the tears of dreams

Living my minutes stretched out thin over a slice of life, I finally crossed over the crusty edges and careened on a downward spiral into hormonal madness.

It began with the evaluation of a singer. All I wanted to do was enjoy the music, to let it wash over my parched soul and fill in the cracks but each time I did that, my eyes watered. Yes… I was dry. And standing before a fountain, I neglected my thirst and very purposefully reigned in my thoughts, checking the boxes on the form, filling in the blanks with my comments…

I began questioning my purpose as an evaluator. All I really wanted to say was that the singer was doing a great job as a courageous vocalist – one who’s grown stronger and better, rising boldly from each failure. But no, I needed to quantify that growth with numbers. I know the importance of the evaluation but dammit, maybe it’s time I back out of all this. Maybe it’s time I turn away from what I like doing, to return to what I love.

*

Next up – auditions for a short drama.

So many of them tried their best… only to hear us say they weren’t good enough. I looked at them and again, was bowled over by their courage to try. The worst bit came when the Amazonian stepped in. God, I’ve missed my darling friend. She began her monologue, only to stop halfway…

‘This is too hard to read,’ she choked. She tried several times but was overcome by tears. The words I’d written in the script cut too closely to her heart and I knew, something was up. I wanted to reach out and ask if she was okay, what was going on, how was work, the family, the children… but all I said was, ‘It’s okay dear.’

I walked her out of the audition room to say goodbye, my eyes tearing again. I’d just watched her live through some pain she had yet to articulate to me.

‘I miss you…’ I said.

‘Me too. See you around.’ And then she was gone.

*

The part I dreaded the most though, was calling up three of the dancers we needed to turn away from the upcoming performance.

The first chap, I met face-to-face. We talked and he understood why he hadn’t made the cut. He appreciated the fact that I’d personally contacted him and I felt relief. It gave me the boost I needed to make the second call.

I picked up the phone, took a deep breath and dialed the numbers.

‘… so I hope you understand why we need to take you out of this performance, this time round…’ I finished my explanation, half expecting the same reaction as the first guy.

‘But I really want to do this…’ she replied, finally breaking down and sobbing on the phone.

My heart ached.

I spent another ten minutes talking to her, encouraging her and making promises about the future that (dear god) I hope will come to pass. When she finally stopped sobbing, we put the phone down… and that was when I finally broke. This was all getting too much for me.

‘Hey… are you okay?’ JapGirl asked.

‘Yeah…’ I sniffled. But I wasn’t. How can you be, when you’ve just spent an entire day judging if others were good enough? How does one determine that anyway? I’m not an expert. All I can go by is my heart and what it tells me… and I know when something fits right and when it doesn’t. But how do you make someone else understand that? How do you quantify that for them when all they hear is the sound of breaking dreams?

How do I convince myself that I’m right when all I hear is how wrong it feels?

*

What is the weight of a tear?

How much does it bear, as it rolls down your face?

What sound does it make when it hits your chest?

And where does it go when it’s finally released?

As a child, crying was the answer. It solved all problems. The cathartic bawling gave way to sunshine and smiles. But as I grew older, crying became a choice, one that sometimes, I didn’t want to take. Walking away and ignoring the ache was easier. Or so I thought.

*

I sat in the empty auditorium tonight and looked out at the sea of velvet chairs. I tried to hear the music, imagine the crowds, feel the energy… but was a little too late. The curtains had closed on yet another day of casting and preparation work for the event.

It will all be good. I don’t fear the outcome.

But for once… it’s not the performance I’m thinking about. It’s the people, their dreams and the journeys they are all taking.

I hope they aren’t alone.
I hope they turn to the Dream Maker.
I pray… that they felt my love, though frail.

Because if it weren’t for people like them, there would be no event, no curtain call, no applause.

There would be no chance of other people’s dreams coming true.

the struggle

He was so excited. The box held such potential.

Just before dinner, he unpacked the model kit and began building the boat, piece by piece. It was a little too complex for someone his age but he didn’t care what the label said. It was all tremendously intriguing. Half an hour later, the enthusiasm waned and he was struggling. Crying out in frustration, he tore pieces of tape and threw them into the bin.

‘They don’t work!’ He sobbed. His eyes were tearing but it never occurred to him to ask for help.

I sat there watching him in silence.

‘Have you read the instruction manual?’ I prodded.

The little boy picked up the booklet, stared at it for a while, then threw it aside. I didn’t know then that the instructions were all in French. Five minutes later, the boy was banging the table and throwing the pieces that didn’t fit on to the floor. Quietly, I watched him although my heart ached. When was he going to ask for help?

