my holiday at sea.

a good while ago now,
writing was taken away from me.
i mean it, it was up & taken
away from me.

leaving
this hole

inside of me.
tiny – but
definitely
there.

i tried to power through for awhile
there with writing – but it all sucked.
it really just was awful & forced

& cheesy. i’m not trying to
be vainfully self-depricating,

it just really sucked, & probably
mostly because i no longer
enjoyed it or felt alive.

even the joyment of writing
was taken away from me.

the dearest of friends
from both old & new
knew this to be the case

but what i love about these
friendships is how they pushed me

to challenge why it is the case.
they didn’t even focus on writing itself
but on the backbone of it all.

narrowing in
on the life & heartbeat of it
that was beginning to be exposed
& processed in order to grow.

i swear, these past two years have been
the most ugliest & most beautiful

i have ever known my inner-self to be
all at the same time.

all filled with various threaded journeys
& the stripping of layers upon layers
of my inner heart condition.

you see, there have been all these idols
driving my thoughts & actions for years.

founded in the inner needs for approval of others
& not always believing that god is big enough
to be god above all & to everyone.

leading me to establish unhealthy
perspectives & habits.

during this time
when the writing was
up & taken away from me,
much was unveiled to me.

i began to see this had all been at play
in my work & passions since my first experience
with community development work in romania
when i was barely nineteen.

& it was at full play in my viewpoint of some
unhealthy & hurtful relationships throughout
my twenties. & also in how i tried to love

my family & community,
in seemingly right ways for the short term
but failing at large in the long term.

and mostly, in my fears & anxieties that limited me
to not fully de-wall my vulnerabilities within community

to cease seeking control &
to live fully alive & in faith

that god is indeed
god

above & within
all these
things.

i wouldn’t trade these past few years for anything.
this tiny hole gave space

for restlessness that led to stillness
that exposed such brokenness.

that led to actions. to remove some things & to add other
things. i became able to live fully & newly alive
without filling that hole with what it once knew,

& then that hole slowly became filled
with so much more goodness to overflow
in all of life’s vibrant colors.

i see that writing – while it makes me feel fully alive
in god’s calling & wirings of my soul – can just
as easily, and dangerously, be a crutch.

i have been learning &
am continuing to still learn

that my true identity was not defined
by any of these things. by these idols
& motives that i sought for years

without ever realizing how distracting
& numbing it all could be.

& it sure as heck would not
be defined by writing my voice.

ever.

what i hope to remember from this
is that all that time,

i had thought
i was living so well!

& i do still love the experiences
& adventures i have had that have
taught me so much.

i am so
grateful.

but oh! how i was barely
beneath the surface level,
and it pales to compare

to all the living i have
only begun to tap my heart & life into.

& as the joyment of writing
is now being given back to me,

i wouldn’t want
it any other way.

i’m excited to begin sharing
all the freedom that i have been learning
in good time.

i was recently at a retreat
for my gotham fellowship course,

& i was sitting
with a group of amazing women.
we were sitting there together,

sharing our journeys that naturally
included some deeply exposed broken worldviews,

& we were overcome with such joy
& jovial laughter after sharing
such ugliness.

& i adore
this particular moment
when we exclaimed in freedom:

you think we would have gotten it by now! life is simple, god is god.
all else that we worry & try to control & predict – it’s silly.

one of the women then so divinely quoted CS Lewis from memory,
we are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with ambition when infinite joy is offered us. we are like ignorant children wanting to make mud-pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.

it’s a beautiful process, i think, to see
from the perspective of my time now spent
seeking to build sand castles by the sea.

& as i look back at all the mud pies,
i can see how i was far too easily pleased.

at 28 years old, i’m just beginning
to learn these things. & those closest

to my everyday can attest that
it’s quite the long learning curve.

but i hope to record this here now,
to remind myself with each new year:

life does really get better with age,
because with each year, we’ve learned & experienced more.
through the annual journeys of pain & joy, our hearts

have the grand opportunity to form into a shape that is more
& more like our creator designed us to become.

“i can’t believe that i get to live here!”

i had the opportunity given
to me tonight to attend the
annual central park gala.

given my drive for my
work & passion with

100cameras & culture,
twas ecstatic + thankful
to attend.

the evening was dedicated
to the late Nora Ephron
& all her life’s impact
on this great city’s
arts & culture.

of course, during any moving
delivery of a memorial about
a life well lived, ems knows

i will most likely get the case of
the inspirational tears. (now,

i’d like to ensure it’s noted here
that Meryl Streep is one heckuva

woman that could motivate
even the coldest masses

to feel
& respond

with her eloquence
& grace in a speech)

nonetheless
right after she landed her intro,
ems sweetly leans to whisper
something like,

“you’re so going to cry! are you
going to write this all down?”

