The Last Time

I wish I knew it was the last time. But that’s the things with last times, often you don’t know. This was the case when we walked through the doors of the church for a funeral.

The pastor’s voice broke several times during it, as he was close with the deceased. Sniffles echoed in the sanctuary, as the eulogy was given and a murmur of laughter rolled through the small crowd gathered when the funny stories were shared. It was heartwarming, despite the pain.

We didn’t go out to lunch with everyone afterwards. I regret that now.

The funeral might as well as been for all of us too.


A man had a rather odd sport of fashioning the Bible into a weapon. I heard whispers of him in a forge, grinding off the sides until the blade was sharp enough to shave hair and long enough to severe an aorta. He wasn’t some Christianized version of Jack the Ripper; he simply used it defensively, not offensively. The take away message was don’t get too close: you’ll probably leave in an ambulance. At least, that’s what all the others did.

I saw first hand the wounds from the biblical knife. I saw the blood seeping through the bandages. I saw the script for hardcore antibiotics to keep infection at bay. I always seem to carry iodine preps in my purse and so I hand them out liberally on the down low. If you say enough words, I’ll show up. Better to prevent an infection than to treat one, I say.

It wasn’t just a few apples with worms. “Fold,” one of the prominent ones said, as if they were at a poker game. They had plenty of chips, but didn’t like the game. No ace to get that fourth card. They cashed out before any blood was shed. Nonetheless, it didn’t change anything.

A duel happened. And then another one. And then I found myself silently cheering on another one who put all their pain in words. I heard that mic drop all the way over here. This could have been a rap battle had it taken place in the back room of a bar in Detroit. There would have been fights outside afterwards.

And then silence.

Silence.

There’s always silence.


With the world in the current state of affairs, I haven’t heard much. I’m not in those circles anymore, but the circle is broken now, more like a wavy line that just sits there.

If I could repair it, I would. I’m a peacemaker by default, so all of this strife is very contrary to my nature. And yet, the wounds are not mine to heal. And confronting my sword-wielding friend? “I wouldn’t waste your breath,” one said slowly as they absentmindedly touched the raised scar over the wound that never seems to heal. “They’ll deny everything.”

How does one more forward? I will be the first to admit the cognitive dissonance that I feel needs to be addressed.

But how?

My thoughts drift back to the funeral, the last time we were all together, comforting each other, united under a common purpose. I long for those days, especially after this past year of absolute madness.

But I can’t claim I didn’t know the score anymore, I’ve seen too much, I’ve heard too many things.

And now I’m caught again, between the past and present.

I’ll evade getting sliced and diced. I know how to dance this dance.

The Battle of Overwhelm

It’s been so long ago, I don’t remember the circumstances, but I do remember how I felt.

And oh, how I feel it again.

My freshman year of college I started my stagehand gig and this particular evening was a bad night. Things went wrong. I remember getting back to my dorm room, still shaken. I couldn’t turn my brain off. I paced my room, attempted to sleep – it was after 11pm and I had an early class the next day. My stomach was doing flip flops and I was nearing the inconsolableness that anxiety always seems to attract.

Yet I was able to articulate what I needed: comfort.

But from where?

I didn’t drink at the time. I was single. All my friends were asleep – it was a school night after all. I knew I needed rest and didn’t have any business wandering around campus in the middle of the night waiting for it.

And then, his words echoed in my head: AJ, a fellow science nerd and Christian who lived down the hall from me (I lived on a co-ed floor), a kind and gentle soul, had said anytime I needed anything to come by, his door was always open. He was safe.

His door could be seen from my own, we were practically neighbors. I knocked gently. His roommate was usually gone – as was mine. AJ opened the door in his pajamas, took one look at me and said, “Are you okay?”

“Not really, I had a bad night at work. I can’t sleep.”

AJ nodded. “Come in.”

I did and turned to him. “Do you mind if I sleep next to you tonight?” It was a bold statement from someone like me. I’d only slept next to one other person, who if he’d have any romantic inclinations towards me, we’d be a couple. But AJ was different, we hit the friend zone so hard, there was nothing even remotely romantic there. He knew all this, as we had talked a lot about our romantic woes and hopes.

