don’t know even the breadth of her swath of love, but I know she loved strong even when it was difficult.
So yes, I believe that in telling my story something gets set free.

I am convinced that in asking you to look at your own story that you will tap merit and momentum.

We don’t always know what, but like the nun, the unknown, it must not stop us.

We must be willing to try to love strong in the stories of our lives.

Be it clear, this is not easy.

I have grown weary and cold in moments directly after the hours I have told parts of my story .

I have distanced from people because my intensity is often uncorraled and I am tired of apologizing and explaining.

I have even set up a therapy appointment to tell someone with an outside perspective of life trauma and ask of childhood attachment wonders.

Doing what I don’t know is risky business, but it let’s me practice strong love.

I don’t get to keep the picture perfect life as my story gets told, rather I get to imperfectly finally live.

In all of this, the chronicles still stand. It’s a commitment to consistency even if my growing and learning paints the canvas with more shapes of dysfunction than shades of perfection, so be it.

I have hope.

I am learning to love me.
You get to learn to love you.

Stay in the story longer, both your own and the ones of those around you. This is what changes the world.

Love strong.

Then the art of our lives becomes a song and the notes that keep the melody are tuned to redemption.

Love strong.

Then even if the music that wraps around our chorus has strains of discord and human fragility, it tempos our songs, our stories, and make us human.

The notes of the last verse, oh how we might wish to erase, but they help us now shed the masks and reach for real. They curl in fragrance to worship and pull Heaven to earth when we can’t find our way. Heaven holds, guides, and surprises us.

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Stay here.
Stay in the love.
Get drenched in grace.
Even if you don’t know how thick the forest or the bends of the river.

Stay in your story.

You matter.

Learn of stories from the world over.

It is a big place.

Stay in the love; no length of winter and no vile rodent, nothing is too much for love. Hate, misfortune, injustice, mistakes, unbelief, death, abuse, fear, futures, and the unknown—love can out distance. Not all will be redeemed this side of Heaven, but we don’t know what will be, so love strong and live well.

For all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, stay, even if you don’t know, this is living, this is brave hope chasing.

nasreen

Baby for Sale: The Love Strong Chronicles Part IV

A dollar amount.
It has never sat well with me.
That some one could name a price and buy a baby.

I still remember the taunt on the schoolyard playground.

“Your parents bought you? I hope they didn’t pay very much because your skin is dirty.”

There.

A one-two sucker punch.

I didn’t care much for my adoption as a child and wondered why things couldn’t have been different.

However, the color of my skin didn’t raise shame until that moment.

My adoptive parents didn’t use color as an indication of anything. One brother biological to my adoptive parents and also one from South Korea, my life saw color differences as the norm. Our family was a little mosaic a decade or two before it became more common place.

But beneath the monkey bars, not far from the cement tunnel I liked to sit in when the days were hot, I was left standing feeling unworthy of much.

The nun a few weeks ago sat with her lips pursed.

I thought I may have driven all that way to Notre Dame and would not get a single story out of her. She had told me to come soon. (Click here to read of it.)

My mind started to busy at the cost and impulsivity of the trip. My physical body flirted with using less air but I felt it and kept breathing steady.

Her smiled had disappeared and it baffled me. Her mind travelled far away, though her hand still tightly gripped mine.

I grew uncomfortable. For all the joy that washed over her from the time we had walked in until then, I sensed we had lost some momentum and I didn’t want to be a part of that.

I convinced myself in a few short seconds that I didn’t belong there and that my friend would surely bring me back home if I just asked her to.

The nun.

Her green shirt was soft. It reminded me of what grandmas, well, nursing home grandmas would wear. I looked at the flowers on it and noticed that they rose and fell with her natural breathing. She wasn’t uncomfortable yet. She was still relaxed.

So what was she summoning? Memories? An answer? Regret for my visit or her work in Bangladesh?

I was about to fill the silence so the hum of the heater had some competition for volume.

And then she spoke.

Her head turned slightly as to perhaps meet my eyes and then she shifted her gaze to my hands.

I was back to the playground. I saw my color and wondered how she viewed all the little babies who were radically different than she. My heart knew the answer. She must have loved us much.

She saw my color and she cherished it. It brought her back to a land and people that had become her own.

Her words interrupted my reflection and she whispered the story. The quiet calm words pierced the darkness of the memory.

She released facts and emotions in rapid succession that met my heart well and caused me to bleed all at the same time.

And then she stopped.
Staring me squarely in the eyes and said, “I am so very glad your parents gave you a good home. They changed your life. You are worth it. You would have been Muslim, you know. That would have been nice too, but I am glad you got to come.”

Those sentences, packed with depth right after a her heart-wrenching story. (Which I will share a bit of next week Friday) left my thoughts pulsating.

