Adoption. Part 1: It Helped Me

I was adopted. For hundreds of you reading this, this is not news to you. I have written of it. I claim it. It is acknowledged in my tattoos and evident in family photos.

My faith up-bringing gives much laud to adoption; it is an imagery bringer of the faith family and heirs to earthly and heavenly inheritance. However, I find ancient adoption to be far different than modern day adoption in my studies and learnings. Ancient adoption often was reserved for older youth, even adults, who had proved worthy of responsibility, inheritance, or family pride. After assessment, not necessarily love leading, people could be welcomed into a “bloodline” with a mere legal status shift.

Modern day adoption focuses on infants, youth, and often keeps performance off the table. Today adoption lofts love and family whole-making, deep meaning and belonging as promises. Adoptions in either era are prone to human faults and yet we know of and see also the extraordinary success stories.

Adoption has social justice out-workings and even social popularity peaks if one were to survey the last several decades.

But cultural and societal contexts aside,

it is personal…

…for each family,

each child,

every time.

It helped me.

Adoption helped me gain a family. Adoption helped me learn that the world was big, my birth country always a globe spin away from where I lived. Adoption taught me of race with constant submersion from having a Korean brother and a Dutch American brother.

I have never been the majority race or ethnicity in my family or communities, which gives me rich experience as I strive for inclusivity everywhere and equity in education. I never assumed I was right or that there was only one way to look at something, which as an adult, I think this is a win from adoption’s ripple effect.

Adoption taught me to look for people and see hearts. I knew from elementary age that people had stories far beyond what their family presented, their clothes could tell, and their words chose to reveal. I am proud of this fabric within my spirit.

Adoption, in pictures and instruction, exposed me to a profession that I would follow for my own. Adoption gifted me an upbringing that had education, although, I fully know now, that I would have learned much in the schools of the nuns back in Bangladesh. However, for 30+ years, I did not know that. In the unknowing, my diligence in education always felt like a responsibility back to someone or some choice somewhere.

Adoption gave me memories. There are good childhood memories, there are friends and family, there is a faith community, and also a certain exploration of nature and exercise which came only through being raised on this continent. I am thankful.

Adoption surrounds me with a natural heritage, a sisterhood of nuns, and Stateside family, all which comprise to give me complexity and worlds to explore still.

Adoption taught me that we can belong, even in the oddest of connections and beyond tradition. It is hard to believe this and it took decades to grasp it, but I do know it now.

I am a child of adoption, a grown woman of many of the positives. I believe in it. Not the way I once did, convinced I would adopt a whole gaggle of babies or little kids to pay it back into the universe what had been given me. Now I lean more, with the blessing and shared vision with my husband of how foster care and older teen adoption is more our heart-wiring…

Adoptions helps.

It helps kids.

It helps people with love to offer.

It helps keep family as a leading society-keeper.

It helps teach compassion and diversity.

It helps many.

It hurts, too. But that idea, dear readers, is a post for next week. Interestingly enough, it will be published by the The Mudroom on my “gotcha day”, June 14… something I have never celebrated, since the practice surfaced after my childhood and the idea was less needed as an adult. Honored to be invited into the space and intentionally start here with this post.

Circle back here if the next post gets heavy or hard. I aim to return to broader topics in due time, but in the now, thanks for cracking open the door on adoption as it has been years since I wrote about it publicly in the Love Strong Chronicles.

I am blessed.

I am grateful.

As my own birth-country faces 50,000+ babies to be born in the Rohingya refugee camps alone in 2018, not to mention throughout the densely populated metropolis and scattered jungle villages, adoption of young and welcome of all is always on my heart…

I know for me,

for my story,

adoption mattered,

adoption helped.

I am no longer an orphan.

How has adoption touched your life? Tell me? Tell us?

Chasing hope and choosing peace, Nasreen

First Name: Nasreen (adoption paperwork name, was imagined to be an Ellen or an Ella until my adoptive parents read my name enough that they chose to keep it. )

Middle name: Sue (adoptive mother’s middle name)

Poet Pen name: Asa Nasreen

Asa (Bangla word for hope)

Nasreen (infancy name, Bangla word for Wild Rose)

Legal name: Nasreen S. Fynewever

Grateful for the journey, greater for the journey. #touchedbyAdoption

Forgiven, Forgive me, too? The Love Strong Chronicles VII

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Dear Hurtful Ones,

To the one who abandoned me… To the trauma without words in my infancy and in the months to follow which can still cause my body to reel in yet my mind has few memories and my voice no utterance…

…I don’t know who you are or what the circumstances were. I wonder if you think of me. I shorten my breath when I consider how early death or misfortune may have stricken your days. I do not search for you, the distance and details make such a journey futile and my wonder released that years ago. But today, in the thump thump of a heart trying to heal, know this.