“Of course, Sim. I was just getting ready to turn in.”

“Thank you,” I said, already feeling the tension release.

And so, that night, I slept next to AJ, both of us fully clothed, with his arm around me, resting in the comforts of friendship.

My head hit the pillow and I was out.

It was one of those moments I can still recall nearly 20 years later: the sheer comforting presence of another person.

And this week, the waves keep coming. I managed to get my head above water to grab a lungful of air before the next wave came – until I started breathing in water – my time at the surface was not long enough to expel the aspirated water and take on new air. It’s such a scary thing, especially when your body gets tired.

While I have a built in comfort system, the Burgundy region of France is part of the reason I found myself with tears streaming down my cheeks on the couch. I managed to get some sleep mixed with weird dreams, a relief in these times. I awoke with a start at 5am on the dot, a full hour before my alarm would go off. I tried in vain to get myself back to sleep, and finally gave up. I wrapped myself in my Kenyan blanket and went out on the back porch; I didn’t particularly care who saw me. It was too early to care.

It was right at dawn: a hint of light shown in the sky.

“Waiting for the angels of Avalon, waiting for the eastern glow.”

I smiled for the first time in days.

As I sat down and listened to my devotional, the tears returned. The scripture passage was about Jesus on the boats, telling the fishermen to let down their nets after a fishless night and they caught a bounty.

I wanted Jesus to show up at my workplace. It was the cause of nearly all my woes, like that bad night backstage so many years ago. I craved that peace only He can bring.

I needed an AJ to show up and reassure me in a calm voice all was going to be okay.

Nonetheless, the proverbial ocean spat me out of the tumult and onto a beach Friday night, five hours after I was scheduled to leave my shift. Waterlogged and exhausted, but breathing on my own, I ended up walking several miles before going home in order to work out all the stress and to find some semblance of order.

I watched the sun dip below the horizon.

“The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom and walked the night alone.”

When Life Hands You Lemons

Despite growing up in an alcohol-friendly first generation American household, I joined a SBC church and avoided alcohol like the plague through high school. In fact, I left a theater cast party once because they decided to bring liquor into it. Nope! I was living the sober life and nothing was going to change that.

I went to Illinois State, a college known for its drinking habits and still managed to avoid all alcohol freshman year. I simply wasn’t interested. I was still plugged into SBC life and I never quite understood what all the fuss was about drinking.

And then I met Jim, my college sweetheart. He introduced me to all my vices.

Thanksgiving 2001 was my undoing.

My parents were renovating their kitchen, so they weren’t celebrating Thanksgiving. My sister had gone off with her boyfriend to his family’s Thanksgiving; I decided to do the same with Jim’s family.

Friday, however, things took a turn. Jim decided to host a party with his close friends who were in town at his Dad’s house – alcohol would be present – Jim drank now and again. He knew I had never experienced it before and asked if I was comfortable with it. “Sure,” I said as I was slowly coming into new experiences. “I’ll try it.”

What changed? I don’t know. Perhaps it was my shifting perspectives as a sophomore: I was ready for new experiences and thinking outside of the box I had previously found as my boundaries.

Jim left with the guys to get the alcohol – all of us were under 21 at the time, so we had to rely on the over 21 brothers of friends. I had no idea what to ask for, but Jim knew what to order. “Trust me,” he said. “I got you, sweetie.” I had no expectations of the night, except maybe to catch a buzz.

Not too long after, the boys arrived back to the house with the goods. While they were gone, I bonded with Jim’s friend Deborah and we became fast friends. Such good friends, we even got an apartment together a few years later.

“Gonna start you off easy,” Jim said, as he handed me a bottle of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. It tasted like lemonade with a bit of an aftertaste. Half way through that – I was just sipping on it – the group decided to do lemon drops. That’s where you take a shot of vodka and then immediately bite into a lemon covered in granulated sugar.

The cheap vodka stung. Whew! That was some strong stuff! I never thought of biting into a lemon as a relief, but that’s exactly what it was. I did two of those in a row.

And then, I felt it.

