Reflecting on Rwanda

*This brief reflection is a small glimpse into the 8 day field study course I engaged in this past January with the CONTACT (Conflict Transformation Across Cultures) program and SIT Graduate Institute in Rwanda. The purpose of the course was to study a society rebuilding itself post-conflict. Rwanda taught me so much…and left me more confused than ever. This post is for those of you asking to hear about my experience. Some of this may not make sense so please ask questions and I will try to answer them. Also, I’d love a phone call or face to face conversation about it all. Also, it goes without saying that I am NOT an expert on peacebuilding or Rwanda by any means; these are simply my initial thoughts and reactions. Thank you, friends. -Megan*

When I reflect on my time in Rwanda, I find myself breaking the my learnings into two categories: the work of the people and the work of the government. On one hand, I see incredible individuals and organizations working on reconciliation, peace education, eradicating gender based violence, telling stories of forgiveness, and so on and it gives me so much hope for this country and its people. But then I hear about the government’s lack of tolerance toward opposition, whether it’s an opposing political party or a critique of the government’s narrative of the genocide, and its restrictions on society, organizations, and individuals and I wonder if it’s all a façade. It feels like the peace that exists is so fragile, just dangling in the balance. I see truth in the words of Pastor Antoine, who leads a multi-ethnic congregation: “We have succeeded in creating peaceful cohabitation but we are still in the process of creating lasting reconciliation.”

Peacebuilding is a complex, active process that involves commitment and input from people at all levels of society. In a country like Rwanda, where there are so many restrictions enforced by the government, peacebuilding can lose its robustness and sincerity when mandated by the government; particularly when those mandates include pardons for confession of crime. At the same time, while communities are engaging actively in peacebuilding, reconciliation, and forgiveness, the government’s lack of support and/or the government’s mandated confessions can impede the effectiveness of these community programs. As someone who intends to focus my peacebuilding work at the community level, this trip has caused me to consider, yet again, how robust community programs can be without the support of the government. I certainly believe these programs can, should, and do exist whether the government supports them or not but is their effectiveness impeded by the government?

I am currently in the process of trying to hold multiple truths at once. When I find myself wrestling with binary conclusions, for example is Kagame good or bad?, I take a step back and remind myself that he has done good things and bad things and many things in between. I also remind myself that my beliefs and values come from my Western, White, American upbringing and, while I know that I do not fully understand the Rwandan culture and context, I recognize that my innate values and biases still creep into my thoughts.

As Honorable John of Parliament strongly reminded us: “Whatever you [study], make sure you put it in the cultural context of where you are studying,” On the field study, I kept asking myself, Do I truly believe that Rwandans know what is best for Rwandans or am I engaging with this process in a way that assumes Rwandans are not capable of deciding for themselves due to their history? Am I asking questions as a critically thinking student or out of a lack of trust in the storyteller and their capacities? In essence, are my actions living up to what I say I value? I’m still asking these questions.

Finally, I reflect on the wounds that are still healing in Rwanda. As a Parliamentarian lamented, “Rwandans are wounded people. We are not yet free of the wounds.” And Pastor Antoine reminded us that, “Repetitive wounding makes it hard to forgive and forget.” All Rwandans were affected by the genocide which means everyone carries some kind of trauma. How do you heal a traumatized nation, especially when the wound is still so fresh? Individual acts of apology and forgiveness are a start but is everyone capable of this? As we asked in our group discussions, does forgiving atrocities of this magnitude require divine intervention and does it require an apology from the perpetrator? The old man whose house I ate lunch at in Save implored, “How can I forgive unless the perpetrator asks me to forgive them?” My immediate thought was, Why do you need to be asked to forgive? And then I come back to this: many truths can exist at once. For this man, this is one of his truths at this time in his life. For me, I am still discovering what I believe to be my truths. Murakose cyane, Rwanda. Thank you very much, Rwanda, for the chance to learn a bit more of your truths.

