A new month, a new tattoo, and that movie LION

It never seemed quite right…

Life.

I felt like an outsider.  The skin was dark, my anger was big, and a family fused together through adoption seemed mysterious and inaccurate to me.

They wanted something for me–my adoptive parents. They also wanted something from me. And they took it.  They rounded out their family the way they wanted and paid the price not only for the adoption, but for a frustrated kid who knew trauma and brought discord.  It could be painted as a glory story, but I found it to be unsettling and convinced throughout much of life that there was noplace on earth okay for me to be.

Adoption has beauty; it also has a hellish hurt. For multiple people and sides of the reality, it can hurt in the actualization or in the decades to come.

Is that okay to write?

Isn’t easier and more safe to watch the turmoil of adoption from theater seats, cry our tears from limited view, and smile with the hopeful spirit of Lion on the big screen around our nation?

I recommend the movie, truly.

I just also know it is easier to watch from the fifth row up than to be okay with someone in our own lives who is seemingly lost when she should feel found.

I have been recommended to read the A Long Way Home memoir the movie was based on a few times, but I always wonder why when I live with my own taunt and displacement.

Suicidal thoughts kept at bay for most of life.

Finding connections in certain seasons with family and friends allows me to believe I can attach to others.

Depression was chased by exercise at-large and medication a time or two.

Vows and covenants keep bonds that might otherwise be broken.

Jobs held, success had, lives touched, strengths found–and yet none of these fill the hollow or empty the overhwelm.

Life will always have a heaviness.

I have found peace in my faith journey and chaos in my existence.

It is a both/and.  Always.

But I rise to face three little ones and hundreds of teens.  In this, I own my grief just as I declare my hope.

I will find a way through the resurfacing of memories. I will manage the angst of not having white skin as a child and even now as an adult.  I will breathe on despite those who have passed away before me.

And maybe, just maybe, home is growing from within instead of out there somewhere.

Fight for hope with me.

Acknowledge grief with me.

They are not enemies, they are people-shapers.  They comprise our stories and make us who we are.

Hope and grief… welcome to February, we got some life to live.

Join me? Where ever you are, whatever your story… breathe again and live life.


I only tattoo upon my body that which has been etched upon my heart for a lifetime.  

gravis: Latin word for heavy, weighted, grief. 

Semicolon replacement for the i: semicolons are used when a sentence could end, but the author chooses to continue the sentence.  It has become the one of the symbols for breaking the stigma of mental illnesses.  It allows people like myself to take a visible stance to claim life when suicide could have ended it. 

(My previous wrist tattto is the Bangla word for hope. I have the same tattoo on my ankle.  Wherever I go, whatever I do, I am marked by Hope.) 

Another day, suicide and life

It dropped lower and lower.  The weight of my forehead nearly rested upon the cushion as my body caved in around the tender air. I was sitting no more and found all of me in a curled cower.

The pressure pushed against my chest and both fatigue and failure inhaled without respite for exhale.

I was choking on life.

This is what it meant to finish another day. He opened the hours before me, so timidly unpacking a minute at a time,  I parceled out my energy to see others, to meet requirements, to do right by a career and family, friends and a future.

After all, in breathing came life, in doing I proved I was alive.

But depression clung to my every step.  It seeped into my pores and criss-crossed my face leaving hollow eyes and an unrelenting somber sheen.  Life did not wait for me; no, it created a tide of expectations and a current of must dos.

The formula for joy alluded me and the season of sadness seared itself to my shoulders.  My smile real enough to some and the shallow clear to others.

Earlier that day I shifted from flourescent lights to the crisp cold of the outdoors. I beheld a new ceiling, a canopy of heaven stretched over the snowy floor. I witnessed the creator kneel to kiss the earth. The sky wrenched itself into showing the sun. Colors and splays of nature beautiful enveloped me. Gasping in the frigid air, I stored life in my veins and could reflect hope for another moment in time.


Yet what about the time suicide asked me to play? When time took these three decades and reduced them to a single story of unworth which wrecked me as a kid and could dismantle me as an adult.  Why did it look so alluring and okay? Why couldn’t I stop the lie it offered?

What about the time abuse took what was not to be detached from me? Each grievance never looking back and I was left to make sense of fighting my way to health and whole.  Could I ever be healed from the shredding?

What about those who removed their love or favor when my presence clouded with something other than ease and light-hearted life? Why don’t  I make sense to others and why does it always matter so much to me?

This week could not outdistance memories.

This week could not unhinge from the present.

This week a colleague laid his beloved wife to rest after a torment of days and a life journey with the demon of mental illness.  This week a student could not stay where bridges were built and allies found.  This week my husband had to carry the home and  children grow up faster than innocence would ask. This week my friend could not conjour words from myself, a writer, when my own death attempt danced as memory and marker.