The song “Where Is My Mind?” by The Pixies was playing in the background and I have forever linked that song to this moment. Every time I hear that song, I am immediately transported to Jim’s Dad’s basement in Decatur, Illinois. He’s giving me that goofy smile of his and handing me another Mike’s.

A couple of drinks in, I was flying pretty high. Everything was funny. Everything sounded like a good idea. Jim’s friend was hilarious and I couldn’t stop laughing at his jokes. I’m am by nature very protective of my personal space, yet I found myself leaning against my newest friend Deborah, who was also fairly intoxicated.

Jim suggested I drink some water and I did, but I had another Mike’s. Or maybe it was left over from my one before. I wasn’t sure.

The lemon drop went down easier now.

Jim was drunk, but his other friend was drunker. This friend decided the best spot to pass out was at the bottom of the staircase. I managed somehow to get his arm over my shoulders and upstairs to the couch; in that action, I cemented my status as the den mother of drinking parties, which I still am to this day. (I would spend the rest of my college days assisting this friend after he passed out).

Jim and I fell asleep on the basement futon sometime after 1am. Or was it 2? Closer to 3? Mike and his Russian friend with the lemons had me losing all track of time.

I woke up the next morning feeling quite sick. Oh no. “Jim? I think I have the flu.” I was nauseated, my head was pounding, I felt like a train hit me. And everything – especially eating – felt like a bad idea.

“It’s not the flu, you’re hungover.”

“I’m not hungover,” I protested. “I have the flu.”

“You don’t have the flu, Simonne. You drank a lot last night.”

“I did?”

Jim sat next to me on the futon. “You did. Do you remember?”

I nodded. “I remember everything, but I didn’t think I had too much. I was definitely drunk though.”

Jim smiled. “You’re not used to this. Here, have more water. It’ll make you feel better.”

I spent the morning drinking water and could finally choke down some McDonald’s mid-day. I still felt like I had the flu.

And that’s how Vice #1 began.

I became a bottom shelf vodka drinker – screwdrivers – (cheap vodka and orange juice) defined my college experience. I certainly didn’t tell anyone I was drinking at church, although one of my church friends was an avid beer drinker and we used to go to bars together.

Even now, any time I drink too much, I am hungover the entire next day and nothing helps it.

Tonight, I find myself drinking alone at a brewery, as I write, sipping local brews, not much stronger than the Mike’s Hard Lemonade of that Thanksgiving break so many years ago.

Over the years, my personal relationship with alcohol hasn’t changed much: I enjoy it and have never passed out, blacked out, or done anything I regret under the influence. My tastes are refined now: I prefer Deep Eddy Lemon Vodka on the rocks instead of a Mike’s Hard Lemonade any day. Sometimes I indulge, but not often. Some of my favorite people in my life are alcoholics – both in recovery and denial – so, it’s a very fine line to walk.

While Jim and I are no longer in contact, I hope for a day where I see him in a bar and I’ll send over a lemon drop and pay for his tab and sneak away without a word.

He’d know it was me.

In the Surf

I know there’s probably something wrong about ordering an espresso drink called an “affogato” – Italian for “drowned” – before a surfing session. The Workshop in Wrightsville Beach does it so well, I cannot resist. It’s my favorite.

This summer, I have rediscovered my first love here: Wrightsville Beach. I’d been so caught up in the free parking at Kure Beach (that no longer exists), I forgot WB has the best breaks with gentle, perfect Simonne-sized waves at low tide. I even found a honey hole – a secret spot where there are waves even at high tide.

You could find me there most weekend mornings. Paid parking doesn’t begin until 9 – usually I’m gone by 10. It gets too busy and I spend far too much time in the sun for my skin as it is. Yes, I keep skipping church to be there.

It took me forever to learn: it was years before I could stand up. I still can’t drop into a wave and I know its a confidence thing: I’m out there to have fun and unwind, not land a sponsor.

Surfing has tested my mettle.

Balancing on the board is second nature now. Each board is slightly different, I learned where my body fit best; not too far forward (otherwise I’d summersault over it) and not too far back.