Osman Benk Sankoh 4

Photo credit: Osman Benk Sankoh; Photo of our group of students hearing genocide stories of healing and reconciliation from a community in southern Rwanda


“A Holy Rest” (Sermon from July 19, 2015)


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I was so honored when Pastor Lorie asked me if I’d like to preach again before I move. For those of you who don’t know, I am moving, today actually, to pursue a master’s degree in Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation in Vermont. So when Lorie asked me to preach, I excitedly agreed. I began looking at the lectionary texts for this Sunday and praying over what the spirit might be putting on my heart to speak about. Often, when I agree to preach or give a talk, I have an idea already taking shape in my head and often it’s about peacebuilding or activism or righteous indignation surrounding some current oppressive system. But this time, I did not have anything already stirring.

And then two weeks ago I went backpacking with some friends from WPMF. High on the ridge of a mountain, where the cloud coverage laid heavy upon us and the rocks slippery below us, I fell and hit my head. Panic and tears ensued as I repeatedly clutched the side of my head, asking, “Am I bleeding? Am I bleeding?” Thankfully I was not and my friends helped me out of my backpack and onto my bottom and gave me water as I rested. I felt nauseous and in pain but was mostly in shock at what had just happened and incredibly grateful that the fall had not been worse. We continued hiking that day and the next. The following day I discovered I had suffered a concussion.

The remedy? Rest, and lots of it. And not just the “take it easy,” “don’t exert too much energy” rest but the “lay prostrate in a dark room, avoid computers, texting, tv, reading, concentrating, stimulation” rest. And this lasted nearly all week last week– the week I was to be writing my sermon and finishing up at my job and packing to move and planning my last minute wedding in August. But all I was supposed to do, and, indeed, all I really could do, was rest.

And it came to me that that was what the spirit wanted me to speak about today: resting– finding, creating, and cultivating those moments of holy rest in our lives. The work we do as the body of Christ, especially these two congregations of Calvary UMC and WPMF, is such necessary, beautiful, powerful work, that it is imperative that our bodies and spirits receive the nourishment they need to continue living out the Spirit’s welcome, Jesus’ call to social justice and peace, and God’s kindom here on earth.

In her book, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging our Lives for Spiritual Formation, Ruth Haley Barton explores the need for sabbath, a holy rest, that is threefold: resting the body, replenishing the spirit, and restoring the soul.

Now my rest these past weeks have been mostly about resting the body, giving my brain a break from working so hard, allowing my exhausted body to heal. And I often find that in my life I do not take these physical rests unless mandated by a doctor or unless I physically cannot get out of bed or make my body do what it needs to do or unless I feel like I have some good reason or excuse– “I worked really hard this week,: “I’ve been sick,” “I have a concussion.”

Somehow it seems that explaining to others why I feel the need to rest is necessary for legitimizing it. And the same goes for spiritual, mental, and emotional rest. I feel like I need to reason it to others, as if it is not something that we all deeply need in our lives. As if rest, restoration, replenishment is not something that each of our bodies, minds, and spirits require in order for us to be nurtured, healthy, and vibrant.

I reread several Scripture passages about rest and renewal this week, some from this Sunday’s lectionary texts. I had read and heard all these passages before but they came to me fresh and new as I was healing from my concussion. I read one after the other, in different translations and versions, each speaking to me in different ways and I’d like to share them with you this morning.

I invite you to listen intently, closing your eyes if you wish or listening in whatever way you receive best, as I read both passages three times, each in a slightly different version, starting with Psalm 23:1-4:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

God makes me lie down in green pastures,

God leads me beside quiet waters,

God refreshes my soul.

The Lord guides me along the right paths

for God’s name’s sake.

Even though I walk

through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me. (NIV)

YHWH you are my shepherd–

I want nothing more.

You let me lie down in green meadows;

you lead me beside restful waters:

you refresh my soul.

You guide me to lush pastures

for the sake of your Name.

Even if I’m surrounded by the shadows of Death,

I fear no danger, for you are with me.

Your rod and your staff–

they give me courage. (Inclusive Bible)

God, my shepherd!

I don’t need a thing.

You have bedded me down in lush meadows,

you find me quiet pools to drink from.

True to your word,

you let me catch my breath

and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through Death Valley,

I’m not afraid

when you walk at my side.