‘Mommy… can you help me?’ He finally looked up, tears streaming down his face. I didn’t want to hurt his already broken pride, so I showed him how the tape worked and where he could attach it to fix the sails. The boy’s little fingers began its work again. And then… the boat materialized.

‘Look! It works!’ He shouted, ‘Look! Watch me!’

I watched. And saw my life and its perpetual struggles.

How many times have I found myself trying to make sense of life with the logic that I acquired over the years? How many times did my pride break when the best of plans, efforts and commitment yielded no results? How many times did I push myself to tipping over before I turned to the Dream Maker and said, ‘Help me, please?’

Too many, too often.

Oddly, watching the boy struggle made me love him so much more. All I wanted to do was wrap him up in my arms and absorb the angst. Did the Dream Maker feel the same way, watching me struggle to make sense of a world that is too complex to understand?

*

Hope.

I fear that word.

Images of failures, frustration and disappointment cloud my mind whenever I find myself in the place where – as a dreamer – I long for something to happen but am scared that it wouldn’t pull through. I don’t want to be disappointed. But that was because I was trying to do it all on my own.

I’d hold the instruction manual to my goals in my hand, its rules and guidelines memorized. I’d make sacrifices, in hope… but I was depending on the wrong person to make it all happen.

You see, my dreams were birthed in the supernatural realm – the spirit. And what’s birthed in that realm is made flesh there too. Natural progression can only bring you to the point where you almost break, you can’t go on. Nothing works anymore.

‘It doesn’t make sense!’ I’d throw my plans to the ground. The worst bit was the shame that came with my failure.

Just like the little boy.

That’s why I’m making a change from this minute on.

I’m giving up.

I’m letting go of my plans and I’m going to recognize the weakness in me.

‘Can you help me, please?’ I turn to the Dream Maker. And I know… this is my beautiful moment. It’s the tipping point, if you’d please. This is the place where it all changes for the better.

‘Here,’ the Dream Maker’s finger points my next step ahead. He doesn’t intrude because He wants the plans to be fulfilled in my hands. He wants to see me glow with pride at what I did.

Except… I didn’t do it. He did.

*

The greatest struggle in living the impossible life is NOT the impossibility of every challenge, every mountain, every problem.

The hardest thing is giving up on yourself, and giving it all to Him.

Hope.

It sings to me.

 

medication

‘Did I tell you that I was admitted to the mental hospital twice?’ Jay said to me, twisting a tissue between her fingers. ‘The first time I was admitted, it came after a spending spree. Apparently, I had taken all my credit cards and bought so many items I maxed out all my cards but when I returned home to my husband, I couldn’t remember what I’d bought. I had nothing in my hands. They say I gave the items to random strangers on the street.’

‘What’s wrong? What did the doctors say?’ I tried my best to keep my face from showing any outward shock. She looked so empty, devoid of all the cheer I once knew her to have in vast amounts.

‘They say I am bipolar and when I’m happy, I go berserk spending loads of money. And when I get depressed, I hide from the world because I think someone is out there, coming after me.’ Jay looked at me and smiled wistfully, ‘I can’t remember how it feels to be unafraid.’

‘Why did you enter the hospital again?’ I reached out to hold her hand, ignoring the shredded tissue on the table between us.

‘I had been on prescribed medication for months and was feeling good. Stable. So I thought maybe, I was fully recovered and so stopped taking the medication. Not a good idea. The wild mood swings hit me again and when I began crying in class in the middle of teaching a lesson, they put me back into the hospital again.’

‘Why did you stop taking the medication? I take vitamins every day… it’s just routine,’ I tried my best to empathize with her but honestly, I couldn’t begin to fathom the depth of her struggle.

‘As long as I’m taking the medication…’ Jay took a deep breath to still her shaky voice, ‘I can’t have children. I’ve been married for three years now and all I dream of is holding a baby in my arms, and I can’t. I hate the fact that I’m dependent on medication to keep me normal,’ she gave me a sardonic smile.

‘Do you have any idea what it’s like to practice being normal?’ Jay leaned forward and stared at me, ‘I need to force myself out of my house to take a walk around the neighbourhood. Every person I meet is like the enemy, and to overcome this fear, I get out, walk for a bit and run home. I do this every day, while I wait to fully recover from this madness.’

She sat back and sipped her tea. Cocking her head to one side, she smiled.

‘I’m better now so don’t worry. I just need to wait for the day I’m fully recovered… the day when I can be stable without ever needing those damn pills. Maybe then, I can start living life again.’

*

How different am I from Jay?

Every single day, there are certain things I need that help me get through the day feeling, well… normal. I start my mornings with a hunger as I open my box filled with letters from the Dream Maker. Reading them and spending some time listening to Him talk takes me into the happy zone.

Recently though, I’ve been careless with my time and negligent with my ‘medication’. While I can’t understand my change in attitude, I see its effects on my emotions – they swing wildly from anger, depression, hurt to apathy.