It is true. You hurt me.

I forgive you.

Once and with finality. I forgive you. Giving up a child should not hold shame, but rather imperativeness to the world and to the arms of love to scoop up the orphans. I have been gifted much and in this know that mercy hunts us down and can cover all actions. Those who leave and those who are left, remember because forgiveness stands, love wins.

To the ones of my youth… To the ones in my home, in my daily happenings, and circle of influence that speared my innocence and grappled with attachment to me as I trampled opportunities for love… To the ones who caused angst and tears, touch and trust to become ideas that made me tremor and escape from…

…Know I have learned from those who teach me that each generation does the best with what they can and how they know. I agree. It will be true of my generation, too. There is much we would all do differently if we were granted hindsight in the moment. Today, without intricacies blasted from the rooftops because there is no need for that and in the slow inhale that brings oxygen to my muscles and girds my loins, know this.

It is true. You hurt me.

I forgive you.

Slowly, repeatedly, engaging in the process of allowing layers of me be rebuilt, I rise. Understanding that not all is redeemed and may never be this side of Heaven, but gathering freedom and releasing grace in waves that my human ways mirror heaven’s endless pour out. I use life and loving, writing and wrestling, speaking and silence to fill the gaps of what was lost in me and pray your empty spaces find in-pour, too.

Because we survived and forgiveness has been whispered, believe with me that love wins.

To the ones of recent… To the ones who misunderstood my character and defamed my name… To the ones who claw at my worth by diminishing the good I do, the beautiful I am… And those, those who love in messy human ways that cause my core to feel cold or actions to be reevaluated…

…Don’t withhold your hearts from me, I have a wind of warmth that breezes through day after day, circumstance after circumstance; I am held. So today, in the chase of hope that my spirit finds the forward in, know this.

It is true. You hurt me.

I forgive you.

Without hesitation. It comes swiftly because love covers a multitude of grievances. Without end. We walk the road into who we are and who we will become.  We grapple with truths and grow in what is real. I could not stand again until I forgave. The world of our hearts gets turned upside down in forgiveness. It walks life back into afflicted strands and in this life, know I am still for you. I can not be deterred from caring because love has won.

Right now, all those who hurt me, knowing or unknowingly, actual or perceived, understanding and remorseful or still wielding bludgeoning weapons, know this:

It is true. I hurt you, too. I hurt others. I stand in need of forgiveness.
I can not demand it of you or convince that it is vital to both of us.

But for the times I distorted the radiance of the Life gifted to us, I am sorry.

I am sorry. Proffer what you will to me.

Grace is ours bathe in, hope is ours to chase, forgiveness is the ignitor of life anew.

And to the nun that opened my willingness to write the Love Strong Chronicles out loud, thank you.

To the arena full of women who share stories and asked for mine, thank you.

To the students and parents who affirmed that in educating, we all learn and find places to grow roots, thank you.

To the loved ones near in actuality and in spirit, I am indebted to what you teach me to feel, to be, and to hope for; thank you.

To the One who has forgiven me and raised me from the ashes of hurt, an unending thank you.

Forgive others with me today, in the next week, when your heart can.

We do not get to think the world is stacked against us and be victims when victory can heal. Life is hard, and it may not get easier. There is no spring flower that blossoms in the freeze of winter’s cold, so let the seasons be, but when summer draws us in, go with it to the noonday sun and be better, love stronger.

Friends, for all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, now is the time to forgive and let the strength of love outdistance, to allow the grace to go further, so much further than the hurt. I am cheering for you, more than you know.

Serve.Weep.Love.Hope.FORGIVE.

nasreen

john 16:33

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

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.

Nebraska rippled some Bangladeshi courage (#jtreat)

I was adopted for a reason. Of this I am sure. I was more than poverty, an orphanage, or third world country in political upheaval and identity defining. Bangladesh birthed me but did not get to hold me. Someday I may get to hold her hand and love her poor up close. Someday I may get to champion her vibrant heritage, spiritual offerings, and her rise to be a people of beauty. But for now, the States are my home.