Your trusty shepherd’s crook

makes me feel secure. (The Message)

And, now, Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

“Come to me, all you who labor and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Here you will find rest for your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

“You’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” How many of us long for that in our daily lives, in the midst of our routines and commitments and strivings? How often do we prioritize rest the body, replenishing the spirit, and restoring the soul? We so often ask, how can we rest when there is work to be done? Who will pick up the slack where we left off? If I don’t do this, speak out, act, who will? How can we be silent in the midst of all that is going on?

I do not equate a holy rest with silence or slacking off but rather as an important part of soul tending. The work that we are called to do as the body of Christ, to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, care for the sick, visit the prisoner, welcome the stranger, extend the hand of friendship, requires moments of holy respite to renew ourselves. If we are burned out and weary we cannot possibly offer the hope, joy, and love the world deeply needs when our own souls are parched for lack of nourishment.

In Donald Clymer and Sharon Clymer Landis’s book, The Spacious Heart: Room for Spiritual Awakening, the following story is told:

“In July 2009, the Mennonite World Conference (MWC) was held in Asuncion, Paraguay. Among those in attendance was an indigenous Guarani man who had traveled from his remote village in Chaco to Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, for the first time in his life. He came by bus, a nearly four-hour ride from his isolated village. Upon arrival, he was found sitting by himself in a corner. After nearly an hour had passed, a group of curious church leaders, wondering why this normally sociable man was so quiet, approached him to ask him if he needed anything. ‘No, I don’t, thank you,’ he said. ‘It’s just that the ride from my village to Asuncion was so fast and and furious that I am sitting here waiting for my soul to catch up with the rest of me.’”

I love that illustration: “Waiting for my soul to catch up with the rest of me.” As a person who is led by passion and emotion, most of the things I fill my time with are things that I care deeply about and things that better my community, my church, my world. And that is great. But it also means that as my schedule fills up and I make less time for rest and renewal, my soul stops being the guiding force of my work and, instead, the work carries on with my weary soul lagging behind, ragged and burnt out.

Several nights ago I was talking with my fiance about the the things I need to do before I move and I was telling him how my sermon just wasn’t quite coming together. “Oh Megan,” he said, “Most people would not have picked the Sunday they were moving to preach.” And he’s right. Sometimes my fervor and passion leads me to make decisions that may be a bit ill advised. But praise God she is not done with me yet and continues to teach me and mold me. I actually found that resting all week last week was in fact just what I needed most and all the things I was worried about were still able to get done, with the help of my wonderful family and church family.

I want to share a large excerpt from an essay by Wayne Muller entitled “Whatever Happened to Sunday” that I found poignant when preparing this sermon:

“In the relentless busyness of modern life, we have lost the rhythm between action and rest. As the founder of a public charity, I visit the offices of wealthy donors, crowded social-service agencies and the small homes of the poorest families. Remarkably, within this mosaic there is a universal refrain: ‘I am so busy.’ I speak with people in business and education, doctors and day-care workers, shopkeepers and social workers, parents and teachers, nurses and lawyers, students and therapists, community activists and cooks. The more our life speeds up, the more we feel weary, overwhelmed and lost. Despite our good hearts and equally good intentions, our life and work rarely feel light, pleasant or healing. Instead, as it all piles endlessly upon itself, the whole experience of being alive begins to melt into one enormous obligation. It becomes the standard greeting everywhere: ‘I am so busy.’ We say this to one another with no small degree of pride, as if our exhaustion were a trophy, our ability to withstand stress a mark of real character. The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others. To be unavailable to our friends and family, to be unable to find time for the sunset (or even to know that the sun has set at all), to whiz through our obligations without time for a single mindful breath — this has become the model of a successful life.

“Because we do not rest, we lose our way. We miss the compass points that show us where to go. We lose the nourishment that gives us succor. We miss the quiet that gives us wisdom. Poisoned by the hypnotic belief that good things come only through tireless effort, we never truly rest. And for want of rest, our lives are in danger.”

