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

Real life takes real stories — INVITATION

Vulnerability.
Belonging.
Worth
.

Trigger words.

They are lauded and lofted as the things that make community work.
Rightly so.
These are needed and craved by human hearts.

But the words.
They trigger.
Our fear.
Our past hurts.
Our current insecurities.

These words play red-rover with our hearts and minds since we are both wired for flight in unsafe scenarios and wired to need connection.

Connection and having a home for your heart is important to me.

It is part of chasing hope.

The hope that as I laugh and cry, dance and bleed, sing and silence in front of you, here, on this blog each Friday in the Love Strong Chronicles, that you will find parts of your story come alive. That you will lean into people near you and share your story. That you will spill across the internet with your big bad bold self and own your passion. That you will heal and arise, that you will do good work where you can, and that you will never give up.

Chase hope with me.
Share your story.

The one you lived last week or the one from decades past.

The one you are proud of and the one you trying to free from shame in.

Friend, I am convinced, that in the sharing of stories–
the story of my life,
the unleashing of yours,
the listening and learning of what real is,
that connections and community will be birthed and our hearts will be of great hope.

Story sharers– We will become a more humble strong, a more resilient courage, and a more active surrendering people.

I am excited to join with places like (in)courage, an online community that has gone got their boots on to hit the floor of our hearts and raise our eyes to community anew.

I am honored to be a part of their 2014 (in)Real Life Conference this April 25 & 26. This is a conference comes to you, right where you do your life.

This FREE conference takes the time to share how real life takes real stories.

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Meet our crew of speakers HERE.

Check out the agenda and register HERE.

So consider this your invitation if you haven’t gotten one already.

Your thing? Join in!

Not your thing? Give it a try.

Not a woman? You know one, right?

Not sure your friend was invited? Get on that!

This isn’t a conference of saints or uncontrollable sobbing, but it is of those who hope and those who will lift emotions to the light of day as stories chase and rest in beautiful truths our hearts need to hear.

And, did I mention, we need YOUR story. We invite you, share life with us a while.

Join us in a month.

Feel free to learn more by visiting the Twitter party tonight at 9 pm EST by searching for the hashtag #inRL or zipping me an email.

If you are in the Twin Cities, I will be hosting in my home Friday night and joining a meet up in Edina on Saturday. You are welcome to join me at either or both places.

In real life…
Cheers.
Chase.
Connect.

nasreen

Gasping for Air: The Love Strong Chronicles Part II

Gasping for air.

There have been moments the past few months I have been gasping for air.

I had not run too far.
Smoke had not met my lungs.
The walls did not actually cave in.

But oxygen escaped rapidly.

When my lack of belonging and my questioned purpose lifted breath out of me and prevented it from returning to fill my chest, I felt lost.

A teacher without a classroom.
A writer without a book.
A speaker without a message.
A sojourner without a destination.

An orphan without a home.

But how dare I feel that.

How in the facts of being granted a family and chance at life in the States, with adoptive parents who sacrificed much and got a run for their money in my rebellion, could I say I was an orphan without a home?

Might I have any claim to be without destination when I have been blessed with two towns that have welcomed me and embraced what I had to offer? When I profess a faith that keeps its eyes not on this world alone, but in the promise of more?

And of the message, the hope chaser, the one who believes that in loving strong we truly become alive and when we do good work, activate in our potential, we can grow ourselves, communities and the world. Of this message, did it fall mute on my own ears when death stole from those I care for or did it lose strength when people stood on the fringes of faith?

Write on and remember it as such. No book defines the writer, rather words scribbled on paper or across the heart, splattered on the computer screen or spoken into the open. This inflicting thought reared false too. Surely the ink has dried to reality.

But the teacher. The teacher without a classroom is perhaps the most absurd. Are we not all teachers? And one of curriculum and academics, desks and pupils, shall not the lessons ring evermore in new venues and mediums if the passion and training did not exit?

Why then did my chest concave?

Was this fear?
Was this hurt?
Was this hunger?

I chased air.

I needed answers.

I chased.
I needed.
I craved just enough to get in a car with a dear friend and meet the unknown with urgency unqualified and my momentum uncategorized.

Yes, two weeks ago I talked to a nun who held my abandoned, rejected self and who had set out to care until I was gifted a future. The phone had been pressed to my ear and my beating heart nearly muffling the song her voice was to me.

My lungs burned to expand again.