Proximity of my body to the board is also quite important: one time I fell off in a big wave and when I surfaced, I didn’t see my board. It wasn’t tugging on my leash strap attached to my ankle. As I was treading water, looking around for it, I turned and WHAM! a wave pushed the board into my face. My incisors went through my lip – a complete tear – and I found myself in urgent care for 20+ stitches – both inside and outside my lip. It’s no matter, it comes with the territory.

I know I’ll have goose-egg sized bruises on the front of my hips after a long session because fat likes to stick around the tops of my hips instead – so its bone-on-board, as I lie prone to catch a wave. It hurts after awhile, but I’ve learned to push through the pain – especially if a good set is rolling in.

Board rash – where the delicate skin on one’s belly gets rubbed off from the surf wax and sand – is another issue that I could easily solve with a rash guard, but it would ruin my tan lines.

I’ve mastered the pop up, going from prone to standing in one motion. It’s like a burpee, but it causes an afterglow. The instant I’ve caught the wave – it’s nothing short of exhilarating – like that moment right before a first kiss, as I move into position, hoping the wave has enough umph to keep me on a long ride.

And yet, at the end of it all, I feel the most beautiful 100 yards from land where the waves are breaking. No jewelry, no make up, and messy hair (the Atlantic is a terrible stylist) with a bikini corseted to my body. My skin is pink from the sun and my muscles are screaming from paddling and popping up to standing.

There’s nothing quite like Wrightsville Beach, the atmosphere here calms my soul like nothing else.

I love it and can’t wait for the next low tide when I’m not at work.

Ghosts, Just Passing Through

My phone dinged. I glance to see the message on social media and stopped.

It was an old flame from the past, estranged at best. There was a link. I rolled my eyes, thinking he’s probably been hacked, we hadn’t spoke in two lifetimes. What could possibly be said now?

I clicked on the message, expecting it to be trash.

And it wasn’t. It was directed to me, a news article about an event where I used to live. Without preamble, the words flew out of my thumbs: “Is that [redacted]?” He said it was. I also added, “Hello! It has been ages!”

This was disregarded as the ellipsis disappeared. He replied with more perfunctory verbiage captured in this article. It read like a radio report from the ambulances I used to overhear in the Emergency Room. Just the facts, please, and quickly.

And that was it. The line went dead. It was like I saw an apparition that held my gaze for a moment, turned, and disappeared into wall. I sat back, wondering. It felt so weird.

A part of me wanted to reach out with 1,000 questions. How are you? What are you doing now? Are you in the same town? What is your job? Where do you live? Are you with the same girl? What are your hobbies? Do you ever get back to [place we had in common] or see [person we used to know]? Do you have a church home? What are you successes? How are you struggling? How’s your family? Do you get back home often? Where have you traveled? Tell me a story. Tell me everything.

In short, who are you now?

As the list of questions spun in my head, I realized the same of myself.

He didn’t know me anymore either.

Despite my cries of I haven’t really changed at all in the past two decades or so, the truth is I have. I’m quite a good cook now; I make most of my meals from scratch and my breakfasts are vegan. I’m a huge coffee snob. My understanding of God has changed; I’m a contemplative who doesn’t prescribe to SBC regulations. I love aunting. I can crochet. I have a healthier lifestyle. I did Bikram yoga in the pre-pandemic days. I’m gardening and learning so much, like two languages. I write. I still get myself caught up in crazy adventures. I still run like I used to. My depression morphed into anxiety and it’s been a struggle. My spiritual gift is hospitality and I’m sorry it wasn’t refined in days when I knew him.

But I asked none of them. And neither did he.

One of the last times we spoke, I poured my heart out about work – our professions are related – and he said nothing. When I asked about him, he replied, “Fine.” And then he had to go.

It is all like a poltergeist, just making noise to be heard as it’s passing through. Trouble is, I’m sensitive to these things.

Dreaming

I still dream about him. It’s always the same, variations on a theme.

I walk into a room, a laboratory, backstage of a large roadhouse – and he’s there – looking like he did back then, with the same cheshire cat grin, but it’s completely genuine.

“How are you, Simonne?”

A calm and friendly demeanor permeates him. We always sit and chat, like we’re old friends. I can’t always remember what we talk about upon waking from the dream, but most of it is catching up on life over a very pleasant conversation.