Often the biggest reason we do not rest and restore our bodies and souls is because we do not make time or feel like we have time to do so. But there are other reasons. Perhaps we do not rest because we have a compulsion to be perfect. Perhaps we are afraid that if we stop “doing” we will have to start sitting with the difficult thoughts we are trying to keep at bay. Perhaps we feel like we are failing if we admit the need to rest, as if needing rest is a weakness and not part of being human. Perhaps we fear what we may discover about ourselves or our vocation. Perhaps we fear silence. Perhaps we feel there is too much to do and not enough others to pick up where we left off.

Rest is not just ceasing from all activity and stimulation while this may sometimes be what is most needed. But a holy rest can entail participating in activities “that renew you and bring you joy.” It can mean contemplative praying, it can mean taking a mental health or spiritual retreat day to tend to the needs of your soul, it can mean going for a run to clear your mind, sitting in the park, playing with your kids. It can be as simple as taking some time to breathe. Look around you right now. We are worshipping our Creator in the midst of creation! What a beautiful space to rest and listen.

It is in these moments of holy rest and replenishment that we receive nourishment for our souls. It is in these moments that, if we are open and ready to receive, we will sense the spirit speaking to us. And I use the word “moments” because, at times, that is all we can muster. When there are kids to care for, hurts to heal, and responsibilities to tend to, sometimes we can only pause for a moment in the midst of it. But our soul needs these moments deeply.

I’ve been practicing listening to my body and these past few weeks have been an abrupt awakening in that practice. I’m amazed at times by the correlation between stress and trauma in our lives with pain in the body and vice versa. Our souls, minds, and bodies to not act independently from one another– they are all integral parts of the whole that require equal tending and care. A holy rest nourishes all three.

What is preventing you you from taking moments of holy rest? What is keeping you from to listening for what the spirit is speaking into your life? Are you waiting for life to force you into a space of rest? Or, if you have created the time and space for rest, how can you deepen it? How can you live into that rest and renewal more fully?

Listen to Jesus calling you, earnestly seeking you, saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

A Change is Gonna Come


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I’m proud, I am so proud. I nearly burst with joy to tell people that I live in Philly, West Philly. This place, these people, have become more dear to me than I could have ever imagined. This place, these people, feel like HOME. A home I am about to leave.

I don’t want to, God knows I don’t want to leave. But a change has got to come and this what I believe to be the best way to do that in this moment, at this time in my life. But does it ever come with a price!

It took me a while to adjust to Philly when I first moved here in September 2012, fresh from a year of volunteering in NYC. I had longed for Philly’s embrace after a difficult year in the Big Apple but a few months after moving into my studio apartment I felt more lonely than ever.

Enter West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship, the congregation and community that absolutely changed my life. I never thought I would find a church I could call home or a community that would show me what Christ would act like, a place that would teach me what it means to love and be loved.

And love and be loved I did, with such abandon that now, as I picture leaving this place, my heart feels raw with emotion, like it could burst within me. Indeed my tears already have– if this was a piece of paper it would be covered in tear stains, the letters barely legible.

WPMF and the broader West Philly community has given me life, made my heart beat. These people have walked beside me, affirmed my gifts and dreams, counseled me, consoled me, advised me, loved me, held me, laughed with me, questioned me, prodded me, trusted me, sang with me, lifted me up, provided things for me, showed me what true community can be. And I hope I’ve been the same to them.

All of this, and yet I choose to leave? Yes, it is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. In many ways Philly has been so good to me except for one major area: work. Since graduating college I’ve found myself in administrative job after administrative job, most with little to no work to do an a daily basis. For someone who longs for productivity, meaningful work, and fulfillment you have no idea how mentally, emotionally, and physically draining it has been to spend 40 hours a week on a computer just staring at the screen (actually, if you’ve ever read my blog you probably do have an idea since I rant about it often, but I digress), especially when my heart longs to be doing peace, conflict transformation, and facilitation work.

I’ve wanted to go back to school for years now but have let my student loan debt nearly completely dictate my life. In fact, that’s part of the reason I’ve ended up in the jobs I have– I need a certain amount of money to pay off my loans so I take what I can get, often out of desperation. I’ve finally come to a place of loosening the grip these chains of debt have had on my life.