‘Just pick up the letters and read them,’ I chide myself as I stare at the box of letters. Oddly, I put it down and walk away, only to face a day battling shadows that I don’t need to fight.

It’s plain dumb, stupid really.

*

‘Though I have a broken heart
I’m too busy to be heartbroken
There’s a lot of things that need to be done
Lord I have a broken heart

Though I have a broken dream
I’m too busy to be dreaming of you
There’s a lot of things that I gotta do
Lord I have a broken dream

I’ve been told that this will heal, given time…

– Spiritualized

‘Are you angry with me?’ His quiet voice startles me a little. I didn’t even notice Him coming to sit by my side, that was how consumed I was with my internal battles.

‘Angry? No…’ I shake my head.

‘Don’t lie to me, I can see right through you,’ He replies with a tinge of sadness.

‘I’m not angry, well, at least I don’t think it’s with you,’ I sigh. ‘I’m just tired…’

‘I saw a tear fall while you were asleep,’ He put His arm around me, ‘And I know why.’

‘Can you be faithful when I am faithless? Loving when I am hateful?’ I said, trying to keep the edginess from my voice, ‘Can you see me beautiful when I turn ugly? Will you make it all work out when I wonder if I’m doing all I can to destroy it?’

I was hoping to push Him away with my extremities and at the same time, longing for Him to prove that nothing will change the way He was holding me in His arms.

‘If you will let go of all that’s in your hands, and let me hold you in mine, I will change your world,’ He says with an urgency I haven’t heard before. ‘Look at me.’

I lift my bowed head and turn to look at Him.

‘That’s faith. All you need is to know and understand that I am the Dream Maker – the Maker and fulfillment of every desire in you. I made you, how can I do anything but love you? I see into you and whatever you choose to dress yourself in, dirty yourself with, doesn’t matter to me. I am looking into your heart.’

He opens His hands and spreads mine in His.

‘My hands are bigger than yours. You can try to work destruction, either purposefully or carelessly but My hands will always be bigger than yours. The world I can create from your mess will be far more astounding than any crap you give me. Can’t you see it? I am passionate about you.’

He takes the box of letters and places them in my hands.

‘How you feel on your journey – pain or joy – will be dependent on what you choose to fill your mind with. It doesn’t change its outcome. I’ve already written your story. And it’s good. One of the best, really…’ He smiles as He leans over, kisses my forehead and stands up.

‘I made my choice to believe in you. Now you choose what you want to believe.’

*

After He walked away, I sat there holding the box and bowed my head. Then very tentatively, I opened it, took out the first letter and began reading.

letter to the broken-hearted

Dear friend

How do you stop your heart from breaking? Every moment, the silence rips each piece of my being into a million pieces, with no promise or hope of mending. I try to hold it together, put on the bravest of faces, smile to all who are familiar and yet within lies a hurt so unbearable that my strength is but a mere shadow.

I tell myself that it will get better with each day and I hope to fight a winning battle at the break of new dawn. Then I awaken from slumber and the hours ahead feel like hell.

How do I fill the void that’s within, when all focus and distractions have abandoned me? I know what needs to be done but my capabilities struggle and fail. There is no comfort except for the assurance from the one I love… but when silence is the only sound, all sanity, resolve, confidence and everything I know leaves me…

And I’m left with nothing but the unbearable heaviness of being.

She broke up with me. No, more than that. She broke me.

How do you live when your person has been shattered into a million pieces?

*

I logged in to my email account, only to read a dear friend’s heart-wrenching note about how she got dumped. The relationship seemed so magically beautiful when they first met and then, a few weeks later, with no warning whatsoever, the other person ended it.

‘I never told anyone this, but I think I found The One,’ she confided in me. ‘It’s hell. I don’t know how to live from here onwards.’

This was just yesterday. A few days before, I received a text message from Mrs Couple. She had just got her separation papers and the divorce will be made official in a matter of months.

‘What do I tell the kids? The truth? A lie? What?’ Mrs Couple asked me. ‘How do I explain to them that Daddy won’t be coming home? And me… how will ever believe in love again?’

Then there are the two chaps I caught up recently, both getting over the girls they had been dating for months.

‘Every day is a fight to resist making contact with the other person,’ they said. I looked into their tired eyes and wondered when they last had a good night’s sleep.

Deep in pain, they just wanted to know one thing.

‘How do I get through this?’

*

What do you say to a broken heart? How do you tell a person that everything will be okay? When you’re deep in pain and can’t see past the bleeding wound, it’s almost impossible to imagine the day it heals. It’s too surreal a hope.

‘How did you get through your pain?’ the friend who wrote the note asked me.