It’s a good dream. I love these sorts of dreams where I connect with people I’m disconnected from in real life.

I never wanted to see or hear from him again after we met up to have an autopsy of our relationship. It was a roller coaster at best, with questionable maintenance practices and numerous safety concerns. I was able to get the closure I needed and he’s kept the promise of not contacting me. I am grateful.

Enough time has passed that if we were to run into each other in an airport, I would love to catch up with him – but I would never seek this out. It would all have to happen by chance. I have no interest in dredging up the past unless it presents itself without any help from me.

Still, I relish these dreams.

In the Word

The conversation happened 20+ years ago, but I found its echoes in my head this week.

Newly saved at 16, I started reading my Bible before bed. A sermon had encouraged me to start pouring over God’s word. I even wrote up my own personal reading plan.

Enter Trudie: she was a long time member of the church I attended and although she was sweet, she had a lot in common with The Church Lady from Saturday Night Live – a woman who was quite legalistic in her faith; nuance was not welcomed. She once called me out on reading the Word and I told her of my reading plan.

Her face fell. “Reading the Bible before bed? Oh no, honey, you should get up at 0500 and spend an hour with the Lord while the world is quiet. Your day will start off right and you’ll be able to have a much better day if you start it with Him. I do it every morning.”

My face fell. 0500? Gah, I could barely peel myself out of bed at 0620 for school some days. As a night owl, I was far from a morning person. It struck me that my Bible was many things, but a good luck charm or an insurance policy against life happening it was not. I wasn’t reading to ensure my day would be smooth sailing – I was reading to learn all I could about the character of God.

Group think never worked on me so I considered her words, shrugged, and kept reading before bed. Thankfully, she never followed up.

Lore Ferguson Wilbert once spoke about descriptive and prescriptive practices and it got lodged in my head – I often think through this lens when talking to others about my personal experiences.

Descriptive describes – such as Trudie’s 0500 Bible study and my pre-bed Bible study – your experience. A witness, if you will. There is nothing wrong with descriptive practices. It is a testament to where you are in your walk. Whether you read your Bible in the dead of night or at the crack of dawn or in the afternoon is neither right nor wrong – it just is – your experience is your own.

The danger comes in prescriptive experiences: I use my experience to tell others they need to do the same – perhaps so they will be holy like me; an extra-biblical layer. Trudie could have kindly shared her experience: “I read my Bible at 0500, spending an hour with the Lord, and it has enriched my life so much.” What a testament! Praise God for that! Insisting that someone else do what you’re doing because it works for you doesn’t mean its the right thing for the other person to do. Trudie was not more holier or closer to God just because she read her Bible before her day started.

I’ve made an effort not to project my experiences on others. I will of course share where I am or what I’m doing, but now I add, “This is what works for me.” And who knows, maybe someone will see that and think, “I need to try that!” or “Yikes on bikes, I would never do that, but good for her!” I would never insist that someone needs to do things the exact way I do them. Everyone is at different points in life, their walk with Christ, or has unique circumstances in a particular season (that I may have no idea about!).

What really stung, looking back now, was she missed an opportunity to encourage a new sister in Christ. Here I was, from a non-Christian home, a public high school student who was reading and learning the Bible on my own volition. School wasn’t forcing Scripture on me, my parents certainly weren’t encouraging it (they would have been much happier if I left all this church stuff alone): I had met Jesus and wanted more. I sought after Him. A woman as mature in her faith as Trudie, should have grabbed me by my shoulders and said, “That is wonderful and I am so encouraged that you are taking the time to rest in God’s Word. This routine you have going? Keep it up. It might change through the years, but make a habit of reading your Bible. A set time each day really helps. The Lord is going to use Scripture to pour into your life. It’s going to be a crazy road, but He is faithful.”

It’d have been even better if she could have continued the conversation: “What book are you currently reading? What are your thoughts on that? Here’s what I learned when I read that passage….”

But instead, she shut me down because I didn’t have the same routine as she did.