Yes, the debt is still there and I am being responsible about it but I cannot continue waiting until it’s gone to go after my dreams. I need more experience and education and working in dead end administrative jobs will not get me there. Enter grad school. After auditing a course in facilitation at the University of Pennsylvania this past semester, I realized just how much I’d been craving knowledge and education. It felt like the right time to start looking at schools and in many ways it was, except for that it was April and rather late to apply for fall. But apply I did.

One of the schools I was accepted to was the School for International Training in Brattleboro Vermont. SIT’s MA program in Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation was something I’d looked into for several years and finally doors were opening for me to attend, one of which was the professor of the course I audited had gone there and highly recommended the program to me and me to the program.

In a matter of weeks I fought for more financial award money, visited Vermont with my dear selfless mother who suggested the idea of a quick road trip up there on Memorial Day weekend, and discerned the option with nearly every significant person in my life. And all this led me here, to this decision: I am going to Vermont!

As the excitement set in, so did the fear and the guilt and the sense of loss. I realized that, for the first time in my life, I was choosing to leave something before its natural ending. High school, college, and my year volunteering all had an expiration date, a natural ending at which most people in those communities dispersed and moved on. In Philly, I am choosing to leave something on my own, no end date, and there is no dispersing of community. My people will stay.

Change is never easy. As Heraclitus wrote, “Change is the only constant in life.” Some change is small, some, like this, is large but all change is necessary for growth. I’ve felt myself on the edge of birthing something new in my life for a while now and the time has finally come to bring it into the world. With Philly in my heart and mind and the support of my loving community, Vermont here I come!

But Where Are You Now?


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Worry, worry, worry, worry
Worry just will not seem to leave my mind alone

Oh, worry, worry, worry, worry
Sometimes I swear it feels like this worry is my only friend…”

Yes, Ray Lamontagne says it best in his song “Trouble:” worry just won’t seem to leave my mind alone!

I sometimes wonder if being anxious is part of my nature or if it is something I have taught myself to do and thus have to unlearn.

I feel like I came out of the womb anxious. Infant Megan was probably already worrying about how she was going to eat or breathe or where she would go to the bathroom even before she was born. I’m not kidding.

At times it seems like anxiety is my default state, my equilibrium.

In fact, I’ve somehow gotten to this place where if I’m not anxious about something I feel anxious that there’s something I’m forgetting to be anxious about! Yeah, it’s a problem.

Lately whenever I find worries creeping back into my consciousness I force myself to stop and answer this question:

But where are you now?

Yes, you may have deadlines to meet and bills to pay and things to plan but where are you now? What does this moment in time look like? What does this breath, this one right here, feel like? Is the wind on your face? Who is sitting beside you on the trolley? What does the pen feel like as you write?

Last night on the train ride back to Philly I found my mind filling up with worry after worry– the final facilitation due for class, the Maundy Thursday service I’m planning, the animals I am caring for this week, the groceries I have to buy and meals I have to make, the trolley I need to catch when the train gets in, and the list went on until I forced my mind to stop.


But where are you now?

I am on a train.

What do you see?

I see the trees rushing by, the sun setting in the distance, fields shaking off the slumber of winter, space.

What do you feel (besides worry of course!)?

I feel rejuvenated and reflective from a wonderful weekend filled with family and love. I feel relaxed because I don’t have to think about how this train is getting back to Philly, only that my body is here, in this seat, enjoying the last few precious hours of the weekend.

This morning on my walk to work I started thinking ahead to what I would do when I got to work, where I would take my break, what I would get at the grocery store, when I would take the dog I’m watching for a walk– I nearly had my whole day mapped out before I forced myself back into the present moment.

But where are you now, Megan?

And, truth be told, I think I’ve asked myself that another few times since then.

The term “being present” has become something of a trendy term like “artisanal” or “gluten free” or “certified organic” but, like all these others, it is a phrase rooted in deep meaning and importance.

Being present, feet fully planted in this current moment, mind and senses alert to all surroundings– this, my friends, is my desired equilibrium, the default state I long to find myself in. The sense of wonder and calm I experience in those moments spurs me on toward a full, vibrant life more than any moment of worry ever will.