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Michigan has my decades. 3 of them. A family within a dedicated community to principles and faith. A brother with dirty blonde hair, biological to the parents I have. A brother with midnight black hair from South Korea, two years my elder. A father with a work ethic unmatched by most everyone I meet; hammer, nails, and a propensity to details and solid construction. A mother, who had a strong desire for a girl and, who like me, was raised by someone other than her biological mom. Odd details that don’t tell the story, but begin to paint the outline of the depths I may reveal someday. That family, in that community, those were good people working tirelessly to make life work out well while trusting something larger than themselves. This is the grounding I have. Family and then friends who shared experiences with me in my growing up and beginning of my career. Friends who surrounded my husband and I with fun times and memories to be cherished. But even Michigan couldn’t be called home forever. The tribe of little boys, the love of my life, and I wandered to Minnesota just a year ago.

Am I created for Minnesota? After this really long winter, I humorously cringe to imagine such an awful joke. But this is where I am now. With a heart full of very meaningful friendships, career experiences, and memories from Michigan, Minnesota gives me space to explore. The path and life in my hometown had amazingness and I grow homesick from time to time. But I also feel quite alive here. Minneapolis sets my spirit aflight.

So how did I end up in Nebraska? Why would I journey from the Twin Cities, through Iowa in pelting rain, to spend 4 days with people I knew so little about. How did it ripple courage? These two letters might shed some light. The post is long but the message needed, so I write on.

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Dear Holley,

I tried to write this letter in a card and mail it to that lovely Arkansas home of yours. But the ink dried too quickly and the words seemed off. I dared, for a moment, to wait until we talked on the phone to describe the extent of my appreciation, but immediacy won the day. You are a dreamer of dreamers. Do you get that? Do you see your ripple effect in that crazy team you host on Facebook and your friends around the country? Do you notice it when your books sell and your message is sought after? Did you hear it in the voices of women who sang that Nebraskan Friday night in April? Do you feel it when your heart reads the comments posted to your blog or your cards get bought yet again from the store? Please tell me you sense it when the days and deadlines press you and you wonder if you should enlarge your territory to meet the call on your soul! You are a dreamer of dreamers. You awaken, you encourage, you cheer, you believe. You are not duplicated in anyone I know or have read. You are not a platform, you are a person. You are a person with a ridiculous amount of insight and hope.

Thank you for being that.
Thank you for being that for me.
For Deidra.
For the GSDTers on your team.
For the college students in Michigan.
For those reading abroad and those reflecting in the late hours of the night.
For yourself.
For Him.

I had an experience of a lifetime producing Jumping Tandem: The Retreat in Nebraska. These are not sugar coated words or random sunshine to meet a cloudy day. You gifted me a referral and support that allowed me to show a room full of hopefuls that I was adopted for a reason. I can own who I am and who I am designed to be. A six month internship with you, your mentorship, and your friendship weave around, lacing up some loose ends and helping me define my ambitions. Life-coaching is part of your career but it is clearly part of your gifting. Thank you for being a dreamer of dreamers and not standing still until it was a fearless thing to pursue. In the words oft repeated in these corners (Thanks JH) you felt the fear and you did it anyways. You named it and owned it. You modeled it; and you love; I am forever blessed.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Your ripple effect and friend,
Nasreen

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Holley Gerth, who I am linking up with today at www.holleygerth.com is a part of why my GPS had to get programmed for Ashland, Nebraska a few weeks ago. I was originally going as an attendee until enlisted to help Holley with something, which transitioned into a desire to serve the retreat host, Deidra Riggs. Deidra Riggs, www.deidrariggs.com, planned and hosted a fabulous retreat, which you can learn about here: http://jumpingtandem-ne.com/. Some how, my random offers to help landed me a production gig of a three day event in the heart of the midwest. Thankfully, I have been trained by and interned with Jim Henderson Presents, a team of two incredible gentlemen and so I managed to show up, sort of rock it, and return home with only blessings, not wear & tear. Deidra is a dreamer, a ripple of Holley, a reflection of Him. We run with lanterns together…

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Dear Deidra,

My words splatter across the screen. The delete button is pushed. Part of me wants to write about mozzarella stuffed chicken my household ate tonight and ask about the salmon and veggies you had.

But here it is. If ever there was a time, to say thank you and encourage a fellow dreamer, it’s now. This is the exact topic Holley asked our team to write about today. Here goes the chicken-free, super long text, try not to Skype me about it tomorrow…

Vision. You had it. People. They enlisted to help. Participants. They signed up. You were set. The food was prepared. The table ready. Your Midwest event of writers, bloggers, artists, and entrepreneurs was happening. Then this wandering soul took a risk and decided to come on board with your mission simply because Holley did. I was following her current, willing to be in the motto of — live once, no regrets. I was eager to do what I could to move dreamers forward, because I am a hope chaser. Dreamers, by nature, are some of the most hopeful people I have met.