I heard her words.

My husband and boys gave me space and I listened. I listened to the nun.

She told me to come soon. (Read Part I HERE)

And I did.

The next day.

Her words fought against my buckling from suffocation and landed me in South Bend, Indiana.

This, the visit to the Sisters of the Holy Cross to see the nun, who with others, would finish out the days of her vows at the Mother House. Each with decades spent abroad serving with their nursing and teaching skills, with their hands of love, I went to visit.

There we sat.
Holding hands like we had loved for a lifetime.

The nun held my hand with a quiet strength.

Her eyes bounced around her memory and then shifted to take me in.

I was one of her babies.

Warmth found my chilled skin.

Belonging danced with acceptance in my soul.

The chairs around me filled with angels as if the great cloud of witnesses came to affirm this aging nun that she had done good work.

The unfaltering smile on her face hastened me to believe that the trip to the convent was well-placed.

The demons of my insecurities would not find welcome here. Peace drew close and wonders piled in, but with calm, they filled the couch space to my left.

My mouth parted open but nothing met sound. It turned to a nervous smile and the nun swiftly let her other hand reach to tap my face.

A hush little baby lullaby floated through my head and the slam of a creaky door outside the room brought the finale to my minds’ wander.

The tap tap, as if a secret handshake between her years gone by and my cheek.

My body leaned in.

Had I felt this before?
Her gentle constant.
Had she really never stopped loving me?

The final tap lingered and turned to one of the purest strokes my being has been witness in.

Gasping for air. Again. Here.
This was not fear.
This was not hurt.
This was not hunger.

This was being overwhelmed in the gift of time. The eight hour drive exclaimed confirmation of time well spent.

I was nearly not able to bend to grab the scrapbook that sat near my feet. She thought I was leaving and she clutched tightly until I spoke of pictures I had brought. Pictures sent with letters during the long wait for my arrival 30 years ago.

She took in the pictures.

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She told me of laundry.
She remembered the hostel she founded.
She recounted the hours she spent after teaching to help babies eat and be safe.
She spoke with fervor as she spilled details about the group of 19 Precious Jewels she brought to America.

And then she said it.


I can hardly breathe.


One of my babies is here!
You came all this way, I sure hope I’m worth it.

The nun.
The one who told me to come soon.
She gasped for air, too.

She wrestled worth just as I do.

And then she stopped.

Swept back to the joy, she began to soften her shoulders and moved back towards me.

She stretched her heart and life’s work out like the table in front of us. The years had smoothed out the mountains and valleys and her spirit had peace.

I soaked her in.

I listened as she continued recalling snippets of a life I had once been a part of.

I vaulted it. The hurt of my story was certainly going to arrive, but not there in the visitor’s house lounge.

Not then.

Hours later it would, but in that moment, I belonged. I had a right to teach others of their belonging even if I question mine.

She, the nun who ascribed worth to little dejected children, she questioned her own and then stopped…

….to start breathing again.

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There is more.
But this Friday bids us pause.

Tell me of you.

Feel the air with me.
With her.

We are allowed to breathe.

Best of all is it to preserve everything in a pure, still heart, and let there be for every pulse a thanksgiving, and for every breath a song. ~Konrad von Gesner, scientist, theologian, writer

For all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, chase hope, breathe deep, and when you gasp, remember you belong.

nasreen

The hurt and healing of meeting a nun– The Love Strong Chronicles Part I

Last Friday.
A week ago.
I spoke with a Sister.
A Sister of the Holy Cross.

A nun who had held me in a country.
A country torn from a war, measurably impoverished, and yet with fertile ground from the five rivers and beauty in its people. A land with vibrant religions and heritage, and yet a place that couldn’t find it’s footing as little ones sat without families.

Babies.

I was one such child.

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The nun.
I had met her before.

I met her when I was a child, a child without questions to ask because play and friends running about took my time.

I saw her as an adult, with others around, and heard of the few babies who had grown up, returned to Bangladesh, and were struck with survivor’s guilt and more questions than they had before going.

But last Friday, a week ago, I heard her voice on the phone. She had written to me from the convent on the grounds of Notre Dame. She said I could call. So I called last Friday.

She told me to come soon.

Soon was already pulsating through my heart.

I had stood on a rooftop in a small village in the Dominican Republic just weeks before and felt the pang of not knowing where I had come from. In seeing a village with little comparable to the life I live in Minneapolis but much to the place of my birth, my mind knew I had been afforded much in my adoption, but my heart couldn’t stop racing.