I could not develop a long string of thoughts that made sense. Just quick blips of truth my heart was able to hear.

I was bought at a price, but I was gifted life in this.

My life held promise, not because of the color of my skin but because I was placed in a family and future opportunities were present.

People are different from one another because of where they grow up, how they are wired, AND how they react to their circumstances. Different. Not better or worse. Ever.

Many times in my life I have had to reclaim my worth.

I have had to reach for real; real truth, and discard the lies.

My worth feels threatened by people’s statements and actions to me, their pride and their shame in me, the number of those that leave and those that rally around.

But the truth is, my worth, as is yours, is innate. We are created with beauty, purpose, and to be loved as us.

We can refine and reach for real as we grow and stretch through life’s experiences, but our worth is ours to claim.

The nun. She reminded me of this.

The friend. She tells me of this repeatedly.

The Scriptures. They declare this out loud with power.

And you?

Can you hear who is saying that circumstances and prices aside, you are worthy to be there? You get to do life. Live it strong!

Can you get past the naysayers, the external differences, the claims of yourself or others to be superior?

We are all worth the price love is.

Can you be this voice in someone else’s life?

Can you grab the hand of someone or send them an email to share how the world is better because they are here?

Tell them they hold beauty.
Tell them their story matters.
Remind them of who they are.

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picture of me at the orphanage in Bangladesh

Baby for sale?
Perhaps a little crude and a little true.

And if there was a dollar amount, am I worth that cost?

Today is when I start living like it. Worth every penny.

So friend, for all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, listen with me to the voices that tell of your worth. Chase hope.

nasreen

Jason Gray’s “Tell Me Once Again Who I Am to You” http://youtu.be/eKyY8zfjBMQ

I am speaking in Pennsylvania this weekend at the Winsome Retreat, honored to get to encourage others to reclaim their worth.

I Should Have Died: The Love Strong Chronicles Part III

Survivor’s guilt.

It was first coined around the Holocaust and has become an observed reality for military who suffer with PTSD.

It encapsulates a range of emotions stemming in the guilt of being alive when others near oneself did not survive the same environment. Be it a catastrophe, a tragedy, a battle, or a great social injustice.

People are often thrust into circumstances beyond their control and when death plays into it all, to come out the other side with life when others are stripped is an intense grip.

Survivors can gain a renewed sense of gratefulness, but can also be burdened, even debilitated at the life in front of them.

The nun.

The one who gasped for air with me.

She told me to come soon to the convent. She has also told me not to go to Bangladesh. She doesn’t want me plagued with Survivor’s Guilt.

She has spoken of the good life here in the United States. Of the relative wealth of the American families that adopted little ones from a 3rd world country.

She has spoken of her home, a land I do not know, that is filled with a people who share my skin tone, my deep brown eyes, my ethnic traits and culture that could have been mine.

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Her recollection was painting pictures in her own mind of that which I was rescued from.

I still see her eyes light with a fervent fire when she said that if we babies went looking for ourselves, we would surely be disappointed.

She begged that the present life would be the only reality our hearts would know.

So I resigned myself to only visit Bangladesh if there was a greater purpose than myself.

I often thought as a child that I should have just died, left to the jungle or the road side and never scooped up by nuns and an adoption agency.

I have apologized in the dark corners of my childhood bedroom for being alive.

I have come a long way from agony of surviving when others did not, from believing the world would be better off without me. I have laid claim to the fact that I was adopted for reason.

This confidence does not undo the stark truth that I am likely not strong enough to see death and poverty in Bangladesh on my own. To visit a country that did not hold my years without people who will catch my falling heart, without an organization, or without a purpose that keeps my eyes peeled–peeled to a bigger world than solely my story of grace and grit, abandonment and rescue, love and hate–going there without perspective would surely wreck me.

The Sister’s words.
Some healed.
Some opened fragile wounds.

But this I know, she could not trumpet loud enough her conviction that my life has purpose.

I did not speak of my fears and guilt that had riddled my mind for years. I took her love, soaked it up, and stay in the air of life.

———————-

Will you too? Will you soak up life?

Not a one of us can say the world would be better off without us. Not even myself.

We are precious.
We survived, all of us, and in this our call to life abundant. The demand on our spirits to chase hope.

We all have stories.

For those gone too soon and the years and places of the past, our hearts slow to cherish and process, celebrate and grieve.

We live.
We breathe.
We hope.

My energy low for the ugliness a post like this can dance in my mind. I will continue the chronicles here again next Friday.

These are more than blog posts or details about a country, these are fragments of my exploded heart. Hold it gently, please.

I didn’t die.
I am alive.

And for all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, I am convinced you belong and have purpose too.

nasreen

Before Collapse: Bangladeshi Lessons for My Heart