Did I meet you? When did I start thinking I could create agendas and run meetings? How did it get decided that I would lead the charge so that you could host with grace? Where were the details and years of planning that allowed this working relationship to thrive? None of it is known to me. That is the blur. Is it for you too?

The clarity comes in this, somewhere along the line I had no choice but to be 100% behind you and for you. I grew to love you, not just work for your mission. How does that happen? Driven service, a value I hold high, sure, but how did it happen THIS time and how do I express my gratitude for letting my capabilities support you. This, I guess. With muddle words and incomplete thoughts.

Thank you for inviting me to Nebraska. Thank you for trusting me with your dream. Thank you for letting me lead your crew. Thank you for sharing your heart. Thank you for letting me champion you in my own crazy way.

But above all that, thank you for affirming that my life, though evidenced every step of the way to be in the hand of God, from Bangladesh, to Michigan, to Minnesota, had to “stretch to breath” in Nebraska.

I now actually possess the courage my blog posts have spouted about for months. (Hope Chaser entry #1)

I have gotten in the car and chased hope.

I will not forget where I have come from or deny where I am going, you did this, You were the face of Christ to me. Thank you.

Your person for #JTREAT and friend,
Nasreen

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Monday Mutterings: Underneath the Veil–The Muslim Inside of Me

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Bangladesh: 150 Million people, about the same size as Wisconsin (or Greece), 86% of the people follow Islam. 16 million Bangladeshis live in the capital city of Dhaka.

Point of reference, 314 million people live in the entire United States, 8 million of them live in New York City.

Some of you may not be able to locate Bangladesh on the map, more of you would be hard pressed to list any historical or cultural facts about my birth country. This doesn’t bother me.

Religiously speaking, there are nearly 1 million Muslim women in the United States. According to Pew Research, the women are split nearly in half of whether they chose to wear their head veils and coverings (hijab) and so to the outsider, not all Muslim women are recognizable.

But, here in Minneapolis, those who are physically distinctive as practicing Muslims are everywhere. I get my groceries with Muslims, buy my clothes from them, my children sit and play with their children at the library and playground; diversity is beautiful really. Coming from a fairly homogenous evangelical community for the vast majority of my life, it is refreshing in an inexplicable way.

Seeing Muslims make me think about the life I have lived. Through dramatic events over many months, my American-Dutch Christian parents finally welcomed me into their West Michigan home 29 years ago. Military Coups and martial law in Bangladesh made the exact timing my folks were adopting me extremely difficult for them and those facilitating the process. From Former President Gerald Ford to Mother Teresa, some big players advocated for the release of orphans to loving homes outside the country. Thankfully, Bethany Christian Services and the Sisters of Notre Dame worked tirelessly until their first 19 babies left the tumultuous country, only a decade into Bangladesh’s independent country status.

I was one of them.

The same statement crosses my mind every time I interact with Muslims here in the Twin Cities. I was one of them. My adoption “placement” along with upbringing and community allowed me to be submerged into the Christian faith, but I am hopeful for the “placement” I now have.

I have deep respect for the community I just moved from, but guess what? I have landed in a place where the nations, cultures, and beliefs meet and the opportunity is not lost on me. I am not here to save the world; I have never been one for traditional evangelism models. I am here to listen to people as Jesus would. The opportunity to share in conversations and movements of people in a number of faiths who have voices like I do is exciting to me.

Maybe it is time I do more listening and loving.

The journey, both geographically and spiritually, may ask the Christian me be more aware of the Muslim inside.

I can still call Christ-followers to live as HIS (honest, intelligent, servants) and bring practices of my faith–the fruits of the Spirit–to the streets. Yet, underneath the veil, I am very open to allowing my heritage build bridges my experiences never could.

And friends, I have seen this evidenced in others. You may be something else now, but perhaps what you were or could have been is the road that allows you to listen and speak life to others.

Think about what is under your veil…

To learn more about Bangladesh, please visit Sarah Siddiqi’s (Founder and CEO of “Experience Bangladesh”) website here http://www.experiencebangladesh.com/

New hashtags I will be using more often on Twitter. Follow @nfynewever

#conversationsmatter #letmelearnfromyou