Yes, it dropped lower and lower. The weight of my forehead nearly rested upon the cushion as my body caved in around the tender air. I was sitting no more and found all of me in a curledcower.

In the choke of life, I felt removed from all I offer the community around me.  Depression robs me.  It thieves from many. Yet this I know, when strangle felt close, my lungs still filled.  One more breath, one more day.

I can not do all of life the way I wish or take away others’ pain. I can not belong in all the ways an orphan girl is supposed to once adopted. I can not change the color of my skin or how I fit into people’s constructs. I can not unlearn my trauma or forget my twisting of perception.

But as sorrow lies near–I live

To love.

To teach.

To lead.

To write.

To whisper.

I do not know who will follow or who will listen, but my steady foundation of faith and the formation of friends and family remind me: be me to the world.

Who I am, whether small and in a ball, tired from the day or I am strong and tall knowing my purpose, I am alive.

LIVE with me.

One more day, friends. To tasks and talents, give what you can.  Allow others to lend you hope when yours is low and depression is real.

Another day, yes, the light still shines.

——

With respect and deep sorrow for those near and far, recent and years gone by, who have lost a loved one to the grips of mental illness’ lying voice.  

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A song by VERIDIA shared to me by a friend–raw art https://youtu.be/hymuOXYAuwk 

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Find someone to text or talk to if you need it. If you feel alone:

CRISIS TEXT LINE: 741741, text GO any time, for free, and trained professionals will interact with you during your rough hours. 

CRISIS PHONE LINE: Call 1-800-273-8255.

January hurts to the core.

How could a month that holds both the fortunous reputation of a clean slate and a month that holds my beautiful wedding anniversary be the toughest one of the year?


Simple stories include that I often get sick.  This week, case and point.  I missed the first two days of work post an extended change of pace during winter break due to illness.

Another is I am not one for the holiday busy, it clutters my mind and whaps my center of gravity out a bit.  I have theories as to why, but this torch has burned for decades and so it rarely surprises me that I start the year with a disheveled heart.

A deeper layer reveals that it is also my birthday month.  However, in hearing stories and recallings of my youth, it is suspected I am a December birthday. This unanchors me.  To know one’s birthday seems woven into being human, being known, being worth celebration.

I do not know mine.

I have an assigned birthday by dear catholic sisters and a gracious adoption paperwork system, but it is false and that has always mattered to me.  I used to loathe the phrase and mention of the day.  I have grown to appreciate the sentiment and the reality that I have a day, like others–inaccurate, but still mine. I look forward to intentional extensions of love in January due to my “birthday” now as a grown adult, but the little girl in me will always falter a bit when the month rolls around.

Foundational imprints of the month have history and hurt.  Statements said, recovery from pain gone ary, and cloudiness of memories and moments that have both shaped and stripped from me–they edge the month with grief.

Stark streaks also invade the month.  Life lived through that I now have to coach my mind in. My mind must believe these wounds can connect to my call to others for their courage despite trauma.

But how I wish the cavernous  wounds away.  The loss of our first child in our first miscarriage in 2007 was anguish.  Standing amid 70,000 mourners and respect-givers as the late President Gerald R. Ford was driven through my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, I stood there when I could not stand in front of my classroom of 10th graders. My body reeling from the physiolocigal  truth of the miscarriage–I stood there wondering what the little life could have done in the world as this hometown boy gone President was laid to rest.  My heart asunder in lies that I was a failure in yet another way.

Not even a decade later from that life lost, I found my mind hurtled into the chaos of depression from re-exposure to abandonment and trauma.

The dark felt insurmountable and I became a shell of myself. A suicide attempt tore through my own story and consequentially the lives of those close to me. I may never like the month because of this unforgiving blemish on my action record.  I beg many, each week, to know their worth and turn towards help… It does not lessen my shame, but it is what I can offer their hurting place.

January has fallen to a place of remembering and always questioning if my rise from the grips of ugliness is true and trustworthy.

But hope wins.

Not as a strategy.

Not as a method.

Not as a privilege or a luxury.

But as a Truth.

Students need to know this. Grieving parents need to know this. Trauma victims, homeless, and struggling people need to know this.  It is not swift and it is not mess free, but life — whether gone too soon or grappling for another day, it is comprised of hope and breath.

For all of us still standing, breathedeep, this month and every month.  If you have extra air, lend it in your service, your faith, your extra hand, your benevolent spirit, your career, your neighborhood, your people. Lend hope to those who need to be fought for.

I will.

Join me.

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.

IMG_0670

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

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

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