They dream, she writes. 


Teenagers sat in stoic rows with willing adherence to classroom norms.  Faces held the weathering of late nights, deep stories, eager learning, and self-becoming.  I sprung from my swiveling chair after punching in attendance across the flickering monitor. 

“Good morning, Creatives!” 

The voice of experience enough to know wherever my energy lands, the students rise to it and maintain inquiry if I stay curious of them.  So I charged the day with enthusiasm and sincere belief in each of them.  My smile beamed and my silly red cowboy boots clicked more loudly than expected. I was weary from physical illness, but the students would not know so until the conditions were right to speak of me.  This was their stage: a place to speak their lives and words, to own their stories and to communicate with new focus.  

Creative Writing class, much like classes early in my decade+ long teaching tenure, became a place of expression, safety, and exploration for students.  

 
Great are the dreams of those already tried in life by hurdles, but continually invited to make their future good.  For all the teens I have watched become positive community members, active pursuants of their convictions, and  adults I am proud to know, I add this gal to the list of the thousands of teens who inspire me. Well-done, Molly Fennig! (Click name to link to her book.)  You embody the aspirations of students I have seen in the Mounds View Public School system.

 
For the numerous authors and aspiring writers I have worked with over the last few years, for the many manuscripts I have read and contributed feedback on, this writer (Molly Fenning)  joins Ty Jansma, in being one of my students who have published their own work. I have enjoyed both of their books and hope they keep writing! 

They dream.

They do.

They inspire. 

Like them, dear former students everywhere, from private schools in Michigan, to the collegiate level, to community forums, and now the Mustangs and Knights–keep finding ways to bring your goodness, dreams, and hard work to the world. 

It matters! 

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

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'

 

 

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.

20140410-220254.jpg
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.

20140410-230035.jpg

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