‘God,’ I said.

I knew it seemed too simplistic an answer but like the very breath on my lips, it was through intense pain that I found my way to recovery through Him. The drugs didn’t work, neither did the alcohol, or physical pain of any sort. When I came down from my high, reality – with all its claws – was waiting. God changed my reality. And that was a fact.

‘The Dream Maker huh. Why do you call Him that?’ she asked.

‘Because the day I found myself broken, when all creativity had died, when my dreams were snuffed and tomorrow was too painful to imagine living through, He came and gave me new dreams. He took all the pieces of me and over the months, knitted them together with a love that I couldn’t imagine existed.’

‘I’m too proud to ask for help,’ she replied. ‘I think it’s hypocritical if I go to Him when I’m all bleak, only to forget Him when all is well.’

‘You won’t forget Him,’ I said, ‘How do you forget the One who was there when no one else was?’

I didn’t. He’s all I have.

*

Humanity lies bleeding at my doorstep. I want to help, I want to reach out and give them hope, love, riches… anything to ease the pain but I look at each and every one of these people I love and I realize, I can’t.

I don’t have the power to make them dream again.

*

My dear friend

I wish I could wrap you up in my arms and love you till the pain eased.

If I could…

I’d take the tears you cry and bottle them because they are precious.
I’d take the colours of the rainbow and knit them into your soul.
I’d take the wind and tie them to your spirit so you could fly.
I’d take the rain to wash away the darkness in your being.
I’d take your hand and just be there whenever, wherever.

If I could… but I can’t. So instead, I’ll write you new dreams, re-write the stories of the life you know and trade it in for the life you want to have. I’ll carefully seal these in an envelope and place it in the hands of the Dream Maker. Then as you lay your head on your pillow and finally fall asleep, tired from the fight in your mind, may you meet the Dream Maker.

And one day, you’ll smile again.

I love you dear friend.

a|pathetic society

I won’t look too hard into your world if you just leave mine alone. I will ignore your rags, your empty gaze and your bags, if you ignore me as I walk by. Let’s cooperate and this world will continue to turn on its unbalanced axis as we chase our meaningless desires. Meaningless, not because we’re devoid of dreams, but because they won’t make sense to each other. For you, because you just want to survive. For me, because I just want my towers.

Apathy.

I walked by her every morning as I headed to the train station. She was probably in her mid-forties, the sign ‘money for food’ at her feet, written on a piece of cardboard. Just one of the many faceless homeless that littered the sidewalk but she caught my attention. It was her gaze. She never once looked up, as though ashamed that she needed to sit there, begging for survival, while I never once stopped to hand her some loose change, ashamed that I didn’t help.

A pathetic reaction from my apathetic world.

‘Don’t give,’ a friend whispered to me as we walked by an Asian woman at the intersection. The lady had gloves on her hand and was asking everyone for coins.

‘But… why?’ I asked, hurrying after her in the winter cold.

‘I’ve heard stories about those people,’ she answered. ‘It may be a ploy. You stop to help and they stick a needle into you. I mean, why is she wearing gloves?’

Why indeed. I had no idea. She certainly didn’t look like a person in want. Her gaze, unlike the other woman, was focused and determined.

‘If she’s a con artist of some sort, then she’s ruining it for the real homeless who need help,’ I said.

‘Well, they’re everywhere. What can we do to help? What if they take our money to buy another fix?’ my companion answered. ‘We’d then be harming them, not helping.’

When did we become a society that feared so much?

*

‘Take a seat luv,’ he shouted, giving me a toothless grin.

‘Umm… sure.’ I settled myself precariously beside him. I have to admit, I was a little intimidated. He reeked of oil and dirt, his shoes worn out and his clothes a vague blend of browns and dirty blues. I couldn’t tell when a tattered coat ended and his many scarves began.

‘Where are you getting off?’ he asked. Warnings about never disclosing your destination came to me but I thought, what the heck, the train was crowded.

‘I’m getting off at Central,’ I answered.

‘Well then, you sit inside, I’ll move out because I’m getting off earlier,’ he answered, standing up immediately.

‘Oh no… that’s alright…’ I began to answer. I didn’t want to be enclosed in a tight space with him blocking my only exit but he’d already stood up. Again, I meekly got up and moved.

‘So, tell me, why are you here?’ He asked, leaning in close.

I glanced at my companion but she was on the phone.

‘I’m here for a conference,’ I started.

‘That’s good, that’s good. Learning eh? That’s wise yeah? Keep them wheels turning in the mind. So this is a church?’ he asked.

‘Yeah,’ I replied.

‘Me, I don’t believe in God, and I’ll tell you why.’ He began expounding on scientific discoveries and his many reasons why God didn’t exist. ‘I mean, you look and see all them people in pain and hurting and you tell me, if there’s a God, why ain’t He doing something hey?’