That’s the funny thing about anxiety, we think that by rolling around all the things we have to do over and over in our minds we will somehow solve all our problems and make meaning out of our lives. But, in reality, all anxiety does is create more chaos.

The meaning comes from clearing our minds of the clutter, stopping in our tracks, breathing deep into our lungs, and asking, but where am I now?


For My Love


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I have a vision sometimes

of you and me

running barefoot through a forest.

The moss covered ground

cooling and hushing our every step.

Somewhere in the canopy overhead

birds are singing.

And everything

is green

is lush

is dripping with light.

I reach back for your hand

clasp it securely,

draw it to my cheek,

draw you to my chest,

eyes closed.

A tear escapes and you ask

me why I’m crying.

And I cannot find the words

to tell you

or myself.

But somewhere beyond our vision

a river rushes by

and drowns out

the sound

of our fears.




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Your body – YOURS –

don’t you know she’s beautiful?

Your curves,

your lines,

your marks,

are a map.

Each scar and contour telling a story,

your story,

of how you grew.

You body is a tree,

strong and sacred and ever changing.

Don’t you know, tree woman, that your body is a temple?

And I don’t mean that in a shame-inducing way.

I mean that your legs are pillars,

Your arms, courtyards,

your hair a tapestry,

your eyes, fountains,

your smile, the sun.

Don’t you know your body is in tune with the tides and the moon?

You are the tides and the moon,

the sway of your hips,

the light in your soul.

Moon woman, tide woman, temple woman,

don’t you know your body is beautiful?

Don’t you know your body creates,

gives life, if you want it to,

is alive?

You are a unique piece of art,

a treasure,

a masterpiece,

a rarity,

a museum to which only you grant admission.

Your body, she is YOURS,

and never let anyone tell you otherwise.

Unique woman, life-giving woman, masterpiece woman,

don’t you know your body is beautiful?

Don’t you know you are the only make of your model?

Your complexity is astounding.

But your body is not you,

your soul is you

and your body, your home.

She is the protector

of the sacred,

precious life within,

the source of her beauty.

Your body is home, light, life.

Embrace her.

Cradle her.

Be kind to her.

She is sun, moon, forest, temple, tide, art, creativity exemplified.

She is beautiful.

She is alive.

She is



It Comes and Goes in Spells


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Contrary to what someone who has never dealt with depression might think, a person who suffers from depression isn’t depressed all the time; depression comes and goes in spells. Sometimes a depressive spell can last for a day or two but sometimes it lasts for weeks at a time. Right now I’m scared I’m in the midst of the latter.

Depression manifests itself in different ways from person to person and is triggered by different things. Sometimes a depressed person can’t even put their finger on what triggered their most recent spell. It just happens.

I think I can put my finger on where mine started, though. I wrote recently about having a really difficult time leaving a long weekend with Chris behind. The Monday I was to head back to Philly I sobbed– I sobbed while he napped, I sobbed in the car, I sobbed myself to sleep. And I’ve been in a funk ever since.

It’s not that I am constantly mourning that one moment all this time but that one emotional, difficult experience triggered something in my brain that has caused a depressive spell.

For the last week and a half I’ve been weak and tired. I’m often tired and exhausted but a depressive tiredness and exhaustion is on a different level. Getting out of bed, writing, going to work, dealing with difficult people, grocery shopping, even doing the dishes can feel like nearly insurmountable tasks. My apartment is a mess right now and, try as I might, I am struggling so hard to clean it.

Work has been equally challenging. It doesn’t help that I hate my job and I have a difficult relationship with my boss. But when I’m depressed even the work itself, even the simplest of tasks, seem so hard to accomplish. My brain is in a near constant fog.

And tears come almost daily. Or hourly. In fact, as I write this, I am holding back tears and I really can’t say why.

Depression compounds every difficult thing. When I’m not depressed I can deal with stress and responsibilities in a mostly healthy and measured way. But when I’m depressed, everything seems to snowball and I feel myself running on a wheel that steadily increases in speed.

For example, I’ve been sick off and on since early February which already leaves me weak, unmotivated, and tired. Depression amplifies and increases these feelings. And then mixes them with sorrow and hopelessness. These feelings pervade every area of my life from home to work and everything in between and leave me immobile.