Something tripped a reaction.

A reaction that was willing to explore who I am before I keep writing of hope chasers, of loving strong, of belonging, of aloneness, of freedom. But the reaction was a zig zag of intensity.

And so I hung up.

The intensity of emotions had plowed right back to my core.

I hung up on the nun first.
My own baby lay in my arms.
The youngest of our boys.
He sleeping his three year old fatigue away.
The day.
He had played hard with a houseful of friends.

I looked at him.
I knew his story.
He had survived premature birth and a brush with infection.
He had thrived in our home from the moment we took him away from his month stay in the neonatal ICU.
He lights up our life.
He will likely change the world.

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But of mine.
I knew less of my story.
I haven’t been engaged with the country or given the chance to fall for the people.

I have not ventured into the emotions out loud of being abandoned. I have not testified in my teaching or writing that who I have become is because I took adversity and survived. I have only briefly exclaimed that I have been adopted for a reason, that I have a story to share of hope and hurt, loss and love.

But now it is time.
It is time to own all of it.
To journey forward with you, and encourage others to be in the know that we are all held.

Will you join in?

Not to just hear of my story, but in it to hear of yours.

Not to just be consumed with the past but to be alive, doing good work now.

Not to just talk and hear tough conversations but to become people of compassionate action and strong, strong love.

Not to focus on the shame and unworthiness our lives teach us, but to know we are never alone and freed to serve, weep, love, and hope.

Last Friday.
A week ago.
I decided to visit the nun.
The nun that told me to come soon.

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Last Friday.
A week ago.
I spoke with a Sister.
She told me to come soon.
So Friday led to Saturday.

The trip.
A drive from Minneapolis, MN to South Bend, IN.

A nun.
A convent full of women who had peace for lives spent loving.

It exploded my heart.
It gave love to the hunger.
It gave glimpses of God to my blindness.
It gave history to my parched tongue.
It gave perspective to my wandering soul.

It doesn’t do my wash, or finish my work, it doesn’t rock me to sleep or prepare food for the family table, my life still clips along.

But the Saturday following the Friday phone call, it gifted much.

It gave miles and a friend, a husband’s blessing and Providence. A well of questions and an ocean of just wanting to soak in and learn of the people.

I posted to Facebook.
My adoption wonderings became public.

My zest for a life lived well, real, raw, and fully present started to blossom before winter had fully thawed.

And truth is, my visit to the nun, it is an uncovering of the fullness of all my years. Of what has broken me and what has made me, of both what life has offered me and what I can now offer the world.

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Last Saturday.

It hurt.

It healed.

It plays on repeat in my head and has not found words yet in my heart.

But it will.
It has to.
I need to know you are with me to write in this space.
I can write this quietly.
I can save it all for a book.

Or we can do it together.
Here.
Sign up on the right hand side to email subscribe. Push like. Tell me you are here. I won’t post daily, perhaps just Fridays. But when I open my heart, I invite you in.

Be with me in this and know that I will continue to cheer for you; for all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, chase hope with me.
The Love Strong Chronicles

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Other places I will speak of reclaiming our worth and that our stories are to be shared:

The Winsome Retreat April 4-6, 2014.


The (in)RL Conference by (in)courage April 25 – 26, 2014.

Five Minute Friday: IMAGINE (in raw honor of the Gortsemas)

Five Minute Friday is writing for 5 minutes and no editing. We get the word and write with abandon. Feel free to join us or read others at www.lisajobaker.com

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This week’s word: IMAGINE

“I can’t even imagine.”

The sentence repeated with different pitches and flinching eyes as people held back the tears.

No one had more words. Plenty had less.

And in the inability to imagine the pain of parents losing another child tragically there is a well up of anger, doubt, confusion, and grief.

We knew how we felt a few years ago but we perhaps had never learned how they felt. And now it was thrust upon them again.

And what of the teacher, who had lost his life a few weeks before and the school mate who died days before? How now could we even imagine?

This. This is what I imagine. A wrestle that lasts for hours and years with a God who does not cease being because we can’t testify. I imagine time failing to heal wounds but a God who could be our only chance at not bleeding out soul and life. I imagine that perhaps now rocks need to cry out because our weeping scrapes our voice away.

But I also imagine today.

And so I live.

Not in fear, not in glee, not in refusal, and not in giddiness.