Before I could answer, he stood up.

‘That’s me stop luv. You think about that. You think about God. You tell me, does He really exist?’ and he disappeared.

I looked up at a complete stranger watching us and smiled.

‘You believe in God?’ I asked him.

‘Yeah,’ he replied. ‘I do. But I don’t think that chap wanted to hear that.’

Maybe it’s not hearing. Maybe… it’s about being bold to get close enough to listen to the stories, to reach out and touch a life. These people I met are part of a statistic. But they were more than just numbers. They were lives that were hurting. They were the ignored.

*

‘I was punching in the numbers at the ATM machine
I could see in the reflection, a face staring back at me

I was speeding off the subway, through the stations of the cross
Every eye looking every other way, counting down till the pain will stop

At the moment of surrender, of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers by, and they did not notice me…’

– U2 ‘Moment of Surrender’

I came back from Sydney with more than bags of shopping and notes from workshops. I came back with a firm resolution that I will be the hands and feet of Love. I’d been consumed with work and the many things which I want to do, not realising that living in my little world of aspirations, I’d ignored the groans of humanity – the quiet, unbidden cries of people who need a touch.

I came back knowing that I want to do something.

I came back with a passion to help others live, not merely survive.

I’ve come back ready for change.

two hours

‘If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something.’

– Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise)

I took leave from work today to do several things:

1. Run – which I did, clocking in 6km in 47 minutes. It’s not fast but still, an improvement from when I first began training, slightly over two weeks ago. I ran in the hot sun and was thrilled that I no longer felt faint from the heat. Now I just need a miracle to finish 10km before I leave for Australia, because once I’m back, it’s a mere two weeks till the race. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? Right?

2. Spend time with the little ones – I took them everywhere I went today. They were happy. I was exhausted.

3. Visit to the Amazonian.

Since she gave birth three months ago, I hadn’t spent time with her at all, nor visited her family (me being the fantastic friend I am). I knew I had to do it today, even though she is a good 45min drive away from where I live. I prepared lunch, a fruit salad and purchased some ice-cream, then bundled the little ones into the car and off we went.

The first thing I noted was that my house-proud friend’s living quarters was in disarray. The second thing was that she looked tired.

‘Do you get any rest at all?’ I asked her.

‘No, not really. Once the baby sleeps, I’m doing all I can to take care of my siblings or washing up. And honestly, it’s been hard. That day you texted me to say you wanted to come over was the day I felt like giving up.’

Due to a lack of time, the toilets have not been washed for several weeks, the family eats takeaway every night and my dear friend hasn’t had a break from it all, not one second. I wanted to reach in to her world and find a way to ease the burdens on her shoulders.

Instead, I made her sit down while I prepared lunch and got everyone seated at the table. We ate, chatted and ate some more. I washed her dishes and resolved in my heart to do something about the house at my next visit. I also asked if she minded if I prepared some food for the family.

‘I can pass you several days’ worth on Sunday,’ I said.

‘That would be great. Thank you so much,’ she sighed. ‘It will be so nice to eat home-cooked food!’

We talked about baby care, sibling rivalry and tried to catch up with each other’s journeys but time was too short. Before we knew it, two hours had passed and I needed to leave for my next appointment.

In the cab, my phone beeped.

‘I just saw the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream you bought for me! It’s Chubby Hubby, my favourite! Thanks dear, I feel so loved.’

It takes so little to show love. I got to do this more often.

*

‘Do you still want to do this?’ Busy Bee sat forward and asked me straight. I was quiet for a while. It was a question that I’d been asking myself the past few days. There are many good reasons to relinquish my responsibilities with the team of singers under my care and yet, something holds me back from giving up.

‘I’ve thought about that,’ I answered, ‘Because over these past few weeks, with the break I’ve been enjoying, I’ve felt as though I finally have a life again. And it’s grown harder to connect with the singers as I’m no longer on the inside of everything. I’m now an outsider to the team. It’s easy to walk away.’

She nodded. That had always been her struggle and it comforted me to see her identifying with my situation.

‘But you know, I want to continue doing this. Largely in part because… see, you were the first person to really work through my weaknesses – breaking me, teaching me, moulding me – and dear, I don’t want to stop working with you. I want to do this because I want to continue learning from you.’

She teared a little.

‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘Sometimes, it feels very lonely to be where I am and I feel as though I’m facing this huge responsibility all on my own, that no one understands. To have you say that you want to continue… well, thank you.’

We smiled at each other. Partners.

We weren’t always this comfortable with each other.