This all rolled through my head, as I’ve committed to reading the book of Isaiah contemplatively until next spring. With my recent schedule change, my Bible reading has been less than regular. I thought back to days when I was consistent with reading and decided to fall back on those practices.

I’ve started reading before bed again.

And you know what? I’m consistently in the Word.

Thoughts from the Couch at 0300

If swear words or body parts bother you, I would stop reading this post now, because we’re diving deep.

I’ve managed to shred my calf muscles, so I was awake and in pain, on social media.

An old male friend of mine got into quite a tennis match of words with another person I didn’t know. My friend was debating someone who was arguing a point from the opposite point of view. Amused, I watched the back and forth. My friend made a good point. The other person made a good point as well. Then, my friend dropped this bomb a few posts later:

“Shut the fuck up, douchebag.”

Whoa.

For someone as intellectual as he claims to be, who had his finger on the pulse of specific policies, that seemed like an awfully low blow. If this policy was as sound and comprehensive as he believes, then this should be an easy argument to win with facts and figures. And yet, my friend chose this line to the argument. Did he win? Did he lose? Or was this part and parcel of his argument?

I certainly didn’t have a comeback.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not an intellectual equivalent of my friend who’s much smarter than myself. My IQ tops out at mid-average-ish and – I have always been since I was first saved at 16 – terrible at Apologetics. I’m a lover, not a fighter. I’d rather we sit and discuss something over tea without getting hot under the collar than me exploding argument after argument on you to see things the correct Biblical way, as I believe it to be.

But that’s just me. I’m not think tank material. I’m more trains than brains, ya know?

So, instead of trying to come up with some zinger, I thought I should unpack what he said and try to understand from his point of view.

“Shut the fuck up”

Growing up, “shut up” was considered a swear word, so us kids really didn’t use it. We say “Ferma ta bouche” in French – close your mouth, which we can assume to mean stop talking.

By using “fuck” in that, it gives closing your mouth much more bite – pardon the pun. “Shut the fuck up” is a lot more forceful than simply “shut up.”

My boyfriend in college told me the etymology of the word “fuck” was in regards to tapping a keg or barrel of liquor (“to fuck a keg”), but in my quick research for this blog post, I can find nothing to support that, interestingly enough.

Instead, fuck has always meant sexual intercourse and is considered quite vulgar throughout its history, dating back centuries. This is not “love making,” this is full on unadulterated sex, out of confines of a marriage contract.

I marvel at how using an euphemism for sexual intercourse makes something much worse. But more on that in a moment.

“Douchebag”

Another thing I’ve never quite understood about my fellow man is the whole calling another person a douchebag. For the uninitiated, this is referring to a procedure in which a solution (usually vinegar and water) is sprayed into the vagina in order to clean it – the vessel to do this is called a doucehbag. There is no good reason to “douche” – as the vagina is designed to clean and regulate itself with good bacteria and pH. There is no earthly reason for this to be done, outside of a rare set of medical circumstances. Many times, douching causes more problems than it solves by killing healthy normal bacteria and moving the pH, which essentially makes the vagina a very unhappy place.

Dusche in German (doo-sha) means shower – and the etymology of douche is to be a spray of water, if the dictionary is any authority in this day and age.

As someone who looks at vaginal swab samples under a microscope on a near daily basis, I can attest it is bacteria, lining cells, and a few white blood cells: basic vaginal stuff. It’s all good, just as the Lord designed it.

So, we can translate my friend’s message as this:

“I forcefully demand you to stop talking right this very moment, you fool. You’re like a spray of vinegar solution in a vagina, dislodging cells.”

Put like that, it sounds almost scholarly in certain circles. Perhaps I misjudged.

But we could flip it over further by saying this is something women do, which is less manly – effeminate as some of my friends rail against – so, I suppose if douching is something only women do, you’re insinuating their manhood is less than up to par.

And yet, women douche to “improve” their vaginal situation, so essentially it’s marketed as a good thing to do.

Yeesh.

So it could be rewritten again:

“I forcefully demand you stop talking right this very moment, you fool. You’re like a spray of vinegar solution that only women do (you effeminate poor excuse for a man) to improve their vaginal health based on a marketing campaign that has no medical basis.”

That’ll play in Peoria, eh?