& as she knows me well, i scramble
to record for the sake of the journalist
tucked within me. while trying to

blink back & stuff all the
inspirational tears for the sake
of they tend to get

all unnecessarily messy
& slow my way.

—–
“when you’re young,
change is hard
because

you tend to think
the present moment
is all that exists.

but one of the greatest things
about getting older

is that you realize
you’re never really
‘losing’ anybody.

you’re always accompanied
by these memories you’ve collected
of your moments spent with them.
in your heart, you still live

with them no matter
where they are now.

after Nora passed,
i went walking around a park
& then downtown & through a
cemetery & read an epitaph
beneath the name & date,

Anne, 1762.
‘we are born to die
tis but an extended thought
& death is really nothing.’

so then!
the Harry’s will still meet the Sally’s
the Tom’s will still wait for the Meg’s

(while the new yorkers will still
deny ever visiting the empire state building)

& among all Nora did for those
around her & the arts & this city,

we’ll fondly remember her gratitude most as she would sit in this
no-roofed-theatre in the
middle of central park,

& watch planes fly overhead,
raccoons crawl on stage,

talented actors laugh through
forgetting their lines,

& exclaim, “i can’t believe
that i get to live here!”

—–

you & me both, nora.
this evening was another
top notch memory in my
empire state of mind.

will always remember this moment
when we saw the one-night-only

performance of the
pirates of penzance

that set stage for
hysterical blunders
by classic actors

with the park’s breeze
blowing across us &
beneath the night sky.

genuinely laughed
so much, i cried!
(then did it again)

#happycountrycitylady

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and my heart can’t be loud enough.

i’ve never really thought about death before.
you know, in the intense ways that you aren’t supposed
to start thinking about death until you’re older.

i thought that it would stay muted in the background
for awhile longer. but there is something about
the mourning process that makes you think through

the realities a bit more. and look a bit deeper
into the depths of pain and loss and healing.

and helplessly fall into the community and support
that surround you.

while wondering
what does healing even look like?

from any loss in life really.
from any season where leaves fade brown and fall down
and branches bloom again with new leaves from new rays.

the whole mindboggling feeling that death
happens in an instant.

and then you suddenly find yourself
standing inside your own mind’s thunderstorm
wondering really dark & embarrassingly emo things
about how

if everything were to fade around you,
would you be safe? or would you fade, too?

because you are overwhelmed with this crowded
lonely feeling

that keeps questioning that
if this whole gig in life is about love,
all the giving and receiving and all the sorts
of sharing love that are possible

then why does
it hurt so much to
lose it.

or actually, that seems
like an obvious answer.

of course, it hurts
to lose it. but what kind

of sick joke is it to be
able to love it while also
being able to lose it

in any given instant.
it just doesn’t seem right.


kristin was barely 36 when she left us.
she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer not much older
than i am now. it’s such an invasive cancer to a woman,
if you think about it.

just waking itself up inside
a perfect and healthy set of ovaries.
doing it’s best to strip her dignity.
to defeat her fight.

and if that wasn’t enough, it just continued to
monster crawl itself thru the rest of her body
for more than five years.


kristin was always so beautiful.
as a child, i remember admiring her gorgeous olive skin.
and her curls that naturally kinked into place all on their own.

this past weekend, her daughter, maya, asked me to read what she wrote at the memorial. i haven’t talked much about that moment since. but it gripped me in a way that i have never felt.

and the grip will not loosen. it’s all tangled into my heart &
it has begun a change within me.

now, i have absolutely no idea how this works yet,

but the mother-daughter bond between maya and kristin is fully alive. and i felt it in that moment. while holding maya’s hand and reading her words to everyone, i felt the strength they share.

the strength that kristin was adamant about sharing with her family and friends during her days.

maya is only nine, and she is experiencing that life is so broken.
that pain happens. but that the world keeps spinning. birth keeps giving and death keeps taking.

yes, she’s only nine.
but she’s also learning that there is joy to be found.
that pain actually points to a deeper understanding of love
that is far stronger than our humanity.

and yes, i am twenty-six.
but i am learning this with her. while holding her hand.

that this pain actually grows the capacity of my heart. to want to grow into a better woman, daughter, friend, and one of these days – wife.

but even better, this pain actually grows the capacity of my heart to
grow deeper in love with creation.

all nature. timing.
seasons. growth. people.
friends. strangers.
the ones i love.

all of it!

it is opening my heart to identify with creation
and all of its surrounding pain and joys. to hurt and rejoice
with one another. & to serve one another’s growth.

in this pain, a divine transformation is happening
that surpasses all understanding.

it’s this pinch that proves to my own humanity
that hope and peace can exist in spite of it all

and that without it, i may live
a numbly comfortable life.