When we first began working together, it was hellish. A tremendous over-achiever, she intimidated me with her relentless pursuit of truth in relationships. She was always unwilling to walk away when I dodged her questions and sought to know why: why did you say that, why did you do things that way, why do you react to things in this manner… and because of this, she inadvertently made me face up to the one thing I feared: failure.

As a person who dreads confrontation, I hated waking up in the morning, knowing I’d receive a call or a text from her that would again, expose a lapse in my thinking or an unconscious cover-up of a mistake that I’d made.

When I finally came to the end of my self-made strength and told her that I couldn’t go on, she surprised me with her warmth. She began teaching me, little by little, coaching my thinking processes and training me to think for others, to keep seeing the big picture. It was then I realised that all she wanted was my vulnerability. She wanted me to be honest about things, because she was a nurturer at heart and could only help me when I stopped hiding my frailty.

A huge success out in the working world, her business reaped in a profit of more than a million dollars last year. While expanding her business, she pursued a degree (night classes) and continued to get her certification as a vocal teacher. She also teaches piano, conducts external workshops for some schools and somehow works in the time to care for her family.

And people like me.

Our meeting lasted only two hours but we were both extremely happy at the end of it all.

*

Two hours.

Two meetings.

Three individuals who feel less alone in a vast, wide world.

look at love

‘Hello,’ she said.

‘Go away, I’m not listening to you,’ I murmured, turning away to read an email on my laptop.

‘Did you see how busy and fulfilled she is? Isn’t she doing exactly what you want to do? Look, look at her! She’s being trained to do great things. People will recognize her as being brilliant! Now… what about you? What are you doing?’ The unwelcome visitor continued, ignoring my snub.

I looked at the email I was writing. It was a style template schedule for the next few weeks’ performances. I looked at my to-do list and it was filled with coordination work. Administration, administration, administration…

‘See? You’re left out of the loop. No one will recognize the work you’re doing! It’s all background work for others to shine. Who cares? You thought you were in a place of self-actualization but what’s happening? You’re being left behind while others get to do the creative things you like.’

I slumped back in my seat. It was only the morning and already I was losing the battle to be happy.

‘Just go away,’ I gritted my teeth.

‘Your boss is going with you to the shoot later, isn’t she? Now why would she need to do that? And if she’s there, why do you need to go too? Superfluous addition, aren’t you?’ She mocked, doodling on my organizer.

‘I think I still have responsibilities there… I can’t just say I won’t go.’ I answered.

‘Can’t run away, eh? Poor, sad thing. When will you find your place in this world?’ She said.

At that point, I couldn’t take it anymore. I stood up and walked away, I needed a breather. I headed to the toilet and locked myself in a cubicle. Alone, I sat there for a long while and listened…

I heard a group of ladies walk in, talking. I head a toilet flush. I heard the jangle of someone’s bracelets. I heard them leave. And then, I heard the Dream Maker.

‘Hey you, still in there?’

‘Yeah…’ I knew I just needed a hug from Him but I wanted to be alone.

‘Come on out,’ He said.

I sighed, stood up and reluctantly unlocked the door. There was no one there.

‘Great, just great,’ I grumbled as I walked back to my table… and found notes of love left all over my day, just for me.

There was the bar of chocolates from Jap Girl, and some ice-cream from the Boss.

There was the chance to climb to the topmost floor of a building under construction.

There was the beautiful, orange sunset I saw while I was up there.

There was the message a friend sent to me, saying ‘You’re a beautifully constructed piece of work. What you’ve done with your hands has touched so many…’

There was the wonderful conversation with Paddington, a friend I haven’t talked to in weeks.

There was the free ride home.

And when I walked into my room… there was Him.

‘Don’t listen to the negative talk. Don’t look at your circumstances and what you lack. Don’t look at your unfulfilled dreams.’ He said, holding out His arms to me. ‘Look at Me.’

And when I did, everything faded into the background.

I was looking at love.

*

‘I don’t have to fear anything because Your love makes it worth it all. I want to know it more, I want to feel it more, I want to see it more. Do I dare look into the eyes of love tonight, leaving everything else behind?

I will look straight into the eyes of love and say, come burn in me.’

– Kim Walker

how can we be strong?

‘Can I come with you?’ she asked.

I stifled a sigh. Going out to run was a very personal time for me and if she came along, I knew I’d be held back. She would want to talk, try to keep up… in other words, I wouldn’t be able to do things selfishly and at that point in time, I wanted to be self-centred.

‘Why do you want to come?’ I asked. ‘You know it’s hot out there and I’m usually silent when I run.’

‘I just want to be with you,’ she answered.

My heart melted. How many more years will I have with her before she would rather be with her friends? What good is ‘me’ time when ‘we’ time is limited? I have the rest of my lifetime to do things solo, but with her… it was good enough reason to share.