I know, I know, it was all a slang comeback to the rhetoric, but that doesn’t mean I understand it fully or could endorse it.

Even further, I was bemused by this friend using such language: he’s a pillar of his community, a God-fearing, church going man. He is the very definition of Biblical ManhoodTM, which I’m told is the standard of Christian living as told by Americans. His wife embodies a Proverbs 31 Ministries woman. His kids are raised in a strict Christian home and attend church. He’s a good dad and husband. He’s the guy you call when you need something manly done. He avoids anything that doesn’t fit in his worldview, you know, as the Bible says to do <tongue firmly placed in cheek on that one>.

The sticking point of all this is, as a professing Christian man, he doesn’t honor God or his fellow man with “Shut the fuck up, douchebag.”

He believes fully in the traditional Biblical views of sex: for marriage only, between one man and one woman, which in turn honors God. Yet, the word “fuck” seems to demean this cherished and God-given act. Why would he say that? I haven’t been able to figure that one out yet.

On the topic of douching, as a heterosexual male, he’s quite okay with vaginas. I’m sure he would rally behind good vaginal health, especially for his wife. But it’s like I said, douching is not a good thing. I wonder does he know that? I feel like I should tell him, but that might be stepping out of line.

Instead of demeaning another human being who was also made in the image of God – regardless of where they stand on a specific issue – I wish he could have used his high intellect to convey what he is feeling rather than bring up a derogatory form sexual intercourse and terrible technique for vaginal health, both of which had nothing to do with their discussion.

It’s a crazy world out there. In the meantime, I’m not weighing in. I’m keeping my mouth shut. It’s probably better that way.

Re-Unchurched

It took a year, but I finally made the decision to attend church online.

It doesn’t take the place of in-person worship, I firmly believe community is everything as a Christian, but here I am, an unvaccinated recluse who took too many infectious disease courses in college. I broke.

I find comfort in the past, so it wasn’t a stretch that I began watching the church service where I attended in college.

The church was on its deathbed last time I was there a few years ago, but the Lord breathed new life in it; now it’s a very family orientated church with a full sanctuary on Sunday mornings (no masks and no social distancing, but I digress). Gone are the days of college ministry and the college students taking up the pews. It’s not the same – nonetheless, I tuned in.

Their service was about what I expected. They’re a bit counter-cultural to the evangelical machine, which made me smile (free meals! no bootstrap mentality!). And then at some points, it’s a bit sticky sweet. Whoa, easy on the Christianese platitudes! Yet the preaching is solid, meaningful, and biblical.

And then it hit me.

The nostalgia evaporated as the service went on. As much as my heart rested there and if I returned to the city in a post-pandemic world, I’d re-join this church. They’d have no idea what to do with me as a childless woman in a nuclear family focused paradigm, but I think we would be good for each other.

But that’s just the thing.

I’m not there. I’m here, literally a thousand miles away. I haven’t been a resident there in seventeen years. They don’t know me. I don’t know them. I don’t carry the same theology I did at 22. I expected to be comforted by transporting myself to something I used to know, but it caused an uncomfortable feeling, like listening to a familiar hymn played on a very out of tune piano: I recognize the song, but the key is way off from where it should be.

I don’t belong with them either.

The pre-teen girl I remember back then is now a married mother of three. They knew me only as Sim, yet I go by Simonne now.

My current church here is too unsafe for my pandemic brain, so I haven’t attended worship, hence reaching out to this past church via WiFi. I’m still going to “attend” services online with this church, I just need to keep it in perspective.

And then, through the grapevine, I heard an apartment needed to be cleaned. A family living in their car for months on end secured non-govenernmental housing through a local non-profit. The last residents moved out and the apartment was a disaster, the director said, it needed a deep clean before this new family moved in. I volunteered to clean it. I did my best with my limited time and supplies I brought, but I left the apartment in better shape that I found it. I hope the new residents find rest for their bodies and souls in this place. I’m told they’re Christians, too.

I paused in cleaning and daydreamed out the the window into the neighborhood. Where I’m standing used to be a den of debauchery – prostitution and drugs were synonymous with this place. And now it’s a beacon of hope to a family who’s only known hardship.