[of course, let's get honest. the pinch of the pain
tends to bring out my ultimate ugliness. special thanks
to the ones that are loving me thru this]


i spent some time with kristin
this past spring. and it was one
of the most real and genuine conversations
i’ve had about the peace of death.

i have debated about sharing this with you.
but after hearing everyone speak last weekend,
i know she was not private about these words.

i also begged her to write them down this summer,
[because she was a beautiful writer] but she told me

that when you have been given only a few months left,
you don’t want to spend your time locked away with
you and your thoughts. you want to live out side
your own mind. your own self.

i told her that was the right point.
i asked her if i could one day share these words.
she hoped that i would.

not much long after this conversation, kristin, chris, & maya left florida to road trip across the countryside.

exploring the great outdoors together. where they made it to the furthest coast in san francisco before she left us.

but not with empty hearts. & not without first
leaving everyone she met for the better.


spring 2011. florida

i spent the day with kristin, chris, and maya. it was so wonderful to see them. i am so happy that my relationship with kristin has been rekindled these past few years as high school and college years have settled down. i always admired her for being so much older, but always wished our growing-up seasons had aligned more.

god, kristin is gorgeous. even though she’s lost her hair, she is absolutely stunning. give her a wig, and i swear that you’d never know she was sick.

maya and chris were outside at the pool. and it was just me & kristin. remembering about how we used to row our childhood selves around grandpa’s lake in the flat bottom boat, jumping in to swim with the fish. just to then jump back in the boat, and try to catch them with a hook. and when we did, gramps taught us how to skin it and cook it. he said we couldn’t take fish from his lake and not honor their life by properly preparing them for dinner. we talked about the days when our grandparents passed away.

and then she asked if i had questions about her cancer. and i did. so i asked her about her journey. our family recently found out that her body had exhausted all available chemos and trials and treatments, and none had worked. she had been given only a few more months.

i told her that i didn’t think she was capable of only having a few more months. she was such a fighter. she was never a victim. never a martyr of sickness. she always fought thru. she always found strength to create maya’s school costumes, spend time with her husband & family & friends. and go to disney world.

she walked me thru every way that medicine had failed. that there was no explanation as to why she got sick. and there was no explanation as to why her body wouldn’t respond to treatment.

you see,
kristin always exposed
the fighter that was inside of her
with such sweet grace.

i used to be angry. we had just had maya, and we were hoping for a second child. and i was misdiagnosed for over a year. and i was angry that when we finally found it, the cancer has progressed to stage 4. it isn’t fair. and i was mad.

but there comes a point in pain and suffering, where you have to let go. find grace. so that you can fight the fight. you can last so much longer if you choose to fight with the strength of grace as opposed to anger and bitterness. and so i let go. and began to see how this suffering was sharpening me into a better person.

and my body started responding to this. i thought we were victorious. but then the cancer came back. and these past few years, i have not lost hope. and i won’t lose hope now. miracles do happen. but i will tell you

that i have found peace
that this will be what kills me.

angela, i grew up thinking that death
was so far away. that everyone gets to live
to be as old as our grandparents. but that’s
not reality. every morning represents your life.

and you may get mornings til you’re 81,
but i won’t. this will be what takes me, yes.

this will be the characteristic of my death.
but this did not defeat me. and

there is a deep peace found in that.

angela, what matters is how you live. how you love.
& who you share your days with. just make it count.

every morning, wake up. and
make those things count.

i saw maya playing outside. doing cannonballs into the pool. and i asked kristen if maya knew what was happening.

she said that she always knew maya would ask when she was ready. and that a little while ago, they were driving in the car and maya asked her if cancer could kill her.

and so kristen turned the car into a publix shopping center. climbed into the back seat. and she told her nine year old daughter that cancer will take her. i cannot even comprehend the strength of the bond that carried that conversation. and then they talked about the kind of woman maya will become. about how strong and loving and graceful and talented and ambitious she is now and will continue to grow.

and that they will always remember one another’s strength and kindness and love to themselves, eachother, their family and others.


and that’s the last time i saw kristin.
i knew it when she left that evening.

and i can’t shake her words.

there has come a point during all of this where
my heart simply can’t be loud enough.

through the grieving that i am only beginning
to feel. through the process of healing

and through the unshakable promises
of the hope of the gospel

that sometimes generates growth through pain
in order to prove unfailing love.

and where else would i be?
my heart can’t be loud enough.

soundtrack from the new EP of my
best-friend-jennie-since-i-was-two.