I simply live.

And this. This I imagine too. That all of life is worship. Even that which I can not put to words or ever care to endure.

Serve. Weep. Love. Hope.

I imagine we have no other way to rise.

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When South Carolina calls and Allume is on the phone line.

South Carolina called last week. It showed up on my caller ID. I missed the call because I was talking to Nebraska. Yep. I identify people by the states they live in. I don’t know anyone in North Dakota yet, so give me a call if you live there. 🙂

I knew who it was before I even listened to the voicemail. It was the person I had literally just blogged about that very morning. Logan Wolfram. Logan wrote words in January 2013 that tied me to my birth country of Bangladesh. She blogged about her trip with Food for the Hungry and my longings to love the people of Bangladesh multiplied. But now. Now she is in the States. She is at the helm of a wonderful conference called Allume. Allume is a conference for the blogger, the storyteller, and the writer who is trying to actively live in the light of Christ while bringing words to those around them. Words, art, life, love. Logan has a beautiful vision for the conference of encouraging, equipping, empowering and releasing those who attend. The sponsors are fabulous. The speakers are extremely solid. The attendees are excited. Allume takes place in South Carolina. And she called.

But I was talking to Nebraska. Deidra Riggs lives in Nebraska. Remember Nebraska? It rippled some Bangladeshi courage. Didn’t read that? That’s fine, feel free to now, click HERE. Deidra and I were talking a bit about Allume, a bit about Logan, and an overwhelming amount about me. The me that has been awakened by people like David Kinnaman and Holley Gerth. The me that feels like this dreaming and hoping is risky business. The me that blogs on Tuesdays for Holley and needs to address the topics of risk and being misunderstood today for her God-sized Dreamers team assignment.

Risk and being misunderstood is really an ocean of an idea to write about.

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So I reflected. And my phone call from South Carolina keep permeating my thoughts.

See, by some accounts, here is my track record lately.
Read.
Tweet.
Network.
Write honestly.
Encourage.
Opportunities come.

Seems like a dream come true. And you know what?

It is.

South Carolina called to offer me a production management position on their leadership staff. I now get to work at one of the premier Christian blogging conferences in the nation. It’s a big conference.  The sponsors, speakers, leadership staff, and attendees work tirelessly in the wrestle and worship of life. I admire all of them in one way or another.

But here is the account people don’t see.

Read.
Cry.
Tweet.
Be ignored.
Network.
Connections not made.
Write.
Hold back.
Encourage.
Misunderstood.
Opportunities.
Chances not given. (And household slacking…)

I am not saying there is a bad side to every good side. I am not stating a formula that for every yes there is a slew of nos. I can’t make sweeping statements like that, even if they hold a little truth.

What I can say is this.

Life is risky.

Fear is always present.

Boldness and courage to be the hope chaser I claim to be means I am often misunderstood (missed that one too? Still fine! Read it HERE) .

But, when South Carolina calls and Allume is on the phone line … I say YES.

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Risky business? You bet! Acclimating to the larger venue, working for a new boss, communicating effectively with all those gearing up for Allume, learning to balance our family life, remaining faithful to other writing projects, finding time to practice my speaking skills, trying to increase my running mileage, it all may be near the edge of the cliff walking for a bit.

But here’s the deal, I will walk and with an AMAZING man by my side, travel this road. When it is time to jump in October, you better believe I am going to do it with a smile on my face and an exclamation of joy in my soul. I was created for a reason. Part of this reason is to be to others what their needs necessitate that my strengths can meet.

I don’t know who your South Carolina is and who is on the other line, but know, for all that you endure and for that which you enjoy, I am cheering for you and I hope you answer the call.

Nasreen Fynewever

Thanks for cheering for me as I answered this one, check it out —> ALLUME 2013

Team members from Holley’s book launch group (You Were Made for a God-sized Dream) share stories of where their risk lies and who misunderstands them over at her site today.

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(I didn’t write about a running analogy for Holley’s like I thought I was going to, since running has risks and those who run can easily be misunderstood. South Carolina became the tune of my heart this week. But I still want to link to a friend of mine who is the Race Director for the Grand Rapids Marathon in Michigan. Read what you wish, but note his personal article at the very bottom which talks about keeping the music going. If you have been following this blog, you know that music has been a theme in the death of my colleague to Lisa-Jo’s 5 minute Friday post. Read Don Kern’s words HERE)