I want that Jesus that makes things new: He who removes the rot and gives tools to get the filth out of kitchen counters and vacuums out the carbon flakes in the stove. I want the Jesus who rebukes the rich. I want the Jesus who meets with the wrong people and loves them. I want the Jesus who shows love and kindness to everyone – even those who mocked Him.

While my college town is far away, I’m doing my best to find ways to serve Him where I am planted, in this beautiful seascape of a town.

I encourage you to tend to the needs of your immediate community as an act of worship, even if your online church is in another time zone.

When Inspiration Struck

I was barely fifteen the first time it happened. It came out of seemingly no where, but it hit me so hard I couldn’t do anything else until I got the words on paper. I liken this to throwing up – I didn’t get a choice. It was happening and it was happening now.

It still happens to me.

It was the inspiration to write. The words and sentences were congealing in my head, like an epic poem as I walked into my World History class, almost disorientated by all the words. I opened my notebook and let the words flow out through my pen. The words were streaming faster than I could write, my cursive barely legible, except to me. I intuitively put an asterisks by words to look up in a thesaurus later – a practice I still use in pre-writing and first drafts. The words were coming too fast to stop and edit. I spent the full forty-ish minutes of class pouring out the lines of poetry.

Once all the words were safely on paper, they were a bit tangled, but at least I could calmly edit them now, with the torrent ceasing. Once inked, I felt relieved, calm, and satisfied. I can only describe it as an afterglow.

Naturally, it was about a boy. He was unlike anyone I had ever met before; we were carved out of the same stone. I had successfully located another outsider, an old soul trapped in a teenage body with eyes that radiated a cyan light.

Our attraction in the romantic sense was short lived, all things considered, yet it would reverberate in the years to come. The undisclosed moments we shared were proof that locks don’t keep our kind out and we both had the uncanny ability to disappear into thin air unnoticed. It was great for making out. We took on personas like Christine Daeé and The Phantom with the Opera House all to ourselves.

This muse and I lost contact over the years. I wish I could have gotten his take on these days of so long ago. All that remains are some blurred memories and this poem, edited 25 years after it was penned.

The poem I wrote is as follows:*

My World of Darkness, Covered in Light
The raining of the soft seasonal drought has cast its shadows again
The dimness unknown to the naked eye
Only a controlled vision in the snow
White as the clouds on a rainy day
Or so was thought

Has the deep unseen wind started blowing?
Only the sands of time will tell

Deep within the blackness
Of the light of day
Has the rain stopped?
Once the rain flooded the meadow
Does it move away?
A season of complete dryness
Time has repeated itself once more through the heavens

Running like a child throughout the fields of a serene setting
Running without end
Running without purpose
Smiling at the sun that shown up above
All seems peaceful
Even the lone tree, standing tall
Roaming over the plains
Avoiding the darkness
Baptized in the light of the nighttime
The sun still shines on this world of darkness, covered in light
How long will it last?
Only the waves of time will tell

The path has brightened the silver lakes on the land
Silver lakes of mercury
Churning away at the crisp air
Living on the highest mountain
In the lowest valley
Crawling on the flooded land
Searching for water
Dying a wonderful death
In a world of darkness, covered in light

The abyss of togetherness gushing out from under the sea
Crossing back out from the sun
On the side of the ocean floor
Wondering and wandering under a quiet starless sky
To the gentle beat of his heart
Like the waves of a summer storm
A calm gust of wind
Connected by the straits of separate seas
To sail the land once more

The light and the darkness merge into one
As the leaves scatter about
Like the night chases the day
In a continuous circle
A circuit without end
Knowing nothing of what lie ahead

Crying out into the opaqueness of the midnight
And the moon cannot hear
For it is too far away
Bolting from nothing, going no where
Looking up to the sky
Delirious with confusion
The comfort of the land is more than can be endured
Uncertainty hangs in the air
Like a foggy morning in this world of mine
A world of darkness, covered in light

* Yes I am aware some of the rhetorical devices do not make sense and the trail this poem goes down is more of a deer path than a groomed one. But such is the life of a teenager in love.