Last night I should have cleaned my apartment, should have worked on a big project for the class I’m auditing, should have prepared for worship leading this Sunday, should have cooked for the week, but instead I sat on my couch and binge watched a Netflix show.

The icing on the cake is that I’m a perfectionist and need to always be doing something, accomplishing something. And right now my biggest accomplishment is dragging myself out of bed.

So when will this spell be over? Only God knows. And I hope it’s sooner than later.

Bright Spots



This morning was another one of those times I was experiencing the whiplash of leaving a wonderful weekend with Chris behind and returning to the reality of life in Philadelphia. Tired and full of sadness, I begrudgingly began my walk to work today.

After trudging about five blocks in a melancholy daze, I heard the delightful voice of my dear friend Rebecca calling my name from across the street. Rebecca is one of those people who embodies joy and you can’t help but smile when you are with her. She is strong, bold, and full of courage, even when dealing with difficult times.

We walked together for a few blocks, chatting and catching up on each other’s weekend experiences. Before parting ways we stopped for coffee, which she treated me to, and chatted a little more.

I left our encounter feeling much lighter and happier, still tired but certainly more positive about the week ahead. I’m sure she had no idea what an impact her presence had on me this morning until I told her so.

I was reminded yet again of the power of community and neighborliness. You never know when your presence, your smile, your conversation, your cup of coffee may be in bright spot in someone’s day.

Rainy Days and Wednesdays


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Everyone seems to talk about how long, dreadful, and awful Mondays are and I don’t entirely disagree. I always mourn the close of another weekend and the start of another work week at a job I dislike but nothing seems to get me like Wednesdays.

On Wednesday morning it feels like it should be the halfway point of the work week but there’s still a whole day looming in front of you before you can call the week half over. By Wednesday night it feels like the next day should be Friday but there’s a whole other day looming in front of you before the weekend arrives (have I ever told you I’m the real life Debbie Downer?).

It’s so easy for me to get lost in my mind, to let the wheels of worry or dread spin round and round while I trudge through another day. And then the “if onlys” start: if only I enjoyed my job, if only I made more money, if only the days went by quicker, if only I could travel more, if only I was using my degree, if only, if only, if only.

One of the things I’m trying to adopt as a Lenten practice is recognizing when these thoughts come and turning them in on themselves. When a negative thought comes to the front of my mind, I stop to process why it came and what I’m feeling in that moment. Then I utter a prayer of guidance and gratitude– guidance for positive thinking and gratitude for the things, people, and gifts I’m blessed to have in my life.

It sounds so simple, so cliche, but the best way I’ve found to stop my pessimism dead in its tracks is to remind myself that all hope is not lost, that there are still blessings to be found in even the hardest of times, that beauty is all around me. And sometimes there’s a struggle in letting go of the negative thoughts because pessimism is a very self absorbed activity and, as humans, our nature is to dwell on ourselves.

But gratitude turns our lens outward, away from ourselves and our fears and worries. It reminds us that the world and our very lives are bigger than just us, a shocking revelation I know.

So on this Wednesday morning, as melancholia started to take over, I paused to think of a few things I’m grateful for on this very day, in this very moment: rain boots, a pause in precipitation during my walk to work, early morning exercise class, trees, laughter with co-workers.

I’ve been trying to take the words of poet Mary Oliver to heart:

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

What are you, on this wet and weary Wednesday, paying attention to, astonished by, grateful for? Tell the world about it!


Life, with a Side of Triggers


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As the title suggests, this post needs a trigger warning for those who have experienced sexual trauma. This post also contains explicit content.


This post is about to get real, very real. As I browsed back through my blog post history I realize there is one piece of my life that I have not really touched on since I started this blog in 2011. And now it’s time to talk about it.


For anyone who’s suffered abuse in the past there are triggers that can bring you back to the awful moment(s) of the abuse, make you feel waves of emotions you’ve tried to suppress, take away your breath and ability to think clearly.

The worst thing about triggers is that you don’t know when one will happen or what will cause it. In fact, the trigger itself doesn’t have to be frightening or traumatic to make a person recall a traumatic memory.