We laced up, stretched and hit the track. Amazingly, she kept up with me for a good distance before giving up and heading to the playground to wait for me.

‘You did great today,’ I said on our way back.

She smiled and held my hand tighter. ‘I like being with you.’

We shared a sweaty hug as the dark clouds rolled in…

*

After writing about the Father last night, I started thinking about my own little ones and how I can best equip them for a world that is grimy, gritty and harsh. How can I teach them to see the rainbows through the rains? Will they give up? Will they get sucked in? Will I always be there to hold their hand? And even if I was, would they turn to me and would I be able to help?

I put aside my books, laptop and work, took them for a short walk before dinner and raced with them to the mall. On our way back, I walked behind them and felt so small.

‘Will you hold their hand and fill in the gaps where my love falls short?’ I asked the Dream Maker.

‘I will, as I did for you. You turned out okay, didn’t you?’ He said while I nodded.

‘They’re yours then,’ I said, ‘And umm… thanks, for being the Father I needed.’

‘Always,’ He answered with a wink.

*

To See a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

– William Blake

When He holds my hand, I know I have infinite possibilities within reach. It is the strength I need to take my next breath, the joy to break my face into a smile, the anchor in my turbulent emotions.

He was there when I had nothing. He gave me hope.

He was there when I was broken and used. He gave me beauty.

He was there when I was alone. He gave me love.

He was there when I finally laughed again.

And He held my hand tighter with all that He had.

*

‘How do you do it?’ I asked the Amazonian. She copes with her newborn child, takes care of her 9 year old half-sister and 13 year old half-brother. She coaches them in their studies, cooks, cleans, does part-time work… the list is endless.

‘I get exhausted just hearing about all that you have to handle and still you laugh and have lost none of your wacky humour,’ I continued.

‘There are challenges but you know what? As long as I know my husband is there beside me, backing me up 100% of the way, I can handle anything,’ she answered.

We all need that Someone in our lives.

Who’s yours?

such a perfect day…

I had a day to myself and for once, I didn’t choke it with plans.

‘Is it normal to feel this lazy?’ I asked the Mother.

‘Lazy?! We just worked nearly 14 hours yesterday. I think it’s normal to feel exhausted,’ she sniffled in reply. The flu bug had just bitten her.

Her words eased the guilt.

I left the house for a quick errand and thereafter, decided to walk from the Botanical Gardens all the way into town. It was a long walk but I donned my shades, plugged in to Kim Walker/Jesus Culture and began, what I would call, my perfect day.

I watched people, browsed many racks of clothing on sale and walked even more, cocooned in my world of abandonment in worship. It was sheer freedom. No one approached me, no one bothered with me (save a few curious glances at the girl who bopped her head to music they couldn’t hear) and smiled when a song hit a raw, emotional note in me.

As I stepped in to Topshop (and got ready to actually buy something), a song that I’d already heard many times over suddenly rang out clear in my ears. As I think back to that moment now, I can still see each frame with crystal clarity.

A brightly lit place with pounding music…
I am watching the stylish ladies huddled around the clothes…
Do they feel self-conscious? I wonder…
I remember my battle against insecurity every time I’m in a crowd…
I recall using clothes to define me…
I feel again the emotions when I wear something wonderful…
I browse the clothes too, searching for that feeling…
I hold a yellow top…
I hear the song…
I stand still amidst the babble of humanity that blurs in movement all around…
I don’t move, transfixed.

Life hit the pause button and realized why it didn’t matter anymore if my personal style wasn’t up-to-date. These things didn’t make me beautiful. I stood there with that piece of cloth in my hands for the longest time, staring off into space with a quiet smile…

Words can never say the way He says my name. He calls me lovely.

Lovely! I looked all around at the people rushing for new clothes, new looks, new images… did they feel that loveliness too?

No one ever sees the way He looks at me. He sees me holy.

Right there in Topshop, no one was watching me. To them, I was insignificant. But not Him…

Words can never hold this love that burns my soul. Heaven holds me.

I felt my insides explode with warmth as my surroundings melted away and I found myself encircled in His arms…

You would not believe the way He touches me. He burns right through me.

I began to feel the stirrings of a new desire, a longing to get away from the noise, the busyness…

And I could not forget every word He said. He always knew me.

I can’t forget. He never lets me. Even when I try to better myself with new clothings, new habits, new ideals, new rules for living… the truth is, it doesn’t matter. He already knew me at my worst and continues to love me with His best.

Almost apologetically, I put the item back onto the racks and walked out, hugged by a Man who saw me so beautiful. The rest of the day passed in an exquisite blur. I was high. But made one final stop at Borders to grab some magazines before heading home.

*

It was exactly what I needed today. A hug.