Take IHOP, for example. I hate IHOP. I hate hearing about it, seeing an advertisement of it, driving past it. There’s nothing wrong with the place itself, in fact, I used to love its chocolate chip pancakes with lots and lots of whipped cream. But IHOP was where we ate the night he raped me. And now, I hate IHOP.

It was Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007, college night at IHOP. A small group of us sat at a booth, mostly friends of his. We left at 2 am and headed back to his place where a group of us were going to watch a movie. There was no group. There was no movie. There was no going back to life as it was before that night.

A person never fully gets over something like that. Please don’t misunderstand me, there is so much healing, beautiful, releasing healing, that can happen. I’ve witnessed it, I’ve experienced it. But, as other survivors know, the memories still linger below the surface, no matter how many years have passed. And that’s why triggers are so scary.

In May of 2010 I went with a group of mostly female students from my university to Morocco. The country, the language, the landscape were beautiful but I was not prepared for the amount of sexual harassment that I would experience. We walked around in pairs, wore loose clothing, and even tried to cover our hair but nothing dissuaded the young harassers.

Sometimes they would stand in groups and yell and whistle at us. Sometimes they would follow us, whispering in our ears. Sometimes they would grab us. Once, I was walking with my roommate and one of the men who was following us grabbed me by the elbow while whispering obscene things to me.

I lost it. “GET THE FUCK OFF ME!” I yelled, jerking my arm out of his grasp. “Don’t fucking touch me!” I let out an exasperated cry as tears of anger flowed from my eyes. The group of men stopped, astonished. Then they dispersed. That type of harassment is hard for any human being to deal with but, for me, every time someone said something explicit to me it took me back to that night in October 2007. The night I felt like the most worthless piece of shit.

“Shut up, bitch, stop talking,” he had said. “You’re talking too much.” So the words “no” and “please stop” were too much? They were too much?!

I think this is also why I have such a visceral reaction to street harassers. I’d had a violation of my being, my body, and my spirit and the notion that someone would try to violate me again in such a public space infuriates me beyond belief. For a while I even had a hard time when men would smile at me on the street and whenever a man would open his mouth I’d assume he was about to harass me.

I also had, and still have, a hard time with crowds of men, especially on the subway. The side seats leave you facing outward toward the throngs of people standing and when many or all of the people surrounding me are men I get nervous. From where I am seated my face is directly in line with their genitalia and I suddenly am petrified that one of them will grab my head and push it to their crotch.

When a trigger hits you it can be debilitating. You can feel your breath restricting, the room spinning, and you just need to get out and find space to breathe. I watched the movie For Colored Girls in college with a friend of mine who is also a survivor. It was a powerful, intense film with a rape scene that nearly made you vomit. We sat in my car afterward and I held her as she shook, the trauma of that trigger taking over.

I was so grateful to the professor of a film class I took who warned us when films may be difficult for certain people to watch. I approached him once after class and told him I could not see the upcoming film or join the discussion because it would trigger too much trauma for me. And he let me miss it, no questions asked.

If you find yourself in a situation where a trigger may arise there is nothing shameful about removing yourself from it. In fact, it is an act of courage and strength. It’s an act of knowing and loving yourself. Triggers will come and they will go but you can’t live life in fear of them. A life lived in fear is not a life lived at all.

Some of the most resilient, beautiful, bold souls I know are survivors and they’ve experienced pain you can’t imagine and you better believe they experience triggers. But they are strong, so strong, even when they don’t feel like they are. They are strong because they push through, they love anyway, they hope, they cry, they strive, they fight, they don’t give in and they don’t give up.

A friend of mine shared with me recently about her experience with sexual assault and how she didn’t want that to be the defining piece of her life story. And I fully empathize with that. It is a risk we take as survivors to tell people our stories.

I have shared so much with you in my blog that I’m sure there are many words you could use to define me: victim, suicidal, depressed, neurotic, pessimistic, hopeless. But I would hope the words survivor, empathizer, lover, dreamer, bold, brave, and open also come to mind. But if I’m being really honest, I don’t really care what your labels are because I know my worth and the worth of my story. And no label or abuser or trigger can undermine that worth.


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