The past weekend was one filled with a certain despair. Dark thoughts ran through my head when I least expected and I know it may sound weird – as I’m always surrounded by people – but I’d been feeling very weighted down by an inexplicable sense of loneliness.

With just one song, everything changed.

I tasted again, the sweetness of acceptance.

Can it be real for others, what was made real for me today? I feel as though I’m bursting with the call: Come hear the Dream Maker’s serenade! He makes it all worthwhile. He colours in the greys with His love saturated touch. He longs to hold us tight…

And suddenly, I want to tell a bewildered generation that He dances and sings over them with abandon… as He does for me.

Can you see it?

Can you hear it?

Can you feel it?

It’s His love… and He’s calling out for you…

[Words and music by Jesus Culture/Kim Walker]

grandfather

I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me but no, there they were – five strands of grey hair, carefully etched, like pencil-drawn highlights on an ebony landscape. I carefully searched his face for more signs of aging and sighed in relief; there was nothing else new.

Then he got up from the chair and my heart ached. Very slowly, he eased himself away from the table and began limping away, his hunch just that tiniest bit more pronounced.

‘Please don’t go…’ my heart pleaded, but it was precisely why we were in that meeting today.

We were discussing how we each could rise up to the place where collectively, as a team, we would be able to stand on our own feet, before the year was over. He was being transferred to another branch of the company – for greater responsibilities and his greatest wish was that the team would be able to unite in one heartbeat.

‘I don’t want him to go,’ I whispered to my neighbour.

‘None of us do,’ she replied. ‘Who would defend us, once he’s gone?’

‘That is precisely why he’s toughening us up, getting us to make our own decisions… he knows that once he’s transferred, we need to be strong enough to fight our own battles,’ someone else added.

I sighed.

The grey hairs on his head – I’d never seen them before and today, catching them glint in the light of the setting sun, I realized that time was moving on. And so must I.

*

When I first came to church, I was a beaten, broken girl. Fresh from a tumultuous relationship, still drinking, smoking and clubbing heavily, church was the last place I wanted to be.

I actually grew up in a Christian environment. As a child, I remember walking in the gardens of my old church, waiting for my mother. I recall plucking the flowers in the dark of night, brushing off insects that crawled up my leg, playing with pebbles and hearing the strains of singing waft on the cool air around me.

I accepted Christ when I was four and God was a real friend to me. He was always there – in the night garden – playing with me while the adults worshiped Him.

As I grew older, I felt the weight and burden of being a good person deaden my feet and I stopped seeing God as my night companion. Filtered through the adults’ demand on me needing to live a life of purity, I got angry. It grew worse, year after year. In rebellion, I began to walk down paths – any path – as long as it took me far away from that intimate night garden.

Finally, at 16, I turned to God and yelled at Him. ‘Leave me alone! Let me go to hell, I don’t care. Just leave me alone because I hate this. I hate the hypocrisy of Christians, I hate church and their constant masquerade parties. I don’t care if I die. Just go.’

I stopped going to church after that.

But years later, I found myself walking in to a different church one Sunday morning. Perhaps it was the hunger in me for a God, perhaps it was the desperation of a girl who’d lost everything and knew that there is only one truth. I wasn’t too sure. All I knew was that I sat defiantly on my chair while my insides coiled and cowered in fear of rejection.

When the worship began… the tears started flowing. I have no recollection of what was sung or preached. All I knew was that I’d found home.

The lead musician on the stage that day? It was him – the man I lovingly call Grandfather. He was (and still is) a breath of fresh air in church. When others daren’t speak the truth, he does with no qualms. When others feared being the ‘bad guy’ to make the changes that were needed, he boldly walked right into the fight. When others recoiled from humanity’s ugliness, he stepped forward to embrace the outcasts.

He saw me through the years of change, noted the little sacrifices I made (when no one else did) and tried his best to give something to me, every time he met me. He disciplined me, scolded me, loved me and built me up. Through every mistake I’d ever made, his one constant refrain was, ‘I never doubted your heart…’

Oh he knew I loved God and loved being in church, but he went one step deeper than any other leader had ever done, he understood the frailty of my weaknesses and he judged me no less for that. He never stopped believing in me.

These days, I rarely see him around anymore (as he’s already started on his new portfolio) but he still impacts me greatly. I’ll never stop letting him have that special place to speak into my life. Why? Because… I want to be like him.

‘Why must things be so hard? Why do we need to go through these challenges?’ Softspeaker once asked her husband.

‘Maybe God’s training you, training the team,’ her husband replied.

‘Training us to do what?’ she whined.

‘To be like your leader – a man fearless of other men’s opinions,’ he replied.

Fearless. I like that.

And in honour of the man who walked out the room today, I will stand tall.

I will fly.

Even if it hurts to say goodbye.